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Title: Life and marvelous adventures of Wild Bill, the Scout - being a true an exact history of all the sanguinary combats - and hair-breadth escapes of the most famous scout and spy - america ever produced.
Author: Buel, J. W.
Language: English
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[Illustration: WILD BILL.]






    J. W. BUEL,



    Copyrighted 1879, by W. S. BRYAN.


  PECULIARITIES OF WILD BILL’S NATURE                         5
  WILD BILL’S EARLY LIFE                                      7
  FIRST EVIDENCE OF PLUCK                                     9
  DESPERATE FIGHT AT ROCK CREEK                              11
  A RUNNING FIGHT WITH CONFEDERATES                          19
  ENTERS THE UNION ARMY AS A SPY                             20
  A RIDE WITH DEATH                                          22
  CAPTURED AND CONDEMNED TO DEATH                            26
  A FIGHT WITH THREE BUSHWHACKERS                            28
  BOWIE-KNIFE DUEL WITH AN INDIAN CHIEF                      30
  INDIAN AND BUFFALO SPECULATION                             33
  BILL’S DUEL AT SPRINGFIELD                                 34
  A QUADRANGULAR DUEL IN NEBRASKA                            39
  WILD BILL’S OPINION OF YANKEES                             43
  HOW BILL KILLED JACK STRAWHAN                              45
  BILL MULVEY’S LAST ROW                                     48
  A FIGHT WITH FIFTEEN SOLDIERS                              49
  A DEATH FIGHT WITH TEXAS GAMBLERS                          52
  BILL THOMPSON’S FATAL SURPRISE                             58
  BILL’S FIGHT WITH PHIL COLE’S COUSIN                       62
  REMOVES TO KANSAS CITY                                     64
  BILL’S MARRIAGE TO MRS. LAKE                               67
  MAKES HIS DEBUT ON THE STAGE                               68
  BILL’S LAST TRIP TO THE BLACK HILLS                        69
  ASSASSINATION OF WILD BILL                                 71
  JACK McCALL PAYS THE PENALTY                               79
  BILL’S WONDERFUL ACCURACY OF AIM                           86
  BLACK NELL, THE WONDERFUL MARE                             88


WILD BILL, as a frontier character of the daring, cunning and honorable
class, stands alone, without a prototype; his originality is as
conspicuous as his remarkable escapades. He was desperate without being
a desperado; a fighter without that disposition which invites danger or
craves the excitement of an encounter. He killed many men, but in every
instance it was either in self-defense or in the prosecution of a duty
which he deemed justifiable. Wild Bill was a necessary character in the
Far West during the period which marked his career. He was essentially
a civilizer, in the sense of a vigilance posse. The law and order class
found in him an effective agent for the correction of the lawless;
it was fighting the desperate with one of their kind, and Bill had
the cunning to remain on the side of society and to always flank his

It would require a volume to moralize upon the deeds of this remarkable
man as they deserve, for his desperate encounters find a parallel only
in the atmospheric changes which abate an epidemic. When Bill drew his
pistol there was always one less desperado to harass the law-abiding,
and his presence served to allay the hunger of cut-throats and
rapacious plunderers. As a fighter, he had no equal; as a pistol shot,
none could excel him; as a scout in the service of his country, there
were none more faithful, daring and serviceable; with a disposition as
gentle as a zephyr, but a determination stronger than the hurricane.
Never a boaster; always deferential to those who might differ from
him in opinion; a man of strong friendships and little enmity. Such
were the marked characteristics of him whose memory is deserving of
perpetuation, and whose wonderful exploits it is the purpose of the
writer to describe. The half cannot be told, because of the subject’s
secretive disposition, and extreme dislike to reciting his own
adventures. That which is herewith given is absolutely true in every
particular, without a single shading of fiction or extravagance, and
may confidently be accepted as truthful history.

            J. W. BUEL.



JAMES B. HICKOK, known to history as “Wild Bill,” was born near Troy
Grove, La Salle county, Illinois, May 27th, 1837. His father and mother
were both natives of Vermont, in which state they were married. Shortly
after marriage, they went to New York, and remained in that state until
1834, when they removed to Illinois, and settled in Putnam county. Two
years afterwards, however, they again removed to settle upon a more
desirable homestead in La Salle county, where they resided until their
death, the father dying in 1852 and the mother in 1878, at the advanced
age of seventy-four years.

The family consisted of six children, four boys and two girls, as
follows: O. C. Hickok, born in New York in 1830, and now living in
California; Lorenzo B., also born in New York in 1832; Horace D., born
in Putnam county, Illinois, in 1834; James B., the subject of this
sketch; and Celinda D. and Lydia M., both born in La Salle county, the
former in 1839 and the latter in 1841. Lorenzo and Horace are still
living upon the old homestead. Celinda married a gentleman by the name
of Dewey, and is now living in Mendota, La Salle county. Lydia married
a Mr. Barnes, and is living in Decatur county, Kansas. Thus it will be
seen that all the children are still living, with the single exception
of James (Wild Bill,) whose marvelous exploits it is the purpose of the
writer to faithfully, but briefly, record in this pamphlet.

The names and dates of birth of the several children are given in order
to correct the prevalent idea that James was much older. His most
intimate acquaintances informed the writer that he was born in 1830;
and the inscription on the stump which served as a head-board to his
original grave, gave his age at the time of death at forty-eight years,
as will be seen in a subsequent chapter descriptive of his murder.

The advantages possessed by James for acquiring an education were very
limited, in consequence of which he grew up with little knowledge. He
learned to read, and this single acquirement he used almost exclusively
in exploring fiction literature. Nothing afforded him so much pleasure
as the perusal of such novels as “Claude Duval,” “The Bold Ranger,”
“Dick Turpin,” and that class of stories descriptive of adventures in
an _outre_ civilization. A result of this reading is found in his life.

In 1856, when James was nineteen years of age, he left home for the
west, Kansas being his proposed destination. The border troubles of
that time, no doubt, influenced him to go to that (then) territory;
for, from the time that he was twelve years of age, he manifested an
ardent love for adventure. He made the rifle and pistol his earliest
companions, and when he left La Salle county he had the reputation of
being the best shot in that portion of the state.

The first record we have of him after leaving Illinois was during his
short stay at Independence, Missouri, at which place he gained some
notoriety by boldly entering the midst of a dozen infuriated men and
bidding them to disperse. This event, we believe, has never before been
mentioned in any of the many sketches written of him, and as it was his
first act of daring, it is worthy of production here. Its truthfulness,
however, we cannot vouch for, not having received the details from an


In 1856, the year in which the occurrence is said to have taken place,
Independence was but a post village, and was fairly upon the border.
Many teamsters stopped there, _en route_ to Kansas City with produce
for shipment. There were two saloons in the place, and, naturally,
much drunkenness and lawlessness. On the occasion referred to, a dozen
teamsters had put up in town, and shortly afterwards visited one of
the saloons, where they soon became quite demonstrative under the
influence of the liquor they had drank. A fight was the consequence,
in which the saloon-keeper, who had almost brained one of the party,
had to flee for his life and take refuge in another house. The crowd
had drawn their pistols and sworn vengeance, and finally surrounded
the house in which the saloon-keeper had secreted himself, and
determined to kill him. Hickok, although not present during the fight,
heard the disturbance and was soon on the scene. Learning that the
saloon-keeper--who chanced to be a friend--was in imminent danger,
with the display of the most astonishing recklessness he dashed into
the crowd with his two pistols drawn, and offered to fight the entire
party, or represent the object of their revenge. This bold proposition
served to stop the noise of their wild threats, but meeting with no
response, Hickok commanded the crowd to disperse and forthwith leave
the place, finishing the command with the following characteristic
remark, “Or there will be more dead men around here than the town can
bury.” In thirty minutes every one of the blood-craving teamsters had
left the place.

This event popularized him greatly in the immediate section, and it was
here he received the name which stuck to him throughout his life and
by which his memory will always be best recalled--“Wild Bill”--though
why the name “Bill” was given instead of “Jim,” his real name, it is
difficult to understand. In our subsequent allusions to him we shall
use this familiar title.

Bill remained in Independence one month, but finding the place too near
civilization, and meeting daily with crowds on the road to the gold
discoveries of California, he concluded to strike for the coast. In the
latter part of the same year he attached himself to a train as driver,
and made the overland trip to California. He did not remain long in
the golden state, however, for being most agreeably impressed with the
wild scenery and picturesque solitude of the plains, skirted with bold
mountains, and enlivened with abundant game, he retraced his journey
and brought up in the valley near the then small village of Denver,
and, in company with two others, he followed trapping and hunting for
three years, occasionally going as far north as Hudson’s Bay.

In 1860, Bill was placed in charge of the teams of the Overland Stage
Company,--which ran between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Denver, over the
old Platte route,--at Rock Creek, about fifty miles west of Topeka,


It was while occupying this position that the first and most desperate
fight of his life occurred, and one which we may safely say is without
a parallel. The particulars of this remarkable encounter have been
given to the public several times, once by a writer in _Harper’s
Monthly_, who claims to have heard the story from Bill himself, but
whether he reported Bill correctly or not, the account in _Harper_,
like that which has appeared in other publications, has but the mere
skeleton of truth in it, the body being of error. The author collected
the facts and particulars of this fight from Capt. E. W. Kingsbury,
at present chief of U. S. Storekeepers for the western district of
Missouri, who was a passenger in the overland stage which arrived at
Rock Creek within an hour after the fight occurred, and saw the bodies
of the men Bill had killed, and heard the story fresh from Bill’s own
lips. Capt. Kingsbury’s version of the encounter is corroborated by Dr.
Joshua Thorne, one of the most prominent physicians in Kansas City, who
was Wild Bill’s physician during his life, and at whose home Bill was
a frequent and familiar visitor. Bill repeated the story to Dr. Thorne
several times, just as he gave it to Capt. Kingsbury. Bill had very
few confidants, but among that privileged class were the two gentlemen
mentioned, who, by their permission, will be frequently referred to
hereafter. After the appearance of _Harper’s Monthly_ containing the
sketch referred to, Bill was very angry and pronounced the writer of it
a perverter of facts.

The correct story of the “battle,” as we may very properly call it, is
as follows: The country for many miles around Rock Creek, including
Marysville and Manhattan, had for several years been infested by a
desperate band of marauders headed by Jim and Jack McCandlas. They were
horse thieves and murderers who overran the country and levied tribute
from nearly every one they met. This murderous gang had killed more
than a score of innocent men and women for the purpose of robbery, and
yet their power was such that no civil officer dared undertake their

In 1861, the year in which the fight occurred, the McCandlas boys
raised a company in that section for the Confederate service. They
established their headquarters about thirteen miles west of Rock
Creek, where they were collecting men and stolen horses. Early in
the morning of the day in question, Jim McCandlas rode by Rock Creek
station in company with four of his men. McCandlas was leading an old
man, known as Parson Shapley, by a lariat which was around the old
man’s neck. Coming up to Bill the party stopped, and McCandlas entered
into a conversation, in which he tried to persuade Bill to enter the
Confederate service and to turn over all the horses at the station to
him. Bill, a stranger to the sensation of fear, told McCandlas to go
to h--l; that if he did any fighting it would be on the side of the
Union. McCandlas then told Bill if he didn’t have the horses ready for
delivery by the time of his return, “that there would be a small murder
at Rock Creek station, and the stage company would have to get another
man.” The party then rode off.

In this connection, in order to give the reader an idea of the manner
in which Wild Bill received his would-be murderers, it is necessary to
partially describe Rock Creek station. The house in which Bill and his
single partner, known as Doc. Mills, ate and slept, was a low-roofed
log hut fronting the creek, with the rear part built against the hill.
It had a front door, and a very small window in the side, near the
rear. The single room was divided by an old blanket hung from the roof,
behind which was a table and a bed made after the frontier style. This
rude structure was one of the many sleeping places called “dugouts,” so
often seen in the wild West even at this day. The stables, also very
rude but strongly made, adjoined the “dugout” on the east side. The
arms in the house consisted of two revolvers, one shot-gun, a large
bore rifle, which Bill called a Mississippi yager, and two large bowie

[Illustration: Wild Bill “Civilizes” the Neighborhood.]

After dinner, Doc. Mills took the shot-gun and one of the
revolvers--which he usually carried--and went down the creek a
short distance to shoot some quail. During his absence, and about
four o’clock in the evening, Wild Bill saw the two McCandlas boys,
accompanied by eight others, riding up the road towards him. Bill
at once withdrew into the dugout and prepared to defend the place.
Coming around in front of the dugout, Jim McCandlas hallooed to Bill,
telling him to come out and deliver the horses. To this Bill returned
an insulting reply. The mounted party then left their horses and began
an onslaught on the door with a log which they used as a battering
ram. Bill stood behind the old blanket, rifle in hand, and revolver
and knife lying on the table. It required but a few strokes to break
the door, and the crowd of cut-throats, headed by Jim McCandlas,
rushed in. The old yager was discharged, and the leader fell with a
hole in his heart as large as a silver half-dollar. Bill seized his
revolver and shot three more before any of them had reached him. The
most terrible scene then followed. Every man was like a wounded lion;
the six others jumped at Bill like harpies that had tasted blood. He
was borne down upon the table, but his right hand was cutting right
and left; the blood was gushing from his forehead, where he had been
struck with a rifle, which almost blinded him; he cut two others down,
and Jack McCandlas leaped upon him with an immense dirk drawn to cut
Bill’s throat. By a rare stroke of luck, Bill placed the muzzle of
his pistol over McCandlas’ heart and fired. The knife in McCandlas’
hand dropped harmlessly upon Bill, and the man jumped into the air and
fell dead, rolling over Bill and falling off the table to the floor.
During this time the others, who had life in them, were firing their
pistols at Bill whenever opportunity presented, but their numbers gave
him the advantage. There was but little light in the room, and it was
only the ones next to Bill that could do him any injury, the others
being fearful of killing their own party. Six of the number had now
been killed and two others badly wounded. They began to retreat, and
though Bill was apparently bleeding at every pore, he now pressed the
fighting. The two who remained unharmed reached their horses, and,
leaping into the saddle, fled as though they were being pursued by one
who was shielded with the panoply of invulnerability. The two wounded
ran down the hill, but one was cut so badly that he fell beside the
root of a large tree, and was unable to go further. At this juncture
Doc. Mills came back, and, when half-way up the hill, he was met by
Bill, who grabbed the loaded shot-gun, and, placing the muzzle to the
head of the wounded man, blew his brains out. The other one, whose name
was Jolly, managed to elude Bill and reach Manhattan, where, in a few
days thereafter, he died, but not until he had told the story of the
fight substantially as here related.

After the excitement of the terrific combat was over, Bill fainted from
loss of blood, and was carried into the dugout by his partner, Doc.
Mills. The sight on the inside was now terrible. Six men lay dead on
the floor. Jim McCandlas’ body was lying across the threshold of the
door, almost half submerged in his blood. Hideous gashes and large
bullet-holes had opened the reservoir of blood which formed in large
pools, after making small creeks over the floor. The countenances of
the dead men were most revolting. Not a groan escaped the lips of any
of the victims after Doc. Mills entered with Bill’s half-lifeless body,
which he lay tenderly on the rude bed; every one had been killed
outright. Those shot evidenced Bill’s coolness and deliberate aim
throughout the terrible ordeal; each was shot either in the heart or
head, and the terrible dagger had been thrust with equal precision to
the wells of the heart.

In less than one hour after the fight was over, the stage from Denver
arrived, full of passengers, some of whom were thus introduced for
the first time to the desperation of Western life. Wild Bill rallied
sufficiently to tell the story of his dreadful encounter with ten of
the most desperate men that ever cut a man’s throat or robbed a stable.
Every attention that could be shown was given Bill. He was too badly
cut and shot to admit of removal, but a surgeon was sent for from
Manhattan, and old Mrs. Watkins, who lived within five miles of the
station, came down as soon as she heard the news, and volunteered her
services to nurse him. Bill’s wounds consisted of a fracture of the
skull, three gashes on the breast, and a cut to the bone on his left
forearm. There were seven balls in his legs and body, and there was
scarcely a place on his face, limbs or body that was not black from
bruises he had received. It would seem impossible that a man could
survive such injuries, but, nevertheless, in six months Bill was out
again, and in less than one year he was as sound physically as ever.

It is not necessary to say that the McCandlas boys never entered the
Confederate army, and the manner in which they left the service they
had been in so long was cause for thanks. The people of that section
worshiped Bill as no other man. He had civilized the neighborhood.


After recovery from his wounds, Wild Bill left Rock Creek Station and
went to Leavenworth, where shortly after his arrival, he was appointed
wagon master of a train Gen. Jno. C. Fremont had ordered to Sedalia,
Missouri. On the third day out and as they were about going into camp
for the night, the train was attacked by a company of Confederates and
several of the wagons burned and the mules run off. Bill could offer
little resistance, as he had less than a dozen men with him, all of
whom surrendered at the beginning of the attack. Nevertheless, being
mounted on an excellent horse, he gave battle single handed, and when
called upon to surrender, his reply was: “Come and take me.” Knowing
that Col. Jameson was at Kansas City, he started for that place,
pursued by more than fifty of the Confederates, who fired their pistols
at him until they were distanced, but he escaped without a scratch; not
so his pursuers, for four of the more advanced ones fell victims to his
unerring aim.

Upon his arrival in Kansas City Bill at once reported to Col. Jameson,
who immediately dispatched two companies of his command to the scene
of the first attack, and on the following day succeeded in recapturing
most of the stock and repairing the damage to the wagons, so that
the train was able to proceed to Sedalia. His valor in resisting the
Confederates was acknowledged by his appointment as Brigade Wagon
Master with Gen. Curtis’ army, and, while serving in this capacity, he
engaged in the battle of Pea Ridge, where he performed most valuable
service as a sharp-shooter, killing no less than thirty-five men, it is
stated, from a single station.


After Bill’s complete recovery he returned to the states and
volunteered his services to Gen. Curtis, who had command of the
army in Missouri, as a scout and spy. He was enrolled in the early
part of 1863, and at once sent upon a dangerous mission. Gen. Price
was preparing to enter Missouri, and it became very necessary for
Gen. Curtis to have reliable information of the intentions of the
Confederate General. Bill went to Kansas City, where he was furnished
a horse, and allowed to exercise his judgment in reaching the enemy’s
lines. Accordingly, he rode through Kansas and the Indian Territory in
order to reach Arkansas from the south. He assumed the name of Bill
Barnes, and enlisted in a regiment of mounted rangers at a small town
south of Little Rock. The regiment was attached to Price’s command, and
shortly afterwards he was made one of Price’s orderlies. This gave him
all the facilities desired to obtain information, which he managed,
in many ways, to communicate to Gen. Curtis. In 1864 Price began his
retreat from Missouri and made his last stand by forming a junction
with Shelby on Sugar creek, about twenty miles below Newtonia, in
McDonald county. Gen. Curtis had, by forced marches, reached the creek
at nearly the same time, and both forces were preparing for battle. It
was now time for Bill to leave the Confederates, but no opportunity
was presented. A river, or creek, lay between the two armies, and any
effort to cross would certainly be detected.

On the 23d of October, and the day Bill formed the intention of making
a bold effort to cross the lines, Gen. Price directed him to carry
orders to Gen. Shelby instructing him where and when to make the attack
on Curtis, and how to conduct the movement. This instruction made
matters worse for Bill, and he determined to take the chances of life
or death in evading the Confederate army and placing the orders in Gen.
Curtis’ hands. He rode furiously back and lost no time in challenging a
bragadocio sergeant to ride with him, for a wager, nearest the enemy’s
lines. The sergeant tried to back out, but the boys began to hoot him
so that their respective horses were wagered as to who could cross
the open space and ride down to the creek. The two started off on a
dash and soon the bullets from the Union forces were whistling around
them. Bill kept as far from his partner as possible, and made his horse
rear and plunge in order to attract the attention of the Union forces.
They rode down to the creek together, when the Union men discovered
Bill and shouted to him. This aroused the suspicion of the sergeant,
who attempted to draw his pistol, but Bill’s eye was on him, and in a
flash a ball went crashing through his brain. Bill grabbed the bit of
the dead sergeant’s horse and plunged into the stream, which at the
time was considerably swollen. The Confederates now saw what was up,
and although the Union forces commenced a brisk fire, the Confederates
seemed determined to kill Bill, the bullets falling around him like
hail; but he managed to reach the opposite shore with his own and the
dead sergeant’s horse without receiving any injury. Bill was taken into
Gen. Curtis’ tent and afterwards publicly thanked for his daring and
valuable services.


Gen. Curtis continued pushing southward, and it again became necessary
for Bill to enter the enemy’s lines. There were three things
particularly in Bill’s favor as a scout and spy. First of all, he was
daring beyond example; second, he was an unerring shot, and third, he
could change his appearance so radically as to defy detection; add to
this a native cunning and adaptability, and his success and escapes are
not so remarkable.

[Illustration: Bill’s Escape from the Confederates.]

The second time he was sent into the lines he was accompanied by
Nat. Tuckett, one of the dearest friends Bill ever had. They took a
circuitous route like the one adopted by Bill in reaching Price’s
army, and attached themselves to Kirby Smith at Austin, Texas, and
soon afterwards moved north with Smith’s army into Arkansas. Curtis’
forces were not very strong, and while deploying down the Arkansas
river they began to feel the strength of the Confederates. At length
the main body of both armies came in view and stretched their lines of
battle opposite each other about one thousand yards apart. A battery
of ten-pounders was stationed on a small knoll to the left, which was
kept playing on the Confederates, but evidently with little effect,
for they did not change positions and appeared willing that the Union
forces should expend their fire, for they did not return it except
occasionally, apparently to let the Union forces know they were waiting
for the attack. This condition of affairs continued for more than an
hour, when suddenly two horsemen were seen to leave the ranks of the
Confederates and ride furiously towards the Union lines. They had not
gone a hundred yards before a detachment of cavalry started in pursuit
and a rapid fire was commenced at the two riders. A company of Union
men was deployed to intercept the pursuers, as it was evident that the
two were trying to effect their escape. On they came, the pursued and
pursuers, until the two reached a ditch about twenty feet wide and ten
feet deep. All but two of the pursuers had been distanced, and when the
pursued came to the ditch one of them cleared it with a bound, but the
other fell dead under his horse from a pistol shot fired by the two
advanced pursuers. The Union forces could then plainly see that the
two trying to escape were Wild Bill and Nat. Tuckett. When his partner
fell, Bill turned in his saddle and fired two quick shots, and both the
advanced pursuers fell dead and their horses galloped riderless into
the Union lines.

This ride has been pronounced by those familiar with the
facts--hundreds of whom are yet living--as one of the most daring
feats ever accomplished, and Bill’s escape from death one of the most
remarkable of his many strokes of good fortune. The only motive he
had for adopting so rash a measure was his dare-devil nature, which
possibly became intensified by one or more drinks.

In accomplishing this perilous feat, Bill rode a black mare, to which
he gave the name of Black Nell, and which he took great pains to train,
with what success will be mentioned hereafter.


Directly after performing this remarkable dare-devil deed “Wild Bill”
again concluded to re-enter Price’s lines, although to return into the
camp where he must now be familiarly known, was like inviting death.
Some men are never so happy as when daring fate, and to approach near
the dreadful summoner often becomes a fascinating adventure. It was so
with Bill, for the greater the risks to be encountered, the greater
his enjoyment. He loved danger, not as the soldier who would gather
fame from the mouths of roaring cannons, but as one who extracts
some pleasant intoxicant from the result. For the fourth time Bill
disguised himself and again made a detour so as to re-enter General
Price’s lines from the South. He met the fleeing army not many miles
from Little Rock, and, riding a mule, with the make-up of an Arkansas
farmer, he offered himself as a recruit. It was but a short time before
he was discovered, and upon being reported he was arrested, and on the
following day tried by court-martial. The trial lasted less than an
hour, as he was so well known in connection with the escapades already
narrated, and upon conviction he was sentenced to be shot on the
succeeding day.

Fortune always favors the desperately brave, and we now have to record
another extraordinary visitation of good luck to Bill. Price’s army
had been fleeing more than a week before the victorious Curtis, whose
troops outnumbered those of Price two to one. The pursuit had been
continued until both armies were very much fatigued, and Price’s was so
nearly exhausted that he was compelled to go into camp on a small creek
twenty-five miles south of Little Rock. Wild Bill’s arms and legs were
pinioned with thongs and he was confined in a one-room log-house with a
single guard to prevent his escape. The house had but one door and one
window, the latter being nearly two feet square and closed by a door
made of clap-boards. Being bound hand and foot there was no avenue of
escape, apparently, and Bill was forced to take a melancholy view of
his situation. Night coming on, and the guard being nearly worn out,
dozed off from time to time, feeling that his prisoner was perfectly
secure. While meditating upon the execution announced to take place on
the morrow, in which he was to be the chief character his eyes caught
sight of the handle of an old case-knife which was sticking in an auger
hole in one of the house logs. Changing his seat without arousing any
suspicion from the guard, Bill managed to secure the rusty knife, and
after long effort succeeded in cutting the cords which bound his wrists
together. The dozing guard permitted him also to cut the cords on his
feet, and the moment he was free Bill rushed on the guard like a tiger
springing upon its prey and seizing him by the throat ripped open
his abdomen in an instant. The guard fell dead from the knife thrusts
without being able to give any alarm, and, seizing the musket and
taking the guard’s coat, which he hastily put on, Bill fled out into
the darkness and made good his escape.

Bill traveled nearly two days before reaching the Union lines, and upon
his return he appeared before General Curtis, to whom he related his
wonderful escape from death, and declined to act any longer as a spy in
Price’s army, as his return again would, undoubtedly, have resulted in
his death.


Being a scout, Bill was not permanently attached to Gen. Curtis’
army, but had a wide latitude in which to range; but he was fighting
Confederates nearly all the time, sometimes in company with a small
force and at other times single-handed. There are very few acquainted
with the many phases the war assumed who do not remember the terrorism
which existed in Southern Missouri from 1864 until the close of the
rebellion. The country was infested with bushwhackers, whose single
purpose was the murder of defenseless persons and running off valuable
stock. Their depredations were terrible, and these marauding bands
were composed of the renegades of both armies, which it was difficult
for either side to punish. Their haunts were chiefly among the pineries
and other places difficult to penetrate with a company of men so as to
present an effective front.

Wild Bill, usually bent on some daring purpose, concluded to enter
the pineries between Rolla and Springfield on a tour of discovery.
He neglected to acquaint any one with his purpose, and left Rolla by
night. After an absence of three days he returned to Rolla, leading
three horses. Gen. Daviess, who was in command of the post, sent for
Bill and asked him how he came in possession of the horses. The tone in
which the General addressed the inquiry suggested to Bill the idea that
the General entertained the suspicion that the horses were stolen. With
a stolid indifference which characterized the man, Bill replied: “It’s
none of your d--d business.” By Gen. Daviess’ orders, Bill was placed
in the guardhouse, but he had so many fast friends, who felt satisfied
that he came by the horses honorably, that on the night following,
Bill appeared on the streets as usual. The General was outwitted, and,
approaching Bill courteously, he received an explanation as follows:
On the second day after Bill left Rolla, he met three bushwhackers in
a lonely road, who commanded him to dismount. To this Bill returned
the reply, “It shall be a fair fight,” and commenced firing. His
first three shots killed his men. All of them fired at him, but the
only effect was to split his saddle bow. Bill had some difficulty in
catching the three horses, but he succeeded and brought them in. On the
second day after getting into Rolla, Bill conducted a detail of six men
to the spot where the fight occurred, and found the bodies of the three
bushwhackers. The horses were turned over to Gen. Daviess.


During the period that Bill was scouting for Gen. Curtis, he fought a
duel to the death with an Indian chief, the particulars of which are
partially forgotten, and the facts, therefore, can only be imperfectly
recited. The details, so far as Dr. Thorne can remember them, are
as follows: It will be remembered that during the civil war several
tribes of Indians were employed, chiefly for foraging purposes, by
both Federals and Confederates, the largest force being commanded by
Gen. Jim Lane. Gen. Curtis had received information through a friendly
tribe of Sioux Indians, in Kansas, that a hostile camp of Choctaws had
been pitched on the Kaw river, a few miles west of Lawrence. The chief
of the Sioux, Man-to-yu-kee, (Conquering Bear,) appeared before Gen.
Curtis at Leavenworth and offered to accompany any white man he might
choose to send, as a spy into the enemy’s camp. Gen. Curtis at once
selected Wild Bill for the dangerous mission. Upon setting out on the
journey, Bill had his suspicions aroused by the anxiety of the chief,
and frankly told the Indian that if he betrayed him death would be the

The two proceeded cautiously, Bill’s eyes being almost constantly on
the chief, lest the treachery he suspicioned would lead him into a
fatal trap. His fears were realized when the two had got within a short
distance of the hostile camp, for the chief had misled him and then
suddenly disappeared. Bill managed, with his usual good fortune, to
escape the Choctaws after getting inside the picket lines, although
several times they came within a few feet of his hiding places. He made
his way back to Leavenworth, where, after reporting the result of his
trip, he directed his steps toward the camp of the Sioux.

Bill could never discover the motive which prompted the chief to thus
betray him, but he was determined to be revenged. He was personally
acquainted with many of the Sioux, and one of the most trusted ones
he employed to lure the chief to a lone spot where he could take his
revenge. The stratagem succeeded, and, ere the chief was aware, he was
brought face to face with Bill in a sequestered spot thirty miles west
of Kansas City. Bill told the chief that he intended to kill him for
his treachery, and thereupon threw the Indian a pistol, telling him
to defend himself. The chief knew Bill to be a dead shot, and objected
to fighting a duel with pistols, but, being compelled to fight, he
agreed to meet Bill in a hand-to-hand encounter with bowie-knives.
Each carried such a knife, and therefore no further preliminaries were
necessary. The bright, long, keen blades were unsheathed, and each
holding a knife aloft in his right hand advanced to meet the other.
The Indian fought shy and tried to back to cover, but Bill threatened
to shoot him if he left a circle which he then made. Again the two
came together, their hands clenched, at the center of the circle, and,
as the chief was much the stronger, he held Bill’s striking hand for
nearly half an hour, their knives being locked together. A favorable
opportunity being presented, Bill partly tripped the chief, and the
hold was loosened. For a third time they came together, but this time
the result was fearful. Bill slashed at the Indian’s heart, but the
blow lost its full effect by striking the buckskin vest and a buckle on
the suspender which the chief chanced to wear. But the buckle was cleft
in twain, and the Indian’s left side was cut open to the ribs. But Bill
had not escaped, for the Indian, also aiming at Bill’s heart, struck
his arm near the shoulder and stripped the flesh down the bone two

The combatants presented a terrible spectacle as they came together a
fourth time. The blood was streaming from each and making the ground
fairly muddy over which they fought. The chief was the first to strike
next, but the blow was caught on the edge of Bill’s knife, and, with
a lightning parry and thrust, Bill cut the Indian’s throat, almost
severing the head from the body.

The wound Bill received caused him great annoyance, for after partially
healing, a fistula formed, which Dr. Thorne treated for several months
before he recovered the use of his arm. This fight was one of the most
terrible ever man engaged in, and nothing could evidence a man’s pluck
more conclusively than this did Bill’s.


Shortly after the close of the great civil war Wild Bill engaged in a
novel enterprise, the result of which was a complete financial failure,
though it furnished rare amusement for a great many wealthy people.
He secured six fine, full-grown buffalos, and with four Commanche
Indians, he made a trip to Niagara Falls, for the purpose of treating
the visitors of that fashionable and famous resort to a genuine
buffalo chase. The entertainment was duly advertised and a very large
number of persons was attracted to witness real Indians, bespangled
with beads, paint and feathers, in pursuit of a genuine herd of wild
buffalos. The chase occurred on the Canada shore, and created the
greatest excitement; hundreds of gentlemen engaging in the pursuit,
mounted in excellent style, and rendering efficient aid at the close in
securing the buffalos, unharmed, and returning them to pens previously
provided. Niagara sight-seers, perhaps, never witnessed a more
interesting and exciting entertainment, but they were not willing to
pay properly for the amusement. No admission fee could be charged, as
the chase could not be conducted within an enclosure, and Bill had to
depend upon voluntary contributions, which were so meagre as to leave
him a heavy loser. He was compelled to sell his buffalos and pilot his
Commanche braves back to their reservation.

An incident occurred at the close of the chase worthy of record in this
connection. Among the many spectators was a party of English snobs, one
of whom seeing Bill dressed in buckskin breeches and generally frontier
style, asked him if he were an Indian or white man. The question was
addressed in a cockney way peculiar to English _haute tons_, and gave
such offense that Bill replied: “This is the kind of a man I am,” at
the same time striking the impertinent fellow a blow in the face which
sent him sprawling into the street.


In the latter part of 1865, Wild Bill went to Springfield, Missouri,
where he remained some time. It was while at this place that he fought
a duel with Dave Tutt in the public square, and, as usual, killed
his man, and came out of the encounter scathless The particulars of
this affair are as follows: Springfield became a meeting place, after
the war, of Confederates and Union men. Both sides recruited their
forces from this section, and though the war had ended, many of the
animosities then engendered still remained. Another peculiarity of the
place consisted in the excess of border ruffianism, which made the
town notorious. Murders had been so frequent in that section that the
value of a life could scarcely be computed for its smallness. Among the
rowdies was one Dave Tutt, a man of terrible passion, strong revenge,
and one withal who had his private graveyard. He and Bill had met
before; in fact, had shared the smiles of the same woman, a few years
previous; but Bill had won “in a square court,” and Dave was anxious to
meet Bill with pistols to settle the point finally. Some months passed
while the two were in Springfield before any opportunity was presented
for Dave to introduce a row, and when it came it was of Dave’s own
manufacture. It is claimed that Bill killed a particular friend of
Dave’s some years before, but of the truth of this we have no proof.
One of the strong points of difference between the men consisted in the
fact that Bill had been a Union scout and spy, and Dave had performed a
similar duty for the Confederates.

Springfield was a great place for gamblers, and Bill and Dave belonged
to the profession. One night, the two met in a saloon on the north side
of the square, and Dave proposed a game with Bill, which, not being
agreeable, Dave offered to stake a friend to play Bill. Thus the game
was started. When Bill sat down to the game he drew out his heavy gold
watch and laid it on the table, remarking that he intended to quit the
game promptly at 12 o’clock. After nearly two hours playing he had won
two hundred dollars, the greater part of which had come from Dave as a
loan to his friend. Having broke the friend and Dave also, the latter
remarked, “Bill, you’ve got money now, so pay me that forty dollars
you’ve been owing me so long.”

“All right,” replied Bill, “there’s your money,” and thereupon passed
the forty dollars to Dave.

“Now,” remarked Dave, further, “I want that thirty-five dollars I won
off you Friday night.”

Bill’s reply was very courteous: “Beg your pardon, Dave, it was only
twenty-five dollars; I put the amount down in my memorandum-book at the

Receiving this mild reply, Dave reached across the table and took
Bill’s watch, with the remark, “You’ll never get this watch until you
pay me that thirty-five dollars.”

This threw Bill into a violent passion, although he restrained himself.
Rising from his chair and looking piercingly into Dave’s eyes, he said:
“I am anxious to avoid a row in this gentleman’s house. You had better
put that watch back on the table.”

Dave returned an ugly look, and walked out of the room with the watch.

It was the only time, perhaps, in Bill’s life, that he permitted
himself to be thus bullied. Everyone who knew him thought he had lost
his pluck. It was indeed a seven days’ wonder with the people.

Dave kept the watch two days, during which time Bill remained in his
room closely, revolving in his mind whether he should add another to
his already long list of victims, or stop there and begin a life which
flows in a more peaceful current. But he was not permitted to think and
resolve without the advice of his friends. Almost every hour one or
more of them would come to him with a new story about Dave’s boasts and

On the morning of the third day after the row, Dave sent word to Bill
that he intended “to carry the watch across the square at noon, and to
call the hour from Wild Bill’s watch.” Bill sent back the following
reply: “Dave Tutt will not carry my watch across the square to-day
unless dead men can walk.”

This reply satisfied everybody that there was going to be a death
fight. Accordingly, shortly before noon, an immense crowd had assembled
on the public square to see the duel.

At five minutes to twelve Wild Bill made his appearance on one side
of the square opposite the crowd, where he could command a view of
Tutt and his many friends, nearly all of whom were standing with their
revolvers in their hands.

[Illustration: “Are you Satisfied.”]

Just before twelve Dave stepped out from the crowd and started across
the square. When he had proceeded a few steps and placed himself
opposite to Bill, he drew his pistol; there was a report as of a
single discharge, and Dave Tutt fell dead with a bullet through his
heart. The moment Bill discharged his pistol--both pistols having been
fired at the same instant--without taking note of the result of his
shot, he turned on the crowd with his pistol leveled, and asked if
they were satisfied; twenty or more blanched faces said they were, and
pronounced the fight a square one. Bill expected to have to kill more
than one man that day, but none of Dave’s friends considered it policy
to appeal the result.

Bill was arrested, but at the preliminary examination he was discharged
on the ground of self-defense. The verdict may not have been in
accordance with the well defined principles of criminal jurisprudence,
but it was sufficient, for all who know the circumstances believe that
Tutt got his deserts.


Bill remained in Springfield several months after killing Tutt, and
until he was engaged, in 1866, to guide the Peace Commission, which
visited the many tribes of Indians that year. Henry M. Stanley, the
African explorer, accompanied the commission as correspondent of the
New York _Herald_, and wrote some amusing sketches of Bill during
the trip, but none of a nature which would make them appropriate in
the history of his escapades. They related chiefly to his feats of
markmanship, knowledge of Indian cunning, and droll humor.

Upon the return of the Peace Commission, Bill made a trip into
the eastern part of Nebraska, and in the spring of 1867, fought a
remarkable duel in Jefferson county, with four men as his antagonists.
The particulars of this fight were obtained from a gentleman now living
in St. Louis, who, at the time, lived within a few miles of where the
fight occurred, and heard the details from eye-witnesses.

[Illustration: A Duel with Four Men.]

The origin of the difficulty was in bad whisky and ruffian nature.
Bill went into a saloon--which was well filled with cattle drivers,
who were half drunk and anxious for a fight--and called for a drink
without inviting any one to join him. While raising the glass to his
mouth one of the ruffians gave him a push in the back which caused
him to drop the glass. Without saying a word, Bill turned and struck
the rowdy a desperate blow, felling him outside the door. Four of the
rowdy’s friends jumped up from their chairs and drew their pistols.
Bill appreciated his situation at once, and with wonderful coolness,
said: “Gentlemen, let us have some respect for the proprietor. You are
anxious for a fight, and I will accommodate you if you will consent
to step outside. I will fight all four of you at fifteen paces with
pistols.” There was a general consent, and the crowd filed out of the
saloon. The distance was stepped off, and the four men stood five feet
apart, facing Bill. The saloon-keeper was to give the word “fire,”
and the arrangements were conducted in as fair a manner as four men
can fight one. Bill stood as calmly as though he were in church. Not
a flush nor tremor. All parties were to allow their pistols to remain
in their belts until the word “fire” was given, when each was then to
draw and fire at will, and as often as circumstances permitted. The
saloon-keeper asked if all were ready, and receiving an affirmative
reply, began to count slowly, pausing at least ten seconds between each
count: “one, two, three--fire!” Bill had fired almost before the call
had died from the saloon-keeper’s lips. He killed the man on the left,
but a shot also struck Bill in the right shoulder, and his right arm
fell helpless.

In another instant he had transferred his pistol to his left hand, and
three more successive shots dropped his antagonists. Three of the men
were shot in the head and instantly killed. The other was shot in the
right cheek, the ball carrying away a large portion of the cheek bone.
He afterwards recovered, and may be living yet. The names of the four
were: Jack Harkness, the one who recovered; Jim Slater, Frank Dowder
and Seth Beeber.

Bill was lionized by the others in the crowd in a moment after the
fight; his wound was carefully bandaged and his wants administered to;
but he considered it safer to quit the county at once, and returned
to Kansas, going direct to Hays City, where he remained until he
recovered the use of his arm, none of the bones having been broken, and
in the latter part of the same year he was made city marshal, as he was
the only one capable of dealing with the lawless class which had often
overrun the town and set law and decency at defiance.


In 1868, Wild Bill was engaged to guide a party of thirty
pleasure-seekers, headed by Hon. Henry Wilson, deceased
ex-Vice-President, through some of the Western territories. Mrs.
Wilson, wife of the Vice-President, was among the party, and being of
a most vivacious and entertaining disposition, added greatly to the
enjoyment of the trip. Wild Bill’s introduction to her resulted in a
pleasing episode at the conclusion of the trip. She requested Bill to
carefully scrutinize the party, and then give her his impartial opinion
of Yankees. Bill replied that it was not customary for him to form rash
conclusions, but if it were her wish he would deliver his opinion upon
their return.

The thirty days roaming through the canyons and over the mountains
furnished a most enjoyable diversion to the entire party. There was
scarcely a day passed but that Bill gave them samples of his unerring
aim, killing enough game with his pistol to provision the company. The
ladies, who composed nearly one-half the party, never tired of praising
him, listening to his stories of border life, and wondering at his
marvelous escapes. Bill naturally felt elated, and could not refrain
from evincing his very deep interest in the pretty girls from the
states. The gentlemen exhibited equal interest in the exploits of Bill,
and gave him full credit for his performances. There was one thing
about the party which Bill could not comprehend, viz.: the tight-legged
pants which they wore--which at that time were the prevailing fashion
in the East--and gave to the wearer the appearance of skeleton legs,
wrapped with checked bandages, or a grasshopper dressed in an overcoat.

Upon the return of the party, Mrs. Wilson, in bidding Bill good-bye,
asked for a fulfillment of his promise. He rather reluctantly
responded, “Well, madam, I always like to keep my promise, but in this
instance I should like to be excused.” But no excuse would answer; his
disinclination only excited a more anxious interest in Mrs. Wilson to
obtain his opinion.

Being pressingly importuned, Bill at length gave his opinion as
follows: “If you Yankee women have as small legs as the sample of
Yankee men we have here, then I have a d--d poor opinion of the tribe.”

The frankness with which Bill spoke, no less than his remarks, threw
the entire party into disorder. The young ladies hid their faces, and
the men generally exhibited their umbrage, but Mr. and Mrs. Wilson
were fairly convulsed with laughter. The sting was taken out of Bill’s
opinion by Mrs. Wilson exclaiming, “Well, Mr. Hickok, that is just my


After Bill’s return from the trip with the Wilson company of wealthy
“Yankees,” he resumed his duties as city marshal of Hays City. It would
be difficult for any one not familiar with the terrorism of border life
to form an approximate estimate of the condition of society in Hays
City when Bill became the custodian of its peace. Saloons and gambling
hells were the most flourishing branches of business, and never closed
their doors. The Sabbath was ignored, and the revelry of ruffians
continued day and night. The population, it is true, was not a large
one, but it was an exceedingly vicious and lively one. There were, of
course, many good citizens, but, to use a border expression, “they
never aired themselves,” yet it was through their instrumentality that
Bill became marshal. Among the most violent and dangerous of the rowdy
element in Hays City was Jack Strawhan, a large, double-fisted bully
who boasted that he could clean out the town, and who had his record
well made by killing several men.

Some months previous to the occurrence about to be related, Strawhan
had visited Ellsworth, and after getting fighting drunk, he and his
gang undertook to “clean out the place,” as they expressed it. Capt.
Kingsbury, the gentleman before referred to, was sheriff of Ellsworth
county at the time, and being a man of equally desperate pluck, he
called his deputy, Whitney, and Wild Bill, who was also in Ellsworth
on that day, to his assistance, and after a slight skirmish arrested
the gang. Strawhan was so violent and abusive that it became necessary,
owing to there being no secure jail in the place, to tie him to a post,
his arms being thrown around it and fastened in front. This position
was a punishment as well as a secure one, and he was kept there until
thoroughly sober and subjugated.

This severe treatment caused Jack to take a public oath to kill
Kingsbury, Whitney and Wild Bill at the first opportunity, and every
one who knew the man felt that he would keep his word.

[Illustration: Death of Jack Strawhan.]

The day of fate arrived in 1869, and under the following circumstances:
Wild Bill was in Tommy Drum’s saloon, in company with a crowd of
drinking characters, indulging, as was his wont, when Strawhan entered
by a side door. Bill’s eyes were always on the lookout for danger, and
they caught Jack the moment he stepped upon the threshold. Bill made
a pretence of not noticing his bitter enemy, but quietly grasped his
pistol and kept talking, unconcernedly, as before. Strawhan thought
his opportunity had come, and that Bill was off his guard, but the
moment Strawhan attempted to level his pistol, Bill wheeled and shot
him dead, the ball from his weapon entering Strawhan’s right eye,
felling him without a groan. Bill then turned back to the counter of
the bar, and asked everybody in the saloon to take a drink, never
giving the slightest heed to the body of the man which lay on the floor
dead, with his face smothered in a pool of blood. Everyone drank.
The coroner was sent for and the crowd gave their testimony. Bill was
acquitted the same day, and serenaded by the authorities at night.

Whitney escaped death at Strawhan’s hands, but was killed by a Texan
named Ben Thompson, in 1873.


Shortly after the event just related, Bill Mulvey, a notorious rough
and desperado from St. Joseph, Mo., struck Hays City, and got on what
we term in the West, “a great big tear.” He paraded the streets with
a revolver in each hand, howling like an enraged tiger, and thirsting
for some one’s blood. He was met by the squire and constable, both of
whom endeavored to make him keep the peace, but their efforts were
so far futile that he turned upon them and drove both out of the
town. Wild Bill, who chanced to be in a saloon in another part of the
place, where he was unconscious of the disturbance, was notified, and
at once started to arrest Mulvey. Approaching his man quietly, in a
most amiable tone he told Mulvey that he should have to arrest him
for disturbing the peace. Mulvey had his pistols in his hands at the
time, and in an instant they were leveled at Wild Bill’s head, with the
injunction, “March before me.” Bill fully appreciated the danger of
his position, but his remarkable self-possession and coolness never
deserted him. Before turning to march in front of Mulvey, Bill raised
his left hand, and with a look of dissatisfaction, said: “Boys, don’t
hit him.” This remark had the desired effect, for as Bill had not shown
his pistol, Mulvey turned to see who Bill had spoken to, and to protect
his rear. In the twinkle of an eye, Bill whipped out his pistol and
shot Mulvey dead, the ball entering the victim’s head just behind the

The West was thus relieved of another desperate character, and Wild
Bill received a vote of thanks from the citizens for his conduct.


Bill’s fortunate escape from death in his fight with the McCandlas gang
at Rock Creek was no more remarkable than one of his fights at Hays
City which occurred in 1870. During this year, the 7th U. S. Cavalry
was stationed at that post, and many of the soldiers, partaking of the
desperate nature which distinguished the place, gave the authorities
great trouble. Bill’s duties as city marshal caused an antagonism
which finally culminated in a most desperate fight with fifteen of
the soldiers, the particulars of which are as follows: On the day in
question, several of the soldiers became very drunk, among them a
large sergeant who had a particular aversion to Bill on account of
his having arrested, at divers times, several of the members of his
company. The sergeant was in Paddy Welch’s saloon with several of his
men, indulging in a noisy carousal. Welch sent for Bill to remove the
crowd, but when he arrived the sergeant insisted on fighting Bill in
the street. He confessed that he was no match for Bill in a duel, but
dared him to meet him in fistic encounter. To this proposition Bill
consented, and taking out his two revolvers he passed them to Welch,
and the two combatants, followed by the crowd inside, stepped out of
the saloon and into the street. Although the sergeant was much the
larger man, he was no equal for Bill, and in a moment after the fight
began the sergeant was knocked down, and Bill was administering to
him a most severe thrashing. The soldiers, fourteen in number, seeing
their sergeant at great disadvantage, and in danger of never getting
back to camp with a sound body, rushed in to his assistance, some with
clubs, and others with stones, seemingly determined to kill Bill. Paddy
Welch was near at hand, and seeing the desperate position he occupied,
ran into the crowd and succeeded in placing the two revolvers in his
hands. In another moment he discharged a shot which killed one of the
soldiers, and would have done more terrible execution but for the crowd
that was on him, which prevented him from using his hands.

When the first soldier fell dead there was a hasty dispersion of the
others, but only to get their pistols, which were near at hand, and to
renew the attack. For a few minutes there was rapid firing, and three
more of the soldiers fell, one of them dead, and the other two mortally
wounded. The odds were too great for Bill, and though he was struck
with seven bullets, he managed to escape from the crowd and get out of
town. Night coming on very soon after the fight was over, enabled Bill
to cross Smoky river and secrete himself several miles from the town,
where he remained lying in a buffalo wallow for two days, caring for
his wounds. He was hit three times in the arms, once in the side and
three times in the legs. None of the wounds were serious, but he was
compelled to tear up his shirt and drawers for bandages to stop the
flow of blood.

On the following day after the fight, Gen. Sheridan ordered a
detachment of cavalry to go in pursuit of Bill, and, using his own
words, “to take him dead or alive,” but, although the pursuit was
entered into earnestly, they never found the object of their search.

After getting able to travel, which was on the third day, Bill managed
to drag his sore and hungry body down to Bill Williams’ ranche, where
he was tenderly cared for. No one can imagine the suffering he endured
during the two days he lay in the buffalo wallow. His wounds, though
but flesh injuries, gave him excruciating pain. He drew his boots,
which were filled with blood, and was unable to put them on again. He
lost his hat during the fight, and, after tearing up his underclothes,
he literally had no protection from the chill and damp of the night.
When he attempted to rise from the ground, the agony he suffered was as
intense as mortal could bear; but notwithstanding the pain he endured,
the excessive hunger which began to oppress and weaken him, compelled
him to make the effort to reach Williams’ ranche, which he succeeded in
doing, as before stated.

After remaining at the ranche a few days, Bill sent for his friend
Whitney, then sheriff of Ellsworth county, he having succeeded Capt.
Kingsbury, and by him Bill was taken to Ellsworth. But the constant
dread of detection made it advisable for Bill to leave Ellsworth,
which he did in a few days, by the kindly assistance of Jim Bomon, a
conductor of a freight train on the Kansas Pacific railroad, who locked
him in a box car and brought him to Junction City. At this place Bill
received proper surgical attention and soon recovered.


The removal of the Seventh Cavalry from Hays City gave Bill immunity
from danger from that quarter, and though he did not return to that
place, he accepted the office of city marshal of Abilene, a town one
hundred miles east of Hays City, and frequently visited the latter
place on business.

Abilene was the point from which all the cattle from Texas for the
Eastern markets were shipped. Immense droves were daily brought into
the place, and with the cattle came the drovers, a large majority of
whom were Texan desperadoes. The town bristled with business, and
crimes and drunkenness became so common that by general consent Abilene
was called the Gomorrah of the West. Gamblers and bad women, drunken
cut-throats and pimps, overshadowed all other society, and the carnival
of iniquity never ceased. The civil officers were plastic to the touch
of the ruffians, and the town was ruled by intimidation.

When Bill assumed charge of the office of marshal, the law and order
class had hopes for a radical change, and yet they were very doubtful
of the ability of one man to curb the reckless and lawless spirit of
so many vicious desperadoes--men who were familiar with the pistol
and did not hesitate to murder and plunder, and who took pleasure in
“stampeding” the place.

In two days after Bill entered upon the discharge of his duties,
occasion presented for a manifestation of his pluck. Phil. Cole, a
gambler, and one of the most dangerous men in the West, in company with
his pal, whose name cannot now be recalled, concluded to run the town
after their own fashion for at least one day. They began by smashing
windows promiscuously, insulting women, discharging their pistols,
and other like conduct. Bill met them while they were in the midst
of their deviltry, and undertook their arrest. He knew Phil. Cole by
reputation, and was prepared for the fight he expected. Cole told Bill
that his arrest depended upon who was the better man, and at once drew
his pistol. McWilliams, Bill’s deputy, stepped up and tried to pacify
Cole, and at the same time to secure his pistol, but Cole was anxious
for a fight and fired at Bill, but missed his mark. Bill returned the
fire, but at the moment he pulled the trigger of his pistol, Cole, in
his struggle, threw McWilliams in front of him and the bullet from the
pistol struck the faithful deputy, killing him almost instantly. Cole’s
pal, who, until this time, seemed a mute spectator of the affray, then
drew his pistol, and also fired at Bill, the bullet passing through
Bill’s hat, and before Cole or his mate could fire again, Bill had put
a bullet through the head of each, and the fight was ended. The death
of McWilliams was most sincerely deplored by everyone, but by none as
it was by Bill, and in years afterward he could not have the sad event
recalled to mind without crying like a child.

The killing of Cole was a most fortunate event for the better class
of citizens of Abilene, because it at once improved the morals of the
place. The men who had for years before rioted at their pleasure,
defied the law and badgered decency, began to feel that to continue in
the same course would be to risk their lives. Nevertheless, the death
of Phil. Cole only diminished the lawless excesses--it did not entirely
prevent them. Bill never had another occasion to kill anyone in
Abilene, but his club fell heavily on many heads determined on vicious
acts. His enemies among the Texas cattle men multiplied rapidly, and he
realized that there was not a moment that he could safely turn his back
to any of them. A cattle king of Texas, whose name we do not choose
to mention, as he is still living, was arrested by Bill for violent
conduct on the street during a spree, and, as he strenuously resisted,
Bill was forced to use his club. The man paid his fine on the following
day, but before leaving town he declared that he would get even with
Bill before many months elapsed.


The large and wealthy cattle raiser referred to, directly after
returning to Texas, selected eight desperate characters--men who he
knew would not hesitate to commit any crime for the sake of money--and
offered them the sum of five thousand dollars in gold if they would
kill Wild Bill and secure his heart. The proposition was made at a
pre-arranged meeting, which took place in an old barn on the premises
of the cattle raiser, at which each of the employed assassins was
required to take an oath not to divulge the name of the man who hired
them under any circumstances, except in the event of the refusal of the
employer to pay over the sum agreed upon directly upon the delivery to
him of Wild Bill’s heart. It was a terrible contract in the eyes of
civilization, but an excellent one in the estimation of those a party
to it.

In a few days after the arrangement was concluded, the sum of fifty
dollars was placed in the hands of each of the hired assassins as
forfeit money, to pay expenses of the trip to Abilene, and the eight
villains then started out upon their mission.

[Illustration: Bill Drives his would-be Assassins from the Train.]

After reaching Abilene, as was customary among the Texans who visited
the place, the party got on a big drunk, and, while in this condition,
one of the number explained the nature of his trip to an acquaintance
who, by chance, was a secret friend of Bill’s. The information was very
soon imparted to Bill, and the villains were foiled in the following
manner: Bill decided to go to Topeka by the train, and to have the
assassins made acquainted with his purpose. He knew they would follow
him, because they would consider it safer to kill their man by luring
him onto the platform of a train, where a knife thrust would finish
their work without the knowledge of the other passengers, than to
attack him in the boundaries of his official jurisdiction among his
friends. Accordingly, Bill got on the evening train going east, and
saw the eight villains get into the coach in the rear of the one he
entered. Bill wisely concluded that no attempt would be made upon
his life until a late hour, when the passengers would generally be
asleep, and quietly kept his seat until about eleven o’clock, when the
train was passing a dark and deep cut a few miles west of Topeka. He
concluded now was the time to act; so, drawing his two revolvers, he
entered the car where the eight would-be murderers sat. In an instant
all was attention, but confusion soon followed, for Bill raised his
pistols and commanded the assassins to file out of the car before him.
They saw at once that hesitation meant death, and without attempting
the purpose for which they came, every one of them hastily arose and
did as Bill commanded, leaping from the rapidly-moving train apparently
without a thought of the danger in so doing. Three of them were so
badly hurt in the fall that their companions had to carry them off,
and one of the most notorious of the party died two days afterwards
of his injuries. The parting injunction which Bill gave them forced
them to abandon the idea of getting his heart. Said he: “If any of
you gray-backed hell-hounds ever cross my track again, I’ll make
blood-pudding out of your infernal carcasses.” Bill would undoubtedly
have attacked the men had it not been for the presence of so many
passengers, some of whom would certainly have been killed in the

If this pamphlet should, perchance, be read by four men--known to be
living--and one in particular, there will be a scene not wholly unlike
that which transpired when Banquo’s ghost arose before the startled
vision of Macbeth.


Wild Bill got off the train at Topeka, and returned to Abilene the
next day. A week later he went up to Ellsworth, to which place he was
a frequent visitor, being attracted to that town by a woman whose name
we omit to mention, by her request. This woman was the keeper of a
house of ill-repute, but her beauty made her a most attractive person,
and her real admirers were numbered by hundreds. She is now pursuing
the same calling in Kansas City, but though still a fine looking woman,
very few traces of her former beauty remain. She is wealthy, however,
and what she now lacks in natural appearance, she compensates for
by artificial means, and is still a leader of her kind. Bill’s love
for her was undoubtedly genuine, although he never asked her hand
in marriage. Bill Thompson, a big bully, and handy with his pistol,
was also a worshiper at the same shrine, and hated Wild Bill more
inveterately than any other man on earth. This hatred was, perhaps,
not so much inspired by the rivalry between them for the woman’s
smiles, as it was caused by the fact that on one occasion Wild Bill had
arrested and severely handled Thompson, while the latter was carousing
in Abilene. Thompson had repeatedly made threats which reached Bill’s
ears, and caused him to be watchful. A collision occurred between the
two in a restaurant in Ellsworth, under the following circumstances:
Bill had entered the place and called for an oyster stew. He took a
seat in a small alcove, in which was a table, with his back to the
saloon, a position he was never known to assume before or since. The
moment the waiter was entering with the stew, Bill turned in his seat
at the very instant to see Thompson enter a side door with pistol
in hand. Bill slipped out of his chair and dropped onto his knees,
with the view of using the chair as a sort of breastwork. The instant
he moved, a ball from Thompson’s pistol whistled passed his ear,
and struck the plate on the table in front of him. Before another
shot could be fired from the same course, Bill jerked one of the two
derringers he nearly always carried, from his pants pocket, and,
whirling on one knee, sent a bullet squarely into Thompson’s forehead.
The man fell forward on his face without uttering a sound, stone-dead;
the dish of soup in the waiter’s hand tumbled onto the floor and broke
into fragments. Resuming his seat again at the table, merely rising
from his kneeling position, Bill told the affrighted waiter to bring
him that oyster stew he had ordered, but the restaurant speedily filled
with morbid people, and there was too much excitement to admit of
serving stews thereafter. Bill was the least excited of any, and after
waiting a few moments, and seeing that he could not get what he called
for, he went out of the place and took his oyster stew at another
restaurant. Of course he was arrested, but as it was a clear case of
self-defense, he was at once discharged.


In a few weeks after the killing of Thompson, Bill again visited
Ellsworth, and during this visit he met with an episode in which his
influence among the desperado element was clearly evidenced. Reaching
the town late in the evening, he had gone direct to the house kept by
the woman just referred to, and after taking supper and playing a few
games of cards with her, he retired to bed. About eleven o’clock at
night, loud and boisterous noises, coupled with threats to tear the
house down if admittance were refused, awakened everyone in the house.
One of the girls raised a front window and asked the crowd what they
wanted. The reply came that they intended to clean out the house, and
to open the door quick, or they would break it down. The crowd numbered
twenty of the worst men Ellsworth could produce, and as they were
two-thirds drunk, everyone in the building except Bill became very much
alarmed, and fearful that some fatal consequences would be the result.
Bill arose from bed, and telling everyone in the house to leave the
settlement of the trouble to him, descended the stairs in his night
clothes, with his two derringers in his hands. A light was burning in
the hall, and while the men were pounding on the door, and swearing
that they would burn the house and everyone in it, Bill unlocked the
door and threw it open. As he did so, he placed himself upon the
threshold, and told the crowd that he would give them just ten seconds
to leave the place, adding: “Or I’ll turn this place into a great big
slaughter-house.” The surprise depicted on the faces of those twenty
men was a fit subject for a painter. They all tried to apologize at
once. Said the leader: “I’ll take my oath, Bill, if I’d a-knowed you
was here I never would a-come; we never meant any harm, and as you are
a gentleman, and we’re drunk, we owe you an apology. We’ll leave this
minute.” They all added in chorus: “That’s so, Bill, and we beg your
pardon a thousand times.”

“Then get out of here!” responded Bill.

And they went at once.


About one year after the killing of Phil Cole at Abilene, Wild Bill
had occasion to visit Wichita, Kansas, on some private business. He
made the trip on horseback, there being no other mode of travel between
the two places. Bill was acquainted with no one in Wichita, and habit
caused him to make his first stop in the place before a saloon, where
he hitched his horse and went in. There was no one in the saloon at
the time of his entrance; so Bill took a seat expecting the proprietor
had just stepped out and would be back in a short time. While he was
sitting beside a table reading a newspaper, a stranger stepped in and

“Is your name Wild Bill?”

“That is what they call me,” responded Bill.

“Then take that,” said the stranger, drawing a pistol and shooting at
Bill. The muzzle of the pistol was so close that the flash burned
Bill’s face and the bullet struck him at the base of the hair on the
left side of his forehead and cut out a furrow of flesh and hair. Bill
fell unconscious, but the saloon-keeper coming in a moment after the
shot was fired, threw some water in his face and consciousness was soon

The stranger jumped on his horse after discharging the shot and rode
off furiously towards the south.

It was hardly ten minutes after the shooting before Bill had recovered
sufficiently from the stunning effects of the shot to mount his horse
and start in pursuit of his unknown assailant.

Bill was mounted on an excellent horse, and as he had no difficulty
in ascertaining the route taken by the stranger, the ride was a fast
and furious one. The pursued and pursuer, after a running ride of
thirty miles, came in sight of each other, and a desperate fight was
now prepared for. The stranger supposed he had killed Bill and was
being pursued by some officer of justice; but Bill was urged on by his
excessive hunger for revenge, and it soon came--terrible enough. When
about fifty yards apart, Bill discharged his pistol at the stranger,
but the ball struck and disabled the horse. There was then an exchange
of shots and the stranger lay dead on the ground with a bullet in
his brain. Not satisfied with killing the man, Bill stooped over the
prostrate body and drawing a bowie-knife from its sheath, he cut a
slice out of the stranger’s head which he considered would correspond
with the wound in his own. This bloody trophy Bill carried with him for
years afterwards--a dried piece of flesh and hair.

The stranger proved to be a cousin of Phil Cole, the gambler, and from
facts gathered afterwards, it was shown that he had long sought an
opportunity to avenge his cousin’s death. The revenge was, however,
visited upon the head of the avenger.


Bill served the time for which he was chosen as marshal of Abilene, and
in the spring of 1872 removed to Kansas City. It was at this place the
writer--then connected with the daily _Journal_--met him and formed an
intimate acquaintance, which afforded abundant opportunity to learn
his real character as a man. Bill was frequently importuned for the
particulars of his marvelous adventures, and permission to write his
life, but he always positively refused. The last time this request was
made, he returned the following reply: “Well, Buel, I expect my life
has been a little interesting, and it might please some people to read
about my adventures, but I don’t want a word written about me until
after I’m dead. I never fought any man for notoriety, and am sorry that
I’ve got the name I have. Since Ned Buntline made a hero out of such
material as Bill Cody (Buffalo Bill,) I’ve thought it time to drop out
of sight. I took Cody when he was left alone in the world, a young lad,
and partially raised him. Well, I don’t want to say anything against
the boy, but his pluck wouldn’t go at par. I’ve kept a little diary of
all my exploits, and when I’m dead I’ll be glad if it falls into your
hands, and from it you may be able to write something interesting. When
I die it will be just as you now see me, and sickness will not be the
cause. For more than ten years I’ve been constantly expecting to be
killed, and it is certain to come before a great while longer.”

During this conversation Bill appeared to be unusually sad, and when he
referred to his death it was with a seriousness which indicated that he
had been notified of his tragic end by some terrible presentiment.

He was an expert poker-player, and followed no other calling while
in Kansas City. The place was fairly filled with gamblers, and up
to 1875 the voice of the keno caller could be heard in nearly every
other building on Main street, between Missouri avenue and Fourth
street. The Marble block, and houses on the west side of the square,
were particularly the haunts of gamblers. Murders and rows were not
infrequent, but Bill kept out of all difficulties. He was both feared
and respected. His carriage was that of a peaceable gentleman, and
during the three years he made Kansas City his home, he was a party
to but one row, and that was of minor consequence. This difficulty
occurred in the St. Nicholas Hotel bar-room, owned by Joe Siegmund,
now the proprietor of a hotel in Malvern, Arkansas. A foppish fellow,
half-drunk, being told that the party drinking at the bar was Wild
Bill, went up to him, and, in a most provoking manner, asked Bill if he
was the desperado who had been killing men indiscriminately out West.
The impertinent inquiry called forth from Bill an equally insulting
reply. The fellow, evidently bent on a row, then began to talk of
shooting, and his ability “to lick any border ruffian that ever lived.”
Bill walked up to him slowly, and as the senseless fop was attempting
to draw a pistol, he caught him by one ear and slapped his face until
the fellow howled for mercy.


In 1874 Bill engaged in a battle with a tribe of Indians under
Black-Kettle, in which he received a severe wound from a spear thrust
through his thigh. Being very much disabled he paid a visit to his
aged mother and relatives at Troy Grove, Illinois, where he remained
some weeks and until the wound healed. Before returning west he went
to Chicago to see his old friend, Heman Baldwin, and while there the
two entered the St. James Hotel bar to play a game of billiards. While
being thus engaged seven Chicago roughs began bantering him on account
of the buckskin clothes he wore and challenged him for a prize fight.
Bill replied to them that he was not a fighting man, and that he was
at that time still suffering from a newly healed wound. They continued
their insults, and finally told him that he had to fight or acknowledge
that he was a coward and his reported exploits bogus. Bill’s courage
came to the surface quickly enough, and drawing his two pistols--both
of which were presents to him from Vice-President Wilson--the fight
began, one man against seven. The pistols were used as “billys,” and
in a few seconds the seven roughs were stretched upon the floor and
completely at Bill’s mercy. The injuries they received consisted of
severe scalp wounds, the marks from which will be carried through life.


In the fall of 1874, Bill met Mrs. Lake, the widow of William Lake,
proprietor of Lake’s circus, who was killed by Jack Keenan at Granby,
Missouri, in 1873. The meeting was purely accidental, but the
consequences were matrimonial. A courtship followed, and in the early
part of 1875 the two were married by a justice of the peace in Kansas
City. Within a few months after the marriage Bill became afflicted
with sore eyes, from which he suffered intensely, and for the period
of nine months was unable to distinguish daylight from darkness.
Dr. Thorne, previously noticed as one of Bill’s confidants, was his
physician, and succeeded in restoring his sight, but his eyes never
regained their former strength, and the vision remained impaired. In
the winter of 1875-76, a separation occurred between Bill and his wife,
the causes of which we deem it improper to relate in this epitome of
his life. Suffice it to say that those best qualified to decide, claim
that no blame attaches to Bill for the termination of his marital
relation. No divorce, we believe, was ever applied for by either party,
but they never met after the spring of 1876. The writer has tried for
two years to learn the address and whereabouts of Mrs. Hickok, _nee_
Mrs. Lake, but his efforts have been without avail. The last heard of
her she was living in Cincinnati.


In February, 1876, Wild Bill entered into an engagement with Ned
Buntline, (Judson,) the novelist who created Buffalo Bill and his
exploits, to appear as a leading character in a border play he had
written for the stage. The troupe was made up in New York, and the
principal actors were Wild Bill, Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack. The
business was a most disagreeable one for Wild Bill, who entered into
the engagement solely under the pressure of pecuniary needs. The
authorities of Kansas City had so vigorously prosecuted the gamblers
that the professionals were compelled to abandon their games, and
thus Bill became, to use his own expression, “severely money-bound.”
Buntline, with a vivid imagination running at all times through carnage
and lawlessness, employed his best ability in getting up the posters
heralding the appearance of his troupe. Wild Bill was posted in large,
blood-red letters as having killed thirty-six men, and the most
desperate man that ever set foot on the plains. His nature arose with
revolt at such a publicity of his character, and after playing the role
of a border bandit for two months, he peremptorily refused to appear on
the stage any longer.


After leaving the Buntline troupe, Wild Bill came to St. Louis for the
purpose of organizing an expedition to the Black Hills. The gold fever
was at its height, and St. Louis, like all other Western cities, was
very much excited over the auriferous discoveries. Bill remained in St.
Louis about three weeks, at the end of which time he had succeeded in
organizing a party of nearly one hundred men, which was increased to
one hundred and fifty by additions received at Kansas City. The party
arrived at the Black Hills in the latter part of June, Bill going to
Deadwood, and the others distributing themselves among the hills, where
they established ranches and began their quest for gold.

Deadwood was a gay place when Bill entered its limits, and the life
led by its mixed citizens was exactly suited to his disposition.
Every other house was a saloon, and if ever there was a gambler’s
paradise, it was there. The female portion of Deadwood’s population was
limited, but the few who were there were so active and boisterous as to
compensate for ten times the same number of ordinary women. Bill was
in his element, although he had no disposition to take a part in the
wild orgies of the drunken, maudlin crowd which infested every nook and
corner of the place. He liked the freedom the society permitted, but
indulged himself only in gambling and an occasional drink.

Bill made many friends in Deadwood, and it was not known that he
had any enemies in the Black Hills, but while he was surrounded by
friends, he should never have forgotten the fact that his enemies were
almost like the leaves of the forest. They were always plotting his
destruction and laying snares along his path. The end came at last,
just as Bill had himself often predicted.


On the 2d day of August, 1876, Wild Bill was in Lewis & Mann’s saloon,
playing a game of poker with Capt. Massey, a Missouri river pilot,
Charley Rich, and Cool Mann, one of the proprietors of the saloon. The
game had been in progress nearly three hours, when about 4 o’clock,
P. M., a man was seen to enter the door and pass up to the bar. Bill
was sitting on a stool with the back of his head towards and about
five feet from the bar. When the man entered, Bill had just picked
up the cards dealt him, and was looking at his “hand,” and therefore
took no notice of the newcomer. The man, who proved to be Jack McCall,
alias Bill Sutherland, after approaching the bar, turned, and drawing
a large navy revolver, placed the muzzle within two inches of Bill’s
head and fired. The bullet entered the base of the brain, tore through
the head, and made its exit at the right cheek, between the upper and
lower jaw-bones, breaking off several teeth and carrying away a large
piece of the cerebellum through the wound. The bullet struck Capt.
Massey, who sat opposite Bill, in the right arm and broke the bone. At
the instant the pistol was discharged, the cards fell from Bill’s hands
and he dropped sideways off the stool without uttering a sound. His
companions were so horrified that several moments elapsed before it was
discovered that Capt. Massey was wounded.

[Illustration: Death of Wild Bill.]

The assassin turned upon the crowd and compelled them to file out of
the saloon before him. After reaching the street he defied arrest, but
at five o’clock he gave himself up and asked for an immediate trial.
Deadwood was, at that time, so primitive that it had no city officers,
and there was no one legally competent to take charge of or try the
prisoner. During the same evening, however, a coroner was chosen, who
impaneled a jury and returned a verdict to the effect that J. B. Hickok
(Wild Bill) came to his death from a wound resulting from a shot fired
from a pistol by John McCall, alias Bill Sutherland.

Having proceeded thus far, it was determined to elect a judge, sheriff
and prosecuting attorney to try McCall on the following day. Languishe,
the lessee of McDaniel’s theatre, offered the use of the theatre for
the purposes of the trial, which was arranged to take place at 9
o’clock on the following morning. Three men were sent out in different
directions to notify the miners in the neighborhood of the murder, and
to request their attendance at the trial.

Promptly at the time appointed, the improvised court convened, and
Joseph Brown, who had been chosen sheriff, produced the prisoner. F. J.
Kuykendall, the _pro tempore_ judge, then addressed the crowd in a very
appropriate manner, reminding those present that the court was purely a
self-constituted one, but that in the discharge of his duty he would be
governed by justice, and trust to them for a ratification of his acts.
His remarks were greeted with hand-clappings of approval. The prisoner
was then led forward and conducted to a seat on the stage to the right
of the judge.

Never did a more forbidding countenance face a court than that of Jack
McCall; his head, which was covered with a thick crop of chestnut hair,
was very narrow as to the parts occupied by the intellectual portion of
the brain, while the animal development was exceedingly large. A small,
sandy moustache covered a sensual mouth, and the coarse double-chin
was partially hid by a stiff goatee. The nose was what is commonly
called “snub;” he had cross eyes and a florid complexion, which
completed a more repulsive picture than Dore could conceive. He was
clad in a blue flannel shirt, brown overalls, heavy shoes, and, as he
sat in a stooping position, with his arms folded across his breast, he
evidently assumed a nonchalance and bravado which were foreign to his
feelings, and betrayed by the spasmodic heavings of his heart.

The selection of a jury consumed all the forenoon, as it was next to
impossible to select a man who had not formed or expressed an opinion
concerning the murder, although but few who were in the panel had heard
of the tragedy until a few hours before. A hundred names were selected,
written upon separate scraps of paper, and placed in a hat. They were
then well shaken, and the committee appointed for the purpose drew from
the hat one name at a time. The party answering to the name then came
forward and was examined by the judge touching his fitness to serve as
an impartial juror. Ninety-two names were called from the panel before
the jury was made up. Following are those who were selected and served:
J. J. Bumfs, L. D. Brokow, J. H. Thompson, C. Whitehead, Geo. S.
Hopkins, J. F. Cooper, Alexander Travis, K. F. Towle, John E. Thompson,
L. A. Judd, Edward Burke and John Mann. The jurors being sworn, they
took their seats, and testimony for the prosecution was begun.

The first witness called was Charles Rich, who said that he was in
the saloon kept by Lewis & Mann on the afternoon of the 2d, and was
seated at a table playing a game of poker with Wild Bill and several
others, when the prisoner, whom he identified, came into the room,
walked deliberately up to Wild Bill, placed a pistol to the back of the
deceased, and fired, saying: “Take that!” Bill fell from the stool upon
which he had been seated without uttering a word.

Samuel Young testified that he was engaged in the saloon; that he had
just delivered $15 worth of pocket checks to the deceased, and was
returning to his place behind the bar when he heard the report of a
pistol shot; turning around, he saw the prisoner at the back of Wild
Bill with a pistol in his hand which he had just discharged; heard him
say, “Take that!”

Carl Mann was one of the proprietors of the saloon in which Wild
Bill was killed; was in the poker game; noticed a commotion; saw the
prisoner (whom he identified) shoot Wild Bill.

The defense called for the first witness, P. H. Smith, who said he
had been in the employ of McCall four months; that he was not a man
of quarrelsome disposition; that he had always considered him a man
of good character; that he (the witness) had been introduced to Wild
Bill in Cheyenne, and drank with him; that the deceased had a bad
reputation, and had been the terror of every place in which he had

H. H. Pickens said that he had known defendant four years, and believed
him to be a quiet and peaceable man. Wild Bill’s reputation as a
“shootist” was very hard; he was quick in using the pistol and never
missed his man, and had killed quite a number of persons in different
parts of the country.

Ira Ford had known the defendant about one year; “like a great many
others, he would go upon a spree like the rest of the boys.” Wild Bill
had the reputation of being a brave man, who could and would shoot
quicker than any man in the Western country, and who always “got away”
with his antagonist.

The defense called several others, the tenor of whose evidence was but
a repetition of the foregoing. No attempt was made to show that Wild
Bill had ever seen the prisoner.

The prisoner was called upon to make a statement. He came down from
the stage into the auditorium of the theatre, and with his right hand
in the bosom of his shirt, his head thrown back, in a harsh, loud and
repulsive voice, with a bull-dog sort of bravado, said: “Well, men,
I have but a few words to say. Wild Bill threatened to kill me if I
crossed his path. I am not sorry for what I have done. I would do the
same thing over again.” The prisoner then returned to his place on the

The prosecution then adduced testimony to prove that Wild Bill was a
much abused man; that he never imposed on any one, and that in every
instance where he had slain men he had done so either in the discharge
of his duty as an officer of the law or in self-defense.

The case having been placed in the hands of the jury, the theatre was
cleared, with the understanding that the verdict should be made known
in the saloon where the murder was committed. The prisoner was remanded
to the house where he had been imprisoned during the night. At 9
o’clock the following verdict was read to the prisoner:

    DEADWOOD CITY, Aug. 3, 1876.--We, the jurors, find the prisoner,
    Mr. John McCall, not guilty.


The prisoner was at once liberated, and several of the model jurymen
who had played their parts in this burlesque upon justice, and who had
turned their bloodthirsty tiger loose upon the community indulged in a
sickening cheer which grated harshly upon the ears of those who heard
it. The first vote taken by the jury resulted in eleven for acquittal
and one for conviction, and the single man who desired justice was so
intimidated by his fellow-jurors that he was induced to sanction the
iniquitous verdict. It was even proposed by one of the jurymen that the
prisoner be fined fifteen or twenty dollars and set free.

After the inquest the body of the deceased was placed upon a litter
made of two poles and some boards; then a procession was formed, and
the remains were carried to Charley Utter’s camp, across the creek.
Charles Utter, better known as Colorado Charley, had been the intimate
friend of the deceased for fifteen years, and with that liberality
which is a feature among mountaineers, had always shared his purse with
him. Charley was much affected by the death of his friend, and incensed
at the villain who had murdered him. A tepee was pitched at the foot of
one of the giant trees which rise so majestically above Charley’s camp.
Preparations were at once made for the funeral. The following notice
was printed and sent out:

    “FUNERAL NOTICE.--Died in Deadwood, Black Hills, Aug. 2, 1876, from
    the effects of a pistol shot, J. B. Hickok (Wild Bill,) formerly of
    Cheyenne, Wyoming. Funeral services will be held at Charley Utter’s
    camp, on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 3, 1876, at 3 o’clock. All are
    respectfully invited to attend.”

At the time appointed a number of people gathered at the camp--Charley
Utter had gone to a great deal of expense to make the funeral as fine
as could be had in that country. Under the tepee, in a handsome coffin,
covered with black cloth and richly mounted with silver ornaments,
lay Wild Bill, a picture of perfect repose. His long chestnut hair,
evenly parted over his marble brow, hung in waving ringlets over the
broad shoulders; his face was cleanly shaved excepting the drooping
moustache, which shaded a mouth that in death almost seemed to smile,
but in life was unusually grave; the arms were folded over the stilled
breast, which inclosed a heart that had beat with regular pulsation
amid the most startling scenes of blood and violence. The corpse was
clad in complete dress-suit of black broadcloth, new underclothing and
white linen shirt; beside him in the coffin lay his trusty rifle, which
the deceased prized above all other things, and which was to be buried
with him in compliance with an often expressed desire.

A clergyman read an impressive funeral service, that was attentively
listened to by the audience, after which the coffin-lid hid the
well-known face of Wild Bill from the prying gaze of the world.

A grave had been prepared on the mountain side toward the east, and to
that place in the bright sunlight, the air redolent with the perfume of
sweet flowers, the birds sweetly singing, and all nature smiling, the
solemn cortege wended its way and deposited the mortal remains of Wild

Upon a large stump at the head of the grave the following inscription
was deeply cut:

    “A brave man; the victim of an assassin--J. B. Hickok (Wild Bill,)
    aged 48 years; murdered by Jack McCall, Aug. 2, 1876.”


After the farcical termination of the trial, and the burial of Wild
Bill, several friends of the deceased met at Charley Utter’s ranche
and determined to avenge the cowardly assassination of their friend.
McCall, unfortunately, heard of the meeting and its purposes, and lost
no time in getting out of the country. He roamed around in the far
West, and finally settled at Yankton. In the following year a United
States court was established in Dakotah Territory at Yankton, and Jack
McCall was again apprehended and put upon trial. George Shingle, now
a resident of Sturgis City, eighteen miles south of Deadwood, was an
eye-witness of the shooting, but left Deadwood to escape the excitement
on the same evening Bill was killed, and therefore did not appear as a
witness at the original trial, but appeared in answer to the summons
which called him to Yankton, and there told the story of the murder.
The result of this trial was the conviction of McCall, and in July,
1877, he expiated his cowardly crime on the gallows at Yankton.


On the third day of August, 1879, just three years after the tragedy,
Charley Utter and Lewis Shœnfield, the particular friends of Bill
during his life, determined to give the remains a better resting place,
where the thorns and briars of the bleak mountains would not hide the
spot where so brave a heart lay buried. Accordingly, early in the
morning of that day they, proceeded to the grave, and, with heads
uncovered, out of respect for their dead friend, they exhumed the body
and took off the coffin-lid to take a last look before transferring
the remains to Mount Moriah cemetery, at Deadwood. It was a sad sight
to the eyes of friends. There was scarcely a perceptible change in
the body, excepting a darker color of the face. The features were all
preserved with remarkable naturalness. There was the shattered wound
in the right cheek, made by the cruel bullet which took his life, but
the countenance bore a tranquil look, as though the wearer was glad to
escape a world in which there was nothing but buffet and anxiety to
him. The lips wore a placid appearance--a smile of peace, the graceful
contour of content.

The extraordinary weight of the body caused the friends to make a more
careful examination, when it was found that the remains were in process
of petrifaction. The hair still bore its silken lustre, but the flesh
was so indurated as to approach the solidity of wood. The weight of
the body at the interment was one hundred and sixty pounds, but at the
exhumation it weighed a fraction less than three hundred pounds.

The carbine that was buried with him was in a perfect state of
preservation. After clipping off a lock of hair, which is now in the
possession of William Learned, musical director of the Gem theater,
at Deadwood, the coffin-lid was again screwed down, and the remains
taken to Moriah cemetery, where they now repose, in a lot purchased by
Charley Utter. An Italian marble tombstone was also purchased by Mr.
Utter, which he had erected at the head of the grave in the latter part
of August. The inscription on the stone is as follows:

                       WILD BILL, (J. B. HICKOK,)
                            AUGUST 2, 1876.

    _Pard, we will meet again in the Happy Hunting Grounds, to part
                               no more._

                     GOOD-BYE.   COLORADO CHARLEY.

Here let him rest, but the bivouac of an advancing empire will soon
dispel the primeval sounds with which he was so familiar. The soughing
of the primitive forest in which he lived such a stirring life with his
trusty rifle, is mingling with the hum of a more perfect civilization,
and will soon be heard no more. The forest birds are drifting westward,
and their songs, which for centuries have made musical the deep
solitude of that vast region, will be cadenced into the whirr of a
different life. The rough sounds of a border settlement, with its
dangers and privations, will give place to the melody of a maiden’s
voice, and other generations, like the recurring ocean waves which
wash out the sand marks on the beach, will destroy the vestiges of the
early settlement, and point to Wild Bill’s grave as the spot where
sleeps a hero-pioneer--a man whose heart was as gentle as a child’s
prayer, and as brave as God could make it. If he had faults they were
tempered with so much compassion and affection that we lose sight of
them entirely. An appreciation of the services Wild Bill rendered the
civilizers and pioneers of the West belongs to those who come after us.
“No man is appreciated until he is dead.”


We have now described nearly all the adventures in which Wild Bill
was a participant, but before closing this very brief and unvarnished
recital of his life, it is eminently proper to speak of him in his
private and social relations; his peculiar beliefs; his feats of
marksmanship, and his companion in many vicissitudes--the dearest of
all his friends--Black Nell.

As mentioned in a previous chapter, Wild Bill was a fatalist--at least
he believed that he was predestined to be killed. In fact, it would
appear from his oft-repeated assertion, that “he would die with his
boots on,” that he brooded over this belief and was frequently attacked
by melancholy superinduced by that impression.

The very few intimate friends Bill had were well acquainted with
his peculiar belief in spiritualism. He claimed to be clairavoyant,
especially when danger threatened, and the many narrow escapes he had
gave some evidences of the reality of his spiritual sight, but the
manner in which he met his death furnishes a _contra_ proof.

It was only at rare intervals he could be induced to talk of his
terrible conflicts, and even when he was in the most communicative
mood, the particulars of his encounters had to be extracted by the most
patient and persistent endeavors.

Dr. Thorne and Capt. Kingsbury, the two gentlemen previously referred
to, enjoyed the most confidential relations with Wild Bill. Kingsbury
was a captain in the Second United States cavalry at the time Bill was
acting as guide for that regiment, and, as the two were acquainted
many years before, their intimacy became much greater during this
companionship in the service. Dr. Thorne was Bill’s physician, and
divided his purse with him many times when Bill was in pecuniary
straits. Bill was a frequent visitor to Dr. Thorne’s house, and there
were few secrets that he kept from his physician friend.

During one of the conversations had with Dr. Thorne, Wild Bill
asseverated that in all his fights he was surrounded by spirits, who
kept him cool and collected while they made fools of his enemies. It
was to their presence on trying occasions that he gave the credit for
the nerve and fearlessness he displayed.

His character, in some respects, was enigmatical. While rarely evading
a fight, yet he was always sorry for its consequences. After his great
fight with the McCandlas gang, at Rock Creek, he sought and found
Jim McCandlas’ widow, and, finding that she was almost destitute, he
contributed to her support several years and until her death. Dr.
Thorne had removed eleven bullets from Bill’s body, nearly all of which
had been received in the Rock Creek fight, but while enduring the pain
consequent upon their extraction, he had nothing but kind feelings
towards those who shot him. He had seven bullets in various parts of
his body at the time of his death.

His conclusions were always logical, and his manner of conversation
most convincing. He was a listener rather than a talker, and his
answers to inquiries were usually made in conclusive gestures. He loved
the society of the refined, and attributed his difficulties solely to
the associations he was, in a measure, compelled to keep.

His love for children was almost a mania, and it is said that the
most timid and cross infant would leave its mother’s arms for him at
first sight, and at once manifest its pleasure. Another peculiarity he
possessed was the serenity of his countenance during danger. In the
midst of his most desperate fights there was a smile constantly playing
on his lips. His wide range of travel had thoroughly familiarized him
with almost every stretch of territory between Hudson’s Bay and Mexico,
and from the Saskatchewan to Texas. It was impossible to lose him, as
the points of the compass came to him as naturally as to a migratory


It may be asserted, without fear of contradiction, that Wild Bill was
the best pistol shot America has ever produced. Much of his marvelous
accuracy of aim was, of course, acquired by years of experience, but
he was a good shot from the moment he first fired a pistol. For a
long period he carried two small derringers, both of which he used
effectively in many sanguinary encounters. These pistols are now in
the possession of Dr. Thorne, to whom they were given by Bill before
leaving on his last trip to the Black Hills. On one occasion, while
visiting the Doctor, Bill was in a melancholy mood. It was during the
summer season, and the visitor and his guest were sitting out in the
yard on a settee. The Doctor expressed some dissatisfaction concerning
the autocratic disposition of an old rooster he had, which took delight
in running the other chanticleers off the place. Bill asked the Doctor
to let him shoot at the rooster with his derringer at thirty paces,
agreeing to put up $5 to cut the rooster’s throat without breaking
its neck or touching either the head or body. The Doctor, giving his
consent, the distance was measured off, and the chicken chased to the
space required. Bill raised the pistol--without taking aim, as was his
invariable custom--and fired. The bullet cut the rooster’s throat as
cleverly as it could have been done with a knife, and the neck was
not broken either. To give the Doctor further proofs of his marvelous
accuracy, he shot sparrows from the top branches of the high trees with
his small derringer.

A favorite pastime with Bill was shooting at a silver dime, fifty
paces, for one dollar a shot. He would place the dime in a position
that the sun’s rays would concentrate on it, thus affording him a good
sight. He could send a bullet through the dime nine times out of ten.
Another remarkable fancy shot he made at thirty paces was in driving a
cork through the neck of a bottle, and knocking the bottom out without
breaking the neck. He could shoot a chicken’s head off at thirty or
forty paces nineteen times out of twenty. He was no less proficient
in the use of the rifle than he was with a pistol. In shooting with a
rifle he took deliberate aim, while with a pistol he would invariably
shoot before bringing the weapon up to a level with his eye.

Wild Bill had but little of what he called “book learning,” but he
was, nevertheless, an educated man. His extensive travels among such a
variety of people gave him a thorough understanding of human nature. He
had a natural mind for analyzing men and things.


During the early part of the war, Wild Bill came into possession of
a young black mare, having captured her from a bushwhacker during
Price’s invasion of Missouri. The mare was as black as a coal, and at
the proper age to enter upon the course of training Bill put her in.
She was full of fire, and the exquisite symmetry of her head, neck,
limbs and body, showed the pure blooded stock that was in her. Bill
devoted all his leisure time for more than a year teaching the mare
tricks which afterwards he used to so much advantage. The mare at
length acquired such a complete understanding of Bill’s wishes that
her obedience was truly marvelous. First of all, no one could ride or
approach the mare except Bill, and to him she was as gentle as a mother
to her child. He named her Black Nell, presumably suggested by Claude
Duval’s Black Bess, of whose exploits he was so fond of reading.

Black Nell was usually allowed great freedom, because she was so prompt
to answer the whistle of Bill; she would leave her feed and come
galloping to the call with the most astonishing alacrity. While riding
Nell it was only necessary for Bill to wave his hand to set her in a
dead run or stop her instantly. A downward motion of his hand would
cause her to drop as suddenly as if she had been shot dead, and she
would lie perfectly still until the command to rise was given. On one
occasion, while Bill was being pursued by a detachment of bushwackers,
in passing through a prairie where the grass was very high, his
life was saved by the prompt obedience of Nell in dropping down and
remaining so quiet that the pursuers passed by within fifty feet
without discovering him.

In 1867, while he was in Springfield, Missouri, he astonished a crowd
of saloon-loafers by first going into the bar-room and calling his
mare to follow. Nell came in, following her master like a dog, without
the slightest hesitation. There was an old billiard table in the
saloon, too much worn for further service, and upon this he ordered
Nell to place herself. She reared up and placed her fore feet upon the
table, but it was only after repeated effort and great strain that she
succeeded in raising her hind feet to such a height. After getting upon
the table, Bill poured out a pint of whisky into a wash-basin, which
Nell drank with evident relish. At a wave of the hand she leaped from
the table and out into the street, where Bill allowed her to exercise
her freedom for several hours.

One of Nell’s greatest accomplishments was leaping, and in this she
certainly never had an equal. She had frequently leaped ditches twenty
feet in width with apparent ease, and Bill had no hesitancy whatever in
riding her over a six feet fence, which she could clear like a deer.
This wonderful animal died in 1869, of a complication of diseases,
and was buried near Kansas City. Bill mourned her loss as he would
that of his parents, whom he devotedly loved, and Nell’s name was
never mentioned to him afterwards that he did not burst into tears. He
regarded her as the dearest friend he had on earth, and to have her die
almost in her prime was a blow and loss he could scarcely endure.


It has been customary among every nation to perpetuate the daring deeds
of its heroes, by rearing a monument commemorative of their heroism.
The general who commands armies, and by chance wins great battles,
is no more deserving a monumental tribute than the man who discovers
new means for the more rapid advancement of knowledge, or the man who
extends the highway of civilization.

In opening the vast, illimitable resources of the great West, sturdy
pioneers were as essential as the brain and muscle that propel the
industries of the nation. Every new country must, of necessity, gather
the vicious elements eliminated by the stern application of law,
from the older communities. If there were no compensating influence,
new countries could never advance, but would become the asylum for
lawlessness and vagrancy. The fairest and most fertile districts might
thus be withheld from the hand of industry and become as plague spots,
from which would spread a disease that ultimately might destroy the

Wild Bill played his part in the reformation of pioneer society more
effectively than any character in the annals of American history. It
is true he killed many men, but many men are killed in every war, and
Wild Bill waged a legitimate war against the desperadoes who sought to
destroy the bulwarks of law and order. The killing of men is often as
necessary as the extermination of destructive wild animals. Both law
and society, and the rights of man, so declare, and no man can say that
Wild Bill was anything more than the stern administrator of a wholesome
law. Every man he killed made society the gainer, and while he was
near, the order-loving, law-abiding people felt secure in their lives
and property.

When the war broke out he was among the first to enter the ranks; not
as a soldier, but as one who takes the heaviest burdens and bares
himself to a thousand dangers and privations where the soldier meets
with one. His valuable services, no less than his unexampled bravery,
have received the highest meeds of praise from his commanding officers.
No danger was too great to prevent him from doing his duty; no labor
was too severe to deter him a moment from carrying out his intentions.
He had a mind to dissect dangerous undertakings with the precision
that a rhetorician would analyze a sentence, and his failures were as
few as his successes were conspicuous. Wild Bill was essentially great
in many respects and callings. He was undoubtedly the greatest scout
and conservator of the peace that ever crossed the plains; as a spy
and strategist he has, perhaps, never had an equal. The service he has
rendered the country at large, and the West in particular, cannot be
estimated. Abilene and Hays City, the people of which places he served
so effectively, cannot afford to withhold their respect for the memory
of Wild Bill, and it would be as creditable to the people of Kansas
as it would be deserving to the brave heart that was stilled by the
assassin’s bullet, to bring the remains of Wild Bill into their state
and give it a resting place among the most illustrious of their dead.
If ever a hero deserved a monument, Wild Bill is worthy a shaft that
would rear its apex so high as to overlook every spot of territory
between the great Missouri and the Rocky Mountains. Kansas was his home
and first-love; will the people of Kansas make the state his sepulchre?

[Illustration: Wild Bill’s Grave in Mount Moriah Cemetery, Deadwood.]

Transcribers’ Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Contents: “Idiosyncraces” was printed that way; page 83:
“IDIOSYNCRACIES” was printed that way.

Page 83: “clairavoyant” was printed that way.

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