Circle the Wagons!: Attacks on Wagon Trains in History and Hollywood Films

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It's a cinematic image as familiar as John Wayne's face: a wagon train circling as a defensive maneuver against Indian attacks. This book examines actual and fictional wagon-train battles and compares them for realism. It also describes how fledgling Hollywood portrayed the concept of westward migration but, as the evolving industry became more accurate in historical detail, how filmmakers then lost sight of the big picture.

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Editorial Reviews

Western Clippings
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786439973
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/24/2008
  • Pages: 246
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 2.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Historian Gregory F. Michno is the author of numerous books about such topics as the American West and World War II. He lives in Frederick, Colorado. Susan J. Michno has written articles on the Spirit Lake Massacre and the Box Family of Texas. She lives in Frederick, Colorado.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 5

1 The Utter-Van Ornum Wagon Train 11

2 The Bent and Towne-Tevis Wagon Trains 16

3 The Horn-Harris Wagon Train (The Searchers, Ulzana's Raid) 20

4 The Webster Wagon Train (In the Days of the Pilgrims, The Missing) 24

5 The Wilson Wagon Train (The Comancheros, Comanche Station) 28

6 The Oatman Wagon Train (The Unforgiven, Sioux Blood, White Comanche) 33

7 The Ward-Masterson Wagon Train (Soldier Blue, Rio Grande) 38

8 The Fancher-Baker Wagon Train (The Last Wagon, Dawn on the Great Divide) 44

9 The Shepherd and Miltimore Wagon Trains (Fighting Caravans, The Painted Stallion) 49

10 The Box Wagon (The Unforgiven) 56

11 The Rose-Baley Wagon Train 63

12 The Sager Wagons (Seven Alone) 65

13 The Morton-Marble Wagon Train (The Forest Rose, The Half Breed, Two Rode Together) 70

14 Anna Brewster Morgan (Stolen Women, Captured Hearts) 78

15 The Fletcher Wagon Train (Duel at Diablo, Fort Apache, Ulzana's Raid) 83

16 The Smart and Adams Wagon Trains 90

17 The Townsend Wagon Train (The Big Trail) 96

18 The Kelly-Larimer Wagon Train 100

19 The Fisk Wagon Train (Kentucky Rifle) 103

20 The Ake-Wadsworth Wagon Train (The Outriders, How the West Was Won) 108

21 The Blinn-Buttles Wagon Train (Little Big Man, The Searchers) 111

22 The Templeton, Kirkendall, and Floyd Wagon Trains (Red River) 116

23 The Hayden, Crow, Blanchard, Snyder, and Baca Wagon Trains (Two Mules for Sister Sara) 120

24 The Cooke and Custard Wagon Trains (The Massacre, Chuka) 126

25 The Lyman Wagon Train and Beecher Island (The Plainsman, The Oregon Trail) 133

26 The Lyons, Shurly, Reel, and Hartz Wagon Trains (Apache Rifles, Rio Grande, Broken Arrow, Hondo) 140

27 TheSawyers Wagon Train (Wagon Tracks) 148

28 The Burrell-Foster Wagon Train (The Red Raiders, Westward Ho the Wagons) 152

29 The German Wagon Train (Rio Grande, Lonesome Dove, Last Train from Gun Hill) 157

30 Trail Deaths (The Covered Wagon, The Big Trail, Westward the Women, How the West Was Won) 164

31 Stagecoach Attacks (Stagecoach) 169

32 The Elm Creek Raid (The Searchers) 175

33 Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving (Lonesome Dove) 182

34 How the West Was Won and Into the West 189

35 Riding into the Sunset 194

App. A The Wagon Train Movies 201

App. B Wagon Trains Referenced in This Study 214

Chapter Notes 217

Bibliography 224

Index 231

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  • Posted March 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Setting the Record Straight on Frontier History

    Veteran Western historian, Gregory F. Michno, and co-author, Susan J. Michno, are on a mission. They are out to set the record straight on the "did they or didn't they?" question regarding Indian attacks on pioneer wagon trains. The prevailing conventional wisdom is that, despite the ubiquity of wagon train attacks in popular culture such as Hollywood film portrayals, these attacks were rare. As the Michnos prove in Circle the Wagons! Attacks on Wagon Trains in History and Hollywood, conventional wisdom is not only wrong, it's "plainly, simply, irrevocably wrong." They decry as "whitewashing" frontier history the recent disturbing trend of western historians to focus almost exclusively on white atrocities while simultaneously ignoring Indian depredations - presenting Indians merely as hapless "victims" of white aggression. Therefore, ignoring the abundant historical record that clearly documents numerous Indian attacks on wagon trains, principally by narrowly focusing only on the Oregon Trail and on a short period of time during the westward migration era, recent historians support their single-minded "victims" agenda and do history a disservice. Although the authors freely admit that "white soldiers and civilians also participated in atrocities against Indian tribes," these crimes "have been detailed in numerous books and movies over the past 50 years," while "the very real trail danger that emigrants faced from Indians" either has been covered up or simply ignored. In other words, the 'Custer died for your sins' school of western history has created a modern mythology that blindly ignores the historical record. Circle the Wagons! does an admirable job of reporting the facts and setting the record straight.

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