History of the World According to the Movies: Part 44 – The American West: Cowboys, Gunslingers, and the Rest

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Here we have the 1960 film called The Magnificent Seven which is actually a remake of a film I posted earlier called The Seven Samurai. However, this is a rough idea how you’d expect most guys to dress in westerns though I’ll say that contrary to attire, Yul Brynner isn’t the bad guy in this. Yet, you can see how common it is for guys to dress as cowboys in these movies and how often they carry weapons. Still, this doesn’t mean that men dressed like this in real life. Nevertheless, Kurosawa was pleased with this film since the guys making it asked for his blessing.

No western characters are more iconic than the gunslinger and the cowboy. However, in Westerns it’s sometimes hard to tell which is which except perhaps in dress but Hollywood usually doesn’t care one way or the other. Heck, in the Hollywood West, almost everyone wears cowboy hats or looks like a cowboy anyway. In Hollywood, the Wild West is a violent place where robberies and shootings are common place. Saloons were places where even the smallest indiscretion could blow up in an all out gunfight and were regular hangouts for perky little prostitutes. Businessmen were ruthless and the Pinkertons were mercenary thugs. Cowboys roamed the range care free of troubles in civilization and sang songs to their doagies at the campfire. Also, in movie westerns, livestock and horses never took a dump where they weren’t supposed to and the dirt streets were always clean and dusty. Everyone wore clean cut clothes and whenever a bad guy would be terrorizing the town, there was always a lone champion to thwart the bad guys or kill them all. And everyone was white. But was it really like that? The answer is not really but you know how Hollywood tends to white wash and make shit up. Still, here are some movie western inaccuracies I will list accordingly.

Geography:

Oklahoma City was around in 1881. (It was founded in 1889.)

Dodge City was a territorial town in 1881. (It’s in Kansas which had been a state since 1861.)

Deadwood was a boom town right after the American Civil War. (It was established as one 11 years after.)

Cowboys:

All cowboys were white and native born Americans as well as straight. (Actually while there were white native born cowboys, they were all native born or even white. In fact, there were significant numbers of cowboys who were black, Mexican, and Native American. Some were even from other countries. Oh, not to mention, though cowboy culture is known to be deeply homophobic {in the same way football is}, there were plenty of cowboys who were gay like in Brokeback Mountain and were drawn to the frontier because of their sexual orientation. There were also cowboys in places outside the United States such as in Canada, Mexico, Australia, and South America as well as other countries. And most of our cowboy culture came from the Spanish equestrian tradition which they got from the Muslims.)

In the West, the term cowboy wasn’t a job description. (Actually there were cowboys who do what cowboys were said to have done which was to supervise a cattle train to Nebraska on the cattle’s journey to the Chicago slaughterhouses.)

Cowboys worked alone. (I’m sorry but the archetype of the lone cowboy just doesn’t exist because they usually traveled in groups of drovers. Also, you can’t have one cowboy on a cattle drive without cooperation of other cowboys and horses.)

Only men were cowboys. (Most of them were men. Yet, women did disguise themselves and worked as cowhands. Women who lived on ranches also worked as hard as their husbands as well as learned to rope, brand, ride as well as cook and entertain.)

Cowboys were skilled marksmen. (Typical cowboys used lariats to show the cattle who’s boss not a gun. Guns were used on rustlers, hostile Indians or farmers. Still, they didn’t carry guns a lot because they were heavy.)

Cowboys were large people. (Most of the time, they were smaller than according to legend and wouldn’t be big hunks like John Wayne because their horses would complain. Most of your actors who played cowboys wouldn’t be one in real life. Large people were too heavy to ride mustangs.)

Cowboys would ride their favorite horses all day. (They’d ride a string of horses depending on what task was at hand. Mild horses were used at night while quick horses were used for cattle and tending.)

Cowboys were always fighting Indians. (Battles between cowboys and Indians were rare. Actually, he’d more likely be working with Indians than fighting them since many of them were Indians as well. Not to mention, most Indians would let cowboys cross their lands for a fee.)

Cowboys were old fighting men and experienced wranglers. (Many of them were teenagers and young men in their early twenties who learned while on the job. Most of them weren’t married and usually quit by the time they did or by their early 30s.)

A cowboy’s life was easy. (They had a 24/7 job and earned about $25 a month. Also, they didn’t discover the west but maintained it.)

Cowboys had fine clean clothes. (They usually dressed in hand-me-downs and other scrap pieces of clothing. Also, they probably wouldn’t have the best hygiene. Still, most of them wore clothes for function, not effect.)

Cowboys were able to build their own cattle fortunes while working with generous ranch owners who may give some of his cattle and give them a different brand. (From the Carter Museum: “Cowboys actually were not working for generous ranch owners. Instead, they probably worked for a corporation or absentee owner who was back East or in Europe. Additionally, cowhands were supervised by a ranch foreman. Most owners did not allow a cowboy to carry a different brand for themselves. One foreman hung two of his companions for “mavericking” (taking the owner’s unbranded cattle).” )

Cowboys rescued maidens from bandits in their spare time. (These guys were working 10-18 hour days and their jobs were difficult, dirty, and required great physical strength. They probably more likely spent their time singing songs at the campfire, boozing and whoring at saloons, sleeping, or eating baked beans. Actually the farting scene in Blazing Saddles is a more accurate picture of what cowboys might be doing in their spare time than in a lot of westerns.)

Firearms:

There were no gun free zones in the West. (Many towns west of the Mississippi had laws against carry weapons. Most gunfighters would usually keep their weapons out of sight. Of course, most people did have guns in the West and were ready to use them.)

Gunfights were routine events. (They were very rare as well as few and far between. When they did happen several shots were usually fired and onlookers were often hit. Not to mention, no one actually knew who won the fight until several minutes after the gunshots since it took a while for the smoke to clear.)

The gunman who was fast on the trigger usually one. (It was usually the guy with the cool head and more accurate shot. Being a fast shot was rather risky and most people known for that wouldn’t get in gun fights at all. Also, it wasn’t uncommon for a gunman to shoot his opponent at the most opportune point whether if he got on a drop of his enemy, if he was unarmed, or even if it meant shooting him in the back.)

Shots fired in Westerns that do not hit a character always ricochet loudly.

A shoot out scene can last for over five to ten minutes before anyone fires a shot and that time usually consists of mostly staring at each other intently.

Shootouts and brawls could happen anywhere at any time but they usually occurred in saloons.

Saloons usually kept undocumented workers on tap to clean after the place was shot to tethers.

Gunfights in the Old West lasted for 5 to 10 minutes. (The Gunfight at the OK Corral lasted for 30 seconds.)

Pistol belts were permanently positioned with the holster on the right side. (From Imdb: “Actual gun belts of the period slipped through a loop on the back of the holster, which allowed the holster to be positioned anywhere along the belt’s length.”)

Gunfighters always got drawn into a showdown. (He’d usually wait until they odds were in his favor and then draw.)

Most shootings took place between professional gunfighters. (They were usually among cowhands, businessmen, farmers, drifters, outlaws, lawmen, or guys under the influence of alcohol and were certainly not professional gunmen. Oh, and most gunfights weren’t about noble stuff like defending a woman’s honor or their reputations. It was mostly pertaining to stuff like outlaws confronted by lawmen, range wars, or family or political feuds. If a gunfighter was challenged over reputation, then it was usually by a young gun wanting to make a name for himself.)

Gunfighters usually challenged each other in the streets. (If they tried, the law would be there to prevent them from doing so.)

Heroines:

Calamity Jane:

Calamity Jane was an attractive woman who wore a dress. (She was butch and often dressed in men’s clothing that she was often mistaken for a man. Looked more like k.d. lang than Doris Day or Jane Russell. Unlike lang, she was straight as far as I know. Still, much of Calamity Jane’s story may have been embellished.)

Calamity Jane was present at Wild Bill Hickock’s assassination. (She was being held by the military authorities at the time. Also, she was said to arrive in Deadwood with Wild Bill and Charlie Utter around 1876, other than meeting Hickock himself there.)

Annie Oakley:

Annie Oakley gave up her shooting career to marry Frank Butler. (Actually marrying Frank Butler made her career as a sharpshooter for he was the one who discovered her and lost to her in a shooting contest. He was also very supportive of her career as well as gave up his career to be her manager. She wasn’t as much of a feminist as she is portrayed to be and did needlework in her spare time. Also, it was acceptable for women to use guns in the West.)

Annie Oakley shot the cigarette out of the mouth of Kaiser Wilhelm. (She shot it from his hand. It would’ve been too dangerous to shoot it out of his mouth.)

Annie Oakley was blond. (She was brunette. Nor was she brash either.)

Belle Starr:

Belle Starr was very attractive. (Photos show her as a frumpy matron. Still, she died at 40 and was just plain vicious. Yet, she’s played by Gene Tierney and Jane Russell.)

Sam Starr was Belle Starr’s first husband. (He was her second and he wasn’t a Confederate captain either. He was probably the love of her life though.)

Belle Starr was a woman crusading against Yankee and political injustice. (She was just a crook with a long history of marrying crooks who got themselves shot. Also, she may have been killed by her own son.)

Western Life:

The Union Pacific Railroad used wood burning locomotives. (They used coal burning locomotives. The Central Pacific Railroad used wood burning locomotives.)

Western bad guys always wore black hats.

Martha Earp was a young woman in the 1860s. (She died at 10 in 1856.)

There were no African Americans in the old west. (Actually, this is pure bullshit. Of course, there were African Americans in the old west and lots of them at that like thousands, many of them ex-slaves. There were black cowboys, soldiers, farmers, Buffalo soldiers, ranch hands, railroad workers, and what not. And it was home to people like Tomahawk Beckworth, Nat Love, Cherokee Bill, John Henry, Lucy Parsons, Stagecoach Mary Fields as well as others {Bet you didn’t hear of them, me neither with the exception of John Henry}. As inaccurate as Django Unchained and Blazing Saddles are, at least both films get the concept that there were African Americans in the west that are probably the most unrepresented demographic in western movies. Also, I’d like to include classic movies like The Oxbow Incident and Duel in the Sun. Not to mention, about 5,000 to 15,000 cowboys were said to be black.)

Every Western township is immaculately clean despite a person’s sweaty, weary, and dusty appearance. (As TV Tropes and Idioms says, “Horse dung, mud and flies, patched and ragged wooden buildings, straw on the pub floors to absorb spittle and spilled drinks and occasional drunken vomit were the norm rather than exception.”)

Almost every guy dressed as a cowboy in the Old West that sometimes cowboys, ranchers, drifters, gunfighters, outlaws, gamblers, and lawmen were sometimes hard to distinguish.

Everyone in the Old West believed in traditional values and lived their lives in traditional roles. (Despite the fact that Wyoming was one of the first places in the world to give women the right to vote, also the West also gave women some other rights they didn’t have in the east such as joint property ownership. Not to mention, western women actually did tasks that went outside their gender roles both inside and outside the house. Also, not all women in the West were housewives, schoolmarms, showgirls, servants, or prostitutes either. Not to mention, many freed slaves went West to get away from the Southern sharecropping lifestyle as well.)

Everyone in the typical western town had one church and everyone belonged to that congregation or at least all the white people did. (As of today, most towns had multiple churches for multiple denominations. And as for the Catholic ones, some of them were there before any white American settler stepped foot.)

Settlers headed West carrying their belongings in Conestoga wagons. (Filmmakers usually use Conestoga wagons in movies is because they looked better. Settlers actually used prairie schooners.)

It was businessmen who announced of finding gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota, which violated the Treaty of Fort Laramie with a gold rush and provoked a Sioux War. (George Armstrong Custer did this.)

Mountain men far from civilization usually couldn’t speak in any comprehensive form of English even though everyone understood them.

Cowboy hats were common headwear for men in the West.

Saloons had swinging butterfly doors.

Wanted posters displayed pictures of criminals. (Most wanted posters in the 1860s and 1870s were just handbills with a plain verbal description.)

The Pony Express was the primary postal service in the American West. (Only between 1860 and 1861. Oh, and it only went from Saint Louis to Sacramento.)

Homesteaders always built log cabins on the plains. (Due to lack of trees and lumber, most of their houses were made out of sod and dirt. Seriously, they must’ve taken their wood with them.)

Western towns always had glass windows. (Pane glass was very expensive at the time and wouldn’t be mass produced until the 20th century.)

Most Western miners were white and usually mined gold or silver. (Many of them were Chinese or Hispanic and some blacks served as cooks. But, yes, a lot of miners were poor white men. Other metals were zinc, copper, and lead.)

The Old West was an incredibly violent place. (Well, probably more violent than your average suburban neighborhood where your chances of being killed were 41 to 1 each year. However, it’s probably the same rate as people being murdered in inner-city Baltimore or on The Wire. Not very great odds, sure, but that’s nothing compared to how many people are killed in Spaghetti westerns or Sam Peckinpah movies. Still, you were more likely to die in the West from cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, or in an accident than by violence. Your average Western town only had 1.5 murders a year, which is a disappointing number for many Hollywood directors.)

Prostitutes were always attractive women who always had hearts of gold. (Old West prostitution was just as traumatic, degrading, and exploitative as it is today.)

Frontier prostitutes had a glamorous lifestyle and could move up in the world. (High levels of suicide, rape, addiction, and violence were common among prostitutes. Also, brothels were seen as poverty traps that forced girls into never ending competition with one another for enough scraps to eat with no hope of escape. Most of the time prostitution was a profession for women with no other options and was about as glamorous as a week in the ditch. Though there were madams who got rich off it and rose to positions of power. Yet, this wasn’t the same for most prostitutes even in the West.)

Most of the West was desert and canyons. (There are a lot of forests in the Pacific Northwest as well as in places like Colorado. There are also grass prairies and plains.)

The Old West was a violent place. (It had about the same murder rate as inner city Baltimore today. This means that a big frontier settlement could expect an average of 5 homicides per year.)

Sarsaparilla was a popular western drink. (It was used as a medicine for VD. Remember that when some cowboy orders it.)

Tumbleweed was a plant in the American West. (It’s a European plant that wasn’t recorded in the US until 1877.)

People rode on the same horse all over the frontier during long distances. (Those traveling long distance would usually try to go by train or stage coach and rent a horse in the next town. Of course, westerns aren’t the only films that do this since it’s endemic in a lot of historical films sometimes justified and sometimes not. Still, switching horses during long distance traveling was quite common in history.)

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History of the World According to the Movies: Part 43 – The American West: Outlaws and Lawmen

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You’re probably asking me, “who are these guys?” Yet, many would remember the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford respectively. Of course, this movie isn’t the most accurate story about them but it ain’t boring and usually skips some of the dull parts about their lives anyway. Also, Newman and Redford were at the peak of hotness in their days (especially Redford since he hasn’t aged well). Still, if you want to know what happened to them, read this post but it won’t be pretty.

Of course, Indians and soldiers weren’t the only ones becoming legends in the Old West. It was a time of outlaws, gunfighters, and lawmen like Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Wyatt Earp. Sure Hollywood has made movies about these legends time after time and we just can’t get enough of them. You can say they were the rock stars of their day and have somehow made it into the American folklore. Many of us have even grew up with these movies. However, in westerns, we seem to get the impression that the Old West was more crime ridden and violent than it really was. We think that banks were prime targets for robbers and that outlaws tend to terrorize towns on daily basis. We think that the local sheriff was either the muscle of law and order or just an incompetent prick. Still, the reality wasn’t so simple and sometimes lawmen and criminals weren’t the people you’d think they be. And while there was violence, it tends to be greatly exaggerated in westerns even in the Old Hollywood times (From the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles: “I must’ve killed more men than Cecil B. de Mille.”) and it’s sometimes really exaggerated in Sam Peckinpah films (very few movie characters are known to survive his films). Nevertheless, these movies have plenty of inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.

Outlaws:

Outlaws ruled the West and those who came to Arizona via South would have been shot on sight.

Bank robberies were common in Western towns. (Though most of them usually got caught since banks were usually not too far from the sheriff’s office. Actually stagecoaches and trains were more common targets while outlaws would consider robbing a bank a suicide mission. Butch Cassidy and his gang were among the very few successful bank robbers in the Old West but they only robbed two.)

Train robberies happened all the time and they were awesome. (They only happened for a short period of time and more often in the East than in the West. Oh, and they’d rarely get away with the crime. From History Banter: “When outlaws robbed trains in the West, they would most often board the train like any other passenger and when the train reached a designated point, they pulled out guns, demanded that passengers hand over all their valuables, and then they rode horses that their accomplices had stashed by the side of the train tracks. Outlaws would also rob trains by simply ripping up train tracks. When the train screeched to a halt, the bandits would board and go about their thieving business. There were no instances of outlaws leaping off their horses to board moving trains. It just didn’t happen.” However, soon railroad companies Pinkertons to protect train shipments which were people you didn’t want to mess with since they tend to kill train robbers in the Old West 99% of the time.)

Jack McCall:

Jack McCall worked as a hired gunman. (He worked alone. Also, his reason for killing Wild Bill Hickock is thought to be either being embarrassed by his victim paying for breakfast that morning or being paid to do it by the gamblers frightened that Hickock might become Deadwood’s sheriff.)

Jesse James:

Jesse James was the Robin Hood of the West. (All the booty he took was mostly for himself and his gang. Also, he was racist, mentally unstable, sadistic, and brutal and was said to kill seventeen men without remorse. However, as an ex-Confederate, he seems to have a Freudian excuse since many of them weren’t accepted back in American society during Reconstruction. Still, he should’ve quit when his brother thought it was a good idea. From American Experience: “A teenager when he rode off to join Confederate guerrillas in 1864, Jesse James never really stopped fighting the Civil War. Unable to accept the defeat of the secessionist cause, Jesse trained his fury on banks, trains and stagecoaches. He fancied himself a modern Robin Hood, robbing from Radical Republicans and giving to the poor. But the myth hid the darker reality of a repeat murderer whose need for attention kept him committing crimes long after the cause he championed was gone.”)

Zerelda James was killed by a bomb from federal agents. (Jesse’s younger half-brother was but she lost an arm. However, she outlived Jesse by decades and died at 92.)

Jesse James was a gunfighter. (His victims were almost always unarmed.)

Frank and Jesse James waited four years to go on a crime spree after the Civil War. (Their first crime happened on February 1866, less than a year after the war.)

Jesse James was a Wild West outlaw. (His operations usually took place in Missouri and he never really went west.)

The expansion of railroads caused Frank and Jesse James to become outlaws. (There were never plans for railroads to come any place close to the James farm or any other neighboring farm. Also, we kind of know that their reason to turn to crime was more out of vengeance for Confederate defeat in the Civil War.)

Jesse James had a relatively peaceful childhood. (From the LA Times: “The truth is that at 15 years of age he was beaten by ropes and horsewhips by the Kansas Jayhawker federal militia and watched as his stepfather was hung on the James farm, in part because they were Southern sympathizers.”)

James-Younger Gang:

Archie Clement was a member of the James-Younger Gang. (It’s alleged he was but he wasn’t. However, he never stopped raiding after the Civil War and was gunned down in 1866 by militia in Lexington, Missouri.)

Bob Younger died in the Northfield raid. (He and his brothers Cole and Jim were captured and given a life sentence. Bob died of TB in prison.)

The James and Youngers were cousins. (They weren’t related to each other. They just served in the Quantrill’s Raiders’ regiment together in the Civil War.)

The James Gang hid out in caves. (As Frank James put it, “Jesse and I never went into any place that didn’t have a back door.”)

The James Gang didn’t have a hideout in Texas. (From the L. A. Times: “In truth they did have such a hideout which they called “Peace Ranch,” known by the Texans as “James Hollow.””)

The Wild Bunch:

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were involved in the Wilcox Train Robbery of 1899 and the Tipton Train Robbery of 1900. (It’s unclear whether they were involved in either.)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid went to Bolivia straight from the US, where they continued to rob banks as before. (Actually they went to Argentina and had a ranch there before going to Bolivia where they went straight and led respectable lives. But the Pinkertons caught up with them so they went to Bolivia. They may have robbed a bank there, but we’re not sure. Still, it would’ve been more accurate in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid if the two leads discussed going to Argentina, instead of Bolivia. But their lives at Argentina would be boring so Bolivia it is.)

We’re not sure what happened to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid after San Vicente. (They actually opened fire from a house and were surrounded by the Bolivian army cavalry. However, it’s very likely that Butch and Sundance actually ended up killing themselves, according to a PBS documentary.)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were members of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. (They were called the Wild Bunch and the Hole-in-the-Wall was a meeting place. However, The Wild Bunch is actually a title of a Sam Peckinpah kill em’ all western so we’ll let it slide.)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid killed a lot of people during their life of crime. (Butch had only killed a few people in his entire life while Sundance didn’t kill anyone.)

Charles Woodcock tried to resist the Wild Bunch twice. (Yes, he was a real guy and actually did run afoul of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. However, the second time, he just let the robbers in and abandoned his capitalist heroics.)

Marshal Joe Lefors and an Indian scout named Lord Baltimore were charged with hunting down Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch Gang with a long, inescapable pursuit across the west. (E. H. Harriman actually hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to hunt down the Wild Bunch. Also, Lord Baltimore didn’t exist though Lefors was part of a posse. However, Butch Cassidy easily evaded the posse.)

Etta Place was a school teacher. (She may be Sundance’s girlfriend {or wife} who accompanied him and Butch to South America, but we’re not sure who she actually was. She may have been a school teacher, but she could’ve been a prostitute for all we know. Her name was probably Etta but Place is probably not her real surname. Still, we don’t know what happened to her since she vanishes after 1909.)

Billy the Kid:

Billy the Kid committed his first murder at 12 and went on to kill over twenty people before turning 21. (He committed his first murder at 18 and he only killed 8 men in his entire life {well, he at least killed four [mostly while escaping from jail and in self-defense] and was involved in four others}. Not to mention, Billy didn’t become an outlaw until he was in his late teens after he was arrested on charges that may have been botched. Also, he was willing to go straight whenever given the chance, was loyal to people who’ve been good to him, and only led a life of crime due to mitigating circumstances beyond his control.)

Billy the Kid’s girlfriend was white. (She was Mexican. Her name was Paulita Maxwell.)

Billy the Kid was a young raging psychopath. (Unlike many outlaws in the West or in history, he was anything but. But, yes he was violent, but most of his victims were armed. Still, he was more of a cattle rustler and horse thief when he absolutely needed to and wouldn’t really rob banks or trains.)

Billy the Kid lived in Tombstone in 1881. (He spent the last years of his life in New Mexico. Actually he spent a lot of his life in New Mexico.)

Billy the Kid was from Texas. (We’re not sure where he’s from though it said he was born in New York.)

Billy the Kid was born William Bonney. (He was born Henry McCarty yet he used William Bonny as an alias as well as Kid Antrim.)

Billy the Kid was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett as a suicide by cop scenario. (It wasn’t a suicide by cop scenario since Billy was shot in the back and had no idea Pat Garrett was in the same area. His last words were, “Quien es? Quien es?” {Spanish for “Who’s that?”}. Also, he was perfectly fine with fame and fortune.)

Billy the Kid was left handed. (He was right handed. Yet, he’s known as The Left-Handed Gun in the movie where Paul Newman plays him.)

Billy the Kid killed Buckshot Roberts in 1880. (Roberts was killed in 1878 by Charley Bowdre a member of his gang.)

Lawmen:

Western lawmen had shiny metal badges. (Not until 1874. They also didn’t wear uniforms either.)

Western sheriffs were honest and law abiding men who brought law and order into towns. (It wasn’t unusual for 19th century law men to be former criminals. Cue to the Western town scene in Django Unchained when King Shultz shoots the sheriff and then asks for the marshal. From Balladeer’s Blog: “Lawmen were often corrupt out west, behaving more like redneck sheriffs in the south do. Hickok was no different. Wearing a badge AND owning a saloon, as Wild Bill often did,  meant you could ruthlessly enforce the laws against your competitors but overlook your own establishment’s violations. However, in general that and acceptance of bribes marked the extent of his dishonesty.” The Earps weren’t that much different either.)

Tom Cotton was sheriff in Cochise County, AZ in 1881. (Johnny Behan was the Cochise County sheriff at the time. Wyatt Earp would later steal his girlfriend Josephine Marcus. Cotton is a fictional character and so is Jimmy Bryan.)

Allen Pinkerton was involved in shootouts by the James-Younger Gang and was robbed by them. (He was never personally involved in the James-Younger shootouts nor robbed by them.)

The Earp Brothers:

Wyatt Earp followed his dad as patriarch of his family as he built the west. (Virgil was more of the patriarch than Wyatt. Wyatt was just the one who tried to get revenge on his brothers being maimed and killed.)

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were the best of buds. (This is disputed since some say Doc was actually closer to Wyatt’s brother Morgan who was the same age as he was. Morgan’s death might’ve been a motivating factor for him to join Wyatt on a series of revenge killings and would explain of their separation not long after.)

Wyatt Earp first met Doc Holliday in Tombstone. (They met years earlier at Fort Griffin, Texas.)

Wyatt Earp was at the O. K. Corral gunfight all by himself. (He was with his brothers Virgil and Morgan as well as Doc Holliday. Unlike in Frontier Marshal which gets a lot of things wrong about Wyatt Earp most movies get right.)

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were getting up in years by 1878. (Wyatt was 30 at the time while Doc was 27. Also, Doc died at 36. At least they got the bit about them fooling with prostitutes in Cheyenne Autumn, though they were played by Jimmy Stewart and Arthur Kennedy who were way too old to play them.)

Wyatt Earp drank whiskey on a regular basis. (According to his wife Josephine, he rarely drank alcohol.)

James Earp was the youngest Earp brother who was killed in Tombstone. (He was the oldest {if you don’t count older half-brother Newton Earp} and he wasn’t involved in any of the events pertaining to the gunfight at the O. K. Corral. He was actually a saloon keeper minding his own business who died in 1926 at the young age of 84 of totally natural causes. However, in movies, he usually gets killed at a tender young age even though he was a middle aged bald guy with a mustache and goatee at the time and married to a former prostitute and madam. Still, the only Earp brother who was killed in Tombstone was Morgan and that was after the gunfight at the O. K. Corral, which sparked the Earp Vendetta Ride where Wyatt and Warren Earp along with Doc Holliday and others would seek vengeance on the Cowboys.)

Wyatt Earp was always fond of wholesome Christian women. (Maybe but he wasn’t too picky since his second wife was a prostitute {and they lived in a common law marriage for 8 years} who accompanied Wyatt to Tombstone whom he sent away to his family in order to get her away from opiates. His third wife was a showgirl {and maybe a former prostitute} who’d been living with the Cochise County sheriff when she met him. Oh, and did I say she was Jewish? Also, there’s no wonder why hostile ranchers called the Earp brothers, “fighting pimps.” However, in movies, only Doc Holliday gets to be with his real life love interest {or at least someone of her profession like a Mexican whore in My Darling Clementine}, while Wyatt has to settle for some wholesome school teacher.)

None of the Earp brothers had mustaches. (All of the brothers had mustaches by the 1880s according to photographs. Doc Holliday had one, too. Yet, many movies the Earps and Doc are all clean shaven {well, Doc does get a mustache occasionally}.)

Wyatt Earp was the paragon of a Western lawman. (He was much shadier and self-interested than how he was mostly portrayed. He was a sometime lawman but a full time gambler, confidence man, and associate for prostitutes and pimps.)

Wyatt Earp’s wife Urilla Sutherland died of typhoid a year into their marriage during the middle stages in pregnancy. (She was ill but it’s suggested she might’ve died in childbirth.)

After losing his wife, Wyatt Earp drank up a bottle of booze on his front lawn and made the rest into a Molotov cocktail in which he threw into his own window burning his house. (He actually just sold the land he and Urilla had purchased. Also, who names their daughter Urilla?)

Wyatt Earp got the job of lawman in Wichita, Kansas by apprehending someone or in a shoot out. (It’s more likely he was recruited by the Witchita marshal who asked him nicely to join up.)

Wyatt Earp was a frontier marshal before the famous gunfight at the O. K. Corral. (In Tombstone, he had little, if any, legal authority and him and Morgan usually made their living riding shotgun in stagecoaches. Actually he was never a marshal in Tombstone period. However, his brother Virgil was the marshal though and he deputized Morgan and Wyatt minutes before the O. K. Corral gunfight.)

The Earps and Doc Holliday survived the O. K. Corral gunfight without a scratch. (Wyatt did. However, Virgil and Morgan were wounded while Doc Holliday was grazed with a bullet.)

Virgil Earp was a nice quiet family man during his time at Tombstone. (His genealogical profile states that he had a daughter in the 1860s who wasn’t in his life much until she was already married with kids in 1898 after she wrote a letter to him. His first wife had spent years thinking he was killed in the American Civil War until that time. In Tombstone, he was residing with his live-in girlfriend Allie Sullivan. He also had a legal wife but nothing is known about her. Only half-brother Newton Earp seems to be the family man of this bunch and he wasn’t even in Tombstone.)

Around the time of the O. K. Corral gunfight James Earp was a teenager, Virgil Earp was in his twenties, Wyatt Earp was thirty, and Morgan Earp was in his thirties. (Actually James was 40, Virgil was 38, Wyatt was 33, and Morgan was 30. Thus, what the hell My Darling Clementine?)

Virgil Earp was killed by being shot in the back by “Old Man” Clanton. (For one, “Old Man” Clanton was dead before the O. K. Corral gunfight. Second, while Virgil was shot in an ambush, he actually survived until 1905 but he never recovered from his wound in his left arm. Third, he died of pneumonia at 57.)

Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan Earp all arrived in Tombstone together. (Wyatt, Virgil , and James Earp would arrive together. Morgan was on his way while youngest brother Warren would soon follow. In Tombstone, James and Warren weren’t there at all.)

Virgil and Morgan Earp were ambushed the same night. (Virgil was ambushed in December 1881 while Morgan was killed in March 1882. That’s a few month difference.)

Virgil Earp hit Ike Clanton over the head with the butt of his gun in a saloon after the latter made threats against the Earps. (This is mostly true except that it took place on a street outside and Wyatt struck Ike Clanton across the mouth with his Smith & Wesson leaving a small gouge on the lower left side of his gun barrel {presumably from one of Ike’s teeth}. Also, unlike what Tombstone says, there was no shooting in Fly’s photography studio or at a Mexican wedding. Not to mention, the Cowboys didn’t shoot up any of the Earp wives or anyone else’s.)

Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers cleaned up Tombstone. (From Baladeer’s Blog: “Doc and the Earps were also a crime faction running some gambling and prostitution in Tombstone. They were the upstarts to the established Clantons and McClaureys who also controlled rustling and political graft in the area. The Holliday- Earp faction DID win the gunfight at the OK Corral and made headlines with the gangland- style executions of several of their enemies after Morgan Earp was killed. However, the Clanton faction won in the end, with Doc and the Earps fleeing Arizona Territory. It’s fun watching how badly movies twist the facts to present Doc and company as the victors of that gang war.”)

Doc Holliday:

Doc Holliday was the only doctor in Tombstone, Arizona during the gunfight at the OK Corral. He was also from Boston. (For one, he was a Georgian dentist who had given up his practice mostly due to him having tuberculosis and a cough so bad that nobody would be his patient. And he was from Georgia not Boston. Also, he died six years after the gunfight of TB in Colorado which he had been suffering for years. Not to mention, Tombstone already had a full-time surgeon to tend to all gun-shot related needs. Too bad for the Clantons though.)

Doc Holliday was shot dead by Curly Bill Brocius right before the showdown at the O. K. Corral who in turn was killed by his girlfriend Jerry. (What the hell, Frontier Marshal? Kill a household legend just before the showdown that made him famous was about to take place? Still, Doc Holliday died in 1887 while Brocius would get gunned down by Wyatt Earp several days after the O. K. Corral gunfight. Not to mention, Brocius wasn’t at the gunfight. Also, Doc’s girlfriend was Big-Nosed Kate or Mary Katherine Horony. However, she did use Elder and Fisher as aliases.)

Doc Holliday killed Johnny Ringo. (Ringo more likely killed himself. If not, then Wyatt Earp probably did.)

Doc Holliday was a fine lawmen in the West. (According to Balladeer’s Blog: “Doc was more like a western gangster than a lawman. When Holliday was jailed for tampering with a horserace in Denver after fleeing Arizona, a newspaper war broke out over the controversial figure, who was in danger of being extradited to Arizona Territory where his old enemies could easily engineer his death in prison. Doc naturally cooperated with the anti- extradition newspapers pushing him as a heroic lawman figure against the pro- extradition newspapers depicting him as a criminal. Many myths about Doc Holliday, especially about him being a lawman, had their origin in this outrageous tabloid war. “)

Pat Garrett:

Pat Garrett was clean shaven and dressed in rags. (Photos show him as a dashing man in a mustache wearing a three piece suit.)

Pat Garrett’s middle name started with a J. (His middle name was Floyd.)

Wild Bill Hickock:

Wild Bill Hickock was killed before the Battle of Little Big Horn. (He was shot two months after the battle took place. I’m sure Dustin Hoffman seemed to have some memory problems as a 120 year old man in Little Big Man.)

Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane were romantically involved. (There’s no evidence to this though Jane did claim they were married. Also, at the time of death Bill was married to a 50 year old circus proprietor.)

Wild Bill Hickock was a marshal of Dodge City. (Other Kansas locales, sure, but never Dodge City. However, Dodge City has always been the default western town for Kansas.)

Lincoln County War:

John Tunstall:

John Tunstall was a fatherly old man who was murdered in 1878. (He was killed at 25. Still, he wasn’t a father figure to his cowhands nor was he a better person than his rival Murphy. Also, it was Murphy’s partner James Dolan who probably ordered his assassination, not Murphy.)

Lawrence Murphy:

Lawrence Murphy was involved in the Lincoln County War. (He had already sold his interest in the company of his partners Dolan and Riley who renamed it as the Jas. J. Dolan & Co. Murphy and was based in Santa Fe. Murphy may have been the main instigator of the Lincoln County War but he was battling bowel cancer since 1877 and wasn’t involved in the day to day activities. He’d die in October of 1878.)

John Kinney and Lawrence Murphy died at McSween’s house. (Lawrence Murphy died of cancer in 1878 and would’ve never been present at the McSween house. John Kinney was shot in the face by Billy the Kid but he survived another 40 years after the incident. Thus, Billy the Kid could never have killed either.)

Doc Scurlock:

Doc Scurlock had a romance with Lawrence Murphy’s Chinese sex slave, Yen Sun around the time of the Lincoln County War. (He had been married for two years by this point to Maria Miguela Herrera. He’d later have 10 children with her.)

Buckshot Roberts:

Buckshot Roberts’ job was to hunt down the Regulators and boy, was he evil. (Unlike his portrayal in Young Guns, he didn’t try to hunt them down. Rather he was just in town trying to collect his dues and leave when the Regulators ambushed him. He died the day after the showdown from a gunshot wound to his chest.)

Tombstone:

Tombstone, Arizona was a rowdy cow town with a lot of new wooden buildings in 1879. (It was a mining boom town in the early stages of development with a few wooden buildings. However, these were outnumbered by many adobe ones which were outnumbered by tents.)

Tombstone was in Cochise County in 1879. (It was part of Prima County until it was gerrymandered in Cochise County in 1881.)

Gunfight at the O. K. Corral:

The gunfight at the O. K. Corral lasted for 6 minutes and a medium range, heavily armed shootout. (It was a 30 second face-to-face affair involving few firearms. It also took place at 3 in the afternoon, not at dawn.)

All six Clantons were killed in the gunfight at the O. K. Corral. (Only three people died which included Billy Clanton as well as Tom and Frank McLaury. At least one of them was killed by Doc Holliday. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran unarmed before the shooting started. Ike Clanton brought murder charges against the Earps and Doc Holliday. According to Wikipedia: “The Cowboys claimed the Earps had killed the outlaws as they attempted to surrender. During the Spicer hearing, the coroner and witnesses presented conflicting evidence about whether the Cowboys had their hands in the air or guns in their hands or were trying to draw their weapon when the fighting started.” Spicer ruled that the lawmen had acted within their authority. Ike Clanton would be killed by a detective in Springfield, AZ in 1887. )

The gunfight at the O. K. Corral took place inside the building and during a warm sunny day. (It actually took place on a vacant lot owned by CS Fly and on a cold overcast day with snow on the ground.)

Clanton Gang and Associates:

“Old Man” Clanton was killed at the O. K. Corral gunfight. (He died in August of 1881 which was before the gunfight.)

Billy Clanton was in his thirties when he participated in the O. K. Corral. (He was 19 at the time. In Tombstone, he’s played by 33 year old Thomas Haden Church. At least Dennis Hopper was a better choice in Gunfight at the O. K. Corral, though he may not have had a heart to heart conversation with Wyatt Earp.)

Fred White died the night he was shot. (He actually lived to testify against Curly Bill Boucis and died a couple days after the Iron Springs shootout. From Imdb: “it was his testimony that the shooting was accidental that led to the freeing of “Curly” Bill, not a “lack of witnesses” as Tombstone depicts.”)

Johnny Ringo was killed at the O. K. Corral gunfight. (He wasn’t. Also, it’s said he later killed himself.)

Johnny Ringo was a remorseless killer. (Contrary to his portrayal in Tombstone, historical research could only point to him committing one murder. At one point in his life, he even served as a town marshal and all accounts said he was a conscientious and efficient lawman.)

Ike and Billy Clanton had a brother named Sam. (There was never a Clanton brother named Sam. They did have a brother named Phin but he wasn’t at the O. K. Corral gunfight and died in 1905.)

Curly Bill Brocius and Johnny Ringo were the leaders of the Cowboys prior to the Earps’ arrival in Tombstone. (“Old Man” Clanton was until his death, during a rustling expedition into Mexico, about 1-1/2 years after the Earps arrived. Brocius and Ringo were just members of the Clanton gang and nothing more.)

Earp Vendetta Ride:

Texas Jack Vermillion was part of Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Ride before Frank Stillwell was killed. (He joined up a day after.)

27 Cowboys were killed on Earp’s Vendetta Ride. (Only 4 Cowboy deaths were officially recorded with actual numbers being between 8-15 total. Still, it wasn’t a number to boast about in the newspapers.)

Big Nose Kate:

Big Nose Kate had an American accent. (She was Hungarian and didn’t come to the United States until she was ten.)

Big Nose Kate burned down a building so she could free her jailed boyfriend Doc Holliday. (This is just a legend but she does burn down something in Gunfight at the O. K. Corral.)

Other:

Billy Breckenridge was a young man in 1881. (He was 35 at the time unlike his depiction in Tombstone.)

The Iron Springs shootout between Wyatt’s posse and Curly Bill Boucis’ gang was an ambush by the latter. (Unlike Tombstone depicts, the two parties almost met by accident with Earp and his men looking for water where Bill and his guys were camping at the time.)

Mattie Blaycock Earp died shortly after leaving Tombstone. (She actually met up with Big Nose Kate and lived another eight years. Also, she was a brunette not a blonde like in Tombstone. Still, there’s no evidence whether she was addicted to opium while in Tombstone either.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 42 – The American West: Indian Wars

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Kevin Costner’s 1990 Dances with Wolves is a film showing Native Americans in a more sympathetic light than in years previously as well as shows some of the landscapes of the Plains in breathtaking view. Still, let’s just say the Lakota speaking Sioux treat this as an unintentional comedy since Kevin Costner had no idea that there are separate male and female pronunciations and styles. Still, he probably would’ve done better if he hired a male and female Lakotah translator instead of just a female one. TTI states: “The overall effect for Lakotah-speaking audiences was a bunch of Klingon warriors talking like a ladies’ Saturday afternoon tea social.” Also, Plains Indian buffalo hunts go a lot differently than shown in the film and Pawnee should really sue for slander despite being the Sioux’s enemies.

The history of the American West has been one of the most filmed eras in American history. There have been countless films pertaining to the era of the untamed wilderness, savage Indian tribes, legendary outlaws, and all types of murder and mayhem starring the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. The American frontier in the 19th century has been the inspiration of many legends and myths that have lasted into the ages. Westerns have shaped our imagination what this period was like which usually contains beautiful scenery of canyons, mountains, desert, and other national park sites as well as lots and lots of violence. In some ways, it serves as part travelogue and part gorefest if its directed by Sergio Leone or Sam Peckinpah. Still, sometimes you may have cowboys as the good guys fighting against the influences of business and banditry. Sometimes you can’t tell the difference between the good or the bad. Still, westerns have played a very influential role in American culture which we can all identify. However, westerns tend to show the mythological image of the American West than the reality.

Of course, the relations between the white settlers and the Native Americans wouldn’t be a happy one. From the 1840s on, settlers have packed up and moved out West whether it was to California, Oregon, Utah, Kansas, or New Mexico. However, one problem was that there were already people living on the frontier over generations. Actually they had been living there for thousands of years but the white people didn’t give a shit and just settled down before driving the Indians from their ancestral homes onto the reservation. Well, at least the US government did as well as committed a series of human rights abuses that most Americans would like to forget. Nevertheless, the Indian Wars would give us legends like George Armstrong Custer, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Cochise, Kit Carson, and Crazy Horse. In movies, Indians could be portrayed as the villains, victims, forces of nature, or others. The military could be seen as heroes or villains. Still, these movies do present their array of historical inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.

Indians:

Indian attacks were a common site on wagon trains and stagecoaches. (Indians knew better than to attack stagecoaches and wagon trains. If they were present on wagon trains, their conduct was peaceful and they served as guides and traders. Attacking whites wasn’t good business.)

Indians surrounded covered wagons and rode around and around to allow the settlers to shoot them off their pretty dappled ponies. (This wouldn’t happen a lot because most Indians would never attack settlers on covered wagons. Nevertheless, Comanches were studied in European military schools because they were known to have the finest light cavalry in the world.)

Intermarrying was very frequent between Indians and white settlers but they strangely they simply didn’t seem to get along. (I’m just to alluding to the fact Native Americans in old western movies were played by white actors.)

All western Indians wear plains style costumes and love to don on the feather bonnet headdresses. (Actually, only high ranking Plains Indians wore the outfits.)

Whenever Indians weren’t attacking white settlers, they were either smoking a peace pipe or hunting buffalo. They may have also communicated using smoke signals and sign language yet always used a bow and arrow as weapons.

Indians usually scalped white settlers or tied them to a totem pole if captured. (Yes, Indians scalped people and we can’t dispute that. However, only the Pacific Northwest tribes had totem poles and they usually used them for very different purposes like clan identification and lineages, stories, or notable events. Sometimes they can be used as welcome signs, vessels to store remains of dead ancestors, or as a way to ridicule somebody. They were not used to tie prisoners.)

The Sioux referred to themselves as the Lakota. (No, they pretty much refer to themselves as the Sioux or Dakota, well sort of. Also, not all Sioux are Lakota.)

Plains:

Pawnee Indians would attack American settlements. (They were allies for the US government.)

In white man-Indian woman relationships, the Indian woman is usually an Indian princess who marries into the white man’s culture. (Not every Indian woman who married a white man was an Indian princess, which is a strictly European concept. Nor would most Indian princesses or other Indian women assimilate into the white man’s culture but in many cases the opposite would happen, especially in French Canada {Sacajawea’s marriage is a prime example of this}. Nor would marrying an Indian woman bring civilization to her people {though there were Indians who did convert to western ways like the Cherokee}. Rather it would end up leading to mass slaughter and destruction of a culture.)

The Cheyenne were an Indian tribe in the Rocky Mountains. (They were a Plains tribe.)

Crazy Horse and George Armstrong Custer met face to face. (They never met in person. Also, given Crazy Horse’s relative anonymity, it’s unlikely he would’ve been recognized had he been captured at Little Big Horn. Heck, this guy went to great lengths never to be photographed for God’s sake. Sitting Bull may have been more appropriate.)

Crazy Horse was willing to give all Indian lands to the whites except the Black Hills. (Crazy Horse would’ve made no such deal. Still, perhaps the least offensive thing about Crazy Horse’s character in They Died with Their Boots On is that he’s played by Anthony Quinn {a lot of Hispanics have indigenous ancestry and a lot of Native Americans are part white so his portrayal isn’t as offensive as it seems. I mean the guy’s Mexican and most likely had Native ancestry}.)

Sioux Indians could bring down a stampeding buffalo with single arrow shots. (Sorry, Kevin Costner, but bow hunting doesn’t work that way. In real life, the hunters would have to track the wounded animals, sometimes for miles, until they bled to death. This could take hours or days. Let’s just say that if Dances with Wolves depicted an actual Indian bison hunt, it would be pretty boring.)

Indians mostly used bows and arrows as a weapon of choice. (They used guns, too, and there 25 types of firearms found at Little Bighorn.)

The Sioux brought down stampeding buffalo with single arrow shots. (Sorry, Kevin Costner, but bow hunting doesn’t work this way. In reality, hunters would have to track the wounded animals, sometimes for miles, until they bled out.)

The Sioux weren’t familiar with the white man prior to the American Civil War. (Yes, they were. In fact, in 1862, the Dakota Sioux had fought whites in Western Minnesota with 800 whites dead and 38 Sioux hanged. Kicking Bird would’ve known about this.)

Indians would always constantly attack settlements as well as kidnap or kill white settlers. (Sometimes this would happen but not a whole lot. However, children who were kidnapped by Indians would usually be assimilated in the tribe within a year contrary to the Natalie Wood character in The Searchers {God, I hate that movie}. Perhaps that bastard John Wayne should’ve just left her with the Indians because she would’ve been able to shake off her Indian language and habits she had acquired over the last five years. Seriously, Natalie Wood probably wouldn’t have lived happily ever after.)

Indians terrorized whites for personal gratification and blood lust. (Usually it was more due to something like building a farm on their traditional hunting ground if it pertained to settlers in the case of Cynthia Ann Parker. Still, unlike Dances with Wolves, they wouldn’t usually adopt a white man into their tribe. Nevertheless, while Indians did raid settlements they were usually small farms where they didn’t stick around very long and Indian massacres on whites were the exception rather than the rule. Besides, Indians knew that raiding heavy populated areas was just asking for trouble.)

Indians were victims of ruthless whites. (Yes, this is true but to a point but they weren’t simply victims and were just as much authors of their own destiny who dealt in American expansion the way they thought would be best for their societies. According to History Banter: “After the Civil War, the United States actually adopted a peaceful policy in dealing with Plains Indians. There were only a 100 thousand or so of them remaining in 1865, little threat to a nation that had just fielded an army of over a million soldiers. So in an attempt to foster peace, the U.S. assigned Quakers to deal with Plains’ tribes…..Quaker agents went onto Indian lands where they tried to convince local Indians not to raid American settlements. At the same time, it was the Quakers responsibility to prevent whites from attacking Indians. Many Indians realized that the Quakers were effective in this latter duty, but were not so adept at preventing their raids on American settlements. So, the Indians raided and hid behind the Quakers’ authority when angry whites came for revenge. Eventually, cries from the frontier about the Quakers reached Washington and this peaceful system was thrown out the door in favor of a more aggressive means of dealing with Plains Indians.” Still, they didn’t really need Kevin Costner to help them.)

Soldiers:

The 7th Cavalry contained only American soldiers. (There were plenty of European immigrants in that regiment.)

The 7th Cavalry charged into Little Bighorn with their swords drawn. (They didn’t have their sabers with them.)

Black and white US Army soldiers fought side by side. (As long as the black soldiers were enlisted men and white soldiers were officers.)

The story of Fort Apache unfolded like the Battle of Little Bighorn transplanted in Arizona. (Not really. Also, the fort wasn’t named Fort Apache five years until after Chief Cochise’s death contrary to the John Ford movie. Until then it was named Camp Ord or Camp Apache. Still, John Ford, you could’ve had the resident Indian chief be Geronimo or Cochise’s son Naiche who not many people know about. Oh, and the military clash happened in 1881 and not the 1870s.)

George Armstrong Custer:

George Armstrong Custer was a flamboyant, arrogant, idiotic, and bigoted coward who got what he deserved at Little Bighorn. (Custer was flamboyant and probably wasn’t the best soldier or a hero at Little Bighorn but he definitely wasn’t a coward nor a bigot either {at least by 19th century standards}. He was a hero at Gettysburg for thwarting a Confederate cavalry attack from the rear led by J. E. B. Stuart which was key to Lee’s battle plan, led to Philip Sheridan giving him and his wife the Appomattox surrender table as a gift. Still he was a glory seeker willing to sacrifice his men for his own personal glory and was very cruel to them, which is why his men didn’t like him. His units suffered high casualty rates in the Civil War {his division had the highest number of casualties in the Union Army}, sometimes to horrendous levels and he was once suspended for a year for being AWOL, misappropriation of funds meant for provisions for reservation Indians, and during his Reconstruction duty in Texas nearly escaped being fragged by his own troops {the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry who had resented his attempts on discipline}. He also liked to promote his image, was very reckless in battle, and had greatly wished to regain his rank after having being general in the Civil War. Yet, he was a fearless and an aggressive soldier, wasn’t afraid of using unconventional means to accomplish his goals, a loving husband {though he wasn’t entirely faithful}, and he once refuse to massacre starving, exhausted, and defenseless soldiers from the Army of Northern Virginia despite Sheridan ordering him to. He was probably more of an anti-hero than anything. Still, as an officer of the US Army killing Indians was part of his job more or less. The general historical consensus has him as a colorful and capable cavalry commander who just let his ego override his judgment in attacking a force that vastly outnumbered his.)

All of George Armstrong Custer’s men died at Little Bighorn. (His battalion consisting of C, E, F, I, L companies were wiped out. However, the remaining seven companies under the charge of his subordinates Major Reno and Captain Benteen were not. Thus, out of his 586 men only 262 were killed including himself while 55 were wounded. Still, the Battle of Little Bighorn lasted an hour and “the Last Stand” wasn’t a blaze of glory either. Nevertheless, splitting his force may not have been the best thing to do but it saved many of his men’s lives.)

George Armstrong Custer was a passionate defender for Indian rights. (He was just as much willing to kick the Indians off their land as any other white man. He had also staged a massacre of Cheyenne families at the Washita as well as been fighting Indians in Kansas and in the Yellowstone Valley. However, he didn’t believe Indian genocide was a viable solution. Nevertheless, he wasn’t the only one to wage war against the Indians or commit crimes against indigenous people, attack Indian villages, or chase military glory.)

George Armstrong Custer took a break from the army after the American Civil War until he was sent to Fort Abraham Lincoln. (He never left the army and had served in Texas, Kansas, and in the Yellowstone Valley.)

George Armstrong Custer was offered $10,000 to serve as president of a railroad company. (He was actually offered $10,000 in gold {as well as requested a leave of absence} to serve as an Adjutant General in Benito Juarez’s army in Mexico.)

George Armstrong Custer drank after the American Civil War. (He had been sober since his 1862 where he made a humiliating spectacle of himself.)

Custer’s promotion to general was an administration mistake. (It wasn’t and it was 3 days before Gettysburg in the command of volunteers.)

George Armstrong Custer entered West Point as a privileged rich boy. (He grew up in an ordinary working class household and was at West Point on scholarship. Contrary to They Died with Their Boots On, it was Custer’s socioeconomic background which was the main reason why Judge Bacon didn’t want Custer to marry his daughter, not because Custer insulted him in a bar.)

George Armstrong Custer promised he would defend the Black Hills for the Sioux. (He never made this promise and actually started a gold rush to the Black Hills.)

George Armstrong Custer was killed by arrows. (Sorry, but Custer didn’t go down like Boromir. He was actually killed by Indian gunfire. Not to mention, it’s said that the Indians may have had better repeating rifles than Custer’s men did. I know most depictions have Indians only using bows and arrows. But yes, Indians did have guns which they obtained through trade with white settlers. Also, he had cut his long flowing locks before he began his last campaign so him having long hair at Little Bighorn is pure Hollywood. Oh, and he was wearing buckskins at the battle like Errol Flynn in They Died with Their Boots On instead of a blue military uniform like Richard Mulligan in Little Big Man.)

George Armstrong Custer was sent back to Washington to a congressional hearing over one of his own infractions and had to persuade Ulysses S. Grant to send him back to the 7th Cavalry. (This never happened. However, Custer did go on a trip to Washington and did sit in a congressional hearing but it was over a kickback scandal involving US Secretary of War William Belknap, Grant’s brother Orville {one of the most embarrassing presidential siblings to date}, and traders at Army posts in Indian Country who were charging troops double on what they would’ve paid for the same goods in Bismarck. His testimony led to Belknap getting impeached, which caused a media sensation. Oh, and Custer and Grant didn’t get along since not only Custer testified against his own brother and War secretary over corruption charges, he also arrested his son Frederick for drunkenness earlier, and had written magazine articles criticizing his peace policy toward the Indians. Still, Grant wouldn’t order for Custer’s arrest or removal of command until Custer left Washington without his permission {though Grant had turned him down three times for a personal meeting, following Sherman’s advice}. Oh, and he didn’t get his command back until he, General Terry, and Philip Sheridan persuaded Grant to do so. Most of the intrigue is absent from They Died with Their Boots On, which is kind of a shame.)

George Armstrong Custer received a Civil War Campaign medal. (The first of these medals were issued in 1909. Custer died in 1876. Still, he probably should’ve had one though.)

George Armstrong Custer had dark hair and was clean shaven. (He had flowing light brown hair or perhaps blond as well as sported a mustache. Yet, in The Santa Fe Trail, he’s played by Ronald Reagan of all people. Say what you want about They Died with Their Boots On but at least Australian actor Errol Flynn made a fairly decent Custer in comparison. Also, he didn’t graduate at the same time as J. E. B. Stuart who was six years older than him.)

George Armstrong Custer met his wife while a student at West Point. (He met Libby the year after he graduated in 1862 and they married two years later.)

George Armstrong Custer was a general during the Battle of Little Big Horn. (He was a lieutenant colonel and was only a brevet general during the American Civil War, which disappeared when the war was over. Still, after the war he was demoted to captain but he did rise to lieutenant colonel by his own efforts.)

Libby Custer was General Philip Sheridan’s niece. (They weren’t even related to each other and there’s no evidence that she even knew the guy independently of her husband’s association with him. Still, unlike in the movie They Died with Their Boots On, George Armstrong Custer was actually one of Sheridan’s favorite officers though.)

Scouts:

Brit Johnson was a white scout. (He was black. Still, his story was the inspiration for The Searchers, in which his character was played by John Wayne. Also, unlike the John Wayne character, Johnson wasn’t a Civil War veteran, didn’t fight for the Confederacy, or ever held racist views. Not to mention, only one child from his family was killed in the Indian attack and never rekidnapped any hostage who the Indians had adopted and married off. He was a black slave for his journey started in 1864 and ended after the Civil War was over. Also, his relations with the Indians were peaceful and managed to get his family back and others through negotiations. Still, Johnson’s story doesn’t have a good end for even though he did return home and tried to set himself up as a freed man, he and his ex-slave business partners were killed by Indians and it’s impossible to say who.)

How to Survive a Western

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Ah, westerns, a classic American movie genre set at a time and place when everyone had to do everything themselves, especially when it came to fighting Indians or regular law enforcement. A time of cowboys and Indians, outlaws and gunfighters, and a time when people from far and wide moved away from the east to start a life of their own and grow up with the country. Of course, knowing that most of these are set between 1865-1920 so you won’t have access to the convenient 21st century technology. Still, surviving in a western isn’t easy and if you find yourself in one, here are some steps you should follow. (Of course, don’t count on working out all the time.)

1. Be black or Asian. (Because as far as race goes, these two have among the lowest death rates since most westerns don’t have either of them. Sure being black or Asian in a western may mean being susceptible to demeaning stereotypes or terrible jobs for pittance but at least it’s better not having people who want to kill you. And even so, chances are good you’ll survive anyway regardless of role except maybe villain.)

2. Listen to the hero no matter how much of jerk he is because he is always right. (Sure John Wayne may be bully and a complete asshole but if you don’t listen to him, well, there’s going to be trouble. Of course, unless you’re Maureen O’Hara you might want to avoid sleeping with him).

3. Don’t mess with the hero. (The hero’s motives may not be pure but if you do anything to him or try to hinder his goal, well, you’re going to get it.)

4. Avoid saloons and banks. (Sedentary indoor gun shootings happen at these places 90% of the time. Also, brothels, bars, hotels, and dance halls count as saloons since they also serve booze.)

5. Don’t be in anything by Sam Peckinpah. (I can’t help you there given his movies make Quentin Tarantino films look like something from Disney. Come to think of it, you might have better odds in The Hunger Games than in a Sam Peckinpah western.)

6. Stay indoors when the guns go off. (Or else, you’ll end up shot as an innocent bystander.)

7. Horseback riding and sharpshooting are valuable skills. (Being skilled in at least one will help you tremendously.)

8. Remember that most weapons fire rounds beyond their capacity without reloading. (Westerns are notorious for having six shooters that fire more than six at a time before reloading.)

9. Don’t board trains carrying gold or weapons in the baggage car. (It will be targeted for a train robbery which will involve shooting and dead bodies.)

10. Don’t travel by stagecoach. (Trust me, it will be Indians, bandits, or both.)

11. If you’re challenged to fight against a guy who’s known for his fast reflexes or excellent aiming skills, get the hell out of town as soon as you can. (Sure you might be called a coward but at least you’ll survive.)

12. Don’t challenge people to duels. (Just don’t. The challenger usually gets shot and killed in these. If he survives, then welcome to hell.)

13. If you’re white, stay out of the Indian settlements. (I don’t care if you’re in the US Army and it’s your job to get them to surrender peacefully {which won’t happen}, if the nearby Indians aren’t bothering you, either establish friendly relations or leave them alone. Otherwise, you’ll end up like Boromir.)

14. If you’re an Indian, stay out of white settlements and be prepared to face evacuation or the white man at all times. (Seriously it really sucks being an Indian in westerns, doesn’t it? Even if you do these things, there may be no hope for you but the reservation, which may be fate worse than death.)

15. Whenever you enter a town, make sure that there are no Wanted posters with your picture on them. (If there is, get the hell out before anyone sees you. You will either face armed confrontations, be chased by a posse, be arrested by the sheriff, deal with a bounty hunter, or possibly lynched.)

16. Remember your guns and horses are your prized possessions and traveling companions. (Take good care of them and they’ll take good care of you.)

17. If you get hurt, remember that a veterinarian is just is good as any doctor around. (And if you need medical care, you’ll need the nearest doctor you can get if there’s any around. Besides, most doctors in westerns usually treat both people and livestock anyways regardless of their specialty.)

18. Remember fire safety is really important. (Especially, since this is a time when most people don’t have access to electric lighting and that most structures are built out of wood.)

19. When the town needs a new sheriff, don’t volunteer or talk about your exploits. (You don’t want to be sheriff in that town, because the last guy probably got killed and crime is pretty bad.)

20. Don’t go in front of charging large animals. (You will get trampled.)

21. Forget codes of honor and perhaps try to do your best to survive. (I mean you don’t have to face the bad guy if it’s going to get you killed. An early grave is far worse than being called a coward.)

22. Gathering a large posse is a great defense against a band of violent criminals on the loose. (And in westerns, you most criminals are violent or at least armed robbers at best.)

23. Best leave fighting invading Indians to the army cavalry instead of doing it yourself. (Except if it’s Custer at Little Big Horn, Fort Apache, or in some unavoidable situations.)

24. Always show respect and courtesy toward the Indians. (They may be your enemy but will be less likely to kill you if you treat them politely and you’re not in a large group. Only applies when you actually have to go to the Indian camp or want to trade.)

25. Friendly Indian sidekicks are very reliable outside civilization. (When it comes to surviving the wilderness, there’s no one better. Outlaws, mountain men, and trappers are very good as well since they know how to handle a gun.)

26. On the trail, circling your wagon is a great defense against Indian attacks. (They always do this in western movies set on the trail. However, in real life, Indian attacks on wagon trains hardly ever happened {since the Indians knew raiding them would be a very stupid thing}. Also, the circling wagons was more for keeping cattle in and took hours.)

27. If you’re in a bank being robbed, do whatever the bank robber says. (Because it will get ugly if you don’t.)

28. If you’re a guy, never underestimate women in the frontier. (Sure there’s a lot of sexism at the time but many women in westerns do know how to load and shoot a gun, have helped built their own houses, and has seen her share of adversity, especially if she’s much older. And if you have the wrath of Mattie Ross, then God help you.)

29. On the cattle drive, watch out for stampedes, rustlers, snakes, storms, flash floods, droughts, etc. (On second thought, maybe working on a cattle train is not a good idea.)

30. Basic knowledge of first aid will help tremendously. (Especially since there will be no medical establishment within miles.)

31. If your town is besieged by violent criminals, don’t be afraid of enlisting outside help even if it’s just a drifter with a mysterious past. (Of course, he will be played by John Wayne or Clint Eastwood anyway, so you’ll be fine.)

32. Just because the hero can survive after going through a hail of bullets doesn’t mean you should. (Somehow western heroes tend to be somewhat immune to bullets at least until the very end than most of the other characters.)

33. If you’re a famous western hero, make sure the movie doesn’t depict anything related to the Alamo or anything related to your demise. (If you’re David Crockett or Jim Bowie and the movie’s title is The Alamo, you won’t last.)

34. Remember anything can be edible if you’re desperate enough. (Even if it’s dead human flesh or grasshoppers.)