The preservation of western cultural and the American Cowboy. Sharing the history of the early trail drives, the Chuck Wagon and those who pioneered untamed land. The content is for educational and entertainment purposes. Cowboys and Chuck Wagon Cooking reviews cooking techniques, products and western gear which today is part of western life style. We hope you will enjoy your visit and look forward to comments, recipes and shared heritage. Thank you for your visit. Hope you follow us along the trail of news, stories and the Cowboy way.
United States Copyright 2009 - 2018 under title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Code.




Sunday, August 26, 2018

GUNS on the CATTLE DRIVE


The Cowboy of the "WILD WEST" remains one of the worlds greatest icons.  Perhaps much of this legendary status can be credit to Dime Novels and Hollywood movies that often portray the Cowboy on the western frontier as a ruthless gunman or the heroic lawman. Though, in fact most Cowboys were merely hard working men of all ages. Men looking for an opportunity to earn a good wage who were not afraid to endure the elements of being a cowboy.

The gun was a necessary tool out west. It was not just for outlaws or lawmen. It helped aid with hunting, protection from dangerous predators including becoming easy prey to ill-meaning humans. It was a necessary tool yet rarely used on the trail drives.

In the famous 1880 photo from the Library of Congress, a Cowboy is photograph with his essential tools of the trade.  Although, the photo does not show him working cattle at the time. It does show the cowboy sporting a wide brim hat, his bandanna tied around his neck, bedroll and slicker and lariat tied to the saddle. Likely, this cowboy was working the range as he carries both rifle and pistol.

Unlike holsters of the early western movies worn low off the hip and strung around the thigh for quick draw, the early cowboy wore full size holsters high on the waste. Often, the hammer rest on an empty cylinder as a safety precaution to prevent accidental firing.

1880 Cowboy Photo Courtesy Library of Congress 
Many Cowboys also carried a pistol strapped to the pommel of the saddle. A pommel carry also allowed for the cowboy to carry food items such as hard tack, jerky and such and not have to reach around to a rear saddle bag.  It kept the gun handy when needed, yet out of the way when working cattle and swinging a lasso.


Working Cowboys on a Cattle Drive
Be it a rifle or pistol, should a gun go off during the cattle drive, odds are, the cattle just might stampede. Not every cowboy owned a gun, although most did and often, the pistols were ball and cap revolvers such as the 1851 Colt Navy .36 caliber or 1858 Remington Army .44 until around 1875 when shell cartridge pistols and ammunition became more available and affordable.  Rifles were often a single shot carbine or black powder buffalo gun in the early days. Towards the end of the trail driving era, lever action repeating rifles would be readily available and becoming affordable.  

During the day, guns may very well been kept at the chuckwagon to prevent accidental discharging of the weapon.  Nevertheless, when the trail boss anticipated possible troubles with Indians or rustlers, likely he had every cowboy in his outfit packing a pistol and as many long guns as possible.  Shotguns were also available but used for shorter range. The short double barrel shotgun, often called the coach gun was regularly used to protect stage coach passengers such as where the name coach comes from, but like many different types of guns, likely the short barrel shotgun would be favored by the cook if having to protect the wagon while handling reins.  The pistols also came in handy when the cattle stampeded and the cowboys would ride hard working to get in front of the herd, then fire off their pistols in order to turn the herd.  Other than the pistol, waving a blanket, rain slicker or his hat helped get the cattle's attention too. However, after most stampedes, cattle would become shattered across the land often taking several days to round up all the stays and get the drive started again. 

One might think the greatest danger to the cattle drive was savaged Indians or rustlers, but  more cowboys were killed in stampedes, than for any other reason. Nevertheless, Indians and Rustlers remained a serious danger.  

Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, the great demand for beef and tallow kicked off the great trail drive era. The returning soldiers home, both Union and Confederate were allowed to keep their issued weapons, many being the ball and cap action revolver. Although, the shell cartridge was already invented, the cost of a new pistol was $17, two months of common wages.  The ball and cap action revolvers perhaps was not the favorite among the cowboys, but carried more often during the early stages of the trail drives due to the ready availability as well, affordability.  Nevertheless, there were set backs with weapons using black powder.  Moisture and humidity often effected the ignition creating misfiring. 

God created Men, but Samuel Colt made them Equal

An American inventor, Samuel Colt was born 1777 in Hartford, Connecticut.  His father, raised as a farmer moved the family to the city where he became a businessman.  Growing up, young Samuel often worked at his dad's textile mill. Fascinated by all things mechanical, he frequently dismantle items and reassembled them just to understand how they operated. One of his earliest admiration's was for a flintlock pistol that belong to his grandfather, Major John Caldwell who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.  

At 16, Samuel was at boarding school studying Navigation attending the Amherst Academy in Massachusetts. Often finding his youthful mischief getting him in trouble, Samuel was expelled. Highly disappointed in Samuel being removed from school and completing a greater education, his father sent him off to learn the seamen's trade. While aboard the sailing Brig, "Corvo," Colt saw how the anchor windlass, called a capstan functioned.  The pawl and ratchet mechanism gave him an idea on building a pistol that would have a cylinder rotate much like the capstan improving on the existing design known as the Pepper Box where pistols were designed with three, four to even seven barrels, but each manually turned to fire the next round. Taking his knife, he carved from wood a design that was mechanically turned to fire.  This would allow to simple cock the device and the barrel rotated to the next chamber. Once he arrived back home in the United States the following year, Colt made two working models, one a rifle, the other a pistol financed by his father. However,  while the rifle 
worked perfectly, the first pistol blew up and Colt's father would have nothing else to do with Samuel's desire to build guns.  

Colt did not let the failure of his pistol stop him 
from seeking to improve and better the gun. After
saving some money, he arranged to begin building guns with proper gunsmith tools. Colt consulted with a friend of his father, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, who loaned him $300 to start his arms business. Ellsworth advice Colt to perfect his prototype before applying for patent. Hiring a gunsmith named John Pearson, Colt continue to improve his pistol. By 1835, his design was perfected. Ellsworth advised Colt to patent the pistol in Europe first. That August, Colt set sail for England to secure his patent. 

English officials were reluctant to issue a patent though no fault could be found with the gun and he was award his first patent (Number 6909). Upon his return to America, he applied for his U.S. patent for a "revolving gun"; which he was granted the patent on February 25, 1836.  Again, improving design, Colt filed another patent, numbered 1304, dated August 29, 1836, protected the basic principles of his revolving-breech loading, folding trigger firearm named the Colt Paterson. 


Colt .36 Caliber Paterson 
The Colt Paterson revolver was the first commercial repeating firearm employing a multiple chambered revolving cylinder aligned with a single, stationary barrel. Its design was patented by Samuel Colt in France, England, and on February 25, 1836 he received patent in the United States. The pistol derived its name from being produced in Paterson, New Jersey.  Originally, the Paterson was a 5-shot revolver produced in .28 caliber model. The following year, Colt introduced the same weapon in the .36 caliber model.  To load, the user had to disassemble the revolver partially to re-load it. Starting in 1839, however, a reloading lever and a capping window were incorporated into the design. This allowed reloading with more ease no longer requiring the partial disassembly of the revolver. Unlike the later revolvers, a folding trigger was incorporated into the Colt Paterson. The trigger only became visible upon cocking the hammer.  

At the time of  Colt's invention, pistols were thought of as dueling weapons.  The rifle was much more accurate and provided longer range shooting while fighting knives such as the Bowie or Arkansas toothpick were more common for up close self defense.  

Colt visited the U.S. Secretary of War seeking a sales contract to supply the Army with his newly design Colt Revolvers. The Army viewed the percussion cap Colt pistol as too costly, inaccurate and not reliable for military use. Unsuccessful at landing the government contract with mere sales scatter among Florida where the second Seminole War (1835-1842) was on going, and to the newly formed Republic of Texas which outfitted the Texas Navy with his pistols, the revenue was not enough to continue business. In 1842, the company was forced to close and the manufacturing tooling, gun and parts inventory auctioned off.   

It would be Samuel Walker that would bring Colt back to manufacturing pistols several years later, but due to the bankruptcy of Colt's company, he turn his vision towards a new development of underwater mines patenting underwater electrical detonators and waterproof cable. In 1842, Colt demonstrated the underwater detonator device destroying a moving Naval Vessel to the satisfaction of the United States Navy. President John Tyler was highly impressed. However, John Quincy Adams, serving as US Representative from Massachusetts stated the project as "not fair and honest warfare" calling the Colt mine an "unchristian contraption." 


Captain Samuel Walker, Texas Ranger

Samuel Walker would help reshape and revive COLT PISTOLS. Although, one needs to understand Walker and his history, to see how and why Colt was important to him.  Born 1815 in Maryland, Walker had served in the U.S. Army during the Second Seminole Indian wars in Florida. He received a promotion to Corporal for "Exceptional Courage" in the Battle of Hacheeluski.  In 1838, Walker was discharged and found his way to Texas in 1842.  Texas was still a young country winning independence from Mexico in 1836.  Nevertheless, still under constant harassment from Mexico, many settlers of Texas joined militias to assist protecting local areas from Mexican soldiers and Indian raids.  Walker soon became a member of the Bastrop Militia participating in the Battle of Salado Creek.  There, the militia and members of the Texas Rangers defeated a large Mexican Force of nearly 1,200 under the Command of French Mercenary, General Adrian Woll.  Following the victorious battle, Sam's militia joined forces with the Rangers under command of Jack C. Hays. The Texas Rangers pursued the Mexican Army as they retreated toward the Rio Grande, but outnumbered, the Texas Rangers returned to San Antonio after several minor skirmishes. 

The Republic of Texas President, Sam Houston, commissioned General Alexander Somervell to undertake a punitive expedition in retaliation of Mexico's incursions.  Sam Walker was quick to volunteer becoming a private in the Texas Army.  

Somervell lead his group of 750 men too the Rio Grande Valley and on the morning of December 8, his men captured Laredo. However, unlike the Texas Rangers, many of the men under Somervell command lacked discipline.  After a night of looting the town of Laredo, Somervill was able to get his men back into order before moving further south crossing the Rio Grande River into Mexico.  Although days traveling deeper into Mexico, Somervill found his supplies running low and elected to abandon his mission before it might turn disastrous. .Not everyone agreed with Somervill's decision. Nearly 300 men refused to abandon and elected William Fisher to become the new commander. Sam Walker and renown Texas Ranger Big Foot Wallace being among them.   

Fisher marched his men into Mexico where most wanted revenge on the Mexican Army. Some perhaps jut seeking adventure, but nearly all were political opponents of Sam Houston and tired of the constant harassment ordered by General Santa Anna.  The march would become known as the Mier Expedition.   

On December 22, the 308 Texans reached a point on the eastbank of the Rio Grande River with the city of Mier across the river.  Texas Ranger Ben McCulloch was in charge of a company of men that acted as spies who recon the city.  McCulloch advised Fisher to abandon the raid, but Fisher did not heed to the advice. 

The following morning, Fisher marched his men into Mier without any opposition.  A requisition for supplies was levied against the town but Fisher had no means of transporting the supplies back to their camp across the river.  The Alcalde ( magistrate - mayor)  promised to have all the supplies delivered the next day to Fisher's camp, although not trusting the Alcade, Fisher agreed taking the Alcade with him as a guarantee for the delivery.  As the next morning grew into late afternoon, the Texans were becoming restless. No supplies were ever delivered.  

On Christmas morning, Fisher had found out that the Mexican Army under command of General Pedro De Ampudia had arrived in Mier with 3,000 Mexican troops preventing the delivery of supplies. The hostilities among the Texans grew and Fisher decided to go after their needed rations.  Leaving 42 men to guard their camp, Fisher took the remaining Texans across the river an attack Mier disregarding the Mexican Army size being 10 to 1.  By late afternoon on December 26, the Texans had killed over 600 men, wounding another 200 with only 30 Texans lost.  Their powder nearly exhausted, no food or water, the Texans now surrounded, General Ampudia offered the Texans to surrender as prisoners of war.  The Texans consented and laid down their weapons. However, upon doing so, the captured Texans were sentence to be executed.   

Although,  on the morning of December 27th, General Ampudia reversed his decision, deciding to march all able bodies to Matamoros where they were held until ordered to Mexico City.   In February, the prisoners were en route to the capitol, Mexico City where on the 11th, in Salado, the men overthrew the guards and made a successful escape.  Over the next seven days, the Texans worked to make their way back across the Rio Grande, though few succeeded. Most wander across the harsh terrain becoming lost.  In the end, only three men made it back to Texas with the remaining 176 recaptured.  


Upon learning of the escape, Santa Anna ordered that all those who fled to be executed, but Governor Franisco Mexia of Coahuila refused to obey the order while the foreign ministers in Mexico were able to get the decree modified.  Nevertheless, even after modifications, the Mexican government ordered 17 men will be executed.  The execution would become known as the Black Bean Episode. 


Each man would drawn a bean from a pot.  Those who drew a white bean were spared, but those who drew a black bean were shot.  Sam Walker and Big Foot Wallace would reach into the pot, yet both drew upon a white bean and their lives were spared.    Upon the 17th black bean drawn, each man was taken to an outer wall and blindfolded.  As they stood line up side by side at the adobe wall, the Sargent marched his executioner squad towards the sentence prisoners. Then calling them to a halt. The beating of the military drum rapidly pounding as the Sargent ordered, "listo.  Apuntar.  Fuego."  The military men had raised the rifles upon the command, took aim and fired.  The drum beat stop and as the Texans fell to the grown, there was silence.   Sam Wallace would never forgive, nor forget the order of execution as to often, the Texans gave quarter, (mercy) but Santa Anna from the Alamo to the Black Bean Episode gave no quarter.

In 1844, Sam Walker would escape and make his way back to Texas rejoining Jack C. Hays and the Texas Rangers. Soon after, Walker and the Rangers engaged eighty Comanches. Out numbered once again, the dozen Rangers with the Colt Paterson pistols could successful defeat the enemies taking their five shot revolvers and firing. Upon discharging all five rounds, they change out cylinders and fired five more shots. The victory at the Battle of Walker's Creek was truly a credit of the Colt revolver. 

As annexation for Texas seemed imminent, U.S. President James Polk ordered Army regulars into Texas under command of General Zachary Taylor to support the Republic against Mexico. In July of 1845,  General Taylor and his 1,300 American troops had encamped on the beach area of Corpus Christi. As word spread like wild fire that General Taylor is looking for well seasoned scouts, many Rangers flocked to sign up.  Samuel Walker was among those who volunteered as he felt he had a score to settle. However, he was not alone as most Texicans desired to avenge their fallen brothers during the Battle of Goliad, The Alamo and the Mier expeditions.  It was not long after Walker volunteering that he was in charge of a 26 man company armed with Colt Paterson's.  At the mouth of the Rio Grande, his company cross into Matamoros soon fighting like the devil. 

The Texans knew the terrain and were skillful horsemen. Soon, it became clear, the Rangers armed with the Colt Patterson Pistols were getting the job done slipping into Mexican camps and engaging in reconnaissance. The skirmishes continued as Walker soon gain fame often delivering valuable information back to General Taylor through dangerous territory.  These critical dispatches and heroic actions from Walker made headlines across the United States. Over the next few months, Walker assisted with victories at the Battle of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma earning a his reputation as the first true hero of the Mexican Army War.  

Jack C. Hays now promoted to Colonel of the Texas Rangers and Walker, his Lieutenant Colonel, lead the hard fought battle of Monterrey. The Rangers soon captured the city with the U.S. Army holding the rear. General Taylor arranged armistice to the Mexican Army allowing them to leave Monterrey which infuriated the Texans. Taylor admitted that the Rangers were superior in combat, yet often insubordinate with unruly behavior. It was not his fellow men who had been executed at Goliad, the Alamo or during the Mier Expedition. He did not share the same hatred that had been pressed upon the Texans through the often force of "No Quarter."  Taylor would release every Texan and order them back across the Rio Grande.

Newspapermen from the eastern United States flocked to Texas writing about the colorful adventures of the Texas Rangers and their stunning fighting style. Walker and the Rangers reputation grew across the Nation being feared and reviled while loved and exalted.  They were the foremost line of defense to early Texas. Walker quickly became known and Army officers petitioned President Polk to award him a commission. When the President did, Walker was first hesitant to accept, but October 1846, he agree and was commissioned Captain.  While Walker was hoping for another chance of vengeance in Mexico, he was ordered to report to Washington to begin recruiting a new Rifle Mounted Company. 

Walker traveled to New Orleans where he boarded a ship sailing to Washington. The Army leadership hoped that Walker's extreme popularity would help the recruiting of young men to aid the efforts with the Mexican-American War.  Sending Walker to New York, he searched for the availability of more Colt revolvers. Sadly, Colt's business had gone bankrupted years prior in 1842 and were just not to be found.  It was this moment, that the Colt Pistol would return.    

The New COLT Pistol 

Samuel Colt had never fully given up on his dream of manufacturing revolvers. He made numerous attempts for government contracts. Once learning that the fame Samuel Walker was in New York, the ambitious Colt saw an opportunity. He wrote Walker requesting a list of how his Pistol had been used in combat. Walker replied to Colt's letter praising the Paterson in highest regards. "The Texans confidence in them is unbounded. So much so, that the are willing to engage four times the number," replied Walker. Walker's letter continue giving credit to the Colt pistols for the many victorious battles fought by the Texas Rangers. "With improvements, I think they can rendered the most perfect weapons in the world for light mounted troops," conclude Walker. 

Colt immediately arrange to meet Walker the next day. Colt's admiration towards Walker was much like the obsessions towards his grandfather's pistol. Intrigued with everything Walker had to share. Walker noted several problems with the Paterson Pistol. It was a five shot revolver, Walker wanted to add an additional shot becoming a six shooter.  He desired a larger caliber to ensure man or buffalo, the round would be powerful enough to bring the target down. The barrel needed to be lengthen so it would be more accurate and the trigger had no guard preventing an accidental discharge. Walker also  wanted it to increase the weight of the pistol so it would be sturdier but more importantly, strong enough to swing like a hammer at the enemy if you ran out of ammunition.  

If further meetings, Walker specified other request. Fewer moving parts, faster and a simplify reloading method, along with better quality of metal, desiring the best cast or double roll sheet steel. He also noted the front sight to be made of German silver.  Colt indicated that he could manufacture such a weapon. 

When Colt asked how soon do you need the finished weapon, Walker stated, "Before I leave for Mexico."  Broke, with no manufacturing plant or tools, this would be an impossible feat for Colt. The two agreed 1,000 pistols delivered in three months. Colt wasted no time getting to work and fortunately, he retained the patent to his firearms.  

Eli Whitney Jr, son of the Cotton Gin inventory currently owned a firearms manufacturing business. Colt approach Whitney with his specifications and entered an agreement. At the Whitney Connecticut factory, Colt hired 50 experience men paying them double the standard wages. Nevertheless, the task took six month to fill the order.  

COLT WALKER PISTOL 

In collaboration between Captain Samuel Walker, former Texas Ranger who was currently serving with the U.S. Army and Samuel Colt, American firearms inventor, the Colt Walker Pistol was created in 1846, even though the final sales contract was not signed until 4 January of 1847.  Colt made the many changes requested by Walker to the previous Peterson 36 pistol.  The Walker would have full trigger guard, 9 inch barrel and be chambered the .44 caliber bullet with 60 grains of black powder. The equivalent of a modern day .44 magnum. COlt manufactured 1,100 of these pistols. 1,000 for the U.S. Army and the remaining sold to private parties and promotional gifts. In gratitude of Samuel Walker, he called the new pistol the Colt Walker named after the name sake with hopes to improve sales.   


Although, Walker and his men did not receive the new pistols, the new design revolver would be carried on the saddle pommel of horse mounted soldiers and widely used through the Mexican-American War and Texas frontier.  No other pistol would be as powerful until the introduction of the .357 magnum in 1934. 

While the new Walker pistol was truly powerful and able to hit targets easily at 100 yards distances, it did have some problems. The cylinders at times ruptured after firing, often caused by excessive black powder grain as the normal load of black powder pistols is 30 grains. At times, soldiers allowed the spilling of powder across the cylinder causing all the chambers to fire at once. Soon, soldiers used lard and rub it across the loaded cylinders to prevent spark from firing the other chambers. As the conical bullets where replacing the lead ball shape bullets, soldiers at times loaded the bullet backwards causing the pistol to explode upon firing. Perhaps the worst problem was an inadequate loading lever that would fall upon recoil locking up the pistol cylinder action. Rangers and soldiers used a rawhide strip looped over the barrel end to prevent to lever from future falling. Nevertheless, fewer than 300 Walker Pistols were ever sent back to Colt for repairs.  Walker stated that this pistol would become the peacemaker of future wars.  A name that would be given to a future design.  

Colt realized the many problems with the Walker design and recommended to use 50 grains over the planned 60 grains of black powder. Improved manufacturing methods began replacing primitive metallurgy. The Colt Walker soon allowed Colt to return manufacturing firearms saving his bankrupted business. The Colt reputation soon became global where he also open a plant in England. 

One Brigadier General stated, "There is no weapon that is equal" referring to the Walker Pistol. Colt began receiving orders - not only from the U.S. Army but from countries around the world. The faster loading six shooter with the stopping power of a rifle was desired and Colt's future pistols would be used in the Crimean War, the California Gold Rush, and escalating Indian wars. Countless settlers wanted Colt pistols.  

Colt would introduced improved pistols from the Walker design with the Dragoon in 1848 correcting problems of the previous Walker. The Dragoon, shorter and lighter was waist holster unlike the heavy Walker's holster on the saddle. Other Models of the Dragoon would followed in addition to the Colt 1851 Navy .36, and 1860 Army.  Colt leaped at nearly every opportunity to improve his pistol except one. In the early 1850, ball and cap action was prevalent though the metallic shell cartridge was being introduced.  In 1852, an employee of Colt's named Rollin White, came up with an idea to improve the Colt pistols.  As metal cartridge bullets were being introduce, White saw that the Colt pistol's could be manufactured to accept the new shell by boring the cylinder completely through and no longer need the cap nipple or be loaded as previously fashioned. Taking this idea to Colt, White found the idea rejected and fired.  White would go forward and patent this idea in December of 1854 and later signed agreements with Smith and Wesson for exclusive use of the patient. Despite Colt's critical error not accepting White's idea, Colt would become the first American manufacturing tycoon. The civil war found Colt with huge contracts with sales in both northern and southern states, although Colt would not see the end of the war dying from Rheumatic Fever in January of 1862.

Walker's final Battle 

Sam Walker returned to Mexico taking charge of his mounted volunteers. Although, with only flintlock pistols in hand. His actions continued to grow with military glory immortalizing his name as his troops distinguished themselves in the unglamorous job of keeping General Winfield Scott's supply lines open on the march to Mexico City.  

Walker with only 50 men repulsed an attack of 600 Mexican lancers. He maintained a calm manner in battle keeping courage and discipline among the ranks. But Santa Anna had begun one final counteroffensive desiring to cut off Scott's Army along the coast. Word had reached Walker in early October 1847, that Santa Ann and his lancers were in the town of Huamantla eleven miles from his mounted company and two other escort companies. Just days before, Walker received two special .44 pistols from Colt who had them both engraved in Walker's honor of him helping redesign the new pistol.  Each massive gun weight 5 pounds loaded that Walker had holster in the pommel. 

Watercolor by Sam Chamberlain, who served in the 
Mexican American War

Walker's 200 horsemen reached the outskirts of Huamantle finding Santa Anna had several hundred lancers waiting for him as Santa Anna's artillery was preparing to leave.  Charging into the enemy ranks, Walker lead his men into battle. The Mexicans retreated with the volunteers on their tail. As the Mexican Calvary scattered, Walker took control of the town's main plaza. The fierce fighting turning into a bloodbath. Another 2,000 of Santa Anna's lancers descended upon the town when Walker was shot in the back.  In his dying moments, Walker said, "I am gone, boys. Never surrender."  Some believe that Walker may have been killed by a lancer on foot, but in the spirited contest that followed, Walker's men took revenge upon the community of Huamantla. Originally buried at the Hacienda Tamaris, Walker's remains were moved to San Antonio in 1848. As part of the Battle of San Jacinto celebration held on April 21, 1856, he was reburied in the Odd Fellows' Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.    

return to cowboy and chuckwagon cooking: 

return to recipes: 
return to Chuck Wagons
  




No comments:

Post a Comment