Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Alpheus Randal Eastman -Private - 10th Minnesota Volunteers

Post (C) Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

This month Alpheus R. Eastman is the focus of the Civil War Veterans in Evergreen Cemetery. 

Eastman was born in November in Maine, probably in 1839 or 1840.  

He volunteered for the Civil War and was inducted in Minnesota. How he made it from Maine to Minnesota looks to be lost to time. We know he was living in Medford, Steele County, Minnesota, at the time of his enlistment. What makes Alpheus so interesting there is more than one Alpheus Eastman from Maine. In fact, there was an Alpheus K. Eastman, and an Alpheus R. Eastman who enlisted in Maine and immediately deserted. 

To the best of my ability, I have followed the trail that appears the Alpheus Randal Eastman buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Eastman was inducted on August 13, 1862, at the age of twenty-one. He served in Company A of the 10th Minnesota Infantry as a private. His Civil War record states he served in the Civil and Indian Wars. On January 16, 1865, he transferred to the Veterans Reserve Corps. 

For those who are interested below is a copy of Eastman's discharge papers:

Accessed through Ancestry

On June 1, 1866, Alpheus filed for a pension as an invalid. Below is a copy of the filing.

From Ancestry

At the time of his death of Chronic Bright's disease on January 11, 1905, he was living at 921 S. Corona St. in Colorado Springs, CO.

Bright's Disease is an inflammation of the kidneys. It can be caused by toxins, an infection, or an autoimmune condition. In its acute stage, the kidneys are severely inflamed. There is usually increased blood pressure and severe back pain.

In his book, "The 10th Minnesota Volunteers, 1862 – 1865:  A History of Action in the Sioux Uprising and the Civil War..." by Michael A. Eggleston he states in the early part of the preface:

".. Members of the 10th Regiment [Eastman's regiment] served from the organization of the Regiment in August 1862 until its final muster in August 1865. The experience of this Regiment is unique. Its members fought in two wars over a period of three years. Because this Regiment shared an experience with few other Civil War units and only a summary of the service was published in 1890, the story needs to be told. Volunteers who signed up to fight the Confederacy suddenly found themselves fighting the Sioux in the Minnesota Indian War instead. After two years of fighting the Sioux, they move south to fight the Confederate Army in a series of battles in the West."

The journey of these veterans is fascinating and sad. They went through so much and so many don't have any personal written records. Their stories are inferred from the official documents that remain. Hopefully, this series will shed some light on their lives and lead to further research.

For those who may have missed the earlier posts:

Helen Rood Dillon - Prarie Rose Publications

Virginia Strickler - Prairie Rose Publications Blog

Henry C. Davis - Western Fictioneers Blog

Chester H. Dillon - Western Fictioneers Blog

For anyone interested, I have a monthly substack newsletter: Thoughts and Tips on History

Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay happy, and Stay healthy. 



Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Loops and Swift Horses are Surer Than Lead, by Charles Marion Russell (1916)


Hello There!

First off, I wanted to thank everyone for the kind words! I am a Western Writers of America Finalist for Best Western Juvenile Fiction for my book, Tom Mix and The Wild West Christmas. This is, simply, the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me, and I am thrilled beyond words. Thanks to everyone at Western Fictioneers who sent best wishes.

This month, I wanted to look at a painting by cowboy artist Charles Marion Russell. 

We can start with the obvious: the title of this work, Loops and Swift Horses are Surer Than Lead.  In my study of Western Art over the years, I have had occasion to look at several pictures that include bears in an attitude of menace. In fact, after Native Americans, bandits and over-zealous lawmen, perhaps the bear is the most frequently represented foeman in Western Art.

However, most any of Charlie’s contemporaries would take the obvious route, and paint a picture of Western figures shooting and killing the bear.  (Or, reaching for their rifles to do so, or putting them down after they have done so.)  Not Charlie. His cowboy heroes, though obviously well-armed, rope and scare the bear away to safer climes. Always more Roy Rogers than Clint Eastwood, Charlie didn’t see the West as a vast panorama of hardship and cruelty, but, rather, a boyish paradise of freedom and fun.

This is where Charlie differs most significantly from the artist frequently associated with him, Frederic Remington (1861-1909). For Remington, the West was unending hardship, merciless desert and physical exertion, a battle for survival to be won or lost. It is Remington, of course, who created in his work the now-familiar Western trope of the bleached steer skull that can still be seen in countless depictions of the West. Make a wrong move, Remington implied, and you’ll end up the same.

If this picture is any indication, perhaps Charlie’s vision was the truer one.  Loops and Swift Horses now hangs in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and is based on a true-life incident. This painting came about by way of his friends, the Coburn brothers of the famous Circle C Ranch in eastern Montana, where they described the roping of a giant brown bear. Artistic license was taken when Charlie turned the bruin into a Grizzly, but the rest of the story was true right down to the landscape in the background: the scenic Coburn Buttes.

The dominant color of the picture is blue, but Charlie manages to mute or pop shades of it to represent everything from trees to sky to mountains, to foreground scrub. Yet, the color never becomes monotonous or gimmicky. 

Charlie was also the master of figures in motion.  His horses move. Many of our greatest artists have been able to depict horses of majesty, of size, of monumentality, but Charlie’s horses are seen in dramatic action, twisting or jumping with a febrile life of their own. I can think of no finer painter of American horses than Charlie Russell.
Finally, Charlie underscores the tumultuous action of the picture with a rainstorm in the middle-distant horizon. Like all Western landscape pictures, the view-horizon is vast, going on for miles. Thus the far-off rain storm underscores the ‘storm’ of action going on between cowboys, horses and bear. 

Speaking of movement, take a moment to look at the bear. It twists and pivots on unsteady ground … you can almost feel the weight of the animal as it is pulled and slides down the natural incline. The cowboys, too, move as if in motion, alternately pulling or swinging their lariats. And notice the cowboy on the right, looking over his right shoulder, with right leg raised as counter weight to keep in saddle.

This is a really good picture, and something mysteriously akin to the essence of Charlie – not only is his West a world of action, freedom and camaraderie, but it can be a fairly bloodless one, too. Charlie loved the animals he found out West (when visiting cities, he always went to the local zoo, where he said he felt most at home), and it’s not surprising that he would depict his heroes scaring away the threat of a grizzly, rather than killing it. 

Perhaps we should all take a page from Russell’s notebook, and produce work that preserves the best parts of ourselves (or, at least, the myth of the best part of ourselves). The more I look at Charlie’s work, the more convinced I become that we need more artists like him now.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

On This Day in the Old West: March 8

Today we’re talking about something near and dear to most everyone’s heart: money! Specifically coins and how they are made. On March 8, 1838, the New Orleans Mint began operations. They started with an order for dimes, but later produced all sorts of coins. Let’s take a closer look at a mint and how it works.

The New Orleans Mint operated from 1838 to 1861, then from 1879 to 1909 after the Civil War. During that time, it produced over 427 million gold and silver coins of nearly every American denomination, with a total face value of over 307 million US dollars. Some of the coins produced at this mint included silver three-cent pieces (1851 only), half-dimes, dimes, quarters, half dollars, silver dollars, gold dollars, $2.50 quarter-eagles, three-dollar pieces, five-dollar half-eagles, ten dollar eagles, and twenty dollar double eagles.

The first step in the coin-making process is to design the coin. A sculptor (or sculptress) first creates the design with a sketch, then a three-dimensional model in clay. This model is then transferred onto a metal stamp, called a die. The die is what stamps the design onto the coins. Most coins start out as huge rolls of metal, like giant rolls of wrapping paper. Round discs are punched out of these sheets. These are called blanks and are heated to make them softer and easier to work. The blanks are washed, then run through a machine that squeezes them so that the sides push up, making the characteristic coin rims. The coin press then uses the special die to stamp the coin design onto each blank. Mint employees then inspect each coin for flaws before they are counted, weighed, and bagged to be sent all over the country. Each coin will last around thirty years in circulation before it becomes too worn to use further. The coins are then retired and melted down so the metal can be used for other things.

Many interesting characters served at the New Orleans Mint during its early years of operation. One such personage was John Leonard Riddell, who served as melter and refiner at the Mint from 1839 to 1848. Outside of this job, he pursued interests in botany, medicine, chemistry, geology, and physics. Riddell invented the binocular microscope and wrote on numismatics, publishing a book in 1845 titled Monograph of the Silver Dollar, Good and Bad, Illustrated with Facsimile Figures. Two years later, an article by Riddell appeared in DeBow’s Review. This was called “The Mint at New Orleans—Processes Pursued of Working the Precious Metals—Statistics of Coinage, etc.” John Riddell, however, was not held in high esteem by everyone he knew. His conflicts with other Mint employees were well-documented, and at one point he was accused of being unable to properly conduct a gold melt.

Your characters, while probably not familiar with the inner workings of a mint, would certainly have been familiar with the products of that factory, and would have probably preferred the solid clink of coin over the sometimes-unreliable paper bills. It might be interesting to look into some of those more interesting coins in depth, to see if your character might have carried around a three-cent or three-dollar piece, or even a half-dime (and no, this was not just a nickname for a nickel). Looks like a ”mint” condition 1853 half-dime might net you as much as $24,000 today! Too bad your character couldn’t stash one or two away for you.


J.E.S. Hays



Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Western Movie Taglines Blog Series - March Movies #movietaglines #westernmovies

My 2024 blogging series, Western Movie Taglines, began in January when I explained what a tagline is and gave examples of good non-western movie taglines followed by several disappointing taglines from western movies.

In February, I shared 15 western movie taglines that were clever or witty, real groaners, or just plain silly. March through September, I will share 10 movie taglines each month. October through December will be the Top 40 Countdown of Best Western Movie Taglines.

I've compiled a list of 250 westerns and their taglines. From that 250, I've plucked out the best 125 to share between February and December. These 125 taglines range from good to outstanding as far as doing justice to their corresponding movies.

The Top 40 taglines are the ones that capture and sum up the heart of the movie in such a fabulous way that we're amazed at how a handful of words can be that powerful or theme-descriptive. Also in December, I will 1) share taglines I've written for two western movies and one early-settling of the American frontier movie that deserved better taglines and, 2) offer a downloadable document of the 250 movies and taglines that I compiled.

January Movie Taglines
February Movie Taglines

March Western Movie Taglines

3 Godfathers or Three Godfathers (1948)
Three desperadoes keep a date with destiny…in the strangest drama to roar out of the badlands.

Against a Crooked Sky (1975)
A young woman kidnapped in the West. A brother determined to save her.

California (1963)
Fearless frontiersmen led by a danger-loving soldier of fortune.

Crossfire Trail (2001)
A hero is measured by the enemies he makes.

El Dorado (1967)
At El Dorado there’s no gold in the ground—only lead in the air.


They were friends. They were enemies. A passerby could not tell which was who. This was the seething sultry Old Southwest where loyalties and labels shifted with the sands, the winking of an eye, the wavering of a gun!

North to Alaska (1960)
These were the adventurers…fighting, laughing, and brawling their way from Seattle to Nome!


These were the giants who fought and loved their way to the top of the world!

The Shootist (1976)
He’s got to face a gunfight once more to live up to his legend once more to win just one more time.

Stagecoach (1966)
These were the ten who fought Indians, outlaws, and each other as they rode to greatness on the stagecoach to Cheyenne!

Valdez is Coming (1971)
Honor is always worth fighting for.

Winterhawk (1975)
Before the West ever saw the American cowboy… Winterhawk had become a Blackfoot legend

See you next time,
Kaye Spencer