Old West History Archives

The Springfield Rifle

“I would rather be shot by a Krag-Jorgensen or Mauser bullet than a Springfield rifle projectile,” said Captain Robert R. Stevens, quartermaster for Fort Sam Houston, to a Light reporter who questioned him yesterday as to the effectiveness of the various bullets.

Springfield Rifle

The query was made by the reporter in view of the many criticisms published regarding the arming of Uncle Sam’s volunteers with Springfield rifles Captain Stevens was selected to explain the difference from the fact that the reporter knew he has spent many years in the west in the army when the Springfield rifle was in use and has also had experience in the army with the new gun.  Captain Stevens has seen the old Springfield used on the Indians with deadly effect, and although he did not say so, it is a well known fact that the captain has used them on the red skins himself.  When speaking of the use to which he had put the guns the captain invariably spoke of shooting deer, or animals of some kind, but his acquaintances know that during his seventeen years of duty as a lieutenant of the Sixth infantry, which is known to have had some hot Indian engagements, that he did not put in all his time shooting deer and wild turkeys.

Springfield rifle

Nevertheless the captain modestly acknowledged that he knew something about the Springfield rifle and with his usual courtesy, proceeded to compare the guns.

“The Springfield hasn’t the range of the Manser or Krag-Jorgensen, that is true,” said he, “but when a regiment gets close enough to an enemy for the Springfield to reach them they will make it warm for somebody.

“When a Springfield bullet strikes an object it makes a hole and doctors are rarely over puzzled over the outcome.  They generally order funeral arrangements for the wounded man.”

“On the contrary the small steel bullet of the Krag-Jorgensen or Mauser rifle only pierces a very small hole and the result is not always fatel.  It goes with such force at close range that it goes through a man easily and does not spread out like the lead bullet of the Springfield and makes a hole like a dynamite cartridge.”

“Take for instance wounding of Cadet Howel, of the Rough Riders, as mentioned in your paper of Monday.  He was shot through and through with a Mauser bullet and is now able to be on the streets in Washington, scarcely three weeks after being wounded.  If it had been a Springfield bullet he would now have been occupying a space in Cuban soil with a pine board marking his resting place.  The surgeons would never have been puzzled as to the result of his wound when they examined him, as they were over the Mauser wound.”

“I have had experience with the Krag-Jorgensen and the Springfield rifles out west on hunting expeditions and it was there I noticed the difference.  When I hit a deer with a Springfield he dropped, but many a time have I seen a deer run off apparently unhurt when it had been shot through and through by a Krag-Jorgensen bullet.

“I have never had the opportunity to see the result of a man being shot by a Krag-Jorgensen in an engagement, but I have seen Indians who were shot with Springfields.  When they were hit once they did not trouble us any more.

“If I had to take my choice of weapons to be shot with I would never choose a Springfield.  A man shot with one of those old lead spitters had better prepare his will and give his funeral directions.

“I think also that in actual battle if the Krag-Jorgensen is used as rapidly as it will work that the weapon would soon become too hot to handle and the Springfield which is not operated with such rapidity has the advantage of keeping cool.  It is impossible for a man with a rapid firing gun to shoot slow in the excitement of battle and the only way to keep his gun so he can handle it is to give him one that does not shoot so fast.  This is a Springfield.

Tombstone, Arizona Territory

TOMBSTONE, ARIZONA TERRITORYTOMBSTONE, ARIZONA TERRITORY. As the story goes, Ed Schieffelin, while prospecting in southeast Arizona, was told that all he would be able to find would be his tombstone. What Schieffelin found was an area that ended up producing $30 million in silver. On September 3, 1877, he recorded his claim, jokingly naming it the Tombstone Mine.
           
Buildings started springing up overnight. But Tombstone was different. By the end of 1877, the heyday of the cattle towns was all but over. Texas Rangers were chasing all the bad guys out of Texas. And Pat Garrett was wrapping up things in New Mexico. So, Tombstone became the last hurrah for many a desperado. With a town of miners, claim jumpers, con artists, soiled doves, gunmen and gamblers, it wasn’t surprising that there seemed to be at least one killing a day. The Tombstone Epitaph reported these killings in a special column called “Death’s Doings”.
               
Wells Spicer in an early letter said that Tombstone had two dance halls, a dozen gambling places and more than 20 saloons. But, he wrote, “Still there is hope, for I know of two Bibles in town.”
 
Three years after Schieffelin filed his claim; Tombstone had about five hundred buildings, with more than a hundred selling hard liquor, and about half of those houses of ill repute.
TOMBSTONE, ARIZONA TERRITORY
 
Tombstone’s reputation even became a concern of President Chester Arthur. Tombstone survived disastrous fires in 1881 and 1882. But in 1886, when water flooded the mines, the population began to shrink. But, in the spirit of a town too tough to die, Tombstone, Arizona remains today the number one place that Old West enthusiasts want to go.

History Of The Santa Fe Trail – Pt 1

History of the Santa Fe TrailA party of young men, Hugh Stephenson, Lewis Dutton, Lucas Doane, Joshua Sledd, James Kirker, Robert McNight, Henry Corlew and Esteven Chushie, who in 1830, “made the Santa Fe trail and marked the route followed by thousands in after years.”  That they marked the route is contradicted by Gregg’s Commerce of the Plains, as also by Niles Register.  Fifteen thousand dollars worth of merchandise from St. Louis, Missouri, was delivered in Santa Fe in 1822, and the traffic had increased to $120,000 in 1830, the year in which the Las Cruces Republican claims Hugh Stephenson and others made the trail. All of this marks the history of the Santa Fe Trail.

Freight was carried by pack animals until 1824, when wagons were introduced as an experiment, and making the trip without difficulty, were used exclusively after 1825.  In January of that year, through the influence of Col. Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri, a bill was passed by congress authorizing the marking out a road.  Thirty thousand dollars was appropriated for that purpose and that of obtaining the Indians’ consent to the road and its unmolested use.  The U. S. Commissioners appointed to conduct the survey were Benjamin Reeves, George C. Sibley and Thomas Maher; and Joseph C. Brown as surveyor.

In 1825 a party left Santa Fe in June and in Franklin, Missouri, in August, with 500 mules and horses, and “the Santa Fe trade” continued to grow without intermission until the present time.  But not without interruption from the Indians, which caused the committee on military affairs to report to congress, in 1828, in favor of a movable escort rather than a fixed garrison.  The recommendation was given effect in 1829, and Major Riley, with four companies of the 6th infantry, from Fort Leavenworth, were detailed as the escort.  Protection was not continued the following year; never­theless, there was an increase in traffic of just 100 per cent over the preceding year.

In 1821 the Santa Fe trade may be said to have become a business proposition.  Captain Glenn, Mr. Bicknell and Stephen Cooper were the pioneers of that commercial enterprise, although small parties of trappers and traders had previously visited Santa Fe.  In 1815 Auguste P. Choteau and Julius de Mun formed a partnership and went with a large party Upper Arkansas to hunt, trap and trade with the Indians. The following year they visited Taos and Santa Fe, and were well received by Governor Mainez.  But there was a change of policy the following year on the part of Mexican government, perhaps for the reason that the “gringos” were becoming too numerous, monopolizing the fur trade, killing the buffaloes for their skins, and making merchandise of buffalo tongues, a luxury in the states, even then in the frontier village of St. Louis they commanded a dollar each.

Jack Harris

Ben Thompson - Jack HarrisAs a young man, Jack Harris was a scout for the army, and he fought in revolutions in Central American. Returning to America, he hunted buffalo, served as a policeman, and did some serious gambling.
           
Settling down, he and Ernest Hart opened the Green Front Saloon in San Antonio. The Green Front was a first class establishment that even had a Vaudeville House on the second floor.
               
A wealthy man, involved in local politics, Jack was well liked in the San Antonio area.
 
But, as is often true, no matter how wealthy you are, or how many friends you have, it’s your enemies that determine your fate. Jack Harris had one enemy… Ben Thompson. For anyone who doesn’t know Ben, he was a hard case who took turns walking on both sides of the law. And, Ben wouldn’t back down to a buzz saw.
 
On July 11, 1882, after seething about a gambling dispute that took place two years earlier, Ben entered the Green Front Saloon demanding that Jack Harris get his guns and meet him in the street so they could have it out.
 
While Ben was standing in the street, Jack got a shotgun and went to one of the saloon’s windows. Before Jack could get off a shot, Ben saw him and shot Jack, killing him. Ben Thompson turned himself into the law, and pleading self-defense, was acquitted.
 
From this experience, one would think Ben Thompson would have realized enemies often determine your fate. But it wasn’t so. Because less than two years later Ben returned to the Vaudeville House, and the enemies he developed from killing Jack Harris put an end to his life. 

John Wesley Hardin Kills a Town

John Wesley Harden Kills a TownThere are several great stories about John Wesley Hardin, one of the Old West’s best-known outlaws. One is how he hunted down and killed Juan Bideno. When Hardin told the story, he said he found Bideno in Bluff City. The town was actually Sumner City, and the story is  how John Wesley Hardin kills a town .
In 1871, Sumner City was a young thriving town. Just a year after it was founded the town had twelve buildings, including two hotels, post office, hardware store, bakery, two clothing stores, a livery stable and blacksmith shop. And, a newspaper was soon to open.
Although Sumner City was located in the center of Sumner County, Sumner County had no county seat, and Sumner City looked to be the obvious choice.
Then, on July 6, John Wesley Hardin and three others came into Sumner City looking for Juan Bideno, because Juan had killed a trail-boss friend of Hardin’s. Hardin caught up with Juan at a café. And, Juan ended up dead.
Leaving $20.00 to cover the costs of cleaning up the café, and burying Juan, Hardin and his friends left town.
People of the county couldn’t believe that the men weren’t arrested. Newspapers asked for officers who would carry out their duties, saying the county needed officials to stem this violence.
When the county seat election took place, there were four towns in contention. And, Sumner City came in dead last.
It was but a short time before Sumner City’s buildings were removed and relocated to the county seat. And, Sumner City became just another notch on John Wesley Hardin’s gun.
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