Ah yes, the lure of America - of the West. The chance for adventure and freedom. That's what a lot of soldiers who joined the Regular Army after the Civil War were thinking. They were disappointed later when they were assigned to garrison the frontier. Cavalry soldiers deserted more frequently than infantry soldiers because they had horses and could get away faster and go farther. The desertion rate was tremendous and caused a lot of meetings back in DC. They weren't as worried about losing men as they were about losing horses and equipment. Posts tried improving food and paying more, and that helped a bit, but the bottom line was that post duty was mind-numbingly boring. Indians didn't try and attack large posts, such as Fort Lincoln, so there wasn't much in the way of military action unless the men were out on a campaign or a foray of some sort. Many of the soldiers were illiterate and received permission at larger posts (which had officers, their wives and children) to attend school if only to have something to occupy their minds. Scurvy set in because of the limited diet of beef and bread, essentially. This led to budgeting for seeds and creating the post garden, often 10-20 acres or more, which was tended by one or several soldiers specifically assigned to it. Before the invention of the post garden one garrison commander ordered those with scurvy to head out into the prairie and eat their fill of wild onions. It helped cure scurvy but some were killed by Indians while they were munching away. What a life! Private Shea from England was just one of many men who lived like this and was ultimately killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Sunday, January 8, 2023
Corporal John Foley was reported to have had a guidon under his body when his remains were identified on June 28, 1876, three days after the Battle of Little Bighorn. Several Indians who witnessed the battle or took part in it said Foley, the standard-bearer for C Compan, shot himself while galloping away. He is reported to have ripped the flag - or more properly called a guidon - from its staff and stuffed it in his shirt. The mystery is why wasn't it taken by Indians after Foley's death? Maybe it was overlooked. Maybe his body was not approached or examined. Well, obviously the guidon was overlooked because it exists today, although its in very poor condition. It was auctioned in 2010 by Sotheby's for $2.3 million. It's called the Culbertson Flag after the soldier who found it on Foley. It really should be called the Foley-Culbertson Flag, but that's just my opinion. Take a look at an NPR story about the sale here. Archivists at the battlefield say it's in such a state that it's little more than dust. It was purchased by an American collector. I would love to see it.
Here is my painting of Foley who was only about 26 years old when he died. His is quite a story.
Monday, January 2, 2023
I've been researching the individuals for my Little Bighorn project and have discovered some interesting, disappointing and disturbing things. For one, this painting of Mitch Bouyer, modeled after the photo of him with Stellar's jays on the sides of his hat, is not Bouyer at all but a famous Ute flutist named Acapore. An involved and well-researched discussion about it can be viewed on https://american-tribes.com
This one stays in my studio. I'm searching for a photo of Bouyer, or a photo of one of his children who could conceivably resemble his/her father. Can anyone out there help?
Saturday, December 24, 2022
I am working on a project to paint every soldier, Indian, government employee and civilian killed in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which took place on the hot and dusty slopes of southeastern Montana June 25-26, 1876. Right now I have completed two companies and I’m working on a third. I hope you find this project as interesting as I do. No one knows what most of these guys looked like (very few photos exist) but that’s not stopping me! Each 5x7” portrait will have a short biography. There will even be a painting of all the horses lost at this horrific battle. Thanks to my friend Karen Gleason, expert genealogist, and the folks at Little Bighorn Alliance and American-Tribes for helping dig up some very interesting facts about these men. I’m hoping to get a show up and going for the 150th anniversary in 2026. Thanks for looking.