I’m currently taking a Survey of American History class, this term focusing on the mid-19th century.
During a discussion of the Oregon Trail, our history professor mentioned that Chimney Rock is approx. 100 feet shorter today than it was in the 1840’s and 1850’s. His explanation, that he claims was told to him by a museum curator when he visited the monument years ago, was:
During WWI the Nebraska National Guard was performing field exercises nearby, which involved target practicing with some sort of Howitzer or other artillery piece. Spotting Chimney Rock in the distance, the guardsmen decided that the spire made a perfect target, and started firing at it instead of whatever their normal target was. After a few rounds hit the tip, causing it to crumble, the guys realized their stupidity and resumed firing at their proper target.
Of course the whole class got a big laugh, but I wanted to call bullshit. I’ve been playing with Google and Bing for a while now and can find no mention of this. Seems like such a thing would be prominently mentioned in history books, but I’m not finding anything. All the mentions of height decrease blame erosion and lightning strikes, which a find hard to believe (although one lightning strike, causing some rock to fall off, was apparently caught on camera some years ago, so it’s not all bunk). The rock is less than 500 feet tall and 35 million years old; it would have eroded into a small mound millions of years ago if it eroded at such a fast rate.
So. Was my professor full of shit?