Monday, September 2, 2013


. . . and where has the time gone?

This summer has been another of great transitions. . . . We do not change easily; we must be jerked from the ground sometime. I have learned to trust God when I do not have the answers. Our lives are spent learning to trust God.

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So many wonderful things are happening. Lone Chimney Films will debut The Road to Valhalla on November 2 in Newton. I was so proud to be one of the on-camera historians for this important piece of Kansas and American history. With appearances by Buck Taylor and Michael Martin Murphey, music by Jed Marum, all springing forth from the scholarship and vision of friend Ken Spurgeon, it will be a documentary that stands the test of time. Watch the trailer:

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This weekend marks the Kansas Book Festival and Michelle Martin will be here Thursday when she closes up shop at the Little House on the Prairie. We will present to a class at Washburn Rural High School on Friday, attend the reception at the Governor's Mansion on Friday night, and the Book Festival on Saturday at the Kansas Statehouse! Here is the lineup of distinguished authors:

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A chance to pair once again with Wideawake Films and be a part of their exhibit and reenactment of the issuing of Order # 11. Visit Commerce Bank at 10th and Walnut in Kansas City. Their Box Gallery is outstanding. The exhibit is excellent and I was proud to speak, along with fellow historian the incredible orator, Ralph Monaco. Visit when you get a chance. I believe the exhibit is up through October. On September 14, there will be a reenactment of the execution of Order # 11, where families in western Missouri were put off their farms and exiled.

The extraordinarily gifted photographer Bob Szabo made this wet plate photo of my addressing the crowd in front of the Pacific House on Delaware Street in Kansas City. General Thomas Ewing, brother-in-law and foster brother of William T. Sherman, issued Order # 11 on August 25, 1863, in response to Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence.

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I have so many reviews to get to. Jenny Lasala sent me a wonderful book about her dad's military service, Comes a Soldier's Whisper. It's wonderful. Charlie Lesueur sent me his audio cds on western movie cowboys which are absolutely awesome! I have a couple of other books to get to as well. Maybe the fall will bring more time for reading and writing. Oh, and along the way this summer, I won an Arty Award for Literature. It was presented by my good friend, Diana Friend, of the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library. Sarah Fizell, head of Arts Connect, said:

We give a literary award because we believe that Topeka has a rich history of literary involvement that is deserving of recognition. Deb was given the award because of her promotion of the history of our state, her involvement in our community and, well, because she is so very awesome!!! 

Well, there is just a lot of awesomeness going around in our community. Speaking of which, here is a photo of me with my friend Michelle Levian that night. She is most remarkable!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

June, oops, July!!!!

It has been a busy month....lots of changes. The Kansas Hall of Fame was a resounding success. Spending time with these laureates or their representatives is a priceless gift. While it is a celebratory event, the real work comes with sharing the stories of the laureates and maintaining a continuous presence in the state. That's what I am working on now. If you would like to get involved in the Kansas Hall of Fame, do I have a deal for you! Drop me a line!

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One of the highlights of the month of June was visiting Cowboy Culbertson's, American Frontier Adventure, near Easton, Kansas. Heather Newell, trusty camera girl and brains behind Around Kansas, shot some fantastic footage of artists staging scenes with various models. My personal favorite among the models was old friend, Wes Studi. We first met years ago at a gathering hosted by my friend, Carol Ann Turner. It was great to visit and I am looking forward to the episode of Around Kansas that will feature Wes, Cowboy Culbertson, Dick Deshon, and Judy Coder. Rod Beemer took these photos (I look forward to visiting with Rod and taking one of his "Boss Hawg" tours of local Indian Wars sites for another episode).

As legions of fans can attest, Wes is the most intense of actors. He brings an unparalleled passion to his work. When asked if his combat experience in Viet Nam informed certain performances, he responded that he has been fortunate to have a broad range of life experience and all of it informs his acting. "Authentic" was the word of the day whether talking with Wes about his acting or with Cowboy about the experience and images he and others are trying to create at the ranch.

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August 21 will mark the 150th anniversary of Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence, Kansas. Events will be held throughout the month to recall the events of that tragic summer. On August 24, 10 a.m., I will lead a tour of Topeka Cemetery, 10th & California, that will highlight the lives of some of those connected to the raid, including some survivors, who rest in our state's most historic graveyard. The cost is $10 per person and the tour is about 2 hours long. Bring bug spray and wear comfortable shoes. Email me for more info:
We are starting to accept donations for the 2nd annual Shawnee County Attic Sale, with proceeds to benefit the Shawnee County Historical Society and the terrific programing we do. At a recent board meeting, we were treated to a reenactment of the Underground Railroad by our own resident teacher, Melinda Abitz, and volunteers George Bernheimer (also a board member), his lovely wife, Diane, Alan Shirrell, and Melinda's daughter who was drafted as well. This is one of the programs that summer camp kids were exposed to this year. With more than 500 kids attending, we took history to a lot of folks!!! So please consider donating furniture, collectibles, coins, militaria--anything of value that be suitable for an "estate sale." Call us at the SCHS and leave a message; we will arrange for pickup. 785-234-6097.
Local artist/gallery owner Jeff Hisey is donating space for our auction/sale.  He is leasing the building at 109 North Kansas Avenue (at the south end of the bridge) and is turning the space into a creative mecca! Visit him on 1st Friday!!!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kansas Hall of Fame

On June 21st, we will hold our reception and induction ceremony inducting the newest laureates into the Kansas Hall of Fame. While the event is a wonderful celebration, it is not our purpose. The event helps fund our purpose which is the sharing of the stories of the very deserving laureates with a public who deserve to know them.

KANSAS, the band, will be inducted as they celebrate their 40th birthday. Four decades as a rock band is amazing. These guys are nice people. They still like each other. They are not consumed by ego. That is amazing.

The music created by this group is enduring and profound. When I find myself perusing Facebook or Youtube sometimes, I click on one of their links and am blown away once more by their lyrics and their arrangements. There is not a moment that their music is not being heard somewhere around the world. It comforts, encourages, motivates, elevates. The state of Kansas is so proud to claim them and so proud that they chose the name of their native state. For putting Kansas on the musical map, we are grateful. Join us at White Concert Hall on Washburn University June 21st as we thank KANSAS for years of hard work and representing us to the world!!

Carry On!

Tickets are available at the Great Overland Station or at:

Carry On Wayward Son
Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more


Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion
I was soaring ever higher, but I flew too high

Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I'm dreaming,
I can hear them say

Carry on my wayward son,
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man,
Well, it surely means that I don't know

On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about, I'm like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune,
But I hear the voices say

Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more no!

Carry on,
You will always remember
Carry on,
Nothing equals the splendor
Now your life's no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you

Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry,
Don't you cry no more,

No more!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fiddlin' Dreams

I first met Tad Marks in Gettysburg. My dear friend, Carol Neumann Waskie, and I were sipping wine by the fire in the Dobyns House. Charlie Zahm was performing and I had become a fan since Carol's husband, Andy, had gifted me with his CD. He was accompanied by Tad on fiddle and Tad joined us in the parlor. The subject of Old Time music came up and I mentioned that I was related to Tommy Jarrell. Tad began to bow and stammer. I could not help but think if Uncle Tommy knew the reaction around the world when I tell people I knew him, and we are, in fact, distantly related, he would look down, rub the back of  his head and chuckle.

Yes, Uncle Tommy (actually cousin but Uncle is a sign of respect because of the age difference) has broadened my circle of friends and deepened the respect shown by perfect strangers.

Through the magic of Facebook, Tad and I stay connected so I can keep track of his own music career. This story he shared today was irresistible for creative types, and I wanted to share it with you:

Well the story goes- in a dream I was back in time sitting with Ronnie McCoury in a train station. we were waiting for Bill Monroe the Father of Bluegrass Music to get off the train and we were to take him to a festival. Monroe apparently was without his band and had been playing somewhere out west. Monroe kept talking about the American Indian he sat with on the train a Medicine Man. Monroe picked up Ronnie's mandolin and started playing a tune and this is what I heard. Even though it was a dream- I could see him clear as day and Then.... the alarm clock went off and i woke up !!!I worked this up on the fiddle real quick and recorded it , dubbed guitar and mandolin and electric bass immediately ...I found this original old DAT tape and added some reverb- here it is flaws-out of tune fiddle and all but it sounds just like the tune I heard in the dream. (right, photo of Tad with a student posted by Mike Biel on FB)

The result:

And, yes, I for one believe that Bill Monroe's personality was powerful enough to teach even in a dream.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Wild West -- On Sale Now!

When the storms rained out our cemetery tours, I picked up Noel and Alecia and we headed to Barnes and Noble--our destination of last resort. Picked up the newest issue of Wild West. There is a must-read article by Greg Michno, "Everything you know about the Indian Wars is wrong." It was great to see Greg at the Order of the Indian Wars in Denver when Michelle and I went out in Denver. He is a fine writer and historian, and this article is no exception.
Actually, this is one of those issues where every single article just strikes my fancy. Bil O'Neal has an interesting story on the Arizona Rangers, illustrated by a movie poster by that name for a film that starred Tim Holt, dad of my friend, Jack Holt.
The Weider History Group does it again. Great job, Greg Lalire!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I love Kansas...and KANSAS!

Good grief!! Another one of those times I have been too busy to blog, and I am grateful for the good things that have been happening.

Planning goes on for the Kansas Hall of Fame reception and induction. I am so fortunate to be involved in honoring and spreading the news of some of our most accomplished Kansans. This year's laureates are: James Naismith (who invented basketball); Drs. C. F., Karl and Will Menninger who founded the Menninger Psychiatric Clinic, Clark Kent/Superman, the band KANSAS, and the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry (the FIRST black regiment formed during the Civil War). We are beside ourselves that Bill Kurtis would make time to be our emcee for this event. The exhibit honoring these folks opens at the Great Overland Station during the First Friday artwalk, June 7. The reception will be June 21, 5:30 at the Great Overland Station and the induction ceremony is 7:30 at White Concert Hall the same evening. Reception tickets are $150 (and include the induction and will get you preferred seating in the concert hall). Tickets to the induction only are $20 and available through the Great Overland Station or at

Attending the induction: descendants of the 1st Kansas and retired General Roosevelt Barfield, who will accept the honor on their behalf; Jim Naismith, grandson and namesake of the legendary professor; John Montgomery, Hutchinson publisher, who will accept on behalf of Clark Kent; Laura Siegel Larson, whose father, the late Jerry Siegel created Superman; the Menninger family; KANSAS band members Kerry Livgren, Dave Hope, Rich Williams, Phil Ehart, Steve Walsh, Robby Steinhardt, Billy Greer, David Ragsdale, and producer Jeff Glixman.

This will be an awesome event, celebrating the lives of people who have served and shared our state in meaningful and enduring ways. Plan to see you there!

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Michelle Martin and I made a trek to Denver in April, for the Order of the Indian Wars Symposium. Had the opportunity to reconnect with dear friends like Louis Kraft and Jeff Broome and to meet new friends like Eric Johnson and Mary Lattin. Dr. John Monnett, a legend himself, was set up at the table next to us. Thanks to Layton Hooper for all he does to keep this organization going. It is a fantastic group of folks who are committed to studying and sharing some incredible history, history in which Kansas has a tremendous role. I will be speaking to this august group next year so mark your calendars for the April symposium.

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Gary and I took a little trip west, as well, staying in the McCracken home of friends Les and Rose Diehl, then heading to Fort Wallace, Oberlin, and Bennington, where we once again took advantage of the hospitality of friends Rod and Dawn Beemer. Along the way, we visited that geographic wonder, Monument Rocks. Gary had never had the opportunity to see this site and I was tickled to be the one who shared it with him!

Fort Wallace has one of the most excellent museums in the state, or in the West for that matter, and they just got a huge boost. At his death, one of the museum's volunteers left a gift of $700,000 to the museum and to the local library--$700,000 to EACH of them. The gift was an overwhleming gesture and the museum plans to make good use of it. Jayne Pearce, head of the friends group, was emotional as the second check was presented to the group. I have no doubt they will put it to good use. The communities of Wallace and Sharon Springs have worked so hard with local contributions and volunteer labor and artifacts lovingly donated. (KDOT put in restrooms a few years back and marks the only state money, to my understanding, used at the facility.)

I was invited to be the guest speaker for their annual meeting and they treated Gary and myself like royalty. We stayed at the Sunflower Bed and Breakfast, formerly a Methodist church, in Sharon Springs. I highly recommend it. It is a modern remodel, very comfortable. 

Then it was on to Oberlin where I spoke at the high school and at the Last Indian Raid Museum. Decatur County has some incredible history and Sharleen Wurm, Galen Olson and...... gave Gary and me our own personal tour of the sites related to the Cheyenne raid that occurred there in 1878. Their museum complex is first rate. With at least 17 buildings, these folks are passionate about their history and they sure do all they can to share it. Again, we were just treated like royalty. We stayed at the LandMark Inn, built as the Oberlin Bank in 1886. It also served as the county courthouse for a time and the giftshop occupies space where bounties were paid on pelts in a bygone era. Was I thrilled or what to walk into our room, the R. A. Marks Suite, only to find a HUGE print of Buffalo Bill Cody on the wall. Proprietor Gary Anderson is a former banker himself and restoring this downtown landmark was a real labor of love. A real treat was being invited to the home of Galen and Lynn Olson for supper--wonderful company and delicious food.

I love Kansas!!!!

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When we said so long for now, we headed to Phillipsburg where we stopped at historic Fort Bissell and were fortunate to catch it open. (It was just a little ahead of the season.) Again, what folks in thse communities are doing to preserve and share their history is so encouraging and truly remarkable. It makes me want to go back and rewrite the book on Forts and Bases! Actually, it should be volumes because there is so much to tell! For example, one of the buildings that has been relocated to Fort Bissell, is a family cabin where Buffalo Bill Cody was a frequent guest. That's enough to keep me coming back.

After visiting the folks at the bookstore in Philllipsburg, a really lovely couple, we stopped in to see Rod and Dawn Beemer--our home away from home in Bennington. Since the next day was our anniversary, Rod treated us to the "Boss Hawg Platinum Anniversary Tour" which featured sites in the story of Anna Morgan and Sarah White, abducted in this area in 1868 and rescued by Custer in 1869. Rod took us to places I would never have found in a million years and the scenery was glorious!!! Lunch in downtown Concordia and their museum is an absolute must-see. I have to say, visiting all these local museums makes me want to write a book just on that. Delphos, that tiny community with a big past, was open as well and it was a great opportunity to discover more than I had known like, Milburn Stone, Doc Adams of Gunsmoke fame, was married in the Presbyterian church here in Delphos. The town is most famous for being the residence of Grace Bedell Billings, the little girl who suggested that Lincoln grow a beard. Rod also took us to the Zebulon Pike Monument and that may very well be the most beautiful view in Kansas.

Rod and Gary, driving and riding shotgun, on the Boss Hawg Tour.

Until next time, Dear Reader, Happy Trails!!! This is just a little update from all the great things that are happening. Hope to see you soon!

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Birthdays

Tomorrow is a big day. Meetings in Hutchinson and then reception/talk/booksinging with Michelle at the Independence, Kansas, library. As it is the First day of April, I was thinking of the birthdays that occur this month, in addition to mine, of course. Some remarkable folks were born this month, beginning with my friend, Dena Wallace Anson.

Dena and I met while I was attending Washburn and working at Topeka Transit as a dispatcher. She was hired for Public Relations and we had an instant bond. She has worked for Washburn now for several years and they would be incredibly lost without them. She is dedicated, very hardworking, extremely capable, and just plain fun. Likewise, her husband Steve, the baseball coach at WU. I love them dearly.

Today is also the birthday of Simon Bolivar Buckner, Governor of Kentucky and Confederate general. His son, General S. B. Buckner II (right) is featured in our book, Kansas Forts and Bases. He was the highest ranking officer killed by enemy fire during World War II.

April 3 is the birthday of Cyrus Kurtz Holliday, my favorite Topekan. A native Pennsylvanian, also like many of my closest friends, Holliday came to the Kansas Territory as an idealistic, optimistic, industrious young man. He was instrumental in founding Topeka and the ATSF Railway. No one has ever loved Kansas more than Holliday. Even his passion was challenged, however, by political divisiveness and gridlock. At a particularly dismal point, Holliday wrote to his wife who was traveling abroad:

". . . I have sometimes become so 'soured' that I have almost resolved that I would quit the town and look up a new home elsewhere. I have given the place eighteen years of my life and a great deal of money -- as you well know --and without my unceasing and untiring efforts Topeka, today, would be no better than the small communities that surround her.
   But I have got about tired spending time and money to enrich me who never give, or do, anything except to oppose those things that would make our town and county valuable."

There is nothing new under the sun. Thankfully, Holliday stayed and a couple of years after he wrote this Topeka was asking him to serve as mayor, again, to help the town through its most difficult moments. He declined and went fishing.

I have lots more April birthdays to share. Happy April and stop back by!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Prairie Roses

 My dear  friend, June Windscheffel ( below left, photo by Topeka Capital Journal photographer Thad Alton), was honored by the American Business Women's Association last week. It was a lovely tribute to a woman that makes everyone feel like they are the most special person she has ever known. I am blessed to call her my friend! She has long been an advocate for history and came to our book launch party in February. She is a long-time member of the Westerners and is always laughing and learning! We love  you, June!!!!

Friday evening, I headed to Wichita for Lone Chimney Films next production -- The Road to Valhalla. I attended Ken Spurgeon's booksigning at Northfield School where he teaches and coaches. His book, just released by the History Press, is A Kansas Soldier at War: The Civil War Letter os Christian and Elise Dubach Isley. Ken is the best thing to happen to Kansas history since Lewis and Clark.

The Prairie Rose Chuckwagon, just outside Wichita, was the location for our filming on Saturday. Old friends Joe Houts and Paul Stuewe were the other "talking heads." It was great to visit with Joe and Noreen and they brought a bottle of wine with them as a wedding gift for Gary and me. (Yes, we have our third anniversary in May but keep the gifts coming!)

Other than being fed and feted like rockstars, the best part of this gig was visiting with the legendary Orin Friesen. We have so many friends in common and have been Facebook friends for a while, but this was the first opportunity to really visit. We talked music, music legends, cowboy movies, "Home on the Range," mutual buds -- it was a great time! Bonus: A copy of "Tales from the Trail" by the Prairie Rose Rangers. Orin's son, Jesse, proves he is his father's son with some fine picking and vocals. Kim Coslett and Jolynn MacIntyre round out this talented foursome.

While Joe and Paul were filmed in the rather cool room just off the greatroom at the Prairie Rose, the boys kindly built a fire for me. Being a girl has its advantages.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

No Greater Calling--a Review

I have had Eric Johnson's new work, No Greater Calling, for a few weeks now waiting for a review. It was difficult to get around to actually reviewing it as it was on constant loan. I carried it with me to talks and stopped to share it at historic sites. The jacket is already showing signs of wear.

"You have to see this!!!" I have enthusiastically informed my history buds. "You have to have this!"

No Greater Calling is a labor of love in the truest sense of the word. Nowhere is this about Eric; it is all about A Chronological Record of Sacrifice and Heroism During the Western Indian Wars, 1865 - 1898. The amount of dogged research that went into producing this 400-page volume is staggering. There is no editorializing, save for the quotes selected by the author throughout or the brief introduction and conclusion. It is simply a chronology of engagements and the resulting casualties of more than three decades of America's asserting control of the western United States. The dozens of photographs are those of graves. . . a quiet, compelling, black and white testament to the soldier's life.

It is one thing to know that George Custer's command was annihilated at the Little Big Horn River; it is another to see each man's name, five pages of names, each a real man. What is most startling however, is the sheer number of engagements and their vast geography. Take, for example, these two minor events, separated by a few days and hundreds of miles:

Skirmish, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona Territory (August 6, 1872) -- Company A of the 8th U. S. Cavalry; Action near Prior's For Montana Territory (August 14, 1872) -- Eight companies of the 2nd U. S. Cavalry and 7th U. S. Infantry. Sgt. James McClarren and a citizen, William Francis, were killed.

In all, Eric (right, while in the Navy) chronicles more than one-thousand, three hundred engagements. Some, like Little Big Horn, remain embedded in the national psyche. Others, like those just mentioned, were forgotten until Eric blew the dust from the records. A veteran himself, Eric thought the veterans of this era between the Civil War and the turn of the century were lost to history.

"For men who did all their nation asked of them," he wrote in the preface, "for those who willingly answered their nation's greatest calling, this cannot stand."

Historian John Monnett said, ". . . the American soldier of the frontier army has all but been forgotten or portrayed in  pejorative contexts. Eric Johnson has brought their names and story back to life as the men they were, doing their often undesirable, often controversial duty, a story of individual veterans who deserve the dignity of being remembered. The statistics Johnson brings to the fore in this excellent book will serve as a needed resource for writers and historians for years to come."

I concur. Let me add, this is the most valuable, most un-selfish book to land on my desk in years. Writers and historians have a desire to express themselves, to share their passions and prejudices and thus they insinuate themselves in the story by one means or another, if only through editing. Eric's ego is nowhere to be found in this book. This is a simple, straight-forward, long overdue tribute to men who served in a mostly thankless place for a mostly disinterested nation. This should absolutely be in every public and school library, as well as the shelves of Indian Wars enthusiasts.

It is no surprise that Eric's work has been nominated for the Army Historical Foundation 2012 Distinguished Writing Awards, the Reference Category. A hearty congratulations and a nod to Schiffer for publishing this valuable work.

No Greater Calling: A Chronological Record of Sacrifice and Heroism During the Western Indian Wars, 1865 - 1898. (Schiffer, 2012) hardcover, 408 pages, b&w pictures.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pine Ridge Perspective

Paul Brown (above,  Verlin Clifton, Tommy Jarrell, Paul Brown and Frank Bode) of NPR fame is an old friend. Paul came to Surry County, North Carolina, to make music with Uncle Tommy Jarell. (I could write a book on Uncle Tommy; there will be other posts.) When I left the position of news director at WPAQ Radio in Mount Airy (where Sherry Boyd was the morning dj), Paul took my place--really well, I might add. He was much better than I. So, now that Paul has hit the bigtime, I thought it might be useful to remind him of a little Pine Ridge (NC) perspective and I sent him this message on Facebook. It was so popular that I thought I would share it with all y'all as well:

To Paul Brown -- The news of Hugo Chavez's being embalmed and put on display reminds me of a "conversation" Grandpa Coalson had with a cousin who was bad to drink. He brought his mama to visit Grandma and Grandpa. While the women were in the kitchen visiting, we grandkids were watching Bob Gordon Theater on TV and Grandpa was having his weekly treat--Dr. Pepper. My cousin talked nonstop for hour and Grandpa didn't even nod much less talk to him. Grandpa did not suffer fools and the conversation was pretty ridiculous. Finally, my cousin said, "When I die, I want to be put in a glass coffin so people can come see me." Grandpa looked at him and said, "Nobody wants to see you now. Why in the hell would they want to see you after you're dead?" Yep, Pine Ridge.

Yes, Buffalo Bill used a cell phone. . . .

Gary took this picture of Kirk Shapland and his son Ethan at the Lincoln Days Annual Reeanctment, Lincoln, Kansas. Kirk does an awesome job portraying "Cody of the Plains" and his bud, Mark Berry is just a showstopper with California Joe.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Topeka Library--Best Staff Ever!!

It was great fun visiting with Diana Friend and Lisa Coble Krings at the library yesterday and the above video is the result. Had I realized there would be video and not just audio, I would have fixed up a little bit. Ah well.

A plug for our library: they are just the best. Jeanne Mithen, in the Topeka Room, serves on the Board of Trustees of the Shawnee County Historical Society and I owe her big time, all the time! She and Doug Wallace are responsible for the contents of our newsletter (Carol Yoho then does the heavy lifting). They always do good work.

I am so looking forward to talking about the Civil War in Kansas at the library on Sunday. Hope to see y'all there!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Blessed to Be Busy

I am blessed to have a very busy week, even with the snow. Fortunately, we escaped the second foot of snow that others very close to us received, but we did get a really beautiful snowfall. It is winter--in all its glory and vengeance.

My co-author on this latest book, Michelle Martin, arrives tomorrow and we will have our book launch party. Yaay us!!! Michelle was the perfect person to share this project, Kansas Forts and Bases: Sentinels on the Prairie. For one thing, she did all the hard work like coding images. We will be speaking at our regular meeting of the Civil War Roundtable of Eastern Kansas Thursday night at 6:30. The CWRT is a very well-read and very active with history-related activities. Membership is only $15 a year and we encourage new members! That membership goes to covering speakers' expenses. Member or not, though, the public is welcome to attend any of our meetings and especially Thursday night!

We will be guests Thursday morning on WIBW Radio with Jamie and Roger and on WIBW TV with Ralph Hipp at 4. On Friday, we'll be signing books at Rusty Haggles in the historic NOTO Arts District before Gary and I head over to the Kansas Music Hall of Fame in Lawrence. On Saturday, local bands the Exceptions and Kerry Livgren, below, will be inducted into this elite organization. (Kerry has been inducted previously with Kansas and White Clover.) Kerry is the songwriter behind hits Dust in the Wind and Carry On My Wayward Son. He is not only a very talented guy but a good man as well.

On Sunday, Michelle and I have a book signing at Lecompton's Constitution Hall.

The Kansas Hall of Fame had scheduled a press conference to announce its 2013 laureates but we had to reschedule to March 14 due to the weather. Trust me, however, that the event is going to be stellar this year!!! Mark your calendars for June 21 and stay tuned for updates.

In the meantime, I'm just trying to get a little writing done. . . .

Monday, February 25, 2013

Talk About Topeka

Chris Schultz, local Renaissance man, interviewed me on Talk About Topeka several months ago, when The Civil War in Kansas was released. Well, it's time to go back and discuss the new book, but in the meantime it was nice to go back and review that interview. Chris and the Schultz Family do so much for our community. Visit them at the Breakroom or the Field of Greens downtown. The dinner theater at the Breakroom will see the debut of the one-woman show I am writing on Mary Lincoln in August. Veteran actress Karen Hastings will be portraying the controversial first lady. Chris tells me they are already selling tickets!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

God Didn't Choose Sides

This is officially my new favorite CD.

Steve Gulley was being interviewed on WBRF Radio in Galax, Virginia, by my friend, Sherry Boyd. When the music conversation turned to Civil War history, I was fairly jumping up and down. While Steve described the story of Amos Humiston, I was typing Sherry messages via Facebook: "My friend, Mark Dunkelman, wrote the book on Humiston's story--Gettysburg's Unknown Soldier!"

Sherry and Steve talked about Jennie Wade, the young woman killed by a stray bullet during the battle of Gettysburg. These and many more poignant stories of the war found their way into song with the release of this CD, God Didn't Choose Sides. I could not have said it better.

As a "popular" historian, it has always been my mission to share the stories of real people and to make the experiences of the past come to life in a meaningful way. I have always felt that I was introducing people to one another across time. The people I have met in studying the Civil War are as real to me as any living person I have known because they are real; they are just not alive at this minute. But in a few minutes, neither will we be alive -- whether that is five minutes or five hundred thousand minutes from now. I have always understood this --that people before us were just as real. This CD is based on that understanding. As incredibly large in scope as the American Civil War was, it was made up of the thousands upon thousands of stories of ordinary people, of soldiers like Amos Humiston who died on a battlefield far from home clutching the image of his children. That experience is timeless; every soldier in every age can relate, as can every wife waiting for a husband's return. Jennie Wade and Amos Humiston did not choose to make history; rather, they were making a life when they became swept up into history. That's how it happens, and those are the ties that bind us through the ages. This CD is an eloquent and compassionate voice bringing the past into our present.

It is obvious that this entire production is a real labor of love. Tim Stafford, from the band Blue Highway, commented, "It was a great experience, working with some of my favorite people like Ron Stewart, Adam Steffey, Steve Gulley, Bryan Turner. Justin Moses and Mark Fain."

Tim added, "Sam Passamano's vision for the record was built around the idea of the common man's experience in the Civil War, and I think the songs are consistent with that vision. I'm glad that I was able to be a part of it as a songwriter, guitarist and singer."

Tim lent his vocal skills to "Providence Spring," the miraculous story of a spring that appeared during a thunder storm in the midst of Andersonville Prison, the most notorious of the prisoner of war camps necessitated by war. (While Andersonville has become the most widely known, every POW camp, North and South, was a hell on earth. My great-grandfather, captured at Culp's Hill on the second day of the fighting at Gettysburg, went to Fort Delaware and then to Point Lookout, Maryland, where he remained until the war was over. There are accounts of men cooking rats and eating rotten seagulls that washed up on the shore.)

Tim is justifiably proud. The first licks of the first song, "I'm almost home" (co-written by Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford), promise good music to follow. Bluegrass fans will revel in the performances (Lonesome River Band, Marty Rabon, Russell Moore to name a few), and history fans will delight in hearing treasured stories interpreted in music. With meaningful stories, well-crafted songwriting, amazing musicians and vocalists, as well as  quality production, this CD is destined to be a classic. I am most thrilled, however, by the fact that it is Volume I.

Order directly at . . . . Buy several: you'll be loaning this one to a lot of friends, so may as well get them a copy!

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Little, No, A LOT of Kansas Hospitality!!!!

We showed up at the Beemers, suitcases in hand, weary and worn, and the first thing to greet us was the smell of supper. Dawn is a jewel! A wonderful cook, a wonderful hostess, a good friend!!
Once we were fortified with fine vittles we went exploring with Rod as our guide. First, in the Boss Hawg cadillac, second in the Bisel Mobile. 

I had never been to the Spillman Cemetery, resting place of Willis Daily, son of Susanna Alderdice, captured in a Lincoln County Indian raid in 1869. Her children were killed; Willis, injured and left for dead, miraculously survived. Friend Jeff Broome wrote Dog Soldier Justice about the raid and the attempt to rescue Susanna. As the Cheyenne saw the cavalry approaching,they killed Susanna. She was buried somewhere on the Summit Springs battlefield and Jeff hopes to find her and bring her back to this family cemetery. As I walked through the graveyard, the music of Dave Zerfas kept playing in my head. ("Six String gotta have it). After the Spillman Cemetery, we headed the other direction to one of most beautiful gravesites I've ever seen--overlooking the rolling countryside and facing a monumental buffalo.Rod and Gary discussed the engineering required to build the beast.
We had spent the previous two days in Lincoln, Kansas, for their annual Lincoln Days celebration. Troy Strahan, bottom, had a moving performance of the 16th president. It was a wonderful weekend, full of rich history and warm friends, old and new.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Blacksnake

I posted a new blog entry on Mother Earth News. Publisher Bryan Welch is such a fine writer; I am so pleased to have any connection to this group!

The blogs will form the foundation of a book I am writing.

Books Arrived!

Kansas Forts and Bases has arrived ahead of schedule! Kudos to those hard-working folks at the History Press! Many thanks to our editor, Becky Lejeune. She's a gem.

Michelle and I will have our official launch party on February 28, at the Cox Communication Heritage Education Center, 1118 SE Madison, here in Topeka. We are hopeful that Jerry Morelock, editor of Armchair General magazine will be there as well since he wrote our foreword. This will be the regular meeting of our CWRT of Eastern Kansas. If you can't be there, you can order a copy from this blog, from Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, and of course, directly from the History Press. I will have copies at Lincoln, Kansas, for the Lincoln Day festivities as well.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Abolitionists

While watching the Abolitionists on The American Experience, I am reflecting on an episode that occurred when I was doing research:

I was in the public library in Augusta, Georgia, twelve years ago or so, and I was reading old newspapers on the microfilm. I had been in so many archives and libraries in those weeks and months that I had become quite adept at quickly threading the film.

Beside me, a black woman and her daughter, a fourth-grader as I recall, struggled with the finicky machine and she glanced my way and asked if I could show her how to operate it. We made small talk; the little girl was working on a class project.

I turned back to my work, hoping they would not glance over and look at the screen. I was scanning the papers from 1865 for advertisements of slave sales and there it was--"Prime Field Hands," it proclaimed, "Auction." The date was April 19, 1865, ten days after the surrender of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, more than two years after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Other slaves were listed in the ad, including a 7-year-old girl.

The little girl and her mother were inches away from me. I choked. I wanted to sob. I kept glancing at this pretty, neat, impatient little girl and her mother, a good mother, bringing her child to the library to work on a school project.

It was incomprehensible. How could there be a time that this child could have been torn from her mother's arms and sold for money?

We exchanged looks, smiles, as the mother directed her little girl to search out the information she needed. I quickly made copies and rewound the microfilm. Maybe there was more on the reel, but I didn't want to see it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

New Book Launch--Feb. 28

Michelle and I want to invite you to the launch party for Kansas Forts and Bases: Sentinels on the Prairie which will occur at the regular meeting of the Civil War Roundtable of Eastern Kansas, Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m. Michelle and I will speak and then we'll sell, sign and party!!! The CWRT meets each month in the Cox Communications Heritage Education Center, 1118 SE Madison, Topeka.  The meetins are always free and membership, only $15 a year, is encouraged. Come join us! The book retails for $19.99 and we can't wait to share it with you. Thanks so much to Becky Lejeune and the staff at the History Press for such a great job.
We are so proud that retired Col. Jerry Morelock, editor of Armchair General Magazine, wrote the foreword. We cannot thank him enough.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jammin' for Dan

The Joel Edison original guitar that will be raffled at the Jam4Dan this weekend made its debut in the Bisel living room during Borderline practice. Dave Houser (left) vouched for the quality sound of this fine instrument. Joel Edison (right), master instrument builder, spends many months building a fine instrument which he donates to the cause of honoring the late Dan Falley and raising money for music scholarships in Topeka. He will sit in with Borderline tonight at the Celtic Fox on W 8th Street. Borderline is on at 7, but there are great groups all weekend. Come join us for a good time and a good cause.
 This is the SIXTH Jam4Dan. Visit the website to learn more, but most importantly, just come on down and join us!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Looking Back

Stumbled across this image today and just decided to share it, especially in light of the fact that Ken Spurgeon is hard at work on the third of his trilogy on the Border War, Road to Valhalla. Ken is on the left, back row, along with Nathan Miller and Jon Goering; front, Drew Gomber and  Fred Chiaventone (with the ever-present coffee cup). I, of course, am smack-dab in the middle. Looking forward to this new project!

* * * * * * * * *

Today is the birthday of John P. Hatch. . . .

John P. Hatch, in all honesty, is not one of my favorite people. As part of the occupying army in the South following the war, he was rather arrogant. Nonetheless, I found this on the Arlington Cemetery site:

It's very interesting and worth the read.
Served in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars
A Descendant of Major Porter, An Aide de Camp on Benedict Arnold’s Staff
NEW YORK, New York, April 14, 1901 – Brevet Brigadier General John Porter Hatch died at his home, 202 West One Hundred and Third Street, late Friday night. He had suffered for some time from heart disease. He retired early in the evening and was found dead in bed about 11 o’clock. General Hatch was born in Oswego, New York, January 8, 1822, and was a descendant of Major Moses Porter, aide-de-camp on the staff of General Benedict Arnold at the battle of Saratoga. His ancestors came to this country in 1634. General Hatch was graduated at the West Point Academy and was appointed a Lieutenant in the Third United States Infantry July 1, 1845. He reported for duty with his regiment at Corpus Christi, under General Taylor, in October of that year, and engaged in the battle of Palo Alto. He was one of the only two surviving officers of Palo Alto, the other being General Lawrence V. Graham of Washington. He took part in every important battle of the Mexican War, and especially distinguished himself at Vera Cruz and in fighting before the City of Mexico, being brevetted three times for gallantry. At the close of the Mexican War he was assigned to duty in New Mexico, in 1857 was sent against the Apache Indians and in the next year against the Navajos. This campaign was distinguished for being the first in which the Navajos had ever used rifles, their weapons before having always been bows and arrows and tomahawks. In 1859, with twenty-five men, General Hatch escorted the Governor of Missouri from New Mexico, where he was visiting, back to Missouri, there way lying through the country of the hostile Comanches, who were then fighting the Government. At the outbreak of the Civil War General Hatch was appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers and commanded a brigade in the first battle of Bull Run. Subsequently he commanded a division in General Banks’ army and went with him through the Shenandoah Valley. General “Stonewall”Jackson, the famous Confederate leader, in several of his works, has given credit to General Hatch for saving Banks’ corps from annihilation on this expedition. At the second battle of Bull Run General Hatch led a charge against the railroad embankment behind which were a large force of Confederates, and was shot in the head, but recovered. At the battle of South Mountain, Maryland, September 14, 1862, where he commanded a division, he was shot in the leg after leading his own soldiers, and for his gallantry was awarded a gold medal by Congress. This wound compelled his retirement from active service for five months and after that he did court-martial work in connection with recruiting until 1864, when he was assigned to the Army of the South. He took part in the operations against Charlestown and with his division occupied this city after its fall. He cooperated with General Sherman in his march to the sea, having charge of what was known as the Coast Guard, a division of the Army that covered the extreme eastern flank of Sherman’s army. From that time on until the end of the war he served with Sherman, when he was sent first to Texas and then to Montana having charge of several different Government posts and engaging in a number of fights with Indians. He was retired under the age limit in 1886 and for the last ten years has lived in this city. He leaves a widow, a son, Mark B. Hatch of Washington and an unmarried daughter, who has lived with her parents. General Hatch was a member of the Foreign War Society, the Aztec Club of ’47, an association formed by the officers at the time of the occupancy of the city of Mexico, and was once President of the club. He was also a member of the Army of the Potomac Society, the Loyal Legion and Lafayette Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. His body, according to present arrangements, will be taken to Washington tomorrow and there interred in Arlington Cemetery.