Events Archives

Red Cloud

Red CloudAs you will see this week, one of the few times Red Cloud made a miscalculation in his fight with the whites was on August 2, 1867.

In July of 1867 civilian contractor J. R. Porter arrived at Fort Kearny in Nebraska with supplies. He planned on starting a logging operation. Among the supplies were 700 new breech-loading Springfield rifles and 100,000 rounds of ammunition. Until now the military had used muzzle-loading rifles. A Springfield used a manufactured cartridge, making it several times faster to shoot than a muzzle-loader.

Porter built his logging camp about six miles from the fort. To carry the logs he took the box beds off about 14 wagons, putting the four-foot high wagon boxes in a circular corral for protection.

At dawn of August 2, 1867 Red Cloud, with almost 1,000 braves, was poised for an attack against the 32 men inside the circle of wagon boxes. Even the women and children of the tribe, had come to observe the event.

At 9:00 500 warriors on horseback made the first charge. They circled the wagons expecting the spaced firing of a muzzle-loader. Instead it was the constant volley of the Springfield. The warriors retreated. Dead and wounded Indians and horses were everywhere. The next wave was 700 warriors on foot wearing nothing but war paint. The Indians got so close and the Springfields were so powerful that one shot often passed through two or three warriors.

For three hours the battle waged on. Then the sound of a howitzer was heard in the distance. A relief column was on its way. Red Cloud and his tribe retreated into the hills.

Miraculously, only 7 of the soldiers and loggers were killed. However, Red Cloud lost over 200 braves.

FORTUNE LOST

During the Old West fortunes came and went.  Probably there is no better illustration of the gains and losses than the story of Horace Tabor and his wife “Baby” Doe.

 Baby DoeOn March 1, 1883 Elizabeth Doe, later known to the Colorado miners as “Baby” Doe, and Horace Tabor got married.  Baby Doe wore a $7,000 gown.  Her wedding gift from her husband was a $75,000 diamond necklace.

Five years earlier Horace Tabor was the owner of a general store.  He grubstaked a couple of prospectors to about $20 worth of merchandise in exchange for a third share of what they found…What they found was a mine called “Little Pittsburgh” that produced $20,000 worth of silver per week.  Horace Tabor decided his fortune was in silver mining.  Right after this Tabor bought a mine from a scam artist who had “salted” it with silver.  To the chagrin of the scam artist the new mine ended up out producing his first.

Following the wedding Horace and Baby Doe moved into a mansion and had two children.  Over the next few years they lived an extravagant lifestyle.  But by the late 1890’s, because of federal legislation, the market for silver took a dive.  Horace and Baby Doe ended up living in a hotel room.

In April of 1899 Horace Tabor died.  His last words to his wife were “Don’t give up the Matchless, for it will make millions again.”

Baby Doe moved to the Matchless Mine located at an elevation of over 10,000 feet, and for 35 years she lived in a shack.  She wrapped herself in burlap to keep warm.  Early in 1935, during a severe snowstorm, she froze to death.

What she didn’t know was that even if silver was discovered on the Matchless, it would have done her no good.  Her husband had lost the Matchless with his other assets before he died.

LIKE LIVER?

Johnson

On January 21, 1900 one of the Old West’s most intriguing and gruesome men died in a veterans’ hospital in California.  This was a strange ending for this man who was depicted in a movie Starring Robert Redford called “Jeremiah Johnson”.

 John Johnson was a red bearded giant of a man who headed to the mountains when most mountain men were leaving them.

 Early on Johnson came across a covered wagon that had been attached by Indians.  The only survivor was the mother, and she had been driven mad from the experience.  Over the years John Johnson provided her with food.  The Indians left her alone because they were in awe of those who had been driven mad from the touch of the Great Spirit.

Johnson took a Flathead woman as his wife.  One day when he was away trapping, a Crow raiding party killed his wife, and the baby she was carrying.

This started the legend for which “Liver-Eating” Johnson is known.  For 20 years Johnson took revenge against the Crow in a savage and bloody way.  He supposedly killed as many as 300 Crow Indians, with a few Sioux thrown in for extra measure.  And legend says he ate the livers of the Indians he killed.

Later “Liver-Eating” Johnson came out of the mountains, and joined the Union Army during the Civil War.  After the war, he was a deputy sheriff in Wyoming.

As he got older, Johnson wisely made peace with the Crow Indians.  And on January 21, 1900, he died in a veterans’ hospital in California.

Why did John Johnson eat the livers of the Indians?  Was he a cannibal?  Technically, yes.  But Indians often ate the raw liver of animals they killed.  They believed it would transfer the power of the animal to the hunter.  Maybe he wanted the Indians to think that anyone who would do something this gruesome was touched by the Great Spirit.

SAMUEL COLT

Samuel Colt

Samuel Colt’s single action revolver, known as the “peacemaker” is a staple to any story about the Old West.  But chances are we wouldn’t have ever heard of Colt had it not been for an event that took place on January 4, 1847.

As the story goes in 1830, on a sea voyage to Singapore, Samuel Colt whittled out a wooden model of his revolving handgun.  A year later he made two working models, and applied for a patent.

At the time of Colt’s invention, pistols were though of as dueling weapons.  The much more accurate rifle was preferred for long distant shooting.  For close up self-defense fighting most men preferred knives.

But Colt was sure his pistol would be in great demand.  And by 1836 Paterson Colts were coming off the assembly line in Paterson, New Jersey.  The Texas Rangers started using the Colt pistol.  But they found it to be light, and didn’t hold up well when used as a club to hit someone on the head.  So, Samuel Colt made a heavier model, and called it the Walker Colt after Texas Ranger Samuel Walker.

But the demands for Colt pistols weren’t great enough to keep his plant going.  And in 1842 Samuel Colt went bankrupt.  Giving up gun making all together he started designing submarines.

Then the war with Mexico broke out, and the U. S. government started looking for weaponry.  And on January 4, 1847 the government placed an order with Samuel Colt for 1,000 of his .44 caliber revolvers.  Colt .44’s served the military so well that the government kept placing orders.

 Now infused with capital, Colt developed a system of mass production and interchangeable parts, making his pistols affordable for the average person.  And Samuel Colt never looked back.  From 1850 to 1860 he sold 170,000 small “pocket” revolvers and 98,000 larger “belt” revolvers…mostly to civilians.

A TOWN TREED

JuanHunters are known to tree a mountain lion or a bear now and then, but in 1859, a gang of thugs treed a whole town. That’s right, a whole town.

It was the mid 1800’s. Anglos from other parts of the United States were coming to Texas in groves, and taking over land previously owned by Mexicans.

Juan Cortina, saw his family’s land holdings shrink. When he became a man, Juan put together a gang of disgruntled Mexicans and started taking back some of the land. In mid September of 1859 one of Juan’s men was arrested in Brownsville, Texas. Juan and his men shot the Marshal and freed the gang member. This, of course, infuriated the citizens of Brownsville. For days they talked about putting together a posse and getting revenge. But it seems that talk was all they were want to do.

Juan Cortina, on the other hand, wanted action, and getting tired of waiting for the posse to come after him, on September 27 he led a thousand cutthroats into Brownsville, captured Fort Brown, and took over the town. After killing anyone who had previously caused him grief, Juan demanded one hundred thousand dollars in gold or he would burn down the town.
News of the Brownsville situation got out and a contingency of men came to the rescue. Unfortunately, for them, news of what Cortina was doing also reached his friends and his gang had grown to a much larger size. After defeating the relief column, Cortina went after Edinburg, Texas and then took on Rio Grande.

Cortina then wisely retreated back to Mexico where for 15 years he made raids across the border. Finally in 1875, the Texas Rangers decided to put an end to Juan Cortina’s shenanigans, and went down to Mexico and kicked his butt. From then on Juan stayed south of the border and played politics there.

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