Posts Tagged ‘Col. Jack Hays’

Colt’s Revolvers

January 4, 2012

THE FIRST COLT’S REVOLVERS.
From the New York Herald.

“There is a romantic side in weapons of war,” said an old army officer the other day. “The origin of our purely American arm, the Colt revolver, furnishes an instance that will illustrate this. It seems perfectly adapted to American frontier conditions. It has given its skillful wielders the victory on many a hard-fought field. And this is why its rise and development should be a part of our country’s military history.

“In the ’30s we were enlarging our national boundaries in the Southwest. We could not consistently develop in any other direction, for the country to the northwest was not very desirable. We were looking for a region that was especially adapted to southern products to be cultivated by slave labor. The South was in the saddle, and meant to remain there if southern blood and valor could accomplish it. The young and thriving republic of Texas was the point toward which the attention of the region south of Mason and Dixon’s line was turned. A handful of daring young Americans had wrested from Mexico a region five times the size of any state in the Union. It was then called the republic of Texas.

“The state of Tennessee was primarily responsible for this daring step. Gen. Sam Houston had gathered together a handful of daring young men full of hot-blooded courage. The blood of the plo??ers that took Tennessee from the most warlike Indian tribe on this continent was in them. For a long time it was an uphill fight. Not only the Mexicans, but the Comanches and Lipans — unequated warriors and daring horsemen — harassed and raided the scattered frontier settlements and towns along the Texas border, until it really appeared as if the entire scheme of the settlement of Texas must go down in blood.

“But the men who started in to do this work were not of the quitting kind. They were of the tory hating, Indian fighting stock that obstacles did not daunt nor danger quell. And they set their teeth hard and swore they would stay. To guard their frontier thoroughly and effectively they organized bands or companies of rangers, under officers who could not only fight Indians and Mexicans, but control and discipline their own men.

“Among these commanders Colonel Hays, better known as ‘Jack’ Hays, was incontestably the ablest. He was a born leader of men, just such men as were peopling that great southwestern frontier. In stature he was about 5 feet 8 inches, and never weighed over 160 pounds. His hair was darkish brown, inclined to be red, and his eyes were of several colors, according to his moods. In his hours of relaxation and among his friends they were of a dark gray with a hue of hazel. In excitement, and especially in a fight, hey were of a color indescribable. They simply seemed to blaze.

“Some time in the late ’30s Colonel Hays was directed by the president of Texas to go to New York and purchase suitable arms to equip his troops. He had then about 150 men, but they were not uniformly armed and lacked equipment suitable for a command. They needed to be equipped alike and with the very best weapons available at that time.

“So, in obedience to his orders, and with a letter of credit on the Texan treasurer, Hays took passage in a schooner bound for New York. He was a month in making the trip, for he started in September, when the gulf is usually stormy and the prevailing winds from the southwest and everywhere else. They were blown into nearly every port from Galveston northward before they got in sight of the island of Manhattan. Colonel Hays went the rounds of the firearms dealers of New York. It was not a difficult undertaking, for there were but four or five of them, but he did not find anything he had not seen before in the way of firearms.

“One day, however, a dealer said: ‘There is a man living over in New Jersey at present who has just invented a pistol which I would like to have you see.’

“‘What is there about it that makes it different from other pistols?’ asked Hays.

“‘Well, for one thing, it shoots six times without reloading.’

“Colonel Hays’ interest was immediately aroused. ‘Indeed, I’d like very much to see it,’ he said.

“‘Very well; then I’ll have him in here with it to-morrow about this time,’ responded the dealer. So the next day about 1 or 2 o’clock the man came in. He was about 30 years old, and chiefly a gun smith by trade, though he did all sorts of work in fine steel. He said he had just concluded an order of sabers for members of the regiment of dragoons just then being raised.

“‘This is my pistol, colonel,’ said he, opening a case and handing the weapon to the Texas colonel. ‘The instant I looked at it I said it was just what I wanted,’ said Hays to his brother, Gen. Harry Hays of New Orleans. There was a 60 foot gallery in the rear of the store for the testing of arms. They took the model pistol, which was about like the Colt’s pocket arm of to-day in size, caliber and weight, and the expert fired all six barrels off in less than a minute. The penetration was good, as was the accuracy.’

“‘Now, I want a pistol of this pattern, but with a long cylinder and eight-inch long barrel, taking a bullet of about 50 grains weight, made as soon as you can make it. I will advance you $?0 on it now to enable you to purchase the material and have the barrels ri??ed. If the pistol shoots as well as I think it will I will talk to you about a contract for 100 of them, and also about a rifle on the same principal.’

“In two weeks the pistol was ready to be tested. It shot very well with sufficient force to kill if it hit a man at from 100 to 150 yards distance. At the same time a rifle was constructed on the same principle. It was about a .44 caliber, with a cylinder that would contain about 80 grains of powder, and carried a round and an oblong bullet. The arm came up to Hays’ expectations in all respects. He took the model to Texas with him and submitted it to his rangers. When it had been thoroughly tested they ordered 100 of the pistols and ?0 of the rifles. The latter was so constructed that when the cylinder was fired it could be slipped out, and another cylinder, all ready loaded, put into the arm in one time and two motions — that is, in 30 seconds.

“Shortly after the troop had been armed with these new weapons they were tried in a sharp fight that settled the question of the superiority over those of their Indian and Mexican antagonists once and for all. About 600 or 700 Mexicans and Comanche and Lipan Indians crossed over into Texas, under the leadership of Canates, a noted ‘raider’ from the other side of the Rio Grande, and with a herd of about 1,000 head of fat beef cattle and perhaps 500 mules, were making their way back to Chihuahua, where Canates had a fine ranch and lived in princely style. He was one of the richest men in Northern Mexico and the ablest soldier in that section.

“The 200 lancers with him charged Hays’ men fearlessly. Hays let them come on until they were within good easy range, and then opened up on them with his 50 rifles. After the first volley Canates thought he had the Americans foul. ‘Meurah los Americanos,’ he shouted, as he dashed at the little band of intrepid fighters commanded by ‘Ned’ Burleson, one of Hays’ most trusted lieutenants. Crash, crash, crash, went the rifles.

“‘Por Dios,’ what sort of a rifle have those devils of Americans?’ they shouted to one another, as leaving the stolen cattle and about one-sixth of their command dead or badly wounded on the ground in the hands of the dreaded Americans, they struck out for the Rio Grande and the other side. Hays had captured a priest, and sent him with others to tell Canates to send an escort and wagons enough to carry away all the wounded that were able to be moved. It was soon reported along the border that las Americans had a dreadful rifle that they used by magic of some sort as long as they wished without reloading.

“Canates offered a great reward for one of these new guns. He was a well-educated man, and realized at once that the Americans had some sort of arm that was not generally known and was vastly superior in rapidity of fire and reloading to any then in use. It was nearly two years, however, before he could get his hands on one of them. Col. Samuel Colt had pledged himself not to furnish his new arm to any but Americans and men who would not suffer if to get into the wrong hands.

“The United States army, particularly the three mounted regiments then in service, the first and second regiments of dragoons and the mounted rifles, were equipped with Colt’s revolving pistols as soon as the ordinance department could be persuaded to adopt them.

“It is a curious feature of our ordinance office that it is always the very last of the military establishments to see any merit in any invention that does not emanate from some member of its corps. That used to be the invariable rule. But it has been a good deal modified in late years, with the invention and adoption of other nations of warlike instruments that were of American invention and plan.

“The renown of the famous American pistol soon spread all over Europe. Russia was the first country to give Colt a big order, and this it did sufficiently to take three years in its completion. when the Crimeah was began the English and the French guard found, to their amazement, that the Russian guard cavalry and some of the picked mounted regiments of the line were armed with a pistol and carbine far excelling that in the hands of the allied armies of England, France and Turkey, and to-day, in spite of multiplicity of inventions, nothing superior has ever been devised.”

The Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana) Nov 2, 1903

San Francisco Fire: June 14, 1850

May 4, 2009
San Francisco Fire (Image from /bancroft.library.ca.gov)

San Francisco Fire (Image from /bancroft.library.ca.gov)

*Fire image is actually from the 1851 fire, not this 1850 fire.

THE SAN FRANCISCO FIRE.

Some friend has sent us the San Francisco Daily Herald of June 17, which contains the particulars of the loss by the last great fire on the 14th of June. — It originated in a back building attached to the Sacramento House, between Sacramento and Clay streets, a little before 8 o’clock in the morning, and as the wind was high, it quickly communicated with the ajoining buildings, and in a little more than three hours two-thirds of the wealthiest portion of the city was destroyed. The following shows the locations and extent of the disaster:

STREETS BURNED.

Clay street, south side, corner of Kearney, occupied by Osborne & O’Donnel, grocers, Building owned by Finley, Johnston & Co.      Total loss.

Clay street, on both sides from the above to Montgomery street, and on the south side to the bay; burning all the new houses recently erected on the former burnt district from the Plaza to Montgomery street, except one.

Montgomery street, on both sides from the south side of Clay street to California street, except the large brick building owned by W.H. Davis, and occupied as the custom-house.

Sacramento street, on both sides, from Kearney street to the bay, including the large iron ware-house owned by Cooke, Baker & Co., and occupied by the Empire City Steamship office.

California street, on the north side, from Kearney street to the bay, except the custom-house building, as before mentioned.

Kearney street, on the east side, all buildings from Clay to California street.

Central Wharf — All the buildings on this wharf and the street leading to it, including the large warehouses of Mellus, Howard & Co., Finley, Johnson & Co., and D. Gibb.

Sherman‘s building, corner of Montgomery and Clay streets, was for several hours in imminent danger. This building was occupied by Green & Morgan, Melhado, Klancke & Co., J. Mattoon & Co., on Clay street, and by Fay, Pierce & Willis, Bacon & Mahoney, R.J. Stevens & Co., and R.M. Sherman, on Montgomery street. The occupants, with a host of good men and true, concentrated all their force to save that building, on which hung the fate of the entire block bounded by Clay, Montgomery and Jackson streets.

The Herald says over three hundred houses were burned, and estimates the loss at more than three million dollars. It gives a list of the sufferers, and among them we observe the names of Vandyke & Belden, to the amount of $30,000, who were also sufferers by the previous fire to the amount of $20,000.

Great credit is awarded to Col. Jack Hays, to whose exertions is attributed the salvation of the whole block bounded by the north side of Clay street, and from Montgomery street to the water.

This is pretty amazing. I noticed in the article I posted (scroll down to the fire picture) mentioning the previous fire they also immediately started rebuilding. I suppose there was good and bad in that, probably could have used a bit more planning, but I don’t think that was how they did it back then.

The editor remarks that “the enterprise of the citizens, although it has received a severe shock, has nevertheless not succombed beneath the misfortune;” and that in passing through the blazing streets, an hour and a half after the fire had been subdued, he saw carpenters already at work relaying the foundation of a building that had been torn down but two hours before; and various contracts to have buildings immediately erected had been even then concluded by some of those who had suffered heavily by the fire.

Artesian wells are to be sunk, reservoirs constructed, and hook and ladder and engine companies are to be organized for the purpose of preventing a recurrence of such a dreadful calamity.

The Daily Sanduskian (Sandusky, Ohio) Jul 30, 1850

Portsmouth Square, San Francisco, CA 1851 (Image from Wikimedia)

Portsmouth Square, San Francisco, CA 1851 (Image from Wikimedia)

From the San Francisco Herald of July 28.
CITY IMPROVEMENTS.

San Francisco is rising like a phoenix from its ashes. This day fortnight, the fairest and most important part of the city was a heap of smouldering ruins, and sadness and gloom were depicted on the countenances of all our citizens. To-day there is to be seen springing up, on the very sites of those ruins, buildings that in substantiality, size, and even magnificence, might favorably compare with those of any other city in the world. The smoke was still curling from the charred rafters, when the momentary depression caused by so sweeping a desolation was cast off, and the indomitable energies of our people set to work to clear away the rubbish for the new foundations.

Nothing short of an earthquake, we believe, can cope with the energy and enterprise of our citizens.

This third, and we hope, last, conflagration, however, has taught us a good lesson: and we are not without hope but it will be productive of great and lasting good to the community. — The most efficient measures have been adopted, not only to guard against recurrence of fires in the future, but to promptly extinguish them before they have become unmanageable. A fire department has been organised, permanent reservoirs of water have been prepared at convenient distances throughout the city, and every means taken that the prudence and intelligence of our citizens could devise for the prevention of similar disasters in future. Besides, the most of the buildings now in process of erection are of brick and fire-proof, and several of them have wells dug in them, and are supplied with a fire apparatus. Indeed, it seems hardly possible, with the means now at our disposal for extinguishing fires, that this destructive element will ever again, to any considerable extent, destroy the property of our citizens.

In the course of a walk yesterday afternoon over the scene of the late calamity, we made a few notes of the progress that has been made with the various buildings in process of erection, which we shall briefly detail.

[The paper gives a long list of buildings in the course of erection in the burnt district, of a substantial character, among which we note the following:

On the north-west corner of Montgomery and Clay streets, Messrs. Vandyke and Belden, general merchants, are building a large three story fire-proof brick building, with a frontage of sixty-nine feet on Montgomery street and fifty-five feet on Clay. The lower rooms are to be occupied as stores and the upper rooms as offices. The building will probably cost about thirty thousand dollars, and is to be completed on the twenty-fifth of next month.

All the buildings to be erected between Clay and Sacramento streets, as well as those in the rear of Clay and Commercial streets, much be of brick, as Messrs. Howard & Green, who own the lots, have made that a condition in the deed of sale.

During the course of our inquiries we were struck with astonishment at the immense increase in the value of property in San Francisco in the short space of three years. In 1846 and ’47, a fifty vara lot could be purchased in any part of the city for fifteen dollars. In the late sales the land brought from seven hundred to nine hundred dollars per foot! and this is much less than could be obtained for it a short time ago.

We cannot close this article without referring to the progress of the public improvements which have been referred to. There are three artesian wells and four reservoirs in process of construction.

The artesian wells are being constructed in the following localities. One in Portsmouth square; one in California street near the custom-house, and the third at the intersection of Dupont and Pacific streets. Mr. Eddy has the contract for their construction at 12 per perpendicular foot, the bore to be six inches in diameter. The one in the center of the square has been bored to the depth of sixty feet, and it is expected, we have been informed that the boring must proceed to the depth of 200 feet, before a sufficient supply of water will be obtained. Each of these artesian wells is to have a fountain. The fountain in the square is to be twenty-five feet in diameter, and to have a dozen jets of water in continual play. The basin is to be finished with fine cut stone coping on the top of the brick walls, and to be surrounded with a handsome ornamental iron railing. The other two fountains are to be twelve feet in diameter. These artesian wells are intended to supply the four reservoirs which are being constructed a short distance from them, with an abundant supply of water, so as to meet any emergency. The one in the square is intended to supply the reservoir of the square, and the one at the intersection of Washington and Montgomery streets.

The reservoir near the Custom house in California street, is in the form of an ellipsis, thirty-six feet by twenty-four, and is calculated to contain 3,000 gallons of water. It is to be arched with substantial brick walls laid in Roman cement. The entire depth reached last night, was fourteen feet. At this depth three feet of water was obtained. There are to be two apetures, through which to introduce the suction hose of the engines.

The reservoir at the intersection of Dupont and Pacific streets, is to be in the form of a circle, and is to be 24 feet in diameter, and to contain 25,000 gallons of water. A depth of 18 feet has been reached, but no water has yet been obtained, nor is any expected.

The one on the square is of the same size and is to be covered iwth timber. That at the foot of Washington and Montgomery, is to be a square cistern and to contain from 10 to 15 thousand gallons. It is to be covered with timber.

These works are to be completed in three weeks from this time. Mr. John Cochran has the contract for the reservoirs in the square, and the corner of Washington and Montgomery streets. We understand he is to receive $14,500 for the two reservoirs. Messrs. Timmons and Stewart have the contract for the other two reservoirs and the ornamental fountain on the square, and are to receive $9000 for each reservoir, and $3375 for the fountain.

It is calculated that these works when completed will cost $50,000, and that the reservoirs will contain a supply of $100,000 gallons of water. Other improvements both of a public and private nature are contemplated, which we shall refer to on a future occasion.

The Daily Sanduskian (Sandusky, Ohio) Aug 13, 1850