Wild Bill - Page 4
"All of a sudden it
seemed as if my heart was on fire. I was bleeding everywhere. I rushed
out to the well and drank from the bucket, and then tumbled down in
Breathless with the
intense interest with which I had followed this strange story, all the
more thrilling and weird when its hero, seemingly to live over again
the bloody events of that day, gave way to its terrible spirit with
wild, gestures. I saw then – what my scrutiny of the morning had
failed to discover – the tiger which lay concealed beneath that gentle
"You must have been
hurt almost to death,” I said.
"There were eleven
buck-shot in me. I carry some of them now. I was cut in thirteen
places. All of them bad enough to have let out the life of a man. But
that blessed old Dr. Mills pulled me safe through it, after a bed
siege of many a long week.”
"That prayer of
yours, Bill, may have been more potent for your safety than you think.
You should thank God for your deliverance.”
"To tell you the
truth, Kernel,” responded the scout with a certain solemnity in his
grave face, "I don’t talk about sich things ter the people round here,
but I allers fell sort of thankful when I get out of a bad scrape.”
Hickok takes on the
McCanles Gang single
handedly, illustration from Harper's
New Monthly Magazine, February, 1867.
"In all your wild,
perilous adventures,” I asked him, "have you ever been afraid? Do you
know what the sensation is? I am sure you will not misunderstand the
question, for I take it we soldiers comprehend justly that there is no
higher courage than that which shows itself when the consciousness of
danger is keen but where moral strength overcomes the weakness of the
"I think I know what you mean, Sir, and
I’m not ashamed to say that I have been so frightened that it ‘peared
as if all the strength and blood had gone out of my body, and my face
was as white as chalk. It was at the Wilme Creek fight. I had fired
more than fifty cartridges, and I think fetched my man every time. I
was on the skirmish line, and was working up closer to the rebs, when
all of a sudden a battery opened fire right in front of me, and it
sounded as if forty thousand guns were firing, and ever shot and shell
screeched within six inches of my head. It was the first time I was
ever under artillery fire, and I was so frightened that I couldn’t
move for a minute or so, and when I did go back the boys asked me if I
had seen a ghost? They may shoot bullets at me by the dozen, and it’s
rather exciting if I can shoot back, but I am always sort of nervous
when the big guns go off.”
"I would like to see you
"Would yer?” replied the
scout, drawing his revolver; and approaching the window, he pointed to a
letter O in a sign-board which was fixed to the stone-wall of a building
on the other side of the way.
"That sign is more than
fifty yards away. I will put these six balls into the inside of the
circle, which isn’t bigger than a man’s heart.”
In an off-hand way, and
without sighting the pistol with his eye, he discharged the six shots of
his revolver. I afterward saw that all the bullets had entered the circle.
in 1867, the year this article was published.
image available for photographic prints & editorial downloads
As Bill proceeded to reload his pistol, he said to me with a naiveté of
manner which was meant to he assuring:
"Whenever you get into a
row be sure and not shoot too quick. Take time. I’ve known many a feller
slip up for shootin in a hurry.”
It would be easy to fill
a volume with the adventures of that remarkable man. My object here has
been to make a slight record of one who is one of the best – perhaps the
very best – example of a class who more than any other encountered perils
and privations in defense of our nationality.
One afternoon as General
Smith and I mounted our horses to start upon our journey toward the East,
came to shake hands goodby, and I said to him:
"If you have no objection
I will write out for publication an account of a few of your adventures.”
"Certainly you may,” he replied. "I’m sort of
public property. But., Kernel,” he continued, leaning upon my saddle-bow,
while there was a tremulous softness in his voice and a strange moisture
in his averted eyes, "I have a mother back there in
who is old and feeble. I haven’t seen her this many a year, and haven’t
been a good son to her, yet I love her better than any thing in this life.
It don’t matter much what they say about me here. But I’m not a cut-throat
and vagabond, and I’d like the old woman to know what’ll make her proud.
I’d like her to hear that her runaway boy has fought through the war for
the Union like a true man.”
Hickok called Wild Bill, the Scout of the Plains shall have his
wish. I have told his story precisely as it was told to me, confirmed in
all important points by many witnesses; and I have no doubt of its truth.
To see the
original article in its entirety, visit the
Cornell University Library.
the Nichols article was heavily attacked by the press as being filled with
inaccuracies and as being little more than entertainment fodder for those
in the East.
To see a few of those excerpts click
bids farewell to George Ward Nichols,
illustration from Harper's
New Monthly Magazine, February, 1867.
Article and the Author:
article, written by George Ward Nichols, was excerpted, in part, from an
article that appeared in
Harper's New Monthly Magazine,
in February, 1867, now in the public domain. The article is not verbatim,
as glaring errors, such as Nichols referring to Bill Hickok
William Hitchcock, and other grammatical and spelling
corrections have been made. Additionally, the material that appears here
does not include the entire piece.
George Ward Nichols worked as
a journalist until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he joined the Union
Army, where he served on the staffs of Generals John C. Fremont and
William Sherman. Before he was released from
service, he rose to the
rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war, he published a number of
stories in various publications including the article that appears here.
Newspapers such as the
Leavenworth Daily Conservative, Kansas Daily Commonwealth,
Springfield Patriot and the Atchison Daily Champion quickly
pointed out that the article was full of inaccuracies and that
was lying when he claimed he had killed "hundreds of men." After these
heavy attacks, he concentrated on writing about music and
became president of the Cincinnati College of
Music. Books by Nichols include Art Education Applied to Industry
in 1877) and Pottery in 1878. He died on September 15, 1885.
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