Today In Western History” Braxton Bragg Is Born

March 22 —


On this day in 1817, Confederate General Braxton Bragg is born in Warrenton, North Carolina. Bragg

CSA General Braxton Bragg, President Davis's favorite and everyone else's headache.
CSA General Braxton Bragg, President Davis’s favorite and everyone else’s headache.

commanded the Army of Tennessee for 17 months, leading them to several defeats and losing most of the state of Tennessee to the Yankees.

Bragg graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1837, and went on to fight in the Seminole War of the 1830s and the Mexican War in 1846 and 1847. In Mexico, he earned three pro-motions but also managed to survived two assassination attempts by by his own soldiers.  Bragg was temperamental and acerbic, a capable soldier but a difficult personality. These character flaws would later badly damage the Confederate war effort, as despite being a favorite of Jefferson Davis, Bragg fought with every other officer in the Confederate Army.  

When the Civil War began, Bragg was appointed commander of the Gulf Coast defenses but he was quickly promoted to major general and then sent to join General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Army of

CSA General Albert Sydney Johnston
CSA General Albert Sydney Johnston

Tennessee. Bragg fought bravely at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862, leading attacks while having two horses shot out from under him. When Johnston was killed during the battle, Bragg became second in command to Pierre G. T. Beauregard. After Beauregard was forced to relinquish his command for

Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

health reasons, Confederate President Jefferson Davis turned to Bragg.

Bragg’s record as army commander was absolutely dismal. He marched northward in the fall of 1862 to regain Kentucky, but was turned back at the Battle of Perryville in October. On New Year’s Eve, Bragg clashed with the army of Union General William Rosecrans at the Battle of Stones River, Tennessee

US General William "Old Rosey" Rosecrans
US General William “Old Rosey” Rosecrans

where they fought to a standstill, but Bragg was forced to retreat and leave the Union in control of central Tennessee. Then, in the summer of 1863, Rosecrans totally outmaneuvered Bragg, backing the Confederates entirely out of the state.  Only at Chickamauga, Georgia, in September did Bragg finally win a battle, but the victory came in spite of Bragg’s leadership rather than as a result of his leader-ship.   Bragg followed up his single victory by pinning the Yankees in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Union forces, now led by General Ulysses S. Grant, broke the siege in November and nearly destroyed Bragg’s

Lt. General Ulysses Grant
Lt. General Ulysses Grant

army. Bragg was finished, having now alienated most of his generals and lost the confidence of his soldiers. He resigned his command and went to Richmond, Virginia, to be a military advisor to President Davis. Bragg fled southward with Davis at the end of the war but both men were captured in Georgia. Bragg was soon released, and worked as an engineer and a railroad executive before his death in 1876.


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Today In Western History: John Henry Holliday Is Baptised

March 21 —


Today in 1852, a baby boy is baptized with the name of John Henry in Griffin, Georgia.  No birth record has ever been found for John Henry, but that doesn’t make him any less legitimate.  This boy will be very educated, and will turn to a professional career.  He will become a doctor, John Henry will, and his medical career will start off with a promising future.  But that will be cut short by a very serious, and ultimately terminal, illness.  Along the way, John Henry will discover another passion in his life, and that is gambling with the pasteboards.  He will become a very good gambler, and with a terminal illness, he takes more risks than most, and has less to lose.  This makes our John Henry a very danger-ous man, as more than one man discovered.  But John Henry has another virtue, and that is loyalty.  When he makes friends with a man, he sticks with him.  And there is one man he has made a friend of, and he will risk everything for this friend…and his friend’s two brothers.  

John Henry is baptized in 1852, and he dies of his illness on November 8, 1887, in Glennwood Springs Sanitarium, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  When he passes, his last reported words are ”That is funny”.  No one knows what he meant.  His friend, legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, said of John Henry, John Henry “Doc” Holliday, that “He was my friend.”

John Henry Holliday, dentist, gambler, alcoholic and gunfighter.
John Henry Holliday, dentist, gambler, alcoholic and gunfighter.

The picture shown above is the picture most often used to portray Doc Holliday,  but the problem is that it hasn’t been authenticated by any reliable source or researcher due to a lack of provenance.   It looks like it should be him, but…..

John Henry Holliday (age 20) last confirmed photograph
John Henry Holliday (age 20) last known confirmed photograph

The last known picture of John Henry Holliday (above) is from when he is 20 and before his rise to fame, or before his descent to infamy, depending upon where you stand.


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Today In Western History: Edward Zane Carroll Judson Is Born

March 20 —

Edward Zane Carroll Judson is born today, in 1823, in Stamford, New York.  He didn’t become well known until 1845, when he founded a sensationalistic magazine in Nashville, Tennesee, called Ned Buntline’s Own. 

Edward Zane Carroll "Ned Buntline" Judson
Edward Zane Carroll “Ned Buntline” Judson

Ned Buntline became the best known of several pseudonyms he used during his exciting career. Buntline’s goal in life was very simple. He wanted to make as much money as possible writing stories that the public would pay to read. He filled the pages of Ned Buntline’s Own with a variety of fantastic and outrageous stories, although he tended to favor nautical adventures. A compulsive womanizer (he was married an incredible seven times), he ended up killing a jealous husband who suspected him of seducing his wife in 1846.  Even though Buntline was only defending himself, some of the townspeople sympathetic to the dead man decided to hang Buntline from an awning post in the town square, but luckily for him, and for history, Buntline’s friends cut the rope before he strangled and he was spirited out of town.  Buntline relocated to New York, where he began publishing his magazine once more. Al-though he had once desired to become a serious writer, he was desperate to make a living so he began to write more for a mass audience. Buntline’s popular adventures were successful beyond his expect-ations, and he penned dozens of melodramatic “shocking” stories over the course of only a few years. By the time he was in his late 20s, Buntline had earned the title “King of the Dime Novels” and was making an excellent living.

After traveling to San Francisco in 1869, Buntline realized he could easily adapt his stock adventure plots to a setting in the American West.  At about the same time he met a handsome young scout and buffalo hunter named William Frederick Cody. Buntline claimed to have given Cody the nickname

William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Frontiersman, creator of the Rodeo
William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Frontiersman, creator of the Rodeo

“Buffalo Bill,” but Cody later said he earned the name years before as a hunter for the railroads.  It was Buntline’s decision to write a dime novel starring Buffalo Bill Cody made the relatively unknown scout into a national media star. Buntline’s book The Scout of the Plains grossly exaggerated Cody’s western adventures, even making up the entire story and flagrantly manufacturing the details to sup-port the story, but the Eastern public loved the thrilling tales.  Always the promoter, Buntline turned the novel into a play that he staged in Chicago. In 1872, Buntline convinced Cody himself to travel to the city and play himself in the production. Cody was a poor actor, but his participation brought in people and money.  Cody broke with Buntline after a year, but the national fame he had acquired as a result of Buntline’s endless energy and boundless imagination eventually allowed “Buffalo Bill” to create his famous Wild West show. Buntline churned out other western dime novels, and he eventually became the nation’s top literary money earner, surpassing the income of serious authors such as Samuel Langhorne Clemons (“Mark Twain“) and Walt Whitman.  Buntline prized his wealth, but he always remained scornful of his own work. “I found that to make a living I must write ‘trash’ for the masses, for he who endeavors to write for the critical few, and do his genius justice, will go hungry if he has no other means of support.”

One of the other famous legends that was attributed to him was about a set of special guns that he sup-posedly presented to a group of famous lawmen.  The guns were a variation of the famous Colt Peace-maker, but with an extra-long barrel.  This legend was started by Stuart N. Lake in his HIGHLY fiction-

Stuart N. Lake, creator of the legend of Wyatt Earp
Stuart N. Lake, creator of the legend of Wyatt Earp

alized biography of Wyatt Earp in 1931.  The only problem with this enduring legend is that neither  Colt, nor any of the other firearm manufacturers, ever made the extra-long barrel in that time period, and none of the researchers have ever found any proof that the real Wyatt Earp ever owned such a fanciful weapon.  Certainly a 12” barrel would have created some logistical problems for a quick draw, no matter how fast the gun artist was.

Perhaps more than any single writer, Ned Buntline was responsible for creating a highly romantic-cized and somewhat misleading image of the American West as the setting for great adventure and excitement. Buntline died at his home in Stamford, New York, in 1886. He was 63 years old and had written more than 400 novels and countless other short stories and articles.


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Today In Western History: Wyatt Earp is Born

March 19 —

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, frontier marshal, ganbler, gunfighter and legend.
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, frontier marshal, ganbler, gunfighter and legend.

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was born March 19, 1848, in Monmouth, Illinois, the third of Nicholas and Virginia Ann Earp’s five sons.   One of the icons of the American West, he worked for the law and helped tame the wild cowboy culture that pervaded the frontier. In Tombstone, Arizona, Wyatt got into a feud with a local rancher that resulted in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, perhaps the most famous gunfight in American history.  Earp died in Los Angeles on January 13, 1929, only one of two gunfighters to die of old age, the other being William Bartholomew “Bat” Masterson.

William Bartholomew "Bat"Masterson, lawman, gambler, shootist
William Bartholomew “Bat”Masterson, lawman, gambler, shootist

The Civil War broke out when Wyatt was just 13. Desperate to leave the family farm in Illinois and find adventure, he tried several times to join his two older brothers, Virgil and James, in the Union army. But each time, the runaway Earp was caught before he ever reached the battlefield and was returned home.  At the age of 17 Earp finally left his family, now living in California, for a new life along the frontier. He worked hauling freight, and then later was hired to grade track for the Union Pacific Rail-road. In his downtime he learned to box and became an adept gambler.

In 1869, Earp returned to the fold of his family, who had made a home in Lamar, Missouri. A new, more settled life seemed to await Earp. After his father resigned as constable of the township, Earp replaced him.  By 1870 he’d married Urilla Sutherland, the daughter of the local hotel owner, built a house in town and was an expecting father. But then, everything changed. Within a year of their marriage Urilla contracted typhus and died, along with her unborn child.

Broken and devastated by his wife’s death, Earp left Lamar and set off on a new life devoid of any kind of grounding. In Arkansas, he was arrested for stealing horses, but managed to avoid punishment by escaping from his jail cell. For the next several years, Earp roamed the frontier, making his home in saloons and brothels, working as a strongman and befriending several different prostitutes.  In 1876 he moved to Wichita, Kansas, where his brother Virgil had opened a new brothel that catered to the cow-boys coming off their long cattle drives. There, he also began working with a part-time police officer on rounding up criminals.

The adventure and the little bit of press Earp received from the job appealed to him, and eventually he was made city marshal in Dodge City, Kansas.  But while he’d reinvented himself as a lawman, the spec-ulative spirit that had driven his father ran in Earp as well. In December 1879, Earp joined his brothers Virgil and Morgan in Tombstone, Arizona, a booming frontier town that had only recently been erected when a speculator discovered the land there contained vast amounts of silver. His good friend John Henry “Doc” Holliday, whom he’d met in Kansas, joined him. But the silver riches the Earp brothers expected to find never came, forcing Earp to begrudgingly to return to law work. In a town and a region desperate to tame the lawlessness of the cowboy culture that pervaded the frontier, Earp was a most welcome sight.

In March 1881 Earp set out to find a posse of cowboys that had robbed a Tombstone stagecoach and its driver. In an effort to close in on the outlaws, he struck a deal with a rancher named Ike Clanton, who

Isaac "Ike" Clanton, outlaw, "Cowboy" and alcoholic
Isaac “Ike” Clanton, outlaw, “Cowboy” blowhard and alcoholic

regularly dealt with the cowboys working around Tombstone. In return for his help, Earp promised Clanton he could collect a $6,000 reward.  But the partnership quickly dissolved. Clanton, paranoid that Earp would leak the details of their bargain, turned against Earp. By October Clanton was out of his mind, drunk and parading around Tombstone’s saloons, bragging that he was going to kill one of the Earp men.  Everything came to a head on October 26, 1881, when the three Earps, along with Doc Holliday, met Clanton, his brother Billy, and two others, Frank McLaury and his brother, Tom, on a small lot on the edge of town near an enclosure called the O.K. Corral.  There, the greatest gunfight in the West’s history took place. Over the course of just 30 seconds, a barrage of shots was fired, killing Billy Clanton and both of the McLaury brothers. Virgil and Morgan Earp, as well as Holliday, all were injured. The only one unscathed was Wyatt.  The battle ratcheted up tensions between the cowboy community and those who were looking for a more settled West to emerge. Ike Clanton went on a ram-page, orchestrating the shooting of Virgil Earp and the assassination of Morgan Earp.   As a result of Morgan’s death, Wyatt Earp set off in search of vengeance. With Holliday and small posse of others, he roamed the frontier on a killing spree that made headlines around the nation, earning the group both praise and condemnation for taking on the West’s wild cowboy culture.

As the American West grew to be more settled, Earp’s place in it became less certain. With his com-panion, Josephine Marcus, he continued to seek out the success that had eluded him most of his life. He ran saloons in parts of California and went after the gold rush in Alaska before settling down in Los Angeles.  During his last years, he became infatuated with Hollywood’s portrayal of the West and his legacy.

In the early days of Hollywood westerns, he befriended a very young ‘gopher’ on the set of Tom Mix’s westerns, a young man named Marion Robert Morrison.  Marion listened to Wyatt’s conversations with Tom and modeled his own screen persona after Wyatt.  You can hear Wyatt’s words in the character Marion portrayed in his last movie, when he plays a dying gunfighter by the name of J. B. Books.  You won’t see the name Marion Morrison listed in the credits, but you will see John Wayne

Wyatt longed for a film that told his story and set the record straight on his accomplishments. But the kind of recognition he craved came only after his passing on January 13, 1929, at his Los Angeles home.

Wyatt Earp in 1929
Wyatt Earp in 1929 at age 81

The Earp story was remade with the 1931 publication Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal by biographer Stuart Lake. In it, the former frontier man was transformed into a Western hero that Hollywood and the American public came to adore.  Hollywood made several movies depicting that famous gunfight, some more realistic than others, several of which only resembled the real thing in name only.  A few of them didn’t even come that close.  “The Hour of The Gun” starring James Garner as Wyatt Earp, was fun to watch but you really had to look closely to find a factual aspect of the story.  The most histori-cally accurate telling of the story would be Kevin Costner’s “Wyatt Earp”, but the most fun and exciting to watch is Kurt Russell’s “Tombstone”.  Watch them both for a stereo-optic viewing of the real story.



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Today In Western History: The Sanitary Commission Fair Closes


On this day in 1864, the U.S. Sanitary Commission Fair in Washington, D.C., closes with President Abraham Lincoln commending the organization for its work on behalf of Union soldiers.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President
Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President

Established in 1861 as a federal government agency, the Sanitary Commission was responsible for coordinating the efforts of thousands of volunteers during the Civil War. The group’s workers raised some $25 million in donations and medical supplies; sent inspectors to military camps to oversee the establishment of clean water supplies, latrines, and cooking facilities; worked alongside doctors and nurses on the frontlines to help evacuate wounded troops; they sewed uniforms and blankets and even provided lodging and meals to injured soldiers returning home on furlough. Although the program was administered by men, the organization was made up primarily of female volunteers and represented a major contribution by Yankee women to the war effort.

Some generals and Army doctors found Sanitary Commission volunteers annoying and meddlesome, especially when they criticized the military’s medical practices, such as performing operations drunk or failing to clean their instruments between operations.  One physician complained about what he saw as “sensation preachers, village doctors, and strong-minded women” interfering with his work and that of his colleagues.  Prominent among the group’s members was the formidable and no-nonsense Mary Ann Bickerdyke, who became the commission’s agent to the Army of the Tennessee before the

Mary Ann Bickerdyke, known as "Mother Bickerdyke" for her care of the wounded soldiers
Mary Ann Bickerdyke, known as “Mother Bickerdyke” for her care of the common soldiers

Battle of Shiloh in April 1862.  She quickly became known to all the soldiers as “Mother Bickerdyke”.  Bickerdyke was dedicated to caring for common soldiers and she wasn’t afraid to challenge doctors and officers when she thought troop care was being compromised. At Chattanooga, Tennessee, Bickerdyke ordered timbers for breastworks burned to keep wounded soldiers warm. When military police asked her who had authorized the burning, she replied, “Under the authority of God Almighty. Have you got anything better than that?”  At one point, some medical officers complained to General William Sherman about her  but got nowhere, as Sherman just said in exasperation, “I can do nothing, she ranks me!”  The Sanitary Commission’s work fit traditional roles for 19th-century American women as caretakers and nurturers of men. However, the group’s activities also enabled women to gain work experience outside the home, and in that way can be seen as a step forward for the women’s rights movement. At the closing of the March 1864 Sanitation Commission Fair, Lincoln stated: “If all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war.”


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Today In Western History: The Battle of Kelly’s Ford

On this day in 1863, Union cavalry attack Confederate cavalry at Kelly’s Ford, Virginia. The engageent proved that the Federal troopers could hold their own against their Rebel counterparts, despite their being pushed back and failing take any ground.

In the war’s first two years, the Union cavalry had fared poorly in combat, coming off a poor second to the Rebel horsemen.  This was especially true in the Eastern theater, where Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart boasted an outstanding force comprised of excellent horsemen. On several occasions, Stuart

James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart, CSA General
James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart, CSA General

embarrassed the Union cavalry with his daring exploits. During the Peninsular Campaign of 1862, Stuart rode around the entire 100,000-man Union army in just four days, to the great embarrassment of the union generals and President Lincoln.  Later that year, he made a daring raid to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and returned unmolested to Virginia after capturing tons of much needed supplies and inflicting significant damage.  In February 1863, a raid by General Fitzhugh Lee (son of Confederate

Gen. William Henry Fitzhugh "Fitz" Lee, son of Robert E. Lee
Gen. William Henry Fitzhugh “Fitz” Lee, son of Robert E. Lee

commander Robert E. Lee) also left the Federals running in circles in search of the enemy force.  Now, in another change of commanders, General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker assumed command of the

USA General Joseph D. "Fighting Joe" Hooker
USA General Joseph D. “Fighting Joe” Hooker

Federal Army of the Potomac. He planned to bring an end to the Confederate raids by stopping Stuart’s cavalry. Hooker assigned General William Averell to attack the Rebel cavalry near Culpeper Court

US General William W. Averell
US General William W. Averell

House, Virginia. Averell assembled 3,000 men for the mission, but he left 900 more behind to protect against a rumored Confederate presence near Catlett’s Station.  Averell led the rest of his men towards Kelly’s Ford, a crossing of the Rappahannock River east of Culpeper Court House. Fitzhugh Lee learned of the advance and positioned his cavalry brigade, which was part of Stuart’s corps, to block the ford and dig rifle pits above the river.

On the morning of March 17, Averell’s men reached Kelly’s Ford where they quickly found themselves under fire from 60 Confederate sharpshooters. It took only four attacks for Averell’s men to capture the rifle pits and by noon the entire force was across the Rappahannock.  Now, Fitzhugh Lee arrived with 800 troopers and two pieces of artillery. As the Confederates approached, the cautious Averell ordered his men to form a defensive line, thus giving the initiative to the Confederates. Lee arrived and ordered his men to attack, but Yankee fire drove them back. He attacked again and was again repulsed. Averell had a chance to win the battle with a counterattack, but instead he withdrew across the Rappahannock River.  He later defended his retreat by claiming the arrival of Stuart on the battlefield signaled the possible approach of additional Confederate cavalry.

Averell lost 78 men killed, wounded, and captured during the day’s fighting. The Confederates lost a total of 133 men. Among the Rebel dead was Major John Pelham, perhaps the best artillery officer in

CSA General John Pelham, the CSA's best artillery officer
CSA General John Pelham, the CSA’s best field artillery officer

the Confederate army. He happened to be visiting Stuart when the battle began, and rode forward to see the action. Pelham was mortally wounded by a shell splinter as he was observing the Confederate attacks in the afternoon. Although Kelly’s Ford was a tactical Union defeat, it signaled a new phase of the cavalry war in the East. The Yankees were closing the gap with the Confederate horsemen. In the next four months, the Union cavalry fought their Confederate counterparts to a standstill at Brandy Station, Virginia, and then scored a major victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The war was turning in favor of the Union.



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Today In Western History: John Wesley Hardin is Pardoned

Today, in 1894, Texas Governor Jim Hogg issues a full pardon to to a man who is certainly one of the West’s real true sociopaths, John Wesley Hardin, after he has served 16 years of a 25 year sentence for murder. 

John Wesley Hardin a real sociopathic killer
John Wesley Hardin
a real sociopathic killer

Hardin was an American outlaw, gunfighter, and controversial folk hero of the Old West. He was born in Bonham, Texas in 1853, and lived his life in the shadow of the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression, as most Southerners referred to it). He was named after John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination of the Christian church and he was the second surviving son of 10 children. Hardin was a direct descendant of Revolutionary War hero, Col. Joseph Hardin, who was a legislator from North Carolina, the “lost” State of Franklin, and the Southwest Territory.

Hardin found himself in trouble with the law at an early age, and spent the majority of his life being pursued by both local lawmen and federal troops of the reconstruction era. While attending his father’s school, Hardin was taunted by another student, Charles Sloter. Sloter accused Hardin of being the author of graffiti on the schoolhouse wall that insulted a girl in his class. Hardin denied writing the poetry, accusing Sloter was the author.  Sloter charged at Hardin with a knife but Hardin stabbed him instead, almost killing him and just barely escaping being expelled.

At the age of 15, Hardin challenged his uncle Holshousen’s former slave, Mage, to a wrestling match which Hardin won.  According to Hardin, the following day, Mage hid by a path and attacked him as he rode past.  Hardin drew his revolver and fired five shots into Mage. Hardin claims he then rode to get help for the wounded ex-slave (who died three days later). Because James Hardin did not be-lieve his son would receive a fair hearing in the Union-occupied state (where more than a third of the state police were ex-slaves) he ordered his son into hiding (even though this event could have been deemed self-defense by contemporary Texas law).  Hardin claims that the authorities event-ually discovered his location, and sent three Union soldiers to arrest him. Hardin said he chose to confront his pursuers despite having been warned of their approach by older brother, Joe.

I waylaid them, as I had no mercy on men whom I knew only wanted to get my body to torture and kill. It was war to the knife for me, and I brought it on by opening the fight with a double-barreled shotgun and ended it with a cap and ball six-shooter. Thus it was by the fall of 1868 I had killed four men and was myself wounded in the arm.”

He often used the residences of family and friends to hide out from the law. Hardin is known to have had at least one encounter with the well-known lawman, “Wild Bill” Hickok. When he was finally

James Butler "WIld Bill" Hickok, legendary lawman, shootist and gambler
James Butler “WIld Bill” Hickok, legendary lawman, shootist and gambler

captured and sent to prison in 1878, Hardin claimed to have already killed 42 men, but newspapers of the era had attributed only 27 killings to him up to that point.  While in prison, Hardin wrote his autobiography and studied law, to prepare to make a living as an attorney after his release. He was released in 1894.  Once released, the demons, and the alcohol, that controlled his moods took over once more.  On August 19, 1895, Hardin was shot to death by John Selman, Sr. who was also a 

John Selman Jr., marshal and killer of John Wesley Hardin.
John Selman Jr., marshal and killer of John Wesley Hardin.

former outlaw and gunman, over an argument about Hardin pistol whipping his son.  Hardin was in the Acme Saloon, in El Paso, Texas, playing dice, when Selman walked in behind him and shot him in the head.  On the night of April 5, 1896, Selman was killed in a shootout by US Marshal George Scarborough.



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Today In Western History: The Benson Stage Is Robbed!

March 15

Today, in 1881, the Benson “Sandy Bob” stage sets out from Tombstone, Arizona, and on its way to Benson, it is robbed at Drew Station.  Actually, it was an attempted robbery. Although stage holdups are not an uncommon event in this day and time in this part of the west, this one is special.   The driver, Bud Philpot, was supposed  to be the shotgun messenger on this run, and Bob Paul was to have been the driver. But at some point and for some never to be learned reason, they changed positions, perhaps to give the driver a chance to warm his hands, as March can be chilly in this desert.  As the stage slowed for a small incline in the road, a masked bandit appeared in the path of the coach and demanded that the driver pull up. Bob Paul immediately raised his shotgun to resist the attempt, but the gunman fired first, killing Philpot and a passenger named Peter Roerig. The startled horses bolted and the highwaymen took off, losing out on the desired Wells Fargo booty of twenty-six thousand dollars (or $644,180.35 in 2015 dollars) in pure silver.  Bud Philpot was well-liked by all.  A posse was quickly formed and later that same night a man named Luther king was captured at a nearby ranch.  He admitted his involvement and named his accomplices as Bill Leonard, Harry Head and Jim Crane. After Luther King was captured, he was brought to back to Tombstone, but quickly escaped into thin air. By this time, the news was sweeping the town that a local gambler named Henry had been one of the murderers.

Hohn was accused of being involved in this holdup by his jilted on and off again girl-friend, who had something of an un-savory reputation herself. But being accused of something he didn’t do will not sit well with John, as he has a lot of pride. He will nurse a grudge for this injury to his good name.  He will find other causes to be angry with the men who really did commit the holdup over the coming months.  John has his supporters and loyal friends, all brothers, and they will help him clear his name.  In return, Henry will help them when they are threatened by the men who did hold up the stage.  This simmering feud will come to a legendary resolution in seven months in a vacant lot between a stable and a photography studio, and it will cause all their names to live forever.

Henry’s last name is Holliday, and his friends are called Morgan, Virgil and Wyatt Earp.

John Henry Holliday, dentist, gambler, alcoholic and gunfighter.
John Henry Holliday, dentist, gambler, alcoholic and gunfighter.
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, frontier marshal, ganbler, gunfighter and legend.
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, frontier marshal, gambler, gunfighter and legend.
Virgil Earp, frontier marshal,
Virgil Earp, frontier marshal,
Morgan Earp, gunfighter and hothead
Morgan Earp, gunfighter and hothead

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Today In Western History: Burnside Captures New Bern

March 14 —

On this day in 1862, at the Battle of New Bern, Union General Ambrose Burnside captures North Carolina’s second largest city and closes

US General Ambrose E. Burnside (sideburns are named for him)
US General Ambrose E. Burnside (sideburns are named for him)

another port through which the Confederates could slip much needed supplies.  The capture of New Bern continued Burnside’s success along the Carolina coast. Five weeks earlier, he led an amphibious force against Roanoke Island between Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. The Yankees captured the island on February 8; now Burnside moved against New Bern on the mainland. On March 13, he landed 12,000 troops along the Neuse River, 15 miles south of New Bern. Accompanied by 13 gunboats, Burnside’s army marched up river to face 4,000 Confed-erate troops commanded by General Lawrence O. Branch. The city was protected by extensive defenses, but Branch didn’t have enough

Lawrence O. Branch, Colonel, CSA
General Lawrence O. Branch,  CSA

soldiers to properly staff them. He concentrated his men along the inner works a few miles downriver from New Bern. Early on the morning of March 14, Burnside’s men attacked in a heavy fog, and two of the three Yankee brigades crashed into the fortifications. General Jesse Reno’s brigade struck the weakest part of the line, where an inexperienced Rebel militia unit tried to hold off the Federals.

Confederate General, Jesse L. Reno
Union General, Jesse L. Reno

Burnside’s third brigade joined Reno and the Confederate line collapsed. That afternoon, Union gunboats steamed into New Bern.  Union casualties for the battle were around 90 killed and 380 wounded, while the Confederates suffered approximately 60 killed, 100 wounded, and 400 captured. The conflict produced a Confederate hero, Colonel Zebulon Vance, who rescued his regiment by using small boats to bypass

Confederate General, Zebulon Vance
Confederate Col. Zebulon Vance

 a bridge set afire by his comrades. Vance was elected governor of the state later that year.


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Today In Western History: The Confederacy Approves The Use of Black Troops

March 13

On this day in 1865, with the main Rebel armies facing long odds against much larger Union armies,  in an act of desperation, the Confederacy reluctantly approves the use of black troops.  The situation was quite bleak for the Confederates in the spring of 1865. Although they had no way of knowing it, their beloved Confederacy had just less than a month to live.  The hated Yankees had captured large swaths of Southern territory and General William T. Sherman’s Union army was tearing unimpeded throughthe Carolinas. At the same time,

US General, William Tecumseh Sherman
US General, William Tecumseh Sherman

 Confederate General Robert E. Lee was struggling futilely to defend and protect the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, and he  was 

Robert E. Lee, General CSA
Robert E. Lee, General CSA

trying to do this with a steadily shrinking army, the victim of both severe malnutrition and desertions.  His Union opponent, General Ulysses S. Grant, was applying a relentless pressure with an army that was better fed, better supplied, and with unlimited resources.  Lee and 

Lt. General Ulysses Grant
Lt. General Ulysses Grant

Confederate President Jefferson Davis had only two options left to them.  One option was for Lee to unite with General Joseph Johnston’s 

 Jefferson Davis, President of the CSA
Jefferson Davis, President of the CSA

army  in the Carolinas and use the combined force to take on Sherman and Grant one at a time, but this would leave Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, both unprotected and vulnerable to capture. The other option was to arm the slaves, the last source of fresh manpower in the Confederacy.  This choice rendered the whole reason for the war as pointless. It was a no-win situation for the leaders of the Confederacy. 

Joseph E. Johnston, General CSA
Joseph E. Johnston, General CSA

 The idea of enlisting blacks had been debated for some time. Arming slaves was essentially a way of setting them free, since they could not realistically be sent back to plantations after they had fought. General Patrick Cleburne had suggested enlisting slaves a year before, but very few in the Confederate

Gen. Patrick Cleburne, CSA
Gen. Patrick Cleburne, CSA

leadership considered the proposal, since slavery was the foundation of Southern society.  One politic-ian asked, “What did we go to war for, if not to protect our property?” Another suggested, “If slaves will make good soldiers, our whole theory of slavery is wrong.” Lee weighed in on this thorny issue and he asked the Confederate government for help.  “We must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves.” Lee asked that the slaves be freed as a condition of fighting, but the bill that passed the Confederate Congress on March 13, 1865, did not stipulate freedom for those who served. 

The measure did nothing to stop the destruction of the Confederacy. Several thousand blacks were enlisted in the Rebel cause, but they could not begin to balance out the nearly 200,000 blacks who fought for the Union.  It was a case of “too little, too late”.


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