During the 1950s there were a plethora of television series produced that were based upon characters from the "Old West". Unlike many other examples of that genre, however, the central figure in "Mackenzie's Raiders", was not only a real character but, if anything, the real character was far more interesting than his screen portrayal. There really was a Ranald (sic) Mackenzie and his real Army career was, if anything, UNDERSTATED in this television representation. John Ford's well known film, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", included the famous line, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." However, in the case of Ronald Mackenzie, the facts were far more remarkable than anything depicted in the television series.
Described by General Ulysses S. Grant as "The most promising young officer in the Army", the REAL Ranald Mackenzie was a Corps Commander in the Union Army at the age of only 24 years. Wounded six times during the Civil War (including the loss of part of his right hand, for which the Native Americans dubbed him, "Bad Hand"), Mackenzie spent the next 18 years after the end of that conflict on active service in the West, much of it in action of one sort or another. In fact, taking into account both his service in the Civil War and in the West, It has been alleged that MacKenzie spent more of his Army carrier in actual combat than any other soldier in U.S. history. Incidentally, note that actor Richard Carlson clearly depicted Mackenzie with all five fingers on his right hand. which indicated that Carlson's depiction of Mackenzie was clearly inaccurate even from that aspect alone.
Unlike the far better remembered George Custer, Mackenzie did NOT lead his troops into disaster. Quite the contrary, Mackenzie was a very successful military commander. So, why is Mackenzie so little remembered today? The reason probably lies in the fact that, during the last five years of his relatively brief life, Mackenzie descended into a state of madness. His condition became so bad that the Army had to retire him from active service, and he spent the last five years of his life in and out of insane asylums. Looking back over the extraordinary carrier of this remarkable soldier, one cannot help speculating that he might well have been suffering from a form of what we now call "post-traumatic stress disorder", a term that did to exist in the 19th century, and that the medical profession of the day knew nothing whatever about.