Archive for March, 2023

My interest in German history was initiated through the words of my father, Allen K. Smail. My father, a World War 2, veteran talked of such things occasionally. We watched the old series, Hogan’s Heroes with laughter. One thing I remember was the mindset of the SS soldiers as he told me. My father who was part of the military police. (MP) would have the occasion to watch over German prisoners. He spoke of the differences between the regular German soldier and the SS soldier.

The German word, Schutzstaffel was abbreviated to the SS. Such men were originally formed to be only dedicated to the armed protection of Adolf Hitler and the NAZI party ideals. One truth I learned from the reading of the above book; The Waffen-SS is one of around twenty separate SS divisions. The Waffen-SS was the combat unit.

Of course, some of the SS units were responsible for the terrible atrocities committed upon the Jewish people as well as many others.

Another interesting aspect of the SS units was as the war progressed conscriptions were being done to supply the numbers. Also, there were men from other countries part of the SS soldiery. even French men. the earliest SS men had to meet certain qualifications including complete loyalty to Adolf Hitler m nd the NAZI war machine even to their deaths. The strictness would be lessened as time moved along during the war.

One story my father told to me concerning the SS was how evil the men were. he said you didn’t dare let down your guard to the SS of the earlier prisoners. They would kill if a chance was afforded to them. remember my dad was an MP, so he was around these soldiers at times. However, he, also, stated later in the war the prisoners were kids and elderly. The young Germans would throw down their rifles upon seeing the American soldiers. My dad said these young people were pests. they loved riding in the jeeps.

I enjoyed the read as I always do on such things and would recommend reading it to anyone interested in World War 2 history.

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Blanket Hill Night- September 7, 1756

Pennsylvania in the mid-eighteenth century was a very much different Pennsylvania than today! Most of the population were to be found east of the Allegheny Mountain range. West of the mountain range was forestlands intermingled with native Indian villages. French soldiers were building forts along the Allegheny River to the dismay of the Bristish and colonists of the colony of Pennsylvania. The French and Indian War was reality by the midcentury beginning in 1754 with George Washington’s force firing on some French soldiers in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The painting shown above has received much interest on another site, so much so, I decided to give a brief story about the event. However, to tell the Blanket Hill event story there is a need to give a few details as to why it happened.

Pennsylvania, at this time, was an ally with England for it was one of England’s colony and not a state until after the War of Independence. The natives of the village of Kit-Han-ne (Present-day, Kittanning, PA.) The Indians located here were mostly of the Lenni-Lenape tribe commonly referred to as the Delaware. They, because of various reasons, allied themselves with the French cause launching raids into the frontier lands of the colony. Upon hearing of any Delaware Indians close would send settlers in a panic traveling as far as Philadelphia with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The threat of death was real!

Moving ahead to the summer of 1756 another event occurred. The defeat of Fort Granville would lead to the above incident. This fort was located near present-day Lewistown, Pennsylvania. The man-in-charge of the fort was Lieutenant Edward Armstrong. This man would be killed in the attack. Note the name!

The lieutenant’s brother was Lieutenant Colonel John Armstrong. This man sought the authorities to launch a raid on the Delaware’s chief village of Kit-Han-Ne. He, obviously, had thoughts of avenging his brother, but, also, wanting to destroy the village, burn their fields and rescue some one hundred prisoners being kept at the village. Some three hundred and seven men began the trek west to accomplish this feat.

Armstrong sent scouts ahead to watch for Indian activity. The scouts found a fire and believed three to four warriors were present. This was on September 7, 1756. The officer placed a Lieutenant James Hogg with twelve men to attack these Indians at dawn. Armstrong continued west towards the Indian town of about six miles away. Horses and baggage were left close to the area, too.

At dawn Hogg’s ordered the attack only to discover there were many more Indians present. A few prisoners gathered at Kit-Han-Ne during the following morning’s attack claimed about twenty-five natives had left the town. No doubt these were the men. The skirmish began!

Lieutenant Hogg’s was wounded twice and would die. Others were killed or wounded. The others took off out of fear leaving their blankets, horses and other gear behind! The battle was a moving skirmish as the Indians searched for the fleeing soldiers. The site became known as “Blanket Hill”. The area is still called this to the day.

My great, great, great grandfather purchased the land in the 1800 era. I was raised a few miles away from the site. I had walked the area in my youth before learning of the actual site of the beginning of the skirmish. In recent years I have hunted and harvested deer with my smoothbore sixty-two caliber and my fifty caliber flintlocks.

The painting depicted above shows four Delaware Indians at the fire the night before the attack at dawn.

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Frank Maus

A better title might be Our Annual Spring Hike since we have had no winter this season and many spring-like days. Regardless, traditionally, this is our winter hike.

My old work friend, Frank “Muskie” Maus and I were planning a hike. He suggested a trail at Crooked Creek, not remembering if he had ever been on the trail. The trail is known as the Longpoint Trail. I am not sure exactly how long this trail is, but it runs alongside of Crooked Creek Lake in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. At the point where the trail turns and begins to circle back is a well-known Bald Eagle nest across the water. I showed Frank the nest and we were fortunate to watch a mature Bald Eagle fly along and land in a tree beside the nest.

The dam was backed upon a little due to recent rainy weather.

The hike yielded many nice natural landscapes. The hike produced some other wildlife to see, too. We saw a Great Blue Heron, Common Mergansers, Canada Geese and I saw a flock of Buffleheads.

We stopped to set on a log and catch up on things when I noticed something white…it was a golf ball! How the ball got in these woods will be forever an unknown.

Afterwards we went to a couple other areas to look things over. One site had a report of another eagle nest. We didn’t believe the words and upon checking we realized no eagle nests were present.

Early leaf buds

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Recently, another spring-like day was being forecasted. A hike was definitely needed, and I elected to do so along Mahoning Creek.

Although the day was to reach into the sixty degrees even seventy degrees the early morning was frosty.

Teasel backlit by the early morning sun.

A most interesting view occurred early when I was able to observe a flock of turkeys fly across the waterways. I had to wonder why they flew across for the very same food supply was on both sides. They are turkeys and turkeys do what turkeys do.

The walk was somewhere between eight of nine miles in total and my old knees and lower back were aching by the time I returned back to the jeep. I had hoped to see a Bald Eagle and I may have seen two immature ones far upstream flying from the trees. I heard a lone gobbler gobbling across the Mahoning but high up the slope.

First Coltsfoot blossom of the year.

Skunk Cabbage

Over the past two weeks I have noticed the Killdeer, Common Grackles and Red-wing Blackbirds are filtering back from their annual migration.

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