A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

34 Solutions to the Paradox of Fermi

Undocumented Aliens

One of the major tropes of science fiction is the Alien. Recall Lummox, the Rull; the People; Tweel; and so on. These alien folk have served admirably as metaphors for various aspects of humanity or human societies; but as one mainstream critic supposedly noted with surprise, in SF a trip to Mars is not only a metaphor for the human condition, but is also supposed to represent on some deep level an actual trip to Mars. If this is so, then we have a problem.
Where are the aliens?

Aliens qua alien

Of course, by alien life we do not really mean a layer of lichen floating on the torpid seas of some far-off world. That would be Way Kool, but it sure ain't why we're looking.
When Fermi famously asked the question, "Where are they?" he didn’t mean where are the mud worms of Yuts'ga? By all accounts, they aren't going anywhere. But according to incantations – I mean, calculations – there has been plenty of time for Others to make it here. So why haven't they shown up? Where are the flying saucers, or at least the messages from Mars?
The basic incantation is something called the Drake Equation, which is disguised to look like a real equation, perhaps in the hope that no one will notice that most of the terms in it are not even remotely measurable. The equation runs:
N is the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible;
R* is the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy
fp is the fraction of those stars that have planets
ne is the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
f is the fraction of the above that actually develop life at some point
fi is the fraction of the above that develop intelligent life
fc is the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
L is the length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space
The fraction of stars with planets is looking good. We've already detected a fair number of exoplanets. However, most of those planets are Hot Jupiters whirling like centrifuges way too close to their home-stars. This does not bode well for ne. Of course, that’s an artifact of the detection method, which is biased toward large planets and proximity to their stars. It wouldn’t know Mars from a hole in the ground. Nor is the on-going failure of SETI encouraging f and other factors. But it only has to cry Bingo! once.
There are three basic answers to Fermi's Paradox:
                                I.            They’re not there
                             II.            They're there, but not here
                          III.            They're here, but we don't know it
Let’s look at these in detail.

I. They’re not there.  

1. We're it. Unique in the universe.
What a waste! All that great big honkin' universe out there and we're all there is? But, why should there be anyone else in the universe, regardless of its size? How many dandelion seeds are scattered to make a single dandelion? How many stone chips litter the workshop to make one statue? Why should it not take a universe to make a world? If the mass of the universe were much less, it would have expanded into vichyssoise long ago. If it were much greater, it would have collapsed back on itself before anything could get started. This is how big a universe must be to make galaxies, stars and petunias, whether one world or a gazillion be inhabited.
2. We're first. We are the "elder race" of the universe.
Well, someone had to be first. Why not us? Life is hard and maybe the start-up costs are too high. As far as we can tell, life only happened once here on earth. If it's so easy and automatic, why did it not happen here twice, perhaps in different deep sea thermal vents?
Hydrogen, helium, and lithium are easy to come by, but life seems to need some heavier elements, like carbon and oxygen or silicon and chlorine, and that requires several generations of stars, not only to forge the elements, but for supernovae to spread them across vast distances and gravity concentrate them in planets.
Besides, out there is also back then. All those gazillions of distant galaxies? Those were gazillions of years ago. Any signals coming from them would have had to have been sent when the universe was young, before any life-soup had cooked up. The universe might be teeming with species right now busily putting out daytime soap operas and other indications of intelligence; but we don't hear the universe right now. We hear the universe that was way back then.
3. We're last. They were there, but not anymore.
C'est le vive. That L factor in the Drake equation is really, really short.
  • They wiped themselves out in wars of annihilation.
  •  The plague got 'em.
  • Famine got 'em 
  • The glaciers got 'em.
  • The von Neumans got 'em (and are coming our way). 
  • They all became dependent on government handouts and then the government went bankrupt. 
  • They mucked up their environment a bit too much and choked on their own pollution.
  • They genetically modified themselves and screwed up, bad.
  •  They downloaded themselves into computers and there was this power bump…
  • They adopted an existentialist, materialist philosophy, saw no reason for going on, and drank the Kool-Aid.

II. They're out there, but not here.  

4. Their Cambria never exploded. They got to prokaryotes but prokaryotes are unlikely ever to make interstellar contact. To step up to eukaryotes, with their highly structured cellular composition, competing prokaryotes would have to combine into a single entity. This requires 
a) cooperation in a “network of mutual dependencies,” 
b) the emergence of a functional unit comprising all individuals involved in the network, and 
c) the development of a boundary to bar or expel stragglers. 
This results in a higher-level of competing replicators. This is more than “descent with modification” and may be a correspondingly more rare process.
5. They’re all wet. They never got out of the water to see the stars.
No one will try to contact us if they have no idea there is any 'us' to contact. Life may need water chemistry to originate, but it needs dry land to get good telescopic views of the rest of the universe. Technology seems to have started with Fire, and it’s hard to conceive of fish discovering fire. But this only matters if there is land onto which to crawl. Water worlds need not apply.
6. They were never mooned. No one else has a moon/planet ratio large enough to create tidal pool escalators onto the land. That may not be the only way for fish to transition to amphibians, but it is the way it seems to have happened here. Nowhere else we know of is there a sufficiently-sized planet with such a relatively large moon. It required, so theory says, a Mars-sized body striking the proto-earth in just the right way to slice off a moon-sized divot into the proper orbit. Of all the unlikely things that led to life on Earth, this may have been the unlikeliest, and there is no term in the Drake Equation for it.
7. They’re sessile. Aliens are plants and fungi and don't get around much.
Don't expect the flying saucers to land, lower a ramp, and weeds or mold to start growing down the ramp to meet us. Waiting dignitaries won't wait that long. Plants and fungi don’t move, they grow, and you can't grow your way from α-Centauri to here. Fungi probably won't build powerful radios, either. In fact, sessiles are unlikely even to be sentient. After all, what’s the point of sensation if you can’t do anything about it? If grass senses thirst, it can’t exactly pull up roots, pack up the wagon, and set off for the other side of the fence, where it is proverbially greener. All it can do is dry up, wither, and wait for rain. So, there is nothing upon which Darwinian selection can operate.
8. They’ve got brains, but not a brain. The aliens are of two minds about things because their two brain hemispheres never knitted into one. More broadly, their sundry sensory inputs are not melded into a single ymago. Thus, they lack imagination and hence memory, so they cannot “see” a petunia that was present even moments ago.
9. They don’t have much to say. The aliens get along fine with imagination. Like every other animal species on Earth, they can learn and remember in response to sensation. They have personalities, can use tools, can sometimes even make tools. But in the past billion years or so, none have come up with disco or daytime soaps, let alone art, speculative philosophy, systems of mathematics, or physics. These require intellect, the capacity to abstract [lit. “pull out”] universals from particulars. They can grasp this petunia and that petunia and the other petunia; but they do not grasp “petunia.” Hence, they lack language.
10 The Endless Sumer. Aliens achieved Sumerian-level civilization and never broke out. Velocity needs no cause; inertia is the norm. It's change that requires a mover. Once there was a breakthrough to civilization, the aliens chilled. Looking back on the Eden that was their pre-intellective, pre-civilizational existence and comparing it to the Vale of Tears in which they ate by the sweat of their brows [or brow-equivant], the aliens figured why take any more chances? The same goes for other rest-points along the way. For example:
  • Humanism triumphs. The aliens are excellent artists and literary critics. But they are not ham radio operators and do not form amateur rocket clubs
  • Bureaucracies triumph and new technology is not covered by any of the procedures.
  • God-kings triumph. The aliens spend their lives preparing the king for his afterlife. If you’re good, he’ll save you a spot.
  • Oligarchies triumph. Everything is geared toward the maintenance of power. New technology may shift the power balance. Can’t have that.
  • Democracies triumph. They got to their moon, then quit and spent the money on themselves.
11. They're not into science. The aliens never cared about the natural world. They tinker, but rules of thumb can get your technology only so far. Further development requires a serious study of nature qua nature. There are many reasons why the aliens do not develop a natural science.
  •  They're not curious. Most Terran cultures were markedly incurious about the natural world, even while they devised many practical and useful rules of thumb. [e.g., If you beat the drums during a solar eclipse, the sun will eventually return. What if you don’t beat the drums? Why take such a crazy chance? You may sense the limitations of such an approach.]
  • Circular reasoning. The hypnotizing circular motion of the heavens convinced them that the world is a series of repetitive cycles. Everything that has happened will happen again. Natural laws are transient.
  • They believe there is no God, so chaos and unreason are at the root of everything. Natural laws are illusions or coincidences.
  • They believe there is a host of competing and contradictory gods. Natural laws represent temporary compromises among these gods.
  • They believe there are dryads in the trees, nymphs in the springs, and the stars are alive, divine, and influential in daily life. If nature has minds of her own, she must be placated, not studied.
  •  They worship the phallus. This interferes with thinking straight.
  • They believe there is a creator God, but he is not rational. Therefore, the created world is not rationally ordered.
  • They believe there is a creator God, but he does not act through nature. Apparent natural laws are simply “the habits of God.” He might change his mind.
12. They are stoopid. Sure, the world is ordered, but they do not believe their reasoning powers are competent to grasp it.
13. Aristotle? Who he? They never invented a systematic science of nature. They collect curious facts about nature but that’s it. But a curio cabinet doesn’t lead to interstellar contact.
14. They’re empiricists. Newton’s laws never occurred to them because they’ve never seen an astronomical situation consisting of only two bodies. The same goes for perfect vacuums, frictionless surfaces, new species, etc. Believing only in what they can sense, they never mathematized their natural science.
15. They’re chemists. Their scientific interests led them into chemistry (and biology) and not physics. They popped off some chemical rockets, but they have no radios or anything like them. Interstellar communication by lighting off flares is not likely to be very effective.
16. They all went fiber-op. They’re out there. But they gave up on E/M broadcasts. We'll never hear from them unless they run cable out our way.
17. They stink. They communicate by odor or other means unsuited to long-distance transmission. It’s hard to read sign language from α-Centauri, even if they have very big hands.
18. It’s a really long way to Tipperary. The distances between intelligent species are too daunting. The senders will be long gone by the time the receivers get the message. So why bother?
19. Missed call. They did send a message; and it reached Earth already, but the Devonian fishes lacked proper receivers.
20. Wrong way, Corrigan. They developed interstellar travel, but they went the other direction.
21. They're en route. We live at just that cusp between the launch of their interstellar probe and/or radio signals and their arrival here.

III. They're here, but we don't know it

22. We're quarantined. They don't come or talk to us because we have cooties.
23. We're quarantined. They don't come or talk to us because they have cooties.
24. We're boring. They made it here but don't come or talk to us because they don't find us interesting. They detected our TV shows and fled in horror.
25. They’re boring. They're here but don't come or talk to us because they have nothing to say.
26. They're quiet. They're here but observing only.
27. They're incognito. They're here but disguised as humans.
28. They're really incognito. They're here but disguised as cats.
28. They're really really incognito. They're here but hiding in plain sight as Real Housewives.
29. They're practical jokesters. They're here but they only contact people driving on deserted country roads whom they probe and release.
30. They're gods. They were here. Long ago. And they over-awed the natives, who called them gods.
31. We missed them. They were here. Long ago. Dinosaurs ate them. Then they smashed all the dinosaurs with a comet.
32. They were here, recently. ICE rounded them up, put them in detention camps, then deported them on buses as illegals. They were last seen in the Oort Cloud fiddling with some comets.
33. They love us. They're here, but they don't want to interfere with our natural development.
34 They hate us. They're here, but they don't want to interfere with our natural development.
More careful study may fine tune this taxonomy. Faithful Readers will naturally try to subvert each and every one of these scenarios. Perhaps aliens who operate by instinct alone may indeed contact us; or a ship piloted by fungi may land Real Soon Now. An alien living in secret on Earth may even run for President of the US of A and, depending on one’s taste in aliens, either win or almost win. Perhaps there is a loophole by which aliens limited to the water may yet develop an astronomy and learn of the stars and try to contact putative beings who live there.
Of course, that makes the Fermi Paradox even more difficult to explain.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Memorial Day 2020

I pretty much do this every year, so here goes.

Technically, Memorial Day is for the Union dead of the Civil War, but was expanded to include all those who died in service the the United States. Since only one of those who follow died in service  and only one was a Union soldier, this list is not strictly apropos. However, two of them did die later in life partly aggravated by wounds incurred in the service.

Sgt. Tommy Flynn, CAC team Papa Three, USMC, Vietnam

Sgt. Tommy Flynn

My father's cousin lived with villagers in the mountains near Cam Lo just a few miles south of the DMZ. 

"The idea was to somewhat integrate with the Vietnamese people in order to gain their trust and friendship and ultimately military intelligence that would help us find the bad guys. It sounds good, and at times it was probably very good, because the Vietnamese were helped with schools and sanitation and protection from the Viet Cong. But it was also an extremely dangerous assignment. CAC soldiers lived near a village and survived mostly on their own. It was a small compound that was flooded when it rained and was overrun several times by the Viet Cong. On one such occasion, Mr. Flynn was severely wounded in the face, neck and thigh. He spent weeks in several hospitals and then a hospital ship with his jaw wired shut, before being mistakenly sent back to the war. He was given a choice; he could work in the rear or go back to his CAC squad. He was either a little nuts, or little bit more brave than most of us, because he chose to return to his squad."-- from Joni Bour's review of A Voice of Hope by Thomas Flynn
+ + +

Pfc. Joseph Flynn, 5th Eng. Btn., 5th Marine Division, USMC

My father served on Iwo Jima and in the Japanese Occupation. 

As a combat engineer, Joe had the task of blowing things up, a task at which he had had practice, since he had once blown up his bedroom at home while electrolysizing water into oxygen and (alas) hydrogen.  He was assigned to battalion liaison for the landing, which meant he landed with the first wave on Iwo Jima and would take word to his company of battalion location.  His buddies all figured he was a dead duck.  The beach was volcanic sand so fine and slippery that it was hard to get traction, and the Japanese had always dealt harshly with the first wave. But the Japanese commander was canny and withheld fire until the second wave landed and the beaches were maximally crowded. Then he let loose.

Pere (upper right) as flag waver
During one such bombardment, Joe took refuge in a shellhole on the beach with (iirc) his captain.  A black marine from the Pioneer Battalion came to the edge of the hole and... stopped.  "Permission to join you, sir!"  The officer responded by telling him to get his sorry black ass into the shellhole tout suite.  Years later, recounting the incident, Joe said that the young man had grown up in an environment in which a black man did not join a group of whites without their leave, even if Japanese shells were raining about him.  A culture that would do that to a man, he said, was evil.

On another occasion, while returning to the front line with anti-tank grenades, a Japanese mortar shell impacted in front of him. The blast lifted him up and dropped him on his back. For a while he lay there, numb and unable to hear. Gradually, his feelings came back and, standing up, he took inventory. Everything seemed to be working, which he found remarkable. And no blood! In those days, Purple Hearts were not given out like candy, and so he did not receive one.

On another occasion, he nad a buddy peeked over a ridge behind which they sheltered and spotted the cave entrance to the tunnel network with which the Japanese had honeycombed the island. As they did so, a machine gun warding the entrance opened up and they slid back down behind the ridge. "That was close," said young Joe, but his buddy didn't answer because he had a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead.

He and another combat engineer were sent to clear one of the northern beaches and, digging in the sand, unearthed an aerial bomb rigged as a mine. The two of them sat back on their heels and contemplated defusing the sucker. "Well," said the buddy, "if it goes, we'll never know it." And they set to it. Successfully, we note.

TOF asked the Old Man once when he first felt old, and he said on his 20th birthday, the day he left Iwo Jima. 
+ + +

Pfc. Harry Singley, 304th Eng., 72nd "Rainbow" Div., AEF

Harry Singley and his wife Helen Schwar
My grandfather on my mother's side served in the St. Mihel, Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  He wrote home:

"It was on Sept. 26 when the big drive started in the Argonne Forest and I saw all kinds of things that I never witnessed before.  We started out on the night of the 25th.  At 9 o'clock we commenced a tank road and worked our way almost to the German's front line trenches.  At 2:30 one of the greatest of all barrages was opened.  It was said that between 3500 and 4000 guns, some of them of very large calibre, went off at that hour just like clock work.  We worked on this road under shell fire until about 3:45 and then went back until the infantry went over the top at 5 o'clock.  We followed with the tanks.  That is the way the Americans started and kept pounding and pushing ahead until the great day on Nov. 11.  ...

It was some life.  I am proud that I went through it, for nobody on the Hill will have anything on me...  I was a little with sneezing or tear gas.  It made me sick but I remained with the company for I did not like to leave my detachment at any time for if something would happen, I thought, there would be plenty of help.  I felt much better in a few days.  A small piece of shrapnel splinter hit me below the knee.  Otherwise I was lucky. ..."

"Somebody will wake up soon when the boys get back to the States..."

No Purple Heart here, either. He had a cane inscribed "FRANCE" to deal with that shrapnel below the knee. That cane is now an aid in my own infirmity. Guv died young. I barely remember him. I was told that the gassing in WW1 contributed to his death.
+ + +

John Flynn showed up in the US ca 1867 and, while the Singleys and Schwars appeared after 1854, we don't know of any that fought in the Spanish-American, Indian, or Civil Wars. For the latter, we must turn to the Incomparable Marge.

Pvt. John H. Hammontree, Co. H, 5th Tenn Inf., US Vol.

Union troops in Cumberland Gap
The great-great grandfather of the Incomparable Marge joined the Union Army when Confederates come into East Tennessee and told the fellas there 'you boys better be a-wearing gray in the morning' or they would be hung.  [As numerous other East Tennesseans had already been hung as 'traitors' from railroad bridges.] Well, the Hammontrees didn't cotton to that at-all, and so they left that night and crossed the mountains to sign up with Buell's army of the Ohio in Co. H of the 5th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry. They were brigaded with other East Tennessee regiments under Brigadier General James Gallant Spears, an anti-Confederate slave-owner. 

John fought in the Cumberland Gap campaign of 1862. He was captured there and then paroled. This was followed by the Stone's River campaign, the 5th arriving at Stone's River on the morning of January 3, escorting a large, much-needed ammunition and hospital train. Wheeler's cavalry attempts to capture the ammunition train eight miles out of Nashville, near the Lunatic Asylum, but is repulsed.

Spears (and the 5th) take position on the right, relieving Rousseau. Wheeler promptly notifies Bragg of the arrival of Spears' reinforcement and, hearing that John Hammontree had arrived on the scene, Bragg turns and runs.

Ho ho. TOF jests. It was the long casualty list (25% of his force), the threat of a rising river, and the unlikelihood that Rosie was going away any time very soon that was persuasive. But the resupply, ammunition, and fresh brigade that came along with John was the final straw.
The regiment then held the crossroads after the battle of Chickamauga, when Thomas held the rearguard like "The Rock of Chickamauga." Then it was being pulled back into the Siege of Chattanooga, during which U.S.Grant took charge. The regiment was then sent on the Knoxville campaign of 1863 to link up with Burnside who was bunkered up in Knoxville. But since Longstreet [on loan from Lee's Army of Northern Virginia] was advancing on Knoxville right through the Hammontree farms, John (and others) went AWOL to see to his folks. Once the danger was past, he/they returned.

On April 10, 1864, the regiment was organized into  the XXIII Corps (d/b/a The Army of the Ohio. Maj.Gen. Schofield), assigned to Brigadier General M. D. Manson's 2nd Brigade, of Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox's 3rd Division. for the Atlanta campaign.  and fought at Dalton, Rocky Faced Ridge, and Resaca.  On 14 May, a major battle erupts at Resaca, Ga. Regarding the battle, General Cox reports that:

"The skirmish line of the division already occupied the edge of the wooded land across the open valley, some 200 yards wide, immediately in our front, when the command to advance was given and the whole division moved steadily forward, the enemy opening immediately with artillery from batteries in position down the valley on our right, and which had an oblique fire upon our lines as we passed through the low ground. After crossing the open we passed over several wooded ridges in succession, and through a deep though narrow channel of the creek, which, with its perpendicular sides, skirted by a tangled thicket, became a serious obstacle to the advancing troops. The lines were quickly reformed after passing the brook and again moved forward, steadily driving the enemy's skirmishers backward toward their works. These skirmishers were so strongly re-enforced that they were only to be driven back by the main line of our troops, who advanced, making an occasional momentary halt to deliver their fire. A short halt was made, bayonets were fixed, and the whole command charged the hill and carried the line of rifle-pits on the crest, driving the enemy back upon a second line some 250 yards from the first on our left, but approaching much nearer on our right. The first line of the Second Brigade was first in entering the works, but these were almost instantly entered by the First Brigade also farther to the left. The enemy immediately opened with both artillery and musketry from their second line, which extended far beyond both flanks of the division, and no troops being as yet in position on either our right or left, the division was halted, the Second Brigade (Manson's) occupying the enemy's works with their first line, and the First Brigade (Reilly's) occupying them with the second line, advancing the first line to the protection of a small intervening ridge between them and the new line occupied by the rebels, from which they were able to silence with their rifles a battery which was playing destructively upon the Second Brigade. No artillery had been able to accompany the division in its advance to attack, the broken nature of the ground and the physical obstacles of the creeks and thickets entirely preventing. The continuous heavy fire of the enemy caused, however, a considerable loss in both the One hundred and third Ohio and Fifth Tennessee while advancing to their position. An hour later I reported the ammunition of the whole division as being almost exhausted, and it being impossible to get wagons forward to the lines held by the command, I was notified that we would be relieved by the Fourth Corps and withdrawn temporarily to enable us to replenish the cartridge-boxes. A little after 3 p. m. General Harker's brigade, of Stanley's division, Fourth Corps, advanced under a galling fire of all arms to relieve the Second Brigade, and while preparing to effect the change Brigadier-General Manson was severely injured by concussion of a shell exploding near him, and was carried off the field." (OR No. 351)
Colonel Shelley of the Fifth Tenn. reports six officers wounded, 16 men killed, 92 wounded and 14 missing in the engagement. Among the 92 wounded is John Hammontree, who has taken a bullet through his left leg. The bullet passes between the muscle and the bone and puts him in the hospital. This wound eventually contributed to his death, years afterward. 

By Sep 1864 he is back with the regiment, just in time for the battles of Franklin and Nashville, Hood's last desperate gamble. It's not clear if the regiment remained with the army until Johnston's surrender.

+ + + 

Pvt. James Hammontree, Capt. Duncan's Co., Col. Bunch's Regt, (2nd Regt., East Tennessee Militia)

Battle of Horseshoe Bend
Margie's great-great-grandfather's grandfather fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend under Gen. Andrew Jackson in the Creek (Red Stick) War.  This was part of the War of 1812.  

Andrew Jackson's official report of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (27 March 1814) mentions that "a few companies" of Colonel Bunch were part of the right line of the American forces at this engagement (left, on the map). Muster rolls show some casualties from this battle in the companies led Joseph Duncan.  

The Red Sticks were forted up on a peninsula formed by a bend in a large arc of the Tallapoosa River. "It is difficult to conceive," Jackson wrote, "a situation more eligible for defense than the one they had chosen." The Red Sticks had built across the peninsula a zigzag wall of logs and rammed earth, five to eight feet high. This wall had loopholes or firing ports in it so that the defenders could fire without exposing themselves, and attackers against one of the zigs could be enfiladed by defenders at the opposing zag. Estimates placed the Red Sticks’ strength at 1,000 warriors, with another 300 women and children living among them. Menewa, "the Great Warrior," acted as overall Red Stick commander. It was the most complex defensive works ever built by native Americans.

Jackson had the 39th US Infantry and a couple regiments of East Tennessee volunteers. In addition,
Junaluska, a Cherokee chief, brought five hundred of his warriors, and a hundred Lower Creeks (White Sticks) under William McIntosh showed up. A contingent of Choctaws also joined them.

The regulars from the 39th were in the center and more Tennesseans were on the left. At 10 am, Jackson ordered Coffee to cross the river with his cavalry, Indian allies, and scouts. They made the crossing without the Red Sticks taking notice. Jackson positioned his two artillery pieces 80 yards from the breastwork and opened fire at 10:30. The cannon weren’t meant for this type of mission, and their balls bounced harmlessly off the wall, prompting the Red Sticks to taunt the attackers. Their prophets danced on the roofs of the huts, proclaiming their invincibility and the impotence of their adversaries.

For two hours, the two sides fought to a stalemate. To the south of the village, across the river, the Cherokees became impatient listening to the artillery fire. Many swam the waters of the Tallapoosa under a covering fire from their comrades. There, they captured the Red Stick canoes left on the riverbank, cut them free, and used them to ferry the force across. Soon, one hundred fifty to two hundred White Stick Creeks under William McIntosh and many of Coffee's volunteers had crossed the river as well, capturing the town and setting it on fire. They then advanced into the wooded hills that lay between the town and the rear of the barricade.

Meanwhile. the 39th stormed the breastwork. When Major Lemuel Montgomery climbed to the top; and was instantly shot in the head. Ensign Sam Houston, a neighbor of the Hammontrees back in Tennessee, took his place and received a barbed arrow in the thigh for his troubles. It didn’t stop him, and he leapt down inside the fortification, establishing a foothold for the others. The defenders fired through the loopholes at the attackers; and the attackers thrust their own muskets through and fired back, sometimes muzzle to muzzle. Only now, the Red Sticks had to worry about White Sticks and Cherokees in their rear along with Coffee's volunteers. Soon, the 39th and the Tennesseans had mounted the barricade and swarmed through intense hand-to-hand combat inside the encampment. The Red Sticks fought bravely, but they were overwhelmed. 

+ + +

Pvt. John Hammontree, Capt. John Montjoy's Co. of Foot, 10th Virginia, Continental Line.

James Hammontree's great uncle John enlisted 30 Dec. 1776, shortly after the battle of Trenton, as a private in the Company of Capt. Hughes Woodson, 10th Virginia Regiment of Foot, Continental Line. The 10th Virginia served in Weedon's Brigade, part of the Division of Major General William Alexander, a/k/a "Lord Stirling." John's regiment fought in New Jersey, at Brandywine and at Germantown before encamping at Valley Forge, PA on 19 Dec. 1777. John died there on 24 Feb. 1778.

Pvt. Harris Hammontree, Capt. Wm. Cunningham's Co. of Foot, 1st Virginia, Continental Line.

Harris [or Harrison] enlisted in the 1st Virginia Regiment of Foot, Continental Line and arrived in camp at Valley Forge on 12 Feb. 1778, twelve days before the death of his older brother John. (Today's 276th Engineer Battalion is the lineal descendant to the 1st Virginia.) He would have been drilled and trained by von Steuben, and served as a private in Capt. William Cunningham's Company, under Col. Richard Parker, in Gen. Peter Muhlenberg's Brigade, "Lord Stirling's" Division. The June and July pay records indicate his pay was docked due to illness! His first tour of duty ended in November 1778, so he would have been in the Battle of Monmouth on the left of Washington's line when Cornwallis attacked.. In his second tour of duty, Harrison Hammontree received military pay on 8 Oct. 1779, during which time the regiment picked off two forts guarding New York City.

He would seem to have left the regiment before it was reorganized and sent south to Charleston, where it was captured in toto by the British. Harris served on the western frontier of Virginia, where he was killed fighting the Indians on 25 Jul. 1781.

Whoa, What's This?

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