THE UNFOLDING JOURNEY is a new blog written in association with Legacy Genealogy.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Civil War History of the 57th Indiana (#21)

The Atlanta Campaign Begins - Battle of Resaca, Georgia

“After the defeat of Bragg’s army at Missionary Ridge, it fell back in great disorder to Dalton, where it was again rallied; and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, second only to Gen. Lee in ability, was placed in command.

“At midnight, May 3, 1864, the 2nd Division, 4th Army Corps, broke camp and marched in the direction of Dalton, Georgia. At daylight on the 7th, our advance encountered the outposts of the enemy; and some brisk skirmishing ensued. Lines of battle were formed and skirmishers thrown out; but the enemy gave way and we advanced to the vicinity of Tunnel Hill. The enemy occupied Rocky Face Ridge, a bold, rocky ridge with almost perpendicular sides, sparsely covered with oak timber.

“In the evening our brigade formed and marched over toward the ridge where we remained all night. In the morning we ascended the ridge, and moved along the crest about one mile south. It would be difficult to imagine there was less opportunity for maneuvering troops than was here presented by the one now occupied by the enemy. The side of the ridge on their left was nearly perpendicular, and was utterly inaccessible, and the right was protected by a ragged and irregular projection in the ridge, beyond which no human being would dare venture without being dashed to pieces by a fall upon the rocks below. The 3rd Brigade occupied the crest of the ridge, which in many places was barely wide enough to admit passage of artillery. Skirmishing was now going on constantly on the ridge, and at 5 o’clock P.M., Harker’s brigade assaulted the rebel fort, supported on the left by our brigade. The attempt was fruitless; our troops were repulsed. The 57th was under fire but not in a position to inflict any damage on the enemy, and fell back with the brigade. 

“On Wednesday, the 11th, we were relieved by the 1st Brigade and fell back, camping on the western slope of the ridge. On the following day, we arose at 3 o’clock A.M.. The entire division abandoned its position on the ridge and moved into the valley below. On Friday morning, we discovered that the enemy had evacuated his line in front of Dalton, and was on the retreat south. Orders were now received to push forward to Dalton.

Battle of Resaca
“At daybreak on Saturday the 14th, we were on the move. The roads were narrow, the country covered with a dense forest, and the progress slow. The advance was continued through fields and forests until we neared the line of the enemy’s fortifications, when they opened with artillery. The battle now raged dreadfully. Volley’s of musketry rolled like a vast flame, mingled with deafening cheers and the roar of artillery, as battery after battery came into position. Our division halted and threw up works in the rear of the forces already engaged. Our little command attempted to relieve the men ahead who needed assistance.  We emerged from the border of a heavy wood, through which we had been moving, and came out in full view of the scene. A small field, not exceeding two hundred yards in width, lay between us and the line held by our men. We passed rapidly across the field and ascended the slope beyond. The ground near the line of works was thickly strewn with the killed and wounded. Many of the latter were struggling and calling piteously for help as they lay in the broiling sun, weltering in their own blood. It was a shocking sight.

“Once beyond the line, we laid down not more than fifty yards from the rebel works, with our feet up hill and our heads down. No sooner had we commenced firing from the advance position than the enemy poured into us a deadly volley of musketry, and in a few moments let fly at us with grape and canister. From this moment I have but a confused recollection of what happened for some time. The contents of the rebel cannon, loaded with canister-shot entered the ground just by my head, throwing the gravel and dirt in every direction, filling my eyes, nose, and mouth; and severely stunning me on the forehead. Before I could recover my self-possession, another shot grazed my right leg and passed through the leg of a comrade, who was lying by my side, mangling it dreadfully. In a few moments I heard the voice of the captain calling me, and discovered that the company was falling back beyond the line over which we had advanced. Calling for a detail of four men, I carried their guns and my own while they carried the wounded man about a mile, where we found an ambulance.

Death of Our Commander
“There were probably few officers connected with the army who were more solicitous or took a deeper interest in every movement in which their command should participate than did Colonel Lennard. Immediately after the last change of position, the colonel advanced to the open ground in front, dismounted, and was engaged in conversation for several minutes with Gen. Newton and other officers concerning the disposition of the regiment. The consultation over, he turned to go back to the regiment; and just as he was in the act of mounting his horse, a shell from the enemy passed through his right knee, shattering it to pieces and mangling it horribly. In a few moments, stretchers were provided upon which to bear away the body of the colonel.

“Gloom and sadness took possession of every man as he was borne back to take his farewell of the men who had almost learned to love him. ‘Now take good care of the boys, major,’ were the last words he ever said in hearing of the command. Gen. Wagner, when he heard of the fall of the colonel, was deeply moved, and was afterwards heard to say he had lost his best man.

“Soon afterwards the colonel was carried to a house three quarters of a mile in the rear. At his own request, a pallet was made on the floor, and on that he was placed. The wound produced a wonderful shock on his system, and yet there was no reaction. From the first he seemed to realize his true situation, and when in conversation with the surgeons spoke coolly and calmly of his wound. He was anxious that amputation should take place just as soon as the system revived. Several hours elapsed from the time he was wounded until the attending surgeon discovered that instead of surviving he was growing weaker. In the meantime, he was engaged in conversation on various subjects.

“He spoke of his experience in the army, and especially since he became connected with the regiment. Then his thoughts would turn toward his family. He requested that his wife might be sent for to come and take care of him; wondering if his little children would always be good children. He spoke of the tender affection which existed between him and his companions, and talked only as a brave man could, who was so near the hour of dissolution.

“Night was now fast approaching and a fire of pine knots was kindled on the hearth. About 7 o’clock the surgeon informed the attendant that the colonel would probably never survive; and that he had better speak to him of his danger. When told that he could hardly survive, and that he might die at any moment, his pale features lighted up with a smile as he calmly said, ‘What, so soon.’ Continuing, he said, ‘It is necessary for me to make the sacrifice, and I male it cheerfully, here I am in Georgia, away from my pleasant home, away from my wife and dear little children. Tonight they don’t know that I am dying by the fire of these pine knots.

“He had given up his regiment. Now he gave up his family, and began to talk of the solemn realities of death. He remarked that he was never a believer in death-bed repentances, and that it was the duty of every one to prepare for death in time of health. One of the surgeons, a pious man, prayed with him and told him that Jesus died to save him and would here his prayer. Up to the last moment, the colonel continued to speak of his soul’s salvation and entreated those around him to not postpone the greatest duty of our lives. Before he died, he gave evidence to those around him that he was willing to go, and that he should pass from labor to reward. To the last he was calm and collected. Even the terrors of death did not move him, and he met the grim monster without a shudder. Peace to the ashes of George W. Lennard.

“When night came on, the regiment advanced near to the spot where our colonel fell, and threw up a line of earthworks. At daylight, a lively cannonade commenced. Our position was in full view from the hill occupied by the rebel artillery and for a while they seemed determined to drive us off; but our own guns did nobly, and we soon had the satisfaction of seeing the enemy’s guns silenced. At noon on Sunday, the 57th took up a position in the line relieving the 40th Indiana. A continual fire was kept up until night, and during the afternoon the regiment fired 40,000 rounds of ammunition. After dark we withdrew from the front, and other troops took our place. As we passed over the field the next morning, our eyes beheld a most shocking spectacle. Many men were killed between the lines and their bodies burned to a crisp. In many cases the limbs were dreadfully contorted, and in some instances the fingers were clinched as if the unfortunate victims had suffered ten thousand deaths.

“Orders were received to move forward immediately and our corps at once joined the pursuit. In their retreat across the Oostanaula River at Resaca, the enemy failed in an attempt to burn the bridge and our troops passed over it early in the day. The rear-guard of the enemy skirmished with our advance, but were driven from every position. Two miles south of Kingston, Georgia, the rebel army made preparations to meet us in an open field fight. For the first time the prospect bade fair that these two powerful armies would grapple in deadly conflict on fair ground, and each one was drawn up in battle array, prepared for a great struggle.

“Slowly our long columns exited from the forests and moved into line on the open field which lay in front of the rebel position. For miles, two long lines of Federal blue, with banners fluttering in the breeze and the rays of the sun flashing on musket and cannon, reached far away to the right. The position of our brigade was on the extreme left of the 4th Corps, with a portion of the 57th deployed as skirmishers in front of the line of battle. At the sound of the bugle, 50,000 men sprang to their places in the line, and as promptly commenced moving forward when the advance was sounded. But the enemy dared not risk the consequences of a battle in the open field, and when our columns moved forward, they disappeared into the forest and retreated across the Etowah River. The next position of the rebel army was behind their defenses at Altoona Mountain. But it was no part of the plan of General Sherman to sacrifice the lives of ten or fifteen thousand men in a desperate assault on every stronghold of which the enemy took advantage.

“The Federal Army remained inactive until May 23rd.”

(northern Georgia, May, 1864)
Excerpts taken from “Annals of the Fifty-Seventh Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry: Marches, Battles, and Incidents of Army Life” written by Asbury L. Kerwood immediately after the war.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Most of what we know of the von Trapp Family Singers comes from the 1959 Broadway musical starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, and especially from the 1965 Best Picture starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer (the photo here is of Julie Andrews and Maria von Trapp during the late 1960’s). The basic story does in fact come from Maria von Trapp’s biography but there are numerous differences between it and these productions. Historic accuracy was altered to fit the demands of show business. Names, marriage dates, birth orders, and characterizations of family members were also changed.

First we will explore the real lives of Georg von Trapp and Maria Augusta Kutschera; their early lives, how they met, and why they decided to marry. Then, we will look at the von Trapp Family; their singing career, how they avoided Nazi pressures on the family, why they immigrated to America, and how the family members felt about seeing their lives portrayed on the stage and movie screen.


Although an ethnic Austrian, George Ludwig von Trapp was born in 1880 in Zara, Croatia (present day). After central European borders were redrawn following World War I, his hometown came under the control of Italy; so George also claimed Italian citizenship. 

He became a national hero in Austria during the war as a Navy Captain. George was awarded the title of “Ritter” the lesser known equivalent of “Baron” (titles of nobility were outlawed in Austria in 1919, but honors like this were continued out of respect).

In 1912, he married Agathe Whitehead, the granddaughter of the man who invented the torpedo, and her large inheritance. The couple had seven children during the ten years following their marriage. In 1922, Agathe died of scarlet fever leaving the now retired naval officer with seven mouths to feed. Devastated by the death of his wife and the children of their mother, George sold his property in Croatia and bought a home in Salzburg, Austria. The home in Salzburg was large and comfortable, but not opulent.

Within a short time, Georg lost most of the family fortune (that he inherited from the estate of his first wife, Agathe) when he tried to buttress a failing Austrian bank managed by a friend of his. The von Trapp family was effectively bankrupt by 1927. They managed to survive by laying-off all of their domestic staff and taking in borders.

When his daughter, also named Maria, was stricken by scarlet fever like her mother, George needed a tutor for her as she couldn’t attend school. He approached the Reverend Mother at the Nonnberg Abbey to inquire about finding a tutor for his child. Maria Kutschera was suggested as a proper tutor since her college training was as a teacher.

Georg was a well known opponent of Nazism. When the Nazi’s annexed Austria in 1938, Captain von Trapp refused to fly the Nazi flag on his house and declined an invitation to have his family sing at Adolph Hitler’s birthday party. He was being seriously recruited by the German Navy because of his extensive experience in submarine warfare. His family was nearly broke and he had no means of earning an income other than as a naval officer. He earnestly considered their offers, which would rescue his family from poverty, but in the end he turned them down.


Maria was born in Vienna in 1905. As a young child she was orphaned and raised by an abusive relative. The story is that her guardian was a socialist and an atheist who taught her that nothing in the Bible was true. When she was older, she attended a teacher’s college in Vienna and came into contact with people who convinced her that the Christian religion was true and caused her to have a religious awakening. After graduating from college, Maria entered the Benedictine Abbey at Nonnberg in Salzburg as a potential candidate for sisterhood. As portrayed on stage and in film, Maria struggled to follow the rules and was often disciplined. 

One day, Georg von Trapp came by the Abbey to see if they had any person qualified to tutor his daughter Maria Franziska. Sister Maria was chosen because of her training and because see was suffering from a lack of exercise and fresh air spending her days indoors. Maria Kutschera was assigned to tutor at the von Trapp home for ten months; then return to the Abbey to be formally entered into training there.

She developed a strong and loving relationship with the sick child; and with the other six children as well. They all enjoyed outdoor activities and especially singing together. During her time there, Georg became fond of Maria (or in love with her depending on who told the story). He wanted to provide a permanent mother figure for his children and Maria needed a solid, reliable family to live with if she decided not to return to the Abbey. George asked Maria to marry him; an offer that she was reluctant to accept. She recorded in her autobiography that, “I really and truly was not in love. I liked him but didn’t love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children.”

But she felt that it was God’s plan for her to marry him and care for the children so she accepted. Maria did admit that later she grew to love Georg von Trapp.


They were married in 1927, over a decade prior to World War II. Maria was 25 years younger than George. Over the next ten years, they had two children together; Rosmarie (1928) and Eleonore (1931). The seven children of Georg and Agathe von Trapp were Rupert (1911), Agathe (1913,) Maria Franziska (1914), Werner (1915), Hedwig (1917), Johanna (1919), and Martina (1921). As you probably concluded, none of these names were used in the stage production or film.

During the worldwide depression of the 1930’s, with Georg no longer working, he and Maria decided to make their family tradition of singing into a paying profession. Georg was reluctant for his family to perform in public at first. Fifty years later, daughter Eleonore said, “It almost hurt him to have his family on stage, not from a snobbish view, but more from a protective one.” In 1936, the family won first place in the Salzburg Music Festival which opened doors for them to perform across Europe. They specialized in folk songs, madrigals, and Renaissance music.

By 1938, the Nazi’s had put more pressure on Georg to join the German Navy. They offered to renew Georg’s naval career, to insure that eldest son Rupert would find a prestigious position as a doctor, and to underwrite their performances. The family had to choose whether to stay in Austria and take advantage of the incentives offered by the Nazi’s or leave all of their family and friends behind, as well as their possessions. But Georg and Maria became fearful that those around them could be acting as informants for the Nazi’s.

The decision was made not to compromise with the Nazi’s and they planned to leave. In June of 1938, the family left by train for Italy. They travelled next to London, then to the United States aboard the S.S. Bergensfjord to begin a concert tour. The family had a contract with an American booking agent before they left Austria.


The popular conception is that the von Trapp family left Salzburg on foot and climbed over the nearby mountains to Switzerland. This is completely untrue. The Swiss border was way too far to travel to on foot. The closest border was with Germany. If the von Trapp’s had chosen to cross over the mountain there, they would have arrived in the German town of Berchtesgaden. On a hill above town was Adolph Hitler’s mountain retreat, Berghof, where the Nazi elite would gather. The von Trapp’s knew this so it was never a possibility. “We told people we were going to America to sing. And we did not climb over mountains with all our heavy suitcases and instruments. We left by train, pretending nothing.” (von Trapp’s daughter Maria in 2003).

The von Trapp’s had arrived in the United States prior to its entry into World War II. Their last child, and the first to be an American citizen, was Johannes. He was born in January of 1939 in Philadelphia. When their six-month “visitor visas” expired, they toured again in those parts of Europe not controlled by the Nazi’s. They even returned to Austria briefly without interference by the German Government. Upon their return to New York in October, the family was held at Ellis Island by the Immigration Service. An official had asked them how long they intended to stay. Maria should have responded ‘six months’ (as their visas indicated) but instead she said, “I never want to leave here again.” The confusion was eventually cleared up and the family was released after several days.


The family settled in Stowe, Vermont; an area not unlike parts of Austria. Georg never filed to become a citizen; but Rupert and Werner were naturalized by serving in the U.S. armed forces during the war. In 1944, Maria and five step daughters filed declarations of intention to become American citizens. Georg von Trapp died in 1947 and is buried in the family cemetery in Vermont. Maria died in 1987 and is buried alongside Georg. The children eventually went their separate ways as well. They found their own professions as a medical doctor, a kindergarten teacher, a missionary, a music teacher, a famer, and the youngest, Johannes, as a manager of the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont.


So, how did the family feel about the theatrical productions? Their input to the stage and film versions was very minimal, and more out of courtesy than anything else. The von Trapp’s had sold the rights to their story in the middle 1950’s. In general though, the family was not too greatly disturbed by the modifications of their story made by others. The basic story was intact, but with many, mostly minor, changes. 

It was noted earlier that none of the real names of the children were used, and the birth order (by gender) was switched around. The implied date of marriage between Georg and Maria was also incorrect. The film suggests that their marriage was just prior to the 1936 Salzburg Music Festival but it was nine years before that in reality. Maria had two of her own children by 1936 bringing to nine the number of children in the family.

Maria herself was represented as being genuinely na├»ve and passive in the theatrical roles. In fact, Maria was a dominating, bold, and straight forward person. In later years, the children referred to their step mother as a “force of nature.” She was a college graduate that had been exposed to a wide variety of worldly ideas including socialism and atheism (as mentioned earlier). Maria once wrote of Mary Martin’s and Julie Andrews’s performances that they “were too gentle-like girls out of Bryn Mawr.”

The most distressing characterization for the children was the portrayal of their father. Baron von Trapp was depicted as a detached disciplinarian. The children had always considered their father as a gentle, warm, and caring parent. He tried very hard to keep them protected from the pre-war hysteria. The film also implies that the children were severely regimented at home, and that they had no freedom to sing around the house. In reality, they were all musically inclined, including Georg, long before Maria arrived.

And of course there is the final scene where the family “climbed every mountain” on their way to Switzerland and freedom - this is a complete fabrication (sorry).

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


This is the story of a heroine of the War for Independence. We don’t know her by name, only by her deeds and the number “355.”

It was the middle of 1778; the British Army occupied New York City and had so for the previous two years. George Washington’s small force, located outside the city, was desperate for information on the activities of the British. He called on Major Benjamin Tallmadge to organize an intelligence operation staffed by patriotic civilians to provide him with information.

That organization today is known as the “Culper Ring.” Its job was to spy on the British and send secret messages to Washington through a web of couriers moving along different routes and using different modes of travel. The name Culper was based on the fictitious surnames of two of its members Samuel Culper Sr. (actually Abraham Woodhull) and his alleged son Samuel Culper Jr. (the Quaker Robert Townsend).

Secrecy was vital. The members were only known by aliases or coded numbers. Tallmadge had constructed the spy ring so that even Washington himself did not know the identities of the agents. Written messages were encoded in numbers or written in invisible ink in between the lines of an ordinary personal letter. So secret was this organization that the American public wasn’t even aware of the Culper Ring until 140 years after the Revolutionary War (in the 1930’s). It came to light when letters in Washington’s private collection included what looked like coded messages sent to him by Robert Townsend, alias Samuel Culper Jr.

Several women participated in this secret spy organization as well. The British were seldom suspect of women as they were believed to be disinterested in affairs of state and preferred to remain uninvolved. This turned out to be to the detriment of the British. One such woman is considered by historians to be this country’s first female undercover agent. No one has ever been able to determine to this day her real name; she only went by the number “355.”

Some believe that 355 was a member of a prominent Tory family in New York City. It would have been a position that allowed her to move easily among British military leaders operating in the area. In a coded letter sent to General Washington by Samuel Culper Sr. (Woodhull) on August 15, 1779, he wrote, “I intend to visit 727 (New York) before long and think by the assistance of 355 shall be able to outwit them all.”  

Major John Andre, the head of England’s intelligence operation in New York, kept company with only the most beguiling women in the city and 355 looked the part and took notice. She maneuvered herself through the parties he gave picking up bits of conversations, many of which she facilitated with ales and wines. The information she acquired was passed to Washington via couriers. One piece of information 355 obtained helped to expose Benedict Arnold’s role in surrendering West Point to the British. She also facilitated the arrest of Major Andre himself. Later on, Washington had him hanged as a spy.

Some people believe that Benedict Arnold, after defecting, identified 355 to the British and that she was arrested and hanged, the only member of the Culper Ring to be executed. But most historians contend that in October 1780, she was taken aboard the HMS Jersey, anchored off Manhattan, as a prisoner and held awaiting sentencing.

It is also believed that 355 may have been the common-law wife of Robert Townsend, and was pregnant with his child when she was captured. Townsend had earlier begged her to give up her espionage duties for the sake of her life and the unborn child’s, but she refused. She believed that the information she was getting for Washington was too vital to ignore. While incarcerated aboard the HMS Jersey, 355 gave birth to a son who she named Robert Townsend Jr. Shortly after the birth, she died in the squalid conditions of the cell on the ship.

Today, the U.S. intelligence community cites “355” as an example of what a capable, trusted, and patriotic agent should be; even though more than two centuries have passed since her death. Her true identity is still unknown to this day - an unknown soldier in America’s war for independence.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


The first robbery of a moving train occurred just after the Civil War. On October 6, 1866, the Reno Gang stopped and held up an Ohio & Mississippi passenger train near Seymour, Indiana. Breaking into an express company car and pointing their guns at the guard, they emptied the safe. A wave of train robberies quickly followed. Two more happened within a week. During the 1870’s, train robberies became common, and by the 1890’s had reached their peak. The Reno Gang, The Jessie James Gang, and the Dalton Gang were all known by the public. But the most successful train robbers in American history, in terms of money stolen and crimes committed without capture, was “Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch.”  


Robert LeRoy Parker was born in Beaver, Utah, in 1866. The oldest of 13 children born to English immigrants. In his early teens, he left home. He fell in with a local cattle rustler, Mike Cassidy, who became his mentor and taught the boy how to use a gun. Later, Robert worked for a while as a butcher in Wyoming, where he assumed the nickname “Butch.” He adopted Cassidy as a surname becoming Butch Cassidy.  

From the age of fourteen to twenty one, Butch committed some minor burglaries and a few horse thefts. But in 1889, he and two others robbed a bank in Telluride, Colorado, and stole $21,000, successfully avoiding capture. He bought a ranch in Wyoming and may have wanted to settle down - but a life of crime was just too exciting to become a farmer. Four years later he was arrested for stealing horses and sentenced to prison for two years. After his release, he organized a group of like-minded individuals, men and women, to engage in criminal activities. He called them “The Wild Bunch.”


Harry Alonzo Longabaugh was born in Mont Claire, Pennsylvania, one year after Butch. He is on the right in this photograph. At age 15, he longed to travel west and did so in a covered wagon with his cousin George. He too found crime romantic. In his first known crime, Harry stole a gun, a horse, and a saddle from a ranch in Sundance, Wyoming. Unlike Butch Cassidy, Harry was immediately captured and spent 18 months in jail. With time on his hands, Harry decided to change his name to “The Sundance Kid.” He worked here and there on cattle ranches until 1892 when he robbed a train. Five years later, he added bank robbery to his resume. At that time he became associated with the Butch’s “Wild Bunch.” The Kid was fast with a gun but was never known to have ever killed anyone; at least until his shootout with Bolivian soldiers years later - but that’s another story.


The gang had the reputation as being non-violent during their train and bank robberies, preferring instead to negotiate with their victims or, if necessary, using intimidation. Nevertheless, lawmen and railroad security agents (such as the Pinkerton’s) were hot on their trail. “Wanted Dead or Alive” posters were hung across the west. Rewards exceeded $30,000 just for information about their location. So between jobs, the gang needed a hideout. Butch, Sundance, and the rest of the gang frequently used the famous natural rock canyon formation in Wyoming known as the “Hole-in-the-Wall.” There they could avoid capture for long periods of time.

During 1899 and 1900, the Wild bunch was at the top of their profession. Their favorite target was the Union Pacific which always seemed to be carrying large payrolls. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were taken. After each robbery, they would split up and head in different directions; only to reunite at the Hole-in-the-Wall. In September of 1900, the gang regrouped in Ft. Worth, Texas, to take photos of themselves. One of those picture is shown here. The Sundance Kid is seated on the left and Butch Cassidy is seated on the right.


Butch and Sundance, fearing that the law was closing in around them and looking for fresh targets, decided to leave the U.S. and investigate opportunities in South America. They departed from New York City by ship, along with Etta Place (Sundance’s girlfriend), on February 20, 1901, arriving in Buenos Aires, Argentina, shortly after. After playing it cool for a while, the boys held up a bank in southern Argentina netting $100,000 U.S. The following year, Etta Place had had enough of this life and sailed to San Francisco accompanied by Sundance. But he returned to meet Butch in Bolivia where the two robbed a courier from a silver mine in 1908.

Although Butch and Sundance were unknown, a suspicious local notified a Bolivian cavalry unit of the location of these two Americans in a village. The house the Americans were in was surrounded and a gunfight ensued. During a lull, two shots were heard coming from the house, and upon investigation, the soldiers found both men dead. Their bodies had been so riddled with bullets that one had shot the other to end his suffering, then turned the gun on himself. The bodies were put into an unmarked grave - which has never been located again. 


Were the dead men Butch and Sundance? Many people say no. Relatives and friends claim that the boys returned home and told them that it was two strangers that were killed in Bolivia.

Butch’s sister Lulu continued to correspond with him for years. She said that Butch was a kind man who “just sort of got caught up in all the excitement, and then couldn’t find a way out. He never became a hardened gunslinger, but was noted for leaving big tips and paying mortgages for the poor.” Lulu also recounted a poignant Parker family reunion in 1925, attended by Butch himself. After that day, he left Utah for the last time never to return. She said that he moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1937, assuming the name William Phillips.

His own doctor told a newspaper reporter that she treated Butch for years after his return. And in 1960, Josie Bassett, a woman who was part of the Wild Bunch and once romantically linked with Butch, said that Butch lived until 1945.

Sundance also returned to Utah and took the name William Henry Long. He married a local widow and raised a large family of six step children. He was remembered by his daughter as a kind and loving man. On November 27, 1936, Henry/Sundance took his own life at his home outside of Duchesne, Utah.

We may never know all the facts, but there is considerable belief that both Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid survived their journeys in South America and returned to find peaceful lives at home - far from the spotlight.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Today, 81-year old Mikhail Gorbachev lives in Moscow. He is a widower who still mourns his wife, Raisa, who died in 1999. They met while he was studying law at Moscow State University. In 2009, Mikhail recorded an album of Russian ballads called “Songs for Raisa.” He sings the songs himself, and the money it brings in is donated to the charity named for Raisa which aids sick children in St. Petersburg. Now he spends many hours with his daughter Irina and granddaughter Anastasia; and in remembering times past. But Mr. Gorbachev doesn’t hide himself away. He does numerous interviews, speaks around the world, and accepts the many humanitarian awards offered him. He is still outspoken in his political views and doesn’t duck controversy - but the fire inside him has dampened some since he first stepped into the international spotlight in 1985.

Since the regime of Joseph Stalin, the Communist Party leaders of Russia and Eastern Europe have ruled with absolute power. Even after World War II, when their countries increasingly lagged behind the economies of the west, they remained secure in their positions backed by the might of the Red Army. They knew that they could always use that might if things began to change too abruptly or went out of control. These leaders could never have conceived of a Soviet leader that would be conciliatory toward the west or initiate liberal reforms at home.

In 1985, the hard line party leader Leonid Brezhnev died. He had built up an enormous military at the expense of consumer welfare. It appeared that little would change with his successors. Yuri Andropov, the head of the KGB, followed Brezhnev but he died a year later. His successor, Konstantin Chernenko, was another hard liner but he also died after one year in office. The party then passed its General Assembly leadership to Mikhail Gorbachev. He was the youngest member of the Politburo at 54 years old, and he had little experience at the national level. He had previously been an agricultural specialist. Gorbachev was seen by the west as just a “stop gap” leader while another was selected.

To the surprise of everyone, within weeks this young Gorbachev fellow initiated two sets of programs that would change the Soviet Union forever; two ideas that he must have carried inside himself for years. The first came to be known as “glasnost.” It would be the liberalization of the political process in the Soviet Union. He initiated reforms that brought about a broader freedom of the press, of assembly, of religion, and of travel. He convinced the old, hard line party leaders to open up the avenues to power to those not members of the party. He cultivated the country’s first real legislature; one that wasn’t just rubber stamping decisions made by a few. He allowed the first countywide elections that were competitive. Maybe most significantly, Gorbachev ordered the release of hundreds of political prisoners. But these changes were not instantaneous; they took much work and four years to begin to be realized.

His second vision was known as “perestroika.” Perestroika was a set of initiatives to address the slumping Soviet economy and improve the life of the average citizens. Gorbachev eased the laws prohibiting land ownership. He allowed small private businesses to operate under capitalist principles, and he permitted foreign investment in the Soviet Union.

And, even though his experience in international matters was meager, he reformed the Soviet Union’s relationships with other countries. Starting with the eastern European satellites, he supported their desire for less central control from Moscow. He reduced the Soviet defense budget, withdrew troops from Afghanistan, and consented to bring down the Berlin wall. Later, he did not oppose German reunification.

The western world was astonished that Gorbachev was the first Soviet leader in three generations to actually welcome a thawing of the Cold War. The reaction in the west was optimistic, but suspicious at first. As time passed, Gorbachev formed a genuine working relationship with Prime Minister Thatcher and President Reagan. “I like Mr. Gorbachev; we can do business together,” said Thatcher. To Americans, his most significant action was to agree to the joint destruction of short and medium range nuclear weapons. In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and he was Time Magazine’s Man of the Decade.

But no good deed goes unpunished. Both he and the party leaders were not prepared for the speed at which the eastern European landscape was changing. Communist parties were being swept from power in several countries. In others there were stronger, more radical, demands for independence than ever before. The Party leaders insisted that Gorbachev contain this new trend. He faced fervent political opposition from all sides. No one seemed satisfied that enough had been done. In 1991, a majority of the Soviet republics agreed to a new treaty giving greater autonomy to the individual members. Before it could be ratified, hard liners in Moscow attempted to overthrow Gorbachev. Boris Yeltsin, of the Russian Republic, prevailed over the Communist Party leaders, and Mikhail Gorbachev was removed from power.

The Soviet Union ceased to exist in December of 1991. It had lasted 74 years after the Communist Revolution. The Cold War ended. Mikhail Gorbachev went into retirement. He attempted to do things in the Soviet Union that no one else had dared to do, and he paid the price for his vision.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Abigail Smith Adams, wife of President John Adams and mother of President John Quincy Adams, was one of the strongest and earliest voices for women’s rights in America. She passed away on October 28, 1818, 194 years ago.

She was born into a prominent family in Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1744. Her mother was a Quincy; her cousin was married to John Hancock. She had no formal education but was taught at home by her mother who felt that Abigail was not healthy enough to attend regular school. She was curious and worked hard to master reading and writing. Both her father and grandfather had large libraries that Abigail explored with energy and purpose.

Shy Abigail Smith had a third cousin, John Adams, who was a young lawyer. After being “re-introduced” to him by John’s best friend (the boyfriend of Abigail’s sister), a romance flowered and John and Abigail regularly exchanged affectionate notes. This practice became useful years later when consequences kept the couple apart for long periods. They married in 1764, her clergyman father conducting the ceremony. Abigail was 19 and John was 28. Their marriage partnership would last for the next 54 years. 

John was trying to launch his career as a lawyer which often took him away from Abigail for extended periods. Later he was appointed as a circuit judge and travelled extensively around the colony. When the children arrived, she took the responsibility for educating them as well as taking care of the house and farm.

Prior to independence, while his family was in Massachusetts, John spent long weeks in Philadelphia at the Continental Congress and in co-writing the Declaration of Independence. Aware that her husband was deeply involved in the politics of revolution, Abigail admonished him, writing, “Do not put unlimited power into the hands of husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

Although he didn’t take her advice directly, there is evidence that he considered the issue of women’s rights, especially in the area of the right to vote. Unfortunately, it took another 150 years for that to come to pass.

John Adams enjoyed debating the political place of women in society through his written correspondence with Abigail. In 1776, she wanted to be clear about her position and wrote, “That your sex is naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish (will) happily give up the harsh title master for the more tender and endearing one of a friend.” John responded; writing, “We know better than to repeal our masculine systems. Although they are in full force, you know they are little more than a theory. We are obligated to go fair and safely and, in practice, you know we are the subjects. We have only the name of masters.”

During most of the War for Independence, Abigail remained in Quincy managing the farm and finances of the family. Several battles were fought near the property while John was relatively safe on political missions.

Between 1778 and 1779, John Adams was assigned as the American representative to France, spending time in Paris and working on peace negotiations with the French and British. In 1784, Abigail arrived in France with her daughter, also named Abigail. The family then moved to London in 1785, as John became the first United States ambassador to Great Britain.

By 1788, the family had returned to Massachusetts and Abigail was hoping for a normal life again. It wasn’t to happen. A few months later, John was selected to be George Washington’s Vice President; the office John held for eight years. The family was moved to New York then Philadelphia. In the years during the Washington administration, Abigail formed a close friendship with Martha Washington; and the two worked together greeting visitors.

Abigail’s primary interests were more political and intellectual than simply entertaining however. She continued to press Washington’s administration for equal property rights for women. She also campaigned for the end of slavery and for equal education for blacks. In 1791, she wrote of a young black boy she was tutoring, “(he is) a freeman as much as any of the young men and merely because his face is black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? I have not thought it any disgrace to take him in and teach him both to read and write.”

When John became President himself in 1797, he was anxious to have his wife by his side. He wrote, “I never wanted your advice and assistance more in my life. . . The times are critical and dangerous, and I must have you here to assist me.” In 1800, John and Abigail were the first to move into the President’s House, now known as the White House, in the new town of Washington. The house was unfinished and drafty; and Abigail’s health suffered.

After John lost his reelection bid in 1801, the family returned to Quincy. Abigail was happy to relinquish the strains of public life. She continued to exchange letters with significant political figures including President Thomas Jefferson, with whom she corresponded until her death. She was also a friend of Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison, all through her husband’s administration.

Abigail Adams is probably best known for the letters she exchanged with her husband over the years. Abigail and John exchanged over 1,200 letters (her grandson published most of the letters in 1848). Throughout Abigail’s life, John Adams continued to request his wife’s advice and opinions on political matters. Her letters comprise an important record of the events in the early history of the U.S. and in the beginning of the women’s rights movement. Abigail, as a high profile person, also made early pronouncements for the cause of equal justice for slaves.