New Perspectives on THE WEST
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Archives of THE WEST
Episode One
(to 1806)
Episode Two
(1806 to 1848)
Episode Three
(1848 to 1856)
Episode Four
(1856 to 1868)
Episode Five
(1868 to 1874)
Episode Six
(1874 to 1877)
Episode Seven
(1877 to 1887)
Episode Eight
(1887 to 1914)

ARCHIVES (1877 -1887)




Following the breaking out of the great Civil War in 1861, a general desertion of stage-drivers and express riders took place, a majority of whom were natural rovers, and always looking out for change of employment. I was not an exception, and as it had now been nearly a year since I saw my mother, while reports of her ill health frequently reached me, I decided to pay her a visit, and at the same time determine, if government service promised better pay and more excitement than I had been getting out of my engagement with the express company, to join the army. In pursuance of this resolve I went to Leavenworth, which was at that time an important outfitting post for the West and Southwest.

While in the city one day I met several of the old, as well as the young men, who had been members of the Free State party all through the Kansas troubles, and who had, like our family, lost everything at the hands of the Missourians. They now thought a good opportunity offered to retaliate and get even with their persecutors, as they were all considered to be Secessionists. That they were all Secessionists, however, was not true, as all of them did not sympathise with the South. But the Free State men, myself among them, took it for granted that as Missouri was a slave State the inhabitants must all be Secessionists, and therefore our enemies. A man by the name of Chandler proposed that we organize an independent company for the purpose of invading Missouri and making war on its people on our own responsibility. He at once went about it in a very quiet way, and succeed in inducing twenty-five men to join him in the hazardous enterprise. Having a longing and revengeful desire to retaliate upon the Missourians for the brutal manner in which they had treated and robbed my family, I became a member of Chandler's company. His plan was that we should leave our homes in parties of not more than two or three together, and meet at a certain point near Westport, Missouri, on a fixed day. His instructions were carried out, and we assembled at the rendezvous at the appointed time. Chandler had been there some days before us and, thoroughly disguised, had been looking around the country for the whereabouts of all the best horses. He directed us to secretly visit certain farms and collect all the horses possible, and bring them together the next night. This we did, and upon reassembling it was found that nearly every man had two horses. We immediately struck out for the Kansas line, which we crossed at the Indian ferry on the Kansas River, above Wyandotte, and as soon as we had set foot upon Kansas soil we separated with the understanding that we were to meet one week from that day at Leavenworth.

Some of the parties boldly took their confiscated horses into Leavenworth, while others rode them to their homes. This action may look to the reader like horse-stealing, and some people might not hesitate to call it by that name; but Chandler plausibly maintained that we were only getting back our own, or the equivalent, from the Missourians, and as the government was waging war against the South, it was perfectly square and honest, and we had a good right to do it. So we didn't let our consciences trouble us very much.

We continued to make similar raids upon the Missourians off and on during the summer, and occasionally we had running fights with them; none of the skirmishes, however, amounting to much. The government officials hearing of our operations, put detectives upon our track, and several of the party were arrested. My mother, upon learning that I was engaged in this business, told me it was neither honorable nor right, and she would not for a moment countenance any such proceedings. Consequently I abandoned the jay-hawking enterprise, for such it really was.

After abandoning the enterprise of crippling the Confederacy by appropriating the horses of non-combatants, I went to Leavenworth, where I met my old friend, Wild Bill, who was on the point of departing for Rolla, Mo., to assume the position of wagon master of a government train. At his request to join him as an assistant I cheerfully accompanied him to Rolla, where we loaded a number of wagons with government freight and drove them to Springfield.


On our return to Rolla we heard a great deal of talk about the approaching fall races at St. Louis, and Wild Bill having brought a fast running horse from the mountains, determined to take him to that city and match him against some of the high-flyers there; and down to St. Louis we went with this running horse, placing our hopes very high on him.

Wild Bill had no difficulty in making up a race for him. All the money that he and I had we put up on the mountain runner, and as we thought we had a sure thing, we also bet the horse against $250. I rode the horse myself, but nevertheless, our sure thing, like many another sure thing, proved a total failure, and we came out of that race minus the horse and every dollar we had in the world.

Before the race it had been "make or break" with us, and we got "broke." We were "busted" in the largest city we had ever been in, and it is no exaggeration to say that we felt mighty blue.

On the morning after the race we went to the military headquarters, where Bill succeeded in securing an engagement for himself as a government scout, but I being so young failed in obtaining similar employment. Wild Bill, however, raised some money, by borrowing it from a friend, and then buying me a steamboat ticket he sent me back to Leavenworth, while he went to Springfield, which place he made his headquarters while scouting in Southeastern Missouri.


One night, after he had returned from a scouting expedition, he took a hand in a game of poker, and in the course of the play he became involved in a quarrel with Dave Tutt, a professional gambler, about a watch which he had won from Tutt, but who would not give it up.

Bill told him he had won it fairly, and that he proposed to have it; furthermore, he declared his intention of carrying the watch across the street next morning to military headquarters, at which place he had to report at nine o'clock. To which boast Tutt replied that he would himself carry the watch across the street at nine o'clock, and no other man would do it.

"If you make the attempt one of us will have to die at the hour named," was the answer Bill returned, and then walked carelessly away.

A challenge to a duel had virtually been given and accepted, and everybody knew that the two men meant business. At nine o'clock the next morning, Tutt started to cross the street. Wild Bill, who was standing on the opposite side, told him to stop. At that moment Tutt, who was carrying his revolver in his hand, fired at Bill but missed him. Bill quickly pulled out his revolver and returned the fire, hitting Tutt squarely in the forehead and killing him instantly.

Quite a number of Tutt's friends were standing in the vicinity, having assembled to witness the duel, and Bill, as soon as Tutt fell to the ground, turned to them and asked if any one of them wanted to take it up for Tutt; if so, he would accommodate any of them then and there. But none of them cared to stand in front of Wild Bill to be shot at by him. Nothing of course was ever done to Bill for the killing of Tutt.


The Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued

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