Digging holes here and there in American history.


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Friday, January 1, 2016

PHOTO ODDS AND ENDS

Here are a few random photographs of historical note that I pulled from my collection.  Click on the photo for a closer look.

The Bonnie & Clyde gang stole a car from this location in Ruston, LA.

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A 19th century posse 

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Abandoned dog trot house, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana
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General Claire Chennault playing baseball with the troops.  China, World War II

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Captain Arthur Cruikshank of Ruston, Louisiana receiving a medal from General Joseph Stillwell, China, WWII




AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

Some photos from my travels across America.  Enlarge them for a closer look and don't forget to go to the next page.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

CARPETBAGGERS AND SCALAWAGS

A Vermont carpetbagger barely survives north Louisiana resistance

     In the years called Reconstruction after the Civil War, carpetbaggers and scalawags wrested political control of Louisiana long held by Democrats. Northerners who moved to the South to take advantage of the unstable social, financial, and political climate to make their fortunes were mockingly called carpetbaggers since they often arrived clutching soft-sided suitcases made of carpet. Allen Greene, senator from Lincoln Parish, exemplified the scalawag since he was a local who threw in with the Radical Republicans to achieve his personal political and financial aspirations. Scalawags were considered traitors to the South and just as bad, if not worse, than the carpetbaggers.

     When white Southerners referred to carpetbaggers, men like Marshall Twitchell of Vermont came to mind.

     Twitchell joined the Union army at the start of the war and fought in major battles in Virginia. Severely wounded at the battle of the Wilderness when a bullet entered his skull, army surgeons left him for dead. After a miraculous recovery, Twitchell served as an officer for a black regiment composed mostly of former slaves. Unlike other carpetbaggers who journeyed south after the war, often to exploit and loot the defeated Confederate states, Twitchell became an agent of the Freedmen's Bureau. Stationed at Sparta in Bienville Parish, his duties entailed assisting emancipated slaves in their transition to freedom.

     Twitchell left the Freeman’s Bureau in mid-1866 and married Adele Coleman, the daughter of a prominent Bienville Parish planter. He acquired land on the east bank of Lake Bistineau and down the Red River to Coushatta, where he established a veritable Yankee colony of his Vermont relatives. Marrying into a leading local family and serving as manager of the combined Coleman-Twitchell properties, the New Englander established himself as a force to be reckoned with in business and political affairs.

     Republican rule in Louisiana rested on the votes of recently freed slaves concentrated in the bottomlands of the Red River and Mississippi River. With the support of newly

Monday, April 20, 2015

TICKED OFF ABOUT TICKS

How the troublesome pest ignited violence against lawmen

      Lost in the recent national controversies over the use of force by law enforcement are the sacrifices made by police officers in protecting their communities. Men and women sacrifice their lives each year chasing bank robbers and murderers but also while performing mundane tasks like checking on a stranded motorist. In the early 1900s, a number of officers in the rural South died enforcing a law many farmers viewed as federal government overreach.

     From 1906 to the early 1940s, federal and state governments engaged in a war against a cattle tick that caused a devastating fever. The law required farmers to carry their cattle to community dipping vats where the animals were immersed in a chemical solution to kill the ticks. Many stock owners resisted, claiming transporting the cattle led to injuries, the chemicals sickened them, and the time and effort of the process was an annoyance. Cattlemen expressed their frustrations by refusing to dip, dynamiting dipping vats, burning the property of pro-dippers and government employees, and hurling threats that eventually escalated to assault or murder. Destruction of vats continued into the mid-1930s, but eventually government dissemination of information on the economic benefits of tick eradication led many skeptics to withdraw their opposition to dipping. 

     In the remote rural South, from the piney woods of south Georgia to Louisiana, resistance to mandatory treatment of cattle was strong and at times violent. Farmers

Friday, March 6, 2015

TRAVELING AMERICA

So much to see and do across America, I will never get to it all and probably you won't either.  Here's a few spots I've visited in recent years.
Stations of the Cross Shine, San Luis, Colorado


Great Sand Dunes.  The way to see California, Utah, and Nevada
(at least their dust) while standing in Colorado.

Waterfall in Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado.  The waterfall
is actually around the bend in the center.  Water too cold to reach it!

Guard tower, Camp Concordia, Kansas.  One of the few structures
remaining at this former World War II prisoner of war camp.

Chimney Rock, western Nebraska.  One of the landmarks used
by wagon trains headed to Oregon and other points west.

One of the many dioramas of 1930s industry and agriculture at the
 Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Shreveport, LA.

A TRAIN ROBBIN' BUNCH



     Eugene Bunch wasn’t just a train robber.  He was “jovial, jolly and gay – a typical bandit, who thought his profession of road agent a brave and proper one,” according to the railroad detectives who chased after him.   He reportedly tipped his hat to female train passengers and declined to take their handbags. He was equally courteous to his male victims but did relieve them of their wallets.  Express agents noted he never raised his voice when he threatened to blow their heads off if they didn’t open their safes. His take from a host of robberies was estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
     For five years, from 1887 to 1892, Bunch stayed a jump ahead of a bevy of railroad detectives as he robbed trains in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida.  His home  in Washington Parish near the Pearl River provided plenty of remote hiding spots if the law got too close.

     Eugene F. Bunch was born in Mississippi in 1843 to well-respected parents. The family moved to Tangipahoa Parish in his youth and ensured he received a good education. During the Civil War, he enlisted in the 3rd Louisiana Cavalry and apparently served well in the campaigns around Baton Rouge and Port Hudson, although he developed serious drinking and gambling habits.
     At the close of the war Bunch returned to Tangipahoa Parish and opened a school at Amite. He married a Louisiana girl, Flavia Flynn, in 1869.  School teaching didn’t agree with him—probably because of his excessive drinking—so Bunch loaded up his pregnant wife and moved to Gainesville, Texas in 1874.
     Bunch taught school briefly in Gainesville before being elected to three consecutive two-year terms as the Cooke County clerk.  He apparently used his position as an insider

Friday, December 12, 2014

1944: NAVY SAVES SMALL TOWN COLLEGE



In 1944, the Navy rescued Louisiana Tech and its football program.

World War II turned collegiate athletics upside down as young men swapped athletic uniforms for military ones, joining the service to fight in North Africa, Europe and the Pacific.

Louisiana Tech was not immune. Student athletes who would have been playing college football instead were serving their country, forcing Bulldog football to be discontinued during the 1943 season. Professors were joining the cause as well while coeds were signing up with the Red Cross, the WACs—Women’s Army Corps—and the Navy WAVES—Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
V-12 sailors and Marines and other students leaving chapel, Louisiana Tech, 1944


Legendary Bulldog head coach Joe Aillet even changed roles in 1943 as the University put football on the backburner as the flames of war spread across the globe. Aillet did his

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

1955: COLD WAR COMES TO LOUISIANA


The year 1955 saw American consumerism skyrocket with the opening with the first McDonald’s Restaurant and the debut of Disneyland. Fast food, including the first TV dinners, and canned Coca-Cola attested to the growth of the country’s standard of living since World War II. Ownership of a car became the mandatory status symbol for American families. But the development of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union troubled everyone.

In the 1950s, the Cold War was steadily building with many Americans convinced nuclear war with the Soviet Union was inevitable. Some military officials even advocated a first strike to take out the Soviets, although it would mean the annihilation of some American targets in retaliation.

In 1955, the U.S. military conducted a large training exercise encompassing a substantial portion of Louisiana. The purpose of “Operation Sagebrush” was to evaluate the effectiveness of military operations in a nuclear war. The largest joint Army and Air Force maneuvers since World War II involved nearly 150,000 troops.

A provisional army, meant to represent U.S. forces, was built around the 1st Armored Division and an opposing force was created around the 82nd Airborne Division. Air Force bombers, fighter planes, and other aircraft crisscrossed Louisiana’s skies, stirring great interest among the many citizens who had never seen a helicopter.



Many communities throughout Louisiana were inundated with troops and airmen. Ruston saw the arrival of an ordnance detail of the Air Force’s 727th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron in October before the maneuvers began. As many as 700 airmen

Monday, August 25, 2014

RUSTON'S FEMALE INVASION

     The recent efforts to integrate women into America’s combat units signify a far different attitude than the enormous resistance they faced during World War II.  Female participation in the U.S. Armed Forces during the global conflict was a major turning point in the military’s relationship with women. 
     Facing a worldwide, two-front war, the United States followed the example of Great Britain and supplemented it all-male fighting force with women in numerous noncombatant roles. Women served in the Army and Navy Nurse Corps, Women's Army Corps (WAC), and in the Navy (WAVES), Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. Although not officially members of the armed forces, Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) provided critical support for the war effort by ferrying airplanes. Other women worked with the military through organizations such as the American Red Cross, the USO, and the Civil Air Patrol.
     At the beginning of World War II, the United States had no facilities, staff, or regulations in place to handle enemy prisoners. Hastily constructed POW camps popped up across America, mostly in the South and Midwest.  One of the largest was near Ruston but its first inhabitants were not enemy POWs but some of the first American women affiliated with the U.S. Army. Due to the initial slow influx of captured soldiers, the facility first served as a basic training base for the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. 
     President Franklin Roosevelt set a goal of enlisting 25,000 WAACs by June 30, 1943. WAAC recruiting exceeded the objective by November 1942 and the sole training center at Fort Des Moines, Iowa reached its capacity.  New training centers opened at Fort Devens, Massachusetts; Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia; and Camp Ruston.
New WAAC recruits arrive at Camp Ruston, 1943.  (U.S. Army photo)
 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

ROAD TRIPS

These are photos from some of my travels to historical sites over the past four years.

National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, Virginia

Re-creation of the assault on Ponte du Hoc, Normandy, France on D-Day
National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, VA

Grave of unknown Confederate soldier, Petersburg National Cemetery
Confederate soldiers and black Union troops were buried side by side.

Recreated fort at Petersburg National Battlefield, VA

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