From here to there and home again

A few of you may have wondered what happened to the ‘Court. Most of the rest of you nay have never noticed I hadn’t posted since early in July.

There was a number of reasons. First, I’d become really, really, really hacked at the GOP from the national to the local level. Second, I needed some time off.

Mrs. Crucis and I decided to seek new climes and took off on a two week excursion out West. We traveled to twelve states and six National Parks and National Monuments.

A few close friends knew we were gone. However, we didn’t broadcast to the world we were away from home until after we had returned. I’m amazed how many give no thought to the security of their homes and blab to the world they aren’t home.

Be that as it may, we are back. It’s time to start saving for our next excursion.

Here are a few pics for your enjoyment.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park, UT

Craters of the Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID

I was surprised to note that the last eruption was only 2,000 years ago. That was this morning, geologically speaking.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, MT

Now you know why it’s called Glacier National Park. We also saw some glaciers on mountains in Idaho. By the way, we discovered that the state crop in Idaho is NOT potatoes. It is hay. We saw one, ten-acre potato field but saw hundreds of well-kept and irrigated hay fields.

Mountain goats, Yellowstone National Park

See if you can find them. Mountain goats, Yellowstone National Park, MT


Time out

My blogging will be curtailed, somewhat. I have too much to do and time in finite. I’m busier this summer, it seems, than I’ve been in a long time. I’d like to use more of my available time on other tasks.

Plus, I’m having a case of burnout. Our domestic political crises continues to grow. Exponentially, it seems. The left is attacking everyone who disagrees with them and even some who do. The parasite class is trying to refight the Civil War and has made advances in their attempts to eliminate or rewrite history to agree with their agenda.

I’m sick of it. And the hatefilled villainy grows at the state and local levels as well. The ‘Pub establishment at all levels is betraying us with the eager assistance from those so-called conservatives who are nothing more than contemptible political bigots.

I need some time off. Blogging will be slight. I have things to do. When those are completed, I’ll return. For now, thank you all who read my blog.

Snuck outa town for the weekend, Part II

A blog note:  Casa Crucis will be getting a facelift starting this week.  I’m having siding installed and some rot removed/repaired around our windows…including the two windows in my “office.”  The siding was delivered yesterday and the crew is due tomorrow to start work.  When they get to working on my two windows, I’ll have to shutdown my internet access.  At this time, I’m not sure how long I’ll be offline. I hope no more than a day but I’m not a carpenter nor in the siding business. I’m guessing. I hope I’m right.
So don’t despair if I’m offline for a day or two.  I’ll be back.


After stopping by the Pea Ridge Military Park on Friday, we continued south to Ft. Smith. It had been cloudy and windy all day.  The temperature had risen to 62 according to the thermometer in the Tahoe.  When we passed through the Boston Mountains south of Fayetteville, the clouds dropped and a light mist started…just enough to use the wipers on their lowest setting.

We arrived just as darkness fell.  We saw a sign for Motel-8 and remembering the old radio advertisement stopped and got a room.

What a mistake.  Let’s just say, we’ll mark that down as a lesson learned and move on.  Saturday night we stayed in a Holiday Inn Express.  That was much, much better.

Google Maps let us down once again.  I was looking for Judge Isaac Parker’s courthouse and the old Ft. Scott site.  The only thing I could find on Google Maps was “Ft. Scott Park.”  That turned out to be a city park, not the National Park site.  Mapquest directed us across town to the correct location.

Like Friday, Saturday was cloudy, rainy and warm.  It had rained early in the morning. The temp was in the high 50s with 100% humidity.  After a great breakfast at Calico County Catering, we arrived finally at the Ft. Smith Historical site.

Ft. Smith Territorial Federal Court. Originally the enlisted barracks of Ft. Smith.

The Ft. Smith site covered approximately 15-25 acres as measured by my Mk I eyeball.  The first fort was built on the bluffs of Bells Point.  

Bell’s Point overlooking the Arkansas River. This is the site of the original Camp Smith (later renamed Fort Smith.)

The fort was later moved half a mile to its present location, and rebuilt with a 10′ stone wall surrounding the fort.  All that is left of the wall is the stone foundation the encircles the site.

There was a walking path around the grounds that lead from the courthouse down to the original site of the fort and then around the rest of the grounds.

Map of the original Fort Smith

The building that was Judge Isaac Parker’s Court was originally the enlistedmen’s barracks.  Officer’s quarters and the Quartermaster’s warehouse were separate buildings.  The Officer’s Quarters burned down at some point but the stone Quartermaster’s warehouse remains.

Stone Quartermaster’s warehouse.  The foundations of the two Officer’s Quarters are to the left behind the flagpole.

The basement of the court was the holding cell.  It was known as “Hell on the Arkansas” by the prisoners.  It was one long open room with stone walls and floor.  The prisoners slept on the floor using straw filled pallets. The photo below shows the entrance to the cell.

Jail entrance in the bottom of the Ft. Smith Courthouse.

Inside the courthouse is a number of exhibits including movie posters for the original True Grit starring John Wayne and Hang’em High starring Clint Eastwood. A caption on the Clint Eastwood poster noted that the movie storyline was created from a number of true-life incidents that happened to the Deputy Marshals working for the Court.

On the floor above the cell was Judge Isaac Parker’s Court.

Judge Issac Parker’s Court, Ft. Smith, AR.

Contrary to popular views and as depicted in Hang’em High, Judge Parker never watched any hangings.  He turned that over to the official hangman, George Maledon.

George Maledon, Prince of Hangmen

The gallows at Ft. Smith was said to be the largest built.  The last hanging, of George Wilson, occurred in 1896.

Reconstructed Gallows at Ft. Smith. The original was torn down and the pieces burned after the last hanging in 1896.

With the exception of a three-year period in the 1870s, the hangings were not open to the public.  A wooden fence surrounded the gallows and when the site was not in use, it occasionally was used as a horse corral.

Wooden enclosure around the Ft. Smith gallows.

We returned home the following day stopping to visit again the Pea Ridge Military Park as described yesterday.  It was a fun weekend. We think we’ll do something like it again when time permits.

Snuck outa town for the weekend, Part I

Mrs. Crucis and I did something that we don’t believe, in 43 years of marriage, we’ve ever done before…taken off for a long weekend.  She’s been busy since my retirement. She says she’s more busy now than when I was still working for Sprint.  This Thanksgiving, we realized we had an opportunity.  The kids and g’kids were going to be busy, the Master’s Closet would be closed due to the holiday weekend and there was nothing keeping us in town. So we took off with only vague plans of where to go and what go do.

It was great!

We did learn, or perhaps relearn, some things.  
  • Sleeping in strange beds is difficult at best.
  • Google maps can’t be trusted to show everything.  
  • Going south does not mean the weather is warmer.
Our first destination was the Pea Ridge Military Park, site of the Battle of Pea Ridge in March of 1862.  I’m a bit of a Civil War buff and amateur historian or at least I like to think so.  The Battle of Pea Ridge was important for two things.  First, it defeated the remaining pro-Confederate Missouri forces and insured Missouri remaining in the Union.  A small pro-Confederate force lead by former Missouri Governor Sterling Price has declared that Missouri had seceded from the Union but Price at that time only controlled a small southwest segment of the state.  He was driven out of Missouri into Arkansas and his forces merged with those of Confederate General Earl Van Doren near Fayetteville, AR.

The second factor of the Battle of Pea Ridge was the destruction of the last major Confederate force in Arkansas.  The remnants after the battle retreated into Louisiana and Texas  and continued to fight in the war. But after the battle, the Union controlled Arkansas.
We used Google Maps to reach the park.  It showed one route into the park, an in ‘n out.  We followed that route and saw a few canon in a field and some split-rail fences outlining a battle site.  That’s all. No signs, no turn-out areas to take photos, no visitor’s center.  I was using cached Google maps that I’d loaded before we left home.  We were in marginal cell range and couldn’t access the National Park Service website.

We were disappointed and continued on to Ft. Scott.  At Ft. Scott Nat’l Historical Site, also operated by the National Park Service, we were told we had used the wrong route.  If we’d gone to the south side of the Pea Ridge park, we would have found the visitor’s center and access to a loop that encircled the battle fields.

I’ll write about Ft. Scott tomorrow.  Today it’s Pea Ridge’s turn.

The Battle of Pea Ridge (also known as Elkhorn Tavern) was a land battle of the American Civil War, fought on March 6–8, 1862, at Pea Ridge in northwest Arkansas, near Garfield. In the battle, Union forces led by Brig. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis defeated Confederate troops under Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn. The outcome of the battle essentially cemented Union control of Missouri. The battle was one of the few during the war in which a Confederate army outnumbered its Union opponent. — Wikepedia 

The first day. Union forces meet Confederate Calvary. McCullough and McIntosh killed leaving their troops leaderless and they sit out the rest of the battle waiting for orders.

The site of this battle is an open field near the site of the village of Leestown.  Leestown no longer exists.

This first day of the battle resulted in the deaths of Generals McCollough and McIntosh.  Between these two, they commanded Van Doren’s cavalry and a large portion of Infantry.  The Leestown battle left those forces leaderless and they sat out the rest of the day awaiting orders from leaders who were dead.

The next two days were battles fought around the Elkhorn Tavern located at the junction of Telegraph Road and the Huntsville Road.  The Union troops originally held the site the first day.  Van Doren attacked the second day of the battle as seized the Tavern and the surround terrain.  Van Doren thought he’d won the battle and stopped to regroup his forces.

Troop movements and battles around the Elkhorn Tavern on the 2nd day.
Elkhorn Tavern
The Elknorn Tavern was burned about a year after the battle by Confederate guerrillas. This building is a replica built when the Military Park was created.
While Van Doren was collecting his scattered troops, Union General Samuel R. Curtis was busy organizing a counter-attack that he launched the following day catching General Van Doren by surprise and routing the Confederates who retreated to the southeast and eventually fell back to Fayetteville, AR.  Van Doren was relieved of command and never lead any significant forces for the rest of the war.

Confederate General Earl Van Doren made two classic mistakes.  First he split his forces ordering McCollough and MacIntosh to circle to the south to attack Curtis from that direction while Van Doren and Stirling Prices around the rear of the Union troops and attack from the rear.  McCollough and MacIntosh were killed early in the battle on the first day and their troops were scattered and remained out of communication until the following day.  The two-pronged attack planned by Van Doren never happened.
Van Doren’s second mistake was to leave his supply wagons behind in Fayetteville when he started his march to meet Curtis.  Those wagons also contained Van Doren’s reserve supplies of ammunition.  Individual soldiers only had 40 rounds of ammunition and by the third day most of that ammunition was exhausted.
After an artillery duel between Curtis’s second-in-command, Franz Sigel‘s 21 canon against 12 Confederate canon.  Sigel made the Confederate guns ineffective and then turned his guns against the Confederate infantry sheltering in the trees.
With the opposing guns rendered nearly harmless, Sigel directed his gunners to fire into the woods at the Confederate infantry. Near the base of Big Mountain the projectiles created a deadly combination of rock shrapnel and wood splinters, driving the 2nd Missouri Brigade from its positions. “It was one of the few times in the Civil War when a preparatory artillery barrage effectively softened up an enemy position and paved the way for an infantry assault.”[14] During the bombardment, Sigel’s infantry edged forward so that by 9:30 a.m. his divisions had executed a right wheel and faced to the northeast.
By this time Van Dorn found that his reserve artillery ammunition was with the wagon train, a six hour march away. The Southern commander bitterly realized that he had no hope of victory and decided to retreat via the Huntsville Road. This route led east from the tavern, then turned south. With Price disabled by his wound, Van Dorn’s army began to move toward the Huntsville Road in some confusion. — Wiki
General Curtis counter-attacked on the third day of the battle in what was called, “The Beautiful Charge.”
Plaque at the site of “The Beautiful Charge.”
The field where the Union troops (left) charged the Confederate lines (right) that won the battle for the Union.
The third day of the Battle of Pea Ridge
There aren’t too many places west of the Mississippi where there were Civil War battles on this scale.  In the Kansas City area, the site of the Battle of Westport is long gone.  A smaller battlesite, the Battle of Lone Jack in eastern Jackson County was sold to developers about a decade ago and is now a subdivision.  Little remains of it.

I’d like to tour other Civil War battlefields but none are close by.  Maybe some time in the future, we’ll travel east or south-east and see some more, like Siloh and Vicksburg.  We would like that.

I’ve uploaded a large number of photos to my Facebook account if you’d like to view them.

Tomorrow will be Ft. Scott and Judge Parker, “The Hanging Judge.”


A heads up!

I’m on vacation this week. Blogging “may” be light depending on whatever plans my wife develops.