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Deadwood Dressy

Here we see Captain Thomas Coverly Lebo, commander of K Company (troop), 10th Cavalry Regiment, wearing the period U.S. Army officer’s summer dress uniform complete with yellow horse-hair-plumed U.S. Model 1872 dress helmet for cavalry with eagle plate.

Photograph by J. C. H. Grabill, official photographer of the Black Hills & F. P. R. R., & Home Stake Mining Co., Studios, Deadwood and Lead City, South Dakota, taken likely in the summer of 1878.

Note his Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber, possibly the same one he carried in the Civil War as a state volunteer. (Photo: LOC LC-DIG-ppmsca-11356)

As noted by Carlsbad Caverns National Park:

In 1878, Captain Thomas Lebo and troops of Company K, 10th United States Cavalry (Buffalo soldiers), conducted a scouting expedition from the Fort Davis military post. Coming across the area known as Rattlesnake Springs, he described it as follows.

“Grazing here is very good; wood is very scarce. The spring flows a very large stream of water which runs about one mile nearly due E. (east) and empties into Black River, which at this point is a very large stream (an abundance of small fish).”

Born in Potters Mills, Pennsylvania in 1842, Lebo volunteered for a Keystone State infantry regiment as a private in 1861 during the Civil War then went on to put his ass on a horse by earning a Second Lieutenant spot in Company H of the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. Wounded at Malvern Hill, he mustered out in 1865 but two years later managed to gain an appointment as a regular army 1st Lieutenant assigned to the 10th Cavalry, where he was promoted to Captain in May 1876.

Lebo fought the Apache extensively during the Indian Wars and was promoted to colonel during the Spanish American War where he was given command of the 14th Cavalry. After commanding the unit in the Philipines, he retired in 1905 and was promoted to a brigadier general on the retired list after 44 years service. He died in 1910 in Illinois and is buried at Oak Woods in Chicago.

Vale, Dr. Bud

Dr. Bud

If you have ever watched Gods & Generals or read a biography of Stonewall Jackson or A.P. Hill, you are likely familiar with the work of Dr. James I. “Bud” Robertson Jr.

A scholar of the Civil War, especially of Virginia’s role in the conflict and in the Shenandoah Valley campaigns, Robertson at the ripe old age of 31 was selected by JFK to lead the federal U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission in 1961. Going on to teach history at Virginia Tech for decades, Dr. Bud was renowned for his classes on the war, which packed in as many as 300 students per session. He also published more than 20 books, edited another 20, penned dozens of well-received papers and consulted on a number of big-budget Civil War films and television shows. Finally, he recorded hundreds of essays for NPR.

Dr. Bud passed away this week, aged 89. He long ago donated his 7,000-volume personal library to VT. The Virginia Center for Civil War Studies is maintaining a tribute page in his honor.

His family requests that those who may have Civil War artifacts in their homes to donate them to VT in Dr. Bud’s honor.

Getting the creeps at Fort Morgan

Every year the good folks at Fort Morgan run a historic nighttime tour around Halloween focusing on the more morbid side of things there. As the fort is 200 years old (construction began in 1819) and was the centerpiece in the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 as well as being garrisoned off and on from the 1830s through 1945, there is a lot to hear and see. As a bonus, these tours often open up sometimes closed areas of the fort, which is always a treat.

Besides, as I made the Fort central to the plot of my 2013 zombie novel (shameless plug), it just made sense.

I caught these images during the tour, which was very worthwhile, so if you can take advantage of the event or others like it, please find the time to do so.

Inside the casemates before sunset

The handprints inside the usually sealed magazine of Battery Duportail, a reinforced concrete, Endicott Period M1888MII 12-inch disappearing gun battery at Fort Morgan. These are about 12 feet off the ground and were made by gunners moving around about stacks of 268-pound shells and tons of bagged powder with their sweaty, chemical-laden hands forever staining the salt and calcium of the walls. The battery was decommissioned in 1931.

Dylan Tucker, Cultural Resource Specialist, Fort Morgan, portraying Confederate B. Gen. Richard Lucian Page, the Virginia-born former U.S. Navy officer who resigned his commission in 1861 to join the Confederate Navy, only to be saddled with an Army command that was on the receiving end of 3,000 shells from the USN!

Overlooking the Endicott-era Portland concrete battery towards Mobile Bay at dusk

Now to try to get to Fort Pickens, who has a similar program, next October…

Battery Langdon, Fort Pickens, NPS photo

A Sword of the Campbell Sharpshooters

Milestone Auctions in Ohio next weekend has an 850 lot collection of vintage militaria up for grabs next weekend including a 5th SGF(A) Vietnam-era Randall fighting knife, a named set of collectibles (including a Japanese canteen) from a member of the WWII 76th Seabee Batallion, and an album from the Civil War-era 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

Speaking of the Civil War, they also have a period sword identified to Confederate Capt. Caleb P. Bowen of Company C (Campbell Sharpshooters), 30th Georgia Infantry.

Bowen came from a military family and was the son of Major Thomas J. Bowen, a War of 1812 hero. The younger Bowen’s name is etched on the sword along with two variations of the Confederate flag. The 30th fought at Chickamauga, Franklin, and Nashville, among other battles in the West, notably being wiped out at the latter.

Bowen was wounded at Franklin but still with the regiment at Nashville, where he was captured, ending his war in a POW camp. Returning home to Campbell County after the war, he became a noted local and state lawmaker, before passing away in 1907.

One of the best privately-owned examples of a Confederate presentation sword, it is expected to sell for $10,000-$15,000.


Bluejackets and scatterguns

A thin but undeniable thread throughout U.S. Naval history is getting in a little bit of MW&R while underway via some shooting sports, primarily with shotguns. Now to be clear, I am not talking about stubby riot guns used in security and by response teams but rather long-barreled field guns.

While many ships in the 19th Century carried a few such smoke poles for use by hunting parties to add some variety to the cook’s pot, in modern times these firearms have been more relegated to use in shooting clays.

Sidewheel gunboat USS Miami 1864-65: After a shooting trip ashore, officers of the gunboat Miami relax on deck with the hounds, circa 1864-65. Note officer with shotgun and game bag, with two hunting dogs NH 60987

A hunting party from USS NEWARK (C-1) in the ruins of a Spanish building on Windward Point, entrance to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 3 September 1898– although it looks like they are armed primarily with M1895 Lee Navy rifles. NH 80791

NH 119234 Shotgun practice aboard USS UTAH -BB-31, in 1911. Note the mix of sailors in flat caps and dixie cups as well as the mix of both SXS double-barrel shotguns and at least one pump, which looks like an early Winchester

Another Utah 1911 shot. Note the sailor with the handheld pigeon thrower NH 119233

Utah NH 119235

A double-barrel shotgun-armed and appropriately safari-costumed Lt. JG Pat Henry, JR., USN, boar-hunting on Palawan, Philippine Islands, circa 1936. Henry was an aviator attached to USS AUGUSTA (CA-31) at the time, flying Vought O2U Corsair floatplanes, and would retire after WWII as a captain. Note the M1903-armed bluejacket accompanying him. NH 78385

USS Chicago (CG-11): Captain S.H. Moore is seen skeet shooting on the fantail, February 1965 NH 55151

During a lull in Vietnam combat ops in the Gulf of Tonkin, the deck of USS HOEL (DDG-13) becomes a skeet range, December 1966. USN 1119308

During a lull in Vietnam combat ops in the Gulf of Tonkin, the deck of USS HOEL (DDG-13) becomes a skeet range, December 1966. USN 1119308

A crew member uses a Remington 1100 12-gauge shotgun to shoot clay targets during skeet shooting practice on the fantail of the battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63). 1993 DN-ST-93-01525

A Remington 870 Wingmaster 12-gauge shotgun, two Remington 1100 12-gauge shotguns, boxes of shells and clay targets are laid out on the fantail of the battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63) in preparation for skeet shooting practice. 1993 DN-ST-93-01524

U.S. Navy Senior Chief Master-at-Arms Robert Goode, left, and Chief Gunner?s Mate Blair Pack inspect 12-gauge shotguns during a Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation program skeet shoot on the flight deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) Nov. 28, 2010. The shotguns look to be Remington 870 Express models. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell, U.S. Navy/Released)

Seaman Alonzo Bender, boatswain’s mate (left), fires a 12-gauge shotgun during morale, welfare, and recreation skeet shoot on the flight deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor is part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, which is transiting the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.

While the ships of the future are still in the artist’s rendering stage, hopefully, they may have a sporting shotgun or two onboard– using biodegradable clay pigeons and non-toxic bismuth shotshells, of course.

“Army Model” Revolvers, Old and New

The top revolver is a circa 1865 martially-marked Remington New Army .44 while the “identical cousin” below it is a 1999-produced Ruger Old Army.

(Photo: Chris Eger/

While they look very similar cosmetically, they are, in fact, quite different.

To find out just how much, check out my column at

Ol Pap’s Colt up for grabs, cat not included

Sterling Price was an interesting figure in U.S. military history. Born in Virginia in 1809, he studied law before moving to the Missouri Territory at age 22. Soon becoming a prominent man there, he led militia during that territory’s Mormon War in 1838, was thrice elected to the state legislature and finally, to Congress in 1845.

When the war with Mexico kicked off the next year, he resigned his seat on Capitol Hill to take command of a volunteer Missouri cavalry regiment he raised and headed to what is now New Mexico where he fought in a series of small actions that cumulated with the skirmish at Cruz de Rosales, Chihuahua, in 1848– which was technically after the war had concluded, a fact he was informed of by the local Mexican commander prior to the battle.

Nonetheless, Price finished his campaigning as a Brevet Maj. Gen. (of Volunteers) with the laurels of a hero, which led to his easy win in a later gubernatorial race to head the Show-Me State.

Price, via the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Fast forward to early 1861 and, although he never led a force larger than 400 men during the previous conflict, Price was made a Maj. Gen. (of Missouri state volunteers) and given command of the nominally Corps-sized Missouri State Guard.

Although he gave a good account of himself in early scrapes against bluecoats at Carthage and Wilson’s Creek, he later suffered a string of often humiliating defeats such as at Pea Ridge (although Van Dorn was in overall command there) and in his pretty ineffective 1,400-mile 1864 raid across Missouri and Kansas.

Price’s Missouri Raid in the Trans-Mississippi Theater, 1864, (red line to the left) via National Park Service

Price ended the war by skipping over the southern border and offering his services to Maximillian, which were declined. He died in 1867.

Perhaps the general’s greatest claim to fame in modern times is the fact his name was reused for the fictional one-eyed lawman Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn’s alcoholic cat. As Cogburn had ridden as a kid with Missouri bushwacker partisan ranger leader William Quantrill during Price’s Raid– during which he lost his eye– the choice makes sense.

Which brings us to a revolver in the news this week.

In 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, Sterling “Ol Pap” Price bought a fine Model 1849 .31 caliber Colt pocket model, and it, along with a lap desk and accessories, are up for grabs at an upcoming auction conducted by Milestone Auctions in Ohio this month. It is engraved on the backstrap “Gen. Sterling Price C.S.”

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