October 18, 2011

10/14/11 - Washita Battlefield NHS

Washita Battlefield National Historical Site is one of those places you proably never studiied in American history.  It's in the plains of western Oklahoma near the Texas border.
(You can skip this history part if you want.)  After the Civil War, settlers started moving west and encroached on tribal hunting grounds.  Tribes like the Cheyenne and Arapaho decided to defend their freedom instead of being pushed onto reservations.
The emigrants thought it was their land; so did the Indians.  This lead to Indian wars, with attacks on wagon trains, stagecoaches, settlements.  Treaties were negotiated and ignored.   
Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan came up with a winter campaign to destroy the Indians when they were most vulnerable.  He assigned Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer to attack the village at dawn.  He actually missed the main camps of the Arapahos, Kiowas and Cheyennes, and attacked the separated camp of Chief Black Kettle.  After killing all the men, he then slaughtered their horses, burned their lodges and food, and captured the women and children.  (End of history lesson.)

There’s a walking tour of the battlefield, mostly a mown path through the grassland.  There were numbered signposts at significant spots on the trail.  NPS has gone high-tech and created a cell phone audio tour.  Who knew?  We’d left our phones in the truck!  Rather than walk back, I took pictures of the signs, then pictures of whatever was behind the signs.  Makes for a unique experience when you don’t have a clue what you’re looking at.  (“Was this where the attack was?”  “No, I think it was over there.”  “Oh, I thought this was where what’s-his-name waited for dawn.”)

I entertained myself taking some photos of grasses, wildflowers and some really funky looking pods.  We stopped back at the Visitors Center to ask what are.  The volunteer told us they call them Osage Oranges there, and Bodark where she grew up.   They're also called hedge-apple, Horse-apple and Bois D'Arc.

We voted that Custer got what he deserved when he moved west.

More pictures I took at the Battlefield:  Washita Battlefield NHS 

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