The Last Fight

On November 25, 1864 the United States Army under the command of Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson engaged the Kiowa, Comanche, and Plains Apache in one of the largest engagements ever fought on the Great Plains. The 1st Regiment, New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry numbered 400 (including some 75 Ute scouts.) They encountered a much larger Indian force (upwards of 1500 hostiles) at an abandoned trading post in the Texas Panhandle near the Canadian River.

The legendary frontiersman had been ordered by General James H. Carleton, commander of the military district of New Mexico, to punish the tribes for raids along the Santa Fe Trail. Considered the best Indian fighter in the Army, Carson was nonetheless in failing health. He was at the end of his career and life; an aortic aneurysm would kill the famed mountain man, trapper, scout and soldier May 23, 1868.  However, on this day in 1864, his leadership would prevent what otherwise would have been a slaughter on the scale of Custer’s ignominious defeat at The Little Big Horn and the skirmish, later called the First Battle of Adobe Walls, would forever ensconce “Kit” Carson in the pantheon of great American heroes that opened up the West.

U.S. casualties amounted to 6 killed and 25 wounded, while the combined Indian force sustained over 100 killed and wounded. The difference proved to be the tactical use of twin mountain howitzers that repelled multiple attacks by the Indians and covered the retreat of Carson’s volunteers.

The U.S. Army declared the battle a victory. However, only Carson’s skilled use of artillery prevented a disaster, and the Plains Indians forever saw the retreat as a major victory of their own. Their supremacy in the Texas Panhandle would go unchallenged for almost another decade before Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie and the “Red River Wars” finally subdued the powerful Comanche and Kiowa.

Carson had been sent to “punish” the Plains Indians for their continued raids along the Santa Fe Trail. After successfully destroying a Kiowa village that lay some four miles outside of Adobe Walls, however, Carson quickly found his command facing a much larger Indian force than expected. Were it not for his skillful use of two mountain howitzers that kept the Indians at bay for upwards of eight hours, it is likely that the military force would have been overrun and massacred. – excerpt from Palo Duro.




Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe Blog

Are you new to blogging, and do you want step-by-step guidance on how to publish and grow your blog? Learn more about our new Blogging for Beginners course and get 50% off through December 10th. is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Reflections on Memorial Day

I will resume the blog posts related to my two books Silver Taps and Palo Duro next week, but today my thoughts are on honoring those who in President Lincoln’s words gave “the last full measure of devotion” (their lives) fighting America’s wars.


The long holiday weekend that marked the beginning of summer saw countless Americans fire up the backyard grill, head to the pool or beach, and celebrate with family and friends. Few headed to our nation’s cemeteries in observance of the national holiday. Fewer still looked at their watches or clocks at 3:00 PM to observe a moment of silence in honor of our war dead. The solemnity of the day was born by those currently serving in the Armed Forces; veterans – especially those who shared the horrors of war, its hardships, common hopes and fears with fellow service members who did not come home; military families – mothers and fathers, wives or husbands, sons or daughters, sisters or brothers extended family members who lost a loved one; or members of our national, state and local governments whose duties require their presence and participation.

The history behind the holiday is known only to those who consciously choose to study it. Its genesis goes back to May 1868 when General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Union’s veterans group, the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a decree that May 30th should be a nationwide commemoration of the more than 625,000 soldiers killed in the Civil War.

The day was called “Decoration Day” for the decorative flower arrangements placed on the graves of the fallen, and for more than fifty years it acknowledged only those killed in the Civil War. However, the United States entry into WWI began the transition to remember all of the country’s war dead, and gradually the holiday became known as Memorial Day. In 1968 the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act” moved the observance from May 30th to the last Monday in May, with Memorial Day becoming an official federal holiday in 1971.

The cost of America’s wars continues to be staggering: WWI – 116,516, WWII – 405,399, Korea – 36,516, Vietnam -58,209, Iraq – 4,489, and Afghanistan – 2,356 (these numbers fluctuate by source, and by the loss of additional service members in ongoing conflicts.)

The price of freedom is born by only a small fraction of our society. The Veterans Administration estimates that only 7.3 percent of all living Americans have ever served in the military, and over half of those are over the age 60. Compulsory military service (the draft) ended January 27, 1973.

Given that the current population of the United States is roughly 326 million, and of that total 1.4 million men and women currently wear the uniform, only .04 percent of our total population safeguards the freedoms we enjoy.

That all volunteer force, in the words of Lt. General Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Retired,) president of the Military Officers Association of America, represents the “unbroken line, an enduring thread of honor, commitment and dedication.” They carry on a proud tradition embodied in their willingness and that of past generations to lay down their lives in defense of our values and way of life. As a people, we venerate them on Armed Forces Day just as we recognize past service on Veterans Day. Let us do no less to remember those that died. Theirs is a debt we can never repay.




The Frontier Battalion

As early as 1835 local militia were organized into ranging companies by Stephen F. Austin to aid in the common defense of early colonists in what would become the Republic of Texas. Their designation as Rangers derived from the vast areas over which they were required to “range” in the performance of their duties.

Following Texas’ independence from Mexico in 1836 and its entry into the Union in 1845 the Rangers fame continued to spread, with names like John Coffee “Jack” Hays, “Big Foot” Wallace, and John “Rip” Ford recognized well beyond its borders. However, there was still no formal organization as such. These ranging companies banded together for days or months in response to Indian raids or the lawlessness that was brought on by Reconstruction at the end of the Civil War and then disbanded just as quickly as soon as the immediate threat was addressed.

The term “Texas Rangers” first appeared officially in May 1874 when Governor Richard Coke and the Texas Legislature appropriated funds and authorized the organization of six companies of 75 men each to maintain law and order on the Texas frontier. These Ranger companies became known as the Frontier Battalion and were commanded by Major John B. Jones.

John Jones sure didn’t look like the man to exercise the mandate given to him by the governor. At 5’8″, slightly built and soft-spoken, he was hardly of a stature to intimidate anyone, but he commanded respect and volunteers came from all over Texas to sign on the dotted line and serve under his leadership with unwavering loyalty. His creed, which they would all adopt, was “no man in the wrong can stand up to a man in the right who just keeps a-comin’.” And keep a-comin’ they did. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

The Apache Wars

The Apache made a distinction between raids and wars; the U.S. government did not. Raids were considered a right of passage for the young Apache warriors allowing them to gain status within their respective bands by counting coup or killing their enemies and capturing both horses and slaves. Their methodology was one of ambush on lone individuals or small groups, or quick strikes against isolated homesteads that allowed them to attack without warning, satisfy their blood lust, and then scatter before the cavalry, the Texas Rangers, or Mexican forces could retaliate. Vanishing into the deserts and mountains of the southwestern United States the Apache were elusive. Pitched battles against superior numbers and munitions were rare and avoided. There was no way the Apache could muster the numbers required to confront organized resistance or sustain the loss of warriors resulting from prolonged confrontations with an enemy that was better armed. Their survival depended on the ability to attack and disappear.

The Army garrisoned troops all along the frontier to respond to reports of rape, kidnapping, depredations, and indescribable mutilation and torture. However, neither infantry nor mounted patrols were adequate to the task at hand. Post duties and the distance between garrisons tied their hands.

Texas Rangers, free of the constraints of military life, offered greater flexibility in pursuing the Apache, but escape into Mexico and Arizona afforded sanctuary. International borders tied the hands of both the Rangers and U.S. government troops. Mexican forces fought the Apache on their side of the Rio Bravo and into the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona, but the lack of coordination across borders frequently hampered their effectiveness as well.

As a result, the “Apache Wars” lasted from 1861 to 1890, a span of almost thirty years.

As early as 1864, the Plains Apache had participated in the “1st Battle of Adobe Walls” in Texas; and, though they considered it a victory, had actually been repulsed by Kit Carson and his New Mexico soldiers. Ranald Mackenzie had scattered the Lipan and  Mescalero by 1873. A few of the Plains Apache had joined their Indian brothers in the ill-fated “2nd Battle of Adobe Walls” in 1874, but by the early months of 1875 both the Kiowa and Comanche had surrendered. That year also saw the Chiricahua, notably the Mimbreno division of the Central Apache led by Victorio (Bidu-ya) in New Mexico forcibly subdued and moved onto the San Carlos Indian Reservation.

By the summer of 1866, only a small band  of Chiricahua Apache still held out against the United States government. The Army found the few remaining renegades elusive. Though it employed upwards of five thousand soldiers to capture or kill the Apache, they continued to escape into Arizona and Mexico.

The hunt for the Apache transformed its leader, Geronimo (Goyaate) into a legend. – excerpts from Palo Duro.

Frontier Forts

Fort Martin Scott was one of several forts built by the Army to protect settlers from Indian raids. Established in 1848, it was the very first frontier outpost established in Texas. Units garrisoned there patrolled the area contiguous to the Fredericksburg-San Antonio Road and included at various times forces belonging to the 1st Infantry, the 2nd Dragoons, and the 4th U.S. Cavalry.

Today Fort Martin Scott is a historic site operated by the City of Fredericksburg. It  is located two miles west of the city on Baron’s Creek. Although the only surviving structure is the limestone guardhouse, the site has been restored to its original design and now includes the post commander’s quarters, sutler’s store, laundry, military hospital, enlisted men’s barracks, quartermaster’s warehouse, a stable with barn, and a blacksmith shop. The site is open to the public and hosts historical reenactments twice yearly. Its mission is to “preserve, protect, and promote” the State while opening dialogue and debate about its multicultural heritage and the historic significance of these frontier forts to the development of Texas.

The Army’s string of frontier forts extending into the Panhandle and New Mexico were believed to have been a major factor in subduing the Southern Plains Indians. In reality, they were too widely dispersed and poorly manned to be much of a deterrent to their raids. They did, however, significantly enhance the country’s economic growth and settler’s expansion into Indian lands. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Adobe Walls

The 2nd Battle of Adobe Walls was fought in June 1874. The Southern Plains Indians hoped to use a triumph there as a springboard towards total victory in their Messianic War to finally drive the white man from sacred lands.

Though the outpost in West Texas would be abandoned after the attack, the Indians suffered a defeat that would herald their eventual subjugation and movement onto reservations.

The town, such as it was, consisted of the saloon, two stores owned by Leonard & Meyers and Charles Rath & Company, a blacksmith shop owned by Tom Keif, and a large corral for the horses. Though the annual buffalo migration could bring upwards of two to three hundred hunters into the area, at the moment there were only twenty-eight men and one woman present.

Most of them were not hunters. In fact, they were mainly the merchants who supplied the buffalo hunters with their provisions, the saloon keepers who made sure they didn’t go thirsty, and the cook and his wife who provided their meals. – excerpt from Palo Duro. 

Today visitors to the battle site will find little to mark the historic location. A few granite headstones have been erected and enclosed by protective barriers, but there is minimal evidence to suggest the importance of the 1874 confrontation.

The site does, however, remind visitors of the loneliness and isolation of the outpost/town as it existed at the turn of the nineteenth century. Cattle have replaced the buffalo that once roamed these same grounds, but otherwise not much has changed. The plains remain vast and flat with little in the way of trees or distinguishing landmarks to provide a sense of direction. It is only when you stumble across the granite markers that the battle site’s existence even becomes evident.

On the one  hand the memorial at Adobe Walls evokes feelings of neglect and lost significance. On the other, it serves as a symbolic reminder that the Plains Indians way of life disappeared not long after their defeat here.

The Promise

This past week millions of the faithful all over the world celebrated the holiest period in the Christian calendar – Easter week – Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem followed by his betrayal, trial, execution, and resurrection.

This earthly existence will end for all of us; sometimes tragically or unexpectedly, and inexorably as we age and progress towards completing the circle that began at birth. Christ’s victory over sin and death opened the door to eternal life and should have erased our fear of the grave. Yet we tenaciously cling to this life and many either reject Him as the Son of God or question whether an afterlife truly exists.

My book Silver Taps is a personal memoir that examines death in the aftermath of my Dad’s passing. It looks at our indifference when we confront death in the abstract and our profound grief when it occurs to someone we love, and it asks why faith consoles, comforts, and gives hope to some but only results in anger and unanswered questions in others.

It was written to elicit thought by my children and grandchildren. Hopefully, it also evokes thoughts and reactions from my readers.

Ironically, we marvel at the miracle of birth. We embrace life with all its ups and downs, triumphs, and tragedies. It is only death, the last leg of the this circle that we both fear and mourn. We fear the unknown. What lies beyond? Anything? Or is this the sum of our existence? We mourn because in embracing life we formed tangible bonds and attachments and feelings that in death are no longer present. The dead are still there in our hearts and minds. But we can no longer see them, hear them, reach out to them, touch them, and feel them. We wish we could. We wish with all our hearts that it was possible. That is why we have faith. In faith there is hope of reunification with everyone that we ever loved who’ve preceded us in death. That is the promise. – excerpt from Silver Taps.


Preferences & Promotions

How we choose to read a book is determined by our own personal likes and dislikes. I tend to be “traditional” in the sense that I prefer a hardbound copy of a book. I like the weight, texture and even the smell of a book, the ability to mark a passage so I can go back to it later, its durability, and its place within the collection of titles that I own.

There are pros and cons to every format; hardcover, paperback, e-book, or audio book. In addition to the reasons cited above, I prefer hardcover books for their stand alone utility (no electronic devices are required.) The same can be said for paperbacks, with the added advantages of lower cost and less cumbersome packaging.

However, as this blog proves, we live in a digital age where computers, tablets and smart phones provide instantaneous access to the latest releases; there is no requirement to go to a bookstore to buy a copy or wait on its delivery from some retail outlet. Downloading an e-book is quick, certainly more economical than a physical copy, fonts and print sizes even lighting can be adjusted, switching between titles is easy, and, should your Kindle, Nook, or iPhone need replacement, your book collection is backed up and stored in the “cloud.”

Perhaps the fastest growing medium is the audio book. Seasoned narrators bring stories to life and all the “reader” need do is listen. Technological advances have unquestionably changed behaviors, and many consumers would much rather allow someone else to interpret the written word for them. Additionally, audio books open up the literary world to those with vision impairment, learning, or other physical disabilities who otherwise have limited access to the art form.

My two books, Silver Taps and Palo Duroare currently available  in hardcover and e-book formats, with the latter soon to be released as a paperback. Additionally, I’m initiating a limited promotion via Amazon and Barnes & Noble to make the e-book version available at a reduced cost. Beginning April 15th it will be on sale for $6.99 (the regular retail price is $9.99). The promotion will run for two weeks.

What are your preferences regarding format? Do you prefer a book in hand, availability via electronic media, or listening to a recording? Do author promotions influence your decision to make a purchase? Retailers and book publishers collect data of this type, but it’s also important for the writer to receive direct feedback because of it’s potential impact on future releases.

So, what are your thoughts? Send me your comments. They most certainly will be appreciated and factored into publishing decisions for my next book!


Book Promotions

One of the promotional tools available to authors to market their books is a book signing, either to targeted audiences or the public at large. Sometimes these events are accompanied by readings of selected passages followed by question and answer sessions. At others they involve greeting potential buyers as they visit libraries or book stores where the author has received approval to display and sell his or her latest work. In the latter, the encounters with book enthusiasts may elicit brief discussions but no formal presentation.

Signings may involve nothing more than affixing a signature to the title page or book jacket or, at the discretion of the buyer, may include a short message or dedication personalized with the recipient’s name. In either scenario, the buyer weighs the potential benefit of owning a signed copy of any given work should it later become a best seller or the author gain literary recognition. And sometimes, it’s just nice to own a copy with the author’s signature.

Besides increasing readership, such signings can also be used to support specific organizations. As a proud graduate of Texas A&M University my writing has allowed me to give back to my alma mater in coordination with organizations that support fellow Aggies. The Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets Association graciously allowed me to participate in their annual “Rally to the Guidons” that brings together former Corps members to relive their days as a cadet, and the San Antonio A&M Club also hosted me at one of their weekly luncheons when Silver Taps was released.

Similar promotions are underway to promote Palo Duro. Though I don’t have exact dates yet, when I do, I’ll be posting them here and I hope to see you at one of these future functions.

Language Witch

Every writer, regardless of his or her acumen with the written word, needs a second set of eyes to review what they “think” they have written. The problem with editing a manuscript yourself is that no matter how many times you go over your draft, you often find yourself reading what you think you wrote versus what is actually on paper. The mind’s eye doesn’t actually see the mistakes in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It is too focused on content, not style.

I have been most fortunate to have a friend and colleague who has been willing to invest the time and effort it takes to thoroughly review someone else’s work. Such activity is no small undertaking. Not everyone possesses the attention to detail to discover errors while at the same time taking plot, character development, and overall context into consideration to highlight the editorial and narrative corrections that are needed. While substantive changes to a submitted manuscript are at the discretion of the writer, ignoring proper use of language… syntax, spelling, etc., can destroy even the best story.

My editor of choice is Jen Bucholtz –

In spite of my attempts, Jen’s thorough review caught numerous grammatical errors that otherwise would have remained in the text. Jen is a writer in her own right – “there is no goat,” May 25, 2013 [about her military tour of duty in Afghanistan] – and her experience publishing a manuscript significantly abetted my efforts to get this book professionally edited and published. Jen writes under the pen name Jennifer Dunham. – exerpt from “Thanks” in Palo Duro.

Jen Bucholtz and Christianne Morgan have formed a new company to continue helping writers with editing, formatting and transcription. Their website is up!

If you need communication services, I highly recommend Language Witch!