Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wild Bill Hickok

A description of James Butler Hickok, as related by Leander P. Richardson, in his article "A Trip to the Black Hills," in 1877: 

" I had been in town only a few moments when I met Charley Utter, better known in the West as "Colorado Charley," to whom I had a letter of introduction, and who at once invited me to share his camp while I remained in the region. On our way to his tent, we met J.B. Hickock, "Wild Bill," the hero of a hundred battles. Bill was Utter's "pardner," and I was introduced at once. Of course I had heard of him, the greatest scout in the West, but I was not prepared to find such a man as he proved to be. Most of the Western scouts do not amount to much. They do a great deal in the personal reminiscence way, but otherwise they are generally of the class described as "frauds." In "Wild Bill," I found a man who talked little and had done a great deal. He was about six-feet two inches in height, and very powerfully built; his face was intelligent, his hair blonde, and falling in long ringlets upon his broad shoulders; his eyes, blue and pleasant looked one straight in the face when he talked; and his lips, thin and compressed, were only partly hidden by a straw-colored moustache. His costume was a curiously blended union of the habiliments of the borderman and the drapery of the fashionable dandy. Beneath the skirts of his elaborately embroidered buckskin coat gleamed the handles of two silver-mounted revolvers, which were his constant companions. His voice was low and musical, but through its hesitation I could catch a ring of self-reliance and consciousness of strength. Yet he was the most courteous man I had met on the plains. On the following day I asked to see him use a pistol and he assented. At his request I tossed a tomato can about 15 feet into the air, both his pistols being in his belt when it left my hand. He drew one of them, and fired two bullets through the tin can before it struck the ground. Then he followed it along, firing as he went, until both weapons were empty. You have heard the expression "quick as lightning?" Well, that will describe "Wild Bill." He was noted all over the country for rapidity of motion, courage, and certainty of aim. Wherever he went he controlled the people around him, and many a quarrel has been ended by his simple announcement "This has gone far enough." Early in the forenoon of my third day in Deadwood, word was brought over to camp that he had been killed. We went immediately to the scene, and found that the report was true. He had been sitting at a table playing cards, when a dastardly assassin came up behind, put a revolver to his head and fired, killing his victim instantly. That night a miner's meeting was called, the prisoner was brought before it, his statement was heard, and he was discharged, put on a fleet horse, supplied with arms, and guarded out of town.* The next day, "Colorado Charley" took charge of the remains of the great scout, and announced that the funeral would occur at his camp. The body was clothed in a full suit of broad cloth, the hair brushed back from the pallid cheek. Beside the dead hero lay his rifle, which was buried with him. The funeral ceremony was brief and touching, hundreds of rough miners standing around the bier with bowed heads and tear-dimmed eyes, -- for with the better class "Wild Bill" had been a great favorite. At the close of the ceremony the coffin was lowered into a new made grave on the hill-side -- the first in Deadwood. And so ended the life of "Wild Bill," -- a man whose supreme physical courage had endeared him to nearly all with whom he came in contact, and made his name a terror to every Indian west of the Missouri." *He added this footnote: As I write the closing lines of this brief sketch, word reaches me that the slayer of Wild Bill has been re-arrested by the United State authorities, and after trail has been sentenced to death for willful murder. He is now at Yankton, D.T. awaiting execution. At the trial it was proved that the murdered was hired to do his work by gamblers who feared the time when better citizens should appoint Bill the champion of law and order--a post which he formerly sustained in Kansas border life, with credit to his manhood and his courage.