Sunday, June 25, 2017

Historical Non-Fiction Book Review
Autobiography of Red Cloud: War Leader of the Oglalas
R. Eli Pail, Editor
 
A friend of mine, knowing my interest in Native American life, loaned me this book.  She is an ancestor of Charles Wesley Allen, one of two white men responsible for garnering from Red Cloud his involvement in intertribal warfare on the Great Plains and present-day Montana and Wyoming up to the mid 1860s.  The editor’s lengthy introduction sets the historical context of his experiences, explains how the autobiography came into being, and relates the probable reasons why the Sioux Lakota chief chose not to recount his confrontations with Whites: his battles with the U.S. Army and his negotiations with the federal government.  
 
Although the introduction is informative, it is enough first to know where and when Red Cloud was born (1821, along Blue Creek, a tributary of the North Platte River in present day Garden County, Nebraska) and where and when he died (1909, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota). 
 
Living on the Pine Ridge Reservation during his later years, Red Cloud walked each day to the Pine Ridge post office to receive his mail and spend considerable time talking with old friends and associates, two of whom were Sam Deon, a white trader who had done business with Red Cloud on the plains for many years, and Charles Allen, former newspaperman and at that time Pine Ridge postmaster.  It was Allen who devised the plan to write an autobiography of the famous chief’s life.  Allen explained his plan in 1917.
 
The two [Red Cloud and Deon] used to put in two or three hours a day visiting on the bench by the post office, so I made arrangements with Mr. Deon to begin at the beginning and with questions and queries induced Red Cloud to go over his life from the beginning. … Immediately at the close of the conversation Mr. Deon would report [translate] to me, and I would take down all the facts as notes.  … This continued through the whole summer [of 1893] and up to late in the fall, practically six months in duration or until the finish.
 
Editor R. Eli Paul wrote: “No evidence exists that Red Cloud knew of Deon and Allen’s arrangement, nor is it know whether he would have cared.  After six months, Deon’s methodical probing may have aroused Red Cloud’s suspicions, hence the suspension of the old chief’s storytelling when it reached a more sensitive time in his life” – his dealings with the U.S. Army and the federal government.
 
Red Cloud told Deon that he had participated in 80 battles. The autobiography relates 21 experiences.  They are all interesting.  Particularly interesting to me were these three stories.
 
***
 
During the 1840s, Red Cloud, who had so rapidly risen in the estimation of his people, as a brave young man, had become one of the head warriors of his tribe; he had introduced the system of small war parties composed of from eight to twelve men whom he was always accorded the command by unanimous consent.  If fact, his bravery and sagacity had become so generally acknowledged that his name was synonymous with success.  Strongly supported by a large body of admiring adherents, yet secretly opposed by the envy and jealousy of rivals, his fame continued to increase …
 
In the spring of 1849, Red Cloud, in the flush and vigor of youth, being twenty-eight years of age, decided to take a party of twelve warriors on a foray against the Shoshone Indians.  After the party had traveled about one hundred miles, a discussion arose about whether they should continue their mission or return to their village.  The cause of the disaffection, Red Cloud discovered, was Black Eagle, a man who had long been one of his trustiest warriors, but who, having grown jealous of his leader’s popularity, sought to embarrass this undertaking by creating mutiny.  This he endeavored to do by telling his comrades that they were all lost among the mountains, that Red Cloud did not know where they were going, and that they were foolish to be dragged along day after day to a place where their enemies could so easily ambush them.
 
Having discovered Black Eagle’s intentions, Red Cloud had his party climb to the top of a mountain where visibility extended for many miles.  Addressing Black Eagle and three warriors that had taken Black Eagle’s side, pointing to the east, Red cloud said, “Do you see that high blue ridge away yonder?  At the foot of that mountain is our village; there is where the women are.  Go!  You cannot get lost.  You can go back over the same trail you came.  There is lots of game; get some of your party to kill it for you, and, when there is another party to go out, you had better stay at home and sent your women.”
 
Proceeding farther west, Red Cloud and his remaining followers eventually discovered a Shoshone village, killed and scalped two horse herders, and made off with a large section of horses.  As they returned home, they came upon Red Cloud’s brother, who told them that Black Eagle had spread news that Red Cloud’s party was scattered and lost in the Big Horn Mountains, and that they were probably all killed by the Shoshones.  Red Cloud and his men thereupon entered their village herding their captured horses, and Black Eagle was disgraced.
 
***    
 
In love with two women, Red Cloud had to choose whom to marry first.  Pretty Owl and Pine Leaf were their names, and the only matter for him [the autobiography is written in third person] to decide was, which of the two should be number one, for, while he could properly marry each of them, he could not marry both of them at once. 
 
… there was one grim and silent witness who stood aloof with jealous, scornful looks.  It was Pine Leaf.  Red Cloud had caught sight of her several times during the day’s festive marriage ceremony.  Realizing that she was not aware of either his feelings or his intentions [to marry her at a later time], he mentally resolved to seek her out at the first opportunity and acquaint her with his purpose, but the opportunity never came.  The next morning he discovered that Pine Leaf had hung herself.
 
***
 
A raid conducted by Red Cloud went awry after Gros Ventres tribesmen had warned an Arikara (Ree) village of the Sioux party’s near presence.  Dangerously exposed, Red Cloud escaped by boat. 
 
… the Arikaras needed conveyances to cross the Missouri and resorted to the “bull hide boat” …  It consisted of buffalo hides stretched tightly over a round framework of willow, not the most seaworthy of watercraft … in the editor’s words an unwieldy tub of fur. 
 
The Sioux from their hiding place watched the Ree village …Red Cloud and his party began getting nearer and nearer to the village.  The Rees had rounded up their horses in the early past of the evening, and they were standing quietly at the edge of the village, having become accustomed to being corralled nights.
 
The Sioux had decided to make a rush and stampede the herd and, if an opportunity presented itself, shoot a struggling Ree or two and escape with their booty.  Told by the Gros Ventres of the near proximity of the Sioux, the Ree villagers had set up an ambush.  Having charged, surrounded in front, at each side, and behind, the Sioux party received a volley of bullets and arrows.  As soon as they could … Red Cloud and a companion, who had led the charge, dismounted and sought refuge among the loose horses.  Soon the herd began to separate in small bunches. 
 
  Dodging along among the horses he [Red Cloud] drew his blanket over his head and face.  Wrapping it closely about him with his gun concealed beneath he stepped boldly out into the Ree village and began walking toward the river.  It was quite dark, but the lights shone from the tops of the lower buildings.  … He was passed once or twice but not accosted. …
 
Red Cloud’s only object had been to reach the river.  Once there he felt he could plunge in and swim to safety, but, when he descended the bank, he saw several canoes.  Cutting one of them loose he got into it.  He knew very little about managing the thing, but after a few awkward strokes he succeeded in getting out into the channel when it began to ride away from the Ree village.  … he drifted along down the swift current all that night. …
 
… He traveled nights without any interruption, but during the day he would stop to hunt and sleep and get views of the country to see if the coast was clear … Eventually he came upon a Missouri River Sioux village.  There was great rejoicing when he entered his own village, for it was supposed that he had been killed.
 
***
 
I enjoyed as much the details of native life that Deon and Allen were able to include.  For this reason alone, reading Red Cloud’s “autobiography” is worth any curious reader’s attention.  This book helps feel the need of readers like myself to know something about the lives of human beings over hundreds of years about which there is no or very little written record. Paperback and kindle versions are available for purchase on amazon.com.      


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Crossing the River
Chapter One, Pages 11-14
 
     If he had learned anything the past half-hour, maybe it was that staring at a dirty windowpane changed nothing.
     Well before they had been rowed across the river he had accepted the fact that their mission entailed risk. He had not expected immediate difficulties.
     The third son of a privileged family, Henry De Berniere, meticulous, resourceful, was not habituated to defeat. From his boyhood to his present situation, proceeding logically, methodically, he had achieved his ambitious goals with admirable constancy. Commissioned an ensign at nineteen, at twenty-one bored, disaffected, he had a month ago employed his particular talents to attempt to achieve that most difficult of martial accomplishments, career promotion.
     Before responding to General Gage's request for volunteer officers to map the roads to provincial military depositories, De Berniere had analyzed the risks. Paramount would be the difficulty of being what he was not, a colonial commoner. After he had submitted his request to serve, he had spent four days in the streets and taverns of Boston listening to the syntax and vocabulary of the populace. He had written down each night much of what he had heard. To demonstrate initiative during his interview with the Commanding General he had raised the speech difficulty and what he had done to try to surmount it. He had also presented a precisely drawn, detailed sketch of the roads and bridges of his parents’ parish, in Warwickshire. Analysis, preparation, performance. What he had not anticipated about his mission were, one, the limitations imposed upon him by his superiors and, two, capricious coincidence.
     He had been upset about the clothing that he, Captain Browne, and Browne’s man had been obliged to wear. They had begun this first day in virtually identical dress. Who in the commanding general’s service had made that decision? A quartermaster sergeant, he surmised.
     Then there was Captain Browne, De Berniere’s immediate superior. The man was dense, obtuse, fence post stupid! His performance this day had been appalling! Why had he been selected?!
     Several reasons, De Berniere supposed. One, a senior officer had to lead; two, Browne also wanted promotion; three, Browne, having spent several years garrisoned in Boston, “knew” the populace; and, four, very few senior officers, perhaps only he, had volunteered.
     De Berniere had not yet concluded his evaluation of Browne's servant, John Howe. Watching Howe arranging towels across the back of a chair preparatory to procuring hot water for their baths, De Berniere suspicioned that the servant was more percipient than his master.
     Howe spoke and behaved much like the Boston commoners that De Berniere had observed. He had not this day embarrassed himself. He had exhibited an alert mind and a readiness to act. Outside the Waltham tavern Howe had explained the behavior of the serving woman. With a rush of advice for which he had immediately, ingratiatingly apologized, Howe, stating the obvious, had recommended immediate haste.
     A teamster had overtaken them a mile or so down the road. De Berniere had persuaded the man to carry them. Almost immediately, he, and Howe, but not Browne, had recognized his blunder.
     The teamster's companion had instantly aroused De Berniere’s suspicion. The tense young man would not look at them. His body resisted the wagon’s jostle. His hair had been cropped, unnaturally, at the back. A deserter, De Berniere had concluded, a guileless simpleton spirited from the city by Sons of Liberty, driven westward by a teamster militiaman.
     Howe’s eyes had revealed the same conclusion.  Twice Howe had glanced at the “deserter,” then at the teamster, then at De Berniere, before De Berniere had nodded acknowledgment. Browne, jostled by the wagon's movement, had stared vacantly at wet fields.
     The teamster’s silence the first fifteen minutes of their journey had added weight to De Berniere’s supposition. A taciturn man voices a word or two in passing, De Berniere had reasoned. This man, maintaining his hard look at the road, schemes our arrest!
     “’Spect I could take you the entire way t’Worcester,” the driver had thereupon declared, confirming De Berniere’s judgment. “I do have business there. Might as well get it done t’day.”
     “Thank you, no,” De Berniere had declared, before Browne had been able to speak. They had reached the crest of a low hill. Seeing several distant buildings in the hollow beyond, concluding that they were approaching Weston, he had said, “We aim to be let out at the next tavern.”
     Thereafter, the wagon driver had watched the road. Answering Browne’s perplexed expression, De Berniere had nodded at the deserter. Browne’s subsequent furrowed brow had vexed him. Belatedly, Browne had answered, “Yes, the next tavern, please.”
     “Stop here, please,” De Berniere had said, sharply, when the wagon had closed to within twenty yards of the tavern.
     Offering no acknowledgment, the teamster had kept his horses moving. De Berniere had imagined the three of them having to jump from the wagon a mile or two down the road to hide in thicket and pine. But, no. The man had pulled his horses suddenly -- angrily, De Berniere had judged -- to a stop directly in front of the building.
     Captain Browne had displayed his stupidity again when they had seated themselves for refreshment.
     “May we have coffee?” Browne had asked the landlord, having been warned in Boston not to request tea.
     Straightening, the landlord had answered, “You may have what you please, either tea or coffee.” Staring at the man’s inquiring eyes, De Berniere had divined his message, that he was a Loyalist, that he recognized them to be soldiers, and that he wanted his presumption corroborated by their selection of tea.
     “Coffee. I said coffee!” Browne had answered.
     “Tea, actually,” De Berniere had corrected, witnessing immediately Browne's confusion, then resentment.
     De Berniere stepped away from the window. His window-staring had, in fact, benefited him. Analyzing the day’s events, he had drawn conclusions.
 He had isolated three difficulties. Foremost of these was Browne's impercipience. Somehow, subtly, De Berniere had to lead, without Browne knowing it.
     Another difficulty had been the landlord’s lack of cooperation. Two hours ago, having accompanied them to their room, the man had given Browne the names of safe taverns in Framingham and Worcester but nothing else. He either did not known where the Worcester military stores were hidden or he had chosen not to tell them. Being obtuse, Browne had not asked. Because the man had not wanted to talk, De Berniere, not wanting to prolong the landlord’s unprofitable stay, had chosen not to question him.
     Other than downstairs where he conducted business the landlord did not want to be seen with them. This had caused De Berniere to draw two inferences. The locals were vindictive toward anybody that harbored British spies. And any local with two eyes to see knew -- the third difficulty that he had isolated -- that they were indeed spies!
     He recalled the time before his eighteenth birthday when he had waded into the ocean to impress two female cousins. A strong undertow had carried him one hundred yards off shore. Thrashing against the current, he had feared that the shore was unreachable. It had taken him an hour to fight his way back.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Crossing the River
Chapter One -- Pages 8-11
 
 
The primary source for this scene is Neil R. Stout's article, "The Spies Who Went Out in the Cold," printed in the American Heritage Magazine, February 1972.  An additional source is Henry De Berniere's journal, "Narrative of Occurrences, 1775," parts of which were quoted in secondary  sources that I read.
 
     The black woman who labored amongst the tables took little notice of the three men standing near the front doorway until one of them, a blonde-haired, lean-bodied youth, separating himself, walked toward the kitchen. Widowed, gregarious, passionate, she appraised his physical attributes. Afterward, she regarded, less lasciviously, his traveling companions, who were taking chairs at a nearby table.
     One of them was two or three years older than the boy now in the kitchen. He was, perhaps, twenty-two, twenty-three, dark-featured, slightly built, angular-faced. She watched his eyes, his inquisitive eyes -- face devoid of expression -- study each customer while his companion, fifteen or twenty years his senior, spoke. When his eyes fastened upon her, feigning indifference, she looked away. Having collected empty tankards and dishes from a vacated table, she walked into the kitchen.
     When she returned, the dark one was speaking to the older one. She studied the man who now listened. Broad forehead, round eyes in close to a thin nose, large lips -- a face his mother had probably regretted -- his was a countenance quite different from the many that demanded each day her service. Using a wet cloth, snorting derision, she brushed pastry crumbs off the top of an empty table.
     When they spoke to her, telling her what they wanted, she knew they were British officers. The way they spoke, the way they moved their heads as they spoke, their gestures: all was too familiar. For six years she had worked in a Boston tavern off King Street, an establishment frequently attended by the scarlet-coated officers of His Majesty's foot.
     She had quit her job there and had left Boston during the first week of December. One of her current employers, Jonathan Brewer, had hired her the week before Christmas. Normally thick-skinned, she had had more than her fill of the arrogant, besotted British gentleman. One could not smile, banter, or laugh indefinitely when the jibes she parried revealed a bigoted nastiness. With their first words the two officers at the table had exposed themselves. The one with the broad forehead and thin nose she had previously seen.
     Angrily, she returned to the kitchen.
     Who was he? His name! She believed she knew his name. She glanced at the not pretty but rather handsome youth eating kidney pie at a little table pushed against the far wall. He was not an officer. More probably he was a servant of the man whose name escaped her. Enlisted men never ate in the same room with officers, one fact of many that she had involuntarily gleaned from her Boston patrons.
     “More ale for you, sir?” she asked.
     He glanced up at her, grinned, started again to chew.
     “So you like eating here in the kitchen t’eating with your friends? What's wrong with them now?” She laughed with good humor.
     “Oh, they be weary o' me. They want t'talk, I think, ‘bout me, private like. They be strangers here 'bout, surveyors, y' know. They hired me t'show ‘em about. Now I think they might be wantin’ t’give me the boot.” He shrugged, offered her a silly grin.
     “How do you weary them, boy? Do they not take t’funnin'? You have that look about you, seems to me.”
     A mischievous grin. “Tis true, ma'am. Tis true. They're a stiff bunch, all serious like. They'll have their maps out in front o' them in a minute, you'll see. You watch.”
     Well, she didn't resent him, despite his being a soldier -- he might have passed as a young apprentice had she not connected him. In truth, she fancied him, despite being four or five years his senior. But when had age mattered, she reminded herself, when the look of a light-hearted, well-featured man had stirred her?
     The one in the other room, the one she had recognized, his name was Browne. Such a common name. It had come to her, effortlessly, while she had been thinking of the boy. She had seen Browne five years ago. Browne had come to the Boston tavern often, right up until the time of the Massacre. His regiment had then left the city. During the past three months -- during her absence -- the regiment had evidently returned. From Canada. What was he doing here, dressed in his silly costume, the same costume this boy and the dark officer wore? Pretending to be surveyors, wearing brown clothing with red handkerchiefs tied around their necks, country people they were pretending to be!
     Standing in the passageway to the taproom, she saw that they had spread a map across the table. The dark officer was pointing a stiff forefinger at the center of it. Browne nodded. Oh yes, they were surveying. They were taking a lay of the land. They were spies, insulting her intelligence!
     Well, she would play with them a bit. She would let them fancy their success. When they left the tavern, she would tell her employer. He would send their description to the local militia, and that would be the end of Officer Browne! Good riddance. But not of the boy in the kitchen.
     Having served the two officers their food, she watched the blonde-haired servant finish his tankard of ale. Smiling across the kitchen at her, he placed the vessel noisily on the table. Straightening his legs, leaning backward, he sighed. She walked over to him.
     “The bigger one in the other room. The one with the thin nose. I know him.”
     His eyes flashed. “Oh, I don't think so. They be strangers to the county, like I said. They've not been here before.” He looked at her guilelessly.
     Oh, he was good, likable, convincing.
     “I know your Captain Browne from a Boston tavern where I worked, maybe five years ago. I know your errand. You mean to take a plan of the country for your General Gage, I think.”
     He moved his legs, then his upper body. He started to rise. Placing a hand on his left shoulder, she said, “I'll not betray you, not yet; rest easy. Let your friends enjoy their pie and ale. Once on the road, …”
     The young man stared at the pie crumbs on his dish. He shrugged, then grinned. Sitting, then lifting his tankard, he said, “I'll be havin’ some more ale. Bein’ that Captain Browne does pay for it.”

     “The young lad in the kitchen says you are surveyors,” she said as they stood to leave. Wanting him to recognize her, she stared at the older man.
     “Just so. A very fine country hereabouts,” Browne replied, as though he were answering a voice.
     She slammed his empty tankard upon the table. He stared at her, his startled eyes crowding the bridge of his nose.
     “It is a very fine country!” she exclaimed. “And we have very fine and brave men to fight for it!”
     He blinked, twice, several times more.
     “If you travel much farther you will find out that is true!”


 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Crossing the River
Chapter One, Pages 5-7
 


As I complete writing my second novel, “Alsoomse and Wanchese,” I think back six years to when I was about to have my first historical novel, “Crossing the River,” printed.  I knew little then about the ins and outs of print-on-demand publication and self-promotion of product. One piece of advice I followed was to create and maintain this blog site. ( I have appreciated considerably your interest)

 

The hardest part of sales of one’s product is getting the general public to know it exists.  To date, a majority of the purchasers of “Crossing the River” have been people who know me.  Stranger are much harder to reach. Book reviews, which can be found on amazon.com, helped. So did my postings on goodreads.com. I would like to think that what I have presented on this blog site has also helped.

 

Because the contents of this novel are historically accurate, three years ago I emailed to well over one hundred high schools (mostly in Oregon) free pdf copies that American history teachers could use as they saw fit – a different attempt by me to proclaim the book’s existence.  One teacher bought immediately a paperback copy.  A year ago somebody bought 27 paperback copies, that person, I assume, being a teacher who wanted a classroom set. 

 

I haven’t attempted to promote this book recently.  I want to now.  I don’t want it to pass into total oblivion.   What is true about the perceptions and actions of participants in the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the British army’s retreat back to Charlestown and Boston April 19, 1775, does not change or cease to be important because the novel is six years old.  The novel will continue to provide history buffs and fans of historical fiction value as long as potential readers know it exists.  I plan to post on this blog site over the next several months successive segments of the novel’s first three chapters.  Here is the first segment.  

 

 

 

 
 
F
eeling his wife's hand on his right shoulder, MacKenzie put down his quill.
     “You laugh,” she teased.
     Closing his eyes, he placed the back of his head against her enlarged abdomen.
     “You are a sober sides, husband,” she said, cupping his right ear. “Pray that your soldiers hear you guffaw … on occasion.”
     “Pah!  Twould be the regiment’s ruination!”
     “Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie, 23rd Welsh Fusiliers Regiment of Foot,” she mocked. “Lieutenant Discipline. Though at times, … devoted father.”
     “At all times.”
     “Would that the soldier with dirty cross belts receive such devotion.”
     He chuckled.
     “The proof, dear husband, is not to be found in your words but in your actions. Your daughters demand your attention.” She tapped his left shoulder.
     He secured her forearm. He stroked it. As vivacious and radiant as when he had courted her, she was his counterweight to what with rare exception had been a tedious existence. “But a few minutes more, my dear,” he responded. “To order my thoughts.” Enjoying her close proximity, he gazed at the half-filled page of his journal.
     “Ill-formed words, Frederick, from such an …”
     “Ill-forged mind?”
     Orderly mind. You should not interrupt. Wiggly words I should have said. Pray what has aroused your humor? I must preserve it. Store it in a bottle.”
     Face beaming, he pointed at his compressed lips.
     Speak, chuff cove! Do not make sport with me!” To observe him better, she walked half way around his desk.
     He touched the folded dispatch beside his journal. “General Gage inquires if there are officers with drawing experience that would make sketches of the countryside.” He studied her expression.
     “Why is that … basis for mirth?” The skin at the corners of her eyes crinkled.
     “Tis not his words, my dear, but his intentions that I find amusing.”
     “General Gage would enjoy your description of his intentions.”
     “I will not provide him the opportunity.” He smiled, wryly. “You have misconstrued my meaning. His intention, to find somebody to ‘sketch the countryside,’ is reasonable. What amuses me is what he tries in this dispatch to hide.”
     “Oh? And what, Mister Constable,” she said merrily, “is that?” She was surprised at his change of expression.
     “Something rather dangerous actually. For those who volunteer.”
     “Indeed.”
     “He wants officers that will map roads and bridges to Worcester and just as probably Concord, where the provincials are storing powder and such. He desires, in a word, spies. Having the ability to draw.”
     “And you?” she asked, after a lengthy pause.
     “Not I.”
     She maintained her doubting look. He felt a rush of temper.
     “I sketch what interests me. As you well know,” he said, gruffly. “I am not a young whelp. I have you and our family and our future child to factor. I’ll not be risking my neck and your welfare to play at spying!”
     “That is a comfort.”
     “Somebody else, somebody reckless, will!” He touched his eyelids, blinked, tapped with an index finger his blotter. “You needn’t worry,” he said, less aggressively. “The General will having lean pickings. He should be the one to worry, not you.”
     Neither her head, her arms, nor her hands moved. “Why does he want maps of roads and bridges?”
     He scowled. “To know what obstacles lay before him when he sends foot soldiers. Nancy! Trust what I say! It will not be me!”
     He watched her dissect his words.
     At length she asked, “Will they fight?”
     “Who?”
     “The provincials! Your friends believe they’re cowards. Will they?”
     “Have they not made preparations to?”
     She studied him a full five seconds. “Attend your daughters when you deem it convenient,” she said. Averting her face, she left the room.
     It was her accustomed way to punishing him.
     Knowing that she expected him to follow, he stared, resentfully, at his written words.
 
     January 8, 1775. It has been signified to the Army, that if any officers of the different regiments are capable to taking sketches of a country, they are to send their names to the Deputy-Adjutant General.
 
     “Will they fight?” She had gotten to the heart of it.
     Angry commoners in the Boston streets shouted their contempt daily. A year ago they had destroyed a ship’s entire cargo of tea. 4,000 soldiers were encamped on Boston’s narrow peninsula. Angry? Rebellious? Yes. Would they wage war against His Majesty's Foot? He didn’t think so.
     Nevertheless, Gage's spies would operate at great risk. The General would do well not to select officers motivated by the desire for promotion, or fire brands ablaze for adventure. Who else but the reckless or the ambitious would apply? Gage needed experienced officers possessing wisdom, judgment. He would not get them. Utilizing those attributes, they would decline to volunteer.
     As for the ability to draw maps, “I am afraid,” MacKenzie wrote, “not many officers of this Army will be found qualified for this service. It is a branch of Military education too little attended to, or sought by our officers, and yet is not only extremely necessary and useful in time of war, but very entertaining and instructive.”


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Frederick Douglass -- Ottilia Assing and Slavery in the Territories
 
Frederick Douglass’s second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom, was published in 1855.  Most likely Julia Griffiths helped edit the book.  Soon after the book’s release, she returned to England and remained there the rest of her life.  To some extend, her peculiar role as Douglass’s white female intellectual companion/friend would been assumed by a German woman, Ottilia Assing.  Born in Hamburg, Ottilia was the daughter of a surgeon; but, during her formative years, after the death of her parents, she lived with her uncle in Berlin.  He was a former diplomat and a man of letters; his wife, now deceased, had been the center of fashionable literary and political conversation for high-placed women of Berlin.  Ottilia’s sister Ludmilla, assumed that role and spent the remainer of her life editing and publishing her uncle’s writings.  Ottilia read Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom and traveled to America to meet him.
 
They met at his house in Rochester in 1856.  She described him as a “rather light mulatto of unusually large, slender and powerful build.  … His features are marked by a distinctly vaulted forehead and with a singularly deep indentation at the base of the nose.  The nose itself is arched, the lips are small and nicely formed, revealing more the influence of the white than of his back origins.  His thick hair is mixed here and there with grey and is curly though not woolly.”  He had a talent of “conversation through which he stimulates and elevates and shows himself to be both learned and ingenious and highly cultivated” (McFeely 183).  Clearly, Ottilia Assing was taken by the former slave.
 
She settled in Hoboken, New Jersey, within a sizable German American community, just across the Hudson River from New York City, taught German, wrote articles for the German American Journals, and eventually sent over 100 articles about life in America to a liberal journal in Frankfort, Germany.  She made the first of what would be many summer visits to Rochester in 1857.  She translated expertly into German his second autobiography, and her sister Ludmilla found for it a German publisher.  Soon Douglass and Ottilia were the best and closest of friends.
 
Ottilia Assing’s entrance into Douglass’s life occurred when the prospect of the abolition of slavery seemed most unlikely.  An Illinois Democrat, Senator Stephen A. Douglass, intent upon gaining his party’s nomination for the Presidency, had persuaded Congress to pass the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, which called for organization of the Kansas and Nebraska territories, from which new states would eventually be admitted into the Union.  Whether or not slavery would be permitted would be determined by the local inhabitants.  Unlike the territories gained from Mexico, the territories of Kansas and Nebraska were a part of the Louisiana Purchase; and here slavery had been excluded, north of the southern boundary line of Missouri, by act of Congress in 1820.  Now slave-holders had the opportunity to export slavery into this previously sheltered land.  Anti-slavery advocates were determined to thwart them.  The outcome was a bloody mini-war in Kansas that enflamed the passions of both sides as nothing had before.
 
Frederick Douglass had sought unsuccessfully to debate his near name-sake and in 1858 witnessed one of the actual debates between Stephen A. Douglass and Abraham Lincoln concerning the spread of slavery into the territories.  Of the Illinois Senator and Presidential Candidate (Stephan A. Douglas) in 1860, Douglass eventually wrote to Susan B. Anthony, “No man of his time has done more than he to intensify hatred of the negro” (McFeely 187).
 
 
Work cited:
 
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Frederick Douglass -- Harriet Beecher Stowe
 
The published writing of Harriet Beecher Stowe, in particular “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” in 1852, did more to galvanize the general population of the North against slave owners than all the words of the abolitionists together.  Yet they had built the stage upon which the social drama of the next decade would be performed.
 
Harriet Beecher was the daughter of a Connecticut clergyman.  She lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, eighteen years were her father presided over a seminary school.  In 1836 she married Calvin Ellis Stowe, one of the professors.  Separated from a slave community by the Ohio River, she had contact with fugitives and learned about life in the South from them, from friends, and from her own visits.  In 1850 she and her husband moved to Brunswick, Maine, he having received a professorship at Bowdoin College.  Following the serial publication of her novel in the National Era, an anti-slavery newspaper in Washington, D. C., “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was published as a book and was eventually translated into twenty-three languages.  In 1852 she and her husband moved to Andover, Massachusetts, where he was now a professor in the Theological Seminary.  The following year she wrote “A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” a large number of documents and testimonies against slavery in defense of the accuracy of the contents o her novel.
 
Frederick Douglass’s first conversation with her occurred in 1853, after he had received an invitation from her to visit her in Andover.  Following a warm greeting she explained the purpose of the invitation.
 
“… I wish to confer with you as to what can be done for the free colored people of the country.  I am going to England and expect to have a considerable sum of money placed in my hands, and I intend to use it in some way for the permanent improvement of the free colored people, and especially for that class which has become free by their own exertions.  … In any event I desire to have some monument rise after Uncle Tom’s Cabin which will show that it produced more than a transient influence.”
 
… The author went on to mention ideas that had been suggested to her, including the establishment of a school (Bontemps 202).
 
Douglass suggested instead a series of workshops in which colored people could learn handicrafts, iron, wood and leather work, while acquiring a simple English education.  “Poverty keeps them ignorant and their ignorance kept them degraded.  We need more to learn how to make a good living than to learn Latin and Greek.”  Mrs. Stowe agreed to propose the idea to friends in England.
 
Douglass sponsored the idea of founding a “work college” for free blacks at the Rochester Colored People’s convention that year and encountered surprising opposition.  Some thought that a system of apprenticeships would be better.  Other said that the venture would be too costly to consider.  Douglass discovered in the months afterward that white abolitionists in general did not support the plan either.  Mrs. Stowe in England received little encouragement.  She gathered a trifle more than five hundred dollars, abandoned the plan, and gave the money eventually to Douglass to use as he saw it to benefit his own people.
 
Mrs. Stowe also made an attempt to stem the malicious gossip about Douglass and Julia Griffiths that the Garrisonian abolitionists in particular had circulated.  She had invited Douglass to her home also to judge the man.  Afterward, in a letter to Garrison, she reported,
 
“I am satisfied that his change of sentiment [his support of political action in attacking slavery] was not a mere political one but a genuine growth of his own conviction.”    Then she continued, warming to the real point, “where is this work of excommunication to end?  Is there but one true anti-slavery church and all others infidels?” … she made no bones about the need for Garrison to stop the gossip about Douglass’s “family concerns” and other allusions “more unjustifiable still.”  She was “utterly surprised” by Garrison’s indulgence in such talk.  … She sternly advised that he make no further contributions to the “controversial literature,” the swirl of malicious letters sailing through the antislavery mail slots: “Silence in this case will be eminently—golden.”  … “What Douglass is really, time will show” (McFeely 178).
 
 
Works cited:
 
Bontempts, Arna, Free at Last, the Life of Frederick Douglass, New York, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1971.  Print
 
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.