My book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques is available from Paladin Press. This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bowie-Knife Stabbing of "Buffalo Bill" Cody's Father

In the decade before the Civil War, the Kansas Territory was the scene of a violent struggle between those who would have it enter the Union as a free state and those who would have it enter as a slave state. Isaac Cody, father of William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, had settled his family there. This is Buffalo Bill's account of the attack on his father.

Near the Salt Creek trading post was [a] store, kept by a Missourian named Rively, around which a considerable settlement had been made, which became the rendezvous of many different elements, and particularly of proslavery men, who enjoyed Rively's sympathies. In the summer of 1854, and within a few months after the "Enabling Act" was passed, a very large meeting was held at the popular rendezvous, and father being present was pressed to address the crowd on the slavery question, he being regarded as favorably disposed to making Kansas a slave territory, owing to the fact that his brother, Elijah, was a Missourian.

After much urging he at length spoke substantially as follows: "Gentlemen: You have called upon me for a speech, and I have accepted your invitation rather against my will, as my views may not accord with the sentiments of a majority of this assembly. My remarks will therefore be brief and to the point. The question before us to-day is, shall the territory of Kansas admit slavery, and hereafter, upon her admission, shall she be a slave State? The question of slavery is itself a broad one, which will not permit of discussion at length in this place. I apprehend that your motive in calling upon me is to have me express my sentiments in regard to the introduction of slavery into Kansas.

I shall gratify your wishes in that respect. I was one of the pioneers of the State of Iowa, and aided in its settlement when it was a territory, and helped to organize it as a State.

"Gentlemen, I voted that it should be a white State -- that negroes, whether free or slave, should never be allowed to locate within its limits; and, gentlemen, I say to you now. and I say it boldly, that I propose to exert all my power in making Kansas the same kind of a State as Iowa. I believe in letting slavery remain as it now exists, and I shall always oppose its further extension. These are my sentiments, gentlemen, and let me tell you . . ."

He never finished this sentence, or his speech, His expressions were anything but acceptable to the rough-looking crowd, whose ire had been gradually rising to fever heat, and at this point they hooted and hissed him, and shouted, "You black Abolitionist, shut up!" "Get down from that box!" "Kill him!" "Shoot him!" and so on. Father, however, maintained his position on the dry goods box, notwithstanding the excitement and numerous invitations to step down, until a hot-headed pro-slavery man, who was in the employ of my Uncle Elijah, crowded up and said: "Get off that box, you black Abolitionist, or I'll pull you off."

Father paid but little attention to him, and attempted to resume his speech, intending doubtless to explain his position and endeavor to somewhat pacify the angry crowd. But the fellow jumped up on the box, and pulling out a huge bowie knife, stabbed father twice, who reeled and fell to the ground. The man sprang after him, and would have ended his life then and there, had not some of the better men in the crowd interfered in time to prevent him from carrying out his murderous intention. The excitement was intense, and another assault would probably have been made on my father, had not Rively hurriedly carried him to his home. There was no doctor within any reasonable distance, and father at once requested that he be conveyed in the carriage to his brother Elijah's house in Weston. My mother and a driver accordingly went there with him, where his wounds were dressed. He remained in Weston several weeks before he was able to stir about again, but he never fully recovered from the wounds, which eventually proved the cause of his death. My uncle of course at once discharged the ruffian from his employ. The man afterwards became a noted desperado, and was quite conspicuous in the Kansas war.

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