ahowardCould the adventures of Howard Cushing (right) have inspired the character of Luke Skywalker (below right)? Thanks to my college pal Ned White, who sent me this link to an article by Meg Jones in The Milwaukee Sentinel, I have learned of an amateur historian/ literary detective in Wisconsin named Jim Heinz who believes that could be the case.

Heinz has persuasively created a trail that leads from Howardaluke, who after the Civil War was a officer with the Third Cavalry stationed at Fort Grant in Arizona, to John G. Bourke, a Medal of Honor winner who served in Howard’s command, and who helped recover Howard’s body after he was killed fighting the Apache in 1871.. Bourke mentioned Howard frequently and glowingly in the several books he wrote about his career; indeed, he called Howard the bravest man he ever knew. Twenty five years later,  a young trooper named Edgar Rice Burroughs (below left) was stationed at Fort Grant, and read Bourke’s works. Burroughs eventually left the service, tried this and that for a decade or so, and then started writing pulp fiction. One of his earliest creations was Tarzan, who was featured in many adventures. A later creation was a Civil War veteran known as John Carter of Mars, who first appeared in the 1940s, and eventually made frequent appearances in films and comics (below right)

aedgarJim Heinz cites many similarities between the descriptions of Howard Cushing by Bourke and John Carter of Mars by Burroughs. Both are recklessly brave, good in the saddle, superb marksmen, and are “filled with fire and initiative,” as Burroughs wrote. Heinz is not the only scholar to note a connection.  “I’m aware of Cushing and I think Cushing is a good piece of John Carter of Mars — how a Civil War hero inadvertently found his way into literature,” said Michael Sellers, a Burroughs scholar and author of “John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood.

Closing the loop to Luke Skywalker is an interview with the creator of the Star Wars ajohnuniverse, who in 1976 told American Film magazine that his new movie was “very surreal and bizarre and has nothing to do with science. I wanted it to be an adventure in space, like John Carter of Mars. That was before science fiction took over, and everything got very serious and science oriented.”

So there you have it: Howard Carter to John Bourke to Edgar Rice Burroughs to George Lucas in four easy, entirely plausible steps. The only thing that bothers me is the thought that Howard might be a model for Luke Skywalker. I don’t buy that yhe battle-scarred Civil War veteran turned Indian fighter could be a model for the altruistic young Skywalker. To me, Lt. Cushing was much more a soldier of the empire, subduing the indigenous populations who were in rebellion. In other words, Howard Cushing seems more of a model for Darth Vader, eh?


photo-5. . .clap your hands, and boy was I happy yesterday to speak about Commander Will to good, book-buying folks of the Putnam Valley Historical Association at historic Grange Hall in Putnam Valley. They were a knowledgable and appreciative audience, and I’m grateful to Michael Bennett for arranging the talk and inviting me. Next talk: in January. on Long Island.


photo-1After speaking in Texas, I went on to visit my brother Matt, who lives in Tucson, Arizona. As it happens, Matt is a civilian employee of the Army. He works at Fort Huachuca, wherephoto-2photo Lt. Howard Cushing, the very brave but least heralded of the courageous Cushing brothers, was stationed during his years with the cavalry. There are a number of reminders of Howard’s distinguished service and brave death, including streets named after him in Tucson (left, under a mountain with a big “A” on it), and at Fort Huachuca (right). At top, the Whetstone Mountains, where Howard died fighting the Apache at Bear Springs.


Jamie Malanowski 20150910I had a great time yesterday speaking to about 25 or 30 very knowledgable and attentive people about <em>Commander Will Cushing</em> at the Naval War College in beautiful, humid Newport RI. <strong>John Kennedy</strong> of the museum was a terrific host, and he and his colleagues brought out this wonderful folk art painting of Cushing for the occasions. As it turns out, it was the same portrait I flirted with purchasing at an auction in the summer of 2014. I must say, it looked better in person than in the catalog, and it was nice to see it, even though it did provoke something of a staring contest between the Will of the painting and the Will of the book cover. Chill, fellas!
Before the talk I popped on a pair of headphones and appeared on WDAK radio. Host
<strong>Bruce Harvey</strong> asked very perceptive questions that sure covered a lot of ground in fifteen minutes. Thanks to <strong>Jacob Sullivan</strong> for arranging.


manvil3Twice last week I ventured into the wilds of Orange County to speak about the marvelous <strong>Commander Will Cushing</strong>. On a sweltering Thursday evening I visited the quaint and scenic Museum Village in Monroe, where about a dozen hearty souls sat at picnic benches in an un-air conditioned structure to hear me go on. On Friday, about 20 of the residents of the Glen Arden Retirement community in Goshen joined me for a lunchtime talk. Providentially, Will Cushing again proved to be an entertaining subject. Many thanks to <strong>Michael Sosler</strong> at Museum Village and <strong>Dee Steeger</strong> at Glen Arden for inviting me, and to all the people who came to hear me speak. Happily, a great number of them bought books! Huzzah!


cimsec1Last Wednesday I was invited by the Washington Chapter of the Center for Maritime Security to speak at a screening of the 1998 HBO movie Pentagon Wars, which was held at the Heritage Foundation. I was thrilled to be invited, and I was happy to see the film, which
I co-wrote, and to meet some fans who know more than a little about the world of Pentagon procurement. Much to my delight, I also got to speak a bit about Commander Will Cushing, who was in his day a force for maritime security. Special thanks to Emil Maine, the organization’s Director of Operations (below), for arranging everything.



607612_1I recently came across an article written last January by Doug Shepard in the Dunkirk, NY, Observer. The article is about a gift that was presented to the Historical Museum of the Darwin R. Barker Library in Fredonia: a copy of The Academist, a newspaper written, edited and published by the students of the Fredonia Academy, dated 5 August 1857. The Academy was run by Mrs. Mary Cushing, mother of Will Cushing. The most pleasant surprise is that the paper features a poem by 14 year old Will, written on the eve of his departure for the Naval Academy.  It is entitled “A Farewell.”

Ere I haste away to another clime,
To a clime with promise bright,
My heart would say in simple rhyme,
Dear village home, good night!
Companions dear, I leave you here,
With a grief I may not tell;
May a blessing rest in every breast,
Dear village home, farewell!
Ten bright years have swiftly fled,
Since I among you came,
A little homeless, orphan lad,
Your sympathies to claim.
And kindly hands and words of cheer,
Have caused my heart to swell,
With thoughts and hopes forever dear;
Sweet village home, farewell!
Each much-loved spot, each shady nook,
From the forest green and old,
To the playground dear, and fishing brook,
Full long will memory hold.
Teachers, and friends, and schoolmates dear,
May sorrow never blight
The happy hearts that cluster here;
Dear village home, good night!


disunion-logoIn the spring of 2010, I walked into The New York Times and proposed that the paper blog the Civil War. Out of that grew the Disunion series, which from October 30, 2010 until last week did just that–wote about the war, in matters great and small, generally corresponding to the events of that day 150 years before. Before the series ended nearly 1000 posts later, literally dozens of contributors, famous historians and civilian researchers alike, combined to cover the war.”`Disunion’ has been like no other intellectual or journalistic enterprise I’m aware of: a sustained five-year conversation among dozens of historians (academic and not) representing every specialty and viewpoint,” wrote historian and series contributor Adam Goodheart. “It was a conversation that included an even broader and more diverse public around the world. It brought leading scholars and laypeople together in ways that I think have never been equaled. It truly serves as a model for those in many other fields who aspire to be “public intellectuals” , not to mention enduring as a resource for educators, students, and scholars. Just a remarkable achievement.”   Much credit and thanks belongs to the Times, especially editors Clay Risen and Geeorge Kalogerakis. To conclude the series, the Times assembled –in their words–“an all-star cast of Disunion contributors and friends: David Blight, Ken Burns, Adam Goodheart and Jamie Malanowski”–to respond to readers’ questions. Here is that discussion, in which I was very proud to have participated.



mildMany thanks to Sam Falk and all the folks at the Millbrook Literary Festival who invited me to participate at yesterday’s event. It was a beautiful day, I met a lot of interesting people, I sold a lot of books, and I got to participate in a lively panel hosted by Shaun Boyce, and featuring me and my fellow history book writers, John and Richard Polhemus, authors of Stark: The Life and Wars of John Stark, and Jack Kelly, author of book Band of Giants,  All in all, I had a terrific time. (Above from left: Richard Polhemus, Falk, me, Boyce.)