Here’s a link to a story I wrote for True West magazine about some of the real-life events that form the backdrop for Trail Angel and its sequel, Angel Falls. The story is about how two women shaped history’s view of one of the worst defeats the Army ever suffered at the hands of American Indians.harpers-weekly


As the small train of wagons drew within sight of Fort Phil Kearny, the weary travelers rejoiced. “I could have clapped my hands for joy,” one wrote of the moment.

On the wind-blown hill overlooking the fort, a picket guard waved a signal flag to announce their arrival. He waved a second signal the newcomers did not understand.

A mounted escort fell in line with the wagons, halting just outside the eight-foot-high pine trunk stockade that encircled the fort near present-day Buffalo, Wyoming. A “strange feeling of apprehension” came over the travelers as another wagon entered the fort ahead of their party. In that wagon, the travelers saw the scalped and naked body of a man “scarcely cold.”

Frances Grummond swallowed back the scream that filled her head: “Let me get within the gate!”

In the nearly four months she lived at the fort, Frances never shed her feeling of apprehension. The comely Southern belle was 21, married for little more than a year to one of the officers newly stationed to the fort. She was three months pregnant when she arrived and within another two months, she would be a widow.

Yet her account of what happened 150 years ago this month—along with that of her friend Margaret Carrington—would foster one of the great and enduring myths of the American West. …

Read the rest of the story here.

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Read a sample here.