Report From The Moon When the Grass is Up Gathering - Saturday, 9 June 2007

The Gathering took place at Linsays Bar, Brunswick Street, Edinburgh, 9 June 2007 - thirty members and guests were present.   

This was the first Gathering ever to be held in Scotland and it was a record attendance.

Vice-chairman Mike Christian opened the proceedings with a showing of the BBC2 docudrama, Custer’s Last Stand, that was received with widely differing degrees of enthusiasm given the debatable nature of its content and argument. Not surprisingly therefore this hour-long film stimulated a lively discussion – entitled Did Custer have a Plan? – led by our President, Francis Taunton. Several interesting theories were examined which suggested Custer did have a vision of the final outcome but as events unfolded on the ground the decisions he took to achieve his objective began to fall apart. Contrary to the impression given in the docudrama, the support from Benteen’s battalion would almost certainly have been an integral part of Custer’s plan. However, few battle plans survive beyond the initial contact with the enemy and, perhaps not surprisingly, no consensus was reached.

The next item on the agenda, Custer Concerto and Cartoon Fun, introduced by our Vice-president, Derek Batten, was in a much lighter vein and brought many a smile to a most receptive audience. However Charlie Drake’s highly amusing cover version of Larry Verne’s 1960 hit song, Please Mister Custer, I don’t want to go, was balanced with a somewhat sombre track taken from Johnny Cash’s 1964 album, ‘Bitter Tears,’ simply called Custer. A series of very funny cartoons brought this short session to an end.

Peter Harrison then argued very convincingly that the story of Custer’s threat to horsewhip the author of the letter, i.e. Benteen, which criticised his actions in “abandoning Major Joel Elliott and his men at the Washita,” was at best misdated and probably never happened. Certainly the BBC2 docudrama referred to above was off by nearly eight years by placing this incident a few days before the Battle of the Little Big Horn!

After an enjoyable alfresco buffet lunch in the warm Edinburgh sunshine the afternoon began with the first in a series of talks by Kevin Galvin on the Forts on the Northern Plains, which included Laramie, Fetterman and Robinson. Kevin illustrated this well-researched and informative presentation with a fine set of photographs taken during his trip to the American West in 2006.

The final item of the day, a quiz, has by popular demand become a regular feature of our Gatherings. They are not only great fun but directly involve all those present and at the same time add to our knowledge of Custer, the Battle of the Little Big Horn and Plains Indian Wars in general. Kevin Galvin was declared the winner and, as a prize, was presented with the audio version of the book Bloody Knife, narrated by Richard Collin, an Associate Member of the CAGB from Bismarck, North Dakota. By convention the winner is charged with setting questions for the quiz at the next Gathering and Kevin intimated that the theme would be ‘Scouts and Tribes Associated with Battle.’

Peter Russell, in his capacity as Literary Editor of The Crow’s Nest, reported that the Spring/Summer 2007 issue had been very favourably received on both sides of the Atlantic, especially at the Fort Wallace Museum, Kansas. It featured three articles which commemorated the 140th anniversary of the killing of that enigmatic Englishman, Sergeant Frederick Wyllyams, Company G, 7th U.S. Cavalry, near the fort and the iconic photograph of his mutilated body taken by his fellow countryman, Dr William Bell. Peter invited members to submit contributions for future issues of the journal, whether they be in the form of a researched article, a visit to the battlefield, a photograph, a book review or indeed any relevant subject matter that would be of general interest.

One item under “Any other business” was the suggestion that members should closely monitor schools in their own locality to ascertain if any were offering students a specialist GCSE history course covering the Plains Indian Wars and, if so, the CAGB would be happy to offer our services and expertise. 

After announcing that the next meeting would be held at the Chestnut Tree, Sheldon, Birmingham, on Saturday, 10 November 2007, Mike Christian brought another successful and enjoyable Gathering to a close.

Report From The Deer Rutting Moon Gathering - Saturday, 10 November 2007

The Deer Rutting Moon Gathering took place at the Chestnut Tree, (opposite the East Birmingham Campus), Sheldon, Birmingham, on Saturday, 10 November 2007 - Twenty-six members and guests were present.

The day’s proceedings began with a short Annual General Meeting during which the Committee was unanimously re-elected en bloc and the Treasurer, Peter Russell, was pleased to report that the Association was in a very satisfactory position both in terms of its sound finances and solid membership base.

The following members were duly elected to serve on the Committee for the next twelve months:

Kevin Galvin and Peter Russell will continue as Co-editors of The Crow’s Nest.

Kevin Galvin got the main programme under way by showing an edited version of the video of the ‘Real Bird’ Re-enactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn he had taken in June 2006. The re-enactment itself took a secondary role to the lively discussion that ensued from Kevin’s comments upon the competing re-enactments and the local politics.

Next came a presentation by Lawrence Sherrington, entitled Was Custer to Blame? – A Chairman’s Take. In forensic mode, Lawrence first briefly analysed and then discussed the material used in the Westward Expansion coursework by the students at a school in Bangor, North Wales, where he and Derek Batten had made a very successful joint presentation earlier in the year. He then skilfully developed this as a vehicle for the lively discussion that followed. Lawrence also stated that he and Derek had received an invitation from the same school to talk to year-11 students again in 2008, which they were delighted to accept.

The last item of the morning session was a provocative and thought-provoking address by Mike Fox, a relatively new student of the battle, which he called Unravelling the Mysteries of the LBH. Mike used his professional skills as a systems analyst to examine issues surrounding details of the timing and sequence of events on 25 June 1876; mainly “Benteen’s scout to-the-left’’ and the incidents on and around Reno Hill. Google Earth played a significant role as did the methodology developed by John Gray in his book, Custer’s Last Campaign. Perhaps not surprisingly the outcome was inconclusive but Mike suggested that a reassessment was due of some of the events in light of his findings.

After a very sociable lunch Peter Russell gave a fascinating account of his recent trip to some of the places in western Kansas associated with Sgt. Frederick Wyllyams, Company G, 7th U.S. Cavalry, who was killed near Fort Wallace in June 1867 and whose extraordinary story was featured in the Spring/Summer 2007 issue of The Crow’s Nest.  A series of fine photographs taken by his wife, Sopharana, covered such locations as the impressive Fort Wallace Museum, the old post cemetery, and Forts Larned and Hays. Peter’s presentation also included the remote Kidder Massacre site, Deadwood City, Bear Butte and Fort Meade, near Sturgis, South Dakota. The Fort Meade National Cemetery is the final resting place of several British-born members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry who served with this famous regiment during the Indian Wars.

The last event of the day took the form of a quiz, with questions set by Kevin Galvin, based on Scouts and Indian Tribes associated with the battle. Gary Leonard was declared the winner and presented with a copy of To Live and Die in the West by Jason Hook and Martin Pegler. Consequently Gary will be responsible for setting the questions for the quiz at the next Gathering, which is due to take place at Doggett’s Coat & Badge, Blackfriars Bridge, London on 10 May 2008.


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