Charlie Russell painted sunsets
Brush dipped in red and gold
Like God’s hand sweeping across the West
A hundred years ago…
— “Charlie Russell Sky”
Completed recording on my original song “Charlie Russell Sky,” which will be featured in Craig Rullman’s documentary film on buckaroo artist Len Babb. Charlie Russell is a shaping influence on Len’s work, much as Waylon Jennings is the hub of my musical wheel. I’m honored that the song will find a home in the film.
It was written several years ago, about Marilyn and I dancing in our paddock under an early-winter sky that looked just like something Russell might have painted. Lilli Worona lent her beautiful violin playing to the song in Keith Banning’s Grange Recorders studio studio a couple of days ago. When the movie is out, we’ll make the song available for download.
Craig and DP Sam Pyke were down on the Murphy Ranch a week ago, filming the buckaroos moving cattle through heavy timber. Craig put his young horse Remy to work…
Support the Len Babb Movie Project here.
I’ve started writing the episodes for the first Frontier Partisans Podcast — Kit Carson: Border Man. As synchronicity would have it, I just met a woman who spent several years working in Carson’s home in Taos as a museum tour guide. I am looking forward to including her reminiscences in my work. Support the creation of the Frontier Partisans Trading Post and Podcast by contributing to the GoFundMe campaign here.
I’m really glad I chose to pursue the Carson story for the first series. It’s the right moment. There’s an upsurge in cultural ferment over America’s history in general, and frontier history is a part of that. Politico Magazine has an interesting piece on a political kerfuffle over the proposal for “General ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne Day” in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It seems likely that the city councilor who proposed the day intended it to be provocative, and others were duly provoked. These dust-ups are always about contemporary cultural politics.
It’s kinda cool, though, that the matter has brought attention to a crucial yet almost unknown piece of American history. Wayne’s campaign, which culminated in the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers and the 1795 Treaty of Fort Greenville broke the confederacy of tribes in the Old Northwest that had successfully blunted the advance of American settlement in the region, inflicting the worst defeat ever handed to an American army by a native force in The Battle of a Thousand Slain or the Battle of the Wabash in 1791.
Simon Kenton and Samuel Brady both scouted for Wayne in a campaign that avoided the ambush and disaster that had met previous American expeditionary forces. The Shawnee Blue Jacket, whom I profiled in Warriors of the Wildlands, was the primary military leader of the indigenous forces.
As I wrote in Warriors:
In the muggy heat of August, Wayne’s Legion marched into range of the headquarters of the Western Confederation. Blue Jacket’s warriors, augmented by a contingent of Canadian militia, were outnumbered 2-1 by Wayne’s disciplined troops.
The warriors arrayed themselves in a natural defensive position amid a tornado blowdown called the Fallen Timbers. There they fasted and ritually prepared to fight.
Wayne, ever deliberate, did not immediately attack. He waited a full day, and some of the hungry warriors dispersed to find food. Then, Wayne launched his attack. The Kentucky cavalry flanked the Indian position and the Regulars pushed into the timbers behind a glittering hedge of bayonets. The crush of numbers was too great, and, after fighting fiercely for a brief time, the Indians broke.
Their retreat turned into a route. They fled to Fort Miamis, where the British closed and barred the gates to their erstwhile allies. The casualties were not heavy. The Indians lost only a little over 30 killed, and they gave better than they got. It was the betrayal by their ally that crushed the morale of the Confederacy. The leadership fully understood that they could not succeed without the aid of a power to supply them with powder and ball and the provisions to sustain them in war.
As Wayne’s legion burned the acres of corn and squash fields at The Glaize and established forts and posts that the Indians’ light arms could never take, even a rock-ribbed militant like Blue Jacket was going to have to face it: the resistance was over.
It took a while for the realization to fully set in. Some of the allied Indians — especially Blue Jacket’s own hard-core Shawnees — wanted to continue to fight; some thought to leave the country and cross the Mississippi; others were ready to deal with the Americans.
Blue Jacket made a fateful calculation: If he wanted to influence the course of events, it was better to be among the first chiefs to come in, rather than the last. At the end of January, 1795, Blue Jacket met with Wayne and, in the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, the allied tribes gave up the Ohio Country they had fought so long and skillfully to save.
Wayne’s victory secured the Old Northwest Territory for the young American Republic. The episode received a solid recent treatment in Autumn of the Black Snake, by William Hogeland.
Here’s a tease for the best cultural, social and political statement you can make this election season:
Don’t forget — Tom Russell’s Tonight We Ride Cowboy Music Festival is streaming on Facebook on August 2. It’ll be available at the Frontera Records Youtube Channel for later viewing:
Cinemax just dropped the Season 2 trailer for the second season of Warrior, coming in October: