Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Brigadier General Stand Watie, 1806-1871


"Sometimes I examine myself thoroughly and I will always come to the conclusion that I am not such a bad man at last as I am looked upon."
Stand Watie

"Endeavor to persevere"
Chief Dan George as "Lone Watie" in "The Outlaw Josie Wales"

The current hero in my continuing mania of rooting for the underdog is this guy. A Confederate General, the last of the war to surrender, and Cherokee chief (although that's not confirmed everywhere - the Federal government failed to recognize him as such in the 1860's). Judge James M. Keyes of Pryor, Okla., said: "I regard General Stand Watie as one of the bravest and most capable men, and the foremost soldier ever produced by the North American Indians. He was wise in council and courageous in action." Although he lost twice, in the struggle concerning the Cherokee relocation as well as the War for Southern Independence, I defy anyone to label him a loser.
He came out of mess of a situation of backstabbing and rivalry among the Cherokees in Georgia and North Carolina. At issue was the forced relocation to Oklahoma, land the white folks would never want, at least for a while. The Cherokees had been encouraged to "assimilate" and some had done so quite successfully. The Waties were one of a group of wealthy, slave owning Indian planters, if the thought of that doesn't make your political correctness sensor implode. The other members of the tribe who weren't so keen on becoming white, experienced things differently. This is covered in great detail in an article from Wild West Magazine which can be found here.
Stand Watie (christened Isaac S. Watie) moved to Oklahoma in the late 1830's where he still had to contend with death threats for several more years.

He raised a regiment of cavalry in 1861, The Cherokee Volunteers who distinguished themselves in skirmishes in the West and fought in one major battle, The Battle of Pea Ridge in March of 1862. The Cherokee Volunteers were part of Confederate Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn's army of 16,000 men.
The punch line to the whole story, at least for me, is that after fighting through the entirety of the war (the other Cherokee regiment under John Drew deserted the Confederacy after Pea Ridge) he was the last Confederate General to surrender on June, 23, 1865. Two months after Appomattox.
What brought on this sudden interest on my part was being given the opportunity to replicate, again and better, the good General's personal Bowie knife, pictured below. The original resides in the Cherokee Museum in Oklahoma as I found about a year ago when the great-great grandson of one of his troopers commissioned the first reproduction.
The handle design I came up with out of expediency was something I was never entirely happy with. This was due, largely because, instead of being more true to the design and casting the brass guard and hilt, I built them up from brass bar-stock. Well a year of regrets and subconscious planning of the casting pattern led me to "do it right" this time. So, now the new and improved Watie Bowie is on its way to its new home in Georgia as this is being written and its picture can be seen here.
In closing a pictorial representation of the evolution of the pattern. From left to right, a pattern built up from 1/8" ABS plastic, the Bondo and aluminum one cast from that and the final more aluminum, less Bondo, working pattern. The final one is obviously the finished casting which also marks my first use of a sand core. Woo hoo!

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