Saturday, August 11, 2012

Texas Jack John B. Omohundro

Texas Jack, Army Scout
John B. Omohundro, more familiarly known by the title of "Texas Jack," was a native of West Virginia, but the exact date of his birth I have never been able to learn.

At the early age of seven years, he ran away from home and shipped as a "general utility" boy on a sailing vessel bound for Australia. This voyage proved so de­lightful to the youthful adventurer that he remained at sea until he had developed into a seaman before the mast, in which service he visited nearly all the countries of the world, but in 1858 was wrecked off the coast of Texas, and after a hard struggle for life with the angry billows, was cast upon the shore near Corpus Christi.

After this rather "salty" experience, Jack resolved to remain a landsman until some desirable position should offer him for an easier life. He was not long idle, how­ever, for occupation was readily found among the large cattle herders of Texas, which service soon introduced him to the wild life found only on the plains, and in which there was a congeniality and fascination peculiarly suited to his disposition.

Jack was employed on a ranch in the Texas pan-han­dle, near the border line of the Indian Territory, where Indian cattle thieves were accustomed to make periodical depredations. On this ranch were also many head of horses, raised chiefly for herding purposes, and these animals required constant watchfulness from the herders to prevent them falling into the hands of covetous In­dians. In fact, many cow-boys were murdered by these pests of the ranch, so that the business of herder had become extremely hazardous in the pan-handle section.

When Jack entered upon the dangerous duty of ranchman, he expected trouble with the Indians, and was, therefore, prepared for it. Nor was he in anywise sur­prised when, a few months after his engagement, a large body of the red-skins came down upon him and his part­ner, with whoop and weapons, intent upon capturing the horses under Jack's charge. But the Indians were re­ceived with a cordiality little expected. Jack at once covered the rear, and while his partner drove the horses rapidly toward National Monument, Jack poured a deadly fire into the Indians, killing several, and thus checking pursuit. For this skillful and effective resistance he was well rewarded by the owner of the stock.

Afterward Jack made several cattle drives to Abilene, and became one of Texas' most renowned rancheros.

When the great civil war was declared, and there was a mustering of Southern forces through the Southwest, Jack proffered his services to Gen. Floyd, by whom he was at once made "headquarters courier," and directly thereafter was promoted to chief of scouts under the celebrated cavalry Colonel, J. B. Stuart. He served in this capacity for several years, and became noted throughout the Confederacy.

At the close of hostilities Jack was employed as guide between the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers, and after pursuing this calling for several months made an extend­ed tour through Kansas and Nebraska for the purpose of so familiarizing himself with the country that he could competently guide parties through those territories (now States).

In 1872 Jack was engaged as scout for the Government and in the following summer had charge of four hundred Pawnees who were engaged to operate against the Chey­ennes. It was while thus employed that he made the ac­quaintance of Buffalo Bill, with whom he scouted a con­siderable time and until the two became partners in an enterprise conceived by Ned Buntline, as detailed in the Life of Buffalo Bill.

While Gen. Sheridan was organizing his campaign against the Northern Cheyennes, Jack was employed as hunter for the army, in which capacity he developed re­markable skill in killing antelope, which abounded on the prairies of Western Kansas at that time. The method employed for killing this most wary and fleet of North American game is well portrayed in the accompanying engraving. The killing of antelope is not so exciting as that of buffalo hunting, but it requires great caution and has much of genuine sport in it.

During the Cheyenne war, and at the time of Custer's death, Jack was employed by the New York Herald to carry dispatches from the scene of hostilities to the near­est points for transmission, and performed these duties with such satisfaction that he received many flattering no­tion of praise from that paper.

In the early part of 1880 Jack's health became much impaired, and he went to Colorado with the hope of benefitting his physical condition and also his fortune, as the Leadville gold and silver discoveries were then promising large returns for small investments of capital and labor. But his anticipations were never realized, for in May he was attacked by pneumonia, a disease of great prevalence in the rarified atmosphere of that high altitude, and in June following he died. His wife, who is known on the stage as M'lle Morlacchi, was with him during his illness and nursed him with all the care and tender attention that a devoted wife could give.

Texas Jack was a true exponent of Western civilization: courageous, true to his friends, unfaltering in the line of duty and resolute under all circumstances. His grave is among those whose adventurous spirits led them to the auriferous fields of Leadville only to lay down their hopes and burdens beside the still waters and peaceful fields of death ; but it is kept green by friendly hands, while his name is ever fresh in the memory of companions who cherish the traits of his noble manhood.

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