J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “Utah”

Colorado Desperadoes (Part 3) – “Buffalo Bill” Cody

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One of the most colorful characters to come out of the Old West was Buffalo Bill. He acquired his nickname after the Civil War, when he was hired to provide meat for the Kansas Pacific Railroad workers. Reportedly, Cody shot 4,280 bison in 18 months.

William Frederick Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917) was born near La Claire, Iowa, but his family soon migrated to Canada. In 1853, they moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory. When Cody’s father stood up at Rively’s store to give an anti-slavery speech, he was stabbed twice, and would have died had it not been for Rively, who jumped in and saved his life. Pro-slavers continuously threatened to kill Cody’s father, and in 1857, he died of complications acquired from his wounds.

Cody, now 11, took odd jobs to help support his family. He worked as a wagon train courier, and claimed to have been a “Fifty’Niner” in Colorado. When the Civil War broke out, he joined Johnston’s Army as an unofficial scout in Utah Territory to quash a rumored rebellion by the Mormons in Salt Lake City. According to Cody’s memoirs, this was where he first started his career as an Indian fighter. At age 14, he became a rider for the Pony Express. In 1863, he enlisted with the 7th Kansas Cavalry as a teamster, and served as a Private in Company H until his discharge in 1865.

In 1866, Cody married. The couple had four children, but three of them died in Rochester, New York. Cody began working as an Indian scout for the U.S. Army, and served as a scout for the highly publicized Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia’s royal hunt. Cody was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1872 for serving as a civilian scout, but in 1917, the rules were changed, and his award was revoked. (It was reinstated in 1989).

In December, 1872, Cody and his friend, Texas Jack Oromoundo, traveled to Chicago to perform their debut, The Scouts of the Prairie. “Wild Bill” Hickok appeared with them the following year. The troupe toured for ten years. Cody claimed that he had once scalped a Cheyenne warrior, which was part of his act. He also claimed that he had been a trapper, a bullwhacker, a stagecoach driver, and a wagon master, but no documentation exists, and historians believe he might have fabricated these claims to gain publicity. Regardless, Cody’s colorful reputation grew. In 1883, he founded “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” near North Platte, Nebraska. The circus-like show toured annually, and Cody met many dignitaries and heads of state. In 1893, he changed the name of his show to “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World.” Sitting Bull, Calamity Jane, and Annie Oakley appeared in the touring show, as did many diplomats from foreign countries. His show performed in such places as Madison Square Garden in New York City and the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Verona, Italy.

In 1887, Cody performed a show for Queen Victoria, and in 1889, he met Pope Leo XIII. He wasn’t allowed into the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, so he set up outside the fairgrounds and made a killing anyway. Between 1887 and 1906, Cody’s Wild West show toured Europe eight times. His shows gave Europe an authentic American experience, and insight into the fading American Western frontier.

Cody was instrumental in founding a town named after him, and in 1895, Cody, Wyoming, near the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park, was founded. He established a ranch and hotel, and used his influence to persuade Congress to build a dam on the Shoshone River. Upon its completion in 1910, it was the largest dam in the world.

In 1917, Cody died in Denver at his sister’s home. He was eulogized by George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II and President Woodrow Wilson. Cody is buried on Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado.  At one point, Buffalo Bill was the most famous man in the world. He supported Native American Indian rights and women’s rights, and pushed for the end of hide-hunting and the start of hunting seasons. He was an activist, a conservationist, a humanitarian, and a remarkable performer. He saw his Wild West change drastically over the course of his lifetime, but left a significant historical impact on the world, and changed their perception of the Wild West forever.

Loreta Janeta Valazquez – Fact or Fiction?

A spy … a civilian pretending to be a soldier …a widow four times

All of these phrases describe one of the most fascinating, thrill-seeking characters of the Civil War. Because she was a woman, Loreta Janeta Valezquez was able to fool her contemporaries while supporting the Confederate cause she so adamantly believed in.

 Born to a wealthy Cuban family on June 26, 1842, her mother was French-American, and her father, a Spanish government official, owned plantations in Mexico and Cuba, but developed a strong hatred for the U.S. government when he lost an inherited ranch in the Mexican War. In 1849, Loreta was sent to stay with an aunt in New Orleans, where she was taught English and French in addition to her native Spanish at Catholic schools. Her idol was Joan of Arc, and she wished to become just like her. When Loreta was only fourteen, she met a handsome Texas army officer named William, but because her parents opposed their union, they eloped in 1856. The newlyweds traveled around to various army posts until, four years later, when Loreta was eighteen, they were in St. Louis, mourning the deaths of their three children. When the Civil War broke out, she insisted that her husband join the Confederacy, and begged to join with him, but he disallowed it, so she simply waited for him to leave. She disguised herself in one of two uniforms she had tailored in Memphis, donned a wig and fake moustache, bound her breasts, and padded the sleeves of her uniform, transforming into Harry T. Buford. Self-appointing herself as a lieutenant, she fooled fellow officers and soldiers by walking with a masculine gait, perfecting the art of spitting, and smoking cigars. She immediately went to Arkansas, and in four days raised a battalion, the Arkansas Grays, consisting of 236 men. She then sent them to her husband in Pensacola, Florida, where she turned them over to his command. William’s astonishment was short-lived, however, because a few days later, he was accidentally killed while showing his troops how to use their weapons.

The bereaved Loreta turned his battalion over to a friend, and soon after, searched for military adventure on the front, finding it at the First Battle of Manassas, where she observed poor frightened souls around her. “The supreme moment of my life had arrived, and all the glorious aspirations of my romantic girlhood were on the point of realization. I was elated beyond measure, although cool-headed enough … Fear was a word I did not know the meaning of; and as I noted the ashy faces, and the trembling limbs of some of the men about me, I almost wished that I could feel a little fear, if only for the sake of sympathizing with the poor devils.”

Soon, Loreta grew weary of camp life, so she borrowed a dress from a local farmer’s wife and made her way to Washington, D.C., where she was recruited as a Confederate spy. She claimed to have met Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton. When she returned to the South, she was rewarded for her services by being assigned to detective duty. Apparently, espionage didn’t offer enough excitement for her either, so she put on her disguise and traveled to Tennessee, where she fought in the siege of Fort Donelson until its surrender. Wounded in the foot, she escaped detection by fleeing to New Orleans, but was arrested while in uniform for suspicion of being a Union spy and impersonating a man. Once she was released, she enlisted again to escape the city, and immediately went back up to Tennessee. There, she found the battalion she had raised in Arkansas, so she joined them in the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862. After the battle, she was wounded by a stray shell while she was on burial duty. Unfortunately, a doctor discovered her. Fleeing back down to New Orleans, she was there when Union General Benjamin F. Butler took control of the city in May 1862. Because she thought too many people were now aware of her true identity, she put away her uniform and traveled to Richmond, Virginia.

Upon her arrival, she was recruited as a Confederate spy, and traveled all over the country, crossing enemy lines while she wore both male and female disguises to traffic information, drugs, and counterfeit bills to the South. She married Confederate Captain Thomas DeCaulp, but he soon died at a Chattanooga hospital. Traveling back up north, she was hired by Union officials to search for “the woman … traveling and figuring as a Confederate agent,” or in other words, to search for herself. During that time, she attempted to organize a rebellion of Confederate prisoners in Ohio and Indiana, and helped to win the war of Costintin in 1864.

After the Civil War ended, she traveled around Europe and the South. Loreta married a third time. She and her husband, known only as Major Wasson, went to Venezuela as United States immigrants. He died in Caracus, so Loreta returned to America, this time going out west. She stopped in Salt Lake City long enough to give birth to a boy, and met Brigham Young. Nearly penniless, she traveled to Omaha, and charmed General W. S. Harney into giving her blankets and a revolver. Two days after she arrived to a mining town in Nevada, a sixty-year-old man proposed to her, but she refused. Supposedly, she married a fourth time, but the name of this younger man is unknown.

It wasn’t long before she was off again. “With my baby boy in my arms, I started on a long journey through Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, hoping, perhaps, but scarcely expecting, to find opportunities which I had failed to find in Utah, Nevada, and California.” Her money was dwindling, so in 1876, she wrote a book of her memoirs to support her child. Most of what is known about Loreta was written in her 600-page book, The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Valazquez, Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, Confederate States Army. Upon its publication, General Jubal Early denounced it as pure fiction, but modern scholars have found some parts to be accurate. In 2007, the History Channel ran a special entitled Full Metal Corset, and verified some of the incidents described in the book, but there are still many facts in question.

Loreta is last documented as living in Nevada. She never took any of her four husband’s names. After 1880, there is no further record of her life, including where or how she died, presumably in1897.

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