On this day in 1902, publishing giant Macmillan printed a novel about the frontier West and the cowboy that became a mythic hero. The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains is considered the first true Western ever written and is loosely based on the Wyoming Johnson County War. From a prominent Philadelphia family, Owen Wister attended Harvard, like his friend Theodore Roosevelt. Like TR, Wister went West to better his health and fell in love with the land and its people. Wister started writing fiction, placing many of his stories on the frontier. On one trip to Yellowstone, Wister met artist Frederic Remington; they remained lifelong friends (a book of their correspondence was published, My dear Wister). Finally in 1902, his most successful work was published, “The Virginian” which was reprinted 14 times in the first eight months. The book has been made into a half-dozen movies and a very successful TV series. Several books have recently been published on Owen Wister and his legacy. The Virginian is still being read with millions of copies in print.
Memorial Day started as a remembrance to those who perished during the America Civil War and evolved as a holiday to honor all who died while in the military. Many members of my family, including my husband and sons, served their country from the American Civil War to the war in Iraq. They wore the uniforms of the U.S. Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force. I am grateful they all lived through their military service, but this day I remember those who died for our country
I love learning – whether it is about Arizona, Custer or the Civil War. This past Tuesday at the Scottsdale Civil War Round Table meeting, noted historian Frank O’Reilly gave a presentation on the 1864 Overland Campaign (sorry Westerners, this is not about crossing the American frontier but the fighting between the North and the South to reach Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy). It was the first series of engagements when Ulysses S. Grant went up against Robert E. Lee and according to O’Reilly, the two men learned a lot about each other that spring. I think it had a profound impact when the two met later at Appomattox. During the Q&A, O’Reilly mentioned Grant’s comment on having met Lee during the Mexican War, which he thought was trying to put them on a closer footing. Frank O’Reilly is the author of The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock, which he graciously signed for the audience. Limited copies of his signed book are available. John Bamberl, president of the SCWRT, said it was the best book on the subject and it really helped when he visited the Fredericksburg battlefield. With the sesquicentennial of the Civil War over, O’Reilly will be working on his next book about Malvern Hill. Next week at the Civil War Discussion Group meeting held on May 28 at Guidon Book @6:30 pm, we will further discussion the Overland Campaign. The public is invited.
I just returned from a great time at the New Mexico Historical Society’s Conference in Albuquerque. It was great seeing old friends and meeting new people. While there I talked with John Ramsey who is doing research when Arizona and New Mexico were one territory and much of southern Arizona was part of Dona Ana County. I have not found much yet, but let me know if you have any leads. It is coincidental that today in 1846 Congress approved President James K. Polk’s request to declare war on Mexico. After two years of fighting, the United States and Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on Feb. 2, 1848. A large part of northern Mexico, including northern Arizona and New Mexico, was ceded to the U.S. In 1854, the U.S. acquired the southern portion of this territory with the Gadsden Purchase. To learn more about the 1846-48 War with Mexico, you might want to read Amy Greenberg’s A Wicked War: Polk, Clayk, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico or the classic history by K. Jack Bauer, The Mexican War 1846-1848.