When people think of Arizona, the first things that come to mind are the Grand Canyon, the hot, dry desert, and Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral fight. I know when my daughter-in-law came to Arizona for the first time, she had to see the Grand Canyon and then we drove down to Tombstone. Her greatest thrill was having her photo taken with Wyatt Earp. There is really much more to our State, but sometimes you have to find that historian or scholar willing to follow an interesting lead. On Friday, April 24, attendees at the Arizona History Convention can learn more about Wyatt Earp and Buffalo Bill Cody – did you know that both men were involved in mining ventures in Arizona and that Earp only spent a short period of time in Arizona, but went on to California? Garner Palenske (author of Wyatt Earp in San Diego) will discuss Earp’s Harqua Hala adventure while Bob Boze Bell, noted for his books on Earp, Holliday and other notorious characters, will talk about Earp in Hollywood. Both authors will be signing their books at the Convention.
April 23 – 26, Thursday through Sunday is the 56th Annual Arizona History Convention which will be held at the Casino del Sol Resort and Conference Center on the Yaqui Reservation near Tucson. Over 18 sessions with more than 50 presentations will be given on Arizona and Southwest history. Topics range from the development of the Salt River Valley, Medicine in the Southwest, mining, Shady Ladies, Arizona towns and communities and of course lawmen, badmen and Wyatt Earp. Both Marshall Trimble and Bob Boze Bell will be there signing copies of their new books. On Friday evening, the AHC will host a screening of the famed documentary Power’s War. Book vendors will be there, including Guidon Books. There is a nominal registration fee, but besides attending interesting sessions, you will have a chance to meet historians, scholars and people interested in history. For additional information check out www.arizonahistory.org
It should have been a time for rejoicing or at least relief. With General Robert E. Lee’s surrender a little less than a week earlier, the Civil War was practically at an end. President Abraham Lincoln decided to attend Ford’s Theater with his wife Mary and Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris on the evening of April 14th. General Ulysses S. Grant had declined an invitation to join the President that night. Much has been written about the events of that night, the other conspirators who attempted to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson, the success of John Wilkes Booth and his escape. Lincoln was mortally wounded, dying the next morning on April 15. Booth was killed trying to evade capture and many of the conspirators were hung including Mary Surratt. This was a terrible time for the United States for Abraham Lincoln was America’s great hope to heal the wounded nation. Many books have written about Lincoln, his life, the presidency, the assassination and aftermath. To help you chose the right one to begin your reading, contact us.
Charles Fritz noted Lewis & Clark painter, showed us another side to his artistic talent the other night. He spoke, of course about how he learned about the Voyage of Discovery and the preparation that went into his painting the 100 images that are on exhibit at the Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, spending time at the exact location during the same period of the year. Fritz also spoke about the Lewis & Clark expedition, the various members of the Corps, including Sacajawea, Charbonneau and York. He mentioned that a great source of information were the Journals written by Lewis and Clark and others on the expedition, edited by Gary Moulton. The SMOW has autographed copies of Charles Fritz’s book on his paintings, but if you want to learn more about Lewis and Clark, visit Guidon Books online or in the store.
Although it wasn’t officially the end of the Civil War, but on April 9, 1865, 150 years ago today General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant at the McLean home near Appomattox Court House. Lee was in his dress uniform while Grant wore his mud-spattered field coat and trousers. After a brief cordial moment, the two men spoke regarding the terms of surrender. In the end, Grant allowed the Southern officers and men to keep their horses and mules because they would be needed for a late spring planting. This helped the healing process between the two sides. Grant wanted all Confederate military equipment left, but it appears that Southern officers were allowed to keep their side arms. When Lee mentioned that his men had been without food for several days, Grant issued 25,000 rations for the Confederate troops. The next day, to avoid any future problems for the soldiers, Grant issued over 28,000 parole passes for the men. It seems that the war that caused such horrific pain and suffering was beginning to end with civility between the two armies. Not all Southern troops laid down their arms at this time and Confederate President Jefferson Davis fled Richmond and was later caught. But it was the beginning of the end. Many books have been written about these events. A classic is Burke Davis’s To Appomattox: Nine April Days, 1865” while Eyewitness to Appomattox compiled by Richard Wheeler provides first-hand accounts of that momentous event. Elizabeth Varon’s Appomattox: Victory, Defeat and Freedom at the End of the Civil War provides a new perspective on what happened.
Last night I had the opportunity to watch the new documentary film “Power’s War” by Cameron Trejo. It explores the extraordinary shoot-out and manhunt set in Arizona during 1918. Tom and John Power had refused to sign up for the military draft after America’s entry into World War I. The government called them slackers and eventually the law was sent to their cabin in the Galiuro Mountains of Graham County. In the pre-dawn hours of February 10, 1918, Sheriff Robert F. McBride and three other lawmen approached the Power’s cabin in the rugged canyon. What happened next depends on whose version of events you believe, but in the end, McBride, and deputies Martin Kempton and Kane Wooten were dead and Jeff Power, father of Tom and John was mortally wounded. The Power brothers and Tom Sisson, a friend who had also been inside the cabin, ran off. After a month long manhunt, the trio were eventually caught in Mexico. Historians Marshall Trimble, Heidi Oesselaer, Don Dedera, Eduardo Pagan, Mark Weitz and Barbara Wolfe provide commentary to the excellent film. There are other showings in Arizona as well as at the Arizona History Convention. Check out http://powerswar.com/ for additional information. There are also a few books available on the subject, including Thomas Cobb’s With Blood in Their Eyes and Tom Power’s own story, Shoot-out at Dawn: An Arizona Tragedy.
On April 6, 1862, approximately 100,000 soldiers fought at the battle of Shiloh. Nearly 20,000 men were killed or wounded with more Americans dying on that Tennessee battlefield than had died in all the nation’s previous wars combined. As with almost all battles, recriminations and what ifs abound. Why was General Lew Wallace (author of Ben-Hur and later governor of territorial New Mexico) taking so much time getting to the fight – General Ulysses S. Grant was livid with anger and never forgave Wallace. General Albert Sidney Johnston (the highest ranking officer killed in the war) was shot in the leg and bleed to death. If he had noticed, could the bleeding have been stopped? Was his death and later Stonewall Jackson’s shooting by friendly fire, one of the reasons for the Confederacy to lose the war? Is Shiloh the single most pivotal and defining battle in the Western theater during the Civil War? We have a selection of classic histories (Shiloh – in Hell before Night by James Lee McDonough) and newer studies (The Shiloh Campaign edited by Steven E. Woodworth) on this bloody battle available for the student of Civil War history or those just wanting to learn more about this great conflict.