Friday, November 17, 2006

Technology and Its Pitfalls

About six weeks ago, I had the misfortune of losing six months of e-mail messages. Instead of deleting my messages after reading them, I tend to save them and to let them accumulate, only moving them to a separate folder once every six months or so. I was in the midst of cleaning up my messages when this mishap occurred. I had thought that I had returned to my deleted messages screen when I checked all of the boxes on the left and hit delete. After a few attempts to salvage what I had lost and after investigating what advice Google offered, I had to admit that my messages had been lost. It was quite depressing.

One message I wish had not been lost was the password that would have let me upgrade Trend Micro for free. This accident ended up costing me money, too.

I am less the Luddite than I used to be, but technology doesn’t always cooperate and doesn’t always prove hassle free. I didn’t start using a computer until I wrote my Master’s thesis in WordStar, which was one of the few word processing programs available in 1989. The computers in the English department at that time required two five and a half inch floppies, one for the programming and one to save one’s document. I got so used to WordStar that I wouldn’t use anything else until I took my qualifying exams for the PhD, which was taken using one of the computers in the Writing Center at school. I continued to use WordStar at home until I bought an HP Pavilion in 2001 and had to learn Microsoft Word because the computer only had a bay for three and a quarter-inch floppies and all of my program disks for WordStar were five and a half inch. Fortunately, I located and downloaded a converter that altered all of my WordStar files. That HP has been since passed on to a friend of my son’s, and I’m now using a personalized Dell E310, that is, one that has a 3.2 GHz processor, a gig of RAM, and an in-house floppy instead of slots for memory cards. It’s not a computer meant for gaming, but it serves my needs.

Everyone in my house considers me the computer expert. I diagnose our computers when they act up. I download the program files needed when converting TGA files to JPEG. Even so, when I try to clean up my personal e-mail account when exhausted, I still make mistakes. All of this technology can be so frustrating.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Lt. Grattan

It’s ironic that a memorial was erected for Lt. Grattan after his death in 1854. Lt. Grattan is credited with starting the Sioux wars. Having learned that a Mormon traveling past Fort Laramie had had a cow killed by one of the Indians encamped near the fort and waiting for their allotments, Grattan insisted on capturing the guilty party. Together with 30 troops, a drunken interpreter, and two artillery pieces, Grattan set out for the Indian encampment. One Indian offered to make retribution. Such an act wouldn’t satisfy Grattan, however. He wanted the guilty party to stand trial. Someone fired a gun first, and the conflict didn’t end until Grattan and his troops were all killed. Grattan’s body, according to some scholars, was so badly mangled as to be unrecognizable. Perhaps that’s why only a memorial has been erected to remember him.

That behavior exhibited by Grattan, that is, each infraction by the native tribes punished with substantially more force by the military, became common practice in the Great Plains. That behavior can be seen at Washita, Sappa Creek, and Wounded Knee.

That kind of behavior exhibited by the military remains in force today, a hundred and fifty years later, because each ambush or explosion experienced by the American military in Iraq is met with substantially greater force. The American military still hasn’t learned how to engage guerrilla fighters.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pvt. Charles Johnson

When I first started this blog, I made mention of Charles Johnson, a private in the 7th cavalry who attempted to desert during Custer’s summer campaign in Kansas in 1867. Already suffering from a high desertion rate and having heard rumors about half of his remaining troops preparing to desert, Custer wanted to prevent further desertions and when he heard that three troopers had left the encampment with their horses, Custer sent one of his officers after them. Johnson was shot in the head and returned to the encampment in a wagon. Custer refused to allow Johnson to receive medical treatment for the next twelve hours. Eventually, a doctor came to his aid; it’s doubtful that medicine at that time could have done much to assuage one’s pain. Stocks of laudanum might have been available. In any event, Johnson remained alive for three days and died in route to Fort Wallace. The date on Johnson’s tombstone records his date of death as July 17, four days after Custer was said to have arrived at Fort Wallace.

Although I don’t know why Johnson decided to desert, I admire his decision and his refusal to be a part of the western campaign against the Indian tribes in northwestern Kansas. He might have had other, more material, reasons to leave the Army, such as a desire to pan for gold in Colorado. Even so, we can only hope that he had a moment of conscience and refused to be a part of the ethnocentric and imperialistic aims of the American military and the politicians who refused to maintain treaties made between the government and the western tribes.

Initially buried at Fort Wallace, Johnson, along with the other soldiers buried at Fort Wallace, was disinterred and transported to Fort Leavenworth after the Cheyenne and Sioux no longer threatened the white settlers and after Fort Wallace was closed down. Although Johnson should have been buried closer to Frederick Wyllyams and Nathan Trail, other troopers who died while defending Fort Wallace in 1867, he instead is buried among soldiers who are not identified, possibly the soldiers from Fort Larned whose identification had been lost during disinterment and shipment to Fort Leavenworth.