|
|
|
|
The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Portraits of the Past: Buckskin Scouts were formidable 'informal militia'

    • email print
      Comment
  • Pony Express rider, “Mochila Joe,” left the Julesburg station in the face of a blinding winter blizzard, but did manage his way to Nine Mile station up Lodge Pole Valley.
    There, he was informed that incoming rider, William S. Tough, was two days overdue with the mail.
    "Mochila Joe" headed on toward 30 Mile station and kept a close eye out for his buddy, but with no luck.
    The agent at 30 Mile reported Tough had left for Lodge Pole Valley 36 hours ago.
    So "Joe," knowing the guy was in trouble, doubled back hoping to rescue him.
    Just off the trail in a protected place, he found an Indian brave placing a partly conscious man on a pole-litter. It was definitely their man Tough, so working together in the blizzard, they got the man to Mud Springs station, where he could be cared for.
    "Joe" secured the mail and hurried on his way.
    Tough survived, but frostbite took its toll and effectively ended his Pony Express days.
    Once Tough was able to ride again, he went to work as a field manager or wagon boss for the McDonalds, of St. Joe, who had a contract to haul supplies to military posts in northern Kansas and southern Nebraska during the early days of the Civil War.
    But, Tough had very little interest in the fight, that is, until it was forced down his throat.
    He was attacked by a band of Jayhawkers, who stole a consignment of horses out from under him. He went to Fort Leavenworth in hopes of recovering his losses, but got no satisfaction from Uncle Sam.
    So, he decided to state his cause to the rebels and crossed the river at Leavenworth into Missouri. He had proceeded no more than a half mile into the woods when he was confronted by five rebels who bushwhacked him and left him for dead.
    He survived, however, thanks to a woman in the woods who nursed him back to health.
    After being shanghaied by both sides, he was fit to be tied and set out for revenge.
    Tough returned to Leavenworth and raised about 75 like-minded men and they headed back across the river to infiltrate the Bushwhackers.
    These well disciplined and ferocious men were soon mounted on rebel horses and adopted a system of scouts, spies, and disguises. They gave the rebels a run for their money with one attack after another.
    It didn’t take long for this vigilante force to garner the attention of the Union command.
    Brigadier Gens. Thomas Ewing and James Blunt organized the group into the Red Legged Scouts, or sometimes called the Buckskin Scouts, and appointed Captain William S. Tough his chief of scouts with a pay of $250 a month.
    Page 2 of 2 - According to some historians, Johnny Fry, Buffalo Bill Cody and his friend, Wild Bill Hickok, were all part of this group for a time.
    This was a quite informal militia or home guard organization. Originally it had included a number of “Jennison’s Jayhawkers,” even though most of the Jayhawkers had joined Col. Jennison in forming the Seventh Kansas Calvary out of Fort Leavenworth.
    Following the Civil War, the Buckskin Scout married and settled in Leavenworth, where he raised his family.
    In 1873, he was appointed U.S. Marshal for Kansas during a turbulent time when some of the plains notables served under him as deputies.
    For many years thereafter, Tough, along with his sons, conducted a large horse and mule market at the Kansas City Stockyards. Then, during the Boer War and again in World War I, they supplied great numbers of animals to the British Army.
     
    Information from "Captain Tough," by Joseph W. Snell, was used in this column.
     
    Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school group. To reach Ted W. Stillwell, email teddy.stillwell@yahoo.com or call (816) 252-9909.

        calendar