Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Dakota War & The Mankato Thirty-Eight

 It’s no secret that the government of these United States has a long history of disregarding its treaties with Native Americans, and the Dakota treaties of 1851 were no exception.   This includes two, both with the Dakota Sioux:  the Traverse des Sioux MN treaty of 23rd July, and the August 6th Mendota MN treaty, in which the Dakota people sold 35,000 square miles at twelve cents an acre.   .
Fueled by both land speculators and a declining fur trade, which had previously been the main enterprise in Minnesota Territory (then including parts of both the Dakotas and Iowa), the U.S. government representatives justified these treaties as a way to satisfy the rising tide of migration west.  In fact, the tide did not begin until the land was handed over; at the time, an area of 9,000 square miles held just over 6,000 settlers—hardly a rising tide of humanity. The treaties stipulated the Dakota would retain a twenty mile swath of land, and receive $3,750,000.  Of that amount, debts owed to the fur traders were paid off, another $60,000 was to be paid to blacksmiths to help with the natives’ switch to farming, and five per cent of the remainder would be paid annually to the Dakota—with half of that to buy goods and services from the traders.  In fact, the government hoped to change the Dakota culture away from communal property to individual ownership.
By 1862, four years after Minnesota had become a state, the 8,000 Dakota affected by these treaties were starving. In 1858, the Dakotas had been forced to give up the northern half of the small band of land they had been left.  Delayed payments and the refusal of the traders to give any more credit resulted in hunting parties going out.  On August 17, 1862, while the Civil War raged back east, one such hunting party killed five white settlers.  That night a council of Dakota led by Chief Little Crow decided to drive the settlers out of the Minnesota River valley. Over the next six weeks, what is now called the Dakota War of 1862 raged with massacres and atrocities committed on both sides.
The war ended with the Dakota Sioux surrender at Camp Release.  The Army had captured more than 1,000 Native Americans.  Some eight hundred white settlers were said to have died. Subsequently, 392 prisoners were tried, 303 were condemned to death, and sixteen were given prison terms.  The cases, which had purportedly been handled with unseemly haste and little attention to detail, were then handed on to President Lincoln for his approval.
Lincoln found himself under intense political pressure to let these death sentences go forward. Keeping in mind that this had been called a War—a situation in which opposing sides do not normally thereafter hold executions of soldiers unless there is a further crime—and also remembering Lincoln had other things on his mind, it is amazing that the President was able to go over these cases and reduce the condemned to just thirty-nine (one sentence was later commuted). He did this by narrowing the guilty to those convicted of rape and massacre, as opposed to just taking part in battles.
The executions took place in Mankato, Minnesota, on 26 December, 1862.   It was the largest mass execution ever held in the United States. More than one quarter of the Dakota Sioux who had surrendered died the following year.  Others were sent to reservations in Nebraska, North Dakota, or left for Canada.
Print, Library of Congress

In 2012, 150 years after the executions, a memorial was unveiled in Reconciliation Park, Mankato.  It was preceded by a sixteen day horseback trek of Dakota from South Dakota to MN. This ride has been repeated every year since 2005.  In addition, a documentary about the hangings and the commemorative ride was brought out in 2010.  More recently, in 2017, a so-called sculpture of the scaffold on which thirty-eight men died was erected by the Walker Art Center in Mankato.  After numerous protests that the sculpture was a reminder of a “bad past,” it was taken down and burned.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Military Trial in the Old West...Fiction of course

Military Trials in the 1880’s


As I am finishing up the final chapters of my third novel in The McCades of Cheyenne Series, Dawson’s Haven, I had to begin researching what a military trial would encompass in the late 1800’s. It seems my hero, Dawson McCade, and his side-kick, Indian friend, Leaning Bear have been wrongly accused of crimes they have not committed and are potentially facing a huge trial with the end for them a firing squad if they cannot prove their innocence. As I have panstered through what will happen, I realized that I needed to take a look at how a military trial would have taken place in that day and time. So in my research I found the following:

Image result for military trial courtroom 1800s


Any form of military trial involved a potential Court-Martial and ranged from very mild fines all the way to the death penalty of hanging or firing squad in the 1800s. A court-martial was a criminal trial for members of the military who were accused of committing certain crimes such as larceny, arson, manslaughter or conspiracy just as in civilian trials. Others, such as desertion, mutiny, and insubordination, were specifically tied to military service as they are today.

Various Court-Martials within the Military of the late 1800’s were summarized by the following:

Summary Courts-Martial: A quick procedure for enlisted members accused of minor offenses. These did not require a military judge or attorneys. It involved one commissioned officer who reviewed the facts and sentencing guidelines before making a final decision. Sentencing of a guilty verdict might have involved a 30 day confinement, 45 days of hard labor, restriction to a particular area for 60 days, one month of reduced pay, or reduction in rank to name a few.


Special Courts-Martial: was reserved for more severe offenses. A military judge would have presided over special courts-martial; a defense attorney would have been assigned to the accused and a trial attorney would have been assigned to the prosecution. A three service member panel decides the facts of the case unless the accused specifically requests a judge to do so. The maximum penalties that can be assigned in a special court martial include one year of confinement, six months pay forfeiture, three months hard labor, or a bad-conduct discharge.


General Courts-Martial: how most severe offenses were prosecuted. Like special courts-martial, they featured a military judge as well as legal representation for both parties. A panel of at least 5 members for non-capital offenses and at least 10 members for capital offenses decided the facts unless the accused requests a judge to do so and the death penalty was not being sought. The military judge presiding over the general court-martial could impose the maximum sentences allowed, including death, life imprisonment, or dishonorable discharge.

Image result for courtroom anvil

Initiating Charges

When a service member had violated some law or committed a crime, the subject would be detained for up to 72 hours while it was decided how to proceed. The service member could appeal the decision if he believed that the punishment was unjust. However, if it was decided to proceed with a court-martial, there were120 days to act. The convening authority might have been the President, the Secretary of Defense, or the Secretary of the military branch to which the accused belongs.


The court-martial process would have begun with the accused being read the charges against him in the presence of a commanding officer and a neutral third officer. A military judge and legal representation for both sides would have been assigned. The accused and the prosecution would have had the opportunity to investigate the facts behind the case, including reviewing documents and conducting depositions.



After charges were preferred, the accused would enter a plea. A guilty plea would only be accepted if the military judge was satisfied that the accused fully understood the charges against him and the consequences; and the prosecution would not be seeking the death penalty. Once the guilty plea was accepted, the accused would have been sentenced.



If the accused entered a not-guilty plea and the court-martial went to trial, a panel would have been chosen to decide the facts. Members of the panel were commissioned officers from a different unit and of a higher rank than the accused. The accused was allowed to request enlisted service members join the panel if desired. Oaths were then dispersed. Each side presented their evidence and cross-examined witnesses. The military judge would have instructed the panel on the applicable laws in relating a verdict. If the accused is found guilty, either the panel or the military judge will sentence the accused according to the sentencing guidelines.

Image result for civil war courtroom

The rights for the accused:

  1. The right to be informed of the charges.
  2. The right to remain silent, as in the accused could not be forced to incriminate themselves.  
  3. The right to defense counsel and protection against double jeopardy. A service member could have been court-martialed and tried in a civilian court for the same action.
    The accused could appeal the outcome of a court-martial to the military court of appeals if the accused believed that the military judge made an error of laws. In cases where the accused is sentenced to the death penalty, the court-martial is automatically appealed but the final court decision held.
    Image result for weight and balance court

Friday, August 10, 2018

Wild Women Photographers of the West

Yeehaw! I'm excited to become part of the Cowboy Kisses crew and share my first Cowboy Kisses blog with you. One first often goes nicely with another. So today I'm sharing part of the inspiration for the first story I published—lady photographers.

Who were the women who not only recorded history but made history by taking pictures of the famous and the soon-to-be-famous, including themselves? 

Self-taught or with the direct help of inventors like George Eastman (creator of the Eastman Kodak camera) these women all had two things in common—they took chances and lots of photos.

Gertrude Stanton Käsebier 

(born 1852 in Des Moines, Iowa) 

In 1895, with her husband ill and her finances strained, Gertrude decided to be a professional photographer. Two years later as the assistant to a Brooklyn portrait photographer, she exhibited 150 photographs.

In 1898, after watching Buffalo Bill’s Wild West troupe parade past her Fifth Avenue studio to Madison Square Garden, she asked to photograph the Sioux traveling with the show. Out of respect for the Native American culture, her images were never used in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West program booklets or promotional posters.

Belle Johnson 

(born 1864 in Mendota, Illinois) 

In 1890 while spending the summer with her sister in Missouri, Belle answered a newspaper ad for a photography assistant.

After three weeks on the job, she bought the studio, with the understanding that the previous owner would stay for a year to teach her the trade. He stayed six months and provided little instruction.

Described as "eccentric, independent and unorthodox," Belle learned primarily from photography magazines.

Evelyn Flower Cameron 

(born 1868 near Streatham, England)

In 1891, Evelyn immigrated with her husband and brother, Alec, to Montana. While raising cattle and polo ponies, she learned photography from boarders at her ranch house. She photographed wildlife, weddings, and families like her cowgirl neighbors May, Myrtle, and Mabel Buckley.

The beautiful and talented Buckley sisters gained international fame after Evelyn submitted their photos and an article to the English publication Country Life. The Buckleys were begged to join Wild West shows but they chose to keep working as cowgirls on their ranch.

Frances Benjamin Johnston 

(born 1864 in Grafton, West Virginia)

Frances' first camera was given to her by George Eastman, a close friend of her family and the inventor of the new and lighter Eastman Kodak camera. She received training in photography and darkroom techniques from Thomas Smillie, director of photography at the Smithsonian.

She took portraits of Susan B. Anthony, Mark Twain, President Roosevelt and his family, and Booker T. Washington but was most famous for her 1896 “New Woman” self-portrait with a beer stein in her hand and her petticoats showing.

Adella Willows 

(born to create havoc, one picture at a time, during a railroad race in my novella, Adella's Enemy

Who is Adella? 

During the War Between the States Adella was a spy, but in 1870 she's a photographer hired by a senator to sabotage the construction of a rival's railroad. She's also a devoted sister willing to take every chance to fulfill her own mission. Then she meets the railroad's foreman, Cormac McGrady, an Irishman who creates his own havoc—in Adella's heart.

An Excerpt from Adella's Enemy...

Cormac closed his eyes and pressed his fingertips to his eyelids. “Do you even know how to operate that camera or is that a sham as well?”

“Of course I know how,” Adella said, forcing outrage into her voice. “I’m a photographer sent by the Atlanta Intelligencer.”

Cormac snorted. “If that were true, you’d be with the farm widows instead of hiding inside Stevens' private railcar. There’s only one reason for being in here—you’re a spy for the Joy Line.” He grasped her elbow, making her skin tingle as he pushed her in front of him toward the door. He tucked her behind him, though, when he stuck his head outside.

Pressed against the warm strength of his back, she tried to block out the anger vibrating in him. But the women's singing reminded her that her next move would probably make him even angrier.

He pulled her down the stairs toward the women. “I wondered why you’d come to New Chicago. I could never have guessed this.”

“Then be prepared for even greater disappointments.” She dug her heels into the dirt. “What if I refuse to act out this useless charade of taking a picture that will—how did you put it?—never see the light of day?”

Swinging around, Cormac towered over her. “Adella, if you don’t cooperate, I can’t protect those women or you.”

A peculiar ache invaded her heart. What would it feel like to share her burdens with someone like Cormac instead of shouldering them alone? She wouldn’t be sharing; she’d be giving up. Her brother deserved more than that.

She yearned to wrap her arms around Cormac and pull him even closer. So she drew back instead. “By all means save the widows. But I don’t need help.”

~ * ~ 

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Wheat Harvest

by Shanna Hatfield

As I watched the golden waves of wheat down the road from us cut down during the harvest recently, it made me think about how much equipment and processes have evolved and improved over the years.

Back in the early 1900s, Umatilla County (where my Pendleton Petticoats series is set) produced approximately one percent of the nation’s wheat crop. Wheat harvest brought workers to town, provided income for families, and proved to be an event many looked forward to all year. It was also a lot of hot, sweaty, backbreaking work. From my childhood spent on a farm, I can declare from firsthand experience the dusty, itchy chaff makes the air thick and hard to breathe and clings to ever pore on your skin.

I can only imagine it was ten-times worse back in the good ol' days.
Taken in 1902 in Walla Walla, WA, this photo shows not only the machine, but also the deep dip in the hill as well. Wheat fields in this part of the country are often planted on rolling hills.
32 mules
This photo, from the, shows a team of 32 pulling a hillside harvester in 1900. Because of the rolling hills, the farmers needed a machine that wouldn’t tip over on steep inclines.
Combine drawn by 26 head of mules and horses in a field of Feder
It took a large number of horses or mules to pull the heavy equipment, especially up the hills.
My dad comes from a long line of farmers, and also spent several years after he and my mother were newly wed working in Umatilla County in the 1950s. He had firsthand experience with the terrain, the hillside harvesters, and even told me why so many of the farmers preferred mules to horses (because the mules could go all day without a problem and the horses often got sores or sick.)
In addition to providing descriptions of the equipment, he told me the names of some of the jobs involved with wheat harvest. The jigger sewed the sacks of wheat shut once they were filled. The tender made sure the cutter was going where it was supposed to while the skinner drove the team.

Quite different from today's air-conditioned combines.

After spending her formative years on a farm in eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.
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Monday, August 6, 2018

CANYON CROSSING by Kristy McCaffrey #blogabookscene #westernromance #prairierosepubs @prairierosepubs @McCaffreyKristy

By Kristy McCaffrey

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #blogabookscene and #PrairieRosePubs.

August's theme is Alone Again, Naturally. This scene is from my short novella, Canyon Crossing. Annabel Cross is left stranded in the Grand Canyon.

She dreamt she died in Grand Canyon.

Annabel’s eyes flew open and she gasped for breath. Lying on a narrow precipice, hundreds of feet from certain death, the Grand Canyon beckoned to her, ready to cradle her in its otherworldly embrace. Did she still dream?

Carefully, she pushed herself upright, hardly daring to breathe. Perched on the edge of a cliff, she was inches from a dramatic fall. A side glance to the east told her the sun was rising. What had happened? She and her guide, Frank Smith, had made camp, eaten a meal of beans, biscuits, and coffee, and then gone to sleep. Where was he? Where was the mule, Speck, who carried their gear? Had they fallen to their deaths?

Annabel sought to calm her panic. She was only twenty years old, she couldn’t die now. A slight movement caused her to slip; she frantically grabbed a scraggly bush, fear filling her with desperation. Finally, she stopped, barely daring to breathe lest it dislodge her further. Her mind raced for a solution.

Maybe Frank was nearby.

“Help.” Her voice was weak.

“Help!” Better, stronger, but not enough. “Help me! Help! Help!”

“Are you hurt?” a man yelled from above.

Annabel’s gaze flew upward, not recognizing the voice. Still, elation filled her. “No. I-I don’t believe so.”

“If I throw a rope, can you grab it?”

“Yes, yes. I’ll try.” She attempted to quiet her shaking.

A knotted cord slapped the ground beside her. Slowly, she reached out with her right hand and grasped it. Letting go of the bush, she clung to the lifeline with both hands. In small increments she moved upward, all the while straining not to slip off. Just as her aching palms screamed for release, she neared an unseen ledge that harbored the man and the life-saving tether. As she struggled to climb over the edge, a large shadow reached for her and strong arms yanked her to the safety of flat ground. A man hovered above, breathing heavily.

“I can’t thank you enough,” Annabel said. Drained of strength, she lay on the ground, facing the sky. “How did you find me?”

She winced as the rising sun glowed behind him, casting the man into an enigmatic dark silhouette. Shading her eyes, a flash caught her eye.

He wore a badge, a silver star.

Available at Amazon for 99 cents.
Also in Kindle Unlimited.

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