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‘This Impetuous Chieftain’
Could This Be the Man that Kull, Conan, El Borak and Black Vulmea Were Modeled Upon?
© 2018 James LaFond
A recent reading of Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest, an excellent book by Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., brought to mind two things, first, Howard’s literary depiction of the battlefield personae of such heroes as Kull, Vulmea, El Borak and most of all Conan. Secondly, it reminded me of a little known and touching tale by Howard, titled, For the Love of Barbra Allen, in which a Texas man recalled his experiences riding with Forrest in the Civil War.
Below are the unifying heroic threads that seem, to this writer, to suggest that Howard was deeply affected by the heroism of his conquered nation’s greatest hero...
Read more:
A Well of Heroes
Monster to Boss
a well of heroes
A Bronze Age Warlord
the greatest lie ever sold
the fighting edge
logic of steel
advent america
'in these goings down'
within leviathan’s craw
when you're food
broken dance
Jeremy Bentham     Aug 4, 2018

“After all, I think Forrest was the most remarkable man our Civil War produced on either side.”

— William Tecumseh Sherman, 1820-1891
Robert E. Howard (1906-1936)     Aug 4, 2018

from a letter by Robert E. Howard to To H.P. Lovecraft, ca. December 1930:

Some day I’d like to write a chronicle of the Southwest as it appears to me, but I don’t suppose I could handle the thing properly. Well, if I never write it, at least people of my blood had a hand in making it — which is infinitely better than unromantically writing down the deeds of other men. Kinsmen of mine were among the riflemen at King’s Mountain, and with Old Hickory at New Orleans; I had three great-uncles in the ’49 gold rush — a Howard and two Martins — the Howard settled in Sonora, California, and one of the Martins left his bones on the trail — both my grandfathers rode for four years with Bedford Forrest, and I had a great-grandfather in the Confederate Army too, as well as a number of great-uncles — one died in a nameless skirmish in the wilderness and another fell in the battle of Macon, Georgia; my grandfather Colonel George Ervin came into Texas when it was wild and raw, and he went into New Mexico, too, long before it was a state, and worked a silver mine — and once he rode like a bat out of Hell for the Texas line with old Geronimo’s turbaned Apaches on his trail; an aunt of mine married and went into the Indian Territory to live years before the government ever opened the land for settlers; and one of my uncles, too, settled in what is now Oklahoma, in its wildest days, when it swarmed with half-wild Indians and murderous renegades from half-a-dozen states.

Colonel Ervin once owned a great deal of property in what is now a very prosperous section of Dallas, and might have grown with the town, but for the whippoorwills. They almost drove him crazy with their incessant calling, and though he was a kindly man with beasts and birds, and killed men with less remorse than he killed animals, in a fit of passion one night, he shot three whippoorwills; it was flying in the face of tradition and he quickly regretted it, but the damage was done. According to legend, you know, human life must pay for the blood of a whippoorwill, and soon the Colonel’s family began to die, at the average of one a year, exactly as the old black people prophesied. He stuck it out five years and then, with five of his big family dead, he gave it up. No one every accused him of cowardice; he hacked his way alone, through a cordon of Phil Sheridan’s cavalry-men; but the whippoorwills licked him.
Robert E. Howard (1906-1936)     Aug 4, 2018

from a letter by Robert E. Howard to H.P. Lovecraft, ca. October 1931.

I am of squat build compared to my grandfathers, both of whom were six feet two inches tall, my great-grandfather Ervin who was six feet four inches, my great-grandfather Henry who was about the same height, and my great-grandfather Howard who was six feet eight inches. Some of my great-uncles were nearly seven feet in height. None was abnormal; they were simply big men, well proportioned and powerfully built. My grandfather George Ervin was accounted the strongest man in his regiment and one of the strongest men in Forrest’s command. He could cleave a man from shoulder to waist with a single stroke of his saber. He owed his life to his great strength on at least one occasion, when he was captured by a band of guerrillas — thieves who preyed on both armies. They bound him on a mule and were taking him into the thickness of the forest to do away with him, when, as they were passing through a dark thicket, he suddenly snapped the cords with which he was bound, and seizing a revolver, leaped into the thicket and invited his foes to come in and take him. But they declined and made a hasty retreat, like the dirty yellow cowards they were. These ancestors of mine were taller and rangier than I, generally; some were as heavily built as I am, but all were taller. If I ever have a son, I have a feeling he’ll be shorter and stockier than I am. In fact, I look depressedly down the long vistas of descent to the time when my descendents, having grown shorter and heavier in each generation, eventually resemble toads and go hopping drearily through life, croaking praises of the lost tallness of their ancestors.
James     Aug 6, 2018

Thank you!
Sam J.     Aug 6, 2018

I don't think I've heard a whippoorwill in a while. I used to hear them all the time. It seems to me there are WAY less birds than there used to be. They used be constantly calling but I don't hear that so much anymore.

Bob Whites either.

I hear owls occasionally. I hoot at them and they answer back but after I hoot a couple times they realize, not sure how, that I'm not an owl and ignore me.
James     Aug 6, 2018

Sam J. I have noticed high variations in the population of birds in different areas as I travel. Baltimore has a lot, actually, mostly crows, starlings and sea gulls, all the squawking garbage birds.

I hope your whippoorwill comes back.
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