Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Law and Miss Lillie

Judge Roy Bean

In a state brimming with eccentric notables, few stand out more than Judge Roy Bean.  For twenty years, the “Law West of the Pecos” brought order to the remote, arid Trans-Pecos region.   His quirky sense of justice assures him an honored place in Old West lore and history.

Roy Bean’s beginnings go back to the mid 1820’s in the backwoods of Mason County, Kentucky.  Facing abject poverty at home, he left at fifteen, hit the Santa Fe Trail, and ended up running a trading post in Northern Mexico with his brother Samuel.  After getting into trouble with Mexican authorities, Bean fled to Southern California.  He worked at the “Headquarters Saloon” owned by his brother Joshua, who became the first mayor of San Diego, California.  Supporting a flashy vaquero look, young Roy Bean became something of a ladies’ man.  Such posturing led to altercations.  In one of the biggest social events in early San Diego, he took on John Collins in a pistol duel.  Like a Medieval joust, both participants dueled on horseback with Bean getting the upper hand.  He wounded his adversary in the leg and killed his horse.  In 1852, Joshua Bean was murdered and Bean took over his brother’s saloon.  His troubles continued after killing a man in a duel over a woman.  Avoiding the hangman’s noose, he left California.
                                                                                                                           
Bean journeyed to Mesilla, New Mexico and the new home of his brother Samuel.  Elected Sheriff of Dona Ana County, Samuel also had a saloon.  It seems saloons were in the Bean family blood.  Mesilla was an enclave of Confederate support before the war.  When Union forces occupied New Mexico, Bean retreated with the Confederate Army to San Antonio.  He tried his luck in the freight business, but that proved more laughable than successful.  A Uvalde sheep rancher recalled, “Roy Bean’s freight outfit to haul my wool was the sorriest I have ever beheld.  The six wagons were rickety.  The teams to draw same were an equal number of jackass and emaciated horses that had seen better days.  The harness consisted of ropes, leather, and raw hide thongs, chains, and ill-fitted collars for the jackasses.”  When he wasn’t trying to coax an extra mile out of his badly worn animals, Bean courted a 15 year old Mexican girl named Virginia Chavez. Three years later they married and had four children. 

In 1882, the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railroad began laying track between San Antonio and El Paso.  Bean saw an opportunity.  Tired of married life and the freight business, he divorced his wife and headed west toward the railroad camps near the Pecos River. Upon arrival, he set up a tent saloon and started serving drinks to the railroad workers.  Railroad camps in the Old West were havens for gamblers, drunks, opium addicts, thieves, and murderers.  In the tent city of Vinegarroon, a boxing ring was set up where workers bet drinks while watching bare knuckle fights.  For food and sport, workers dynamited fish out of the Rio Grande.  Accidents were common, violence was rampant, and graves were unmarked.   Texas Rangers were dispatched to keep the camps in line and protect nearby residents.   In dire need of local law enforcement, the Rangers tabbed Bean for the job of Justice of the Peace.  Probably impressed with his commanding presence in the camps, the Commissioners of Pecos County officially appointed him.  Bean held the office (with interruptions in 1886 and 1896) from 1882 until his death in 1903.


The Jersey Lilly and Courthouse
In 1886, Bean moved to the town of Langtry, named after railroad foreman George Langtry.  He later claimed he named the town after Lillie Langtry, a stunning British stage actress Bean became infatuated with.  Bean built a saloon and named it “The Jersey Lilly” in her honor.  Proclaiming himself the “Law West of the Pecos,” Bean dispensed justice while dispensing whiskey in his saloon.  Lacking a jail, Bean kept drunken rowdies handcuffed to a mesquite tree.  Law was interpreted through a single book, the 1879 “Revised Statutes of Texas.”  Fees ranged from 5$ for weddings to 10$ for divorces.  All weddings ended with the death sentence passage, “and may God have mercy on your souls.” 

A popular story involved the murder of a Chinese railroad worker by one of the many Irish workers.  The worker was brought before Judge Bean while his fellow Irishmen threatened to riot if their friend wasn’t exonerated.  Bean carefully scanned his law book then declared, “It don’t say nothing in here about it being against the law to kill a Chinaman. Case dismissed.”  

Bean’s greatest achievement may not have been as Justice of the Peace, but as a fight promoter.  In February, 1896, a world title prizefight was to be held in El Paso between number one contender Bob Fitzsimmons and Irish champ Peter Maher.  Because both Texas and Mexico outlawed prizefighting, Bean came up with a novel solution.  Why not have the fight at Langtry in the middle of the nearby Rio Grande ?  The two fighters and paying spectators boarded a special train in El Paso for the fight in Langtry.  Spectators and residents swamped “The Jersey Lilly” while the fighters got dressed aboard the train.  A rickety footbridge had been constructed across the river to a sandbar and hastily assembled boxing ring.  Drunken fans watched Fitzsimmons knock out Maher within a few seconds from the opening bell.  Texas Rangers could only look on from the bluffs above the river; the fight was out of their jurisdiction.

Despite Judge Bean’s moodiness, revolting table manners and drunken tirades, he was basically a good soul that helped the poor and established a schoolhouse for the local children.  He never allowed children in the saloon.  Destitute mothers without a supporting husband were provided one of Bean’s rent homes free of charge.
                                                                                                                           Lillie Langtry
His obsession with Lillie Langtry never wavered.  In anticipation of a future performance, he built an opera house for the red-headed actress.  Bean wrote her a letter imploring her to visit the town he named after her.  The actress couldn’t make it but offered him a water fountain instead.  Bean later replied that it would be useless since the only thing the citizens of Langtry didn’t drink was water.  Unfortunately, the two would never meet.  Bean died on March 16, 1903 in his saloon.  He was buried at the Del Rio cemetery.

 Almost a year later, Lillie Langtry visited the town she thought was named after her.  While traveling from New Orleans to San Francisco, her train stopped for a short visit; the whole town turned out. A bugler and drummer provided musical accompaniment as Miss Lillie herself stepped off the train.  She visited the saloon and schoolhouse.  After being told about the school’s overcrowded condition, she donated fifty dollars to enlarge it.  Poker chips from the saloon, one of Judge Bean’s pistols, and of all things, a pet bear were presented to her.  Langtry recalled the bear presentation in her memoir, “The Days I Knew:”

 “They hoisted the unwilling animal on to the platform, and tethered him to the rail, but happily, before I had time to rid myself of this unwelcome addition without seeming discourteous, he broke away, scattering the crowd and causing some of the vaqueros to start shooting wildly at all angles.”

Lillie Langtry had a life that could be a guidebook for today’s Hollywood celebs.  She had a three year affair with the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward (Queen Victoria’s son and the future King Edward VII). The prince even constructed a retreat for the two of them called the “Red House.”  If that wasn’t enough, she had affairs with the Earl of Shrewsbury and Prince Louis of Battenberg (First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy) while still married to her husband Edward Langtry.  Lillie Langtry was one of the first actresses to be paid to endorse commercial products such as soap and cosmetics.  She also purchased the Langtry Estate and Vineyards in Lake County, California.  It is still in operation today and Langtry wines can be purchased online.  Lillie Langtry died in 1929 while living in Monaco.

Here is a favorite scene from the movie, “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean” starring Paul Newman as the Judge.  In this fictional scene, Judge Bean demonstrates the Texas solution to global terrorism on mad, Albino outlaw, “Bad Bob.” This guy is so crazy and scary-looking, I think he would have been shot back then for just being crazy and scary-looking.  Check out the movie and read Jack Skiles’ wonderful book, “Judge Roy Bean Country.”


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Texas Civil War Museum Hosts Traveling World War One Museum

Inside the traveling WWI gallery sponsored by Waddell and Reed
The financial planning firm of Waddell and Reed teamed up with the National World War One Museum to develop a superb traveling World War One museum.  The museum, contained within a semitrailer, is currently touring 75 cities in the United States.  On December 10, 2011, the Texas Civil War Museum hosted this special tour in its parking lot.  Free of charge, the museum featured weapons, tools, uniforms, and equipment used during one of the 20th century’s bloodiest conflicts. 


The war was fought from 1914 to 1918 between the Central Powers (Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire) and the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Italy, Russia, and the United States).  It was the first truly modern war that featured aerial bombardment, all steel battleships, machine guns, tanks, flame throwers, submarines, mega-size artillery pieces, and poisonous gas.   Because of these modern weapons, no side could gain the upper hand.  Like the U.S. Civil War, the tactics couldn’t keep up with the weapons.  For four years, the war was fought mainly from muddy, rat infested trenches. Thousands were slaughtered over a few mere yards.  The number killed was a staggering 15 million and led to the fall of four monarchies: Germany, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The fall of the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary led to a slew of new nations in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.  Iraq, where the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein, was carved out of the Ottoman Empire.


Russia got the worst of it. They lost over 5 million fighting Germany, dropped out of the war, booted out Tsar Nicholas, suffered massive starvation, and then lost 15 million during a civil war fought between Communists and Anti-Communists.  After all that, the Communists formed a central government; the Soviet Union was born.


Here’s how it all began:



  1.  In June, 1914, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie were assassinated by a Serbian nationalist in the Balkan country of Bosnia.  When he wasn't being the Arch Duke, Franz Ferdinand was a big time game hunter that kept track of an incredible 300,000 kills in his diaries. All this guy did was travel the globe and shoot any animal that crossed his path. If the Serbs didn’t shoot him, wildlife conservationists probably would have.  Serbia is a Slavic, Eastern Orthodox country that hated the Catholic, Austro-Hungarians that once ruled Serbia.  They also hate the Muslims because they were also once ruled by the Ottoman Turks.

     2.      Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.


3.     Russia, which is also a Slavic, Eastern Orthodox country, was a close ally of Serbia.  They declared war on Austria-Hungary. Anytime you mess with the Balkans, the Russians aren’t going to like it.


4.    Germany, which was an ally of Austria-Hungary, declared war on Russia.


5.    France, which was an ally of Russia and hated Germany because of their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, declared war on Germany.  It you’re totally confused at this point, it gets better.


6.     Italy, which had been a member of the Central Powers, wanted to seize some of Austria-Hungary’s turf.  It decided to switch sides. Feeling the Allies had the upper hand, they declared war on Austria-Hungary then declared war on Germany.


7.     In order for Germany to attack France, German troops had to go through Belgium.  This ticked off Great Britain which declared war on Germany.  Anytime you mess with the Low Countries (The Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium), the British aren’t going to like it.


8.     Four years later, the U.S. declared war because German submarines sank U.S. merchant ships and the British ocean liner Lusitania which had American passengers on board.  Anytime you mess with U.S. ocean vessels, the United States isn’t going to like it (See the War of 1812, the Spanish American War, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin).  Also a German telegram to Mexico (known as the Zimmerman Telegram) was intercepted by the British.  It encouraged Mexico to attack the U.S. and regain territory it lost during the War with Mexico.  You can imagine how the U.S. public felt about that.




The war ended in November, 1918 when Germany, wracked with internal discord, labor strikes, and shortages due to a British naval blockade, signed a peace treaty.  The Treaty of Versailles ended the war but placed the blame squarely on Germany.  The Germans were forced to pay ridiculous reparation payments that weren’t paid off until 2010!  The United States Congress rejected the treaty.  Germany felt humiliated and wasn’t about to forget their defeat.  One German corporal, twice decorated during the war, certainly didn't forget.  His name was Adolph Hitler.


Here’s what we got out of World War I:


1.      A really bitter Germany that brought Adolph Hitler and the Nazis to power.


2.      The Soviet Union, World Communism and the decades long Cold War.


3.      A Spanish flu pandemic that killed over 50 million worldwide.


4.     Simmering ethnic hatreds between Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians in the Balkans (remember all that mess in Bosnia during the 1990’s?)


5.      The first weapons of mass destruction.


6.      A horrific ethnic cleansing of Armenians by the Turks.


7.      An isolationist U.S. that turned a blind eye toward early German, Italian and Japanese aggressions during World War II.


8.      The rise of Israel and Arab Nationalism.  This led to the Arab-Israeli conflict that we still have today.


9.      A League of Nations, which the U.S. didn't join, that collapsed at the start of World War II.






Due to its manpower and industrial strength, the U.S. was a deciding factor in the Allied victory.  France was kept from being overrun.  Many Americans, however, felt the U.S. should have stayed out of the War.  A period of isolationism ensued that had big repercussions before the second world war.  Nevertheless, the contributions of the U.S. Expeditionary Force in World War One shouldn't be disregarded.


Be sure and see the new Stephen Spielberg movie “War Horse.” It takes place during World War One.  Also check out the film classics “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Paths of Glory.”  Both are critically acclaimed and must see war movies. 


The best book on World War One is Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize winner, “The Guns of August.”  This book should be required reading for all incoming U.S. Presidents.  President Kennedy loved this book so much he gave copies to foreign heads of state.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What the Heck Happened to the Karankawas?

The Karankawa Indians | Karankawa | Scoop.it

If you travel extensively in New Mexico, Oklahoma, or Texas, chances are you will encounter a reservation, cultural center or hotel casino administered by Native Americans once indigenous to Texas.   One tribe will not be among them.  For decades, the Karankawas once flourished along the Texas coast from Galveston to Corpus Christi.  By the late 1800’s, they were extinct.
Most of what is known about them comes from the first person accounts of European explorers and missionaries.  The most vivid was from Cabeza de Vaca, a shipwrecked Spanish explorer who lived among them for several years.  He describes a handsome race of nomadic hunters and gatherers that subsisted on seafood during the summer and deer meat during the winter.  Unlike their Plains Indian neighbors, these Native Americans were a staggering 6 to 7 feet tall.  The Karankawas also tattooed their bodies, pierced their breasts and chins with a piece of cane, and traveled coastal waters in dugout canoes.  Their preferred weapon was an extremely long bow that was as tall as or taller than the person shooting it.  Karankawa homes were similar to today’s camping tents.  Made of willow poles and animal skins, they were called wickiups.  For insect repellent, the Karankawas covered themselves with alligator grease.  Based on the eyewitness accounts, the smell of that stuff could knock the ticks off a bird dog. 
The treatment of Karankawa wives was like the way you would treat a fishing rod.  As long as she worked and bore children, everything was fine; you kept her around.  You might even loan her out to your friends.  Otherwise, you could simply divorce her and find a new one.  There was also an in-law taboo where the wife’s parents could not have any contact whatsoever with the husband or enter his wickiup.  It seems the Karankawas had a leg up on the in-law situation, long before we started making jokes about it. 
The Karankawas had some really strange and horrifying ceremonies called “Mitotes.”  During the ceremony, a drink made from Yaupon leaves was consumed by male tribe members.  Called the “Black Drink,” it produced a jolt more powerful than day old coffee at a truck stop.  Some of the Mitotes involved a ritualistic form of cannibalism.  Victims (usually prisoners of war) were tied to a stake near a roaring campfire.  The Karankawas would dance around the fire while brandishing knives.  As they passed the victim, they sliced off a piece of flesh, toasted it like a marshmallow in the fire, and then consumed it before the victim.  By doing this, they believed they were absorbing their enemy’s strength.   Unfortunately, the Karankawas got a bad rep for this practice, a common one actually among Gulf Coast tribes.  Anglo settlers, who had little regard for Karankawa customs, just assumed they included people on their daily menus.
The beginning of the end probably came in 1685 with the arrival of French colonists.  Sponsored by a French explorer named La Salle, the colonists landed at Matagorda Bay and built a settlement at nearby Garcitas Creek.  Everything that could possibly go wrong in a European colony went wrong at La Salle’s colony. Their supply ship wrecked off the coast, sending most of their essentials to the bottom.  In six months, disease, malnutrition and exposure reduced the population from 180 to 90.  To make matters worse, the colonists lifted a couple of Karankawa canoes.  Not ones to shrug off impoliteness, the Karankawas responded by relentlessly attacking them.  Usually successful when it came to Indian relations, the French failed miserably with the Karankawas.  Taking advantage of the colony’s decline, the Karankawas wiped it off the map.  Only a couple of children were taken into captivity.
Not thrilled with a French colony in their neck of the woods, the Spaniards countered by setting up missions near the Karankawa’s territory.  Despite their best efforts, the Spanish missions failed to convert the Karankawas; they simply weren't buying it.

Bringing disease with them, European colonists and missionaries infected the Native Americans along the Texas Gulf Coast.  The Karankawas began dying off in droves.  Warfare with Texas settlers, other Native Americans (mostly the Comanches), Mexican ranchers, and Pirates hastened their demise.  Before the American Civil War began, the Karankawas disappeared, never to recover.  Only the efforts of archaeologists, anthropologists and historians keep their story alive. 

 The plight of the Karankawas was best summed up by anthropologist, Dr. W.W. Newcomb, Jr., in his book, "The Indians of Texas" (1961, University of Texas Press):

"Our civilization is like a great blanket cushioning and protecting us from the raw world; the Karankawas blanket was thin and patchy.  Yet, they survived, even thrived, and were happy with their ways.  To Europeans and Texans it was astonishing and insufferable that such a people should prefer their own gods, food , and customs to civilization's blessings.  But they did, and they clung to these ancestral ways.  And for this they perished.  To persevere to such ultimate tragedy is a highway to continuing remembrance."


On a lighter note, here is a “You Tube” trailer for the 1966 Western parody film, “Texas Across the River.” It features Hollywood’s favorite Karankawa played by "Rat Pack" comedian Joey Bishop. Named Kronk, Bishop sounds more like a Chinese tourist than a Native American out of his element.  This is one those movies that is so goofy, it’s funny. The Karankawas, however, didn’t don the buckskin attire worn by Kronk.  They wore breech clothes.  After all, they lived on the beach.  Considering the attire or lack of attire on beaches today, that's not surprising.
Believe it or not, a few beers and this movie can make for a fun evening.  Check out Joey Bishop’s rain dance; that’s why you need the beer.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Texas Tsunami: The Texas Brigade at Second Manassas

General John Bell Hood


There never were such men in an army before.  They will go anywhere and do anything if properly led.

May 21, 1863
Letter to General John Bell Hood from General Robert E. Lee


General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was growing more worried by the hour. His 2nd Corps held off repeated assaults by the Union Army of Virginia, but it was reaching the breaking point. During the last Union assault, a Louisiana regiment resorted to throwing rocks after they ran out of ammunition. General James Longstreet’s 1st Corps was on its way, but no word yet on its arrival. Where were they? With low ammunition and shrinking numbers, how could the 2nd Corps possibly hold off another attack?


Help was on the way. An officer from Longstreet’s command galloped up to Jackson’s headquarters with the news. Longstreet had broken through Thoroughfare Gap and was approaching. A suddenly excited Jackson asked, “What brigade is in the lead?” “The Texas Brigade,” the young officer replied. “Bring the Texas Brigade here and place them on my right,” said Jackson. “Gallop sir, gallop!” Anxious for a fight, the Texas Brigade quickly marched into position. The rest of Longstreet’s Corps followed shortly. A hushed excitement spread upon the news of Longstreet’s arrival. Someone else had arrived with him. Someone who gave victories to the Confederate ranks. General Lee is on the field!


With a stocky build, a long beard, and a suffocating ego, Union General John Pope came to Virginia after impressive wins along the Mississippi River at New Madrid and Island No. 10. President Lincoln was in dire need of a more aggressive general to augment the less aggressive command of George McClellan, whose Army of the Potomac was bottled up along Virginia’s James River. Pope’s aggressiveness, however, was only matched by his arrogance. Proclaiming “I come to you from the West where we only saw the backs of our enemies,” he quickly alienated himself from his fellow officers. Southerners despised him even more. Placed in command of the newly created Army of Virginia, Pope brought a hard hand to Northern Virginia. Henceforth, his command would live off the land at the expense of Virginia farmers. Any guerrilla activity would be met with the immediate execution of the residents who allegedly harbored them. “Pope is a miscreant,” remarked General Robert E. Lee, “who ought to be suppressed.” In the wake of his victory during the Seven Days Campaign, General Lee met with his senior generals at Jeffersonton, Virginia. Suppressing Pope was on the top of the agenda.


On August 24, 1862, Lee sat down at a small table with Generals Longstreet, Jackson and his cavalry commander, General Jeb Stuart. He proposed a bold plan that flew in the face of basic military principle. He would divide his army between two Union armies: Pope’s Army of Virginia in the North and McClellan’s Army of the Potomac in the South. The Army of the Potomac alone outnumbered Lee by more than two to one. The plan called for Stonewall Jackson’s 2nd Corps to march behind Pope and destroy his supply lines. Pope would then go after Jackson, leaving his current position along the Rappahannock River. Lee and Longstreet’s 1st Corps would follow behind, join with Jackson, and smash Pope before he was reinforced by the Army of the Potomac. Time was of the essence. McClellan’s command was being evacuated by boat and transported to Aquia Landing near Fredericksburg, Virginia. From there it was a short march to Pope’s aid. Fortunately, McClellan was in no hurry to reinforce Pope whom he felt was his inferior.


Jackson stood up from the table and glared down at his fellow generals. “I shall move within the hour,” he said. Considering his success in the Shenandoah Valley, Jackson was well suited for his assigned task. Within a few days, he boldly captured and pillaged Pope’s supply base at Manassas Junction, a bonanza for the supply strapped Confederates. Pope went after Jackson and caught up with him at the same Manassas battlefield where Union forces were routed last summer. Dug in along an unfinished railroad embankment, Jackson held off Pope’s piecemeal attacks. Pope was aware of Longstreet’s approach but showed little concern. He mistakenly believed Jackson was about to retreat when he was actually pulling his men back to refurbish their ammo. In addition, McClellan’s regiments were starting to arrive. With fresh troops and overwhelming numbers, Jackson’s destruction was assured. The reality was otherwise. Pope was being sucked into a trap. A trap spearheaded by the Army of Northern Virginia’s best brigade.


The Texas Brigade consisted of three Texas regiments (the 1st, 4th, and 5th Texas Regiments), the 18th Georgia, and South Carolina’s famed Hampton’s Legion. The three Texas regiments were made up of tough East and Central Texas farm boys. Years of fighting the Mexican Army, bandits and the ever hostile Comanches had instilled a fierce warrior mode in Texas’ frontier populace. Handling a firearm was an absolute must. In Texas, the fight was taken to the enemy without appeasement, without remorse, and without weakness. Lee asked Confederate Postmaster General John Reagan for help in obtaining a full division of his fellow Texans. “With such a force,” he said, “I could break any line of battle on earth in an open field.”


Texas Senator Louis Wigfall created the brigade for service in Virginia.  Because of his duties in the Confederate Congress, he passed the command over to Kentuckian John Bell Hood.  Before the war, Hood led troopers of the U.S. 2nd Cavalry against the Comanches.  During one encounter near the Rio Grande, he blew two of them away with a shotgun before they could pull him from his saddle. When Kentucky didn't secede from the Union, Hood declared himself a Texan.  With his six foot two height, booming voice, and over the top aggressiveness, he was immediately popular with his new command.

The brigade was assembled at Dumfries, Virginia during the winter of 1861-1862. After battling disease and frostbite, the Texas Brigade marched toward the York Peninsula. Their elite status was sealed at the Battle of Gaine’s Mill. The Texas Brigade broke the Federal line which forced the entire Army of the Potomac to retreat from nearby Richmond, the Confederate capital. 


While seated on a tree stump, Lee listened to Jackson’s report.  Longstreet had extended the Confederate line well past the Union left flank. A battle plan began to take shape.  Jackson would continue to keep Pope occupied while Longstreet attacked the Union’s vulnerable left flank. The Texas Brigade would lead the charge followed by Longstreet’s entire corps. If all went well, Pope would be rolled up like a cheap carpet.


“Fall in!” yelled the officers. All blankets, overcoats, and personal effects were to be left behind. Only rifles and cartridge boxes would be carried. Rifles were loaded. Bayonets were fixed. The Lone Star flag was unfurled. Concealed in the woods, the Texans formed a 700 yard front. Unaware of their impending doom, two New York regiments were in their path. Signals were sent to "Stonewall" Jackson, “General Longstreet is advancing; look out for and protect his left flank.” On August 30, 1862 at 4:00 PM, the Texas Brigade advanced.


A piercing rebel yell emerged from the woods. The Texas Brigade struck the 10th New York Regiment head on, forcing them to flee for their lives into the ranks of the nearby 5th New York. The 5th and 10th were engulfed and annihilated under a hailstorm of bullets.  The 5th New York suffered the highest casualties of any Union regiment during the war. One Texan recalled how the Union’s  uniformed dead had “the appearance of a Texas hillside when carpeted in the spring by wild flowers of many hues and tints.” Onward the tide swept toward a battery of artillery. Members of Battery G, 1st Pennsylvania Artillery panicked and left their guns. Within an hour, the Texas brigade had destroyed two regiments and captured an entire battery. Longstreet’s attack on Pope’s left followed by Jackson’s on his right bent the Army of Virginia into a horseshoe. Pope’s Army was forced to retreat. It was Bull Run all over again! Only a timely thunderstorm and a determined stand on Henry House Hill prevented total destruction.


Within a few months, the Army of Northern Virginia had swept Union forces from Virginia. The fight was taken from the gates of Richmond to the gates of Washington D.C. Pope was fired and exiled to Minnesota. Once again, Lincoln had to rely on George McClellan to rally his beaten army. For the Texas Brigade, they had performed beyond expectations but at a cost 600 casualties. To the end of the war, Lee would rely on his Texans to carry his dwindling fortunes. Out of the thousands who served in the Texas Brigade, only 617 remained when the brigade surrendered at Appomattox.





Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Best Western Record Album

Nowadays, Country and Western songs are more about domestic issues (adultery, substance abuse, broken romances, depression, making ends meet, etc.).  Very seldom do you hear songs with Old West themes; songs that reflect the bygone days of trail herding cowboys, faithful horses, high noon gunfights, and loose barmaids.  You have to go back to the fifties and sixties to hear songs like that.  Western artists such as Sons of the Pioneers, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Marty Robbins have faded in public memory and musical tastes.  With the death of country legend Johnny Cash, Texas native Michael Martin Murphy is one of the very few C&W singers left to carry on the tradition. 
Without a doubt, the best of the Old West song albums is Marty Robbins’ “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs” produced by Columbia Records back in 1959.  One of the songs, “El Paso,” was a mega hit in 1960 and won the Grammy award for best C&W recording that same year.  Two versions were recorded: a popular five minute long version and a shorter three minute version to accommodate the radio stations.  The song tells the story of a cowboy in El Paso that guns down his rival for the affections of a Mexican girl named Feleena;  who whirls and dances in Rosa’s Cantina.  The cowboy gallops off to New Mexico to avoid arrest but returns later to see his beloved.  Upon his return, he is shot by a posse and dies in Feleena’s arms. 

Marty Robbins was born Martin David Robinson on September 26, 1925 in Glendale, Arizona.  One of ten children, Robbins was raised in a troubled household that included a struggling, alcoholic father.  His maternal grandfather, Texas Bob Heckle often told him stories about the American West which later inspired the lyrics for his songs.   At seventeen, he left home and joined the Navy.  While stationed in the Solomon Islands during World War II, Robbins learned to play the guitar and developed a talent for songwriting.  After his discharge in 1945, he played at local venues in Phoenix until he was discovered by C&W icon "Little Jimmie" Dickens (in his 90’s now and still at it).   Dickens got a recording contract for Robbins with Columbia Records.  From there, his career took off and he became a rhinestone-studded regular at the Grand Ole Opry.  He was also an accomplished NASCAR driver that drove in 35 races.  Due to complications from open heart surgery, Robbins suffered an untimely death in 1982 at the age of 57.  He was buried at Woodland Memorial Park in Nashville.  The Friends of Marty Robbins Museum in Robbins’ hometown of Glendale keep his memory alive. 



“El Paso” was his signature song.  With its Spanish guitar and the Glaser Brothers haunting, background harmonies, the song has a distinct Tex-Mex feel to it.  The University of Texas at El Paso made it their official fight song.  Some have argued that “El Paso” should be the state song of Texas, replacing the lame “Texas, Our Texas” which nobody knows the words to nor cares to learn for that matter.  The last time I heard a spirited rendition of “Texas, Our Texas” was on a Playskool record player in Mrs. Boone’s kindergarten class.  Personally, I prefer “The Yellow Rose of Texas” as a replacement, but I would keep “El Paso” on my short list.
Enjoy the attached video ! 
 Hey! I'm in a good mood. Here's a 1937 video of Sons of the Pioneers singing "Way Out There." Check out that yodelling.  Aah! The greatness of the Sons.   Nobody yodels like these guys.

 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Linnville's Day of Terror




They appeared without warning on the morning of August 7, 1840. Hundreds of Indians, painted for war, approached the coastal town of Linnville, Texas. At first, they were thought to be Mexican horse traders, but their war whoops revealed their true intentions. This was to be a full scale sacking by the most powerful Native American tribe in the U.S., the Comanches.


For over a hundred years, the Comanches controlled the vast prairies of West Texas. During the spring and summer months, they raided down into Mexico from their camps in the Texas Panhandle. Whole villages were picked clean of their horses, livestock and women. Spanish missionaries tried but failed to convert them from their warrior ways. They lived for war and no neighboring tribe could match them in a fight.


That changed when Texas settlers began encroaching on their hunting grounds. Disease and an ongoing war with the Republic of Texas greatly reduced the Comanche population and lead to a proposed peace treaty in 1840. Texas officials wanted the return of all white captives. The Comanches wanted recognition of their territory in West Texas and a hefty ransom for their captives.


In March 19, 1840, twelve Comanche chiefs and their bands arrived at San Antonio in hopes of a peaceful settlement. The chiefs met with Texas commissioners inside the Council House; a large stone building used for meetings. Inside, the walls were lined with a company of soldiers. The commissioners were angered when the Comanches brought in only one captive for release, Matilda Lockhart. The anger turned to rage when they saw Lockhart’s hideously disfigured face; her nose had been burned off! The commissioners demanded to know where the other captives were. “We have brought in the only one we had, the others are with other tribes,” stated one of the chiefs. “How do you like the answer ?” They didn’t. The Comanches were told they would be held captive until all white captives were released. Upon hearing of their incarceration, they pulled their knives and tried to fight their way out. At point blank range, Texas soldiers opened fire on the Comanches, killing all twelve chiefs. Outside the Council House, Comanches and soldiers exchanged bullets and arrows in a wild melee. When the gun smoke cleared, thirty five Comanches were killed. At the Comanche camps, thirteen white captives were tortured to death (usually by being skinned alive then slow roasted over a fire) in revenge for the killings. One Comanche chief, who had decided not to attend the negotiations, promised further vengeance for the commissioners’ betrayal.


 Buffalo Hump, War Chief of the Penateka Band of Comanches, gathered a war party of 700 to 1,000 warriors for a massive raid into Southeast Texas. Departing from their camps along the Upper Colorado River, the Comanches attacked Victoria first. A number of slaves and residents were killed outside of town as they made off with 1,500 horses. Alerted to their presence, Victoria residents barricaded themselves in the town’s buildings. Their intense fire was too much for the Comanches; who continued their murderous trek into nearby Linnville. Any Texan in their path was promptly killed.


In Linnville, the stores and warehouses were emptied of their inventories, including a shipment of top hats and umbrellas on their way to San Antonio. Before the raid, Linnville was a vital port, of under 500 residents, for the Republic of Texas. Most of those residents fled to a schooner anchored offshore and waited out the mayhem. Donned in their newly acquired top hats, the Comanches set buildings on fire, smashed furniture, and slaughtered livestock.

Judge John Hays decided he had seen enough of these top hatted savages and waded ashore with his pistol. Much to his dismay, the pistol was unloaded and he had to beat a hasty retreat back to the schooner. The Commanches ignored him and continued their pillaging.


 At the end of the day, the plunder was loaded onto pack mules. The Comanches left the burning town with 3,000 horses and several captives. Only one building remained standing. Twenty three settlers and eight slaves were killed. 


A volunteer army of Texans under General Felix Huston and Captain Mathew “Old Paint” Caldwell, along with Texas Rangers under Benjamin McCulloch, intercepted the Comanches near present day Lockhart. Approaching them in two parallel columns, the Texans enclosed the Comanche horde.  One warrior rode out to challenge and insult Caldwell's men.  He was promptly shot off his horse.  "Charge them!" yelled Caldwell.  The Texans pitched into the Comanches, killing scores of them. The ensuing Battle of Plum Creek led to a stinging rout for the Comanches and an end to their raid. They still made off with most of their plunder. Prisoners taken by the Comanches were tied to trees then riddled with arrows. One woman survived because her whalebone corset blunted the arrow. 


The homeless residents of Linnville built a new settlement three miles down the road at Port Lavaca. The new city eventually consumed what was left of Linnville, which never regained prominence after the raid.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Confederate Safe Now on Display at Museum


On June 25, 2011, a unique item was dedicated and placed on display at the Texas Civil War Museum.  A 5,360 lb. safe, used by the Confederate Postal Service and Confederate Treasury Department, was shipped from Richmond, Virginia to its new Fort Worth, Texas home.  The safe sat for years in the basement of the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Memorial Building.  Because of current renovations to the building, the safe’s deteriorating condition, and the Texas origin of the Confederate Post Master General, John Reagan, it was decided to offer the safe as a gift to the Texas Division of the UDC.  At a cost of $10,000, the safe was lifted out by crane, wrapped tightly in cellophane, and transported by semi-truck.  The money was raised through donations.

The safe was constructed by Herring of New York to be fire proof for up to forty hours.  Fortunately, the  safe was spared the raging fire that consumed much of Richmond before its fall.  It was used to hold bonds, currency, postage stamps, and printing plates.  The locking mechanism features an oddly shaped key that is inserted near the door knob before opening.  After the knob is turned, the key pops out, thus giving it the name “Grasshopper Key.”  The safe had been jammed shut for many years, leading to speculation that Confederate documents and currency may still be inside.  Upon its opening, however, it was found empty of any Confederate articles.  “I’m just glad we got it here before more damage was done,” said former Texas Division UDC President, Shirley Woodlock. “I can just imagine the things it held inside.”

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Mighty Guns of Val Verde




They appeared like a mirage in the rising summer heat of West Texas; the tattered remnants of a failed military campaign.  San Antonio teamsters drove supply-laden wagons out to greet them.  With their horses and wagons left behind, their weapons traded away for food, and their shoes worn out, they arrived home with just the clothes on their backs.  A stagecoach passenger recalled, “they were suffering terribly from the effects of heat; very many of them were a-foot, and scarcely able to travel from blistered feet.  They were subsisting on bread and water, both officers and men; many of them were sick, many ragged, and all hungry.” Accompanying the survivors were five captured Union cannons; their only trophies from the campaign. 

In October, 1861, three thousand mounted Texans set out for the New Mexico Territory. Their goal was to secure the Southwest Territories for the Confederacy and perhaps sway the West Coast to their cause.  Commanded by General Henry Hopkins Sibley, the Texans defeated Colonel Edward Canby’s regulars near the village of Val Verde.  A well- timed, desperate charge overran a Union Battery that included 3 six pound cannons and 2 howitzers.  From there, Sibley drove north to the territory capital of Santa Fe.  The absence of large farms, the New Mexicans' hatred of Texans, and the arid climate made it extremely difficult to sustain an army.  Survival depended on their long train of supply wagons.  In addition, Sibley was a flaming drunkard who offered little inspiration and no real leadership.  Their luck ran out at the Battle of Glorietta Pass.  The Texans won the field, but a detachment of Colorado volunteers marched undetected to the Confederate rear and destroyed the wagons.  Without food and ammo, the Texans couldn’t sustain the campaign.   They had to retreat. Out of three thousand, five hundred would not see their homes again.

Each of the captured guns was hitched to a limber and assigned to a company.  To avoid Canby’s pursuing army, Sibley took his army into the rugged San Mateo Mountains.  The guns had to be lowered and raised across the canyons by rope; an arduous task for starving soldiers.  "Both banks were extremely high and steep, and there seemed no chance to cross,” recalled Sergeant A.B. Peticolas. “But nothing daunted, we locked the wheels and our guns were slided down the hill, with men holding back by a long rope.  Then up the next hill we dragged the pieces, with many weary steps and many a groan.”  Upon arrival in El Paso, a new Confederate battery was formed using the captured Union guns.  Christened the Val Verde Battery, the new unit was placed under the command of future Texas Governor, Captain Joseph Draper Sayers. 

The battery achieved lasting glory in the bayous of Louisiana.  At Grand Lake, The Val Verde Battery ambushed the Union gunboat Diana.  With deadly accuracy, the Diana was riddled like a Swiss cheese.  The commander was killed while the crew was pinned down below deck.  After the rudder was damaged, the gunboat was out of control and forced to surrender to the jubilant Texans. 

The Red River Campaign brought an overwhelming number of Union troops to the eastern border of Texas.  At Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, Union General Nathaniel Banks met grief against Confederate forces under General Richard Taylor.  During the Battle of Mansfield, the Val Verde Battery outdueled Union batteries while General John G. Walker's Texas Division routed Bank's forces.  Once again the guns of the Val Verde Battery helped the Confederacy achieve a signal victory. 

At the end of the war, the guns were buried rather than surrendered to Union forces.  They were exhumed after Federal occupation ended.  Three were badly deteriorated and two were placed on display at the Confederate Reunion Grounds near Mexia and the Freestone County Courthouse in Fairfield.  The Val Verde Battery was born during a humiliating retreat and ended with a distinguished record defending its home state.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

T-Patch




On July 26, 1917, the first members of a storied U.S. infantry division disembarked at a Fort Worth train station.  Their destination was a patch of land cleared for a future army camp. Three miles west of the city, the new camp was christened Camp Bowie and was to be the new training center for 22,321 National Guardsmen from Texas and Oklahoma.  The training was to prepare them for World War I combat, which was mostly defensive warfare fought in open trenches with machine guns, poison gas, and massive artillery barrages.  The United States had joined the fray in April, 1917 and called for volunteers.  The 36th infantry division was the Texas answer to that call.


To facilitate the mobilization of troops, the U.S. federalized National Guard units throughout the country.  At Camp Bowie, the Guard units had their state designations dropped and were merged into two infantry brigades: the 71st and 72nd.  At the company level, the Guardsmen were grouped by their city or region of origin.  Prideful Oklahomans and Texans were distressed by the loss of their state designations and tried to have them restated, but to no avail.  This was to be a national struggle.


Inclement weather, shortages, and disease plagued Camp Bowie for the first several months.  A shortage of rifles and machine guns forced companies to share their weapons or use sticks until arm shipments arrived.  Before the arrival of blankets and overcoats, cold fronts or “blue northers” hit the camp in late September.  A mad scramble was on for wood or anything that burned safely in a tent stove.  As with any army camp, poor sanitation and bad weather brought disease.  Many members of the 36th grew up on rural farms where they avoided most childhood diseases and had little immunity built up as a result.  In December, a staggering 8,000 were hospitalized for measles, mumps and worst of all, the flu.  During the war, a severe Spanish flu epidemic broke out that killed thousands nationwide.  A two week quarantine was imposed on the camp.  The men were instructed to keep their tents well ventilated, avoid large gatherings, and not use the streets as open sewers.  One officer remarked, “It’s worse than fighting the Germans.”  Wooden floors installed in the tents, improved hospital plumbing, and additional doctors and nurses on call brought the epidemic under control.


Near Benbrook, a 10 mile series of trenches were constructed to simulate a World War I battlefield.  During short rotations, regiments were divided into aggressors and defenders.  Accompanied by flares and artillery barrages they fought “The Battle of Benbrook.” The Camp Commandant, Major Edwin Greble, watched the action atop his horse, "Gray Bill."  Most of the casualties were from fists, rocks, and the occasional sling shot.  The most serious accident was when a trench mortar went off prematurely, killing ten enlisted men.


The twin vices of alcohol and prostitution were a nagging problem for General Greble.  Fort Worth had 178 saloons and an ever growing number of bootleggers.  In compliance with Greble’s wishes, Fort Worth closed down its red light districts and appointed female officers to keep women of loose virtue out of the dance halls.  To divert their attention, the YMCA provided guardsmen with movies and musical instruments.  Football, baseball, boxing and wrestling contests were held among the various units while the American Library Association provided books for the more studious.  Homesick farm boys were provided with gardens to grow food for the mess halls.  To show their gratitude for Fort Worth’s support, the 36th adopted the name “The Panthers” in honor of Fort Worth’s nickname, ”The Panther City;” a name derived from an article by a Fort Worth lawyer who commented, "the city was so drowsy he saw a panther asleep near the courthouse."


On July 13, 1918, the 36th set out by rail to New York and then by ship to France.  Their new camp in France was at Bar-sur-Aube where their training continued until September. In late September, the 71st and 72nd brigades set out for the front lines in the Aisne Valley region of France.  A lack of draft animals kept the 36th short of supplies, especially water.  The horrors of World War I greeted the 36th as they marched passed the remnants of the Hindenburg Line, a nightmarish landscape of shell craters, barbed wire, dead animals, and decomposed corpses feasted on by rats.


Germany was worn down by the ending months of 1918.  Manpower shortages and internal revolts on the home front pushed the German Army on its heels.  The arrival of the Americans would provide the tipping point.  Despite their hardships, Germans still had plenty of ammo, machine guns and an effective air force to strafe Allied infantry.


The 36th first served as a reserve for the French 4th Army and then was ordered into the trenches to relieve the U.S. 2nd Division.  Following an artillery barrage, an assault on the German line was planned for October 8.  The barrage, however, didn’t hit its target but hit well beyond the German trenches.  To make matters worse, a battalion of French tanks failed to provide support for the 36th’s advance.   Undaunted by the hail storm of machine gun bullets, the 71st brigade advanced a mile past the German lines, capturing 600 prisoners in the process.  Their own casualties numbered 1,227 from artillery fire and point blank machine gun fire.


On October 27, the 36th advanced on the German strong point at Foret Ferme, capturing the position and 197 prisoners.  In textbook fashion, the 36th had advanced a total of 13 miles against veteran German units.  Prior to their assault, members of Oklahoma’s Choctaw tribe were used to send messages over the radio.  Totally unfamiliar with the Choctaw dialect, the Germans couldn’t decipher  any radio transmissions coming out of the 36th’s command post.  They were totally in the dark as to the 36th’s plan of attack.


During October 28-29, the 36th was relieved for the rest of the war.  On November 11, 1918, a defeated Germany signed an armistice.  In compliance with new uniform requirements issued to the U.S. divisions, a new shoulder patch was adopted by the 36th.   The purpose of these patches was to help identify men of divisions who became intermixed during combat and bring about an "espirit de corps" among the divisions.  With respect toward their native states, the insignia consisted of a cobalt blue arrowhead, representing Oklahoma, and a khaki letter T, for Texas, superimposed over the arrowhead.


In April, 1919, members of the 36th began returning home to their families in Texas and Oklahoma.  Despite their state pride, Oklahoma and Texas veterans always reflected years later on their service and were more than honored to don the T-Patch.


Taking advantage of Camp Bowie’s utility hookups, developers turned the 2,186 acre camp into a residential area after the war.  The main road through the camp became Fort Worth’s brick-paved Camp Bowie Blvd.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Female Paul Revere of the Confederacy


The Grave of Sophia Porter


History is dotted with Paul Reveres; people who took extraordinary risks to warn fellow countrymen of an invading army.  During the Civil War, an unlikely plantation mistress was dubbed the “Paul Revere of the Confederacy.”  In 1835, Sophia Porter settled with her husband, Jesse Aughinbaugh, in Nacogdoches.  A down and out teacher and druggist, Aughinbaugh deserted his wife.  With few, if any, opportunities for an abandoned frontier housewife, Sophia likely turned to prostitution.  She became a refugee when Nacogdoches residents fled from Santa Anna’s advancing army.  Stories circulated that Sophia established her new found profession among Sam Houston’s emerging army and even tended to Houston’s leg wound after the Battle of San Jacinto.  After Texas won its independence, she was granted a divorce by the newly formed Texas Congress and married Indian trader Holland Coffee. 
Sophia and her new husband traveled to Grayson County where they established a trading post.  The couple also helped establish the town of Preston along with their new plantation, Glen Eden.  In 1846, Holland Coffee was killed during an argument, leaving Sophia with the plantation.  Never content to play the mourning widow, she took a third husband, George Butts.  During their marriage, Glen Eden became a favorite spot for social gatherings.  Decked out in lavish dresses, Sophia loved being a hostess. 
During the Civil War, Major Butts was a recruiting officer in the Confederate Army.  In 1863, Will Quantrill’s Missouri guerillas arrived in North Texas seeking refuge after raiding and burning Lawrence, Kansas.  Little more than undisciplined outlaws, Quantrill’s men soon ran afoul of the local authorities.  When Major Butts was found dead on the side of a road, Quantrill’s men were accused of his murder.  Quantrill avoided arrest by fleeing across the Red River, leaving Sophia a widow for the second time.
 If Missouri guerillas weren’t enough, Union scouts arrived at Glen Eden.  Sophia fed the scouts and let them partake of her abundant wine cellar.  The dizzying effect of the wine loosened their tongues and revealed a secret plan to attack Confederate forces in the Indian Territory.  The plan’s objective was the capture of Colonel James Bourland, the commander of the nearby Confederate "Border Regiment" that patrolled along the Red River.  While her guests fell into a drunken stupor, Sophia escaped out the back window, crossed the frigid Red River on horseback, and warned Colonel Bourland of her guests.  Because of her heroism, she was awarded the sobriquet, the “Paul Revere of the Confederacy.” 
On August 2, 1865, Sophia married her fourth husband, Judge James Porter.  They lived at Glen Eden until his death in 1886.  Ten years later, Sophia died and was buried near her plantation.  Glen Eden was dismantled years later before the construction of Lake Texhoma.  The land is now underwater.  Through tragic oversight, most of the plantation home’s wood was burned, leaving nothing to assemble.  Some of Glen Eden’s furniture is on display at the Sherman Museum in Sherman, Texas.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dinner with Clay Allison



Clay Allison


During the late 1870’s, Dodge City, Kansas was known for its rollicking saloons, steamy brothels and seedy gambling halls. After long treacherous cattle drives, worn out, dust covered cowboys found comfort in a whiskey bottle or in the arms of a prostitute.   The need for nightly pleasures, however, often ran counter to local ordinances.  Deputy Marshall Wyatt Earp was alerted to a particularly rowdy bunch brandishing firearms at the Long Branch Saloon.  Twenty five whiskey-soaked cowboys were enraged by the rough treatment meted out to their friends by Dodge City Marshall Bat Masterson.  The famed lawman was out of town, leaving local law enforcement to young Earp.  Luckily, the cowboys were persuaded by a very brave saloon owner to hand over their arms to him before tempers exploded.  Earp was probably relieved, especially after he found out the name of one of the rowdies:  the notorious gunfighter Clay Allison.  An epic showdown between the Old West’s most famous lawman and one of its most famous gunfighters had been quietly averted.
Born in Tennessee, Clay Allison served briefly as a Confederate artilleryman before being discharged over his volatile temper.  He was “incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of a blow received many years ago," the discharge stated. "Emotional or physical excitement produces paroxysmals of a mixed character, partly epileptic and partly maniacal.”  Not a flattering description by any means.  During the waning days of the Civil War, Allison served the Confederacy a second time as a cavalryman under General Nathan Bedford Forrest.  After the war, he became widely known for his extreme mood swings.  It was widely rumored he shot a Union corporal who tried to seize the family farm.  Like many Southerners who wanted a new life, or escape from an old one, he settled in Texas.  He found work as trail herder, possibly among the first to drive cattle along the famed Goodnight- Loving Trail.
Allison’s job took him to the wild environs of New Mexico, where lagging law enforcement, flowing liquor and nightly fandangos spawned deadly gun battles and vigilante style justice.  In 1872, Allison started a lucrative ranch operation in Cimarron.  He and his brothers regularly rode the streets firing their revolvers at street lamps and helping vigilante mobs dispatch alleged criminals.  His skills with a six shooter began to develop as well.  Combined with excessive drinking, those skills brought Allison a host of challengers at every turn.  One of which had an old score to settle.
On January 7, 1874, Chunk Colbert sought out Allison in Colfax County, New Mexico.  After a few drinks and an impromptu horse race, they both sat down to dinner at the Clifton House.  Colbert had a beef with Allison over the beating of his uncle at a Brazos River ferry.  Allison claimed Colbert’s Uncle Zachary tried to overcharge him.  Colbert had gunned down seven men before his arrival and wanted to add Allison to his tally.  While seated at the table, Chunk suddenly drew his pistol but the barrel struck the table edge, delaying his quick draw.  During that brief moment, Allison jumped from his chair, drew his pistol and shot poor Chunk in the head.  When asked why he sat down to dinner with Colbert, Allison replied, “Because I didn’t want to send a man to hell on an empty stomach.”
Two years later, Allison shot Sheriff Charles Faber at the Olympic Dance Hall in Las Animas, Colorado.  The charges were dropped because Faber fired first without warning.  Allison sold his New Mexico ranch to his brother and became a cattle broker in Hays City, Kansas.  Weary of the gunfighter reputation that followed him, Allison built a ranch in Wheeler County, Texas (now Hempstead County) near the town of Mobeetie.  In 1881, he married Dora McCulloch and had two daughters.  Allison’s erratic behavior showed no improvement when town locals spotted him riding his horse butt naked and wearing only a pistol belt.  He later moved his family to Pope’s Wells near the Pecos River and New Mexico border.  On July 3, 1887, he died after falling from his wagon and breaking his neck.