TIME LINE of the James Warner Bellah’s Western/Cavalry Stories

These stories are about an unidentified Cavalry regiment posted at Fort Starke. The location of Fort Stark is never exactly identified, although hints, often conflicting, are given. Also, the tribes that are mentioned and the locations further obscure the possibilities, which makes sense as these stories are really an encapsulation of the myth and legend of the Cavalry during the period of the Indian wars. That being said, most of the stories seem to be situated in the western Kansas/eastern Colorado area, although some stretch as far south as the Texas and across the Rio Grande, and Arizona.

Some of the nearby geographic features include:

  • The Estrella Hills
  • Paradise River
  • The South Fork of the White River, and one of its tributaries, Crazy Man Creek.
  • Elkhorn, the nearest town and stage stop.

There are a number of dating issues, and this is a best estimate based on the stated internal information.

Underlined names reflect the known, or probable, commanding officer of Fort Stark.

The Chronology


  • Nathan Brittles serves in the 2nd Dragoons in the 2nd Seminole War (“War Party”).


  • Flintridge “Flint” Cohill is born (“Lash of Fear”).


  • August
    [Sgt] Utterback is on Kearney’s expedition into New Mexico (“Command”).
    Nathan Brittles is on Kearney’s expedition into New Mexico (“War Party”).
  • John Rowan Duane is a Lieutenant on the Frontier (“The Last Fight”).


  • September 12-13
    Battle of Chapultepec. Present at the battle are Col. Massarene’s father and, McKimme’s grandfather. Massarene shot a Senator’s son for cowardice {“Mission with no record”). 2LT McKimme’s grand father is buries near Chapultepec (“West of the Paradise”).
    Nathan Brittles went from Conteras to Aqua Fria with Winfield Scott (“War Party”).


  • MacLerndon Alshard enters the army (“Big Hunt” and “War Party”). See “War Party” for discussion.


  • Ulysses S. Grant retires from the Army (“Massacre”).


  • John Rowan Duane becomes a Confederate Officer (“The Last Fight”).
  • July 21
    First Battle of Bull Run. Nathan Brittles is with the rear guard action that saved Congress (“War Party”).


  • Battle of Shafter’s Landing, Duanesville is put to the torch (“The Last Fight”).


  • Nathan Brittles serves under Sheridan on “the long haul to Appomattox” (“War Party”).
  • April 9
    Battle of Appomattox Courthouse.
    Gen. Duane heads west to join the Army (“The Last Fight”).
  • Lt. Flintridge Cohill goes to the West (“Lash of Fear”).

Between 1865 and 1870?

  • “By the Beard of St. Crispin”
    General Gideon Bew visits Ft. Stark during a time of Comanche trouble (There is limited dating information, other than that Mrs. Brittles is alive. Cpt. Babbage is being promoted out, and Cohill is taking his command).
    [D’Arcy Topliff, Maj. Isaac Lydacker, Sgt. Breech, Sgt Shattuck, Sgt Tyree, Comanches. Mention: Omaha Stage, Mrs. Brittles, Cpt. Babbage, Paradise River, Mr. Cohill, Mr. Aisquith, Mr. Sitterding, Mr. McKimme, Elkhorn, Sudros Fording, Dortmunder]
  • The Benzine boards begin. After the Civil War, the army had to reduce in size (while simultaneously increasing the number of troops in the West). The Benzine boards were officer review boards set to remove poor quality or questionable officers from the military in the same fashion that benzine was used as a cleaning agent (mentioned in “Command” and “War Party”).
  • At some point Nathan Brittles’ wife dies. Although not canonical to the short stories. Mary Cutting Brittles’ tombstone in She Wore A Yellow Ribbons hows her death as being in June 10, 1867. Her death is implied in “Command” and “War Party” as having been the stimulus that caused Brittles to have been brought up before the Benzine Board, and why he retires as a Captain.
  • “Command”
    Captain Nathan Brittles leads his troop against an unknown band of Indians (There is limited dating information, other than the mention of the Benzine board, which implies that Mrs. Brittles is dead. Cohill appears to be very new in the West. Aspects appear in the movie She Wore a Yellow Ribbon).
    [Sgt Sutterback, Cpt Brittles, Mr. Cohill, Sgt Utterback, the 2nd Mention: Paradise Valley, Mesa Roja, Mr. Gresham, Santee Sioux, Cheyanne, Comanches, Arapaho, Apaches, General Cohill].


  • “Mission with No Record”
    General Sheridan orders Col. Massarene across the Rio Grand to defeat the Lipans, Kickapoo, and the Apaches. Private Donald Massarene comes to Fort Starke. They illegally invade Mexico and burn seven villages. (Seven years after Sheridan and Massareen last met. Sheridan is in charge of the 5th Military District (1867). (Forms the core of the movie Rio Grande)
    [D. L. Massarene, D’Arcy Topliff, Gen Philip Sheridan, Sgt. Shattuck, Mention: Sudro Road, Elkhorn, The Tableland, Between Peco and San Jacinto is a day to the south, Querhada River, Lt. Cohill in charge of Co. C, Santa Maria (S by SW of Rio Grand), MAJ Allshard,is given command of the Regt. at the end. Paredes]


  • September
    “West of the Paradise”
    Lt. Sitterding plots to leave the Army, but is convinced to remain. Allston sends Mr.McKimme’s to Europe to observe the French Army in the Frano-Prussian War. Sitterding becomes Adjutant, letting Cohill take over Co. C. (There is a dating issue, in that Sitterding is unmarried at this time, and there is no mention of a prior family, although his son shows up in “Stage from Elkhorn”).
    [1LT Clay Sitterding, MAJ MacLerndon Alshard, Abbie/Abigail Pemberton Alshard, Eulalie, Sgt Tyree, 2LT Robert McKimme, Flint Cohill (Adjutant), Dr. Arthur Jopp. Mention: 1SGT Utterback, Blanckenship, Board of Indian Commissioners (1869-19??), Paradise River, Duane (book of tactics)]


  • “Big Hunt” Comanches are causing trouble, a Senator comes west for a hunt (three years after smugglers were operating at Yapparika, Comanches broke their treaty in March. The Sumner bill is being debated).. [Alshard has been in the army for 22 years]
    [MAJ MacLerndon Alshard, Lt. Ross Pennell, Toucey Rynders, Sen Brome Chadbourne, Ben Olroyd, Dr. Jopp, Dandy Balderston, Mentions Elkhorn, Comanche, Jarrods, Coleman’s (200 miles from Jarrods), Tallow Creek (170 miles NE of Coleman’s), Four Graves (on the Elkhorn mail run, 90 miles NW from Tallow Creek), Paradise River (280 Miles West), Twin Rocks, Cpt Flecknoe, Jackknife Rim (lies between Fort Starke and the Comanche Agency), Querhada River, South Branch, Santa Fe]


  • August 30
    “War Party”
    Nathan Brittles retires, and saves Cohill, and Company C from a group of Kiowa, Arapaho, and Commanches (Forms a large part of the film She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. There are dating issues, however. Based on the internal dating information, “War Party” should take place in August of 1879. [“Sixty-four years, with forty-three of them following the colors from Micanopy with the 2nd Dagoons against the Seminoles in ’36, to this last reveille”.] However, Companies all became Troops in 1883, and the Memphis election riots were in 1866. It is likely that Brittles served time before the 2nd Seminole War. [Note: Massacre explicitly takes place 20 years after Grant resigns in July 1854, and explicitly takes place in August. However, the Sumner Bill (mentioned in “Big Hunt”) which regulated the size of the Army was in 1872. Alshard has been in the army for 22 years at this point (i.e est 1850). He was stated as having been in the army for 24 years in War Party (est 1874, August 30). Both can not take place in August 1874, so I am fudging on Alshard’s 22 year date.]
    [1st Sgt Tyree, Co. B, Joker, MAJ MacLerndon Alshard, Fort Stark, Banjo, Hockbauer, Latham trail, Sand Creek, Yellow Creek, Lt. Flintridge Cohill, Co. C., Sgt Shattuck, Lt. Ross Pennell. Mention: Fort Starke.]
  • September 17
    “Spanish Mans Grave” Cpt. R. F. MacAfee dies after a fight trying to find Spanish Man’s Grave.
    [1st Sgt Tyree, Lt. Ross Pennell, Crp. Bartenett, CPT MacAfee.Co. B, Joker, MAJ MacLerndon Alshard, Fort Stark, Banjo, Hockbauer, Latham trail, Sand Creek, Yellow Creek, Lt. Flintridge Cohill, Co. C., Sgt Shattuck, Mention: Crazy Mans Creek, 2LT Ambrose Butt, Elkhorn, Broken Wrist, Mary Cutting Britttles, Nathan Cutting Brittles, George Cutting Brittles, Benzine Board, Mrs Alshard, Kiowa, Arapaho, Commanches, Panhandle, Sable Canyon, Wind River Reservation, Fort Latham.]
  • September
    “The Last Fight” Sen. Hamlin Butler comes west to ride with a regular patrol. Cohill goes out to meet with Dr. Randall’s Expedition. Battle of Dry Fork (September Rendezvous, on the 25th). Dating is approxiate: Cohill has known Rowan for “10 long years” making this 1875, however, Alshard in no longer in command by August 1874 (“Massacre”). Although it is strongly implied that Cohill marries Sally Duane, he is single again by “Lash of Fear” and “Apache Curse”.
    [Joseph Two-Crow, Abigail Alshard, Flintridge Cohill, Sally Duane, Sen. Hamlin Butler, LT Pennell, Mulloy, SGT Rowan, COL MacLendon Alshard, Mentions Elkhorn, White Buffalo, Dry Fork, Estrella Hills, South Pass, El Paso del Toros, Route 217]


  • June
    “Devil at Crazy Man”
    Dr. Jopp cures a Cheyenne Chief’s son of a worm devil (Dating is approximate).
    [Fort Starke, MAJ MacLerndon Alshard, Dr. Arthur Jopp, Crazy Man Creek, Cheyanne, Arapaho, Pawnee, Flintridge Cohill, Ross Pennell, Reverend Luther Moncrieff (Sable Canyon Indian agent), Sgt Tyree, Mention: Running Dog, Cpt Blount suicide by razor, Sgt Mayhew trying to kill Sgt Plaisted. Sgt Carlin]
  • For some months before the Owen Thursday massacre, Elkhorn was the departmental HQ (“The Stage from Elkhorn”).
  • August
    “Massacre” Owen Thursday takes command of Fort Starke. He promply gets himself and two companies slaughtered. Among the killed are Custis Meacham the White River Indian agent, Lts Clay Sitterding. Co. A and D’Arcy Topliff. and Co. B, Sgt Magee, Sgt Shattuck, Pvt Aiken, Sgt Ershick, Glastonby, Moore, Stonesifer, Coyne, Bittendorfer, Brailey. Cohill is guarding the ridge with the supply train. Cpt Joplyn is acting in command. Dating issues: See “War Party” (Forms the core of the film Fort Apache).
    [Flintridge Cohill, Ft Starke, Owen Thursday, Custis Meacham, Clay Sitterding, D’Arcy Topliff, Co. A, Co. B, Sgt Magee, Sgt Shattuck, Pvt Aiken, Sgt Ershick, Glastonby, Moore, Stonesifer, Coyne, Bittendorfer, Brailey Mention: Grant, Contreras and Chapultepec, Clarke’s corps, Cumberland station, Sudler’s mountain, Indian Wells, Stone Buffalo, Running Calf of the Red Hills people, Paradise river, White river, Black Dog, Pony that runs, Eagle Claw]


  • January-February?
    “Lash of Fear”
    Lt. Cohill returns to the West after his leave. His stage is attacked by Comanches (Dating is based on the comment that the blackmailers are after Henry Ward Beecher. The Tilton-Beecher trial began in January of 1875).
    [Dandy Balderston, concord coach, Ft Larned KS run to Ft Lyon CO, Rebosca station, Forthright Cowen, Flintridge Cohill, Ft Starke, Lucy Gallatin, Barnum, Veil, and Victory stage line, JEB Stuart’s banjo, Comanche, Sudro’s Ford, Major ‘Jingles’ Cassinger, Sam Odlum, Four Graves, Co. C, Sgt McCoy, Plaisted, Runciman, Blount, Cass, Kowalski, Cpl Jacinto Mention: Three fingered Espinosa, Daly Boys, Duanesville (battle). Gallatin Repose, Doc Jopp, Donker Phillips]


  • “White Invader”
  • [She Wore A Yellow Ribbon]. Although not canonical to the short stories. Nathan Brittles clearly is said to retire 10 September 1876, and he’s known Flint Cohill for 9 years (1867), Abigail Alshard,
  • General Cohill died around this time (Ordeal on Blood River).


  • May
    Porfirio Diaz is elected president of Mexico for the first time, after a revolt (Historical records).


  • Lt. Cohill is sent to the Columbia River Survey (Ordeal on Blood River).


  • September
    Victorio begins attacking near Santa Fe (Historical records).


  • Ordeal on Blood River
    Lt. Cohill returns to the West after a disastrous two year deployment to the Columbia River survey, leaving him with badly frostbitten hands. The Apache have been attacking since the previous September and the 2nd Cavalry have been moved to Tucson. Alshard is Adjutant at the Presidio in San Francisco. Cohill is assigned to lead a detachment to relieve Forts Yuma and Mojave [Alshard states that they are only now beginning to call the territory “Arizona”, which would place this in the early 1860s.
    [1LT Flintridge Cohill, Athena von und zu Hortzendorff-Saxe-Schweringen, COL MacLendon Alshard, Ignio Barras, Sen Rutherford Bentinck, Abigail Alshard,


  • “Stage from Elkhorn”

After 1883

  • “Apache Curse”


  • Captain and Mrs Cohill put up a memorial to John Rowan Duane at Fort Starke (“The Last Fight”).


  • US government sells the site of Fort Starke, but not the post cemetery (“Last Fight”). Route 217 passes by it.

Aug-46 Jun-46 Sep-47 Sep-46 Dec-47 Oct-48 Jun-47 Jun-48 Feb-47 Nov-47 May-47 Jan-50 Oct-59 Feb-51
By the Beard of St. Crispin Command (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon) Mission with No Record (Rio Grande) Bwt 1967 and 1870, most likely 68-69 West of the Paradise. Sep 1870 Big Hunt. 1872 The Last Fight Devil at Crazy Man War Party (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon) Massacre (Fort Apache). Aug 1874 Lash of Fear. 1875 Spanish Mans Grave. Sep c1873 White Invader. 1876 Ordeal on Blood River. c. 1879 Apache Curse. After 1883
Fort Starke x x x x x x x x x x x x
Elkhorn x
Estrella Hills
White River
Crazy Man River/Creek
Sioux, Santee
Apache x
Sheridan, Philip Gen x
Alshard, MacLendon Maj / Col MAJ MAJ MAJ x MAJ MAJ x
Alshard, Abigail Pemberton Mrs x m
Cassinger, “Jingles” Col MAJ
Massarene, D. L. Col killed
Yorke, Kirby Col
Thursday, Owen Maj MAJ m
Lydacker, Isaac Maj MAJ
Rattay, Maslin Col Col
Babbage Cpt Co. F
Blount Cpt Suicide
Brittles, Nathan Cpt x Co. B
Brittles, Mary Mrs m m dead
Carterr Cpt m
Flecknoe Cpt m
Joplyn, Chase Cpt Act Cdr
MacAfee , Royal Forsythe Cpt x
Cohill, Flint/Flintridge Lt x Co. C. Adj x Co. C x Co. C Co. C Co. C x Co. C
Craigson Lt x
Gresham Lt m killed
McKimmie, Robert Lt 2LT
O’Rourke, Mickey Lt
Pennell, Ross Lt Co. C. x x x x x C. B
Sitterding, Carterr Lt 28
Sitterding, Clay Lt x Co. A Killed
Topliff, D’Arcy Lt Co. F x x Co. B Wounded? m
O’Rourke SGM
Quincannon 1SG
Blount Sgt Co. C
Carlin Sgt x
Cass Sgt Co. C
Ershick Sgt x SGT Killed
Kowalski Sgt Co. C
Magee Sgt Co. A
Mahew Sgt x
McCoy Sgt Co. C
Plaisted Sgt May die Co. C
Polk, Fred Sgt
Rowan (John Rowan Duane BG, CSA) Sgt m Co. C
Runciman Sgt Co. C
Shattuck, Burr Sgt Co. F x Co. C killed
Smalley Sgt Co. C
Southgate Sgt Co. C
Sutro Sgt x
Tyree, Travis Sgt / 1SG Co. F 1SG x Co. B Sgt x
Utterback, John Sgt x 1sg killed
Bartenett Cpl x
Jodlebauer Cpl x
McKenzie Cpl x
Zachariahs Cpl Co. C
Aiken Pvt x
Andrews Pvt x
Atkissons Pvt x
Beech Pvt? Co. F
Blake Pvt x
Blankenship Pvt x killed
Blunt Pvt x
Brailey Pvt x
Cartter Pvt x
Cattlett Pvt x
Dannecker Pvt x
Dortmunder Pvt x
Eskuries Pvt x
Ewings Pvt? Co. C
Fink Pvt x
Gustaffson Pvt x
Heinze Pvt x
Hertwole Pvt x
Hockbauer Pvt? Co. B
Hooker Pvt x
Ives Pvt x
Jacobs Pvt x
Jordine Pvt x
Knight Pvt x
Lowry Pvt x
Lusk Pvt x
Lutz Pvt x
Mallory Pvt x
Marble Pvt x
Marcy Pvt x
Massarene, Donald Pvt Co. C.
Mittendorffer Pvt x
Mulloy Pvt x
Newkirk Pvt x
Norton Pvt x
Opdyke Pvt x
Skinnor Pvt x
Randall Dr Co. C
Jopp, Arthur Dr x x x x
Glastonby ??? Co. A
Halliday ??? Co. C
Moore ??? Co. B
Odlum, Sam ??? x
?, Tom USM x
Stonesife… ??? Co. B
Coyne ??? Co. B
Bitten… ??? x
Rynders, Toucey – Indian Agent CA x
Meacham, Custis – White River Indian Agent WR x

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