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On the Sioux Trail: Battle of Acton

U.S. – Dakota War of 1862, Part XII:

Company B of the Ninth Minnesota, under the command of Captain Richard Strout, left Minneapolis on 26 August 1862. Their mission was to head to Glencoe, Minn to “protect settlers from Dakota attacks”. Of the 75 men in Company B, one third were new recruits, and the rest were “citizen soldiers” out of Minneapolis. They were not hardened veterans.

War had been ignited just nine days before, when five settlers were killed by four young Dakota warriors. Tensions had been brewing for decades, and the killing in Acton Township blew up a powder keg. Captain Strout and Company B headed out into this maelstrom.

While I was out looking for Ness Church with a C-to-C sponsor earlier this summer, we stopped by the marker near where Company B met the Dakotas.

The Company found Glencoe uninhabited, so they returned to Forest City. On 1 September, they spent the night in Acton Township, camping next to the Robinson Farm, where the war began. The Forest City Home Guard, while on patrol, encountered 150 Dakota warriors. Three scouts were sent out to warn Captain Strout of the threat.

The scouts found Company B, and told Strout of the Dakota party. Sentries were placed about the camp, and the men prepared for what seemed like an inevitable fight. At this point, the Company realized that a huge blunder had been made at Fort Snelling. Most of the ammunition they brought was .62 caliber, yet they all had .59 caliber muskets. The men set out with 20 rounds of the proper ammunition each.

Company B, led by the three (now exhausted scouts), made a run for Forest City. Within two miles of their start, the Company met up with a party of Dakotas, and shots were fired. Two soldiers were killed, and many more were wounded. It became apparent almost immediately, that the Dakota had Company B surrounded. Accounts have Dakota numbers at anywhere from 150 to 300. Strout divided his men into four equal groups, and faced them in four directions. Their wagons were placed in the middle. A.H. Rose, a citizen soldier, later stated, “I had never fired a gun before the battle, but they showed me how to load, and I pointed my gun at the Indians, shut my eyes and pulled the trigger.”

Strout ordered his front group to fix bayonets, and charge the Dakota warriors. The rest of the Company followed. Strout knew that they would never make Forest City, so they tried to get to Hutchinson. It was now a running battle.

As the wagons rolled, the men would fire, run, stop, reload, and repeat. Wounded men were placed into the wagons, and supplies were thrown out. The men of Company B were shocked to see the Dakota warriors stop and pick up the discarded supplies. The battle went on for eight miles, over a period of two hours. The Dakota pressed the Company, but made no real attempt to overtake it. Eventually, the Dakota stopped pursuing the Company, and Strout and his men made it to Hutchinson. The Company B losses were 3 dead, and 18-24 wounded. Dakota losses are unknown.

The next day, the Dakotas attacked the town of Hutchinson, but the small stockade provided adequate security for those who sought it. A few settlers who did not seek the safety of the stockade, were killed. The town was plundered and several buildings were burned.

The men of Company B stayed that winter in Hutchinson. Three more died during that time of wounds sustained in the Battle of Acton. The remaining soldiers were mustered into the regular army and sent to fight the Civil War in the fall of 1863.

Hutchinson Stockade Marker

Killed during the Battle of Acton: Alvah Getchell, George Gideon, Edwin Stone.

Died from wounds sustained in battle: Frank Beadle, Abner Bennett, N.E. Weeks.


“Words of advice and caution”

Considering a trip to Alaska?

Resurrection Bay

“If you are old, go by all means, but if you are young, wait. The scenery of Alaska is much grander than anything else of its kind in the world, and it is not wise to dull one’s capacity for enjoyment by seeing the finest first”

— Henry Gannett

The Harriman Alaska Series

Bear Glacier

“If you are old and want to see the finest scenery in the world, there’s no time like the present. And if you are young, what are you waiting for? Check the ferry timetable, grab a sleeping bag, and go. Stay for a while. Believe me, it could be the event of a lifetime.”

— Mark Adams

Tip of the Iceberg

My little corner of Alaska

On a personal note: I took the second quote’s advice, loading my Labrador Retriever, camping gear and typewriter into a 1974 Ford Bronco, drove across half of the northern U.S, and took the ferry from Bellingham, WA through the Inside Passage to Haines, Alaska, and stayed a while…

In fact, today is the anniversary of my arrival to the State of Alaska.

It has been several events of a lifetime. With a little luck, I expect to have one or two more.

Cheers!


Could have pulled forward

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The Battle for The Axe

And the Big Ten West Title

The longest running rivalry in college football.


Queued up

The Rover on the Haul Road

One thing I do like about loading up posts in the queue, is that I can be gone all week and nobody has any idea.

Get out and enjoy autumn!

“Like the River, we were free to wander.”

— Aldo Leopold


Unexpected Selfies

The Rover Dash: I must be going downhill

When I sent in the film from the Billy-Clack, I had one roll of 120 black & white film that I could not remember when I had shot it. Somehow, a roll of film had been forgotten in a pack pocket during one of my travels. It sat around for a bit more, as I waited to get some more 120 used up.

The roll does have some history to it, and it has been a while. It’s from the last time The Rover was down in the Lower 48. Probably right after I swapped out the motor, because there are a few shots of San Antonio.

There was also a shot of some young punk, riding alongside me in the Land Rover, taking a picture of himself as he stuck out his tongue at the camera. He also took this shot of the Rover dash, probably scared at how fast we were moving.

I must have been concentrating on traffic, because I do not remember him sticking his tongue out at me or the camera.

Camera: Agfa Clack (not the Billy-Clack); Film: Kodak 120 TMax 100; Photographer: Minnesota “Moose” Matthew


Robert Frank

Ordinary people, doing ordinary things…

Robert Frank, in his New York home; Photograph by Allen Ginsberg

In 1954, Robert Frank set off across the United States in a used Ford with his Leica camera. He had the idea of photographing America as it unfolded before his eyes. He spent two years on the journey, shooting 767 rolls of film, for over 28,000 shots.

83 of those shots would end up in the book “The Americans”.

Image: “Trolley – New Orleans” 1955, photo by Robert Frank

The Americans was first published in 1959, and it took the photography world by storm. The images were honest and gritty, and most of all raw. It was a masterwork of street photography.

US 285 – New Mexico 1956; photo by Robert Frank

Initially, it did not go over well. America was high on the post war 1950’s. Images showing that not everyone in the country had achieved the “American Dream” were not what the public was shouting for. The book went out of publication after only 1100 being printed.

Rodeo – New York City 1955; photo by Robert Frank

History has been kinder. The Americans has seen several reprints, and few photo books have had as large an influence on contemporary photography.

Frank would go on to make fifty documentary films, but he never abandoned still photography.

Map of Robert Frank’s photo trek

Robert Frank died on Monday; he was 94.


Land Rover’s Pink Panther


Land Rover’s “Pink Panther”; Photo credit: Atlantic British

In 1968, Britain’s Ministry of Defense ordered 72 Series IIa 109’s from Land Rover. They were destined for the SAS, Britain’s elite commando unit, for use in the deserts of the Persian Gulf region.

The SAS had been using Land Rover 88’s, but they proved to be a bit small for the task. The 109’s were refurbished for the desert terrain. Fuel capacity was increased to 100 gallons, reservoirs for spare water and oil were added. The chassis and suspension were both upgraded to handle heavy artillery. Sand tires were installed and the spare tire mount was taken off the hood, and built onto the front of the vehicle. A bead breaker, for changing tires, was even added to one wing. The ’68 Land Rover also came with a sun compass, which had become standard equipment, after North Africa’s Long Range Desert Group in WWII.


The sparse Pink Panther interior; Photo credit: Atlantic British

But the unique feature of the SAS Land Rover was the color scheme. It was painted a mauve-pink. The experiences of the Long Range Desert Group showed that the pink color was remarkably good camouflage in the desert, especially at dawn and dusk.

For armament, the Pink Panther carried a machine gun on the left side of the hood, smoke canisters and grenades, anti-tank weaponry and rifles. The vehicle when fully loaded, weighed 3 tons.


Pink Panther; Photo credit: Dunsfold Collection

The Series Pink Panther served the SAS from 1968 to 1984, when a modified Land Rover Defender 110 took over. Of the original 72 Pink Panthers, only 20 are known to still be around, with most in private collections. The Dunsfold Collection owns the one above. It has become one of the most sought after Land Rovers ever built.


Getting the itch


The Grizzly Torque


Grizzly Torque, circa 1957

In the fall of 1956, Bristol Foster was itching to get out and explore the world. He had recently finished his masters degree in biology at the University of Toronto. Foster immediately thought of his friend, Robert Bateman as an ideal travel companion. The two men mapped out a trip that involved crossing four continents. They only needed a vehicle.


Foster and Bateman picking up the Grizzly Torque in England

“… it had to be a Land Rover,” says Bristol Foster. So they ordered a 1957 Series I with an ambulance body. Foster went to Solihull to pick up the Rover, and get trained on their off road course. Bateman arrived later and they took the Series I on a shake down trip through Scotland.


Camping out of the Torque

Foster & Bateman set off for Africa with the newly christened Grizzly Torque. They had agreed to send regular articles and illustrations documenting their trip back to the Toronto Telegram, where they became known as The Rover Boys.

The Rover Boys had a very loose schedule. There was a general direction they meant the trip to follow, but the route taken from Point A to Point B was by no means a straight line. They were free to do as they wished, at a time when this type of travel was ideal. Today, it would be virtually impossible to make the same trek. Not only due to safety concerns, but the difficulty of getting visas throughout the area.

In the Belgian Congo, the little four cylinder engine whined from the excessive load. Some thirty members of the Mbuti tribe were crammed into and onto the Land Rover along with the two Canadians up front. They bounced along a forest track, with the tribe members laughing and singing traditional hunting songs. Foster and Bateman were in Africa, on an adventure of a lifetime. Robert Bateman, thinking back on that time said, “One of the greatest senses of freedom I think we’ve ever had.”

Bateman, now a renown Canadian artist and naturalist, painted small murals along the body of the Grizzly Torque, documenting the places they traveled through. The artwork is stunning, and no doubt caused some excitement with the people they met along the way.


Elephant meets Grizzly

The trip was not without unexpected “adventures”. The Grizzly Torque was flipped over on its side in India, after swerving to avoid a bicyclist. A window was lost in the crash, and was replaced with plexiglass.

In total, The Rover Boys traveled over 60,000 kms, through 19 countries, on 4 continents over 14 months with their Grizzly Torque. The trip ended in Australia with the Land Rover being shipped back to Vancouver after traveling throughout the Australian Outback. From there, the Grizzly Torque continued to be well traveled.

Foster used it on what was then known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, as he pursued his doctorate. It was eventually sold to a student studying peccaries in Texas. The student was raising a juvenile eagle at the time, and the raptor learned to perch up front between the seats. As an adult, the eagle rode happily along, all across the state of Texas, on various expeditions. The student returned to British Columbia with the Land Rover, where he sold the Grizzly Torque to a rancher. Things become murky after that. At some point, the well traveled Land Rover gets sand blasted down to bare metal, painted light blue, losing the wonderful murals, and its identity. The old Rover then spends decades out of the public view.


A blue Torque (?)

Stuart Longair now enters the story. A rancher has four old Land Rovers out in a field, and he wants them gone. Longair, has been a Land Rover cult member from an early age, since riding along with his father in a Series I as a young boy. He buys all four Rovers, sight unseen. The now, faded blue Grizzly Torque, spends the next decade out in another field. Then Longair comes across an old picture of Foster & Bateman with the Grizzly Torque, and he starts to wonder about the neglected Rover he purchased over a decade ago. Longair gets a hold of Bristol Foster, and convinces him to come out and look over the blue Rover. Foster immediately recognized the Grizzly Torque under all of the neglect, but to make sure he went over to the driver’s side door, and found that it was still fitted with the replacement plexiglass from India.


The Grizzly Torque restored

Now that Longair knew that he had a piece of not only Land Rover history, but Canadian history too, he went about restoring the Grizzly Torque. Working off of old photos, Robert Bateman himself, repainted the Rover’s murals along the flat sides.


The Rover Boys reunite with a restored Grizzly Torque


The restored Grizzly Torque and its repainted murals


The eagle in the Grizzly Torque, somewhere in Texas

Photos credit: Bristol Foster & Robert Bateman; Video credit: Land Rover