Cavalry & Indians Movies and TV

Apr 2018
I like cavalry and Indians movies and am thinking of writing a book about the fictional history of the Indian wars in the wild west of imagination.

One necessary task would be to put movies in the correct fictional order.

That is easy when the movies state their fictional dates.

For example Pillars of the Sky 1956 has a stated fictional date of 1868, even though the historical events it is loosely based on happened ten years earlier in 1858. And Kamiakin was not killed in 1858 or 1868 but died in 1877.

Other movies give clues about their dates.

For example Rio Grande 1950 was fifteen years after the devastation of the Shenandoah Valley in October 1864 and thus should happen sometime in the period of October 1869 to October 1880.

Stagecoach 1939 includes the following dialog:

Stagecoach (1939) - Quotes - IMDb

Republican national conventions in Chicago happened 19-18 May 1860, 20-21 May 1868, 2-8 June 1880, 3-6 June 1884, 19-25 June 1888, and again in 1904, 1908, 1912, 1916, and 1920. Two stagecoach passengers fought in the Civil War, making the only reasonable choices 1868, 1880, 1884, and 1888.

The Apache outbreak most likely to be referred to as Geronimo leaving the reservation was in 1885. Of course the fictional movie Geronimo(s) left the reservation almost as often as the Joker leaves prison.

Another way to tell the fictional date of a movie is the number of stars in United States flags. They can be compared to the dates those numbers of stars were official. Of course the goofs section in IMDb has a bunch of goofs stating that the flags have the wrong number of stars for the dates of the movies.

Another thing I look for is what military units are involved. Sometimes that is mentioned and sometimes there are visual clues.

For example, each troop or company of cavalry carried a fork tailed flag called a guidon.

According to the 1833 regulations, a guidon was divided horizontally, red above and white below, with the white letters U.S. in the red part and the red letter of the company in the white part. In 1862 the design was changed to a fork tailed US flag, with the stars usually arranged in concentric circles. In 1883 the design was changed to horizontal red over white, with the regimental number in white above and the company letter in red below.

Many movies use the stars and stripes guidons, but most used variations of the red over white guidons. Some have U.S. in the upper part, some have the regimental number, some have crossed sabers, some may have other symbols, and some may be blank. Some have the company letter in the lower part, others may have U.S. or the regimental number, or crossed sabers, or other symbols, or be blank.

So I look for the designs of guidons when watching cavalry movies.

Some movie cavalrymen have crossed saber insignia on their hats or caps. And sometimes it has regimental numbers and/or company letters as well. For example the cavalry in Last of the Comanches 1953 set in August 1876 wear insignia of company G 14th Cavalry on their hats.

It is often said that John Ford used the 7th Cavalry a lot in his movies like Stagecoach 1939, Fort Apache 1948, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon 1949, Rio Grande 1950, The Searchers1956, The Horse Soldiers 1959, Sergeant Rutledge1960, Two Rode Together 1961, and Cheyenne Autumn 1964, but I doubt it.

It is said that the 7th Cavalry rescues the protagonists in Stagecoach 1939. Look at this still:

It looks sort of like the number 7 in the bottom half of the guidon. But this is the back or reverse side of the guidon. The front or obverse side of a flag is always shown with the staff to the left. So this is actually a guidon of company F of the Sixth Cavalry.

I haven't seen any visual indication of the regiment in Fort Apache.

In She Wore a Yellow Ribbon set at Fictional Fort Starke on the southern plains in late 1876, several persons wear caps with the number 2, as seen in these photos.

In Rio Grande Patrick Wayne as a soldier's child wears a cap with a 7.

But several of the characters who portray soldiers wear caps with the number 2.

This still indicates that the Ninth Cavalry is the regiment in Sergeant Rutledge

Chuck Hayward

And Wikipedia says the Ninth Cavalry.

Anyway, you won't find any African Americans in the Seventh Cavalry in any westerns I ever saw.

In Cheyenne Autumn several stills indicate that the guidon has no markings:

Ben Johnson - Page 94 - The Silver Screen Oasis

Thus the idea that John Ford often depicted the Seventh Cavalry seems doubtful.

If anyone wants to post any "facts" from the "history" of wild west movies go ahead.

No offense but, why not just simply call them Westerns? that is what they are. I've got original stills to some movies mentioned here.