Volume 1170

Brian Bohnett
Adapted from a PowerPoint presentation given by Mr. Bohnett at Madonna University in 2003

“Circumstances, chiefly. I wasn’t long in finding out that keeping a family on retired captain’s pay is a beggar’s business. I had to go to work, so I took to writing.” 
- Charles King

“My son, Hulbert, had just been born. I had no job, and no money. I had to pawn Mrs, Burroughs’ jewelry and my watch in order to buy food.  I started to write my first story.” 
- Edgar Rice Burroughs
1ST Lieut. Charles King, age 25 (July 1870)

1st Lieut. Charles King, age 25 (July 1870)

King came from a military background. Both his father and grandfather had served in the military. His grandfather, Charles King, was also president of Columbia College, and his great grandfather, Rufus King, was Minister of England and served 20 years as a U.S. Senator.  In 1862, at the age of 17, King received an appointment to West Point from President Lincoln. After graduation from the academy in 1866, he stayed on as instructor of military tactics. 

In his lifetime, King wrote 62 books and a slew of short stories and articles. He spent only a brief time at the academy, but his influence on young cadet Burroughs would last a lifetime. Regarding King, Burroughs wrote:
“That was the famous Captain Charles King, writer of the best army stories ever were written; a man who has been an inspiration to me all my life because of his outstanding qualities as a soldier, a cavalry man and a friend.” 

- Edgar Rice Burroughs 
Edgar Rice Burroughs (Circa 1892)MMA 1892 School Catalog
Edgar Rice Burroughs (Circa 1892)

“When I got home from Andover my father felt that a military school might be a good place for me and so he took me to Orchard Lake, where the old Michigan Military Academy was located and where I spent the next five years.”

- Edgar Rice Burroughs
“Students expelled from other schools need not apply; and, in no case, will applicants be received from other institutions without proper testimonials of good moral character.”
~  MMA 1892 School Catalog

Edgar Rice Burroughs (Circa 1892)
Burroughs found it difficult to conform to the strict discipline of military life. He acted out and had acquired –  as he put it – “ many hours of unwalked punishment that if I had remained there the rest of my life I could never have walked it all…”

“During my plebe year an army officer by the name of Adelbert Cronkhite was commandant for a part of the time. His pet aversion appeared to be plebes. I think that he looked upon us with absolute contempt and loathing. At noon one day, during the winter, he made a speech in the mess-hall. It was to the effect that the plebes were too fresh and that it was up to the old boys to put them in their place.”
“This, coming from the high authority of the commandant of cadets, brought immediate effects, one of which was that immediately after the meal the entire plebe class scattered in all directions, taking to the woods, not only figuratively, but literally. Several of us, I recall, just beat it... whither, we did not know. Any place would have been better than the Michigan Military Academy on that bleak Saturday afternoon.”

Major George Tyler Burroughs (1861)
Major George Tyler Burroughs (1861)

Burroughs also came from a military family. His father, George Tyler Burroughs, was a major in the northern army during the Civil War. While King was anxious to go to West Point, the younger Burroughs was less than enthused about being sent to a military school in Orchard Lake. 

King was short in stature – standing just over 5 feet – but had plenty of courage to make up for his diminutive size. In an 1874 skirmish during the Indian Wars campaign he found himself pinned down by renegade Indians. He was shot in the arm, nearly severing it at the shoulder, and if not for the bravery of a fellow soldier, Sergeant Bernard Taylor, would have surely perished.

“I crept fearfully through the woods, for all the time I heard the cavalry pursuing me... In Pontiac I hung around the railroad yards waiting for the Chicago train. Every man I saw was a detective searching for me and when the train pulled in and the inspectors passed along it with their flares, I knew they were looking for me, but I hid out between two freight cars until the train started.”
- Edgar Rice Burroughs 

April 16, 1892 Telegram
“I think it was the word ‘deserted’ in the telegram that got me, and the next day I was back at Orchard Lake walking punishment. But walking punishment has its compensations, one of which was that the old boys could not subject us to any of the refined and unrefined torture of hazing, which was carried on to an exaggerated extent at Orchard Lake at that time.” - Edgar Rice Burroughs 

April 18, 1892 Letter

“Cadet Burroughs’ offenses have been most serious, but not irretrievably so. He has been reckless; not vicious. He has found friends here including the Commandant, who best knew the boy in the Cavalry squad and on drill, and it is not impossible for him to return and wipe out his past.”

- Charles King 
“...I loved everything military. This little United States Infantry Drill Regulations was my bible and I took great pride in the military correctness and precision of my every act and word when on duty.”
- Edgar Rice Burroughs
Burroughs love of horses grew from the time he spent at his brothers ranch in Idaho, and from his respect of Charles King. He wrote: 
“(I) used to try to emulate him (King). In the riding ring I rode my fool head off and nearly killed myself a couple of times in my anxiety to live up to what he expected of me as a horseman…”

“I was a member of the cavalry troop all the time I was there and received instruction from a number of army officers that has proved extremely helpful to me since, especially after I had enlisted in the regular army. We did a great deal of trick riding in those days... bareback, Cossack, Graeco-Roman and all the rest of it. It was known as ‘monkey drill,’ and if a man did not lose his nerve and quit, he had to become a good horseman.” - Edgar Rice Burroughs 


“The exhibition drill by the Orchard Lake cadets, with saddles and full equipment, was one of the features of the evening. More daring, dashing troopers never lived than are these young men and boys, and their drilling was good…

  “The drill wound up in the manner of the wild west show. Drawing their revolvers the cadets dashed madly around the ring, firing in all directions, and then rallied in the center, after which they left the ring.” 

- Detroit Free Press, April 1893 

“One hundred and twenty-five cadets from the Michigan Military Academy at Orchard Lake, Mich., under the command of Col. J. Sumner Rogers, arrived at the world’s fair grounds today and went into camp on the Midway Plaisance. With their new gray uniforms, their patent leather shoes, their highly-burnished rifles and their soldierly bearing, they turned the heads of half the pretty girls who saw them.” 
- Detroit Free Press, June 2, 1893 

MMA Cadets at the Columbian Exposition

“Down the Plaisance rode Commander Rice in full dress uniform with his aides beside him. Behind him thundered the band of the Michigan Military Academy leading the Orchard Lake Cadets, as trim a body of young fellows as has been seen here in many a year.”

Infanta Eulalie of Spain

“Marching in gray blouses and white trousers, the young soldiers kept a perfect step and alignment, eliciting rounds of applause as they marched by. behind them galloped the Chicago Hussars, escort of honor, and then came the carriages, the committee on cermonies leading. Behind them was the carriage of state, drawn by four horses, in which rode the Infanta, the prince and Mayor Harrison.” 

- Detroit Free Press, June 9, 1893 

Continued in Part II
Recommended book by Brian J. Bohnett
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