Today in History – the Battle of Little Bighorn

June 25th is one of those days that is permanently in my memory because of a historical event.  Today, it is the 143rd anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn, the battle during the Great Sioux War of 1876 in which Civil War hero George Armstrong Custer and five companies of the 7th Cavalry Regiment under his command were wiped out by a much larger force of Native Americans.  Since my teenage years, my view of the battle has been largely shaped by a (somewhat) obscure book called Son of the Morning Star, by Evan S. Connell.

That book would eventually inspire a made-for-television movie of the same name, a movie that I really liked, despite its flaws and its general commercial failure.  Connell’s book was adapted into a screenplay by Melissa Mathison, who took Connell’s book and adapted it into a tale told by two women with very different perspectives: Libbie Custer (played by Rosanna Arquette) and Kate Bighead (voiced by Buffy Sainte-Marie and played by Demina Becker as a girl and Kimberly Guerrero as an adult).

Elizabeth_Bacon_Custer_-_Brady-Handy
Elizabeth “Libbie” Bacon Custer, probably circa 1865

It is largely because of Libbie Custer that her husband’s reputation and his memory in general did not suffer as much, at least for the first century or so after his death.  And frankly, it probably should have suffered.  Custer was brash, egotistical, vain, stubborn, and reckless with the lives of those who he led.  There is a reason he graduated dead last in his West Point class of 1861.  He was a controversial figure while he was alive, much less afterward.  It is largely because of Libby Custer that the view of Custer as a tragic hero perpetuated for so long (see the movie They Died With Their Boots On, with Custer portrayed by Errol Flynn).

But what actually happened at Little Bighorn is much more complex than what was portrayed in popular culture for so long.  And Son of the Morning Star (the book AND the movie) does a much better job than anything before or since in portraying the battle and what happened.  That’s my opinion, for whatever it’s worth.  Here’s a clip of the opening titles and scene, where the column under General Alfred Terry (played by Terry O’Quinn!) arrives on the battlefield to see they have missed the fight.  Note also Captain Frederick Benteen played by David Strathairn.  Also note that the story is largely narrated by the two women.

I don’t know if this film will ever find its way to DVD, much less Blu-Ray, but it should.

~Geoff

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On not giving a damn

Disclaimer: Geoff loathes this movie and book upon which it is based.  That’s not why I am posting it here.  That’s just a bonus.  (Love you, sweetie.)

The scene above is important for one really major reason.  For all of their ups and downs and crazy drama, Rhett no longer cares for Scarlett.  At all.  He doesn’t love her, he doesn’t hate her, he just doesn’t care.

This is probably where I should warn you that this post is about unpleasant things.  Trauma, PTSD, abuse – a lot of stuff.  Turn back here should you need to.  Likewise, for a variety of reasons, what I’m going to write may be a bit opaque with oblique references.  This is necessary.  I apologize for the confusion.

Continue reading “On not giving a damn”

Should we be worried?

Around the same time our “Stable Genius” leader was tweeting about the size of his “nuclear button” like he was a high school freshman, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that they are going to hold a session on January 16th about teaching federal, state, and local first responders how to “prepare for a nuclear detonation”.  Both Guam and Hawaii have been more focused on nuclear threats in recent weeks and months, as both places are likely within the range of ballistic missiles from North Korea.

Continue reading “Should we be worried?”

The Trumpization of Civil War history

As a general rule, I am not a fan of the term “history buff”.  Whenever I see someone referred to as a “history buff”, I tend to become a little irritated.  In my mind, history buffs collect the Civil War Chess Set and Stonewall Jackson beer steins.  Historians do research and then usually present their findings in one way or another.  Just because you read history doesn’t mean you are a historian, just as the fact you can speak English does not mean you could be an English teacher, you know?

So when I read about Paul LePage, Governor of Maine (and living example of how the combination of poor anger management and eating too much poutine is really bad for you), making the (to me) astounding claim that 7,600 men from Maine fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, I nearly coughed Coke Zero through my nose.   Continue reading “The Trumpization of Civil War history”

Today, April 12, is one of those days when so much happened

Today’s date is a day on which so many things happened, I doubt I can even remember them all.

Of course, it is the day that in 1861 the Civil War started with an artillery bombardment of the Union garrison in Fort Sumter, in the middle of Charleston Harbor.  That’s a gimme for a Civil War historian like me.

Continue reading “Today, April 12, is one of those days when so much happened”

The science and history of rogue waves, part two

While searching for some videos on YouTube that might do a better job of explaining the phenomenon of rogue waves than I can, I actually found some really, really good material.  First, one of my absolute favorite people on the Intertubes, Hank Green, who is also half of the awesome duo that is the vlog brothers.  Here, Hank talks about rogue waves on his SciShow channel.

Continue reading “The science and history of rogue waves, part two”

The science and history of rogue waves, part one

In what could prove to be a huge step forward in predicting how rogue waves are formed, and thus a tool for saving lives at sea, researchers at MIT have found a way to give 2 to 3 minutes warning of an incoming rogue wave.

I know it probably sounds stupid, but it’s hard for me to explain how excited I am about this research.  So much so that I am tempted to go speak with the researchers sometime (living in Cambridge does have its advantages).  But to understand why I am geeking out about this, it might help for me to go into some detail about what we know about rogue waves, and how they have affected ships at sea, as well as oil rigs, lighthouses, and coastlines.  This is one of those times that my love of history (especially maritime history) and my love of science come together.

Continue reading “The science and history of rogue waves, part one”