Still more about Pickett & Jargon discoveries

mount rainier pickett

Oil painting of Mt Rainier by James Tilton Pickett, the Northwest-born Haida son of General Pickett (image credit: Pickett Society)

First, you have Archie Binns.

His 1942 “The Roaring Land” stands in the genre of mid-20th century authors’ history books that read more like novels than textbooks, and he certainly writes in a vivid way about (future Confederate General) George Pickett.

Page 103 has the protagonist receiving a secret message written in Chinook Jargon, which saves him from being apprehended by Union forces:


It’s been pointed out by others that Binns didn’t feel bound by mere accuracy, so let’s not take the above scene as fact. But it may have been inspired by actual events…

We’ve seen several true instances where Civil War-era military men used the Jargon as a secret code, and Pickett’s wife in fact testifies in her biography of him that although she never left the East Coast, he taught it to her to use in this way.

She tells of a relevant note from him around the time of the 1865 fall of Confederate capital Richmond, Virginia:

mrs pickett 01

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page 11

Rumors of the death of the General were credited (I saw by the look in everybody’s face), though no word was said, and I would not ask a question nor let anybody speak to me of him. The last letter I had received from him had been dated the 30th of March, at Hatcher’s Run, the extreme right of the Confederate line at that time. Most of the letter was written in Chinook. This is a quotation from it:

Heavy rains; roads and streams almost impassable. While General Lee was holding a conference with his chiefs this morning a message came from General Fitz Lee, stating that through a prisoner he had learned that the Federal cavalry, fifteen thousand strong, supported by heavy infantry, were at or near Dinwiddie Court-House. This decided the Generals’s plans, and he has placed General Fitz Lee in command of the whole cavalry, Rosser‘s, W.H.F. Lee‘s, and his own, with orders to march upon Five Forks. I am to support with my small force of artillery and infantry this movement and take command of the whole force.

(We’ve read a bit about this letter before, but hadn’t realized it was said to be mostly in Chinuk Wawa; see “General Pickett: ‘Keep Up a Skookum Tum-tum, Dear One’ “.)

There’s more good stuff.

Mrs Pickett also tells (pages 71-72) of putting the Our Father in Jargon into service as a lullaby for the couple’s baby, George Edward Pickett. If that is accurate, it means a newly discovered Chinook Jargon song for us — do any of my readers know of a circa 1865 or earlier tune for singing, instead of reciting, the Lord’s Prayer?

In the Small World Dept., she goes on to tell of a good-looking Jargon-speaking (who knew?!) visitor (the actor, buddy of Edwin Booth, & co-founder of the Shriners, William J. Florence) chatting with her husband, and uses a genuine-sounding name for the Pacific Northwest (sámən-ílihi, ‘salmon country’) that’s also a new discovery for us:

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When his sweet little “ah-ah-ah” accompanying ours grew fainter and fainter, we began to sing in the Chinook jargon the Lord’s Prayer, which my husband had taught to so many of the Indians on the Pacific coast, and which we always sang at the last to make baby’s sleep sound. At the words, “Kloshe mika tumtum kopa illahie, kahwa kopa saghalie” (Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven), from through the open door of the room to our left a voie clear and sweet joined in the same jargon with ours to “Our Father,” and as the last invocation was chanted, “Mahsh siah kopa nesika konaway massachie — Kloshe kahkwa” (Send away far from us all evil — Amen), a handsome stranger stepped out and with outstretched hands said to the General with great cordiality, “Klahowya sikhs, potlatch lemah” (How do you do, friend; give me your good hand). Then followed a conversation between them about the Pacific coast, Fort Vancouver, San Juan Island, Puget Sound, the Snohomish tribe and their many mutual friends of the Salmon Illehe.

William J. Florence’s supposed connection with the Northwest or with Chinuk Wawa doesn’t turn up in my searches of newspapers and books yet. Hmmm.

The above event, incidentally, seems to have taken place following the Picketts’ return from Canada, where they fled after the Civil War due to George’s having committed war crimes.

What do you think?
ata maika tumtum?