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"The Crossing" - 24 x 36 - catalogue #3636 - original canvas - make a bid - Giclees available

This painting is dedicated to the brave men of the 4th Cavalry, the 24th Cavalry (the Buffalo Soldiers - an all Black unit), and the unit of Black Seminole scouts that accompanied them on a dangerous raid into Mexico lead by Colonel Ranal S. Mackenzie. They crossed into Mexico at nightfall and rode all night at such a pace that their supply mules couldn't keep up so they had to cut them loose and take only what they could carry on horseback. Lead by an Apache scout, they reached a Kickapoo village and a Lipan Apache village the next day. They fought most of the day, destroyed both villages and headed for the border with prisoners in tow. By the time they reached the Rio Grande they had been three days and nights without sleep and very short on food and water. Men were falling asleep on their horses and some would occasionally fall off. The horses were swaying and tripping. Covered with dust and exhausted, the men looked like ghosts. While all this was going on they were being watched by both the Mexican Army and the Mescalero Apaches and faced the possibility of attack at any moment.

The crossing took place between Del Rio and Piedras Negras where Sycamore Creek joins the Rio Grande. Many guards had to be posted to watch the Mexicans and Apaches. The dead and the prisoners were crossed first, and then the rest of the men. They all made it across safely but then the Mexican Army started taking pot shots at them. Mackenzie had some sharpshooters return fire and the Mexicans backed off. Supply wagons from Fort Clark were a welcome sight to the men and they rested and recuperated for three days before traveling the short eight miles to Fort Clark. The women and children brought back from the villages were taken to a Reservation in Oklahoma. The warriors not in the villages during the attack surrendered at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Total Indians killed at both villages was around sixty but much more important than the body count was the message that there was no longer safety for them in Mexico and that the U.S. would no longer hesitate to cross the border to retaliate for the Indian raids that plagued Texas.

Because of racial predjudice, the Army actually had to offer a promotion in rank to get an officer to lead the first all Black Cavalry unit. That unit was the 41st Cavalry lead by Colonel Ranal S. Mackenzie after first being offered to George Armstrong Custer. Under his leadership they distinguished themselves as being the "best fighting unit of it's day" and became known as the Buffalo Soldiers. They went on to become famous as part of "Mackenzie's Raiders" along with other Black units including the 24th Cavalry mentioned above. It's impossible not to mention the parallel of the same ignorance based predjudice still in exhistence over 100 years later during WW II when a bunch of Black P-51 Mustang pilots, trained at Tuskegee, Alabama, almost didn't get to fly. Thanks to Eleanor Roosevelt's intervention they got to see action and wound up doing bomber escort missions and never lost a single bomber making them the" best P-51 fighter pilots of their day".

During Michael Gray's tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force he was stationed at Laughlin A.F.B. which is not far from the location of "The Crossing". He fished there occasionally and saw where the Sycamore flows into the Rio Grande.

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"The Crossing" © 2000 Michael Gray, all rights reserved