Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi
by George H. Devol
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I was going from Baton Rouge to New Orleans on the steamer Grand Duke, one New Year's eve, and had spent a great deal of money at the bar for wine. The barkeeper was an Italian with a great name, which was Napoleon. I said to him, "Nap, I hear you have sixty dozen eggs on board; suppose you treat me to an eggnog." "Oh, no; me no treat; if you pay, me make some." "If you don't treat me to an eggnog, I will quit buying wine," I said, and walked out. I went to Daniel Findlay, the steward, and told him how stingy old "Nap" was to me. Dan said, "Never mind, George; I'll fix him and his eggs." He told the cook to fire up, and then get those sixty dozen eggs and boil them hard as h—l. After they were all hard- boiled, they put them into cold water, and then put them back into the box. I went back to the bar, and waited until Dan sent me word that all was ready; then I said to old Nappy, "I was only in fun; I wanted to see if you could make a good eggnog." "I make good eggnoggy as anybody," said Nap. "Well, I tell you what I will do; if you will make enough to treat all the passengers, I will give you $10," I said. "All right," says he, and started to the storeroom to get his sugar, milk, eggs, etc. He soon returned, loaded down with stock. He got out his large bowl, and then cracked one of the eggs. It didn't crack to suit him; he looked at it, and then said to me, "Lookey dat! a chick in the first egg!" He threw that one out of the window, and then cracked another, which was just like the first; then he said, "Me boughty the egg for fresh; no good; all rot." Then he broke another, and another, and finally he broke one open and found it hard boiled; then he said, "Who biley the egg? Me give five dollie to know who biley the egg!" His Italian blood was up to fever heat, and it was some time before we could get a drink of any kind. He sold the eggs in market when we got to New Orleans. We did not have our eggnog that New Year's eve, but we had the best laugh at the expense of old Napoleon that I ever had in my life.


I was coming down from the Memphis races on the R. W. Hill. There were about twenty-five gamblers on the boat, and they were all crazy for a game of faro. I told them I had a set of tools on board that I would loan them if they wanted to open. They accepted the offer, and took turns in opening "snaps." Some opened as high as $1,000 at a time. I was playing poker, and did not pay much attention to their game. After supper I told them that I would open a $1,000 "snap," and they could tap it when they pleased. When I sat down to deal, I had a matched set of boxes; you could not tell one from the other. One box was fixed for all the cases to lose, and this I kept secreted. They knocked me out of $400 on one deal; on the next deal I shuffled up the same cards and put them in the box, so they could see that everything was on the square. As I did so, my partner tipped over a big lot of silver on the layout, which he had stacked up on purpose to draw their attention, and I came the change on the boxes and threw my handkerchief over the box I held in my lap. Everything went on all right. The first case that showed on the case-keeper they all jumped on to play it open, as they wanted to break the snap, as then I would open another; but the case lost, and I was a good big winner over the last deal. When it came to another case, they played it to win, and it lost; but they did not think anything was wrong, so they kept firing away till they were all pretty well crippled in money matters. They played the deal out, and nearly all were broke. At the end of the deal I said, "Boys, I will have to quit you, as it is too much of a seesaw game;" and then they commenced to smell a rat, and you would have given $100 to have heard them cursing for not watching me shuffle that deal. The game closed with nearly all the money won; some of them I had to loan money, to pay their expenses.


I won a Juergunsen watch one time from a Jew. I put $1,000 against it. After I got the watch the Jew came to me and said: "Look here, I want to tell you something. I bought that watch for $5. It is not worth that much, so help me gracious; but I bought it for a brother on a farm, and he don't know the difference. I'll tell you what I do; I will give you $10 for it, for I don't want to fool him, as I am going out there now." I told him it was good enough to give to a boy, and I would keep it for a black boy I had. "I tell you what I do; rather than let a nigger boy get it, I'll give you $15." I said "No." He kept raising till he got to $400. As I knew I could get no more, I let him have it. After he got the watch he commenced to laugh and said he cheated me, for the watch cost him $600. I knew what they cost, for I had priced the same watches, and they were worth $600 at that time. It was one of the finest make, split seconds, and had an alarm. The cases were very heavy, with a diamond in the stem that would weigh a karat. The Jew thought he had beat me, but he seemed to forget that I had beat him first.


"Yet fondly we ourselves deceive, And empty hopes pursue; Though false to others, we believe She will to us prove true."

On my way up the river on board the old steamer Natchez (the boat that was burned up during the war), I won some money and a check for $4,000 on the Louisiana State Bank of New Orleans. The check was signed by one of the largest planters on the coast, and I knew it was good if presented before payment was stopped; so I took passage on the Mary Kean (one of the fastest boats on the river), bound for New Orleans. We landed in the city about 4 o'clock Monday morning. I got a cab to take me down to the French market to get a cup of coffee before going to my room. As I was passing the St. Louis Hotel on my way from the market, I saw a man that I recognized as hailing from Cincinnati (I will not give his name). He appeared to be glad to see me; but I could see he was not at his ease, so after a little while I thought I would sound him, so I said, "What was that trouble you got into in Cincinnati?" He looked at me in surprise, and said: "How did you hear about it?" (there was no telegraph line from Cincinnati to New Orleans in those days). I told him it was all right, and he could trust me. I invited him to take breakfast with me; he accepted the invitation, and told me he would tell me about himself when we were in a more private place. After breakfast, we walked over to the bank, and I drew the $4,000 on the planter's check; then we went to my room, and he told me his story. He was a bookkeeper for a large pork house; became infatuated with a gay married woman, made false entries, and finally ran away with the enticing married woman. I advised him to put on a disguise, for I knew the police would soon be looking for him. He invited me to go with him and see his lady love, for said he, "She is one of the truest and best women in the world." I went with him, and met a very fine looking lady. I did not blame him very much for being infatuated; but I wondered how much money he did get away with, and how am I going to get my share; for I always felt that it was my duty (as an honest man) to win stolen money. I soon found out he had about $8,000 of other people's money, and I wanted it. I first taught him to play poker, so he could be in with me the first time we caught a sucker. I got Clark to play the part, and he beat us out of $6,000, most of which was "pork money." "The best and truest woman in the world" ran off with another fellow, which little thing nearly broke my young friend's heart; but in a short time he went to Galveston, Texas, got into a large cotton house, and the last time I saw him he said, "George, we live and learn. That little game made a man of me."


My partner and I were waiting at the mouth of Red River for a boat to take us to New Orleans. There was a man who had twelve bales of cotton on the wharf, and he was also waiting for a boat. I told my partner to get acquainted with him, and to keep away from me. The result was that they were good friends when a boat arrived. We all took passage, the cotton was loaded, and we were on our way. I opened up the three-card racket; my partner won $100, and then the cotton man was crazy, for he did not have any money to bet. My partner told him he would loan him some on his cotton. They went to the clerk, who made out a bill of sale for the twelve bales. He got the money, and then he was happy, for he was sure of doubling it with me. He was happy but for a short time. I had all his money, and my partner had all of his cotton, so he (being a good friend) let him have some money to pay his expenses. He did not remain long, so the cost was not very heavy. The cotton was worth about 121/2 cents per pound at that time, but during the war it was many times that price. I was never very much stuck on cotton, as it was too bulky to get away with in case you had to leave a boat in a hurry.


I was playing poker with a man, who, after I had broke him, went to a gentleman friend of his and promised him twenty-five dollars for the loan of $500 until he got home. As he was worth a great deal of money, his friend loaned him the $500. After he got a new stake, he came to me and wanted to renew the play. I had played a square game, and, believing him to be a gentleman, I sat down to play the same way; but I soon saw he thought himself a better player than myself, so I lit into the new stake, and it was not long until I had him broke again. Then he went to the Captain and set up a great kick. The Captain said to him, "If you had won the money, would you have given it back?" He said, "Captain, I give you my word of honor that I would." "Then," says the Captain, "why did you pay twenty-five dollars for the loan of the money?" "Oh," says he, "I only wanted to teach him a lesson." "Well," says the Captain, "if you pay twenty-five dollars every time you want to teach such men as he is a lesson, you will soon get broke. I can't do anything for you, my fine fellow."

The passengers laughed at him, and some called him "a good teacher" (and that broke him all up). He soon sneaked off to his room, and that was the last I saw of my teacher.


I was a passenger on the steamer Belle Zane during the winter season, and navigation was expected to be closed soon, as the river was full of floating ice. We had a large number of passengers on board, and were getting along very well until we left the Ohio. We had left Cairo, and were steaming down the Mississippi, when the boat struck a snag, and in a very short time had sunk down to the cabin. It was about four o'clock in the morning, but I was up (as usual). We had the passengers out of their rooms in quick time, and got them up on the roof in their night clothes, as there was no time for them to dress. In a few moments the cabin separated from the deck, floated off, and then sank down until we were standing in the ice and water nearly knee deep. It was a terrible sight; such a one as I hope and pray I may never see again. Men, women, and children standing amid the floating ice nearly frozen to death, and expecting every moment to sink into a watery grave. Some were screaming for help, others were praying, while others stood as if they were lost. I caught up one poor woman, who was nearly frozen to death, and held her in my arms above the water. Others did the same, while the crew and some of the passengers tore the boards off the pilot-house, and tried to paddle the wreck to shore. We floated down until we struck a point. The men that were doing the paddling jumped off onto the shore, and then held on to the wreck until they swung it around into an eddy. We got all the passengers off, but it was about a mile to the nearest house. We were all nearly freezing, and there was not one of us that did not have our feet frozen. We had no fire, nor any way to make one. Some of us who were lucky enough to have coats took them off, and wrapped up the women and children. We then took them to a house that was about a mile distant, and the good people did all in their power to make us comfortable. The news reached Cairo, and they sent a boat, with blankets, provisions, and medical aid to our relief. Three or four men jumped overboard, and tried to swim ashore, but got chilled, and were drowned. Some of the women were frozen so badly that they did not survive. I feel the effect in my feet to this day, and the accident happened over thirty years ago.


"When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war." When Jew meets Jew, they want each other's gore.

We were going down the river from Baton Rouge at one time, and I had an old fellow with me they called "Jew Mose." There was a young Jew from Vidalia on board, and Mose got him into a game of euchre. We had not played long until the young Jew said, "I have got a good poker hand." Mose spoke up and said, "My hand is worth ten dollars." Then the young one put up his money, and as Mose had nothing, he backed out. I saw Vidalia had some nerve and money, so on my deal I ran up two hands, giving the young one four kings and the old one four aces. Mose said, "I have a poker hand." Vidalia said, "My hand is worth twenty-five dollars," and he put up. I tipped my hand to him, and raised it $100, at the same time giving Mose the office not to raise, as I thought it was all the fellow would stand. They both called; we showed down, and Mose had won the money. He made a reach for it, when Vidalia made a grab, but Mose was too quick for him. Then the young one jumped up and said to Mose, "You are a Jew and I'm a Jew, and you shan't have my money." Mose would not give up, so at it they went. They hit, bit, scratched, gouged, and pulled hair, until they were rolling around in each other's gore. Everybody came running to see what had broken loose, and it was ducks to see those two fellows fight. Neither would give up, and it is no telling how long the circus tumbling would have kept up, if the officers of the boat had not separated them. After the fight the cabin looked as if we had been fighting a half-dozen Newfoundland dogs from the amount of blood and black hair that was on the floor. The young one told Mose if he ever came to Vidalia he would lick him, so we supposed from that remark that he did not feel satisfied with the result. Poor old Mose did not live long enough to visit Vidalia so the young one could make his word good for he went up to Chicago, and soon after died.


I beat a man at poker out of $1,200 on the steamer Wild Wagoner. After he quit playing he asked me where I would get off. I told at the mouth of Red River. When I left the boat I saw my friend had concluded to stop at the same place. It was not long before an officer called on me to take a walk with him, and we said, "We will go up and see the Judge." When we arrived at his Honor's place of business, I found that my twelve-hundred-dollar friend was there before me. The Judge spoke to him before he did to me, and said, "How did this man swindle you out of your money?" "We were playing poker, your Honor." "Do you call playing poker swindling?" said the Judge. "Well, your Honor, he must have swindled me; for every time I had a good hand he would beat it," said he. "If that is all the evidence you have, the case is closed, the defendant is dismissed, and you will be held for the costs," said his Honor. I told the Judge I would pay the costs if he would let the fellow go. He accepted the proposition, and that night I had the honor of playing in the same game with the Judge, and I played a square game for once in my life, for fear I would have another friend who would want to see me at his Honor's office.


I had beat a man out of $600 on the railroad from New Orleans to Jackson. I saw that if I got off he would put me to some trouble, so I kept on until I got to Canton, twenty-five miles above. He followed me there, and had me arrested. The trial was to come off in an hour, as it was meal time with the Judge. We were all assembled in the court-room, and the Judge wanted him to tell how I got his money. He said, "I could show you, Judge, if I had some cards." I pulled out some of the same cards I beat him with, and gave them to the Judge, and he wanted to know how they could bet money on the three cards. I said, "Judge, I will show you so you can understand." I took the cards and mixed them over a few times, telling the Judge to watch the jack. He did watch it, and he could turn it over every time, as one of the corners of the jack was turned up, and he said it was as fair a game as he ever saw. I told him I had two chances to his one; so he dismissed the case. I came near giving it to the Judge for a few dollars, and then give them back; but I thought best not to do so.

When the fellow went out of the court-room, the Canton boys laughed at him and called him a fool. After he left, the Judge and I went over to a saloon and had some cigars. He said he dearly loved to play poker; but I did not want any of his game, as I thought I might need him again some time; and it proved I was right, for it was not long after that I was coming down on the train from Vicksburg, and beat five or six of the passengers out of a few hundred dollars. When we got to Canton we were behind time and missed connection, and had to lay over until night. They had me arrested for the same trick, and taken before the same Judge; and you ought to have heard him after he found out how they had lost their money, for he just gave them a good old-fashioned turning over. He called them a lot of babies, and put the costs of the court on them. I got the Judge a box of fine cigars, and went down on the same train; but I was in the sleeper, and they did not see me until I got to New Orleans. I played poker in the sleeper all the way to the city, and did not lose very much as the game was small, and we played on the square. I met some of them at the opera the same night, and they had their opera glasses pointed at me for some time. I guess they wondered how I got there so soon.


"Love gives esteem, and then he gives desert; He either finds equality, or makes it. Like death, he knows no difference in degrees, But frames and levels all."

There was a dance in the cabin of the steamer Magnolia one night, which was a fine affair, as there were a great many wealthy people on board. I had not done any playing on the boat, so I put on my good harness, and went back into the ladies' cabin to join in the dance. I was introduced to a number of fine ladies, among whom was a beautiful young widow. She joined me in a waltz, another dance, and a promenade on the guards. I thought her the most agreeable and sweetest woman I had ever met in my life. I was in her society most of the time, until the dancing ceased, and then I bade her "good night, good night; parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow."

I met the fascinating widow the next day, and before I bade her good-by I had received a pressing invitation to visit her at her plantation; and, "boys," you can bet your life it was not long before I availed myself of the opportunity. During my visit I received every attention. The negroes could not have done more for their master. There was a nice lake on the plantation. The servants would drive the lady and I over to it, and we would enjoy ourselves at fishing for a few hours. On our return she would play and sing for me, and as I sat and looked at her I thought, What would I give if I was a square man, and how happy I could be with such a woman as my wife. I did not tell her my business, for fear she would think less of me. I could not endure the deception, so after three days of happiness I tore myself away, feeling as if I was "unfixed for life." In a short time she visited relatives in New Orleans, and sent me an invitation to call; but as I was acquainted with her friends, the same old dread came upon me, so I declined, with the excuse that I was compelled to leave the city the same evening on the steamer Judge McLean. We met again on board a steamer. She had been told my business, but she treated me more kindly than ever before. She begged me to quit gambling, and settle down. I partly agreed to do as she wished. We spent a very pleasant time together (for I would not attend to business while she was on the same boat).

Before she left the steamer she took off a large single-stone diamond ring, and said to me, "Wear this until we meet again." I tried to refuse it, but she insisted; so I at last accepted the token. I bade her good-by at the stage-plank, and went up on deck. She remained on the levee waving her handkerchief (and I returned the compliment) until we were out of sight. I talked to the clerk until I felt that I was myself again, and then I started out to find a sucker; for I had enjoyed the pleasure before business.

It was about three months before I saw my lady love again. I was glad to see her, and she appeared to be pleased at meeting me. Before we parted I put the ring back on her finger, but she said she did not want it; and I believe she meant what she said. I received another invitation to visit her at her plantation, which I have neglected to this day, and that has been over thirty years ago. I have often thought what a different man I might have been if I had accepted that last invitation. There is one thing that I am sure of, and that is, if I had married my "first love," I would not now be writing "Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi."


I got on the steamer B. L. Hodge at Baton Rouge, bound for New Orleans. It was on a New Year's eve; everybody was feeling jolly, and I felt somewhat that way myself. There were five tables of poker going at one time, so I opened up the good old game of monte for the benefit of a lot of Texas boys that didn't play poker. They all got around the table and watched me throw. In a short time my capper came up and wanted me to show him how to play the game. I showed him, and he wanted to bet a dollar. I told him if that was all the money he had, he had better keep it. He got as mad as a wet hen, and told me he had just as much money as I had. He pulled out a big roll and slashed down $1,000, saying, "I will bet you I can turn the winner." I said, "You can't bluff me," and I put up. He turned one of the cards and lost. While I was putting the money away, he picked up the cards and turned up a corner on the winner, letting the boys see what he had done; then he said to me, "Mix them up again," which I did, and he put down a roll, claiming it to be $500. He turned and won. Then the boys began to nudge each other and get nervous. The capper then said, "I will let it all lay, and bet you again." He turned and caught me for $1,000; and then you should have seen the boys from Texas. There never was such a cutting of cloths. One fellow pulled off his new coat and cut the lining nearly all to pieces; another took off his coat, vest, and shirt, for his money was sewed up in his undershirt; others had their money down their boot legs tied to a string, so that they could pull it up when they wanted it. They all wanted it just then, and they were in the biggest hurry of any suckers I ever saw. They all put up their pile, except two or three who had more than the rest. I told them to pick out one boy to turn the card, so they selected Jim, who was their leader. Jim made a grab for a sure thing; but when he turned it over, all the boys were sure they had lost their money. They took it good-naturedly, and said it was fair. One said I was the greatest man in the world, and if he could do it as slick as I did he could get all the money out in their country. I promised that I would come out and see them, and that they would all be in with me. I did not say just when I would keep my promise; and as I do not like too many partners, I have put it off over thirty years, in hopes that some of the boys would give it up and move out of the country, so if a slick man did get all of their money he would not have to divide up so often.


While waiting for a boat at Donelsville to take me to New Orleans, I fell in with a fellow who proposed a game of cards to pass the time until the boat arrived. We went into a saloon and sat down to play a game of poker. He brought out an old deck of marked cards (which I recognized the minute I saw them). We began to play. I knew the fellow took me for a sucker, so I let him play me with "his cards" until I got a chance to down him, which I did for all he had, amounting to about $80. About this time some one announced that a boat was coming, so I proposed to quit, but Mr. "Gambler" did not want any quit in his, so long as he was loser and he had a sucker. I knew he had but little (if any) money left, so I quit and started for the landing. The boat had arrived, and was just about ready to leave, when an officer stepped up to me and said, "I have a warrant for your arrest." "The h—l you have! What have I done?" "You have swindled a gentleman out of his money, sir," says he. "All right, sir; I will go with you." He took me before a magistrate and there was the fellow who had played the marked cards on me. The Justice wanted to know how I had swindled him. He said: "He put up the cards on me in a game of poker, and he is a gambler." You ought to have heard that old fellow give it to me. He said: "How dare you, sir, come in this place and rob our respectable citizens out of their money? I will teach you a lesson that you will not soon forget." He was going on in this strain, when I stopped him by saying, "Hold on, your Honor; I would like to say a word." "Go on, sir." "Well," says I, "this man invited me to play a game of poker with him, and when we sat down to play he brought out this old deck of marked cards on me, and I happened to know them as well, if not better than he did. He took me for a sucker, and I beat him at his own game. He calls me a gambler, but he is much worse; for he attempted to rob me with those marked cards." "Show me the marks on those cards," said the Justice; so I walked up and began reading the cards by their backs to him. He watched me as I read the cards, until I called a ten spot and turned it over; then he grabbed it up and examined the back, and said: "Hold on; that will do; this is the same deck those d——d rascals have been playing on me; for the other night this ten of hearts fell in the spit, and here is the mark on it now. They have been swindling me for the last six months." Then turning to me, he said: "You are dismissed; but I will fine this rascal $50 and costs, and send him to jail if he does not pay it immediately." I thanked the Justice for his just decision, and took the next boat to New Orleans.


My partner, Hugh Foster, and I were on board the Elonzo Childs, bound for New Orleans. Foster had the reputation of being a wolf, and I did not have much use for him. He was acquainted with a man on board that claimed to have a man who had five thousand dollars, and he could make him lose against monte, but he wanted half or there would be no play. Foster told him to get his man into a state-room, and they would win the money, and not let Devol know anything about it. So Foster came to me and said, "George, we will not try to do anything until after we leave Cairo, will we?" "No," I said, "I want all the sleep I can get." Foster said he felt tired, and would go to bed. I knew that the sneak had some scheme on hand, so I went to my room, but I did not go to bed; I went out the back door and up on the roof, where I could see what was going on down in the cabin. I had not been on watch very long until I saw Foster come out of his room, and in a short time go into another with two gentlemen. I slipped down off the roof, went out on the guards, and called all the men into the barber shop. I told them I had a new game that I wanted to show them. It was a new game to them, and they were very much interested in it, as I let them win several small bets. After I got it well worked up, I said: "Now, gentlemen, I will not take any more small bets, but will bet $1,000 that no one can turn the jack the first time." Just then the barkeeper came in, and I said: "I will bet you $500 that you can't turn the jack." He counted out the money and put it up. I mixed them, and he turned up the winner. He then walked out, and I knew if there was any big money I would get it. I began to mix them again, when up stepped a big fellow and asked me what was the least I would bet. I sized him up, and then I said $1,000. He pulled out and put up. I counted out the same amount and put it up on my side of the table, so if there would be any snatching I could get there in time. I then saw he had some left, so I said I would back out and treat. This made him very anxious, and he said, "No, I will not let you back out." Then I said, "If you will not let me out, I will bet you $2,000, as I might as well be hung for an old sheep as a lamb." He put up the $2,000 and turned the card; but as I had two chances to his one, he made the same mistake that thousands had made before, and turned up the wrong one. He walked off without a word, and sat down on the guards. I kept an eye on him; but he was game, and took his medicine just as I had taken it many a time at the bank. I kept on playing until I had taken in all the pan-fish and a large white diamond stud that was worth about $1,000. Then I closed up shop and invited all to join me in a drink. They all accepted except my $2,000 friend. He was too busy thinking how it was that he had turned up the wrong card, when he could see so plainly that the right card had one corner bent. While we were drinking, in came Foster, and he looked as if he had just been pulled out of the river; for it was a very hot day, and the fellow had been in a close state-room for an hour, and had not won a cent. I said, "You look warm; come and join us in a drink." He took a drink, saying: "It was so hot I could not sleep." I took the diamond stud out of my pocket and showed it to the barkeeper. Foster saw it, and said: "George, I did not know that you had that stone." "What will you give for it?" said I. He looked at it, then offered me $500. I told him he could have it, so he paid me the money and put the stud in his shirt. In a few moments after he got the stone, a gentleman said to him: "That is a very fine stone; I am acquainted with the gentleman who lost it; he is a large jeweler in St. Louis." "You must be mistaken," said Foster. "Oh, no, I am not; for I saw him lose it in the barber shop about half an hour ago." Foster came to me and said: "George, you did not make a play, did you?" "Oh, yes; did you not make one yourself?" That made him look sick; but when a friend of mine came up and said, "Devol, you must have won $4,000 in that play," then he looked sicker. I said, "Yes, I guess I got about $4,000 out of it, and I will treat." While we were drinking, the barkeeper handed me the $500 he had won. I gave him $200 for his cap; and then Foster began to give me taffy. I told him I did not want anything more to do with him; that I had heard he was a sneak, etc. He got off at Cairo, and I was glad to get rid of him. I had a good wheel game down to Memphis, where I got off and lost $2,500 against faro. I took a boat for New Orleans, and made more than I lost in Memphis before I reached the city.


I was on board the City of Louisiana, bound for New Orleans. There was a large number of passengers, and a heavy load of freight. The roof was literally covered with coops full of chickens and turkeys. I had old monte running in full blast, but the chicken men could not bet, as they were going to market instead of coming away. They were so very much interested in the game that they forgot to watch their coops. After a while one of them went up, and found that some one had stolen some of the chickens. The pilot told him he saw the man taking them, so he went down and told the Captain, and he sent for the pilot to pick out the thief. They found him and brought him into the cabin, when some one proposed to try him by judge and jury; so they elected me judge, and I impaneled a jury. We heard the evidence, and the attorneys made their arguments. Then I charged the jury, and they retired to the bar-room (as we did not have any regular jury room). They were out about as long as it would take a first-class barkeeper to make up twelve drinks, and then they filed back into the court-room, each one putting his handkerchief away, as if they had all been crying over the awful verdict they were about to render. I asked the foreman if they had agreed upon a verdict, and he said, "We have, your Honor." Just at this time there was some commotion in the court-room (occasioned, no doubt, at the sight of the twelve handkerchiefs). I told the sheriff to rap for order, but it was some little time before it could be restored. I then told the jury to stand up and hear their verdict. The foreman read the verdict, which was: "We, the jury, find the defendant guilty." I then told the defendant to stand up and hear his sentence. "You are to return the chickens to their owner, pay a fine of six bottles of wine and the costs of this suit, and be imprisoned in the bar-room until the fine and costs are paid."

As there were no other cases on the docket, I ordered the sheriff to adjourn court (to the bar). The sheriff went up with the man who had lost the chickens, and they picked out three dozen. When they came down and reported to me that they had returned three dozen chickens, the criminal yelled out that he had only taken one dozen. The poor fellow did not have the money to pay for the wine, so he had to give a bill of sale for his chickens.

After all of my judicial duties were performed, and while the bar (of justice) was full of people, and the people were full (of what they got at the bar), I opened up the dear little three-card racket, and in a short time I owned every chicken and turkey on the roof of that boat.

What to do with my live stock I did not know. I had a bill of sale from the chicken men, but what I wanted just then was a chicken buyer. I at last had an offer from the second clerk which was much less than the market value; but as I never had much use for anything I could not put in my pocket, I accepted his offer and sold out. The chicken men had no business in New Orleans, as they had sold in transit, and not one of them had any money; so I called them up to the office, and gave each one money enough to take him back to Cairo.


I went on board the steamer Imperial at Memphis, bound for New Orleans. It was ten o'clock at night, and I did not think of doing any business until the next day. While standing talking to the barkeeper, a man walked in and proposed to shake him for the drinks. They shook, and the stranger lost. He then proposed to shake for five dollars, and asked me if I would come in and make it three- handed. I said I would for a time or two. We shook, and he was a little loser, when he wanted to make it ten dollars. I consented, but the barkeeper dropped out. We sat down, and soon were shaking for $100 a game. We were drinking during the time, and it was not very long until I had won $1,300. The fellow was pretty full, so I thought I would complete the "filling," and then he would go to bed. As I expected, it was not long before he turned in, and I was at liberty to look around. I went into the cabin, and found three games of poker in full blast. I was looking at one of the games, when I noticed a man looking at me. He gave me a sign, and I walked out to the guards. He followed me and said, "You do not remember me; my name is Alexander; I met you in St. Louis over a year ago. I heard that you and Clark had split up, and I am now on my way to New Orleans to meet you, for I want to go to work." I told him that I was alone, and that we would begin our work on the morrow. We were in the barber shop the next day, when a man came to me and told me that he was a brother of Mike Carroll, and he wanted to cap for me. As I knew Carroll well, I told him to go ahead. We were playing monte, and I had beat a man out of twenty- six twenty-dollar gold pieces. When we came to settle up there was one gold piece missing, so I said, "Boys, there is one gold piece short." Alexander proposed a search, and Carroll said, "I have not got a cent, and that is why I wanted to cap, in order to pay my passage." We commenced the search, and when we took off Carroll's hat the gold piece dropped out; so I paid his passage and let him go.

At the expiration of four years, Alexander showed me receipts for money he had sent to his home in Dover, Ky., amounting to $44,000, and he was not a stingy man, either, for he was a good liver and dresser, and I have known him often to spend as much as $200 in a night for wine, etc. He has often talked to me about playing the bank, and wanted me to quit it; and I can now see if I had taken his advice I might have been worth forty times $44,000.


I got on the Belle Key one afternoon at Vicksburg; and as I claimed to be a planter from White River, I soon became acquainted with some planters that lived on the coast. There was a game of poker started, and I was invited to sit in. We played until supper was ready. I had played on the square, and had won a few hundred dollars. After supper they got up a dance, and that spoiled the game. I was sitting in the hall, when one of the planters came to me and said, "Don't you dance?" "No, I don't care to dance where I am not acquainted." "You are like me in that respect; I had rather play poker; but as those gentlemen who were playing in the game to-day have all got their families on board, they will not play, so what do you say to us having a game?" I said I did not care to play a while, but I would rather be a little more private, and that we might go up into the texas and play. We got the checks at the bar (and the barkeeper did not forget a deck of my cards). We went up and had just got seated, when up came my partner and said, "Gentlemen, are you going to sport a little?" "We are, will you join us?" said the planter. "What are you going to play?" "Poker, of course." He sat in, and then it was a very nice, gentlemanly game. We played on the square for a while (that is, if the cards had been square). Finally I could put it off no longer, so I ran up two hands, giving the planter three eights, and then downed him for over $400. We played a little while longer, and then I ran up two more hands, and guarded them so nothing could fall in that time. I gave my partner the best hand, and he took in about $600. The planter was then over $1,000 loser, so he excused himself for a few minutes, and I knew that he had gone after more money. He soon returned with $1,500, and that lasted him about one hour. He got up and said, "Boys, I must have some more money." My partner and I went down with him, as I did not think he could get any more. We were at the bar taking a drink, when he turned to me and said, "I would like to play some more, but I can't get any more money, unless you will loan me some on my negro, as I have one on board that I paid $1,500 for, and she is one of the most likely girls you ever saw." I winked at my partner to loan him some money on his wench. He went back and brought out one of the prettiest quadroon girls, about seventeen years old, that I ever saw. My partner loaned him $1,000, and got the clerk to draw up a bill of sale; then we resumed the game; but that did not last him but about half an hour, for I beat him out of nearly the whole amount on one hand, and that broke up the game. He had but seventy-five dollars left. We went down and took a drink, and then went to bed.

The next day he got the money and redeemed his girl, then he said to me, "I have got about $700, so let us go up and play single- handed." We went up, and I soon got that money. He said, "In all my poker playing, I never played so unlucky in my life." He went to my partner and borrowed $1,000 more on the girl, and I took that in. He then went to Captain Keys, and tried to borrow the money to redeem his girl again, but the Captain would not loan it to him. He found a man that loaned him the money, and he redeemed her again. He was considerable loser, but he got some more wine in him, then he wanted more poker, but I told my partner not to have anything more to do with his negro, for it was making too much talk on the boat already. When he got to his landing, he and his negro left the boat, and I tell you she was a dandy.


I was coming out of New Orleans one night on the Ohio Belle, a Cincinnati boat, and she was full of good looking suckers. I went out on the guards and called them all into the cabin, and opened up monte. They all gathered around the table, and among them was the Captain of the boat, who insisted on betting. I said to him, "You are the Captain of the boat, and I do not want to bet with you." He kept insisting that his money was just as good as anybody's, and he put up $300. I gave my capper the office to take him away, but he would not have it. I then told him I would not bet less than $500. He called to the clerk to bring him $200, and then he put up $500. I told him not to bet if the loss would distress him, when he told me it was his money. I told him to turn the card, for I saw it was the only way to get rid of him. He turned, and lost; then he got mad, and made me close up. I had no intention of keeping his money, so I walked out on the guards, and then up on the roof, where I found him. I said, "Here is your money; I did not want you to bet, and you have knocked me out of many a good dollar." He was surprised to get his money back, and he said he bet in good faith. I talked to him until he told me I could open up again, and then I told him to give me the $500, and so soon as I got opened up, for him to come up and make a play, and I would let him win it back.

I went down and called all the boys into the cabin again, and had just begun to throw them, when up stepped the Captain and said, "I lost once, but I will try it again." So he put up and won the money. Then he walked away. Then a sucker pulled out his wallet, and offered to bet me $500. I saw he had plenty left, so I said, "I will not bet less than $1,500." While he was hesitating, my partner came forward and said he did not have that much money, but he would bet $1,000 that he could turn the winner. I took him up and he lost. Then the sucker was all excitement, for he saw that he didn't turn the card with the corner turned up, so he wanted to bet $1,000. I would not bet less than $1,500, so he at last put up. I gave them one more shuffle, and then he was so nervous that he turned the wrong card. It made him so sick that he went out on the guards and threw up his supper. The balance of the suckers did not want to get sick, so I closed up; but if it had not been for the Captain's first play, I would have done a much better business on that boat. Such is luck.


I was playing poker on the steamer Capitol with a negro trader, and had won some money from him, when he got up and went down on the boiler deck. In a little while he came back followed by an old black woman, and wanted me to loan him $1,500 on her. She was too old for me, so I told him I was not keeping a pawn-shop; but my partner told him he would loan him $1,000 on her, if he would make out a bill of sale. The bill was made out and he got the money. We began another game, and in about half and hour I had his $1,000; for we were playing with my cards, and they never went back on me or told me a lie. He went off, borrowed some more money and wanted to renew the game; but as he was getting very drunk, I declined to play with him any longer. Then he set up a kick, and said he had been cheated. I told him all suckers talked that way when they lost their money. That made him hotter than ever, and he wanted to fight. I told him I was sickly and could not fight; so he left me to find my partner, to buy his old woman back again. I never refused to sell a nigger I had won, if any one would give me anything near the value; and I never had any use for old nigger women.


I started out one night on the Crystal Palace. This boat left New Orleans about 6 o'clock in the evening. After supper I opened monte. There were some rough customers from Greenville, and I knew if they lost their money there would be the devil to pay; but I took the chances, and caught some of them for a few hundred dollars, and there were some two or three of the passengers who also lost. After the Greenville killers had lost their money they commenced to fill up, and I knew there would be war soon. I closed up, slipped around and got on another suit of clothes, put on my plug hat and gold glasses. Then I gave my valise to the porter and told him to have it ready to go off at Donaldsonville. I walked out in the cabin; they were all standing by the bar holding a consultation how they could get the money back. One said: "The first time the boat stops he will get off." "Well, if he does he is a good one, for I will fill his hide full of lead if he tries that," says another. The boat blew her whistle to land, and you ought to have seen them break for the lower deck, gun in hand. I walked out through the cabin with my plug hat, white necktie, and gold glasses. You would have bet $500 I was a preacher. You ought to have seen those fellows make room for me to pass by. My partner remained on board, as they were not on to him. I got a boat soon after and went to Baton Rouge, where my partner was waiting for me. He said they raised the d—-l after I got off.


I was on board the steamer H. R. W. Hill going up the river and had got my work in, and what money I had accumulated was at poker. We landed at Natchez, and most all that were playing in the game got off. After supper I was sitting on the guards smoking, when a man came up and commenced conversation about gambling. He said: "I love to gamble, but my wife is bitterly opposed to it. I did want to play in that game to-day, but I dare not, as I have my family on board; so if you play to-night, I want to sit in." "Well, I guess that we may make up a game after it gets later," I said. About two hours after supper he came out and proposed a game. I asked the barkeeper to pull out a table and put the checks and a deck of cards on it, which he did. I could see that this man was crazy for a game, so I told him to sit down at the table and to ask every man that came by the bar to play, and he did so. Presently my partner came up to the bar and he got the invitation, so he sat in. They counted the checks and got all ready, when I dropped in. Then we had a nice three-handed game, and as we were all first- class gentlemen there could not be anything wrong. I wanted to play along until the passengers got thinned out a little, as they were too thick about the table to suit me; and then my friend wanted his wife to get to bed before he started in. Everything was going on beautifully, and I had not given my man a hand to see if he had any blood in him; but presently he got a hand on the square, and I knew I could beat him before the draw, so I slashed it at him pretty lively, but no big bets, and he staid like a man. When it came to the draw, he filled his hand, and I did not. It was my partner's age and the man's first bet. He bet $100, and I told him to take the pot. I had got in before the draw about $150. Then I knew he was a darling sucker, and I nursed him like a baby. We played a hand or two, then I ran him up three aces and took four nines pat. I did not want my partner to raise it too much before the draw, for fear he would drop out. We had up about $150. It was my deal, and I asked him how many cards he wanted. He took two. I said, "I will only take one." My partner took three, as he had nothing, but had to stay in to cross lift. He tipped his hand to the man, and the gentleman bet $250. I just called the bet, so my partner bet $1,000 better; and the gentleman tore his pockets getting at his money, and he called the bet. So I said, "Boys, I expect you have got me beat, but I will have to raise you back $1,000." That made my partner throw down his hand. Then it was between him and myself. He said to me, "I know I ought to raise it, but will just call the bet." When I showed down four nines, it made him lie quiet. We were just getting ready to give the boy another hand, when his wife came out into the hall, and made him quit and go to bed. I was sorry to see such an angel leave the game; but such is luck. I found out that he was very rich, but had married the money.


I was on board the steamer Eclipse from Louisville to New Orleans, and she was crowded with passengers. I knew all the officers, and they were glad to see me, as they knew I would make it lively while I was with them. I opened a few bottles of wine, and finally I called them all in off the guards and opened up monte. I explained the game to them. My partner stepped up and looked at it for some time, and at last he bet me $1,000 and lost it. He then took up one of my cards and bent up the corner, then showed it to the best looking sucker that was standing by. Then he turned to me as he threw it down, and said: "Please mix them up once more." So I threw them over again, and then I was ready for a bet. He pulled out his money and put it up in the gentleman's hand that he had picked out for the solid one. I said, "How much have you got there?" He said $1,000. I put up the money, and at the same time I said: "I will make it $5,000 if you wish." "I have not got the money, or I would." He turned the card over and won. Then he wanted to bet $2,000; but I told him, "Whenever I get beat I never want to bet with the same man again." Then the gentleman spoke up and said, "I will try you once for $1,000." I said I would not bet less than $2,000, so by a little persuasion he laid it up and lost. He walked off, and I never saw him again about the table. I played a short time longer and took in a few hundred dollars, and then closed up for the evening.


The first trip the steamer Eclipse made I was on board. There were five games of poker running at one time in the cabin. I was invited into one, and I represented myself as a horseman. I played on the square, as I wanted to gain their confidence; so when the game closed for the night, they all thought me a square man. After all my new friends had retired to their little beds, I got out six decks of my marked cards and went to the bar. I told the barkeeper what I wanted, but he objected, as he did not own the bar, and was afraid it would be found out, and then he would be discharged. I told him that no one but old gamblers could detect the marks, and not one in fifty of them, as it was my own private mark. I had been a good customer at the new bar, so the new barkeeper finally consented to take my cards and send them to the table where I would be playing. The next morning after breakfast the games were started, and my new friends wanted me to sit in. I accepted the invitation, and when the barkeeper put the checks and cards on the table, I saw my old friends (I mean the cards). The game was five-handed, and it was pretty hard to keep the run of all the hands; but I quit the game a few hundred dollars winner. After the game one of the gentlemen came to me and said: "I don't like a five-handed game; suppose we split up and make two games." That was just what I wanted, provided I could get in the game that had the most suckers, so I said to him: "I do not care to play, if you gentlemen can make up your game without me; but as we are all going through to New Orleans, I will play a little to pass the time. You can arrange the games to suit yourselves, and can count me in if you are short a man." The gentlemen arranged two nice games, with me in one of them. I had no partner, so I had to depend entirely on myself and my old friends, the marks on the back. We played until the engines were stopped at the landing in New Orleans, and I was $4,300 ahead. I might have won a great deal more with the assistance of a good partner, but then, you know, I would have had to divide with him; so I was very well pleased with my last day on the new steamer. I did not forget the new barkeeper, but gave him $50 for using my cards at one of the tables in place of his own.


A big fellow tackled me by the name of Barlow. He was a long- shoreman, and a tough one, but I did him up in seventeen minutes. He came into a saloon where I was in company with Bill Leonard and Bob Johnson. Leonard is well known, having kept stables in New Orleans and Cincinnati for many years. I had given races that day, and it appears that this man Barlow had lost some money. Five or six toughs entered the saloon with Barlow. He approached Johnson and said to him, "You throwed that race, you s— of a b——, and I am going to lick you for it." He cut loose and hit Johnson, and he must have hit him pretty hard, for he knocked him clear into the street. As Johnson was getting up, an officer ran up to him, when Johnson cut loose and knocked him down, thinking it was Barlow. They arrested Johnson and took him off. Then Barlow turned to me and said, "You keep the race track, and you are as big a thief as that other fellow. You whipped a good man when you whipped Fitzgerald, but you can't whip Barlow." I looked around to see how many friends he had with him, and I saw there were six or seven, and only Leonard on my side, who turned the key in the door, jumped on the counter, pulled his pistol, and said: "Gentlemen, if these men fight, they shall have it on the square, and the first one that interferes I will fill him full of lead." So at it we went. He was a good, scienced man, and had his hands up very quick. He made a feint to strike me with his left, and let go with his right. I gave him my head for a mark, which he hit clearly, and his fist looked like a boxing glove two minutes afterward. I ran under his guard, caught him under the arms, and downed him. In the squabble I got one solid crack at him between the eyes with my head, which ended the fight. He just was able to cry "Enough." I did not see him for several weeks after that. The next time I saw him was on St. Charles Street. He was drunk, and looking for me with a big knife up in his sleeve. I saw him coming, then I grabbed my gun and stood pat. I said, "Don't come one step more towards me, or I will cook your goose." He came to the conclusion that I meant business, and walked off. About that time there was a man done for every day in the Crescent City, but now New Orleans is a moral place, and some of the best people in the world live there.


We were on board the steamer York Town one day, when I thought there were no suckers aboard. I had looked around, and had about come to the conclusion that we would not make our expenses, when I saw a large, well-dressed fellow who had his whiskers dyed black as ink. I got into conversation with him, and we walked around over the boat, and finally up on the roof. Bob Whitney was at the wheel, and his partner, Bill Horricks, was with him in the pilot- house. I knew the boys were all right, so I invited my new acquaintance to go up, as we could see better than on the roof. He accepted the invitation, and we were soon enjoying the scenery. I threw some of my cards on the floor, under the seat. The gentleman noticed them in a little while, picked them up, and turning to me he said, "If we had a full deck we could have a game." I told him I hardly ever played, but I saw a fellow playing a game with three cards that beat anything I ever saw, but it took a smart one to play it. I began throwing them, when Bob Whitney got so interested that he came near letting the boat run away with him. He wanted to bet me fifty dollars, and he told Bill Horricks to hold the boat until he could make a bet. I told him I did not understand the game well enough to bet on it. About this time the capper put in an appearance, and he wanted to know all about the game. I explained it, and he made the usual bets. The pilot wanted to bet very bad, but I kept refusing. Finally my friend with the black whiskers got worked up to $1,000, and lost it. Then my partner put a mark on the winner, and beat me out of $1,000. The sucker saw the mark on the card, and wanted to bet $100. He was sure of winning, but he did not want to win but $100. So I took his bet, and just as he was about to turn the card I said, "I will make it $1,000;" but he only wanted the hundred dollars, and he got it. After winning the $100, and seeing the mark still on the card, he thought it was all his way, so he put up $1,000. I saw it was about all he had, so I put up, and he turned the marked card; but it was not the winner for $1,000 so much as it had been for $100. He walked out of the pilot-house and went down on deck. My partner followed him.

After they were gone, Bob Whitney said he would have turned the same card. Then Bill Horricks laughed, and told him he could hold a steamboat, but he could not beat Devol at his own game. I went down to the bar, and there was my black-whiskered friend talking to my partner. I invited them to join me, which they did, and then the gentleman said he would like to speak to me a moment. We walked out on the guards, when he said to me, "I know I am a fool, but I want to ask you one question, and I want you to be candid with me. Why did you pick me out from among all the passengers for a sucker?" "Well," I said, "I will be honest with you; don't you dye your whiskers?" "Yes," said he. "Well, that is the reason I picked you out." He said, "I thank you, sir," and walked off.

I went into the cabin and opened up again. I caught a few suckers, and then closed up monte. I then got out my wheel, and took in all the pan-fish. After closing up for the evening, I walked into the bar, and there I met a fine looking smooth-faced gentleman, who asked me to take a drink, at the same time saying: "Do you think shaving off my whiskers has improved my looks?" I told him there was not as much deception in him as there had been in the card with the pencil mark on it. We took another drink and separated, I with about $2,000 of his money, and he with the experience.


I was coming from New Orleans on the Duke of Orleans at one time, and had won a few hundred dollars from some of the passengers, but had quit playing, and was standing in the hall talking to some gentlemen that had played in the game, when a big fellow stepped up and said he believed we were a set of gamblers, and had divided the money he lost in the game. I gave him the laugh, and that made him hot. He then pulled off his coat and said he could whip any man in the crowd, and he kept his eye on me all the time. I told him I could lick him for fifty or one hundred dollars in a fair rough-and-tumble fight down on deck. He said if any one would see he had a fair show he would fight me. The mate asked me if I was going to fight him. I said, "Yes." So he told the big fellow he was an officer on the boat, and that no one would interfere if he wanted to fight. So he put up his fifty dollars in the mate's hand, and I covered it; for those days I would rather fight than eat, and I could fight for a man's life. We went on deck, and they cleared a place for us. While this was going on I offered to bet him fifty or a hundred dollars more that I would make him squeal. He said he had no more money to put up. We stripped off and got in the place prepared for us. He struck at me with one of those old-fashioned Dutch winders. I ducked my head, and he hit that. I knew it hurt him, for he did not use that duke any more. I got in under him, let fly with my head, and caught him square in the face. It made him grunt, but the next time I got one in on him I made him look silly, for the blood came out of his ears and nose. He said, 'That will do."

The mate took him up stairs, and had the barber wash and patch him up. I changed my clothes, as they were covered with the fellow's blood. I asked all hands to take a drink, and my man came up and joined us. I then paid the bar bill, and gave him back the balance of the fifty dollars I won from him on the fight. He claimed that it was his first whipping, but he could not stand the old head; it was too hard for him.

I have had a great many fights in my day. There was a fellow tackled me on the levee in New Orleans at one time when I was all alone, and he had a lot of his friends with him. I got him down, and was getting the best of him, when some of his friends began kicking me pretty lively. I guess I would have been licked that time, if it had not been for some men on a ship, who saw too many on one; so they came to my assistance, and then I made the fellow squeal in a short time. They had it in for me for a long time, but finally gave it up as a bad job; and I was glad of it, as I never wanted to kill a man, which I expect I would have done if they had not let me alone.


I went up on the Princess. My old friend Truman Holmes was the Captain of her. I was standing on the hurricane deck when we landed at the mouth of the Red River to take in some passengers. I saw the negroes carrying some long boxes built like chicken-coops. I asked Captain Holmes what was in the boxes. He said, "Alligators;" so I went down stairs and found the man that owned them. I took him up to the bar and had a drink; then I asked him what he was going to do with the alligators. He said he had a side-show, and he was going to play the fairs all over the entire Northern country, and he wanted them to draw custom. I told him I thought it an excellent idea, and said, "I have a ten-legged wolf in a cage that I will get on board at Vicksburg, and I will sell him cheap." This pleased him, and we took another drink. I insisted on paying for the drinks, but he would not consent, so we got to be good friends. After supper we got to playing whisky poker, as I told him I never gambled much, only once in a while, as planters would play a quarter antee. He insisted on changing it into a little draw; and as I had some very good cards in the bar, I was not hard to coax. We commenced at a quarter antee, and after we had been playing about an hour he insisted on raising it to $1. He flattered me more than I ever was flattered before, in telling me I was the luckiest man to draw he ever saw. The result was, before we reached Natchez, I had won all his money and his alligators. But he took it so much to heart about losing his pets, that I sold them back to him and took his note. It is now older than the daguerrotype man's; and when I hand in my checks, I will leave the notes with my dear old mother-in-law for collection.


I was playing euchre one night on the old Vicksburg, and had a good sucker down in the game, and the clerk was watching us very close; so after I gave the sucker a good hand, and he wanted to bet on poker, I whispered and said, "If we make a bet we must put the money in a hat, and we must not speak about betting louder than in a whisper." We had up $900, when I saw the clerk coming; I grabbed the hat and threw down my hand. When the clerk got there the bird had flown. He told the Captain it was all foolishness in trying to keep those gamblers from winning a sucker's money, for they could make a sucker whisper or do anything they wanted him to do; so that made two good men out of the Captain and the clerk, for they never interfered with our innocent games after that, and we made many a dollar on that boat. She was a nice steamboat to travel on in those days; but they got to building them so much finer that a sucker was afraid to go on board one of them, thinking that they would charge him more money.


I went on board the General Quitman late one night, and as I had been up all the night before, I got a room and went to bed. I saw some gamblers playing in the cabin as I went through, but I was too tired to notice them much. I had not been in my bed long until I heard a racket out in the cabin. I peeped out and soon understood what was up. Some one had lost his money, and was doing the grand kicking act. I got up and was into my clothes in double quick time, and out among them, with old "Betsy Jane" in my pocket. I soon learned that a contractor on the levee, who had a lot of men down on deck, had lost his money playing poker with one of the gamblers, and he was going to have it back or he would bring up his men and take it by force. I told the gambler to stand his ground and not give up a red. The barkeeper told me the kicker had sent down for some of his men to come up; so I started for the stairs and met the contractor in the hall, waiting for them. I asked him what was the difficulty; he said "that was his business." Then I said to him, "You are one of those d——d scoundrels who try to beat others out of their money, and kick like h—l when they get the worst of anything." He did not want to say anything until his gang was at his back, and they were then coming up. I ran out to the head of the stairs with old "Betsy Jane" in my hand, and ordered them to stop. They did stop, for I had her pulled down on them, and the other gamblers were standing by me. I said, "The first man that takes another step to come up these stairs will get hurt." They didn't come. Then I turned to the kicker and told him if he made a move I would cook his goose. He saw we meant business, and weakened. The gang went back to their bunks, the kicking contractor went to his room, and we held the fort. I was told that the same man had lost his money about a year previous while playing poker with John Deming, and he brought his men up, threw Deming down, and did not only take the money he lost, but a large amount besides. I had the same thing tried on me once; so when I saw a fellow-gambler imposed upon, I went to the front. Besides, if we let such a thing go too far it would ruin our business, so I thought it was best to nip it in the bud.


We were out from New Orleans with Captain Bill Harrison one day on board the steamer Doubleloon, and was having a good game of roulette, when we noticed that most of the fish were suckers, and did not bite so well at roulette; so we changed our tackle, and used monte for bait. We were fishing along, and had caught some pretty good fish, but none of the large ones we saw about the hooks. Every time we would get one of them to come up and begin nibbling around, something would scare him away. We put on fresh bait, spit on it, and threw it out with all the care that we were capable of; but somehow or another they would not suck in the hook. I knew the bait was good, for I had caught thousands of suckers with it, and I could see that there was plenty of that kind of fish around us. I began looking, and soon discovered the trouble. It was a great big old sucker who wanted to be a kind of teacher over the school; for every time one of the young suckers would get up too close, he would pull his tail, and that would scare the young one so he would not take hold in earnest. I watched the big sucker for some time, and I saw it was no use trying to catch anything until I caught the old school teacher. So I put up my tackle, and began looking for a bait that would land the old one.

I was walking on the guards, when I saw the man that had back-capped and spoiled my game. I went up to him and entered into conversation. I did not let him know I was mad; but I was, all the same, and would have given $100 to give him one between the eyes; but I soon thought of a plan to make him contribute a part of what he had kept me from winning, so I said to him, "I was surprised to see you back- capping my game, for I could see you were a sporting man. I tried to give you the wink, and have you come up and win out something, so the suckers would take hold, but I could not get your eye." He said, "I did not understand it, or I would have been glad to help you." I told him that after dinner I would open up again, and for him to walk up and make a good big bet, and I would let him win; then for him to walk away, and I would catch all the suckers on the boat. After all had been arranged, I went to my room and got old "Betsy Jane;" for my new capper had one on him so long that it stuck down below his coat-tail. I told my partner to look out for the big gun and our new capper. I called the passengers around a table, and began to throw the hooks. Up came the big fish, and wanted to know what was the least bet I would take. I told him $200. He planked her up, when I saw about $50 left, so I told him I would make it $250. He put up the extra $50, for of course the more he put up the more he would win, as he was to suck in the hook with the extra kink in it. I gave them a little mixing and said "Ready!" He darted in, and nabbed the bait more like a goggle-eye than a sucker, but he was caught all the same. He did not swim away (as he had been told to do), for he was held by a line that cost him $250, and he could not break it without a great struggle. I thought I had let him play about long enough, so I said: "Gentlemen, there are no more suckers to be caught on this boat," and thus landed the biggest sucker I ever caught in all my life.

I put up my fishing tackle and invited all hands to the bar, for I was feeling like all fishermen (a little dry). My big sucker joined us, as he had been out of water just long enough to want to get back. After we had quenched our thirst he said he would like to see me a minute. I told him he could see me for an hour, as I had no other business to look after. We walked out on the guards, and my partner was not far away. The big fellow said to me, "Why didn't you let me win the money?" I looked up at him, but kept my hand on old Betsy Jane, and said, "My business is to catch suckers, and you are the biggest one I ever caught in my life if you think I will give you back your money." He went back for his gun, but I had old Betsy out and up to his head before he could say Jack Robinson. I told him to put up his hands, and be d——d quick about it, too. He put them up, and said he did not want any gun to whip such a fellow as I was. I told him that he might be a good man down in Texas, where he came from, but he was a sucker up in this country, and I could eat him up. I said: "We will put our guns in the bar, and have it out just as you like it." We went in the bar, and he handed over his young cannon, and then I put up Betsy Jane. I told my partner to get the Captain and tell him to land the boat, and he would see some fun, for I knew he would rather see a fight than eat when he was hungry. So just as we got our guns behind the bar the Captain walked in, and some one said "Here comes the Captain." The Texas fellow said, "To h—l with him; I don't care a d—n for any captain." That made old Bill hot, and he wanted to know what was all this racket about. I told him the big fellow wanted to lick me. He said, "I'll soon settle this; you will go ashore." The big fellow said there was not men enough on the boat to put him ashore. The Captain then sent word to the pilot to land, and also sent for the mate and some of the deck- hands. The pilot ran the boat up on a point, and she got aground. I jumped off as soon as she struck; and the mate, assisted by two big deck-hands, soon had Mr. Texas off. The passengers were all out on the guards, for they had heard the racket, and wanted to see the fun. I pulled off my coat, and told Texas to clean himself and come a-fighting. He was just as sure of licking me as I was of catching him for a sucker, but he had forgotten "Nothing is sure that grows on earthly ground." He was onto me in an instant, and if he had hit me just where he aimed, he would have hurt me, for he was a hard hitter; but I gave him my dear old head, and he hurt himself very bad; but I did not care if he did. I then ran in under him, and had him down on his back before he recovered from the blow he struck against a rock (as he afterward called my head). After I got him down I gave him one just between the eyes, and he saw stars (although there were none in the sky just then). I gave him one more punch, and he said, "That will do." I let him up, and he was so dazed that he staggered and fell into the river. They pulled him out, and I heard some one remark, "That's the biggest sucker ever caught in this river."

While the fight was going on, they were trying to get the boat off the point; but I guess they did not try very hard, for as soon as they fished out the sucker, the Captain called for me to come aboard. I said, "Captain, it is only three miles to Donaldsonville, and as I want a little exercise, I will walk; but take good care of my 'big sucker.'"


I was going up the Illinois River once with Dad Ryan. We did not try to do anything the first night out from St. Louis. The next day I picked up a man who had been to St. Louis with wild game and butter, and had a great deal of money for a man of his calibre. I told him I lived in Galena, Ill., and had some of the finest lead mines in that part of the country. We got pretty well acquainted with each other, and had some drinks together. He got to feeling lively, for whenever he took a drink he would take a tumbler half full of whisky. After getting him warmed up pretty well, I walked him in the barber shop to see a white squirrel. During the while the barber was after it, Dad opened out the three cards, and my friend and I had become very interested in the game. I looked on a while, then I said to Ryan: "I think I can turn the winning card for $100." He accepted the proposition, and I laid up the money and turned the wrong one. I then picked up the jack, as that was the winner, and bent the corner, showed it to my friend, "whispered" and told him not to say a word, as he would not detect its being bent. He said, "All right." I told the dealer to throw them over again, which he did. I then said, "I know you have two chances to our one, but I will try you for $200." We put up our money into the butter man's hands, and I turned the card. The dealer told the butter man that he lost fair, and to give the money to me. Then I wanted to try it for the $400, but he would not bet with me, saying: "When a man beats me once, I will not bet with him again." So I handed the money to my friend, and told him to bet it for me. "That will do," said Ryan. He mixed them up again, and my friend turned the card and won for me.

Ryan took it very pleasantly, laughing all the time, so my friend thought he would try it with his own money, but Ryan said: "You beat me once, and you know what I said." "Well," said my friend, "I did not bet for myself." I coaxed Ryan to let him bet, as he was entitled to one bet at least. He consented, and my friend got out $100; but Ryan said, "No; I will not bet less than $500." I said to my friend, "If you have not got the money, I will loan it to you; and if you only win one small bet, he will not bet with you again." He pulled out a big roll with a string around it, and counted out $400 more and laid it on the table. I told him I would hold the stakes, so he handed me the money. Ryan saw that big roll, and hated to have him get away, as he might quit after losing. When he saw that I was holding stakes, he said: "I guess I will back out." I spoke up and told him he could not, and my friend said that it was not fair to back out. Then said Ryan, "I will raise you $2,000," and he laid it up in my hand. Then my friend wanted to back out and take his money down, but Ryan would not stand that. I insisted on putting up the rest, but Ryan would not allow it, as he said, "I will bet but one at a time." I told him to lay up the money. He put it up at last, trembling like a man with the palsy; but finally he grabbed the card and lost.

Just about that time there was a little boat landed alongside of us, as we were lying at a landing putting off freight. I gave Ryan the office to get on her. He slipped over on the boat, and the sucker just then came to his senses. When he saw that Ryan had gone out, he said to me, "Where did he go?" I told him he had gone back in the cabin; so he started back to look for him, and while he was gone the little boat backed out. I walked out in the hall to see what had become of my friend, and found him searching all the rooms in the ladies' cabin. He then rushed into a gentleman's room where his wife was, and then there was h—l to pay. The man came near shooting him, but I ran back and told the gentleman that the fellow was crazy and did not know what he was doing. He ran all around the boat, frothing at the mouth, and never said a word to any one. Finally some of the officers grabbed him, got a rope and tied him, for they all thought he was crazy; and I commenced to think so myself, as all he would say was, "Where is he? Where did he go?" No one had seen the game but the barber, and I slipped him a twenty-dollar bill and told him to keep mum. They kept the man tied for about one hour, until he promised he would behave if they let him loose, which they did. He sat perfectly still and did not have a word to say. I knew he was not broke, for I saw he had about $200 left; and that amount, together with his late experience, was capital enough for any man.


We were playing monte on board the steamer Magnolia, out of New Orleans, one night, and had a very lively game. We had won a few hundred dollars. There was a Jew on board who had no money, but he had a fine watch. During the play he was very anxious to bet it, but I told him I did not want to play for his watch, as I knew I could win it whenever I saw fit. So, just as the game was about to close, I said to him, "What is your watch worth?" "Three hundred dollars, and I can get that for it." I told him I would put up $300 against it, and bet him he could not turn the picture card. He pulled out, put her up, and then turned over the wrong card. The passengers all laughed. He never said a word, but appeared to take it all right. After a while he came to me and said: "I have the key, and would like you to keep the watch wound up, as I think a great deal of it; and as soon as we get to Natchez I can borrow the money on the wharf-boat, from Charley Frazier, to redeem it." When he spoke in that way I handed him his ticker, and he ran away with it. I laughed, and began thinking how to get it back again. So I took my partner, Alexander, to one side and told him to get in with the Jew, then tell him he heard me say I was going to give the watch back. "Tell him you have been watching me play, and that you believed you could play it as well as the man he played against." He got in with him, and finally got some cards to show the Jew how I played. The Jew got very much taken with the game again, so he said to my partner, "I know that I could beat you, if you will play for something." So he won the drinks and cigars from my partner, and at last he wanted to put up his watch against $500 that he could turn the card. My partner put up the money, and the Jew the watch; but he missed it that time; and you never did hear such laughter as there was on that boat, for the passengers all turned loose and plagued the poor Jew all the way up to Natchez, asking him what time it was. He did not redeem it at Natchez, so I had to buy a "key," and that nearly broke my heart.


I was on the train from Jackson to New Orleans. I opened in the smoking car, and won a good deal of money. We were just coming to a station called Amite, about sixty miles above New Orleans. I waited until the car got in motion, after learning the station, as I did not want to go into New Orleans; for they were kicking like the d—-l, and I knew there would be a big crowd at the depot. I slipped off, and told my partner to bring my valise, and come up the next day. They went into the city kicking like steers, and they had the officers looking for me, but they did not find me. Two of them took the train and came back to Amite that night, and in the morning when I came to breakfast there they were. I could not help laughing at them. After breakfast they went to the magistrate, and swore out a warrant for my arrest, and the constable came over to the hotel looking for me, but I had skipped out. I walked down the railroad and kept hid until they were satisfied I had gone. They left orders if I showed up to have me arrested, and telegraph them. I took the first train and went to the city. They came in on the evening train. The next day they found out I was in the city, and then I was arrested and brought before the recorder's Court, when the Judge asked me if I had an attorney. I told him I could plead my own case. I soon convinced him that the gambling was done in another parish, and I was discharged. They then took a train and went back, got the warrant they had out for me, and brought an officer with them. The officer stepped up to me and said: "I have a warrant for you." "All right; but we can't leave here until night. Let us pass away the time until the train leaves." There was a big crowd followed us to get a look at the notorious Devol, and the officer kept pulling out the warrant and showing it to the throng. He was getting pretty full of whisky, when I saw a thief in the crowd. I gave him the wink, and in less than five minutes he had the warrant. I got one of my friends to ask the officer to show him the warrant. He dove down in his pocket, but could not find it; so I told him he must have the paper, or I would not go with him. It sobered him up, and the last time I saw him he was with the two fellows going to the train to get fresh papers. I went up myself to see what they could do with me. I took a train and passed them coming down. They went into the city, and found that I had left for Amite that morning, and that they had missed me. When I got there I took the Judge and Prosecutor out, and we had several drinks; then we went to a shoe shop, and ordered two pairs of boots for them, and took the size of their heads, and sent to New Orleans for hats. When they came back, and the case was called, the Judge heard their story, and then mine, and decided it was nothing but a case of gambling, and that he would have to fine us each five dollars and costs. We paid our fines, and they all took the train that day but myself. I stayed a day or two, and had a fishing game, as it was a great place to catch the little flappers. They said, when they came back to the city, that no law down here would do anything with that fellow, and his name ought to be "Devil" instead of Devol. They thought I must be some relation to Claude Duval, the highwayman. They were Vermonters. They said if they had me down East they would fix me for the balance of my life; but I was not down East, and I had often been, before I met those suckers, "Fixed for Life."

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