I love history particularly when it involves individuals doing great things. The history I’m more than a little tired of involves people, usually politicians, who don’t actually do anything at all other than talk about doing something or yapping about having someone else do something. Talking doesn’t do anything; doing is what does something. I’m so tired of talkers thinking they’re doers.
Which brings us to Marshal Bass Reeves. Bass was a deserter from the Confederate Army. He went to The Indian Territory which we know today as Oklahoma and it is believed he fought with the Union Army and the Union Indian Brigades during the Civil War.
According to his biographer, Bass is said to have arrested more than 3,000 people and killed 14 outlaws. He was an imposing man at 6′ 2″ who also was good with a rifle and pistol. He was never wounded.
He was known for wearing disguises upon occasion. In one story, he dressed up as a beggar and convinced the mother of two outlaws to feed him which she did. When her sons returned, he handcuffed both of her sons to their beds as they slept. The next day he began walking them 28 miles back to his camp.
Another of his exploits was reported in the Indian Chieftain in September 1884
Bass Reeves on his last trip had an experience that came near cutting short his usefulness and did send one man where he won’t fool with other people’s horses. He had warrants for two men, Frank Buck and John Bruner. While up the Canadian looking for prisoners he came on these men but did not know them. He inquired for other parties whom he was after and Buck and Bruner volunteered to guide him. At noon all parties camped, and while they were getting dinner he noticed Bruner stealthily pulling his pistol. Suspecting something he stepped behind his horse and around to the front of Bruner and grabbed his pistol before he had time to use it, and at the same time pulled his own. Glancing over his shoulder Buck was seen getting out his weapon, when as quick as a flash Reeves, still holding Bruner’s pistol in one hand, threw over his other and shot Buck dead. Bruner was then secured and is now on his way to Fort Smith where he will have to answer to a double charge.
He also could not be corrupted. When his own son was charged with murdering his wife, he simply asked “give me the writ” and did his duty. His son was sentenced to life in prison.
Reeves was forced into retirement in 1907 when Oklahoma gained statehood because African-Americans weren’t allowed to be deputy marshals under the new laws.
I’m sorry? What? My bad — did I forget to mention that Bass Reeves was black?
When he was with the Confederate Army, he was, of course, a slave who had gone with his master’s son — one George Reeves who was a Colonel in the Confederate Army. It’s possible that Bass “deserted” the Confederate Army over a card game that led to fisticuffs.
It just seemed like a good day to tell the story of another American hero.
If you’re interested in reading the biography of Bass Reeves, click the photo below.