Sep/Oct 2012








September 3, 1951: Published on this date in Life magazine, is a story entitled “Who Gets the General’s Body.” It discusses a controversy surrounding the disinterment and reburial of one of America ’s great Revolutionary War heroes, General Daniel Morgan. General Morgan – who was a colonel throughout most of the Revolution – led regiments of frontier riflemen, and it is quite possible that America owes its very freedom as a nation to his leadership and the exploits of his soldiers. Throughout Morgan’s life he was often both at the center of attention and the center of controversy. The article in Life demonstrates that he was also such in death. When he died in 1802 at age 66, he was buried in Winchester, Virginia, and few people at that time thought he would ever be forgotten. However, he pretty much was. Then, during the Civil War, his remains were moved for fear that Yankee soldiers might dig him up. With the further passage of time, his gravestone became chipped and difficult to read and the cemetery to which he had been moved suffered from a lack of maintenance. So a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution from Spartanburg, South Carolina, a city near the site of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Cowpens, which was one of Morgan’s great victories, decided to again move the general’s remains to a location that they believed would provide more respect for his memory. This effort suddenly awoke the people of Winchester , and when a delegation from Spartanburg showed up with picks and shovels, a group of Winchester “patriots” drove them away. General Morgan became the real victor of this altercation, for in self-defense and to re-insure Morgan’s memory to posterity the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society erected an impressive granite monument over his grave.

September 5, 1877: Sometimes a virtually unknown individual can in the moment of a heart beat influence history. Such was the case for William Gentles, an Irish emergent whom like many others found a home in the United States Army. While working as a 26-year-old common laborer in New York, he sought to improve his lot by signing up for a 5-year enlistment in 1856. He served “out west” in Company K, Tenth Infantry, to be discharged at Fort Laramie in 1861. The Civil War then being on, he re-enlisted with the First Missouri Volunteer Engineers. Clearly Gentles favored life in the army, for after the Civil War he again enlisted, and again his service, which was with the Fourteenth Infantry, was “out west.” In 1877 the Fourteenth Infantry served at and around Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Fort Robinson happened to be one of the key forts at which many of the Sioux and Cheyenne “hostiles” surrendered after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The mix of reservation Indians and surrendering hostiles led to tribal jealousies and unrest. Involved in this were two well-known figures: Red Cloud and Crazy Horse. Red Cloud had been a “reservation Indian” prior to the Sioux War, while Crazy Horse was, of course, one of the most respected and feared of the Sioux war leaders. As army officers sought to defuse this perceived increasing friction, it was determined that Crazy Horse should be arrested. On the afternoon of this date, Gentles was on duty at Sentry Post #1, which was located near the Fort Robinson guard house. Crazy Horse had been escorted to the fort, and when he realized that officers intended to place him in that guard house, a sudden struggle ensued: he pulled a knife, was restrained by other warriors, and somehow was fatally bayoneted by Gentles. It still remains unclear whether Gentles intentionally bayoneted Crazy Horse or if he simply leveled his rifle and the struggling Crazy Horse was shoved into the bayonet. Whatever the cause, the bayonet passed almost completely through Crazy Horse’s body piercing both of his kidneys. He died around midnight. Gentles was immediately hidden within the fort and then spirited away to Camp Sidney, Nebraska. Some nine months later, at age 48, Gentles died of natural causes at Fort Douglass, Utah.

September 12, 1962: The United States Air Force initiates Operation Ranch Hand in Vietnam, which is explained as a "modern technological area-denial technique" designed to expose the roads and trails used by the Viet Cong. In other words, U.S. personnel flying C-123 Providers, start dumping an estimated 19 million gallons of defoliating herbicides over 10-20 percent of Vietnam and parts of Laos . Agent Orange--named for the color of its metal containers--is the most frequently used defoliating herbicide. Lasting from 1962 to 1971, the operation succeeded in killing vegetation, but not in stopping the Viet Cong. Both during and after the war, the use of Agent Orange was controversial. There were unanswered questions concerning long-term ecological impact and the possible effect on humans who either handled or were sprayed by the chemicals. Beginning in the late 1970s, Vietnam veterans began to cite the herbicides, especially Agent Orange, as the cause of health problems ranging from skin rashes to cancer to birth defects in their children. Similar problems were reported among the Vietnamese people who lived in the areas where the defoliating agents were used. War always has its collateral damage, and sometimes that damage lurks unknown until it haunts victim’s years later. Sadly we are still losing veterans – friends and loved ones - over health related problems caused by Operation Ranch Hand.

September 22, 1871: In Mono County, California, just a few miles south of the turnoff on Highway 395 to Mammoth Lakes and the Mammoth Mountain ski slopes, and directly across from the southern section of the Mammoth Lakes - Yosemite Airport, there is a road that leads west toward the High Sierra and a beautiful deep mountain lake. That road passes, rides up the sides, and tops out over ancient glacial moraines to reach the lake just at its exit stream. The road then winds around the southern shore through a small lakeside campground to a turn-around. The mountain rising from the far end of the lake (Mt. Morrison ) is steep and colorful, and the waters of the lake are a rich blue. If one knows where to go, huge Brown trout lurk a few yards off shore for wads of worms, and near the forested entrance stream, Rainbow trout can often be caught by drifting a line down through the stream’s rapids as it enters the lake. On September 17, 1871, some 130 miles to the north, 29 desperate men escaped from the Nevada state prison at Carson City killing two people in the process. After them rode a heavily armed posse of law officers and Carson City citizens. That posse eventually gave up, but a second posse led by Sheriff Robert Morrison of Benton cornered a group of the bad men in the forest at the base of this beautiful lake. A gun battle erupted, Sheriff Morrison and several others were killed, three of the escapees were captured, two of which were promptly hung. Within two months 18 of the 29 escapees were either captured or killed. It was from this incident that this beautiful lake received its present name: Convict Lake.


October 2, 1835: By ignoring the Constitution of 1824, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna transformed the government of Mexico into a military dictatorship. In response, the state of Coahuila refused cooperation, the state of Zacatecas rebelled, and tempers flared in the territory of Texas . The rebellion in Zacatecas was brutally crushed, Texan spokesman, Stephen Austin, was imprisoned in Mexico City, and troops were sent into Texas under the command of Santa Anna’s brother-in-law, General Martin Perfecto de Cos. But the garrisoning of Mexican troops in the province of Texas in 1835 had the same effect as the garrisoning of British troops in the English colony of Massachusetts in 1775 – it simply increased the pressure between the provincials and the Mother Country. Cos moved on San Antonio, where the garrison commander was busily confiscating weapons from the local citizens. It was Santa Anna’s intention to seize all civilian arms and ammunition. Word came from the village of Gonzales that the citizens there were renovating a small cannon, which years before they had been given to help protect the village from Indian attack. Troops were sent to confiscate the cannon only to discover that the little Texan defensive force of only 18 had swelled to 167. In the early morning, flying a flag made by a wife and daughter, the Texans attacked. The Mexican troops fled back to San Antonio . The flag pictured a lone star above the shape of a cannon barrel on a white background; below the cannon barrel were inscribed the words, “Come and Take it!” It was the first Texas Lone Star flag, and today it is called “The Gonzales Flag,” or “The Come and Take It Flag.” As were the first shots of the American Revolution fired when British troops attempted to confiscate patriot arms, so were fired the first shots of the Texas Revolution. Later it was said, “Everyone who knows the Texans, or who has heard of them, would naturally conclude that they would never submit to be disarmed. Any government that would attempt to disarm its people is despotic; and any people that would submit to it deserve to be slaves!”

October 13, 1792: In the afternoon a group of Freemasons march from Georgetown to the present-day location of the White House. At this time the spot is a raw construction site called "President's Park," and the "Presidential Palace," to be eventually named The White House, is in the beginning stages of construction. "Gentlemen of the town and area" had joined with the marchers, and as they watch, the Freemasons spread wet mortar on one of the Virginia Aquia sandstone foundation stones, lay in a polished brass plate, and then cover it with a cornerstone. Afterwards they retire to Georgetown 's Fountain Inn to celebrate the nation's future with toast after happy toast. Somewhere among all the toasts the location of the cornerstone becomes hazy and then completely disappears. History passes to 1946 when an old letter dated October 20, 1792 comes to light. It describes "the first stone" being laid "in the southwest corner of the president's house." Before the discovery of this letter, the cornerstone's location was believed to be in the northeast corner of the White House. Three years after the discovery of the letter, during the administration of President Harry Truman, the White House is completely gutted for remodeling, and historical enthusiasts seize the opportunity to hopefully cut into the walls to locate the “lost” cornerstone. However, Truman refuses to allow any excavation into stable parts of the building not requiring renovation. The work crews do, however, discover a marble box hidden under the White House entrance hall. It contains an empty bottle of Hunter's Baltimore Rye – an empty whiskey bottle.

October 24, 1901: There are many avenues people take in this world to find fame. On this date, a 63-year-old former schoolteacher, Annie Edison Taylor, made her bid for fame and fortune by becoming the first person to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Secured by a harness and sealed in a specially made oak barrel, she was released into the current of the Niagara River where she was swept over Horseshoe Falls . The barrel and Annie plunged 173 feet into the churning cauldron below. Pulled from the river some seventeen minutes later, Annie emerged from the barrel cut and bruised, but not badly hurt. "Have I really gone over the falls?" she asked her rescuers. Over the next 20 years Annie tried to capitalize on the stunt, but in 1921 she died penniless. Today she rests in Niagara's Oakwood Cemetery, between two other luckless Niagara daredevils.


October 31, Traditional: There is an Irish myth about a man named "Stingy Jack," who after inviting the Devil for a drink refused to pay. Twice he tricked the Devil to avoid payment. The second time he cornered the Devil up a tree by cutting a cross into the tree's bark. Jack refused to let the Devil down until he was promised that the Devil would not bother him nor claim his soul for ten years. However, Jack soon died, and according to the story, the Lord did not wish to have such a trickster in heaven. The Devil, true to his word, would not let Jack into hell either, and sent him off to wander the night with only a glowing coal to guide his way. Jack put the coal in a carved-out turnip, and since has wandered the Earth. The Irish referred to the legend's ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern" - shortened to "Jack O'Lantern." As time went along, versions of Jack's lantern were carved from turnips, potatoes, or large beats and placed in windows to scare away evil spirits. When the legend migrated with Irish emigrants to the New World, they found pumpkins, native only to America, perfect for Jack O'Lanterns.

Paul “Cougar Heart” Jacobson

NAF #015


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