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 Colorado Outlaws

The Bummers Gang

Bummers Gang
Source: Wikipedia
The Bummers gang was a western outlaw gang that operated in the Colorado Territory between 1855 to 1860, led by Eddie "the Shooter" Coleman.

The Bummers began raiding the areas of Auraria, Colorado in the mid-1850s, continuing until a vigilante committee of ten local townspeople was formed by the local sheriff "Quick Draw" Mcgraw in1860. The suspected gang members were arrested on minor charges and then prompty lynched. The lynchings continued until the remaining members of the gang had fled the area.

88. The Bummers (1863)

By Reverend George Hughes Hepworth
Source: American History Told by Contemporaries: Welding of the Nation, 1945-1900, by John Gould Curtis pg 268, 1915
Transcribed by J.S.


Hepworth was a clergyman who was with the Union army in Louisiana in 1862 and 1863, first as chaplain of a Massachusetts regiment and later as a member of General Banks's staff. The piece is inserted to show a very common and depressing side of the war - the demoralized soldier. -Biography as in No. 84 above.

After our column reached Opelousas, I left it, intending to go on with my work in the labor system; and I found but one thing, that, to my mind, marred the glory of our march through the Teche. That was the extensive system of plundering and pillaging with was carried on by the stragglers, -a class of men sufficiently large to attract attention. I afterwards found that their practices had been made known to the general, and that several of the offenders had been condemned to be shot. I am not one of those who would have mercy on a rebel; but even war is not exactly barbarism: it does not give a soldier license to do as he chooses with what does not belong to him. . . .

What made me more indignant was the fact, that the men who were bearing the brunt of the battle were not the ones who were enriching themselves. They simply hewed a way, through which others, less worthy, came at their leisure. The stragglers numbered not more than five hundred in all. These did all the mischief. One of these we found in the Newtown jail, with a thousand dollars in gold and silver on his person. If you should go up to any cottage within fifty miles of the rear, you would probably find some five or six of these fellows sitting in the gallery, smoking, sleeping, or boasting of their exploits. If you should take the trouble to empty their pockets, you would find an assortment of articles sufficiently large for a Jew to commence business with. They would show you gold pencils, silver spoons, and large rolls of Confederate bills, and offer to sell you relics enough to fill a good-sized museum. There was an independence or an audacity about these fellows which was very striking. They would enter a house with the air of one who owned the place, and order the landlord to prepare dinner for two or three, as the case might be; and, while the frightened Creole was hurrying and bustling to do their bidding, they were quietly opening all his drawers, looking under his beds, unlocking his trunks, and making whatever discoveries they could. Perhaps by the time dinner was announced, the whole party would have donned a new suit of clothes; and, not satisfied with eating the best the poor man had, would proceed to fill their pockets with his watches, his wife's jewelry, and all the little articles of vertu which could be found. At Franklin, Mr. Secesh and his family were quietly seated at the breakfast-table. Upon congratulating himself, that, so far, his property had remained intact, he saw half a dozen soldiers just entering the gate. They came very leisurely into the room where he sat with his wife and children, and politely requested them to rise from the table, and make room for Uncle Sam's boys; then, after having satisfied their hunger with what the planter had supplied for himself, they pocketed every silver fork and spoon, and as leisurely took their departure. I confess, that, in this particular instance, I heard Mr. Secesh whine about his trouble, with a great deal of inward chuckling. He was a bad man, a Northern man, an adventurer, who had married a large plantation, and out-Heroded Herod in his virulence against the Yankees.

But the practice I most deelpy deplore. Once I came near getting into difficulty by trying to check it. I remained all night with a man who had suffered severly from these military thieves. About five o'clock in the morning, I was roused by a tremedous noise down stairs. Dressing myself with all due haste, I went to the window, and, looking down, saw one of the gang just emerging from the cellar window below, his arms and pockets full of plunder. Presenting my pistol to his caput, I demanded what he was doing. He turned suddenly, caught sight of the ugly little revolver close to his brains, with a rapidity only equalled by a turtle drawing in his head when struck, he tumbled back into the room, greatly surprised. I went to the door to find the rest of the gang, when I was met by the roundest and most complete cursing it has ever been my fortune to receive. Expletives which I had supposed were long since obsolete, and all the most damnatory phrases in our language, were used with refreshing license. The men had screened themselves on the other side of a bayou; and when I drew my weapon on them, they dodged behind the levee, and made good their escape. Just then, I recollected that I was in my shirt-sleeves, and without any insignia of rank, and started for the house to get my coat. I had proceeded but a few steps, however, when I found myself surrounded by five of the gang, each with his musket. A pretty fix to be in, surely! The rascals might shoot me, and then swear that I was a planter who had offered them violence. Nothing but the most unadulterated bravada would clear me. So, just as I was pondering what it was best to do, the fellow who had played the turtle so beautifully, quietly cocked his musket, and said,- "Throw down your pistol, or I will shoot?"

This, of course, was unendurable. My pistol had on it the name of the friend who gave it to me, and it was one of the last things to be given up,.

He repeated his very praiseworthy determination to shoot me; when I rather took him by surprise by bellowing in my loudest tones,- "Sirrah, I place you under arrest; and, if you, budge an inch, you shall become intimately acquainted with that" (displaying my pistol to the best possible advantage). "Shoulder arms!" I repeated, as loud as I could bawl.

The fellow was completely disconcerted, and actually came to the shoulder arms; when I put on the coat I had sent for (having on shoulder-straps, of course), and placed the fellow under arrest. But I never preferred charges against him, and so the matter ended as a joke.
George H. Hepworth, The Whip, Hoe, and Sword, or The Gulf-Department in '63 (Boston, 1864), 278-283 passim.


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