Report From The Planting Moon Gathering - Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Planting Moon Gathering was once again held in the top floor suite at Doggett’s Coat & Badge on the Thames by Blackfriars Bridge, London - twenty-three members and guests were present.

Ten years of the CAGB. It was hard to believe, but the twenty-three members and guests who attended the London gathering at Doggett’s Coat & Badge, by Blackfriars Bridge, on 12 June certainly celebrated the anniversary in some style. We could not have hoped for a better day, or a better setting. The sun shone, the company was good and the presentations were first class; by turns, thought provoking, informative and amusing. As for the setting, it is hard to beat the top floor of Doggett’s, with its rooftop terrace and views across the Thames to St. Paul’s. In addition we marked the Association's 10th Anniversary with the cutting of a cake to mark the occasion.

As a meeting of the new Committee had not been convened since the November 2009 Gathering, Vice-chairman Lawrence Sherrington took on the pleasant task of presenting retiring Chairman, Peter Russell, with a suitably inscribed copy of Nathaniel Philbrick’s much publicised work, The Last Stand, which Kevin Galvin had thoughtfully purchased from the author during a book-signing event in the USA.

Kevin then kicked off the meeting proper with a pictorial review of the Association’s first ten years; A Photographic History of the CAGB. Those who have been with us from the start were treated to a trip down memory lane, whilst newer members could marvel at the changes that ten years had brought to fashions and hairlines. On a more solemn note, we were also able to remember a number of members who are no longer with us.

Former CAGB president, Francis Taunton, then delivered a talk that he entitled 50 Years on the Little Bighorn, treating us to accounts of his own journey of discovery along the Custeriana trail. A journey that has seen Francis’ own research run in tandem with ever more historical revelations about the battle. Not surprisingly, Francis disclosed that his interest in the subject had first been stirred by the sight of Errol Flynn in They Died with Their Boots On. I say that this is not surprising as ninety-nine percent of those interested in the Battle of the Little Bighorn cite that film as inspiration that sparked their interest. Francis concluded that the subject is still fertile and that, despite the hundreds of Little Bighorn books, there is still scope for original research in this field.

As if on cue, the following talk was a detailed analysis of Custer’s movements on 24/25 June 1876 from Mike Fox, entitled How Good Were General Custer’s Decisions During the Last 24 Hours of his Life? Mike’s thesis was based upon a fresh analysis of the Little Bighorn timeline, during which he delivered an iconoclastic blow to the calculations of the late John Gray. Not everyone agreed with Mike’s theories, but we were certainly given food for thought. It is hoped that Mike will follow this up with a written paper in due course to allow for a careful study of his calculations.

After an excellent lunch, followed by the conclusion of Mike’s presentation, we were treated to a highly original paper delivered by Neil Gilbert; Sgt Frederick Wyllyams and That Tattoo, dealing with the killing of the English-born Seventh Cavalry Sergeant, Frederick Wyllyams, at Fort Wallace, Kansas, in June 1867, and the tattoo taken as a “scalp,” apparently from his arm. At Neil’s request Peter Russell gave a brief summary of the events leading up to the sergeant’s demise and also broke the news that the ostensibly encouraging trail he was following to reveal Wyllyams’ true identity had regretfully proved to be a false one. Undeterred, Peter assured us that the search would continue. Despite the rather gory subject matter, Neil’s talk was thoroughly entertaining. A highlight was the life-sized colour reproduction of the tattoo, the original of which is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. Once more, it is hoped that Neil will produce a paper on this subject for publication in the not too distant future.

This macabre subject gave us plenty to talk about during the afternoon coffee break. We managed however to find time to cut (and eat!) the special CAGB cake, resplendent with the Association’s logo, that was generously donated by Stuart and Jan McCloy (pictured right) who had carried it all the way from Glasgow, as well as an anniversary toast to the Association.

Elisabeth Kimber won the quiz, in spite of some very esoteric questions set by Peter Russell, after which the newly-introduced CAGB auction raised £53 for the Association’s coffers.

There was also a brief committee meeting at which Gary Leonard, the Event Co-ordinator was chosen to be the new Chairman of the CAGB.

Report From The Deer Rutting Moon Gathering - Saturday, 7 November 2010

It was back in Birmingham for the November 2010 Gathering. This was a fitting location for the final meeting of the Association’s tenth anniversary year, as the very first meeting of the CAGB took place in Birmingham in June 2000. There were a number of innovations with this meeting, the first being a new location. We met at The Stirrup Cup public house, which had been identified for us by Bob Shaw, a local member, as our usual venue had apparently been burnt down a few months previously! Early arrivals were slightly daunted by the quantity of broken glass in the car park. The bar staff told us it had been a lively Friday evening! However, any early concerns were soon dissipated by the hospitality of the staff and unexpected extras such as mince pies with our morning coffee. In fact all the food provided was excellent although not entirely as ordered – thus the hot wedges, to accompany our cold buffet, were replaced by delicious spicy Indian (of the sub-continent variety) snacks.

We got off to a prompt start with the Association’s Annual General Meeting. After dealing with the routine business, we were proud to be able to appoint two new Vice-Presidents; Sandy Barnard and Peter Russell.

Sandy has been a long time member of CAGB and encouraged our efforts from “across the pond”. Although his appointment had been decided upon several months previously, it was gratifying to be able to make the announcement so soon after Sandy’s successful kidney transplant. The association sent its best wishes to Sandy and his son who had donated the kidney.

Former CAGB chairman, Peter Russell has been a stalwart of the association since its inaugural meeting in 2000. Acting in virtually every role on the committee, as well as jointly editing the Association’s journal, Peter is internationally known for his research into the lives of British born members of the Seventh Cavalry.

Not surprisingly the current committee were re-elected to serve another term starting in June 2011.

Under “any other business”, a proposal was made that the CAGB should create an essay prize aimed at individuals studying American History at a UK university or military college. The topic would be related to our specific area of interest, i.e. the Plains Indian Wars with the purpose of raising awareness and interest in the activities of CAGB amongst a younger age group. The meeting agreed that this should proceed on a trial basis over the next year with a prize of the order of £100. Various members offered to donate contributions to this amount rather than dip into CAGB funds.

Kendal was agreed upon as the next location for the Planting Moon Gathering in May 2011, with a return to London scheduled for November.

The business meeting was swiftly followed by an illustrated presentation by Peter Russell on The First Ten Years of The Crow’s Nest (the CAGB’s journal that is; not the geographic location). Then came the second innovation; instead of another presentation, the main part of the meeting was dedicated to two group discussion sessions. These were organised by Mike Fox who led an examination of Little Big Horn events and time lines. He gave those attending access to his database of primary sources’ references to times and displayed details of distances and topography of the battlefield derived from Google Earth maps. The groups reported back on their conclusions after lunch. The intention was to encourage all those attending to participate in the debate  – and was a great success! It could not be claimed that universal agreement on the details of events at the Little Big Horn was achieved; however, the majority of the group that discussed Mike’s theory of Custer making two visits to the Crow’s Nest agreed this was a likely scenario.

The final talk was Kevin Galvin’s entertaining and informative talk on Plains Indian War Shirts.

The concluding event was the quiz which was – as is usual – set by the winner at the last gathering, Elisabeth Kimber. She too had been innovative and the majority of questions were unusually set as a multiple choice. This proved very helpful to those members of advancing years, such as your correspondent, who really did know some of the answers but needed a gentle reminder of what they might be. This resulted in a somewhat more competitive quiz and our Chairman emerged as a worthy winner.


Custer Association of Great Britain

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