Typesetting errors have been corrected, but what appear to be the author's spellings have not been changed.
LoC call number: F353.D4
FORTY YEARS A GAMBLER ON THE MISSISSIPPI
BY GEORGE H. DEVOL.
A CABIN BOY IN 1839; COULD STEAL CARDS AND CHEAT THE BOYS AT ELEVEN; STOCK A DECK AT FOURTEEN; BESTED SOLDIERS ON THE RIO GRANDE DURING THE MEXICAN WAR; WON HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS FROM PAYMASTERS, COTTON BUYERS, DEFAULTERS, AND THIEVES; FOUGHT MORE ROUGH-AND-TUMBLE FIGHTS THAN ANY MAN IN AMERICA, AND WAS THE MOST DARING GAMBLER IN THE WORLD.
DEVOL & HAINES. CINCINNATI: 1887.
Entered according to Act of Congress, the 6th day of October, 1887, by DEVOL & HAINES, In the office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D. C.
[All rights reserved.]
The author of this book has written the stories as they would recur to his memory, and no effort has been made at classification. They are not fictitious; many of the persons named are now living, and they can and will testify that the stories are founded on facts.
He belongs to the celebrated Devol family of Marietta. His grandfather, Jonathan Devol, was an officer in the Revolutionary War, and was well known to the pioneer history of Ohio. He was one of the passengers on the Mayflower, which he constructed for the use of the first company of emigrants to Ohio. He erected a house on the Campus Martius in 1788, and was joined by his wife and six children in December of that year. He was one of the committee to explore the country in search of suitable places for mills and farming settlements. In 1791 he repaired to Belpre with his family. He succeeded in clearing a patch of land, and built a log cabin not far below the house of Captain William Dorce. The news of the Big Bottom massacre reached him while attending court at Marietta, and he hurried home. Mrs. Devol, hearing that the Indians were on the war-path, ordered the children to lie down with their clothes on, ready for the danger signal. He became famous by building the floating mill. In 1792 he built a twelve-oared barge of twenty-five tons burden for Captain Putnam. The author's father was Barker Devol, who died at Carrollton, Ky., on the 8th day of March, 1871, at the age of 85. He was a ship-builder, and worked with his father at Marietta. He left a widow and six children, who are all living, except one, the youngest being George H. Devol.
A Religious Captain A Cold Deck A Woman With a Gun A Shrewd Trick A Paymaster's Bluff A Crazy Man A Good Night's Work A Euchre Hand A Good Stake-Holder A Mile Dash An Honorable Man A Bull Fight A Duck Hunt A Hard Head A Square Game A Coward Ancient Gambling
Boyhood Days Blowing Up of the Princess Beat a Good Hand Butler in New Orleans Broke a Snap Game Before Breakfast Bill Would Gamble Bill's Present
Caught a Sleeper Collared the Wrong Man Called a Gambler Control Over Suckers Caught Again Caught a Whale Caught a Defaulter Canada Bill Close Calls Cheap Jewelry Cold Steel
Didn't Win the Bags Don't Dye Your Whiskers Didn't Win the Key Dicky Roach and I Detectives and Watches
Even the Judges Do It Eight Hundred Dollars Against a Pistol
Fifty to the Barkeeper Fight With a Longshoreman Foot Race Forty Miles an Hour Fights
Got Up Too Soon Got Off Between Stations Good Luck Governor Pinchback General Remarks George, the Butter
Home Again Hard Boiled Eggs He Knew My Hand Her Eyes Were Opened He Never Knew He's One of Us How I Was Beat He's Not That Old
Indians Can Play Poker It Made a Man of Him I Had Friends It Was Cold I Raised the Limit It Shook the Checks
Jew vs. Jew Judge Devol
Knocked Down $300 Kickers
Leaving Home Leap for Life Lost his Wife's Diamonds Lucky at Poker Lacked the Nerve Left in Time
My First Keno My Jew Partner My First Love Marked Cards My Crooked Partner My Partner Alexander Married His Money My Cards My Little Partner Mules for Luck My Visit to Old Bill Monumental Gall Mule Thieves My Partner Won McCoole and Coburn Mobile
Now a Gambler Nipped in the Bud No Play On This Boat No Money in Law Narrow Escapes No Good at Short Cards
On the Circuit
Put Ashore for Fighting Pittsburg's Best Man "Pranking" With a New Game Posing as Nic Longworth's Son
Red and Black Rattlesnake Jack Reduced the Price
Saved My Partner's Life Sold Out by a Partner "Snap Games" Sinking of the Belle Zane Snaked the Wheel Stolen Money Signal Service Settled Our Hash She Kissed Me Salted Down Strategem Saved By His Wife "Short Stops"
The Game of Rondo Ten Thousand in Counterfeit Money The Frenchman and the Horse Hair The Chicken Men and Their Silver The Hungry Man The Big Catfish The Sermon on the (Mount) Boat The Monte King The Daguerreotype Boat The Black Deck-Hand The Juergunsen Watch The Cotton Man Taught a Lesson They Paid the Costs The Boys from Texas The Quadroon Girl The Captain Spoiled the Game Too Sick to Fight The Gambler Disguised The Best Looking Sucker The Alligators The Big Sucker The Crazy Man The Brilliant Stone The Hidden Hand The Three Fives The Killer The Deck-Hand The Black (Leg) Cavalry The Paymaster's $3.500 The U. S. Detective's Bluff The Young Man From New York The Yellow Jeans The Jack Fish The Black Man The Persuader The Lap-Robe The Preacher Away From Home The Cattle Buyer The Green Cow-Boy The Police Signal The Good Deacon The Natchez and the Lee The Trick Knife Two Forty on the Shell Road The Arkansas Killers The Englishman and His Gun Traveling Keno The Two Judges Tapped the Till
War With Mexico Was in With the Judge Won and Lost With a Poker William Jones (Canada Bill)
Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi.
"I'll serve his youth, for youth must have his course, For being restrained it makes him ten times worse; His pride, his riot, all that may be named, Time may recall, and all his madness tamed."
My Dear Reader: I first saw the light of day in a little town called Marietta, at the mouth of the Muskingum River in the State of Ohio, on the first day of August, 1829. I was the youngest of six children, and was the pet of the family. My father was a ship carpenter, and worked at boat-building in the beginning of the present century. I had good opportunities to secure an early education, as we had good schools in the West at that time. I had very little liking for books, and much less for school. When my parents thought me at school, I was playing "hookey" with other boys, running about the river, kicking foot-ball, playing "shinny on your own side," and having a fight nearly every day. I hardly ever went home that I did not have my face all scratched up from having been in a fight, which innocent amusement I loved much better than school. When I was hardly ten years of age, I would carry stones in my pocket and tackle the school teachers if they attempted to whip me. My father was away from home at his work most of the time, and my mother (God bless her dear old soul) could not manage me. She has often called in some passer-by to help her punish me. I can now see I richly deserved all the punishment I ever received, and more too. When there was company at our house, and my mother would be busy preparing a meal, I would get my bow and arrows and shoot the cups off from the table, and then run away. I guess I was about the worst boy of my age west of the Allegheny Mountains that was born of good Christian parents. I have often heard the good old church members say: "That boy will be hung if he lives to be twenty years old." But I have fooled them, and am still on the turf, although I have had some pretty close calls, as you will see by reading this book.
In the year 1839, while at the river one day, I saw a steamer lying at the wharf-boat by the name of Wacousta. The first steward said I could ship as a cabin boy at $4 per month. I thought this a great opportunity, so when the boat backed out I was on board without saying anything to my parents or any one else. My first duty was to scour knives. I knew they would stand no foolishness, so at it I went, and worked like a little trooper, and by so doing I gained the good will of the steward. At night I was told to get a mattress and sleep on the floor of the cabin; this I was very glad to do, as I was tired.
About four o'clock in the morning the second steward came up to me and gave me a pretty hard kick in the side that hurt me, and called out: "Get up here, and put your mattress away." I did get up and put away my bed, and then I went to the steward who kicked me and said: "Look here! Don't kick me that way again, for you hurt me." He let go and hit me a slap in the face that made my ears ring; so into him I pitched. I was a big boy for only ten years old; but I struck the wrong man that time, for he hit me another lick in the nose that came very near sending me to grass, but I rallied and came again. This time I had a piece of stone coal that I grabbed out of a bucket; I let it fly, and it caught him on the side of the head and brought him to his knees. By this time the passengers were getting up to see what was the matter; the pilot and first steward soon put a stop to the fight. I told my story to the boss, and he took sides with me. He told the officers of the boat that I was the best boy to work that he had; so they discharged the second steward at Cincinnati, and you can bet I was glad. I remained on the Wacousta for some time, and thought myself a good steamboat man. I knew it all, for I had been there.
The next boat I shipped on was the Walnut Hills, at $7 per month. You could hear her "scape" (whistle) for a distance of twenty miles on a clear day or night. I would get up early in the morning and make some "five-cent pieces" (there were no nickels in those days) by blacking boots.
PUT ASHORE FOR FIGHTING.
I quit the Walnut Hills after three months, and shipped with Captain Patterson on the Cicero, bound for Nashville. The first trip up the Cumberland River the boat was full of passengers, and I had a fight with the pantryman. The Captain said I should go ashore. They brought me up to the office, and the clerk was told to pay me my wages, which amounted to the large sum of one dollar and fifty cents. I was told to get my baggage; but as two blue cotton shirts and what I had on my back was all I possessed, it did not take me long to pack. My trunk was a piece of brown paper with a pin lock. They landed me at a point where the bank was about one hundred feet high, and so steep that a goat could not climb it. They commenced to pull in the plank, when the steward yelled out to the Captain, "that he could not get along without that boy," and asked him to let me go as far as Nashville. I was told to come aboard, which I did, and I remained on that boat for one year, during which time I learned to play "seven-up," and to "steal card," so that I could cheat the boys, and I felt as if I was fixed for life. I quit the Cicero, and shipped with Captain Mason on the steamer Tiago. Bill Campbell, afterward the first captain of the Robert E. Lee, was a cabin boy on the same boat. He is now a captain in the Vicksburg Packet Line. During the time I was on the Tiago the Mexican War broke out.
WAR WITH MEXICO.
"Lands intersected by a narrow frith Abhor each other. Mountains interposed Make enemies of nations who had else, Like kindred drops, been mingled into one."
When the Mexican War broke out, our boat was lying at Pittsburg. The Government bought a new boat called the Corvette, that had just been built at Brownsville. A cousin of mine was engaged to pilot her on the Rio Grande. His name was Press Devol. He was a good pilot on the Ohio, from Cincinnati to Pittsburg, but had never seen the Rio Grande, except on the map. I thought I would like to go to war, and to Mexico. My cousin got me the position as barkeeper, so I quit our boat, and shipped on the Corvette, for the war. Jack McCourtney, of Wheeling, was the owner of the bar.
There was a man aboard, on our way down, who took a great liking to me. He was well posted on cards, and taught me to "stock a deck," so I could give a man a big hand; so I was a second time "fixed for life."
When we got down to New Orleans they took the boat over to Algiers, took her guards off, and part of her cabin, and we started across the Gulf; and you bet my hair stood up at times, when those big swells would go clear over her in a storm. But finally we landed at Bagdad, and commenced to load her with supplies for the army.
I soon got tired of the Rio Grande, and after cheating all the soldiers that I could at cards (as there was no one else to rob), I took a vessel, and came back to New Orleans. When I landed there, I was very comfortably fixed, as I had about $2,700, and was not quite seventeen years old. Here I was in a big city, and knew no one; so I went and got a boarding house, and left all my cash, but what I might need, in the care of an old gentleman that looked something like my father. I thought he must be honest, as he looked like him, and he proved himself so.
I then picked up courage, and said to myself, "I believe that I will go home." But to pay passage was all foolishness, as I was such a good hand on a boat, so I shipped on the steamboat Montgomery, Captain Montgomery, and Windy Marshall (as they called him) Mate. I shipped as second steward, at twenty dollars per month.
The boat was full of people, and the card tables were going ever night as soon as the supper tables were cleared. We had been out from New Orleans two days and nights before I picked up a game. One afternoon in the texas, I beat my man out of $170; and as there was no "squeal" in those days, I was all right, although they did not allow any of the crew to play with passengers.
We got to Louisville, where the boat laid up and paid off her crew, and I came on to Cincinnati.
"Be it a weakness, it deserves some praise; We love the play-place of our early days."
"Well, now I'll go home to the folks," I said, "and see if they will forgive me." I thought I would take home some presents, so I bought about $400 worth of goods, including coffee, sugar, teas, etc., and took the old steamer Hibernia, of Pittsburg, Captain Clinefelter, master. You ought to have seen me when I stepped on the wharfboat at Marietta, my birthplace, dressed to death, with my gold watch and chain, and a fine trunk I had bought in New Orleans for $40. I got my groceries off the wharfboat, and hired a wagon, and I took it afoot, as in those days you could not get a hack except at a livery stable.
My mother knew me at first sight. Father was working at the ship- yard at Port Homer, on the other side of the Muskingum River, and did not come home until night.
I stopped at home a year, and had a fight nearly every week. I then came to Cincinnati again, where I met my brother Paul, who was working at calking steamboats. He coaxed me to stay with him, saying that he would teach me the trade. I consented, and soon was able to earn $4 per day. We worked together a few years, and made a good deal of money; but every Monday morning I went to work broke. I became infatuated with the game of faro, and it kept me a slave. So I concluded either to quit work or quit gambling. I studied the matter over a long time. At last one day while we were finishing a boat that we had calked, and were working on a float aft of the wheel, I gave my tools a push with my foot, and they all went into the river. My brother called out and asked me what I was doing. I looked up, a little sheepish, and said it was the last lick of work I would ever do. He was surprised to hear me talk that way, and asked me what I intended to do. I told him I intended to live off of fools and suckers. I also said, "I will make money rain;" and I did come near doing as I said.
THE GAME OF RONDO.
After shoving my calking tools into the river, I went to keeping a "Rondo" game for Daniel and Joseph Smith, up on Fifth Street, at $18 per week. Hundreds of dollars changed hands every hour, both day and night. At the end of six months I was taken in as a partner, and at that time the receipts of the game were about $600 every day. I had money to sell (or throw away), and, for a boy, I made it fly. In a short time the police began to raid us, and we would be fined fifty dollars each about once a month. Then they raised it to $100, and next to $500. This was too much, so we had heavy oak and iron doors put up; but the police would batter them down, and get us just the same. One night they surrounded the house, broke down the door, and arrested my two partners; but I escaped by the roof. The next day I went up to the jail to take the boys something to eat, when they nabbed and locked me up also. They put me in the same cell with Kissane, of the steamer Martha Washington notoriety, who was living in great style at the jail. They fined us $500 each and let us go, and that broke up "Rondo."
After retiring from the "Rondo" business, I took passage with Captain Riddle on the steamer Ann Livington bound for the Wabash River, to visit a sister, who lived near Bloomfield, Edgar County, Ills. There were no railroads in that part of the country in those days. My sister's husband bought 3,000 acres of land near Paris, at $1.25 per acre, and the same land is now worth $300 per acre. During my trip up the river I formed the acquaintance of Sam Burges, who was a great circus man. Captain Riddle and Burges got to paying poker, and the Captain "bested" him for about $200. I told Burges that I could make him win if he could get me into the game. So, after supper, they sat down to play, and I was a looker-on. Burges asked me to take a hand, which I did, and on my deal I would "fill" his hand, so that he soon had the Captain badly rattled, and he lost about $900. The old Captain was getting "full," and I looked for a fight sooner or later. Burges invited all to take a drink, when the Captain refused, and told Burges that he was a "d——d gambler." Burges called him a liar, so at it they went. The Captain was getting the best of it when we parted them, and it was all we could do to keep Burges from shooting. I got one-half of the $900, and no one called me a gambler either.
As the boat was going through the "draw," at Terre Haute, she took a "shear" on the pilot, and knocked down her chimneys. The Captain went up on deck, cursed the pilot, went down on the lower deck, knocked down two deck-hands, and raised cain generally. Burges expected he would tackle him again, but the Captain did not want any of that gun. When we arrived at the landing, I got off, and went to my sister's. I remained there about one month, and had a good time shooting wild turkeys and chickens. On my return trip I got into a game of poker, and took in a few hundred. I stopped off at Louisville a short time, and then shipped for Cincinnati, where I remained until I was very near broke.
NOW A GAMBLER.
"If yet you love game at so dear a rate, Learn this, that hath old gamesters dearly cost; Dost lose? rise up. Dost win? rise in that state. Who strives to sit out losing hands are lost."
I left Cincinnati for St. Louis; and when I landed there, I had just $40 left. I secured a boarding house, and started to take in the town. I made inquiries for a faro bank, and at last found one; and I bolted in as if I was an old sport. I stepped up to the table, and asked the dealer for $40 worth of checks. I then commenced to play, and won; and, pressing my good luck, in two hours had $780 in checks in front of me. I told the dealer to cash my checks, and I walked out.
The next day I was on my way to St. Paul, as at that time there was a great emigration in that direction. I took passage on a steamer that had nearly 300 people on board, going there to buy homes, and, of course, they had plenty of money with them. After the supper tables were cleared, a game of poker was commenced; then another, then another, until there were five tables going. I sat at one of the tables looking on for a long time, until at length one of the gentlemen said to me, "Do you ever indulge?" I said, "Hardly ever, but I do not care if I play a while." The bar was open, and they all appeared to enjoy a good drink, but I never cared for anything stronger than a lemonade. The result was that they all got full, and I thought I might as well have some of their money as to let the barkeeper have it, and I commenced to try some of the tricks I had learned. I found they worked finely, and at daybreak the bar and I had all the money. I got about $1,300, which made me $2,000 strong.
When we arrived at St. Paul I struck another bank, and to my sorrow. I found one conducted by Cole Martin and "King Cole," two old sports, who soon relieved me of my $2,000. I then was without a cent, and too game to let the gamblers know I was broke. After I had been there about a week, one of them stopped me on the street, and asked me why I did not come around and see them. He said: "I don't ask you to play, but come and dine with us." I accepted his invitation, and went around that evening, and had as fine a bird supper as I ever sat down to.
MY FIRST KENO.
"'Tis not enough to help the feeble up, But to support him after."
The next day I visited another club-house, where they had keno going at fifty cents a card. I had seen it before, and took a great fancy to the game. I inquired how much an outfit would cost. They said they had two keno sets, and if I wanted one they would sell it to me for $250.
Now came the tug of war—how to get the keno. I at last thought of a plan, and that was to borrow the amount of one of the dealers who had won the $2,000 from me. So I made a bold front and told him what I wanted to do, and he gave me $300 in cash, saying at the same time, "Pay me when you are able, as I like to help a young man who tries to help himself." I bought the keno set, and had $50 left, which paid all my debts and started me in business.
Cole Martin, one of the men who loaned me the money, said to me: "Now, after the faro bank closes to-night, at my house, if you bring your keno over I will help you get up a game." "All right," I said; so I took it over, and opened on the billiard tables, and he brought all of his players into the room, and said, "Let us start this young man's game." They commenced playing at $1 per card at twelve o'clock, and at six in the morning they were playing at $20 per card. I was taking out 10 per cent. They all got stuck. That night my receipts amounted to $1,300.
The result was they put the carpenters at work to fit up a nice room for me, and in eight months my part of the game was $33,000.
Then I began to think I was a blooded boy, and soon began to take the girls out riding and to wine suppers, and to play the bank higher than a cat's back, as the old keno game was a great producer.
About this time the town of Winona was looking up. There were but two or three little frame houses, but a great many people got off there, going back in the country. So I went down there and bought a raft of great lumber, hired carpenters, and put them to work building houses. They soon had five or six done, and in about a week after they were finished, you could stand outside and throw a big dog through the cracks. But they were full every night at $1 per head, bringing their own blankets and sleeping on the floor.
I sent and got another keno set, and opened a bar room, and was making money like dirt, when one day a man walked in with a bucket of water, and commenced pouring it on one of my billiard tables that I got in Chicago, and which cost me $500. I walked up to him and asked him what he was doing? He told me to go to h—l. I let fly, caught him on the neck, and down he went, and he lay there for some time. Finally they took him to where he and his wife were stopping, and that night he died. Then I commenced to think about getting out of that hot box. I got together what money I could, and carried a canoe to the river, and started for Dubuque. There were no telegraph lines at that time. I had been there but a few days before the news came to me that the doctors had held a post mortem examination, and decided the man had had delirium tremens, and could only have lived a short time. They sawed open his skull, and found his brain a jelly in the center. So I went back and found his wife, gave her one of the houses which I had built and $700 in money.
I then put a man in charge of my business, and went back to St. Paul, where my keno games were still going on. But the man I left in charge of my business at Winona sold all he could and skipped out, and that was the last seen of him till I went up the Missouri River two years after, when I found him in Kansas City. At that time there were but three or four houses and a hotel down at the river bank. It was a great point for the Santa Fe traders.
I became acquainted with a man named McGee, who owned the largest part of Kansas City. He was a great lover of the game of "seven- up," so we commenced to play at $10 a game, and I beat him out of five lots (as he had no money), which I afterward sold at $10 a piece. Twelve years ago, as I passed through there, I saw those same lots bringing $600 per foot.
I went from there to St. Joe, Omaha, and Council Bluffs, and broke a great many fellows playing poker. I then settled down at dealing faro in St. Joseph, Mo. After staying there one year I went to St. Louis, where I remained two or three months, and then went to New Orleans. I landed there in 1853. The yellow fever was raging, there being 300 deaths per day. Then was the time, if there was any fright in the young gambler, for it to have shown itself; but I made up my mind that if I had to go I might as well go then as at any other time.
I was taken down with the fever, and nurses were scarce; but I got an old colored woman, and told her to stick to me, and I would give her $25 per day as long as I was sick, and if I handed in my checks she might have all I left. In twenty-three days, by the grace of our good Maker, I was up eating chicken soup. They watched me so close I could get nothing else.
During this time I got an answer from a letter written to my partner at St. Paul, telling him to sell out as best he could, and to send me my part, which he did.
INDIANS CAN PLAY POKER.
The year I was in St. Paul they paid off a lot of Indians a short distance from the town. I was told that the Red Man was a good poker player, and was always looking for the best of it. They paid them in silver; so I got some of the hard money, hired a horse and buggy, got some whisky, and started out to give them a game, more for the fun and novelty of the thing than to win their money; for I had the old keno game running, and she was a good producer. When I got among the savages, they were having a war dance. After the dance they smoked the pipe of peace and drank my whisky, and I smoked their pipes. After the friendly smoking was over, they started in to playing poker. They invited and insisted on me changing in, so at last I sat down and took a hand. One of the old bucks soon began to cheat. He had an old hat in front of him, and inside of the hat he had a looking-glass, so that he could see on his deal every card he dealt out. I knew he was after me, so I told him to put the hat away and play fair. He saw that I was no "sucker," so he put it away. We played for some time, and it was all I could do to keep even by playing on the square with big "injins," as I found them very good card players. I held out a hand, but had to wait some time for the "wild man of the forest." At last there was a big "blind and straddle," and I kept raising it before the draw. They all "stayed," and drew two or three cards (I do not remember which). I took one, and when we came to "show down," I was the lucky fellow. This was too much for the bucks, so three of them dropped out, and left an old chief and myself single-handed. As I was over $150 ahead of the game, I played liberally, to draw the old chieftain on; and as he had one of his bucks walking around behind, and talking "big injin" all the time, he was getting the best of me. I knew that my hands were being given away, but I did not let them know that I was onto their racket. I waited my chance, and clinched onto four fours and a jack. I kept "going blind," until the chief got a good hand, and then he came back at me strong. We had it hot and heavy. I let the buck see my hand until it came to the draw, and then I shifted the hand, and came up with the four fours and the jack, but the warrior did not see me get that hand. I then made a big bet. The old chief called his squaw, and she brought him a sack of silver. He then "called" me. We showed down; the money was mine; and then you should have seen the fun. The buck that had been giving my hand away started to run. The old chief jumped up, grabbed his tomahawk, and lit out after him. I jerked off my coat, dumped all the silver into it, jumped into my buggy, and lost no time in getting out of that neck of the woods. As I was going at a 2:40 gait, I looked back and saw the buck and old chief going through the woods. I never knew whether the old man caught the buck or not, but I do know he did not catch me. I took desperate chances to win that pot, and I was very lucky in not losing my scalp. I never inquired when the Indians were to be paid off again, for I had no notion of paying them a visit. Any one who has a desire to play poker with "big injins" has my consent; but I would advise them to play a square game, and keep their eye skinned for the big "buck" that talks to the chief.
A RELIGIOUS CAPTAIN.
I was on board the steamer War Eagle going from Dubuque to St. Paul. The Captain was a member of the church, and did not allow any gambling on his boat; and any one caught at that innocent pastime would be put ashore. While walking over the boat I met a gentlemen who I thought had money (and I hardly ever made a mistake in my man). I invited him to join me in a drink, and then steered him into the barber shop. I told him I had lost some money betting on cards, but I did not mind very much, as my father was wealthy. While I was showing him how I had lost the money, my partner came, and after watching me throw the cards for a little while, he wanted to bet me $100 he could pick the card. I threw them again, and told him to put up. He "turned," and won the money. Then, turning to the man, he showed him one of the corners turned up, and wanted to bet me again. I told him I would not play with a man that beat me. The man then asked me if I would bet with him. I said I would, providing the other fellow would not tell him which card to turn, which was agreed to. The man then got out his big roll, and put up $100. I told him if he won I would only bet him the one time; and if I won I would only be even; and that I would not bet less than $500. He put up the $500, and turned the wrong card. After putting the money out of sight, I began to throw the cards again; for I saw a diamond stud and ring worth about $1,000. While the cards were on the table I turned around to spit, and my partner marked one of the cards with a pencil, and let the man see the mark. He then bet me $500, and won it; then he walked away. The man began to get nervous and feel for his money; but he had only about seventy-five dollars left, and wanted to bet that. I told him I had just lost $500, and would not bet less than $1,000. He insisted on betting the $75, but I told him to keep it for expenses, and that I would bet him $500 against his stud and ring. Up they went, and I put up $500. Over went the marked card, and he lost again. Out he went, and when I saw him again the Captain was with him. I knew what was in the wind, and I stood my ground. The Captain said to me, "Have you been gambling on my boat?" "I do not know what you mean by that question," says I. "You don't? Well, I will tell you, my boy; you give this gentleman back all the money and jewelry you won from him, or I will have my men take it from you, and then land you on the bank." I laughed at him, and told him to bring up his whole crew, and I would suffer the death of John Rodgers before I would give up one cent. He ordered up the mate and crew. I backed up against the side of the boat, and told them to call for cards, as I "stood pat." They said they did not want any, for they could see by my looks I had the best hand, or at least I would play it for all it was worth. The Captain then said, "You must go ashore." I said, "Land her; both sides of the river are in America, and that big brick house up there is where I live." The old fellow could not help laughing at my cheek, and so concluded to let me alone.
I have often had steamboat captains tell me I must give up the money or go ashore, and I had them to tell the suckers to go and get more money and try it again. I have also had them to say they would put the suckers ashore, and that would break them all up. A sucker thinks when he sees a mark on a card that he is robbing the gambler, and he is just as much of a robber and gambler as the other man.
When two persons bet, one must lose; and there is no law in this country to compel a man to bet his money or jewelry on anything. So my advice is, don't you do it.
A COLD DECK.
I was aboard the Sultana, bound for Louisville, and got into a five-handed game of poker. When we landed at the mouth of the Cumberland, two of our party got off to take a boat for Nashville; that left our game three-handed. For fear that another would get away, I thought I must get my work in without further delay; so I excused myself for a few moments and went to the bar. I got a deck just like the one we were using, and "run up" three hands, giving one three aces, one three kings, and myself four trays. We played a short time after my return, and on my deal I called their attention to something, and at the same time came up with the "cold deck." The betting was lively. I let them do the raising, and I did the calling until it came to the draw. They each took two cards, and I took one, saying "If I fill this flush, I will make you squeal." I knew they both had "full hands," and they just slashed their money on the table until there was over $4,000 up. Then I made a "raise" of $1,200, and they both "called." "Gentlemen, I said, "I suppose you have me beat; I have only two pair." "Oh!" says one, "I have a king full;" and the other one said, "I have an ace full." "Well, boys, I can down both hands, for I have two pair of trays." The game came to a close, for there was no more money on the other side.
CAUGHT A SLEEPER.
I was playing poker once on the steamer General Quitman. The party were all full of grape juice. Along about morning the game was reduced to single-handed, and that man I was playing with was fast asleep, so I picked up the deck and took four aces and four kings out, with an odd card to each. I gave him the kings and I took the aces. I gave him a hunch, and told him to wake up and look at his hand. He partly raised his hand, but laid it down again and I knew he had not seen it. I gave him a push and shook him up pretty lively, and he opened his eyes. I said: "Come, look at your hand, or I will quit." He got a glimpse of it, and I never saw such a change in a man's countenance. He made a dive for his money and said: "I will bet you $100, for I want to show you I am not asleep." I told him I thought he was "bluffing." I said in a joking way: "I will raise you $1,000." So he pulled out all his money and laid it on the table, and said: "I will only call you, but I know I have you beat." I showed down four big live aces, and he was awake sure enough after that. He never went into any more of those fits, and we played until they wanted the table for breakfast. I used to make it a point to "cold deck" a sucker on his own deal, as they then had great confidence in their hands. My old paw is large enough to hold out a compressed bale of cotton or a whole deck of cards, and it comes in very handy to do the work. I could hold one deck in the palm of my hand and shuffle up another, and then come the change on his deal. It requires a great deal of cheek and gall, and I was always endowed with both—that is, they used to say so down South.
TEN THOUSAND IN COUNTERFEIT MONEY.
We had a great "graft," before the war, on the Upper Mississippi, between St. Louis and St. Charles. We would go up on a boat and back by rail. One night going up we had done a good business in our line, and were just putting up the shutters, when a man stepped up and said "he could turn the right card." My partner, Posey Jeffers, was doing the honors that night, and he said, "I will bet from $1 to $10,000 that no man can pick out the winning ticket." The man pulled out a roll nearly as large as a pillow, and put up $5,000. Posey put up the same amount, and over the card went for $5,000; but it was not the winner. "Mix them up again," said the man, and he put up the same sum as before. He turned, and Posey put the second $5,000 in his pocket. The man then went away as if to lose $10,000 was an every-day thing with him. We then closed up our "banking house," well pleased with ourselves. The next day we were counting our cash, and we found we had on hand $10,000 in nice new bills on the State Bank of Missouri, but it was counterfeit. We deposited it in the (fire) bank, as we had no immediate use for it.
BLOWING UP OF THE PRINCESS.
I was on board of the steamer Princess on a down trip when she was carrying a large number of passengers, and there were fourteen preachers among them, on their way to New Orleans to attend a conference. The boat was making the fastest time she had ever made. I had a big game of "roulette" in the barber shop, which ran all Saturday night; and on Sunday morning, just after leaving Baton Rouge, I opened up again, and had thirty-five persons in the shop, all putting down their money as fast as they could get up to the table. I was doing a land-office business, when all of a sudden there was a terrific noise, followed by the hissing of escaping steam, mingled with the screams and groans of the wounded and dying. The boat had blown up, and was almost a total wreck. There was but very little left, and that consisted mostly of the barber shop, which was at the time full of gamblers, and not one of them was hurt. The steamers Peerless and McRay came to our aid; one boat looked after the dead and wounded, and the other took us lucky fellows out of the barber shop. One hundred souls were landed Into eternity without a moment's warning, and among them were the fourteen preachers. It was a horrible sight; the bodies were so mangled and scalded that one could not have recognized his own brother or sister. Captain William Campbell (now of the Vicksburg Packet line) was steward of the Princess at the time of the explosion, and there was not a man on the boat that worked harder to save life and relieve the wounded. He richly deserved his promotion, and is now one of the best captains on the river.
A WOMAN WITH A GUN.
I was on a boat coming from Memphis one night, when my partner beat a man out of $600, playing poker. After the game broke up, the man went into the ladies' cabin and told his wife. She ran into his room and got his pistol, and said, "I will have that money back, or kill the man." I saw her coming, pistol in hand, and stepped up to the bar and told the barkeeper to hand me that old gun he had in the drawer, which I knew had no loads in it. She came on, frothing at the mouth, with blood in her eyes. I saw she was very much excited, and I said to her: "Madame, you are perfectly right. You would do right in shooting that fellow, for he is nothing but a gambler. I don't believe your pistol will go off; you had better take my pistol, for I am a government detective, and have to keep the best of arms." So I handed her the pistol, and took hers. Just a moment later out stepped the man who had won the money, and she bolted up to him and said: "You won my husband's money, and I will just give you one minute to hand it to me, or I will blow your brains out in this cabin." Well, you ought to have seen the passengers getting out of the cabin when she pulled down on him; but he knew the joke and stood pat, and showed what a game fellow he was. He told the woman her husband lost the money gambling, and he could not get a cent back. Then she let go; but the pistol failed to go off, and he got her to go back into the cabin, and pacified her by giving her $100. After taking the charge out of her pistol, I returned it to her. So, reader, you can see what a gay life there is in gambling.
THE FRENCHMAN AND THE HORSE HAIR.
I knew a Frenchman who used to travel the river playing the wheel, who made a great deal of money and sent it to France. One night he opened a $1,000 snap at faro and I was to loan him my tools. He shuffled his own cards, as he was too smart to use any other; and I went down on deck and pulled some hairs out of a horse's tail, and came back and got one of the coppers and fastened a hair to it. A copper is used to make a bet lose and take the banker's side. When the copper is off, the bet is open. So I got my partner to buy a big lot of white checks, so that I could get my small bet behind them. My checks were $12.50 apiece; he was playing white checks at 25 cents. We took one corner of the table, side by side. He placed his checks between the dealer and me; then I would put my little stack behind his checks, and when the dealer made a turn he would have to rise from his seat to see if my bet was coppered or not. If the card lost that we were on, I would let the copper remain; if it on, I gave the horse hair a little jerk and pulled the copper off, and we both won. I used to take it off when he was going to pay the bet, for fear he would get his fingers tangled in the hair; and in this way we won the bank roll, which made the Frenchman very sick.
SAVED MY PARTNER'S LIFE.
We were once coming down on the steamer Belle Key, of Louisville, and my partner was doing the playing that day. We had won some big money, and were about to quit, when up stepped a very tall man, who looked pale and sickly. He watched the game for some time, and then pulled out a $1,000 note and laid it on the card he wanted, and of course he lost. He did not say a word, but started back to this room. I thought he acted strange, and I concluded to keep an eye on him. Pretty soon out he came with an overcoat on his arm, and he walked up as near the table as he could get, and commenced to push one of the crowd away so as to get closer. Finally he got at my partner's back, with me close at his heels, when he commenced to pull from under his coat a large Colt's pistol. As he leveled it to shoot him in the back of the head, I knocked him stiff, and the gun dropped on the floor. It was cocked, but it did not go off. They carried the man back to his room, put cold water on him, and finally brought him to. He sent for me, and went I went back he reached out his hand, and said: "Friend, you did me a kindly act, for I had made up mind to kill that man. I am glad it happened so, for it was all the money I had, and it was raised by my friends, who, knowing that I never would reach home again, were sending me to Florida, as all the doctors have given me up; and I thought I would kill him, as I do not expect to get off this boat alive. I have got consumption in its last stages." So I pulled out $1,000, counted it out to him, and he cried like a child. His pistol I gave to the mate, as I thought he had no need of such a weapon.
LEAP FOR LIFE.
Another time I was coming up on the steamer Fairchild with Captain Fawcett, of Louisville. When we landed at Napoleon there were about twenty-five of the "Arkansas Killers" came on board, and I just opened out and cleaned the party of money, watches, and all their valuables. Things went along smoothly for a while, until they commenced to drink pretty freely. Finally one of them said: "Jake, Sam, Ike, get Bill, and let us kill that d——d gambler who got our money." "All right," said the party, and they broke for their rooms to get their guns. I stepped out of the side door, and got under the pilot-house, as it was my favorite hiding place. I could hear every word down stairs, and could whisper to the pilot. Well, they hunted the boat from stem to stern—even took lights and went down into the hold—and finally gave up the chase, as one man said I had jumped overboard. I slipped the pilot $100 in gold, as I had both pockets filled with gold and watches, and told him at the first point that stood out a good ways to run her as close as he could and I would jump. He whispered, "Get ready," and I slipped out and walked back, and stood on the top of the wheel- house until she came, as I thought, near enough to jump, and away I went; but it was farther than I expected, so I went down about thirty feet into the river and struck into the soft mud clear up to my waist. Some parties who were standing on the stern of the boat saw me and gave the alarm, when the "killers" all rushed back and commenced firing at me, and the bullets went splashing all around me. The pilot threw her into the bend as quick as he could, and then let on she took a sheer on him and nearly went to the other side. The shooting brought the niggers from the fields to the bank of the river. I hallooed to them to get a long pole and pull me out, for I was stuck in the mud. They did so, and I got up on the bank and waited for another boat.
I was always very stubborn about giving up money if any one wanted to compel me to do it, but I wish I had one-quarter of what I have given back to people that did need it. I have seen many a man lose all he had, and then go back into the ladies' cabin and get his wife's diamonds, and lose them, thinking he might get even. But that was always a good cap for me, for I would walk back into the cabin, find the lady, and hand her jewels back; and I never beat a man out of his money that I did not find out from the clerk if his passage was paid. If not, I would pay it, and give the man some of his money to assist him to his destination. By so doing I was looked upon as being a pretty good robber—that is, if you call it robbing; but I tell you that a man that will bet on such a game as monte is a bigger robber than the man who does the playing, for he thinks he is robbing you, and you know you are robbing him.
THE CHICKEN MEN AND THEIR SILVER.
At one time, before the war, silver was such a drug in New Orleans that you could get $105 in silver for $100 in State bank notes; but the commission men would pay it out to the hucksters dollar for dollar. They would put it in bags and label it with the man's name and the amount. At this time I was coming out on the steamer John Raine, and, in looking around for customers, I found fifteen chicken men on board, who had sold their "coops," and had their sacks of silver setting in the office, as there was no room for it in the safe. After supper I got my men in the barber shop, pulled out my three cards, and began to throw them, at the same time telling the men I had lost $1,000 at the game, and that I was going to practice until I could throw equal to the man that had beat me out of my money. They all took a great interest in the game, and could turn the right card every time for fun. About this time the "capper" came up, and said he was positive he could guess the card, and kept insisting on betting me $100; so at last I concluded to bet him, and he lost the $100. Then the fun commenced. One of the chicken men saw the corner of the "right" card turned up; so he jumped up, and wanted to bet me $500 that he could pick out the "right" card. I told him I did not want to bet, but if he made it $2,000 I would bet him, and if I lost I would quit. At the same time I pulled out a large roll of small bills, with a hundred dollar bill on the outside, and laid it on the table. The chicken men held a council of war, and of course they all saw the corner of the "right" card turned up. They went for their sacks of silver, and planked down four of them, with $500 in each. I put up and said: "Gentlemen, you must all agree on one card, and select one man to turn it, as I must have the two chances." They picked out their man; he turned the card with the corner turned up; but, of course, it was not the "right" card. The boat was just landing to take in sugar, so I said, "Gentlemen, I will have to bid you good- by, as this is my sugar plantation." I called two of the porters and told them to take my sacks ashore. They said, "All right, Massa George." You should have seen the chicken men look at me when I landed with my sacks; and all the niggers came to shake hands and say, "Glad youse back, Massa George," (for I knew all the niggers on the coast). After the boat pulled out, I opened one of the sacks and gave each black one of the "chicken" half- dollars. They guarded the money until another boat came down, which they hailed, and I was soon on my way back to New Orleans to catch some more suckers.
THE HUNGRY MAN.
I was on board the John Simonds coming out of New Orleans one night. I had a very lively game of "red and black," and did not close up until two o'clock in the morning. We were sitting around the stove in the bar, drinking, smoking, and telling stories, when there was a man came in whom I had not seen since the boat left New Orleans. When he came aboard he was pretty full of "bug-juice," and had been asleep. When he woke up, of course he was dry, and had come into the bar to get a drink. I said to him, "You look dry, and you are just in time to join us." After thanking me, he took a drink, and then told me he had missed his supper. I told him I would send the porter into the texas, and get him a lunch, which I did. I then thought if I can get some more of that "go- your-money" whisky into him, I can size him up. So after taking another round, I said to him, "You should have been up when the big betting was going on." He said, "What was it?" I said, "There was a great tall fellow sat down to the table just after supper, and called all the men in the cabin to come and see how he had lost $2,000 of his father's money. He pulled out a lot of cards and began to throw them on the table, and said to us, 'If you see the same fellow who got my money, don't you bet with him, for he has two chances to his one.' I can't explain just how he did it, for I haven't got any of the cards." The barkeeper then said, "I have some of the fellow's cards that he left when he got off the boat." I said, "Let me have them and I will try and show the game." I took the cards and bent them, and then said, "You ought to have seen him throw them through those long fingers; it would have made you laugh."
I was throwing and explaining when my partner came in. After looking on for a little while he asked me if I would bet on the game. I pretended not to hear him, but invited them both to take a drink. Then my partner offered to bet the drinks. I took him up, and he lost. While we were talking he picked up the cards and turned up one of the corners of the winner, and then let the other man see what he had done. I commenced to throw them again, when my partner wanted to know if I would bet just as they lay. I said I would after the shuffle. He said, "You beat me out of the drinks; now I will bet you $100 I can pick up the card the first pick." "Enough," says I, and up went the money in the "hungry" man's hands. Over went the card, and my partner caught me for $100. I said, "Give him the money, as he won it fairly." The stakeholder threw down his bread and meat, jumped up, pulled out his money, and said, "I will bet you $500 I can turn the right card the first time." I saw he had about $1,500 or $2,000, so I said, "I will make but one bet, and then quit; I will bet you $1,500." "Enough said, I'll go you." The money was put up, and over went the card; but, as luck would have it, he turned the wrong one; and, to tell the truth, I was glad of it. He then pulled out $400 in gold and wanted to bet that; but I told him to keep it, for I did not want to win it from him, but wanted to keep what I had. We sat down and had a drink, and in a short time the man went out on the guards. My partner and I were talking and laughing about how we won the money, when all of a sudden in rushed the man with his clothes all torn and very much excited. We asked him what had happened, when he told us that two fellows had grabbed and robbed him of the $400 in gold.
We got the mate and watchman, and searched the boat until we found one of the robbers in a fireman's bunk, down on the lower deck. We got all the money from him and returned it to the man. The other robber could not be found. We turned the one we had captured over to the police of Baton Rouge, and that was the last we ever heard of him. I took the next boat back to New Orleans.
COLLARED THE WRONG MAN.
I had been attending to business pretty faithfully, and had accumulated some wealth, when it struck me I must take a rest; so when I arrived in New Orleans I laid off. I was playing the "bank" one night, and was a big loser. There was a big fighter came in and sat down at the same table, and in a short time he began to pick up checks. I thought he would take some of mine next, and I was not in the humor to let any one take my checks. Sure enough, he clinched onto a stack I had on the nine. I said to him, "Those are my fifty." He raised up, took me by the collar, and said, "You're a d——d liar." I thought I would get the old head ready for business once more, so I argued the question with him until I saw an opening, and then I let him have it just between the eyes. He dropped all in a heap, and it was some time before they could get him to sit up. He was pretty badly hurt; his nose was broken down flat with his face; the blood was running out of his ears, and I thought it was about time for me to get out. I cashed in my checks and quit the game over $6,000 a loser. So you see a man must fight at times, even when he has quit his regular business, and is laying off for a rest.
MY JEW PARTNER.
I was on board the steamer Sultana one evening, coming up from New Orleans, when a "Jew" came up to me, tapped me on the shoulder, and said: "Mr. Devol, I have heard of you for years, and have sat at the same table with you in New Orleans playing the bank. I caught her this trip for over $4,000; but I have often wished I could make as much money as you do; you bet I would take better care of it than you. Come, let us go and have a nice drink." I told him I did not drink anything but wine; and I was very glad he had beat the bank, for they nearly always beat me; but I could hold my own with any man at poker. He said: "Oh, Mr. Devol, I know that no one can beat you at poker, and I would like to put my money in with you and have an interest." Something struck me immediately that I might as well have the $4,000 as not, so I said to him: "I will see Mr. Bush (my partner), and let you know after supper." The first thing to be done was to manufacture a sucker to play me a big game of poker. I knew several good boys on board; some were gamblers and some were horsemen. I selected one of the horsemen, and took him to my room to teach him the ropes. I said to him: "I will cold deck you, and give you three kings, a seven and a eight, and you must put your thumb over one of the spots on the eight, so that the Jew will think you have a king full on sevens when he sees your hand. I will have an ace full, and will bet you $200 or $300 before the draw; then you raise me $5,000." After giving him full instructions, so there would be no mistake, I gave him a big roll and let him out, with instructions not to know me until the time of the game. I told Bush the plan, so after supper we opened up with our three cards and took in a few hundred dollars. After we had closed for the evening, I picked up my manufactured sucker and commenced a divvy game of poker. I told my Jew partner to see every hand that the other fellow held, and to attract his attention so I could cold deck him. I came up with the ice and bet $250 before the draw. The sucker came back and raised me $5,000. The Jew was behind him and saw his king full on sevens; he then came around and saw my ace full on trays. I pretended to be a little short, and called for Bush to bring me some money. Then my would-be partner commenced to get out his money, and was in such a hurry (for fear he would not be in time) that he tore the buttons off his vest. He put up his $4,000; Bush got $1,000 from John C. Heenan (the prize fighter, who was on the boat), and I called the bet. The game had attracted the attention of all the passengers; they were all around us, some on the tables and chairs, and every one was holding his breath waiting for the result, except my Jew partner, who was so delighted with the sure thing of having won one-half of the money that he could not keep still a moment, but kept dancing around, rubbing his hands and smiling as if he had sold a suit of clothes without coming down a cent. When, to everybody's great surprise, the sucker said, "Gentlemen, I have made a mistake in my hand; can't I take my money down?" The Jew said: "Oh, we don't rectify no mistakes in poker." The sucker looked up at him and said: "What in the h—l have you got to do with this game?" The Jew said: "I thought you was bluffin'." The sucker then said: "Hold on, gentlemen, we have not drawn yet. I thought I had a king full on sevens." He then threw down the seven and eight and called for two cards. The Jew said: "We don't care for your mistake," and then walked around behind the sucker to see what he would get in the draw. I dealt him off two cards, but the Jew did not get to see what he got. They had sent me some money from the office, and I bet him $500. The sucker hesitated a moment, and then bet $5,000. I put up all the money I had, my big single stone, pin and ring, but that was not enough. Then the Jew put up his Juergunsen watch, a large cluster pin and ring, and called the bet. The sucker said, "I have two pair." The Jew was so glad (thinking I had won) that he could not keep still, but went up and down like a jumping-jack. I showed down my ace full, and then the sucker showed down two pair of kings. You should have seen my "new partner." He threw up both his hands, groaned, and fell over on the floor dead. We had to throw water in his face to bring him around, and when we got him up he started for the guards, saying: "I go drown myself; I don't want to live." Some one ran and got him a life preserver, and told him to put it on before he jumped overboard. He finally quieted down and went to his room. I took the horseman into my room, gave him $200 in money and my "partner's" diamonds. He was the lion of the boat, and did not have to pay for drinks from there to Louisville. I got off at Baton Rouge at daybreak, and was soon on my way back to New Orleans; and when I arrived there, every one I met would ask me about my bad luck. My friends were sorry for me. I could have borrowed almost any amount of money. The papers came out all over the country that Devol had at last found his match.
I saw the Jew in St. Louis some years later. He knew me, and said: "Mr. Devol, come and let us get a good drink. See that clothing store? That's mine. I never play poker since that time on the boat; don't you remember?"
SOLD OUT BY A PARTNER.
One night I was coming up the river on the steamer Morrison. I had a partner with me named Charles Bush. He was a good, big- hearted fellow, but did not know much about beating a sucker out of his money. I had to teach him how to handle the blokes. Well, Bush and myself had made some money, and were sitting around looking at the gamblers. There were twenty-five of them on board, going to the Memphis races. Finally one of the sports, named Dennis McCarthy, said to me, "Devol, I will play you seven-up for $100 a game." So I turned to Bush and asked him if he wanted any interest in it. He said "No," so he sat down alongside of me, where he could see my hand. We commenced to play. I could see Bush working a toothpick in his mouth, from the corner to the middle and then over to the other side. I thought I noticed when the toothpick was in the left side of his mouth I always had one trump; when he had it in the middle of his mouth I had two trumps; when in the right side I had no trumps. McCarthy beat me six straight games. The last game we played we were six and six. I saw Bush take the toothpick out of his mouth. I looked at my hand and saw no trumps. McCarthy stood his hand, and led. He had no trumps either, but as he had some large cards in his hand he made the game, which put him out. Bush was sitting on my right; so I let go with my left, caught him between the eyes, and straightened him out on the floor. They got a piece of beefsteak and put it on his eyes, and he went to bed. There was a big six-foot fellow named Anderson, who said that any man that would hit another for nothing was a scoundrel, and he could whip him. He was not posted, and did not know why I hit him, so he made this bluff. I said to him, "Take off your coat and come and see me." He took off his coat, and after he got it off he weakened, and picked up a big iron poker that lay by the stove. I pulled out old "Betsy Jane," one of the best tarantula pistols in the Southern country, and told him to drop the poker, which he did. "Now," said I, "if you want it on the square, I am your man." So at it we went, and I hit him and knocked him clear through the office door. I then reached down and caught him by the collar, raised him up and struck him with that good old faithful head of mine, and the fight was all over; for I had broken every bone in his nose. The clerks came rushing out of the office, the Captain and passengers also came, and the Captain asked me what was the matter. I told him, and the mate spoke up and said Devol was perfectly right, for he had seen it all. I offered to pay for the door and chairs we broke, but the Captain would not accept one cent.
I went back to the room to see Bush, for I was sorry I had hit him, although I thought he was guilty. I told him to get up and look out for me, and I would open faro bank for the gamblers, which he did. They all changed in except the big fellow with the broken nose; he went to bed. The result was, we broke every one of them, and then got off at Baton Rouge; they went to Memphis, where the races commenced in a few days. Bush was with me for three years after that; and many a night I have sat and dealt for a big game, and in the morning would divide several hundred dollars with Bush, who was in bed and asleep.
THE BIG CATFISH.
My old partner (Bush) and I had been up all night in New Orleans playing faro, and we were several hundred dollars winners, and thought we would walk down to the French market and get a cup of coffee before we went to bed. We saw a catfish that would weigh about 125 pounds; its mouth was so large that I could put my head into it. We got stuck on the big cat, and while we were looking at it an old man came up to me and said: "That is the largest catfish I ever saw." Bush was a little way off from me just at the time, and knowing I would have some fun (if not a bet) with the old man, he kept out of the way. I said to the old gent: "You are the worst judge of a fish I ever saw; that is not a cat, it is a pike, and the largest one ever brought to this market." He looked at me and then at the fish, and then said: "Look here, my boy, where in the d—-l were you raised?" I told him I was born and raised in Indiana. "Well, I thought you were from some hoop-pole State." We got to arguing about it; and I appeared to be mad, and offered to bet him $100 that the fish was a pike. Says he, "Do you mean it?" I pulled out a roll, threw down $100 and told him to cover it. He lammed her up, and I said: "Who will we leave it to?" We looked around and saw Bush, with a memorandum book in his hand and a pen behind his ear, talking to a woman who sold vegetables, and he was acting as if he was collector of the market. I said: "May be that man with the book in his hand might know." The old fellow called Bush, and said to him, "Do you belong about here?" "Oh, yes; I have belonged about here for a good many years," says Bush. "Well, sir, you are just the man we want to decide our bet," says the old gent. "Well, gentlemen, I am in somewhat of a hurry; but if you don't detain me too long, I will be glad to serve you to the best of my ability," said Bush. "We want you to tell us what kind of a fish this is." "Well, gentlemen, that can be done easily." "Out with it," said the old gent. Bush braced himself up, and said: "I have been market-master here for twenty years, and that is the largest pike I ever saw in this market." "Well! Well! Well!" says the old man; "I have lived on the Tombigbee River for forty-five years, and I never saw two bigger fools than you two." I invited the old man and the "market-master" to join me in a cup of coffee. Bush accepted, but the old one from the Tombigbee declined, saying "he did not drink with men that did not know a catfish from a pike." We bid him good morning and went home, and we were both sound asleep in a short time; for we felt we had did an honest night's and morning's work.
THE SERMON ON THE (MOUNT) BOAT.
"The hypocrite had left his mass, and stood In naked ugliness. He was a man Who stole the livery of the court of heaven To serve the devil in."
I was coming from New Orleans on board the steamer E. H. Fairchilds, bound for Louisville. She was literally packed with people. After supper, on Saturday evening, we started a game in the barber shop, which was kept up until Sunday morning. Over $8,000 changed hands, and I was a big winner. After eating my breakfast I went out on the guards to take a smoke before going to bed. While I was enjoying my cigar, a fine looking old gentleman about sixty years of age came up to me and entered into conversation. Presently the Captain joined us. The old gentleman said he was a minister from Louisville, and would like to preach in the cabin. The Captain gave his consent. The minister placed his arm in mine, and, before I was aware of what we were doing, he had me half way down the ladies' cabin, and then it was too late to back out or get away. He sat me down near where he was standing. I was impressed with his discourse, for it was full of practical sayings. He spoke of gambling in very plain terms, and of the game that had been kept up all night in the barber shop. He said: "It was a pity that such a fine looking gentleman as the one who sat near him should play cards for money." To tell the truth, his remarks on the subject of my business did make me feel a little mean. He did not look directly at me, but I thought he was getting close to home. The collection amounted to considerable, and I chipped in my share liberally. After the morning services were over I retired to my room to take a sleep, and it was not long until I had forgotten that we had an old preacher on board.
I spent that Sunday evening reading until near midnight; most of the passengers had retired. There was but one passenger in the cabin, and he was sitting with his back to me, reading. I approached him, and found it was the minister. I had changed my dress so that he did not recognize me. I sat down near him, and he began talking about the gambling game of the night before, and he handled the gamblers without gloves. I sided with him in his views, and then trumped up a story of how I had been roped into the game, and had lost $1,000; but that my father was rich, and gave me all the money I could spend, and that I did not mind the loss very much. He became very much interested, and asked a great many questions. I told him I had picked up some of the tickets that they played the game with, and had them in my room, and if he would like to see them I would go and get them. "Oh, I would like very much to see the way it was played, and I will go to your room if you will show me." We went to my room, and I showed him the old three-card monte racket. I let him play with the cards until he thought he knew all about them, and he said to me: "My dear sir, I can't see how you could lose money on such a simple thing. I would not fail to pick out the right ticket every time." I said to him, "I'll make you a proposition; I will throw the tickets, and put up $100 with you. If you gain the money, you are to donate it to your church; and if I get it I will do the same, for I want to show you how I lost playing them." The old fellow accepted my proposition, for he wanted to give the money to his church (and so did I). Of course I displayed a big roll, and told him I would just as soon make it $200 as $100. He agreed, and we put up. He turned the ticket, but he failed to pick the right one. It was such a simple thing that he got excited, and put down $200 more, and again he failed to pick out the right one. We kept on until the old sucker lost an even $1,000, then I said to him, "I am really sorry, for I had rather lost the amount myself. This money will do me no good, and it would hardly benefit your church; we have had lots of fun, and I want you to gain the money back. I will put up the $1,000 against your watch and chain, and when you gain it back we can have a big laugh over it." He put up his handsome watch and chain (that had been presented to him by his congregation), and, as he was playing in hard luck, I soon had the "ticker." He bade me good night, and went to his room.
I went to see the Captain, and when I showed him the reverend gentleman's watch, with the inscriptions on it, he could hardly believe his own eyes. After having a good laugh with the Captain, I went to the minister's room, and found him on his knees. When he saw me he said, "I have just been praying for you." I replied, "Brother, hadn't you do a little of that for yourself?" "Oh," says he, "I have prayed mostly for myself this night." "Well," I said, "since you have prayed for yourself, and me too, here is your watch, chain, and $100. 'Go and sin no more.'" He said (with tears in his eyes), "God bless you." I left the boat at Natchez, and did not get to see the old gentleman again.
I caught a preacher once for all his money, his gold spectacles, and his sermons. Then I had some of those queer feelings come over me (and when they came upon me I could not resist their influence), so I gave him his sermons and specks back. At one time there were fifteen preachers on the Jackson Road, going to a conference at Hazelhurst. I got in among them, and, just for fun, I opened up monte, and I caught five out of the fifteen for every cent they had. I tell you, my dear readers, preachers are but human, and some of them will steal the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil (Devol) in.
FIFTY TO THE BARKEEPER.
I was in the St. Charles bar-room one morning—having been up all night playing the bank—when a good looking old fellow walked in and called for a champagne cocktail. I turned to him and said, "Have one with me; I drew $6,000 out of the Havana Lottery last evening, and I would like you to join me." He accepted the invitation; and while the barkeeper was mixing the drinks, I slipped out some monte cards, and began playing them on the counter. I told the old gentleman it was a kind of lottery I saw a man play, and I wanted to learn it. He looked at the game, and turned the card for fun, then for the drinks and cigars. Finally he said, "I will bet you twenty-five dollars I can turn the card." I said, "If I bet, it will not be less than $100." He got out his wallet, and there was plenty of money in sight. I then pretended that I wanted to back out, and I offered to treat to a bottle of wine. He said, "No sir; I hold you to the bet." I then acted a little huffy (as he thought), and offered to bet him $1,000. He put up $1,000; and as I saw some left, I said, "Here is $500 more, and I will bet but once." He put up the extra $500. I said to him, "You know you must turn over the baby card the first time, or you lose." "All right," he said, and at the same time he grabbed a card as though he thought it would get away, and turned it over; but it was not the baby, and I was $1,500 winner, and did not have to divide with a capper, as I played the old sucker single-handed. I invited him to take another drink, and then bid him good morning. As I was going out, I rolled up a fifty-dollar bill into a little ball, and shot it at the barkeeper. He caught it on the fly, and put it in his pocket. I went to my room and slept until evening, when I was up and ready for the bank again.
LOST HIS WIFE'S DIAMONDS.
I was playing poker with a gentleman on board the steamer John Simonds, bound for Louisville, late one night, and had won a few hundred dollars from him, when he got up without saying a word, and went to the ladies' cabin. In a short time he came back with a small velvet-covered box in his hand, and said to me, "Come, let us finish our game." He opened the box, and I saw it was full of ladies' diamond jewelry. I said: "What are you going to do with those?" Said he, "I will put them up as money." "Oh, no, I have no use for ladies' jewelry." "Well," says he, "if I lose I will redeem them when we get to Louisville." I told him I was not going above Vicksburg. "Well," says he, "if you win, leave them with the clerk and I will pay him." I then loaned him $1,500 on the jewelry, and we sat down to play. It was about 3 A. M. when we commenced, and before they wanted the tables for breakfast I had won the $1,500 back. We drank a champagne cocktail, and he went to his room. The barber was at work on me, so that I was a little late for breakfast, and the steward had to take me into the ladies' cabin to get me a seat. There was a gentleman, a very beautiful lady, and a sweet little child at the same table; the lady's eyes were red, as if she had been crying. I looked at the gentleman, and saw it was the same persons who had lost the diamonds. Somehow, my breakfast did not suit me; and the more I looked at that young wife and mother, the less I felt like eating. So at last I got up and left the table. I went to my room, got the little velvet box, wrapped it up, and carried it back. They were just leaving the table when I returned. I called the chambermaid, and told her the lady had left a package, and for her to take it to her room. After it was gone I felt better, and I eat a square meal. The gentleman came and thanked me, and wanted my address; but as I never had any one to send me money lost at gambling, I told him not to mind the address; for I knew if I did not give it, I would not expect anything, and therefore would not be disappointed.
THE MONTE KING.
After getting well of the fever in New Orleans, I took a trip up the river on one of the Vicksburg packets. On this trip I met a man by the name of Rollins, who was the first man I ever saw playing three-card monte. Seeing I was pretty smart, he proposed a partnership. We commenced depredations on the packets. He did the playing, and I was the capper. I represented a planter's son traveling for my health. The first party that we fell on to was a nigger trader, who had forty-five big black coons on board, taking them to New Orleans to sell. We found him an easy victim, and downed him for $4,100 and four of his niggers. We were afraid to win any more from him on account of a squeal, but he acted very honorably and made out a bill of sale.
Well, here I was a slave-holder with plenty of money. My partner was one of the best that I ever worked with, except Canada Bill, whom I shall speak of later.
We sold our slaves at one of the yards for $4,400; they averaged $1,100 apiece, and in twenty minutes after I saw one of them put on the block and bring $1,700. We knocked about the city, spending our money freely; riding to the lake, eating big suppers with the girls; and all were friends, for we would not allow any person to spend a cent, and the flowing champagne was a great luxury in those days.
The next trip we took was on a Red River packet. We went as far as Shreveport and back on the same boat; and on the trip, clear of expenses, we were $6,000 winners, as it was no more trouble to win $1,000 then than $1 now.
Well, the gamblers began to get a little jealous of us, and at the same time we lost heavily at their games when we played, as we were both good suckers at any game except our own. One night one of them struck my partner, and I jumped in between and told them I did all the fighting for both; and at it we went, and the result was I did him up; for I always kept myself in good condition by using dumb-bells and taking other exercise. When I was twenty-five years old, I did not think there was a man in the world that could whip me in a bar-room or on the street.
After I got away with this gambler, they made up their minds that they would get a man who would make me squeal. We continued working the boats and making plenty of money, and every time we got out in the city both of us would lose a big sum of money; and then perhaps I would have to fight, for they were looking for a man to start a fuss with me. One night we had been down to the lake and had a big supper, and we drove up opposite the St. Charles Hotel and went in. There were about twenty-five gamblers standing in a saloon called the Jewel. I saw at a glance they were drinking and full; I also saw two of my men that I had whipped previously. Well, I could not show the white feather, so I called for a basket of wine and invited all to join me, when one of the party stepped out into the middle of the room, took off his coat, and said: "I can whip any man in the room." I looked around, and saw it was a job to either kill or whip me. I saw at a glance I had only one friend in the house; that was Captain Smoker, of the Vicksburg Packet Company. I knew he could be of no service to me. The door was locked. I turned to the challenger and said: "I know who you mean this for," and I untied my cravat. I had a single stone on my shirt that cost me $2,600. I took off my coat and vest, and handed them all to the barkeeper. The enemy was a powerfully built man, six feet and one inch high, and weighed thirty-five pounds more than myself; at that time I weighed 195 pounds. Well, to tell you the truth, it was a pretty hard fight; but I got one good lick at him with my head, and that won the battle for me. It took all the fight out of him. He said, "That will do." The doors were thrown open, and in less than a minute there were 1,000 people in there.
We were both arrested and taken to the station-house, or calaboose, where we gave bail, Captain Smoker going on my bond. While they were signing our bonds, my opponent made some remark that I did not like, and I hit him a good crack in the neck and brought him down on his knees, but they parted us; and the next day, when we appeared in court, the Judge said he had a notion to fine us $100 apiece for not sending for him, as he wanted to see it himself; "but I will let you go this time." The man's name was John Mortice, of Natchez, Miss.
Well, to tell you the truth, I was pretty well used up, but I staid in my room till I got all right again. We made several successful trips after that together. At last we parted, and he went to California, and soon after died. I was then king of the monte men, and did all of the playing myself. I got a man named Charlie Clark to do the capping for me, and we made a world of money.
"Eph" Holland, Alexander, and I were coming out of the Red River one night. The boat was full of people, and a great many were playing poker. It was 2:30 A. M., when a large and powerful man rushed out of the ladies' cabin with nothing on but his night-shirt, and with a large butcher-knife in his hand. He rushed to one of the tables, where there were seven seated, and before they could rise he plunged the knife up to the hilt in two of the men. I jumped up and ran out into the hall, determined to kill him if he made a break for me; but the Captain hallooed at me, "Don't shoot, he is a crazy man." He had been brought on board at Alexandria by his wife, who was taking him to an asylum. He came rushing through the cabin towards the hall, and I snatched up a big iron poker; for I made up my mind I would lay him out if he came within reach. He picked out another man and started for him, and they had it all around the guards. The poor fellow that he was after was almost scared to death. I jumped inside of the door, and as he came brandishing his knife I dealt him a heavy blow on the side of the head, which brought him down. We then got rope and tied him, and kept him in that position till the engineer made hand-cuffs for him.
THE DAGUERROTYPE BOAT.
"Good heaven! that sots and knaves should be so vain, To wish their vile remembrance may remain And stand recorded at their own request, To future days a libel or a jest."
Before the war, "Eph" Holland, my partner Alexander, and myself were waiting for a boat at the mouth of the Red River. There was a little boat lying at the landing, nicely fitted up for a daguerrotype gallery, and I proposed to the boys that we have our pictures taken all together, and I would pay for it, as I thought it would make a pretty group. They agreed, so we went on board the boat and let the artist take us all in a bunch. Holland was in the middle, and the picture flattered him; so he insisted on having a dozen copies. I saw that the picture did not do me justice, so I wanted "Eph" to sit alone, telling him it would cost less. He said he would pay the bill, for he could see it was the contrast that showed him off to so great an advantage. Well, to please him we let the artist draw a bead on us eleven times more; for at that time they could only take one picture at a shot. Holland paid the entire bill, which was so large that I asked the daguerrotype man if he would sell out. "Oh, no; I am making too much money," says he. Then I thought, I will try and get some of it; at least the amount that poor "Eph" had paid for his vanity. I told the old story of how I had lost my money, and began to throw the cards. I soon had them guessing; Alexander turned up the corner of the winner, and then bet me $100 that the artist could turn it. I took him up, and lost the money. The artist got excited and wanted to bet his money. The result was, I won all he had, and told him I would give him a chance to get even, and would bet all he had lost against his boat and contents. He accepted the proposition. Holland made out a bill of sale, the artist signed it, and in a short time he had lost his home and business. Then I said to him: "You have played in bad luck, so I will pay you a salary to manage the business for me." He accepted the employment. We bid him good bye, and took a boat for New Orleans. Two weeks later I saw my picture boat at Bayou Sara. I went on board, and my employee was glad to see me (or at least he said he was). I asked him about the business, and he told me he was losing money; so I told him I would like to sell out. He wanted to know my price; I told him $150. He offered me $40 cash, and his note for the balance; so I thought, as he had been losing money for two weeks, I had better sell. I have his note yet, and the first time I see Holland I am going to try and sell it to him. There was no money in the business for me, as it was outside of my line; and I have come to the conclusion that a man should stick to his legitimate business. "Eph" Holland was sorry afterward that he ever had his picture taken in a group, for the next time he went to New Orleans he was arrested on the street and taken to the Chief's office, and there he saw his "group" picture in the rogues' gallery. He tried to explain how it was that his picture came to be grouped with two unknown horse-thieves, but the Chief couldn't see it. Then Eph sent for his friends, who went on his bond, and he was let off until the next morning. As he and his friends were leaving the Chief's office he caught sight of me, and then he "dropped," and said to me, "George, you gave that picture to the Chief." I said, "What picture?" Then Eph said, "Boys, come on; it's all on me." The Chief joined us; and when Eph had settled the bill, he said to me, "George, the next time I have my picture taken I will go it alone." I said to him, "Eph, all is vanity and vexation of spirit."
PITTSBURG'S BEST MAN.
Before the war there were a great many coal boatmen traveling on the river. I was coming up at that time with Captain Forsyth, on the steamer Cambria. Some of the coal boat crew traveled in the cabin, and others on deck. I got into a game with one of their bullies. They said he was the best man in Pittsburg. In the play I bested him out of a few hundred dollars, and he did not like it a bit. He went down on deck and told his party there was a BOY up stairs who had won all his money. "If he comes on deck I will let you know, and we will throw him down and take the money away from him." The news came to me, and I prepared for the boys by putting my money and jewelry in the office, took my pistol and went down on deck. The bully was there; he pointed me out to the gang. They commenced to gather around me. I backed up against a hogshead of sugar, telling them not to come any nearer to me or I would hurt some of them. They took the hint, but began to abuse me. The mate and some of the boat's crew came back into the deck-room, and then I commenced to open out on them. "Now," said I to the bully, "perhaps you can whip me, but I can tell you in a few words you never saw a boy more willing to fight than myself; and if you will give me a boy's show, we will see who is the best of the two." He said, "I can whip you in a minute;" and so saying, he took off his coat. I threw mine off in quick time, ready for a fight. It was a good one. He hit me as hard as ever Sullivan hit a man; but I kept dodging my head, so he would hit that, and he soon had his right hand as big as any man's head. I at last commenced to give it to him about the head pretty lively. And talk about a head! His looked like the hind-quarter of a beef. Finally one of the crew called out enough for him, for he was not able to do so. They carried the big bully up stairs and laid him in his bed. To tell the truth, he was the toughest man I ever had anything to do with; for he was a powerful man, weighed two hundred pounds, and could hit like a jack a-kicking. The Pittsburgers did hate to see their man get whipped, as he was their leader. The news went to Pittsburg, and they could hardly believe that he could get the worst of a rough-and-tumble fight.
At one time I was crossing the levee at New Orleans about 6 o'clock in the evening, when a big fellow jumped from behind a cotton bale and struck me on the head with an iron dray-pin, which he held in both hands. The blow staggered me, and I fell on my knees. I caught hold of the dray-pin until I recovered myself, when I got hold of him and took the pin out of his hand. I downed him; and was just getting ready to go to work, when the police rushed in and pulled me off. I would have given $100 if they had let me alone just half a minute. They took us both to the lock-up. I put up money for both of us to appear, as I wanted to get at him again; but he called on the police to accompany him to his place of business. He was a boss drayman, and a particular friend of a stevedore I had whipped a year previously, and he had it in for me.
DIDN'T WIN THE BAGS.
There was a man in New Orleans before the war that supplied the steamboat men with silver to pay their deck-hands. He could buy it at a discount, as it was a drug on the money market at that time. I have often seen him with his two heavy leather bags, on his way from the bank to the boats. One day my partner (Charlie Bush) and I were in a saloon on Camp Street, when in walked the "silver man," carrying his heavy leather bags. I gave Bush the wink, and began throwing the cards on the counter. The man got stuck looking at the game; and when Bush bet me $100 and won it, he got more interested and bet me the drinks, which I lost; then he bet me the cigars, and I lost again. I then said to him: "You can't guess the winner for $500." He said, "I will bet you $100 I can." I told him I would not bet less than $500; then Bush said, "I will bet you," and we put up the money, and Bush won it. Old "silver" got excited when he saw Bush pocket the $500, and I said to him, "I will bet you $1,000 against the silver in the two bags." He knew there was not near $1,000 in the bags, so he jumped them up on the counter, and said, "It's a go;" and then he stood close and watched me throw them, until I said "Ready;" then he made a grab, and turned over the wrong card. If he had been struck by lightning, he could not have acted more dazed. He dropped into a chair and lost all control of himself, and I felt a little sorry for him; but "business is business." So I picked up the bags and started to go, when the fellow came to his senses and said: "Hold on; you did not win the bags." I saw he had me on the bags; and as I knew he had them made for the business, I said to him: "If you get me something to put the money in, you can have the bags." He jumped up and ran out; and when he returned with a meal-sack, he found the barkeeper and his two bags, but not Bush and me. We had bought some towels of the barkeeper, dumped the silver into them and lit out, for fear that the little old silver man would bring back a "cop" to hold us, in place of something to hold the silver. The little fellow was game, and did not say anything about his loss. The next time I met him he requested me to say nothing about the play; and every time we met we would take a drink, and laugh over the joke. The last time I met my silver friend he was crippled up with the rheumatism so he could hardly walk, and he was "dead broke." I gave him $10 (for past favors), and I have not seen him since; and I expect he is now in his grave, for it has been many years ago since I won the silver, but not the bags.
THE BLACK DECK-HAND.
Charlie Clark and I left New Orleans one night on the steamer Duke of Orleans. There were ten or twelve rough looking fellows on board, who did their drinking out of private bottles. Charlie opened up shop in the cabin, and soon had a great crowd around him. I saw that the devils had been drinking too much, so I gave Charlie the wink, and he soon closed up, claiming to be broke. Then we arranged that I should do the playing, and he would be on the lookout. I soon got about all the money and some watches out of the roughs, besides I beat seven or eight of the other passengers. They all appeared to take it good-naturedly at the time; but it was not long before their loss, and the bad whisky, began to work on them. I saw there was going to be trouble, so I made a sneak for my room, changed my clothes, and then slipped down the back stairs into the kitchen. I sent word for Clark to come down. I then blackened my face and hands, and made myself look like a deck- hand. I had hardly finished my disguise, when a terrible rumpus up stairs warned me that the ball was open. The whisky was beginning to do its work. They searched everywhere; kicked in the state-room doors, turned everything upside down, and raised h—l generally. If they could have caught me then, it would have been good bye George. They came down on deck, walked past, and inquired of a roustabout who stood by me if he had seen a well-dressed man on deck. He told them "he had not seen any gemman down on deck afore they came down." They had their guns out, and were swearing vengeance. The boat was plowing her way along up the river; the stevedores were hurrying the darkies to get up some freight, as a landing was soon to be made. The whistle blew, and the boat was headed for shore. Those devils knew I would attempt to leave the boat, so as soon as the plank was put out they ran over on the bank, and closely scanned the face of every one who got off. There was a lot of plows to be discharged, so I watched my chance, shouldered a plow, followed by a long line of coons, and I fairly flew past the mob. I kept on up the high bank and threw my plow on to the pile, and then I made for the cotton fields. I lay down on my back until the boat was out of sight, and then I came out, washed myself white, and took a boat for Vicksburg, where I met Clark the next day, and we divided the boodle that he had brought with him. He told me that after I had left the boat they got lights and went down into the hold, looking for me, as they were sure I was still on the boat. It was a pretty close call, but they were looking for a well-dressed man, and not a black deck-hand.