- I’ve waded into the jungle swinging a machete, clearing my path toward the next book. Working title is Cowboy Revolutionaries: Rough Ride Into The 20th Century.
The structure will be based around understanding the conflicts in the Caribbean, Central America and Southeast Asia as “wars of frontier and empire” that persisted from the end of the 19th Century through the Cold War — and continue to echo today. My focus will be on:
- Cuba from the 1896 War of Independence through the American intervention of 1898 and up through the rise of Castro and the Bay of Pigs incident in 1961.
- The U.S. conflicts in the Philippines as a continuation of an Indian Wars mindset, which persisted into the Vietnam War.
- The “Banana Wars” in Central America, with their Cold War iterations in El Salvador and Nicaragua, and playing out at this moment in the rebellion against the Ortega Brothers in Nicaragua.
- Mexico from Revolution to Cartel-land.
The scope is huge — a LOT of reading required. But DAMN this is fascinating stuff.
- While my focus will be (probably for a couple of years) on the persistent frontiers of the 20th Century, I am not abandoning the forests and fields of the frontiers that first ignited my passions. On that note…
The untold story of the “Black Boys,” a rebellion on the American frontier in 1765 that sparked the American Revolution.
In 1763, the Seven Years’ War ended in a spectacular victory for the British. The French army agreed to leave North America, but many Native Americans, fearing that the British Empire would expand onto their lands and conquer them, refused to lay down their weapons. Under the leadership of a shrewd Ottawa warrior named Pontiac, they kept fighting for their freedom, capturing several British forts and devastating many of the westernmost colonial settlements. The British, battered from the costly war, needed to stop the violent attacks on their borderlands. Peace with Pontiac was their only option—if they could convince him to negotiate.
Enter George Croghan, a wily trader-turned-diplomat with close ties to Native Americans. Under the wary eye of the British commander-in-chief, Croghan organized one of the largest peace offerings ever assembled and began a daring voyage into the interior of North America in search of Pontiac.
Meanwhile, a ragtag group of frontiersmen set about stopping this peace deal in its tracks. Furious at the Empire for capitulating to Native groups, whom they considered their sworn enemies, and suspicious of Croghan’s intentions, these colonists turned Native American tactics of warfare on the British Empire. Dressing as Native Americans and smearing their faces in charcoal, these frontiersmen, known as the Black Boys, launched targeted assaults to destroy Croghan’s peace offering before it could be delivered.
The outcome of these interwoven struggles would determine whose independence would prevail on the American frontier—whether freedom would be defined by the British, Native Americans, or colonial settlers.
Spero is of the recent crop of borderland historians, and he’s done interesting work in understanding frontier culture and politics in Western Pennsylvania in the run-up to the Revolution. The influence and impact of frontier matters on the breakdown of the relationship between the American Colonies and Great Britain is getting its full due these days, which is gratifying.
There’s a worthy podcast featuring Spero here.
- My 18th Century frontier explorations have focused primarily on the Ohio River Valley, with a secondary focus on the New York (Mohawk Valley) frontier. The revolutionary-era conflicts in the Carolina backcountry, the Cherokee Wars, the settlement of Tennessee all have been neglected.
That’s a fertile field plowed by Nadia Dean, who wrote The Demand of Blood: the Cherokee War of 1776. Now there’s a docudrama entitled Cameron, which I will certainly order. Trailer here:
Author-turned-filmmaker Nadia Dean wrote, produced, and directed the film, a tale of survival that shatters long-held perceptions about loyalists and Cherokees in the American Revolution. Conceiving Cameron in the dramatic stylization of Chautauqua, Dean also composed the film’s haunting soundtrack. Cameron tells the story of men in the American Revolution who became caught in a dangerous web of conspiracy and unimaginable human suffering.
- On the international frontier, the team that brought us The Legend of Ben Hall is demanding again that we stand and deliver, announcing the 2020 film on legendary Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly, titled Glenrowan, after the location of the Kelly Gang’s last stand in 1880.
Matthew Holmes, the filmmaker behind 2016 bushranger film Legend of Ben Hall returns to familiar territory with Ned Kelly film Glenrowan.
“It’s time to see this iconic figure from a fresh perspective,” said Holmes. “We’re approaching this story of a complex young man without forcing labels onto him such as hero, victim or psychopath. This realistic approach allows Ned to be shown exactly as he was: a person with both strong virtues and deep flaws. It also allows the audience to choose how they feel about him. We wanted to create something different from the standard ‘life story’ biopic. We’re showing things that have never been shown before in a Ned Kelly film. But most of all, we want to give audiences an emotional and action-packed experience that grips them from its opening moments and doesn’t let go until the final frame.”
Marilyn and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last week. I guess you could say it was kind of unconventional, in that there was no silver involved, and no romantic just-us getaway. Instead, we trekked over hill and dale to retrieve Ceili’s friend Odin Wium and made a family weekend of it. Friday night in the courtyard at Angeline’s Bakery & Café, with David Jacobs-Strain and the Crunk Mountain Boys. Blues-inflected Americana. Good stuff. David is a talented writer of original songs and he also serves up a KILLER rendition of Treetop Flyer.
Saturday morning we got up early (by college student standards anyway) and hit Zimmerman Butte to burn some powder. It was Dane Ax. The youths done shot well, both of ’em. Then we headed off to Belknap Hot Springs to “take the waters.” Most beneficial for all of us, from my 90-year-old dad on down. The fact that this was exactly what both Marilyn and I wanted to do is proof enough that a quarter-century ago, I hit the most important element of the Daniel Boone happiness trifecta (a good gun, a good dog and a good wife).