Sunday, April 22, 2018

Cathay Williams -- A Buffalo Soldier's Secret

William Cathay enlisted in the United States Army on November 15th, 1866, in St. Louis, Missouri. Cathay signed up for a three-year engagement and was assigned to the 38th United States Infantry Regiment after passing a medical examination.

Shortly after enlisting, Cathay contracted smallpox and was hospitalized. When rejoining the 38th Infantry stationed in New Mexico, Cathay was having problems due to the lingering effects of smallpox complicated by the New Mexico heat.

Of course, as anyone in the infantry can attest to, marching in the heat takes a toll on a person. Coupled with the effects of smallpox, Cathay was hospitalized more often than not. 

It was during one of the stays at the post hospital that doctors finally discovered that William Cathay was actually a woman. Soon the 38th Infantry Regiment Commander was notified of the situation and she was almost arrested if it weren't for her being ill. Once well enough to leave, her commanding officer Capt. Charles E. Clarke officially discharged her from the U.S. Army on October 14th, 1868.

It is believed that two others knew about the deception. One was her cousin and the other a friend. Both of them were also serving as soldiers in the 38th Infantry Regiment.

So who was William Cathay? Well, first of all, while some say she also went by John Williams, the name William Cathay was the name she falsely used to enlist in the Army. Her real name Cathay Williams and she was born a slave in September of 1844 in Independence, Missouri.

During her teen years, she worked as a house slave on a plantation near Jefferson City, Missouri. Then in 1861, after Union troops began their occupation of Jefferson City, she was considered Union contraband. Fact is, during the Civil War, captured slaves were officially designated by the Union as "contraband." 

Many of those "freed slaves" were forced into support roles as cooks, livestock tenders, working doing laundry and other cleaning, to serve the Union Army in ways that would free up troops for battle. The more labor the Union got out of the freed slaves the less the Army needed support personnel. 

It's said that at 17 years of age, Williams was pressed into service in a support role with Col. William Plummer Benton's 8th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment. During that time, Cathay Williams was part of the 8th Indiana. She traveled with that unit, including moving with them on their marches through Arkansas, Louisiana, and Georgia. 

Fact is, she was there at the Battle of Pea Ridge and there during the Red River Campaign. Then she was transferred to Little Rock, Arkansas. After that, she was served in a support role with General Philip Sheridan's command in Washington, D.C.. After the Civil War, she was working at Jefferson Barracks for a time before coming up with the idea to enlist as a man.

At the time, women were forbidden from serving in the military. So when Cathay Williams enlisted in the United States Regular Army under the false name of William Cathay, that was a first for the history books.

After she was discovered and was discharged, life went from bad to worse for her. Right after leaving the Army, she became a cook at Fort Union in New Mexico. She then moved to Pueblo, Colorado, where she met someone and was married. Sadly, the marriage is said to have ended when her husband decided to steal all of her money and their horses. While the marriage was ended, it said she sort of got even by having him arrested. 

In Trinidad, Colorado, she made a living as a seamstress and it's believed that she owned a boarding house for a while. It was about then that the story of her enlisting in the Army as a man and serving as such first surfaced. 

It's believed that a young St. Louis reporter heard stories going around about a woman former-slave who had actually enlisted and served in the United States Regular Army. He located Cathay Williams and she was more than happy to tell him what took place. After the interview, her life story regarding her military service was published in The St. Louis Daily Times. That was January 2nd, 1876.

By the late 1889's, it's said that she entered a local hospital where she stayed for a long time. Some say it was the horrible effects of smallpox. To help pay for her medical needs, she applied for a disability pension based on her military service. That was in June of 1891. A little of two years later on September of 1893, she was examined by a doctor with the U.S. Pension Bureau.

These days when a veteran applies for disability benefits, it's an uphill battle. They say almost everyone submitting for a rating gets denied at first despite the evidence submitted. Well, this is all nothing new. 

Despite the fact that there were records of Cathay Williams contracting smallpox and being in the hospital frequently, and despite the fact that she suffered from neuralgia and diabetes, and that she had to have all her toes amputated, and that she couldn't walk without the use of a crutch, the examining doctor said that she did not qualify for disability payments. The examining doctor said that the nature of her illness and disability were unknown. So yes, her application was denied.

It is believed that Cathay Williams died shortly after being denied a pension in 1893. Sadly, the exact date of her death is unknown as is her grave marker. Some say she was probably buried in some Potter's Field where her maker would have been made of wood. So of course, most like her marker deteriorated long ago. And because of that, Cathay Williams' final resting place is unknown.

While she was the first Black American woman to enlist in the U.S. Army, and the only documented woman to ever serve in the Army posing as a man, here's what needs to be remembered about Cathay Williams: She lied to become an American soldier. She served from 1866 to 1868. She was an Infantry Private in the 38th Infantry Regiment. She was the only known active duty woman to serve as a Buffalo soldier. 

As for the picture of her above? That is a painting of Cathay Williams by William Jennings from the U.S. Army Profiles of Bravery. While it's a wonderful picture, I really believe it's anyone's guess if she really looked like that since there are no pictures of her when she was young and in the Army.

Tom Correa


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Canada's Battle of Belly River


Dear Friends,

A reader in Canada has written to ask me if I can write something about Canada during the Old West. He suggested I look into an Indian battle that took place on the Belly River. Well, I did. And yes, this is what I found.

The Battle of the Belly River took place on October 25th, 1870, in what is present day Lethbridge, Canada, located in Alberta about a 105 miles north of Montana. The battle is considered the last major battle between Indian tribes in Canada. It's also considered the last major conflict between the Iron Confederacy of the Cree and the Blackfoot Confederacy.

The Blackfoot and the Cree were waging war over the control of the Cypress Hills. The Battle of Belly River was the culmination of years of warfare between two people who had nothing in common other than their dislike for each other.

Before Europeans settled in the Canadian West, the prairies were inhabited by two Native Indian alliances. One was the Blackfoot Confederacy. They're said to have been very warlike. They consisted of the northern Blackfoot also known as the Siksika, the Blood Indians also known as the Kainai, the southern Peigan which are also as the Blackfeet, the northern Peigan who are also known as the Piikani and Pikuni Indians, and later to join that Confederacy was the Sarcee who are also known as the Tsuu Tina Indians and the Gros Venture Indians.

With the exceptions of the Sarcee and the Gros Venture tribes, who were the only two unrelated tribes in the Blackfoot Confederacy, all of the other tribes were bound by blood ties and spoke a common language which was Blackfoot. As for their lands, the Blackfoot Confederacy had controlled an area that stretched from west of the Rocky Mountains of Alberta to the east of the Great Sandhills of Saskatchewan, and from the north of the North Saskatchewan River of Alberta all the way south to the Yellowstone River of Montana. They had controlled that huge area for centuries.

The Iron Confederacy was an alliance made up of Plains Cree Indians, Salteaux Indians also known as Plains Ojibwa, Stoney who are also known as the Nakoda, the Assiniboine also known as the Stone Sioux, and it's said that occasionally the Metis Indians were part of the alliance as well. The Iron Conderacy was said to be heavily involved as a sort of middlemen in the fur trade in the 1700s. The Cree were suppliers of pemmican.

Pemmican is defined as "a paste of dried and pounded meat mixed with melted fat and other ingredients." It's actually a concentrated mixture of fat and protein used that was pounded into a paste as a food source. The word comes from the Cree Indian word "pimîhkân" which itself is derived from the word "pimî" which means "fat" or "grease". 

The Cree was the largest tribe in the Iron Confederacy. They moved into western Canada with the Hudson Bay Company in the early-mid 1700's. Even though the Iron Confederacy encroached on Blackfoot lands, since the western Canada plains were traditional Blackfoot territory, surprisingly things started out easy enough with the Iron Confederacy being initially seen as trading partners. Soon the Iron Confederacy was seen as a possible military ally. That didn't work out and when troubles intensified, the two alliances soon became bitter enemies.  

It is said that "mutual antagonism existed between the Blackfoot and Iron Confederacies beginning around 1790 after the Gros Ventures left the Iron Confederacy and joined the Blackfoot Confederacy." This mutual antagonism resulted in a large number of skirmishes. There were also a number of pitched battles between the two on the Canadian plains.

The last of their battles took place along what is today known as the Oldman River on October 25th, 1870. Yes, what was the Belly River is now the Oldman River. As I said before, the battle is known as the Battle of Belly River.

It's said that in 1869 and 1870, there was a massive smallpox outbreak that tore into the Blackfoot. Sadly, that smallpox outbreak reportedly wiped out nearly half of them.

One observer at the time said, "The epidemic left in its wake entire camps of Blackfoot dead lodges." Dead lodges were teepees used as to house their dead. Dr. Kennedy reported that the dead lodges were found all over the Canadian plains.

Chiefs Piapot, Little Mountain, Big Bear and Little Pine of the Iron Confederacy saw the plight of the Blackfoot as the perfect opportunity to wipe them out and expand their territory into the Cypress Hills. Those chiefs saw the Blackfoot as no different than a wound prey. So immediately they raised a war party of about 800 braves. The war party was made up of Cree, Salteaux Indians, and Young Dogs Indians which is said to be a Cree-Assiniboine mix. The war party was armed with bows and arrows, and close combat weapons such as tomahawks and knives. They did have some muskets from their association with the Hudson Bay Company. But seriously, for 1870, they were poorly armed.

When they left camp, they went southeast into Blackfoot territory. They followed the South Saskatchewan River until they had reached about 15 miles northeast of present-day Lethbridge.

There is a legend that says, while reroute to the battle, the Iron Confederacy war party stopped for the night. During the night, elderly Cree Chief Piapot had a dream that predicted the Cree defeat. Supposedly, in his dream, there was a buffalo bull with iron horns that attacked the Cree warriors. Unable to kill the buffalo, the Cree warriors were gored and then trampled to death. It's said that Piapot decided that his dream was an omen of an impending disaster for the Cree.

So in the morning, he told the other Chiefs about his dream, and how that was the reason that he would not have his warriors take part in the battle. Some of the Cree were said to be "troubled" by Piapot's "vision" and in fact decided to return home. In fact, I read where some actually accompanied Chief Piapot back home.

Other Cree saw the Chief's dream as only a dream. They saw the Blackfoot as perfect targets considering how weakened they were because of the smallpox outbreak. Those warriors would not be stopped by what they saw as simply an old man's nightmare.

Once they were in what's known as Coyote Flats about 20 miles northeast of Fort Whoop-Up, the Iron Confederacy war party decided that was the place where to launch their attack on the Blackfoot. The Blackfoot camp was at the Little Bow River, but the Cree Chiefs knew that the Blackfoot hung around Fort Whoop-Up. Fort Hamilton which was built in 1869 was commonly called "Fort Whoop-Up" because the post served as a trading post which included illegal whiskey sales to Indians among others.

Knowing the Blackfoot were there at Fort Whoop-Up, the Cree sent out a scouting party to check things out. When the scouts returned, they reported that a Blood Indian camp was about three miles north of Fort Whoop-Up on the Belly River. While out the scouts stole a few of the Blood's horses.

The Cree Indian scouts failed to report the rest of what was there. Probably because the scouts were too busy stealing horses, but they completely missed the fact that the Blood Indian camp was just a small part of a much larger winter camp of Blackfoot. That winter camp extended for almost 20 miles in every direction. That was one big camp. Sounds like a city.

Besides the small camp, a larger camp of Blood Indians led by Button Chief and Buffalo Back Fat were camped in the same area. Also camped along the river was a small band of well-armed Blackfeet who were armed with repeating rifles, a few needle guns, and revolvers that they picked up from Fort Whoop-Up. Those Blackfoot were led by Mountain Chief, Big Leg and Black Eagle. Some say they obtained those repeating rifles and revolvers before they were driven north into Canada from Montana by American Army Major Eugene Baker and his cavalry.

Also unknown to the Cree was smaller bands of southern Peigan Indians which were led by Chief Crow Eagle. His band was camped with the Blackfoot. So all in all, the combined forces of the Blackfoot, Bloods, and both northern and southern Peigan Indians, matched or exceeded the number of warriors in the Cree, Salteaux, and Young Dogs Indian war party. Also, the Blackfoot were better armed.

On the night of October 24th, the entire Cree, Salteaux, and Young Dogs war party left camp to ambush the Blood Indian camp.

According to one source, "the Crees, on their way to ambush the Blood camp, happened upon two isolated Blood teepees pitched at the base of Temple Hill. The teepees belonged to two Blood families who were travelling to join a different band of Bloods camped along the St. Mary River. Due to exhaustion, the families had decided to camp at the base of the hill rather than complete the journey that night. The Cree killed everyone inside the teepees except for a small boy. After the warriors had left, the boy ended up crawling out of the teepee and making his way to the St. Mary River, where he warned the Bloods of the Cree presence. Sometime that night, the Cree war party arrived at the Blackfoot encampment. A handful of enterprising braves ran into the camp, screaming 'We are here!' They slit the teepees of the sleeping Bloods and slaughtered the residents therein. In the foray, the Cree braves killed a brother of Red Crow who was a great Blood chief who was absent from the river valley at the time, a number of squaws, and- according to Mountain Horse, the son of Mountain Chief who was in a nearby Blackfeet camp at the time of the attack, also several children."

A few Blackfoot women swim across the Belly River towards the main Blood camp in order to sound the alarm. During this, it's said that a Blood Indian woman armed only with a tomahawk killed a couple of Cree warriors. It's also said that the women, and the sounds of gunfire alerts the Blackfoot.

As western artist Charles Marion Russell depicted in his painting above, it was reported that "by daybreak, the river valley was swarming with warriors."

At dawn, the first to arrive was the southern Peigan Indians who came in from the south. Their arrival is said to have had the Iron Confederacy war party making a slow retreat. Soon the Cree neared the Belly River. It was there that they took up a position in a deep ravine. That ravine ran from the river up and onto the prairie.

The formidable Blackfeet force led by Mountain Chief soon secured an opposing position south of the Cree. Then a large number of Bloods, Blackfoot, and northern Peigan, arrived to occupy positions on the northwest and the north side of the prairie. Soon fighting broke out between the Cree and the southern Peigan. Then the Blackfoot and Cree started fighting from dueling ravine positions.

The Cree and south Peigan took positions in two revines that are said to have ran parallel to each other about a 100 yards or more. The ridges of those ravines were separated by a distance that ranged from as close to 30 feet apart to as far as 200 feet away. It's said that the warriors on both sides took up positions at the tops of the ravines after making sure their horses were out of the range of gunfire.

After that, for four hours the battle waged as the tribes exchanged fire. And while rifles were used, they also exchanged arrows, and one report said that some even threw rocks believe it or not. It's said at one point, two southern Peigans on horseback galloped along the ridge to see how many of the Cree enemy were there. One of the warriors was shot and killed. The other is said to have had his horse shot from under him.

During this time the Blackfeet, Blood Indians, and the Peigan from the north, steadily made progress and moved more and more forward until they worked their way around to the south where they could better engage the enemy. When that happened, the rifle fire from the Blackfoot is said to have been too much to endure and the Cree decided to slowly retreat. In fact, the Cree is said to have actually slipped down into the ravine behind their pursuers and head toward the river. All very quietly.

About that time, the Cree were discovered retreating. The story goes that Jerry Potts, who was a Scot-Peigan Indian scout, was scouting around the banks of the southern ridge during the Cree's stealthy retreat. He saw them retreating. Potts is the man credited with signaling to the north Peigan to take action and not let the Cree get away. Legend says that if it weren’t for Jerry Potts that battle might have turned out very different.

The north Peigans did attack the retreating Cree. Close behind them were the Blackfeet and Bloods who did as well.

Soon hundreds of Blackfoot, Blood and Peigan warriors on horseback and even on foot go over the ridge and into the ravine after the Cree. The Cree were cut down and for those who made it out of their position, they were forced up a hill to the north. The Cree with their horses tumbled over the other side in a desperate break for the river. The battle then moved to the western shore of the Belly River at the base of that hill. Blackfoot warrior Mountain Horse later said, "Stabbing and drowning was the order of the day."

Eye-witness accounts describe how Bloods Chief Calf Shirt had arrows in his neck and arm, yet he was still able to kill two Cree warriors with his Bowie knife. While some of the Cree warriors fought and died on the banks of the Belly River, it's said that most actually tried to swim across the river. The Cree that tried to were shot dead by Blackfeet on shore.

There were so many retreating Cree moving across the river that it's said that they look like a solid mass in the river. Subsequently, they were easy targets for Blackfoot who fired from the riverbank and the hill. Jerry Potts is quoted as saying, "You could fire with your eyes shut and be sure to kill a Cree."

It's also said, "the air was thick with gunsmoke while the Belly River ran red with blood."

As for the few Cree warriors that reached the east side of the river alive, close behind were the Blackfoot and the Blood Indians. When the Cree was found on the open prairie, it's said the Blackfoot overtook them and cut them down. The Cree that did try making a last stand on the open prairie east of the river lost 50 of their warriors.

It was after that that a few Cree made it into a strand of trees, they were completely surrounded. Fortunate for Cree warriors, the Blackfeet decided that it was over and simply returned to their camps. Yes, allowing the Cree survivors to return home and tell others what happened there.

The Battle of Belly River was one of the bloodiest Indian battles ever recorded in Canadian history. The Blackfoot Confederacy lost about 40 warriors and had about that many wounded. For the Iron Confederacy and the Cree, it was devastating as the lost between about 300 warriors.

It is said that in 1871, about a year later, the Iron Confederacy sent a peace offering of tobacco to the Blackfeet. Then in the fall of that same year, the Chiefs of the two Confederacies met to make peace. Of course, from what I've read, that didn't stop the small skirmishes or the horse stealing.

Tom Correa

Monday, April 9, 2018

It's a Very Small World

Dear Friends,

Here's a short story about something that happened to me recently. It's something that I have told a number of people about because I still can't completely believe it happened.

We've all heard the term, "It's a small world." The term is commonly used when you're surprised when you meet someone you know at an unexpected place. It also applies when you find out that you share a friend or an acquaintance. That personal connection is a surprise. After all, it's not everyday that we encounter the same people or situation in an unexpected place, or that you have discovered that someone knows a person who you also know.

For example, many years ago, I was working in Washington state when I decided to take a ferry from Bremerton to Seattle. I had been working at the Navy Base in Bremerton and wanted to check out an event in Seattle before heading back home to the San Francisco Bay Area. After leaving my car, I was looking for a trash can to throw away an empty paper coffee cup when I bumped into a friend who owned a restaurant in San Jose, California. Talk about a small world, come to find out, he was on the ferry headed to Seattle to attend the same event that I was.

So where am I going with this? Well, about two months ago, I received a phone call from someone who asked, "Is this Tom Correa who was stationed on the USS Hancock in '74 and '75?" 

Come to find out, it was an old friend who I served with in the Marine Corps over 40 years ago. The last time that I saw him was in 1981. We talked for a while and it was great to hear from him. We caught up a little, but mostly I was curious about how he found me and got my number? 

I was flattered when he said that he and another mutual friend who I also served with were looking for me for a while. I was a little surprised when he said that he found me, my phone number, my address, and had even seen a satellite view of my home and property on Google maps. 

We talked about getting together, and about coming up for a visit.  Really, it was great to hear his voice and remember how close we were back in the day. 

We planned on getting together and making that happen in a few weeks since I had responsibilities that I couldn't get out of pertaining to a Chili Cook Off at our American Legion Post up here in beautiful Glencoe. Our post was doing the Cook Off on Saturday because we were boycotting the NFL and subsequently the Super Bowl. 

On the day of our post's Chili Cook Off, beings that I'm our post's 2nd Vice Commander, I'm responsible for events and such, so I had to work behind the bar for a while to get things started until the regular bartender showed up. I was behind the bar telling a story about something or other when in the door walks my two old Marine buddies who I have not seen '81. Yes, almost 40 years ago.

Both friends brought their wives with them. It was great to see them. I had known my one friend's wife as I was actually at their wedding in Half Moon Bay back in 1978, if I recall correctly. I had never met my other friend's wife. 

Soon we started talking about some of the things we did in the old days and how it was amazing that we were still alive. These two men were my best friends when I was 18 years old. We were Marines. We were stationed together and went overseas together. It was as if the years disappeared when we talked and laughed about how it was.

One of the reasons that I started this blog back in 2010 was that I found my memory not as sharp as it was. Talking with my friends, I found that I have sadly forgotten a lot of things that I wish I hadn't. 

So now, as I said before, I've known one of my friend's wives but not the other. Frankly, I didn't know my other friend's wife at all. All I was told on the phone is that he married a great gal who was originally from Hawaii. 

Many years ago I had a very good friend from Texas. Whenever he met another Texan, all of a sudden his Texas drawl got a little deeper. Well, that's the same thing as what happens when I meet people who are also from Hawaii. All of a sudden, I find that I don't have to pay as much attention to speaking proper English and I slip into what is commonly known back home as "Pidgin English."

As with everyone who meets someone who is from the same place where you originated, you ask what town and how long have you been away and other questions to find out if maybe you have more in common. Well, after talking to my friend's wife, I found out that she was from the same island that I was from, and that her grandparents lived near where my grandparents lived.

Hawaii has a lot of people but some of the families have been there forever, or came over on the same boat so to speak. Well, I asked her a little more about her family. She told me what he maiden name was and I found that interesting because it was the same as my paternal grandmother's maiden name. Yes, my dad's mom's maiden name which is not a common Portuguese name in Hawaii.

We talked a little more, but then I got sidetracked with post duties. In between doing this and that for the post, I sat with my old friends and we visited as much as we could. Since they had a long way to drive, before leaving we talked about getting together again soon. Hopefully very soon.

That following week, I called my friends to make sure they knew just how much I appreciated seeing them again. When talking with my friend whose wife is from Hawaii, I hear her in the background say, "Hi Cousin!" 

So I said to him something to the effect of  "Cousins because we're from the same island?"

My friend then tells me that if my grandmother's first name was such and such, and if she had something wrong with her arm, then you two are Second cousins. Fact is, he could probably hear the shock in my voice. I told him that he was correct about my grandmother's first name and that she did in fact have a bad arm from a stroke that she suffered in the 1940's. 

My old friends came back up to Glencoe in early March for a bar-b-q, but sadly my newly found Second Cousin couldn't make it back up because of another commitment. She did sent a note. In the note, she asked if my dad's name was "Clifford" and that he had something wrong with his jaw. If so, it is guaranteed that we are Second Cousins.

Well, my day's name was Herman Clifford Correa. Everyone called him "Clifford". As for his jaw? Beings that there were no tetanus shoots back in 1929, because of tetanus my dad had suffered from lockjaw all of his life. 

So now, let's talk about it being a very small world. It is a fact that my old friend who I haven't seen in almost 40 years has been married for almost 30 years to my Second Cousin. Yes, a Second Cousin who I didn't know I had.  

What's the odds of something like that happening? A friend of mine who I was very close to back in 1974 and 1975 when we served together in the Marine Corps, a man who I haven't seen since 1981, met and married a wonderful gal, and then in 2018 after they have been married for almost 30 years finds out that she's my Second Cousin. I would think the odds are astronomical that anything like that could happen.

But, it has. And now, now I get to know my new cousin and a part of my dad's side of my family that I really didn't know before. While I'm still shocked that this has happened, I feel absolutely blessed. Yes, especially knowing that my old Marine buddy is now really part of my family! Incredible as it is!  

By the way, in the note that she sent me was a picture of her grandfather. Come to find out, her grandfather and my grandmother were brother and sister. Imagine that for a small world.

Tom Correa


Friday, April 6, 2018

Insane Gunmen In The Old West?

Dear Friends,

With all of the talk these days about gunmen who may or may not be insane, a few of my readers have written to ask if there were such killers in the Old West? Well, sadly there were crazies even back in the day.

Of course, gunmen such as John Wesley Hardin and Killer Jim Miller were psychopaths. But they weren't crazy. Psychopathy is considered a personality disorder, but not a mental disorder. Psychopaths are said to be completely detached from emotions such as guilt and empathy. Bottom line is they had no conscience or compunction when it comes to killing. That lack of feelings of guilt or having any sort of moral scruples is what really defines many of hired killers and badmen in the Old West.

The difference between them and someone who is truly insane or "crazy" is that the term insanity usually describes what is termed a "psychotic-like break with reality." Fact is that's not the same as someone suffering some degree of "mental illness" such as for example constant anxiety problems over excessive and often irrational worry about paying the bills or finishing a project on time.

While some folks make the mistake of calling an insane individual "mentally ill," or say he or she suffers from "mental illness," in reality that's no correct at all and they really should not be lumped together. True mental illness in it's many degrees is nothing new to the world, but it's certainly different than having a psychotic-like break with reality and being insane. In actuality some experts believe mental illness, which can include an array of problems including depression or say being able to sleep the whole night, is falsely being lumped together with things that it shouldn't be. It gives people the impression that all "mental illness" is that same when it's not.    

Below is an interesting example of a gunman and killer who was deemed insane. Although, there were those at the time who thought he may have been faking it to avoid being hanged.

The story comes from the archives of The Silver City Enterprise which was a newspaper that was operated in Silver City, New Mexico, from 1882 to 1987. It's publisher was W.A. Leonard & Co. 

A DOUBLE TRAGEDY 
March 6, 1891

A most lamentable double tragedy was en- acted at Bald Knob on the 17th instant. On train No. 53 there was a passenger by the name of John W. Graeter, who had exhibited signs of insanity to such an extent that Pullman conductor E. W. Leach, in whose car Graeter was, spoke about the matter, saying he was afraid that he (Graeter) would harm some one before they would get through. It was not known where he was going, but no harm was done until after the Memphis train had got in and “53” had taken on the passengers for the south and was pulling by the station. 

When not more than ten rods from it, bystanders on the platform saw the brakeman and Pullman conductor run out of the Pullman car, and following them was a man with a pistol in his hand, and to the horror of those in sight they saw the pistol leveled on the conductor and fired. 

It was seen at once that the conductor was shot, for immediately he began to totter and soon fell from the platform. After falling he was dragged 200 yards by the bell rope, which had in some way become wrapped around his arm. When he was reached he was about dead, giving only two or three groans. 

The train was still running, and would not have stopped had not the hostler of the engine that brought in the Memphis train realized the situation and blowed the “down whistle,” upon which the train pulled up. When the crowd reached the train it was found that another man had been shot as he was sitting in his seat. 

When an effort was made to enter the car, Graeter was laying flat in the car with two pistols by his side, and it was some time before he could be taken from the car, as it was supposed he was insane, and no one cared to make an effort for his capture unless the drop could be obtained. For three-quarters of an hour efforts were made to get the advantage of him without success. 

At last a ruse was resorted to and he was told that unless he threw out his pistols the coach would be set on fire. The threat had the desired effect, as he said he would surrender if promised protection. This was assured him, and he threw out his pistols and came out. He was put in the calaboose, and though under a great mental strain, seemed to know what he wanted, having telegraphed for his brother, at Vincennes, Indiana, where he is interested in the street car lines. He also wanted a good lawyer. He is genteely dressed, and has over $200 with him, besides a watch and jewelry. He talks about having to do what he did, as he said Meier and Leach had threatened to kill him. 

There was but four persons in the car at the time, the murderer, John W. Graeter, of Vincennes, Indiana; Mr. Isador Meier, traveling salesman for Foster, Hilson & Co., Thirty ninth street. New York; E. W. Leach, the conductor, and a lady. 

What makes the killing of Meier especially so sad is the fact that he had came in on the Memphis train and had been in the car not over twenty minutes when the fatal shots were fired into his head, and all the while he sat in his seat unconscious, the blood and brains were flowing from his horrible wounds. 

The coroner’s jury is now at work on the case. Excitement, which was high for a time, is now allayed. Isador Meier was taken to Judsonia on the same train on which he was shot, arriving there about 1:30 p.m. He was placed in the hands of skillful company surgeons, but their work was of no avail, as he died at 4:30 p.m., two bullets passing through his head. 

John W. Graeter, the murderer, was taken to Searcy, the county seat of this (White) county by the sheriff this morning. He is a pitiful sight, his every look and movement showing that he was insane. Every person who approaches he calls upon to protect him and begs them to be his friend. There is no doubt but that Graeter will be put in some asylum as soon as he is examined by a physician.

Graeter comes from one of the first families of Indiana, and is estimated to be worth $80,000. The verdict of the coroner was in accordance with the facts as stated in yesterday’s dispatch. The J. W. Graeter above referred to is almost undoubtedly the same man who was a partner of L. D. Miller in this city in 1885.

He came here from Vincennes, Indiana, where his father and sister then resided. He frequently boasted that his business here was only a side issue and that his father was very wealthy. While here he frequently indulged in heavy drinking and gambling sprees, and at such times was cross and quarrelsome. 

While staying at the Broadway hotel he raised a great disturbance one evening while under the influence of liquor. Mr. Durkee, who was a friend of Graeter’s, went into the room where Graeter lay on a bed in the dark and tried to have him keep quiet. 

Without warning of any kind he fired two shots at Mr. Durkee from a revolver, both bullets passing close to his abdomen and lodging in the wall, where the holes may yet be seen. 

Mr. Durkee believes Graeter to have been insane while under the influence of liquor, while others here believe those fits to have been simply an outlet of his pure cussedness, under the guise of drunkenness, and still further believe that his recent murderous freak was of the same nature and from the same cause, insanity only being a dodge to escape punishment.

-- end of article from The Silver City Enterprise, March 6th, 1891.

The last paragraph tells us a lot about how things change yet stay the same. What I'm talking about is how there were those folks even back then who realized that there are bad people who would try to "feign insanity" and use an insanity plea to escape being taken out and hanged. In the case of Silver City in 1891, if a jury decided to place him in an asylum for the criminally insane, that murderer would certainly have escaped a rope.

Tom Correa

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Parkland Students Unhappy With Their Security

The same school children who said they wanted something done to save their lives, don't like the beefed up security at their school. The security which includes check points and having to use clear backpacks has the children there very unhappy.

Now the kids say that they feel like they're in prison instead of school. Some are saying that they are being treated worse than livestock because of the metal street barricades. Basically, they are not happy with the results of their protests.

Some of the same leaders of the "March For Our Lives" protest that took place recently showed their lack of maturity by filling their now mandatory clear backpacks with tampons in an effort to say that their privacy is being infringed upon. Of course why a High School boy in Florida would have tampons in his backpack is a question for others to answer, that's not for me to guess about the habits of High School boys in Parkland, Florida.

Never mind that the clear backpacks were made mandatory after knives were found to have been smuggled into the school. Never mind that this is just a step in providing them more security. And as for the irony of these children are now protesting the security there school is providing, never mind that this is what they themselves demanded during their protests.

Many now realize that their demands for security and to live was all a fraud. It's being said that they didn't want to be safe and secure, and that all they really wanted was to get political and ban guns. That they wanted a type of rifle taken away from every American gun owner because they knew what was good for all of us. And frankly, that makes sense to me since I believe that they were told that the problem was the AR-15 rifle that the killer used. Not the killer or his mental state or the lax security, but the AR-15 rifle itself.

Some say those kids drank the Kool-Aid and followed the Liberal Left as if the Democrat Party, George Soros, Nancy Pelosi, and Charles Schumer, were all Pied Pipers. They screamed for gun control under the guise that they were interested in saving lives and being secure. It was all just a lie. Yes, a complete fraud.

They had no interest in being secure. They only wanted gun control, a gun ban, and the repeal of the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution. Bravo to the Liberals who convinced those children that a piece of machinery, a rifle called an AR-15, was the problem instead of focusing on the root cause which was the killer himself. Bravo to those ignorant individuals who influenced children to accept the lie that a tool, a gun, a rifle, specifically an AR-15, somehow grew legs and assaulted that school in February.

Thankfully the idea of being safe and banning a single type of rifle and calling it good is not how it works in life. Thankfully there are adults in Parkland Florida who don't see waiting for a gun ban of a single style of rifle as a sane and practical alternative to keeping children safe.

What those children want will not keep anyone alive and well. The reason is that wanting a ban, which may or may not ever take effect again, will not provide an once of security for them. Whether the children like or not, even if it were possible to take away every one of the millions of AR-15 rifles in the entire world, that in itself would do nothing to ensure that someone does not attempt to harm students in some way with some other weapon.

How do I know that? How am I so sure of that? Since it was authorized for sale to civilians in 1964, there have been a number of school shootings yet only two were committed using AR-15 rifles. All of the rest were done with shotguns, semi-automatic rifles, lever action rifles, bolt action rifles, handguns, knives, etc, and so on. 

Since these students in the Parkland, Florida, school are not mature enough, responsible enough, nor knowledgeable enough to buy a firearm, what makes anyone in their right mind think they are mature enough or experienced enough to know what they need in the way of security measures? What professional training or even experience have they had that says they are now experts on guns or security needs? No, being near where a crime takes place does not make anyone a gun expert nor a security professional. They simply don't know what it takes to stay secure in the way that they demanded they be protected.

The victims of the Parkland shooting are those who were killed and wounded. The victims were not those who were led away safely by wonderful caring teachers. The killer was the man who showed up and did the killing, who did the harm, who did the act. The killer was not the gun he used. Sadly, the children there are not talking about the killer for one reason or another. Some say they don't want to face the fact that they are partly responsible for making Cruz want to come back to that school and do such a horrid thing. Some say it's simply easier to blame a rifle and not the user.

Security doesn't work that way. A good security evaluation cannot pick and choose what it wants to look at and what it doesn't want to look at. In a good security evaluation, everything needs to be examined. Yes, that means access, identification methods, property being brought in and out by way of the kids and the adults, and among other things that means looking at vulnerable areas including the possibility of threats by the students and administrators themselves.

People don't talk about it much for one reason or another, but the fact is that there have been a number of school shootings where adults have entered the school for no apparent reason to shoot people there. And yes, there have also been killers who were part of the school staff here and there.

We tend to think of school shooting as guns doing the killing. But the fact is, most school shooting are kids killing other kids. That's simply more the case. And of course, to keep as many people as safe as possible against the possibility of an attack, measures limiting access and ensuring weapons are not brought on campus need to be taken. We've already talked about how the school discovered knives and other weapons being brought into the schools, so not the are having the kids use clear backpacks. With the metal detectors, check points and barriers, these are all good first steps in providing the kids with good security.

Next, the school may want to limit access to areas formerly open to all. Areas need to be placed off limits or used with a pass system. The schools there need to get Identification Cards and update information as to who is forbidden from entering the school grounds. Access lists need to be updated and measures need to be changed periodically so that returning students have a hard time coming back to reek havoc on those that they have problems with. In the case of the February 14th shooting, the killer was a former student who knew exactly what the security measures were. Subsequently he was able to gain entry and find his targets fairly easily.

The most controversial aspect of securing schools is that the schools may want to have students undergo and clear background checks. Especially right now before returning to school there. High School kids with felonies may not want to be allowed back on campus. And since these days children are routinely being provided with an array of medications that have a number of side-effects including rage and suicidal tendencies, finding out who is on medications and for what reason would be helpful information when looking at students as potential threats. And like it or not, since students are killing other students, they need to be looked at more as a threat than mere children these days.

Since no one knows what is the exact intent of those sick individuals who act out to harm others, precautionary discussions with troublemakers and rebellious students are sometimes carried out. As stated before, to keep all as safe as possible against any attack, measures have to be taken limiting access and ensuring weapons are not brought on campus. So to allow questionable children on campus may be a problem when it comes to limiting access of a potential threat. If maintaining peace and the health and welfare of others there is the objective, then the behavior and history of some students needs to be looked at.

I've read where some inner-city schools actually request psychological examinations of female students who shave their heads, boys who identify themselves as transgender, and gays who appear violent or self-destructive. Besides psychological testing, those individuals are assessed for anger issues and questioned as to whether or not they have violent thoughts toward others. Since not everyone sees a gay youngster as being normal, other kids may have problems with their choice of "self-identifying" as something other than what they are. This can lead to conflicts and should be known to administrators.

Also, students who declare themselves "Leftist" or some sort of extremists who worship and celebrate mass murderers such as Che Guevara by wearing t-shirts with his image and others are at times questioned. Students who agree with the Communist tactics of Stalin and Mao who exterminated millions of their political opponents are talked with. These students may see others who love America and our Capitalist system as enemies. They therefore may see others as potentially future targets. Knowing how violent ANTIFA has been, no one should rule out an ANTIFA member in school. This is especially true if they feel the need to act out their aggression toward anything not in agreement with their ultra-Liberal or Leftist political philosophy.

During any security evaluation, deviant behavior such as glorifying mass murderers such as Che Guevara or the Aurora Colorado theater killer for example may be red flags of violent intentions. Red flags that are no different than finding out that a child spends a great deal of time watching violent videos, has an unhealthy obsession with death, studies how to built bombs, or is consumed with how to use weapons to commit a crime.

As for those who say that these measures are extreme? Let's remember that during their "March For Our Lives," the children protested and demanded that adults do what's needed to save their lives. After all, they said the loss of just one child is too much. I agree and the responsibility for their security sits with the School Districts.

While the Parkland, Florida, children say they would rather remain defenseless against an armed intruder and not arm their administrators, other schools across the nation have ignored the wishes of naive children and did what was needed to confront a threat. The result is that many lives have been saved doing so across the nation. We don't hear about guns in the hands of administrators or a school officer because that would be counter productive to the gun control agenda.

As for the measures that I mention above, schools in the inner city have had many of those measure already instituted for years now. The schools in Parkland, Florida, should do the same to provide the security needed to prevent another mass murder from taking place. While schools in general need to stop being "soft-targets" as a result of lax security, the schools in Parkland need to do what they can simply because they have learned that they cannot depend on their Sheriffs Department to act when needed.

Schools need to act even if it ruffles a few feathers of children who are now feeling indignant about the security that's being provided to them. Whether students are unhappy or not should not be a concern to administrators. The concern school administrators should be to never again have to explain to another parent how they didn't do enough to keep their child safe.

That's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Let Me Make This Clear

Dear Readers,

I really do try to answer as much email as I can. Some of you have written to ask why I don't write about politics as much as I used to? As many of you know, while I've said that this is also a place to celebrate Conservative politics, I've stayed away from politics recently. In reality I've focused more on my love of history, especially Old West history, then politics lately.

I did write a blog right after the Parkland Florida school shooting which I said why I think we as a society should be teaching morals and values in schools instead of Liberal indoctrination and using kids as political activists. I stated that we should especially be teaching the Golden Rule of treating others as we ourselves would like to be treated.

I mention how we should teach the value of human life. Of course, I immediately got all sorts of hate mail regarding "the need for abortion." As hard as it is for me to believe, a few angry writers told me that "children being killed by a gunman is a separate subject and completely different from children being aborted by a doctor."

I think they say it's different to make themselves believe it is. After all, shouldn't all lives matter? Or really, do we now live in a world where the lives of High School students matter more than a baby about to be born? That seems callous. At what age do people get the distinction of mattering or not?

As for mattering, all lives matter except for those who take the lives of others in a criminal act. And frankly, I'm tired of being told that guns are an evil when in fact guns are just tools. They are just a piece of machinery. They have no soul. They have no personality and are not crazed. Of course the psychopath who became known as the "Son of Sam Killer" claimed his a handgun "told him to kill people." But friends, he was a psychopathic killer. And frankly, I always thought he came up with that line of crap to get off on an insanity plea.

Fact is we use guns to keep all sorts of people and places safe everyday. We use guns to defend lives everyday. We use guns to stop rapes, assaults, robberies, burglaries, car thefts, home invasions, to combat drug violence, to defend against a number of threats including from abusive husbands who have threatened to kill their wives and and children.

We all know the President of the United States has armed security, people trained in the use of guns to stop assassination attempts on himself and his family. We have similar protection for Senators, Congressman, and State officials such as Governors and Judges. Court rooms have armed security, so do banks, office buildings, hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, factories, parks, and countless other venues that require armed security. Ever go to a concert and not see armed security, or a sporting event that doesn't have armed security? Of course not.

So why is it that School Districts don't spend the needed funds and increase the security on schools in their districts? Some do as they know that it's ultimately their responsibility to do so. But why is it that others don't and schools don't have the armed security guards that a concert or a football game does? Why is it that we allow city buildings such as city hall, and state buildings even as low on the totem pole as the Department of Motor Vehicles to have armed security, but not schools?

It is not the President of the United States' job to make sure that our High Schools here in Calaveras County have security. It is not up to Congress to show up and make sure that our High Schools here in Calaveras County has security guards patrolling the campus. It's the same with all of California and the other states.

Across the United States there are about 90,000 Elementary Schools, and there just as many Middle Schools. They are 26,407 public High Schools and 10,693 private High Schools. That's according to the Digest of Education Statistics from 2001.

The largest number of public secondary schools were California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, and New York. There are 4,495 high schools in California alone. That number is made up of 3,523 public schools and 972 private schools. California ranks as the 1st state in terms of student enrollment and 1st in terms of total number of schools. California is almost dead list in quality of education, but that's a topic for another day.

My point is we are not a Communist Government where a Centralized Supreme Command attempts to supervise our every move. Thank God, we have individual states. Each state has counties, or in the case of Louisiana it has parishes instead of counties. Each county, or parish, has School Districts or a form of such that cares for the schools in their area of responsible.

So when I say it is not the job of the President of the United States to make sure our High Schools or our Middle Schools or our Elementary Schools have security, it's just a fact. It's not his or the rest of the Federal Government's job. Locally, the responsibility of securing schools falls to each state and then to each county. It's at the county level that School Districts should be working with their County Sheriffs Office to ensure that the school administrators at the individual school have security. It is up to them to provide armed security.

What does armed security do? It meets the threat with comparable force.

So now, people can go to Washington D.C. and scream until the cows come home, but frankly they're talking to the wrong set of bureaucrats. If they are really concerned about the lives of students, then they should be talking to the people in charge of security for those students. And frankly, Congress and the President aren't the ones who need to be talked with because it's not their responsibility.

In the case of the Parkland, Florida, shooting which took place in February, students and teachers and administrators organized to confront the President and Congress about gun control. Why? Because they wanted to make it a "gun control" issue and steer it away from the reality of the problem being a "security issue."

Please understand, those same people did not confront their School District regarding the lack of security provided to the schools there. They have not yet confronted the Broward County Sheriffs Department about their incompetence regarding their not taking action in regards to the gunmen who could have been arrested for making "terrorist threats." If the suspect had been arrested for that crime alone, then he would have never been able to commit the crime nevertheless get a legal firearm. And no, they have not really talked about the lack of response, some say "cowardice", that's built into the Broward County Sheriffs Department's response plan.

So now, we have children, children, who cannot legally own and/or purchase firearms calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment of the Constitution. And sadly, we do not have adults who have the guts to tell those children that they need to address security problems in their school systems before attempting to rewrite our Constitution.

As insane as it is, this is the first generation of Americans to have actually marched in protest to demand that the United States government TAKE AWAY their Constitutional rights. And as insane as it is, there are politicians and others wanting to push a no-gun agenda for America who are supporting these children.

Right now, because of these children and the fact that Liberals want to seize the opportunity to further their anti-Gun agenda, there is a move to lower the age of gun ownership in America to 21 years of age.

Let me make something clear, this isn't right. We ask young Americans, both male and female, to serve our nation by joining the military. Right now a member of our armed forces cannot have a beer during lunch with his family at a restaurant in many states. He or she is old enough to sacrifice his or her life for us, but many states believe they are not old enough to consume alcohol. Imagine the hypocrisy!

So now, by raising the age limit to purchase and own guns, we have people in our society who are saying you're not mature enough, nor knowledgeable enough, nor responsible enough to own guns, but you in our military can die for us on the battlefield. The hypocrisy of the Left has no bounds! Fact is, by raising the age limit, the law would make it impossible for mature and responsible and very knowledgeable Americans serving in our military to exercise their rights of gun ownership. Yes, raising the age like would forbid them rights that they are willing to fight to preserve and protect for you!

These children are either being duped or being used by the anti-Gun crowd, but either way they are now appearing on television to give us their "wisdom" regarding banning guns. Please understand that these children who are not mature enough, nor knowledgeable enough, nor responsible enough to own guns are wanting to make gun policies for the entire nation. And worse, their are Democrat politicians using these children to actually talk seriously about a repeal of the Second Amendment of our Constitution.

Friends, they blame guns but not the shooters. They haven't figured out that it's students killing other students. The students who are doing the killing are in many case their outcasts, those bullied, those scorned, those shunned in schools. Yes, their creations.

Instead of raising to legally purchase a firearm to 21, how about we lower the age of those who can be tried as adults? Instead of wanting to ban guns, how about we ban bullies and have students treat each other with respect in schools?

The problem is not a gun problem. It is not even a mental health problem. It is a security problem. Fact is, guns and mental health issues are external problems that proper security protects against if addressed properly.  To scream about guns and anything else is just passing the buck and not doing one's job of providing the best security one can for our children. Yes, something that the NRA has endorsed for years now. 

So people on the Left can make the NRA and guns the enemy. As they surely will. But none of what they say, or more accurately try to convince us of, is true. Their attempt to get you to focus on guns and other external problems is meant to divert your attention from their failures such as securing schools or having police departments that do something when told that threats have been made. 

Students are returning to their schools to shoot the people they see as being the one's responsible for tormenting them, shunning them, bullying them. Students are returning to schools where they know the security formats, and subsequently avoid them, to shoot those who they see as their enemies. Should students who created these wannabe killers take some responsibility for creating the problem in the first place?

Instead of wanting to repeal the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution, how about we teach our children why we have the 2nd Amendment in our Constitution in the first place. Why not teach them the errors of those who gave up their arms and became slaves of the state? Why not teach them why Communism failed and Venezuela is confiscating guns right now? Why not teach these know-it-all kids history of countries who didn't have the means to defend themselves against criminals or tyranny?

Friends, like all of us, I've seen a wonderful groundswell of support for Conservative ideals, for Republican candidates that are not Republicans in name only, for bringing back Christian values that we need so badly, for the love and support of President Trump who wants us all to put America first. And even though everyone knows that I support all of this, I find that you're writing me to ask where I stand on these issues? Yes, including that which pertains to attempts at repealing the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution.

So let me make this clear. Here's where I stand.

I swear to Almighty God that I will work against, campaign against, vote against, and actively oppose, anyone, any member of either party, both politician and donor, Democrat or Republican, who supports gun control. I will oppose anyone who attempts to impose further restrictions on gun ownership by raising the legal age limit to 21. I will oppose anyone who attempts to impose further limitations on our ability as citizens to own and purchase guns to defend ourselves against criminals or a tyrannical government. I will oppose anyone, no matter what caste, who supports and encourages the repeal of the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. So help me God.

That's where I stand. So help me God.

Tom Correa


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Crooked Herd Books & Old Buck

Trail Herd, engraving, E. Boyd Smith
Dear Friends.

I'm happy to say that some of you have me researching some things that I really wouldn't have thought about looking into. For example, a reader just wrote asking about an episode on the television show Bat Masterson. No kidding!

I get email asking me a lot of general questions about The Rifleman and Have Gun Will Travel because I wrote a couple of posts about those shows. But frankly, this is the first time that I've gotten a request to look into a specific episode of a particular show. As many of us know, the television Western Bat Masterson ran from 1958 to 1961. The episode that my reader is asking about, come to find out, is titled "A Grave Situation" which aired on May 12th, 1960.

In that episode of Bat Masterson, Bat's good friend and railroad tycoon Hugh Blaine is swindled in a land and cattle sale. Blaine hires Masterson to get his money back and bring the con-artists to justice. Of course Bat Masterson was played by actor Gene Barry, and Hugh Blaine was played by Howard Petrie. In the Bat Masterson episode, "A Grave Situation," the swindle entails a cattle buyer counting the same cattle over and over again.

So now, my reader wants to know, "Could that have ever really happened in real life, or is this just the imagination of a Hollywood script writer?" The short answer is yes it did really happen. Not only did it happen, but in fact it happened more than once.

Livestock record keeping today entails computer apps and spread sheets and all sorts of recording keeping. Today, ranching is more of a science than ever before. That's especially true on bigger cattle operations. Most big operations today use computers for everything from employee management and tracking crops, to hay sales and all sorts of aspects of raising cattle.

While some outfits still use books, back in the day when every ranch used books, it wasn't unheard of for a ranch to have two sets of herd books. As for falsifying herd books to show that a cattle rancher had more cattle on the books than there actually were on hand? That was something that was done in the Old West. As for a swindle where the buyer is lead to count the same cattle a few times over? That was something that was done as well.

Fact is in many cases the fraud that was taking place wasn't discovered until later. For example, by the late 1870's and early 1880's, there was a cattle boom taking place. It was a cattle boom that spanned our nation from Texas in the South to Montana in the North. It was even felt out West in California. This boom, like that of any gold or silver boom, attracted many Eastern and European investors.

Then came the winter of 1886. After a few years of a horrible drought, on November 13th, 1886, it started to snow and continued to snow for an entire month. By mid-December, a thaw turned that snow into slush. Then, by end of that December, the temperature fell to the minus 30's. It's said that change in the weather turned the slush into a solid sheet of ice. By January of 1887, temperatures became "the coldest in memory." Of course, a 72-hour blizzard didn't help things either.

It was known as the big "Die Off." It was devastating to the cattle industry. In many cases, ranchers lost everything. For many of the big ranches, they lost most of their calves and anywhere from a quarter to a third of their entire stock.

While in Wyoming years ago, I was told a story about a rancher in Cheyenne who is credited with saying, "Cheer up boys, whatever happens, the books won't freeze."

Knowing that herds were often sold by "book count" rather than the actual head count was probably a comfort to the unscrupulous. It was during that time when a number of cattle companies contended that the "herd books" had been falsified. All that meant was that the actual number of cattle did not represent what the ranch had on the books.

In some cases, partners were actually exposed as cheats. For example, it's said that John C. Coble of Tom Horn fame is believed to have kept a second set of herd books which his business partner Henry C. Bosler didn't know about.

Then there's the story of the Rocking Chair Ranch. It's said that the 200,000-acre Rocking Chair Ranch located in the Collingsworth County, Texas, was bought by Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks in 1883. After his death in 1894, the ranch was turned over to his son Sir Edward Marjoribanks and his son-in-law Sir John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon who owned the Rocking Chair until 1896. John Campbell Hamilton Gordon, who was the Earl of Aberdeen Scotland, would later became the Governor General of Canada.

Archibald John Marjoribanks, the youngest son of Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, was sent to Texas to work as the assistant ranch manager and bookkeeper. Archibald was not paid by the ranch but his father gave him a living allowance of about $600 a year. In the summer of 1887, Archibald was known to be living in a one-bedroom wood frame house that he shared with the ranch manager who was a man by the name of J. John Drew.

The closest town to the Rocking Chair Ranch was renamed Aberdeen at the suggestion of Archibald Marjoribanks. It's true. The community was named for the Earl of Aberdeen. It's said a post office was established at Aberdeen in 1889, and remained in operation until 1942. By the way, the Rocking Chair Ranch foreman J. John Drew became the first postmaster.

In 1890, the year Collingworth County was organized and with that the Aberdeen Townsite Company was formed. Soon it had a hotel, a livery stable, and a blacksmith. In 1891, the first store opened which was operated by Judge Edward H. Small. It's said that in addition to his job running the store, that he was also a doctor and acted as the local banker. The Rocking Chair had a hand in trying to establish the town as it sold lots, and established a grocery store and helped to establish a school.

When Aberdeen was passed over as a county seat, the "town" is said to have reverted back to Rocking Chair ownership by June of 1891. But then the Rocking Chair Ranch became insolvent around 1900 and the land was put up for sale.

Sadly, Aberdeen didn't survive and during World War II its post office was closed. By the 1960's the community which is said to have maintained a population of 25 along with a store, a church and a school, had become a ghost town.

So about now you're asking, what does the Rocking Chair Ranch became insolvent have to do with falsified herd books? Well, the land was put up for sale. But before that, it's said that financial statements weren't matching what was actual taking place on the ranch.

It's said that Sir Edward and Lord Aberdeen decided to make an unannounced visit to the ranch. As soon as they arrived, they requested a count to see exactly how many cattle the ranch actually owned. During that count, the ranch manager kept running the same cattle past the counters and around a hill so that the cattle could be counted more than once. In actuality, the same cattle were counted a number of times. So yes, as crooked as that was, it's no wonder that the Rocking Chair Ranch went under.

Then there the story of Old Buck

What took place at the Rocking Chair Ranch in Texas also took place in Wyoming. Moreton Frewen was a member of Great Britain's Parliment. But frankly, he was said to have been better known as a rancher, cowboy, a cattle baron. In 1879, the young adventurous Moreton set sail for the United States to make his fortune.

Once here, he headed West to Wyoming and there established himself in the cattle business. He built a large house and called it "Frewen Castle." The "castle" burnt to the ground in a fire. He had huge financial problems as the result of being swindled by a cattle seller there in Wyoming.

The seller is known to have drove the cattle around a hill a number of  times. Subsequently, Moreton Frewen counted the same cattle over and over and over again. This scam enabled the con artist to sell the same herd more than once because Frewen believed the herd was twice its true size.

As for Old Buck? Well, Frewen was cheated by Chico Springs, New Mexico Territory, cattle baron Stephen Wallace Dorsey who instructed his men to drive the cattle around the hill again and again. The story goes that in the herd was a very old yellow steer which was known to be lame. That steer was known as "Old Buck."

After the herd had passed by several times, it's said that Dorsey became worried. He was worried that Frewen would realize that he was being cheated if Frewen noticed that the same old yellow steer was being counted over and over again.

Worried about Frewen finding out that he's being cheated, Dorsey told his foreman to cut Old Buck out of the herd. The problem though was that Old Buck kept making his way back into the herd. So after each time Old Buck was cut out, and separated by a further distance, Old Buck would find his way back into the herd.

The con game was successful and Moreton Frewen was cheated. As for Old Buck, he became a local legend in the area because a week later Old Buck was still circling the hill. In fact, it's said that on a certain moonlit night when everything is just right, folks will see the ghost of Old Buck limping along going around the hill just one more time.

As for Stephen Wallace Dorsey, his reputation as a con-artist became known on an even larger scale when he was part of the Star Route Mail Scandals. In the end, Dorsey went broke.

As for Moreton Frewen, he was failure in just about everything he got into. And according to his biography, after he married a New York socialite Clara Jerome in 1881, he wasn't even a good husband. In fact, it's said that he was an unfaithful husband. He even had an affair with the popular actress Lily Langtry. And that, well that sort of ties him to Judge Roy Bean who only wished to be in his shoes.

That's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa


Monday, March 26, 2018

This Made Wild Bill Hickok Famous

Wild Bill Hickok
Wild Bill Hickok illustration from Harper's New Monthly Magazine, February, 1867.
I've had a lot of requests for this. It's the article that really made James Butler Hickok the legend we know of as "Wild Bill". It's very long and here as it was printed in 1867. You may want to take a while to finish this one. Just remember, it's not the truth of what took place. It's just a tall tale that started a myth.

In it, George Ward Nichols referred to Wild Bill Hickok as "William Hitchcock" which was not James Butler Hickok's name. And while that was not the only error made in his story, the fabrication that Nichols came up with did in fact make James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok famous. 

Written by George Ward Nichols, his article was titled Wild Bill and published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in February of 1867: 

WILD BILL

Several months after the ending of the Civil War, I visited the city of Springfield in Southwest Missouri. Springfield is not a burgh of extensive dimensions, yet it is the largest in that part of the State, and all roads lend to it -- which is one reason why it was the point of support, as well as the base of operations for all military movements during the war.

On a warm summer day I sat watching from the shadow of a broad awning the coming and goings of the strange, half-civilized people who, from all the country round, make this a place for barter and trade. Men and women dressed in queer costumes; men with coats and trousers made of skin, but so thickly covered with dirt and grease as to have defied the identity of the animal when walking in the flesh. Others wore homespun gear, which oftentimes appeared to have seen lengthy service. Many of those people were mounted on horse-hack or mule-back, while others urged forward the unwilling cattle attached to creaking, heavily-laden wagons, their drivers snapping their long whips with a report like that of a pistol-shot.

In front of the shops which lined both sides of the main business street, and about the public square, were groups of men lolling against posts, lying upon the wooden sidewalks, or sitting in chairs. These men were temporary or permanent denizens of the city, and were lazily occupied in doing nothing. The most marked characteristic of the inhabitants seemed to be an indisposition to move, and their highest ambition to let their hair and beards grow.

Here and there upon the street the appearance of the army blue betokened the presence of a returned Union soldier, and the jaunty, confident air with which they carried themselves was all the more striking in its contrast with the indolence which appeared to belong to the place. The only indication of action was the inevitable revolver which every body, excepting, perhaps, the women, wore about their persons. When people moved in this lazy city they did so slowly and without method. No one seemed in baste. A huge hog wallowed in luxurious ease in a nice bed of mud on the other side of the way, giving vent to gentle grunts of satisfaction. On the platform at my feet lay a large wolf-dog literally asleep with one eye open. He, too, seemed contented to let the world wag idly on.

The loose, lazy spirit of the occasion finally took possession of me, and I sat and gazed and smoked, and it is possible that I might have fallen into a Rip Van Winkle sleep to have been aroused ten years hence by the cry, "Passengers for the flying machine to New York, all aboard!” when I and the drowsing city were roused into life by the clatter and crash of the hoofs of a horse which dashed furiously across the square and down the street. The rider sat perfectly erect, yet following with a grace of motion, seen only in the horsemen of the plains, the rise and fall of the galloping steed. There was only a moment to observe this, for they halted suddenly, while the rider springing to the ground approached the party which the noise had gathered near me.

"This yere is Wild Bill, Colonel," said Captain Honesty, an army officer, addressing me.

He continued: "How are yer, Bill? This yere is Colonel N____, who wants ter know yer.”
Let me at once describe the personal appearance of the famous Scout of the Plains, William Hickok, called "Wild Bill,” who now advanced toward me, fixing his clear gray eyes on mine in a quick, interrogative way, as if to take my measure.

The result seemed favorable, for he held forth a small, muscular hand in a frank, open manner. As I looked at him I thought his the handsomest physique I had ever seen. In its exquisite manly proportions it recalled the antique. It was a figure Ward would delight to model as a companion to his Indian.

Bill stood six feet and an inch in his bright yellow moccasins. A deer-skin shirt, or frock it might be called, hung jauntily over his shoulders, and revealed a chest whose breadth and depth were remarkable. These lungs had had growth in some twenty years of the free air of the Rocky Mountains. His small, round waist was girthed by a belt which held two of Colt’s Navy revolvers.

His legs sloped gradually from the compact thigh to the feet, which were small, and turned inward as he walked. There was a singular grace and dignity of carriage about that figure which would have called your attention meet it where you would. The head which crowned it was now covered by a large sombrero, underneath which there shone out a quiet, manly face; so gentle is its expression as he greets you as utterly to belie the history of its owner, yet it is not a face to be trifled with.

The lips thin and sensitive, the jaw not too square, the cheek bones slightly prominent, a mass of fine dark hair falls below the neck to the shoulders. The eyes, now that you are in friendly intercourse, are as gentle as a woman’s.

In truth, the woman nature seems prominent throughout, and you would not believe that you were looking into eyes that have pointed the way to death to hundreds of men. Yes, Wild Bill with his own hands has killed hundreds of men. Of that I have not a doubt. He shoots to kill, as they say on the border.

In vain did I examine the scout’s face for some evidence of murderous propensity. It was a gentle face, and singular only in the sharp angle of the eye, and without any physical reason for the opinion, I have thought his wonderful accuracy of aim was indicated by this peculiarity. He told me, however, to use his own words: "I allers shot well; but I come ter be perfeck in the mountains by shootin at a dime for a mark, at bets of half a dollar a shot. And then until the war I never drank liquor nor smoked,” he continued, with a melancholy expression; "war is demoralizing, it is.”

Captain Honesty was right. I was very curious to see "Wild Bill, the Scout,” who, a few days before my arrival in Springfield, in a duel at noonday in the public square, at fifty paces, had sent one of Colt’s pistol-balls through the heart of a returned Confederate soldier.

Whenever I had met an officer or soldier who had served in the Southwest I heard of Wild Bill and his exploits, until these stories became so frequent and of such an extraordinary character as quite to outstrip personal knowledge of adventure by camp and field; and the hero of these strange tales took shape in my mind as did Jack the Giant Killer or Sinbad the Sailor in childhoods days. As then, I now had the most implicit faith in the existence of the individual; but how one man could accomplish such prodigies of strength and feats of daring was a continued wonder.

In order to give the reader a clearer understanding of the condition of this neighborhood, which could have permitted the duel mentioned above, and whose history will be given hereafter in detail, I will describe the situation at the time of which I am writing, which was late in the summer of 1865, premising that this section of country would not today be selected as a model example of modern civilization.

At that time peace and comparative quiet had succeeded the perils and tumult of war in all the more Southern States. The people of Georgia and the Carolinas were glad to enforce order in their midst; and it would have been safe for a Union officer to have ridden unattended through the land.

In Southwest Missouri there were old scores to be settled up. During the three days occupied by General Smith, who commanded the Department and was on a tour of inspection in crossing the country between Rolla and Springfield, a distance of 120 miles, five men were killed or wounded on the public road. Two were murdered a short distance from Rolla -- by whom we could not ascertain. Another was instantly killed and two were wounded at a meeting of a band of Regulators, who were in the service of the State, but were paid by the United States Government. It should be said here that their method of "regulation” was slightly informal, their war-cry was, "A swift bullet and a short rope for returned rebels!”

I was informed by General Smith that during the six months preceding not less than 4,000 returned Confederates had been summarily disposed of by shooting or hanging. This statement seems incredible; but there is the record, and I have no doubt of its truth. History shows few parallels to this relentless destruction of human life in time of peace. It can’t be explained only upon the ground that, before the war, this region was inhabited by lawless people. In the outset of the rebellion the merest suspicion of loyalty to the Union cost the patriot his life; and thus large numbers fled the land, giving up home and every material interest. As soon as the Federal armies occupied the country these refugees returned.

Once securely fixed in their old homes they resolved that their former persecutors should not live in their midst. Revenge for the past and security for the future knotted many a nerve and sped many a deadly bullet.

Wild Bill did not belong to the Regulators. Indeed, he was one of the law and order party. He said: "When the war closed I buried the hatchet, and I won’t fight now unless I’m put upon.”

Bill was born of Northern parents in the State of Illinois. He ran away from home when a boy, and wandered out upon the plains and into the mountains. For fifteen years he lived with the trappers, hunting and fishing. When the war broke out he returned to the States and entered the Union service. No man probably was ever better fitted for scouting than he. Joined to his tremendous strength he was an unequaled horseman; he was a perfect marksman; he had a keen sight, and a constitution which had no limit of endurance. He was cool to audacity, brave to rashness, always possessed of himself under the most critical circumstances; and, above all, was such a master in the knowledge of woodcraft that it might have been termed a science with him -- a knowledge which, with the soldier, is priceless beyond description. Some of Bill's adventures during the war will be related hereafter.

The main features of the story of the duel was told me by Captain Honesty, who was unprejudiced, if it is possible to find an unbiased mind in a town of 3,000 people after a fight has taken place. I will give the story in his words:

"They say Bill's wild. Now he isn’t any sich thing. I’ve known him goin on ter ten year, and he’s as civil a disposed person as you’ll find he-e-arabouts. But he won’t be put upon."

"I’ll tell yer how it happened. But come inter the office; thar’s a good many round hy’ar as sides with Dave Tutt-- the man that’s shot. But I tell yer 'twas a ‘far fight. Take some whisky? No! Well, I will, if yer’l excuse me.”

"You see,” continued the Captain, setting the empty glass on the table in an emphatic way, "Bill was up in his room a-playin seven-up, or four-hand, or some of them pesky games. Bill refused ter play with Tutt, who was a professional gambler. Yer see, Bill was a scout on our side durin the war, and Tutt was a reb scout. Bill had killed Dave Tutt’s mate, and, atween one thing and another, there war an unusual hard feelin atwixt ‘em."

"Ever since Dave come back he had tried to pick a row with Bill; so Bill wouldn’t play cards with him any more. But Dave stood over the man who was gambling with Bill and lent the feller money. Bill won bout two hundred dollars, which made Tutt spiteful mad. Bime-by, he says to Bill: 'Bill you’ve got plenty of money -- pay me that forty dollars yer owe me in that horse trade.’

"And Bill paid him." Then he said: 'Yer owe me thirty-five dollars more; yer lost it playing with me t’other night.’

"Dave’s style was right provoking; but Bill answered him perfectly gentlemanly: 'I think yer wrong, Dave. It’s only twenty-five dollars. I have a memorandum of it in my pocket down stairs. Ef its thirty-five dollars Ill give it yer.’"

"Now Bill's watch was lying on the table. Dave took up the watch, put it in his pocket, and said: ‘I’ll keep this yere watch till yer pay me that thirty-five dollars.’"

"This made Bill shooting mad; fur, don’t yer see, Colonel, it was a-doubting his honor like, so he got up and looked Dave in the eyes, and said to him: ‘I don’t want ter make a row in this house. It’s a decent house, and I don’t want ter injure the keeper. You’d better put that watch back on the table.’"

"But Dave grinned at Bill mighty ugly, and walked off with the watch, and kept it several days. All this time Dave’s friends were spurring Bill on ter fight; there was no end ter the talk. They blackguarded him in an underhand sort of a way, and tried ter get up a scrimmage, and then they thought they could lay him out. Yer see Bill has enemies all about, he’s settled the accounts of a heap of men who lived round here. This is about the only place in Missouri whar a reb can come back and live, and ter tell yer the truth, Colonel –" and the Captain, with an involuntary movement, hitched up his revolver-belt, as he said, with expressive significance, "they don’t stay long round here!"

"Well, as I was saying, these rebs don’t like ter see a man walking round town who they knew in the reb army as one of their men, who they now know was on our side, all the time he was sending us information, sometimes from Pap Price’s own headquarters. But they couldn’t provoke Bill inter a row, for he’s afeard of hisself when he gits awful mad; and he allers left his shootin irons in his room when he went out. One day these cusses drew their pistols on him and dared him to fight, and then they told him that Tutt was a-goin ter pack that watch across the squar next day at noon."

"I heard of this, for everybody was talking about it on the street, and so I went after Bill and found him in his room cleaning and greasing and loading his revolvers."

"Now, Bill, says I, ‘you’re goin ter git inter a fight.’"

"Don’t you bother yerself Captain,’ says he. ‘It’s not the first time I have been in a fight; and these d---d hounds have put on me long enough. You don’t want me ter give up my honor, do yer?’"

‘No, Bill,’ says I, ‘yer must keep yer honor.’"

"Next day, about noon, Bill went down on the squar. He had said that Dave Tutt shouldn’t pack that watch across the squar unless dead men could walk."

"When Bill got onter the squar he found a crowd stanin in the corner of the street by which he entered the square, which is from the south yer know. In this crowd he saw a lot of Tutt's friends; some were cousins of his’n, just back from the reb army; and they jeered him, and boasted that Dave was a-goin to pack that watch across the squar as he promised."

"Then Bill saw Tutt stanin near the courthouse, which yer remember is on the west side, so that the crowd war behind Bill."

"Just then Tutt, who was alone, started from the courthouse and walked out into the square, and Bill moved away from the crowd toward the west side of the squar. Bout fifteen paces brought them opposite to each other, and bout fifty yards apart. Tutt then showed his pistol. Bill had kept a sharp eye on him, and before Tutt could pint it Bill had his’n out."

"At that moment you could have heard a pin drop in that square. Both Tutt and Bill fired, but one discharge followed the other so quick that it’s hard to say which went off first. Tutt was a famous shot, but he missed this time; the ball from his pistol went over Bill's head. The instant Bill fired, without waitin ter see ef he had hit Tutt, he wheeled on his heels and pointed his pistol at Tutt's friends, who had already drawn their weapons.

"‘Aren’t yer satisfied, gentlemen?’ cried Bill, as cool as an alligator. ‘Put up your shootin-irons, or there’ll be more dead men here. And they put ‘em up, and said it war a far fight.”

"What became of Tutt?” I asked of the Captain, who had stopped at this point of his story, and was very deliberately engaged in refilling his empty glass."

"Oh! Dave? He was as plucky a feller as ever drew trigger; but, Lord bless yer! it was no use. Bill never shoots twice at the same man, and his ball went through Dave’s heart. He stood stock-still for a second or two, then raised his arm as if ter fire again, then he swayed a little, staggered three or four steps, and then fell dead."

"Bill and his friends wanted ter have the thing done regular, so we went up ter the Justice, and Bill delivered himself up. A jury was drawn; Bill was tried and cleared the next day. It was proved that it was a case of self-defense. Don’t yer see, Colonel?”

I answered that I was afraid that I did not see that point very clearly.

"Well, well!” he replied, with an air of compassion, you haven’t drunk any whisky, that’s what’s the matter with yer.” And then, putting his hand on my shoulder with a half-mysterious half-conscious look in his face, he muttered, in a whisper: "The fact is, thar was an undercurrent of a woman in that fight!”

The story of the duel was yet fresh from the lips of the Captain when its hero appeared in the manner already described. After a few moments conversation Bill excused himself, saying: "I am going out on the prarer a piece to see the sick wife of my mate. I should be glad to meet yer at the hotel this afternoon, Kernel.”

"I will go there to meet you,” I replied.

"Good-day, gentlemen,” said the scout, as he saluted the party; and mounting the black horse who had been standing quiet, unhitched, he waved his hand over the animals head. Responsive to the signal, she shot forward as the arrow leaves the bow, and they both disappeared up the road in a cloud of dust.

I went to the hotel during the afternoon to keep the scout’s appointment. The large room of the hotel in Springfield is perhaps the central point of attraction in the city. It fronted on the street, and served in several capacities. It was a sort of exchange for those who had nothing better to do than to go there. It was reception-room, parlor, and office; but its distinguished and most fascinating characteristic was the bar, which occupied one entire end of the apartment. Technically, the "bar” is the counter upon which the polite official places his viands. Practically, the bar is represented in the long rows of bottles, and cut-glass decanters, and the glasses and goblets of all shapes and sizes suited to the various liquors to be imbibed. What a charming and artistic display it was of elongated transparent vessels containing every known drinkable fluid, from native Bourbon to imported Lacryma Christi!

The room, in its way, was a temple of art. All sorts of pictures budded and blossomed and blushed from the walls. Sixpenny portraits of the Presidents encoffined in pine-wood frames; Mazeppa appeared in the four phases of his celebrated one-horse act; while a lithograph of "Mary Ann” smiled and simpered in spite of the stains of tobacco-juice which had been unsparingly bestowed upon her countenance. But the hanging committee of this un-designed academy seemed to have been prejudiced as all hanging committees of good taste might well be -- in favor of Harper’s Weekly; for the walls of the room were well covered with wood-cuts cut from that journal. Portraits of noted generals and statesmen, knaves and politicians, with bounteous illustrations of battles and skirmishes, from Bull Run number one to Dinwiddie Court House. And the simple-hearted comers and goers of Springfield looked upon, wondered, and admired these pictorial descriptions fully as much as if they had been the masterpieces of a Yvon or Vernet.

A billiard-table, old and out of use, where caroms seemed to have been made quite as often with lead as ivory balls, stood in the centre of the room. A dozen chairs filled up the complement of the furniture. The appearance of the party of men assembled there, who sat with their slovenly shod feet dangling over the arms of the chairs or hung about the porch outside, was in perfect harmony with the time and place.

All of them religiously obeyed the two before-mentioned, characteristics of the people of the city -- their hair was long and tangled, and each man fulfilled the most exalted requirement of laziness.

I was taking a mental inventory of all this when a cry and murmur drew my attention to the outside of the house, when I saw Wild Bill riding up the street at a swift gallop. Arrived opposite to the hotel, he swung his right arm around with a circular motion. Black Nell instantly stopped and dropped to the ground as if a cannon-ball had knocked life out of her. Bill left her there, stretched upon the ground, and joined the group of observers on the porch.

"Black Nell hasn’t forgot her old tricks,” said one of them.

"No,” answered the scout. "God bless her! She is wiser and truer than most men I know of. That mare will do any thing for me. Wont you, Nelly?” The mare winked affirmatively the only eye we could see.

"Wise!” continued her master; "why, she knows more than a judge. I’ll bet the drinks for the party that sh’ell walk up these steps and into the room and climb up on the billiard-table and lie down.”

The bet was taken at once, not because anyone doubted the capabilities of the mare, but there was excitement in the thing without exercise.

Bill whistled in a low tone. Nell instantly scrambled to her feet, walked toward him, put her nose affectionately under his arm, followed him into the room, and to my extreme wonderment climbed upon the billiard-table, to the extreme astonishment of the table no doubt, for it groaned under the weight of the four-legged animal and several of those who were simply bifurcated, and whom Nell permitted to sit upon her. When she got down from the table, which was as graceful a performance as might be expected under the circumstances, Bill sprang upon her back, dashed through the high wide doorway, and at a single bound cleared the flight of steps and landed in the middle of the street.

The scout then dismounted, snapped his riding-whip, and the noble beast bounded off down the street, rearing and plunging to her own intense satisfaction. A kindly-disposed individual, who must have been a stranger, supposing the mare was running away, tried to catch her, when she stopped, and as if she resented his impertinence, let fly her heels at him and then quietly trotted to her stable.

"Black Nell has carried me along through many a tight place,” said the scout, as we walked toward my quarters. "She trains easier than any animal I ever saw. That trick of dropping quick which you saw has saved my life time and again. When I have been out scouting on the prairie or in the woods I have come across parties of rebels, and have dropped out of sight in the tall grass before they saw us. One day a gang of rebs who had been hunting for me, and thought they had my track, halted for half an hour within fifty yards of us. Nell laid as close as a rabbit, and didn’t even whisk her tail to keep the flies off; until the rebs moved off, supposing they were on the wrong scent. The mare will come at my whistle and foller me about just like a dog. She won’t mind anyone else, nor allow them to mount her, and will kick a harness and wagon all ter pieces ef you try to hitch her in one. And she’s right, Kernel,” added Bill, with the enthusiasm of a true lover of a horse sparkling in his eyes. "A hoss is too noble a beast to be degraded by such toggery. Harness mules and oxen, but give a hoss a chance ter run.”

I had a curiosity, which was not an idle one to hear what this man had to say about his duel with Tutt, and I asked him: "Do you not regret killing Tutt? You surely do not like to kill men?”

"As ter killing men,” he replied, "I never thought much about it. The most of the men I have killed it was one or the other of us, and at sich times you don’t stop to think; and what’s the use after it’s all over? As for Tutt, I had rather not have killed him, for I want ter settle down quiet here now. But thar’s been hard feeling between us a long while. I wanted ter keep out of that fight; hut he tried to degrade me, and I couldn’t stand that, you know, for I am a fighting man, you know.”

A cloud passed over the speaker’s face for a moment as he continued: "And there was a cause of quarrel between us which people round here don’t know about, One of us had to die; and the secret died with him.”

"Why did you not wait to see if your ball had hit him? Why did you turn round so quickly?”

The scout fixed his gray eyes on mine, striking his leg with his riding-whip, as he answered, "I knew he was a dead man. I never miss a shot. I turned on the crowd because I was sure they would shoot me if they saw him fall.”

"The people about here tell me you are a quiet, civil man. How is it you get into these fights?”

"D----d if I can tell,” he replied, with a puzzled look which at once gave place to a proud defiant expression as he continued – "but you know a man must defend his honor.”

"Yes, I admitted, with some hesitation, remembering that I was not in Boston but on the border, and that the code of honor and mode of redress differ slightly in the one place from those of the other.

One of the reasons for my desire to make the acquaintance of Wild Bill was to obtain from his own lips a true account of some of the adventures related of him. It was not an easy matter. It was hard to overcome the reticence which marks men who have lived the wild mountain life, and which was one of his valuable qualifications as a scout. Finally he said: "I hardly know where to begin. Pretty near all these stories are true. I was at it all the war. That affair of my swimming the river took place on that long scout of mine when I was with the rebels five months, when I was sent by General Curtis to Price’s army. Things had come pretty close at that time, and it wasn’t safe to go straight inter their lines. Everybody was suspected who came from these parts. So I started off and went way up to Kansas City. I bought a horse there and struck out onto the plains, and then went down through Southern Kansas into Arkansas. I knew a rebel named Barnes, who was killed at Pea Ridge. He was from near Austin in Texas. So I called myself his brother and enlisted in a regiment of mounted rangers."

"General Price was just then getting ready for a raid into Missouri. It was sometime before we got into the campaign, and it was mighty hard work for me. The men of our regiment were awful. They didn’t mind killing a man no more than a hog. The officers had no command over them. They were afraid of their own men, and let them do what they liked; so they would rob and sometimes murder their own people. It was right hard for me to keep up with them, and not do as they did. I never let on that I was a good shot. I kept that back for big occasions; but ef you’d heard me swear and cuss the blue-bellies, you’d a-thought me one of the wickedest of the whole crew. So it went on until we came near Curtis’s army. Bime-by they were on one side of the Sandy River and we were on t’other. All the time I had been getting information until I knew every regiment and its strength; how much cavalry there was, and how many guns the artillery had. "

"You see ‘twas time for me to go, but it wasn’t easy to git out, for the river was close picketed on both sides. One day when I was on picket our men and the rebels got talking and cussin each other, as you know they used to do. After a while one of the Union men offered to exchange some coffee for tobacco. So we went out onto a little island which was neutral ground like. The minute I saw the other party, who belonged to the Missouri cavalry, we recognized each other. I was awful afraid they’d let on. So I blurted out: ’Now, Yanks, let's see yer coffee -- no burnt beans, mind yer but the genuine stuff. We know the real article if we is Texans .’”

"The boys kept mum, and we separated. Half an hour afterward General Curtis knew I was with the rebs. But how to git across the river was what stumped me. After that, when I was on picket, I didn’t trouble myself about being shot. I used to fire at our boys, and they’d bang away at me, each of us taking good care to shoot wide. But how to git over the river was the bother. At last, after thinking a heap about it, I came to the conclusion that I always did, that the boldest plan is the best and safest."

"We had a big sergeant in our company who was alms a-braggin that he could stump any man in the regiment. He swore he had killed more Yanks than any man in the army, and that he could do more daring things than any others. So one day when he was talking loud I took him up, and offered to bet horse for horse that I would ride out into the open, and nearer to the Yankees than he. He tried to back out of this, but the men raised a row, calling him a funk, and a bragger, and all that; so he had to go. Well, we mounted our horses, but before we came within shootin' distance of the Union soldiers I made my horse kick and rear so that they could see who I was. Then we rode slowly to the river bank, side by side."

"There must have been ten thousand men watching us; for, besides the rebs who wouldn’t have cried about it if we had both been killed, our boys saw something was up, and without being seen thousands of them came down to the river. Their pickets kept firing at the sergeant; but whether or not they were afraid of putting a ball through me I don’t know, but nary a shot hit him. He was a plucky feller all the same, for the bullets zitted about in every direction."

"Bime-by we got right close ter the river, when one of the Yankee soldiers yelled out, ‘Bully for Wild Bill'”

"Then the sergeant suspicioned me, for he turned on me and growled out, ‘By God, I believe yer a Yank!’ And he at onst drew his revolver; but he was too late, for the minute he drew his pistol I put a ball through him. I mightn’t have killed him if he hadn’t suspicioned me. I had to do it then."

"As he rolled out of the saddle I took his horse by the bit, and dashed into the water as quick as I could. The minute I shot the sergeant our boys set up a tremendous shout, and opened a smashing fire on the rebs who had commenced popping at me. But I had got into deep water, and had slipped off my horse over his back, and steered him for the opposite bank by holding onto his tail with one hand, while I held the bridle rein of the sergeant’s horse in the other hand. It was the hottest bath I ever took. Whew! For about two minutes how the bullets zitted and skipped on the water. I thought I was hit again and again, but the reb sharp-shooters were bothered by the splash we made, and in a little while our boys drove them to cover, and after some tumbling at the bank got into the brush with my two horses without a scratch.”

"It is a fact,” said the scout, while he caressed his long hair,” I felt sort of proud when the boys took me into camp, and General Curtis thanked me before a heap of generals."

"But I never tried that thing over again; nor I didn’t go a scouting openly in Price’s army after that. They all knew me too well, and you see ‘twouldn't be healthy to have been caught."

The scout’s story of swimming the river ought, perhaps, to have satisfied my curiosity but I was especially desirous to hear him relate the history of a sanguinary fight which he had with a party of ruffians in the early part of the war, when, single-handed, he fought and killed ten men. I had heard the story as it came from an officer of the regular army who, an hour after the affair, saw Bill and the ten dead men, some killed with bullets, others hacked and slashed to death with a knife.

As I write out the details of this terrible tale from notes which I took as the words fell from the scout’s lips, I am conscious of its extreme improbability; but while I listened to him I remembered the story in the Bible, where we are told that Samson with the jawbone of an ass slew a thousand men, and as I looked upon this magnificent example of human strength and daring, he appeared to me to realize the powers of a Samson and Hercules combined, and I should not have been inclined to place any limit on his achievements. Besides this, one who has lived for four years in the presence of such grand heroism and deeds of prowess as was seen during the war is in what might he called a receptive mood. Be the story true or not, in part, or in whole, I believed then every word Wild Bill uttered, and I believe it today.

"I don’t like to talk about that McCanles affair,” said Bill, in answer to my question.

"It gives me a queer shiver whenever I think of it, and sometimes I dream about it, and wake up in a cold sweat.”

"You see this McCanles was the Captain of a gang of desperadoes, horse-thieves, murderers, regular cut-throats, who were the terror of every body on the border, and who kept us in the mountains in hot water whenever they were around. I knew them all in the mountains where they pretended to be trapping, but they were there hiding from the hangman. McCanles was the biggest scoundrel and bully of them all, and was allers a-braggin of what he could do. One day I beat him shootin at a mark, and then threw him at the back-bolt. And I didn’t drop him as soft as you would a baby, you may be sure. Well, he got savage mad about it, and swore he would have his revenge on me some time."

"This was just before the war broke out, and we were already takin sides in the mountains either for the South or the Union. McCanles and his gang were border-ruffians in the Kansas row, and of course they went with the rebs. Bime-by he clar’d out, and I shouldn’t have thought of the feller agin ef he hadn’t crossed my path. It ‘pears he didn’t forget me."

"It was in ‘61, when I guided a detachment of cavalry who were commin from Camp Floyd. We had nearly reached the Kansas line, and were in South Nebraska, when one afternoon I went out of camp to go to the cabin of an old friend of mine, a Mrs. Wellman. I took only one of my revolvers with me, for although the war had broke out I didn’t think it necessary to carry both my pistols, and, in all or’nary scrimmages, one is better than a dozen, if you shoot straight. I saw some wild turkeys on the road as I was goin down, and popped one of ‘em over, thinking he’d he just the thing for supper."

"Well, I rode up to Mrs. Wellman, jumped off my horse, and went into the cabin, which is like most of the cabins on the prarer, with only one room, and that had two doors, one opening in front and t’other on a yard, like."

"How are you, Mrs. Wellman?” I said, feeling as jolly as you please.

"The minute she saw me she turned as white is a sheet and screamed: ‘Is that you, Bill? Oh, my God! They will kill you! Run! Run! They will kill you!’”

"Whos a-goin to kill me?” I said. "There’s two can play at that game.”

"’It’s McCanles and his gang. There’s ten of them, and you’ve no chance. They’ve jes gone down the road to the corn-rack. They came up here only five minutes ago. McCanles was draggin poor Parson Shipley on the ground with a lariat round his neck. The preacher was most dead with choking and the horses stamping on him. McCanles knows yer bringin in that party of Yankee cavalry, and he swears he’ll cut yer heart out. Run, Bill, run! But it’s too late; they’re commin up the lane’”

"While she was a-talkin I remembered I had but one revolver, and a load gone out of that. On the table there was a horn of powder and some little bars of lead. I poured some powder into the empty chamber and rammed the lead after it by hammering the barrel on the table, and had just capped the pistol when I heard McCanles shout: ‘There’s that d---d Yank Wild Bill'shorse; he’s here; and we’ll skin him alive!’”

"If I had thought of runnin before, it war too late now, and the house was my best holt --a sort of fortress, like. I never thought I should leave that room alive.”

The scout stopped in his story, rose from his seat, and strode back and forward in a state of great excitement.

"I tell you what it is, Kernel,” he resumed, after a while, "I don’t mind a scrimmage with these fellers round here. Shoot one or two of them and the rest run away. But all of McCanles' Gang were reckless, blood-thirsty devils, who would fight as long as they had strength to pull a trigger. I have been in tight places, but that’s one of the few times I said my prayers."

"’Surround the house and give him no quarter!’ yelled McCanles. When I heard that I felt as quiet and cool as if I was a-goin to church. I looked round the room and saw a Hawkins rifle hangin over the bed.”

"Is that loaded?” I said to Mrs. Wellman.

"’Yes,’ the poor thing whispered. She was so frightened she couldn’t speak out loud.”

"’Are you sure?’ I said, as I jumped to the bed and caught it from its hooks. Although may eye did not leave the door, yet I could see she nodded Yes again. I put the revolver on the bed, and just then McCanles poked his head inside the doorway, but jumped back when he saw me with the rifle in my hand.”

"’Come in here, you cowardly dog! I shouted. Come in here, and fight me!’

"McCanles was no coward, if he was a bully. He jumped inside the room with his gun leveled to shoot; but he was not quick enough. My rifle-ball went through his heart. He fell back outside the house, where he was found afterward holding tight to his rifle, which had fallen over his head.”

"His disappearance was followed by a yell from his gang, and then there was a dead silence. I put down the rifle and took the revolver, and I said to myself: ‘Only six shots and nine men to kill. Save your powder, Bill, for the death-hugs a-comin!’ I don’t know why it was, Kernel,” continued Bill, looking at me inquiringly, "but at that moment things seemed clear and sharp. I could think strong.”

"There was a few seconds of that awful stillness, and then the ruffians came rushing in at both doors. How wild they looked with their red, drunken faces and inflamed eyes, shouting and cussin! But I never aimed more deliberately in my life."

"One—two—three---four; and four men fell dead."

"That didn’t stop the rest. Two of them fired their bird-guns at me. And then I felt a sting run all over me. The room was full of smoke. Two got in close tome, their eyes glaring out of the clouds. One I knocked down with my fist. "you are out of the way for a while,” I thought. The second I shot dead. The other three clutched me and crowded me onto the bed. I fought hard. I broke with my hand one man’s arm. He had his fingers round my throat. Before I could get to my feet I was struck across the breast with the stock of a rifle, and I felt the blood rushing out of my nose and mouth. Then I got ugly, and I remember that I got hold of a knife, and then it was all cloudy like, and I was wild, and I struck savage blows, following the devils up from one side to the other of the room and into the corners, striking and slashing until I knew that every one was dead."

"All of a sudden it seemed as if my heart was on fire. I was bleeding everywhere. I rushed out to the well and drank from the bucket, and then tumbled down in faint.”

Breathless with the intense interest with which I had followed this strange story, all the more thrilling and weird when its hero, seemingly to live over again the bloody events of that day, gave way to its terrible spirit with wild, gestures. I saw then – what my scrutiny of the morning had failed to discover – the tiger which lay concealed beneath that gentle exterior.

"You must have been hurt almost to death,” I said.

"There were eleven buck-shot in me. I carry some of them now. I was cut in thirteen places. All of them bad enough to have let out the life of a man. But that blessed old Dr. Mills pulled me safe through it, after a bed siege of many a long week.”

"That prayer of yours, Bill, may have been more potent for your safety than you think. You should thank God for your deliverance.”

"To tell you the truth, Kernel,” responded the scout with a certain solemnity in his grave face, "I don’t talk about sich things ter the people round here, but I allers fell sort of thankful when I get out of a bad scrape.”

"In all your wild, perilous adventures,” I asked him, "have you ever been afraid? Do you know what the sensation is? I am sure you will not misunderstand the question, for I take it we soldiers comprehend justly that there is no higher courage than that which shows itself when the consciousness of danger is keen but where moral strength overcomes the weakness of the body.”

"I think I know what you mean, Sir, and I’m not ashamed to say that I have been so frightened that it ‘peared as if all the strength and blood had gone out of my body, and my face was as white as chalk. It was at the Wilme Creek fight. I had fired more than fifty cartridges, and I think fetched my man every time. I was on the skirmish line, and was working up closer to the rebs, when all of a sudden a battery opened fire right in front of me, and it sounded as if forty thousand guns were firing, and ever shot and shell screeched within six inches of my head. It was the first time I was ever under artillery fire, and I was so frightened that I couldn’t move for a minute or so, and when I did go back the boys asked me if I had seen a ghost? They may shoot bullets at me by the dozen, and it’s rather exciting if I can shoot back, but I am always sort of nervous when the big guns go off.”

"I would like to see you shoot.”

"Would yer?” replied the scout, drawing his revolver; and approaching the window, he pointed to a letter O in a sign-board which was fixed to the stone-wall of a building on the other side of the way.

"That sign is more than fifty yards away. I will put these six balls into the inside of the circle, which isn’t bigger than a man’s heart.”

In an off-hand way, and without sighting the pistol with his eye, he discharged the six shots of his revolver. I afterward saw that all the bullets had entered the circle.

As Bill proceeded to reload his pistol, he said to me with a naiveté of manner which was meant to he assuring: "Whenever you get into a row be sure and not shoot too quick. Take time. I’ve known many a feller slip up for shootin in a hurry.”

It would be easy to fill a volume with the adventures of that remarkable man. My object here has been to make a slight record of one who is one of the best – perhaps the very best – example of a class who more than any other encountered perils and privations in defense of our nationality.

One afternoon as General Smith and I mounted our horses to start upon our journey toward the East, Wild Bill came to shake hands goodby, and I said to him: "If you have no objection I will write out for publication an account of a few of your adventures.”

"Certainly you may,” he replied. "I’m sort of public property. But., Kernel,” he continued, leaning upon my saddle-bow, while there was a tremulous softness in his voice and a strange moisture in his averted eyes, "I have a mother back there in Illinois who is old and feeble. I haven’t seen her this many a year, and haven’t been a good son to her, yet I love her better than any thing in this life. It don’t matter much what they say about me here. But I’m not a cut-throat and vagabond, and I’d like the old woman to know what’ll make her proud. I’d like her to hear that her runaway boy has fought through the war for the Union like a true man.”

[William Hickok called Wild Bill, the Scout of the Plains shall have his wish. I have told his story precisely as it was told to me, confirmed in all important points by many witnesses; and I have no doubt of its truth. --- G. W. N.]

-- end of article titled Wild Bill, written by George Ward Nichols, published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in February of 1867.

The entire article as it was published can be seen below or by clicking Wild Bill 












I hope you enjoyed reading this tall tale. 

Tom Correa