John Benton Hart

150 years ago, the Civil War was winding down, the struggle between emigrants and Indians on the Rocky Mountain frontier was ramping up, and an ancestor of mine, John Benton Hart (right, with his brother Hugh), was in the thick of it all. Late in life the man they called “Johnny” dictated vivid memories of war and peace in the last days of the taming of the West. In this anniversary period I am shaping these hitherto unknown eyewitness accounts into articles, to be followed by a book.

The first installments of Johnny’s story, telling of the Civil War Battle of Westport near Kansas City in October 1864, have run in the Kansas City Star Magazine and the journal Kansas History. The next chapter, to appear in the Spring 2015 Kansas History, treats a celebrated battle with Sioux and Cheyenne at Platte Bridge (now Casper, Wyoming), on July 26, 1865.  Here is new testimony on the death of Caspar Collins, for which the Wyoming town is named, and the scalping of Cheyenne chief High Backed Wolf. Johnny’s wanderings will next take him to one of the hottest corners of the region, Montana’s Bozeman Trail, where he carried the mail between forts in the middle of Red Cloud’s War, and eventually to his homestead in the place still called Harts Basin, near Delta, Colorado.

A man of his time, Johnny does not second-guess the struggles in which he is involved, but he responds with human warmth to his Confederate foes and with an unusual  measure of understanding to the tribes he was helping to dispossess.  Witnessing a Mountain Crow war dance, he writes: “It carries you back. It makes you writhe with longing for that which is still ripping through the blood of the human race.”

John will be signing copies of an An Island in Time: 50 Years of Point Reyes National Seashore at the Dance Palace, Point Reyes Station. Following will be a showing of the new KRCB documentary film Rebels With a Cause about the extraordinary efforts of the ordinary people who saved the lands of the Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area from development.

Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 3:00pm

Dance Palace
503 B Street, Point Reyes Sta, CA
(415) 663-1075 ‎

John will present a slide show and signing of An Island in Time: 50 Years of Point Reyes National Seashore at Berkeley Ironworks

Saturday December 8, 2012 from 1-3pm

Berkeley Ironworks
800 Potter St.
Berkeley, CA 94710
510 981 9900

John Hart, author of An Island in Time: 50 Years of Point Reyes National Seashore, will talk about the park Marin people love — and love to argue about –  and will be interviewed by land-saving pioneer Doug Ferguson , co-founder of the Trust for Public Land.

Thursday, December 6, 2012, 12 – 1pm

California Room, Civic Center
Marin County Free Public Library
3501 Civic Center Drive, Room 427
San Rafael CA 94903

Author presentation and slide show on An Island in Time. I will be talking about the park Marin people love—and love to argue about. I’ll touch on its miraculous beginnings, its several identity crises, its awesome present, and its challenging future.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 1pm

Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd
Corte Madera, CA 94925 (map)