Wednesday, October 21, 2015


“The American Civil War, widely known in the United States as simply the Civil War as well as other sectional names, was a civil war fought from 1861 to 1865 to determine the survival of the Union or independence for the Confederacy.” 

The Civil War (the War between the States) had a strong effect on the East Slope of the Rockies for a number of reasons.  The area had barely made the transition from being part of a territory to being an actual state, but a big one with not much infrastructure.  It was a place one could flee to if the goal was to avoid the war and a place to start over if things had gone badly.  It was a horseback time.  There was no air traffic and no trains out west, so a man could just ride off, untraceably.  Socially, it was like a tectonic plate shift in which the geographical continents, already stressed, were jumbled into chaos while everything re-aligned.  That re-alignment is continuing.  

In the 19th century it was largely a matter of establishing governing authority and beginning the extraction of wealth.  The urgency of getting the wealth came in part from losses during the war and swiftness of extraction came from the dawn of industrial finance and machinery.  People of color (former slaves, Indian tribes, Chinese labor) were pretty much dumped off to the side while white “brothers” fought ownership and regulation.

1803 - United States acquires most of Montana in the Louisiana Purchase
1805-1806 - Lewis and Clark Expedition crosses and recrosses Montana
1807 - Manuel Lisa builds first fur fort in Montana on the Yellowstone River
1828 - Fort Union, an American Fur Company post, is built at the mouth of the Yellowstone River
1841 - Father Pierre Jean de Smet establishes St. Mary's Mission in the Bitterroot Valley
1846 - The Oregon Treaty gives the rest of Montana to the US

1847 - Fort Benton founded on Missouri River as military and trading post; soon becoming world-renowned "Head of Navigation" to the west, and world's furthest inland port. Steamboats brought gold seekers, fur traders, settlers and supplies, making Fort Benton the "Birthplace of Montana."
1853 - Johnny Grant starts the first beef herd in the Deer Lodge Valley
1855 - Lame Bull's treaty
1857 - First sheep ranching begins in the Bitterroot Valley
1860 - First steamboat reaches Fort Benton

1861 - The Civil War begins
1862 - Placer miners rush to gold strike on Grasshopper Creek (Bannack)
1863 -  Mosby authorized to form the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry.
1864 -26 May, Montana Territory officially created by act of President Abraham Lincoln, Bannack chosen as first Territorial Capitol.First newspaper, the Montana Post, published in Virginia City
1865 - The end of the Civil War

1870 - Open-range cattle industry begins on Montana Prairies
1874 - By act of Congress, the Blackfeet reservation boundary moved northward to Birch Creek-Marias River line.  The Blackfeet are neither consulted nor remunerated.
1886  W.G. Conrad and bro Charles of Kalispell took up eleven sections of land but didn’t develop them until 1889 when they left Fort Benton.
1895 - Charles E. Conrad, while founding Kalispell, built his Victorian mansion.
1909 - Founding of Valier
1910 - Building of Swift Dam 

Most Valier people will tell you a story about the Conrad brothers running a cattle ranch here and will be able to show you where the main ranch house was and tell how Lake Francis was then a hay valley with three small pothole lakes.  The preceding bands of sheep don’t register.  It’s so much more romantic to run cattle.  Besides, the cattle coincided better with the arrival of photographers.

There is a counter-story about the two Conrad brothers earlier, teenagers who had participated in the Virginia battlefield as members of Mosby’s raiders, as they were called by the north, implying that they were terrorists of a sort.  In fact, they were formally authorized by the Confederate government.  I’ll include the whole wiki account here:

On April 21, 1862, the Confederate Congress passed the Partisan Ranger Act. The law was intended as a stimulus for recruitment of irregulars for service into the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. The Act reads as follows:

Section 1. The congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the president be, and he is hereby authorized to commission such officers as he may deem proper with authority to form bands of Partisan rangers, in companiesbattalions, or regiments, to be composed of such members as the President may approve.

Section 2. Be it further enacted, that such partisan rangers, after being regularly received in the service, shall be entitled to the same pay, rations, and quarters during the term of service, and be subject to the same regulations as other soldiers.

Section 3. Be its further enacted, That for any arms and munitions of war captured from the enemy by any body of partisan rangers and delivered to any quartermaster at such place or places may be designated by a commanding general, the rangers shall be paid their full value in such manner as the Secretary of War may prescribe.

Some of the raiders.  Mosby is in the center.

The Confederate leadership, like the Union leadership, later opposed the use of irregular warfare, fearing that the lack of discipline among rival guerrilla groups could spiral out of control. On February 17, 1864 the Partisan Ranger Act was repealed after pressure from Robert E. Lee and other Confederate regulars persuaded Congress to repeal the act. Only two partisan rangers groups were exempt and allowed to continue to operate to the very end of the war: Mosby's Raiders and McNeill's Rangers. Both of these independent partisan rangers operated in the western counties of Virginia and were known to exercise military discipline when conducting raids.

Conrad plus his sons joined this partisan group sometimes portrayed as demons and traitors.   Coming to consciousness, forming the brotherhood loyalty of soldiers while afflicting civilians who didn’t appreciate it, undoubtedly gave the Conrad brothers a much closer attachment to each other than to the general population and a rather different interpretation of morality.

Mosby, the Gray Ghost

Maybe it’s worth looking at what happened to Mosby after the war.  “John Singleton Mosby (December 6, 1833 – May 30, 1916), was also known by his nickname, the "Gray Ghost". . . After the war, Mosby became a Republican and worked as an attorney and supported his former enemy's commander, U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, serving as the American consul to Hong Kong and in the U.S. Department of Justice.

“A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity. The term can apply to the field element of resistance movements. . .  In essence, 19th-century American partisans were closer to commando or ranger forces raised during World War II than to the "partisan" forces operating in occupied Europe. Mosby-style fighters would have been legally considered uniformed members of their state's armed forces.  [The uniform made the difference.  Indians did not wear uniforms and neither do today’s guerrillas, so they can invisible.]

Because of his small stature and frail health, Mosby was the victim of bullies throughout his school career. Instead of becoming withdrawn and lacking in self-confidence, the boy responded by fighting back.

“In January 1863, Stuart, with Lee's concurrence, authorized Mosby to form and take command of the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry. This was later expanded into Mosby's Command, a regimental-sized unit of partisan rangers operating in Northern Virginia. The 43rd Battalion operated officially as a unit of the Army of Northern Virginia, subject to the commands of Lee and Stuart, but its men (1,900 of whom served from January 1863 through April 1865) lived outside of the norms of regular army cavalrymen. The Confederate government certified special rules to govern the conduct of partisan rangers. These included sharing in the disposition of spoils of war. “

[Technically, raiding Indians were partisans.  “The French term "partisan", derived from the Latin, first appeared in the 17th century to describe the leader of a war-party.”]

Mosby endured a second serious wound on September 14, 1864, while taunting a Union regiment by riding back and forth in front of it. A Union bullet shattered the handle of his revolver before entering his groin. Barely staying on his horse to make his escape, he resorted to crutches during a quick recovery and returned to command three weeks later.[Maybe this reminds you of Dunbar in “Dances with Wolves.”] 
Kevin Costner's daring ride
Mosby's friendship with Grant, and his work with those whom many Southerners considered "the enemy", made Mosby a highly controversial figure among some Virginians. He received death threats, his boyhood home was burned down, and at least one attempt was made to assassinate him. Reflecting on the animosity shown to him by his fellow Virginians, Mosby stated in a May 1907 letter that "There was more vindictiveness shown to me by the Virginia people for my voting for Grant than the North showed to me for fighting four years against him." 

The danger contributed to the President's appointing him as an American consul to Hong Kong from 1878 to 1885. Mosby then served as a lawyer in San Francisco, California with the Southern Pacific Railroad. Later he worked for the Department of the Interior, first enforcing federal fencing laws in Omaha, then evicting trespassers on government-owned land in Alabama. . . Mosby was friends with the family of George S. Patton. Mosby visited the Patton Ranch and recreated Civil War battles with George, with Mosby playing himself and George playing Robert E. Lee.”

Sod homesteader house

As far as I know, Mosby was never even in Montana, but his life is a good palimpsest for entire period of the 19th century, a time when negotiations turned into war, new forces were being created, and the “leaders” could not agree among themselves while everyone else simply suffered in many ways.  The West saved the nation by offering a refuge, an opportunity, and continuing blindness to the larger whole of both people and land.

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