Captain Frank Jones, a famed nineteenth-century Texas Ranger, said of his company’s top sergeant, Baz Outlaw (1854–1894), “A man of unusual courage and coolness and in a close place is worth two or three ordinary men.” Another old-time Texas Ranger declared that Baz Outlaw “was one of the worst and most dangerous” because “he never knew what fear was.” But not all thought so highly of him. In Whiskey River Ranger, Bob Alexander tells for the first time the full story of this troubled Texas Ranger and his losing battle with alcoholism. In his career Baz Outlaw wore a badge as a Texas Ranger and also as a Deputy US Marshal. He could be a fearless and crackerjack lawman, as well as an unmanageable manic. Although Baz Outlaw’s badge-wearing career was sometimes heroically creditable, at other times his self-induced nightmarish imbroglios teased and tested Texas Ranger management’s resoluteness. Baz Outlaw’s true-life story is jam-packed with fellows owning well-known names, including Texas Rangers, city marshals, sheriffs, and steely-eyed mean-spirited miscreants. Baz Outlaw’s tale is complete with horseback chases, explosive train robberies, vigilante justice (or injustice), nighttime ambushes and bushwhacking, and episodes of scorching six-shooter finality. Baz met his end in a brothel brawl at the hands of John Selman, the same gunfighter who killed John Wesley Hardin.
About the Author
BOB ALEXANDER began a policing career in 1965 and retired as a special agent with the U.S. Treasury Department. He is the author of Rawhide Ranger, Ira Aten (winner of WWHA Best Book Award); Six-Shooters and Shifting Sands,Bad Company and Burnt Powder, Riding Lucifer's Line, and Winchester Warriors, all published by UNT Press. He lives in Maypearl, Texas.
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Whiskey River Ranger
The Old West Life of Baz Outlaw
By Bob Alexander
University of North Texas PressCopyright © 2016 Bob Alexander
All rights reserved.
A Magnetic Lone Star
LEE COUNTY, DUE NORTH OF ALBANY, GEORGIA, was pleasantly sited in the southeastern section of what in due time would be nicknamed the Peach State. It was a part of the Old Plantation South. There the Alabama-born Meshack Napoleon Bonaparte Outlaw, subsequent to his 1847 graduation from the Medical College of New York City, upheld his medical practice as a country physician. And although now it might seem insignificant in the overall story, such will not prove to be true: Meshack's older brother by four years, Young Pinckney "Y.P." Outlaw, a veteran of the Florida Indian Wars and former Dooly County deputy sheriff, chose to forego his position as an industrious and heavy-hitter Georgia cotton broker in Bibb County, near Macon. The ever adventurous Y.P. had opted to try his hand at something new. Migrating to the Lone Star State, settling at pretty Seguin, Guadalupe County, just a touch northeast of the Alamo City, Y.P. Outlaw took up the cattleman's life, becoming a "stock raiser."
Meanwhile, in Lee County, by his wife Mourning Temperance "Mona" (Smith) Outlaw, the twenty-eight-year old physician had fathered his first child, Young M. Outlaw, named after his uncle now with a Texas address. Doctor Outlaw was then, and could now be, journalistically characterized as a member of that stereotypical social and economic cultural class, an aristocrat. Quite naturally that portrayal, assuredly historically accurate, would also suggest at least a reasonable degree of economic affluence, an assertion somewhat borne out by the fact that the good Dr. M.N.B. Outlaw was a slave owner and at the bare minimum, a gentleman farmer.
Whether Dr. Outlaw personally handled a hands-on delivery is not now known and really is somewhat irrelevant; perhaps practiced midwives welcomed the new baby into the world that late summer or early fall of 1854. At any rate it may be spoken with reasonably accurate clarity, Bazzell Lamar Outlaw was born.
Though it's historically somewhat foggy, the best guess is that while Young M. Outlaw was yet a toddler in diapers and infant Baz was whining for breast milk, their loving mother Mona passed to the other side, dying on the twenty-second day of October 1854, probably due to natural causes — an undisclosed or unidentified malady. There certainly — as of now — is no sound reason for any idle speculation regarding a suicide, homicide, buggy wreck, or divorce, or whether she died as a result of the childbirth. What may be spoken with confidence is that Dr. M.N.B. Outlaw remarried, this time taking a teenaged wife eighteen years his junior, Mary Ann Elizabeth (Smith) Outlaw. The new blushing bride was Mona's niece, the daughter of her brother Britton Gainer Smith and his wife Sarah (Livingston) Smith. Not surprisingly Doctor Outlaw's young second wife would love her two stepsons as her own, and they due to tender ages when Mona had passed, would only know one mother, Mary Ann.
Of course, as an infant, little could he have had knowledge of 1854's agenda of current events, but tough happenings and harbingers for forthcoming episodes of Texas history would in due course significantly impact Baz's life and place in the wild and woolly Old West. Settlers and speculators hunting prosperity both before and during the Republic of Texas era had long contended with raiding Indians. One such industrious foray during 1840 had been a humdinger. Comanche traveling from the Texas interior, raiding and killing and plundering near the village of Victoria, had moved twenty-odd miles south to the Gulf Coast. There a few frightened folks had speedily hopped into rowboats, seeking safety in the over-your-head waters of Lavaca Bay. Even subsequent to Texas statehood, during the year of Baz Outlaw's birth, Texans, Rangers, the U.S. Army, and Indians were yet vigorously and violently making war.
On the ninth day of May in what is now southern Jim Wells County, but then Nueces County almost due west of Corpus Christi by thirty miles, Lieutenant George B. Cosby and eleven troopers of Companies F and I, U.S. Mounted Rifles, and a band of forty Lipan Apaches tried their darnedest to kill one another. Although designated as Mounted Rifles, for as yet an elusive explanation, the tall-in-the-saddle soldiers were armed only with handguns. The Lipan Apaches were plentifully supplied with arrows, and exceptionally skilled at unleashing them with near unerring accuracy. Lieutenant Cosby caught one arrow to the chest, a second to the arm. Sergeant John Byrne's head was creased by an arrow, his horse a runaway straight into the lair of Indians. He was killed outright. Two other troopers became separated from their comrades and paid the ultimate sacrifice for service on the terrible Texas frontier. Maybe Lieutenant Cosby, who survived, was close in tallying the Lipan Apaches' loss at three dead, two wounded — or perhaps not.
Shortly, west of the above-mentioned battleground, Captain Michael E. Van Buren with a sixteen-man detail from Companies A and H, U.S. Mounted Rifles, fought a hard engagement with Comanche Indians wherein the warriors suffered the heaviest loss, five killed, but the troopers' commander was a mortal casualty. Sixty days after Captain Van Buren's succumbing to a Comanche's handiwork, Captain John G. Walker sallied forth from Fort Inge in surveyed but yet to be organized Uvalde County, territory Baz Outlaw would come to know quite well. Guided by a whiz at following marauding Indians' trails, Policarpo "Polly" Rodriguez, Captain Walker and his combined forty-man detachment from Companies D and K, Mounted Rifles, were intent on overhauling a band of Lipan Apaches and recovering their purloined livestock, as well as issuing punishment for such audacity as crossing the Rio Grande and raiding into the Lone Star State. On Texas soil not too terribly far removed north from the Mexican village of Piedras Negras the soldiers found their quarry, but earned more than they bargained for: 300 Indians. Nevertheless Captain Walker ordered the bugler to sound the "Charge" and the fight commenced in earnest. Seven Lipan Apaches died. Several federal troopers were wounded, including Polly Rodriguez and Lieutenant Eugene A. Carr, but none were killed. Wisely Captain Walker called time-out, opting to retire from the battlefield and transport his injured men back to Fort Inge where medical attention was available.
Seemingly there was no letup. Near what would become Batesville, Texas, in Zavala County, Captain Benjamin H. Arthur commanded a small squadron that killed two Lipan Apaches. And before the year 1854 was extinguished, way out in West Texas, near Fort Davis, Lieutenant Theodore Fink at the front of Company G, 8th Infantry, fought Mescalero Apaches, who after killing three enlisted men vanished. Texas was a bleeding mess. Texans, especially those staking their financial futures on the frontier, were more-or-less fed up with the U.S. Army's supposed impotency.
Although trying to particularize the reasons Doctor Outlaw moved about in Georgia would be tricky, nevertheless such would be the case. By the time Baz Outlaw was six years old the family was living near what would become Valdosta, Lowndes County. What Baz and his older brother by four years, Young M. Outlaw, thought about relocating goes unrecorded. Their baby sister Mary Elizabeth — four years old at the time — and Morgan, measuring his earthly existence at but three years when the family moved, would have had no option or opinion, nor could have had the baby, Emma, not yet twenty-four months. At age twenty-one, the seemingly ever expecting and fertile Mary Ann had been a regular — figurative — baby-factory.Clearly, the M.N.B. Outlaw family may not have been wealthy but they were, for the time and place, pretty well fixed. Doctor Meshack Outlaw's personal property appraised at $25,820 and his real estate holding added another $4,900.
About the time Baz and his family moved to Lowndes County, ironically, was the same timeframe that folks at the county seat, Troupville, learned that a new railway line was proposed by the Gulf & Atlantic Railroad's powerbrokers. The new steel ribbon of tracks would connect Savannah, Georgia, to Mobile, Alabama. As townsmen soon discovered, the railroad right-of-way missed Troupville by a paltry four miles to the southeast. Unsuccessful with efforts to change railroad executives' minds or effect new surveys readjusting the route, Troupville's movers and shakers opted to pick up and relocate the town. Troupville died. Valdosta was born, formally incorporated on December 7, 1860.
With no shortage of bountiful black dirt in places and near virgin sandy loam soils in others, fertile Lowndes County was a fine growing country for cotton — Sea Island Cotton — pecans, peanuts, and tobacco as would be the towering timber industry in later years when pine and oak forests were commercially harvested. Life for near anyone in pre-Civil War Lowndes County, after a few fits and starts, was on the upswing. During the tragically futile war, however, growth and greatness sidestepped Valdosta. Harrowing bloody engagements would not be elements of Valdosta's rich history, but refugees fast flocking to southern Georgia, Lowndes County included, would make their marks of squalor, overpopulation, and a wretched depletion of commodities sometimes taken for granted.
The same could not be said regarding Y.P. Outlaw — that part about the war passing him by. When the Guadalupe Rangers Cavalry Company, CSA, was being recruited by Captain John P. White at Seguin, Y.P. put his name on the dotted line, with the guarantee that he and his fellow enlistees would serve "wherever needed in the State." Leading a rugged life on the bloody Texas Frontier had toughened the transplanted Georgian. For his second go-round Y.P. signed on as a farrier in the Texas Mounted Rifles, Company D, then captained by William L. Foster, under the overall command of Colonel P. C. Wood. For this tour of duty Y.P. had committed for a period of "three years" or duration of the war.
While kinfolks at Valdosta would not see blood and guts and savor the metallic taste of fear on the battlefronts, Y.P. would: Particularly during the battle at Blair's Landing, the engagement wherein in General Tom Green was killed. In fact, Y.P. Outlaw was so close to the general when grapeshot tore off the top of his head — "exposing the brain, but without breaking the membrane that inclosed [sic] it" — he too was splattered with Tom Green's blood. Though they dutifully tried under the rain of an intense bombardment to remove the general's body from the crimson-stained battleground, Y.P. was forced to jump up behind Nathan Busby, who had caught Tom Green's horse, and ride hell-for-leather for shelter and cover in "the brush and cane further back." Y.P. Outlaw was wounded twice — not severely — and two bullets tore through his campaign hat before that day ended. With a macabre twist of honoring the slain general, Y.P. refused to wash Tom Green's blood from his clothing, just allowing for time and weather to accomplish that end. Y.P. saw other harrowing frontline service during the battles of Yellow Bayou and Marksville, but kept his body parts intact enough to honorably take leave of the war, returning to Seguin where he would ultimately take a wife.
A promising future was to be had, especially at Valdosta. Well, most people there had a reasonably expectant bright future. One, John Henry "Doc" Holliday, who had been born at Griffin, Georgia, between Atlanta and Macon three years ahead of Baz's birthday, seemed intently bent on self-destruction, whatever the underlying psychological reasons.
Though armed clashes between Union and Confederate forces in and around Lowndes County were noticeably absent, resentment through the prickly era of Reconstruction was omnipresent at Valdosta. With freedmen holding public office and city streets patrolled by black policemen, bitterness ran high. The lid would soon blow off, literally. Richard Force, ex-Confederate and wounded veteran of Gettysburg, was alleged to have assaulted a black man. Nineteen-year-old Force was arrested and detained for awhile — a little while. Richard's escape from incarceration had been perfectly executed — walking out the lockup's backdoor. Escapee Force was, of course, a fugitive from occupying military forces, but had the undying support of most Valdosta townsmen — especially the younger crowd, of which fourteen-year-old Baz Outlaw was one. Elated that their likeminded confederate had daringly gained his freedom — though lying low — a celebratory party was kicked off at Richard Force's home. Frustrated Union soldiers getting wind of the possibility of Richard Force in attendance, advanced with sharpened bayonets and plenty of bullets. During a heated dustup Richard Force was shot — critically wounded — and in time would forever succumb to the injury. Lady Luck had overseen Richard Force's nondescript survival at Gettysburg, but had only saved him for martyrdom at Valdosta: Richard Force's death was cause célèbre. The Old South was yet alive! Those disgraceful Yankees, well, they could just go straight to Hell.
Subsequent to an intransigence regarding change on the part of dyed-in-the-wool Southerners, Radical Republicans now the powerbrokers, initiated Phase II of Reconstruction. The U.S. Army had taken control of the South, now divided on paper and in fact into military districts. General John Pope assumed command of the Third Military District, to later be replaced by General George F. Meade. Heated political machinations and shenanigans were at a fever pitch; white Georgians tried mightily to "keep the state from falling into the hands of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and blacks." Dr. Outlaw was on call as a state guardsman.
On the fourth day of April 1868 a Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress, J.W. Clift, made his campaigning appearance at Valdosta. Forgoing strictures that he must first attain a permit for any rallies, Clift forged ahead with his politicking, championing an assembly set to take place during late afternoon or early evening on the courthouse lawn. Though some of Valdosta's prominent local politicos were there, as well as other curious whites, the predominant crowd were freedmen. Candidate Clift harangued from front courthouse steps, while a fast burning fuse was shortening behind the building. The thunderous ovation from Clift's supporters was near deafening, but not near as loud as the explosion.
Thankfully the keg of powder — loosely packed — and the apparent absence of metal shrapnel caused more scare than injury to spectators or significant destruction to Lowndes County's gemstone courthouse. Pride was the victim. The terroristic act was condemned. Local lawmen made arrests and local lawbreakers made bond. A forgiving newspaper correspondent writing for theSouth Georgia Times extolled: "It is idle to suppose there was any intention on the part of the boys, if they did it, to blow up their friends and relatives."
Federal authorities were not inclined to such benevolence. Soldiers rearrested A.H. Darnell, Ben Smith, John Rambo, John Calhoun, and Iverson Griffin. Needless to say their quite prominent fathers were not happy. Their displeasure was ratcheted up a notch after learning that their "prank" playing sons had been hustled off to Savannah in chains.Somewhat later others were implicated, several being quite young. By most accounts, during the latter roundup, the then teenage John Henry Holliday — along with others unidentified — were criminally charged.Certainly any assertion that Baz Outlaw, at age fourteen, was in some way involved would measure as but wild guesswork, on the other hand it is fascinating conjecture — and possible, taking into account his family's presence at or near Valdosta and Baz's appetite for aggression. Nonetheless, elders at Valdosta thought the participating boys were heroes. In the end, no penalties were forthcoming in state or federal courts or by any military commissions, criminal charges having fallen into the abyss of indifference.
Detailing the day by day childhood activities for the subjects of most biographical profiles is normally weighted with an abundance of speculation, a shortage of sustainable hardcore facts. The early life of Baz Outlaw does not qualify as an exception. There are, though, reasoned inferences that may be fairly drawn. That he was literate is true — and from examples of his penmanship and literary construction — quite articulate, too. Whether formally schooled or simply homeschooled — at this point in time — is immaterial, though later there is confirmation of classroom attendance. In the traditional sense of Old South hospitality and congeniality young Baz Outlaw was cultured and courteous, almost to a fault. He was conversant and a good dancer, self-assured and accomplished at mingling within the upper-echelon social and accomplished at mingling within the upper-echelon social and economic strata. He was by birthright imbued with another doctrine of Old South legacy — the Code of the Duello. The debts of certain wrongs or perceived wrongs could be settled in but one way — with blood. Sometimes it was the "only recourse left" to diehard Southern gentlemen. Stepping on Baz's sense of honor — purposefully or inadvertently — was risky.
Excerpted from Whiskey River Ranger by Bob Alexander. Copyright © 2016 Bob Alexander. Excerpted by permission of University of North Texas Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 A Magnetic Lone Star 1
2 Great Prudence and Good Judgment 28
3 A Fighting Business-Robbing a Train 65
4 Making the Shoe Pinch Too Close 91
5 One of the Worst and Most Dangerous 121
6 Worth Two or Three Ordinary Men 146
7 Couldn't Leave Liquor Alone 168
8 Insulted in the Presence of Ladies 194
9 Simply Cannot Control Himself 223
10 Undaunted Courage and Fine Generalship 251
11 In Arrest When He Died 268
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