Saturday, 18 April 2015

The War Arrow and The Deserter

            Some of the articles posted on this blog are written just a few minutes before they are posted. Others are started some time in advance and may undergo several rewrites or modifications. Inevitably for me, some of the latter get delayed while other topics take precedence.
            Around Christmastime I was drafting a couple of articles on cavalry swords. This lead me to some examination of cavalry tactics being used in the late 19th  and mid 20th centuries. The widespread use of repeating weapons had a considerable effect on cavalry tactics. They did not, however, render the cavalry “immediately obsolete” as so many uninformed “experts” will tell you. Cavalry remained a useful asset until at least the 1940s, well into the age of repeating weapons and machine guns. I will discuss this in later blogs.
            A side branch of this train of thought had me recalling an unusual western called “The War Arrow”(1953). In this movie a cavalry officer recruits some displaced Seminole Indians to help fight an aggressive faction of  Kiowa. The officer trains his force in some unconventional (although appropriate) tactics. At one point in the movie another officer exclaims in scorn “...digging holes! Firing dismounted! Charging with just four men at a time!” The last part in particular is unusual and I wonder what source the script writer was using.

            The unconventional training in this movie reminded me of another movie seen in my childhood. The officer recruits some of his force from the guardhouse and has them wearing buckskins rather than uniforms. The only bit I could really remember was that during training there was a duel with tomahawks. It has taken me several months to identify this second movie. My recollection was that one of the combatants was an imposing figure, someone like Woody Strode. Yesterday I successfully identified the movie as “The Deserter”(1971). As it turns out, the tomahawk duel in the movie is not actually that good. Just lots of muscle against muscle. If you want some information on how to use a tomahawk more effectively, check out my earlier blog and invest in my book.
            The Deserter is, however, an entertaining movie and some of the other ideas in it are more informative. Give it a watch.

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