Starting in 1918, at the urging of his son Harry, John Benton Hart began telling stories of a colorful three-year period of his youth. The native Kansan, a member of the 11th Kansas Cavalry, had clashed with Confederate Gen. Sterling Price’s army in the Battle of Westport and elsewhere in Missouri. He’d crossed the Plains as a bullwhacker, carrying mail between the Indian-besieged forts on the Bozeman Trail. He was a friend of scout Jim Bridger and Chief Blackfoot of the Mountain Crow.
The old cavalryman described events with an almost cinematic vividness as Harry, an aspiring writer, recorded them in a series of family manuscripts now compiled in Bluecoat and Pioneer: The Recollections of John Benton Hart, 1864–1868. Its editor, great-grandson John Hart, discusses the book and its rare, ordinary soldier’s view of historical events.
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