Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi
by George H. Devol
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We were on board the steamer Southern Belle, bound for New Orleans. There were several planters aboard that I was acquainted with, and we were drinking wine, telling stories, and enjoying ourselves, when a large, fine-looking gentleman stepped up to the bar and took a drink. He had a diamond stud in his shirt that was so large and brilliant that it attracted the attention of us all; so after he went out we began commenting on it.

I finally said to one of the planters, "What would you give for that stone?" He said, "I would give $1,000 for it, but I bet it could not be bought for the money." "What will you give me for it?" I asked them. They all laughed, for they understood by my question that I thought the man was a sucker, and I could win it from him. One of them said: "Devol, you are a good one, but that fellow is too smart to be caught by any of your tricks." I said, "Gentlemen, I will bet two bottles of wine that I will have that stone inside of an hour. Who will take me?" They all wanted to take the bet, and raise it to a basket; but I told them the odds were too much in their favor, and I would bet but two bottles; so it was settled that I was to win the stone, or pay for the wine. Then we all went out in the cabin, and I called everybody to join me in some wine. My partner went up to the man with the brilliant stone, and asked him if he knew the man that was treating. He said he did not. Then my partner told him that I was a planter; that I owned six plantations, and so many niggers that I did not know the number myself. The gentleman was introduced to me and the other planters, when he said: "I am very glad to form the acquaintance of you Southerners; I'm a New Yorker." The compliment cost me the wine for the entire party. While the barkeeper was serving the wine, I told him to bring me some of those tickets that they played the whisky game with. He brought the tickets, and I began to mix them. One of the planters bet me the wine that he could turn the ticket with the baby. I took him up, and he stuck me. Then another bet me the cigars, and I stuck him. While we were lighting our cigars, my partner put a pencil mark on the baby ticket, and told the New Yorker that he wanted to have some fun with me; that I was so good-natured, I would take it as a joke when I found it out. I commenced mixing them again, and wanted to know who would be the next man to try his luck. My partner came to the front, and wanted to know if I would bet money on the game. I told him so long as I had two chances to his one, I would bet a plantation, and a hundred niggers besides. He put up $1,000, and said: "I will try you once for $1,000." I pulled out a roll so large that it made everybody look wild, saying, "That just suits me." I mixed, and my partner turned the ticket with the pencil mark on it, and caught me for $1,000. I laughed and said, "You're a lucky fellow; I don't want to bet with you any more." He then slipped away, as though he was afraid I would detect the mark and raise a fuss. He gave the $2,000 to one of the planters, and told him to go and play it. The planter came up and said: "I'll try you for $2,000." I said, "All right, plank her up." He turned a card, but not knowing anything about the mark, he lost. I laughed and said, "Try it again; you're not as lucky as the other fellow." "No," said he; "I've got enough." Then my partner came up again and wanted to bet; but I told him he was the lucky fellow, and I was afraid of him.

The New Yorker could see the mark on the card, and he could not stand it any longer; so he pushed up to the table and laid down a roll, and said: "I will bet you $400." I told him I would only make one more bet and then quit, and I would bet $2,000 or nothing. He picked up the money and turned away. My partner said, so I could hear him, "Bet him." The man said, "I have not got the money." Then my partner offered to loan it to him, when I told them I would not bet if the lucky fellow was in with it; but if the gentleman had anything worth the money, he could put it up. The lucky fellow told him to put up his diamond stud, saying in a whisper: "It is only for a minute; don't you see the mark on the card?" The gentleman put up the stone and the $400. I told him I would only take the stone for $1,000. Then my partner told him to put up his watch. He did so, and I put up $2,000 in money. I mixed, and he turned the marked card. He was very much excited; and when the card turned over, it had the mark on its back, but the baby had crawled off the other side. He drew a long breath and walked back to his state-room, and that was the last we saw of him. As he was walking away, some one called to him to join us in some wine; but he could not hear so well as when the capper told him in a whisper to put up, as it was only for a minute. We looked at our watches (I had two), and it wanted just five minutes of the hour. The planter that made the bet of two bottles spent over $200 for the wine that night, and before he left the boat he gave me $1,000 for the "brilliant stone."


One night I went out on the steamer Belle Lee. She was running from Memphis to New Orleans. Captain Hicks was the commander, and a jolly fellow was he. He said to me: "Devol, I never saw a gambler in the world that I was afraid to play with. I am just as smart as any of them." I said, "Captain, you will get no game out of me, as I do not want any of your money." After supper I noticed the Captain had a man, and they went to his room in the texas. I opened up and had a fine play at roulette, but it fell off at 12 o'clock, and I closed up. I was sitting in the hall when the Captain and his man came down. The man said: "Captain, I am winner; let's have a bottle of wine." They invited me to join them. The Captain said: "George, I will turn this gentleman over to you, as I can't beat him." "Well," I said, "Cap, if you can't beat him, I can't; for you are a better poker player than I am."

Then I winked at the barkeeper, who had a few decks of my cards that I had put in when I came on board. He knew what I wanted. I said to the man, "I'll tell you what I will do: I will play one game of seven-up for a bottle of wine;" as I thought that was the best way to get him started. He agreed. I said, "Barkeeper, give us a deck of cards, and we will see who is the lucky man." We began, cut for deal, and I beat him. I dealt, and I knew every card in his hand. He had no trumps, and I had the jack alone. He begged; I gave him one and made four. He dealt, and I made three on his deal, which put me out. He was as hot as a pepper pod, but he called for the wine. After we drank it, he said: "I wonder if you are that lucky at poker; if so, I will try you a little while." I said, "All right; I think, myself, I am in luck to-night." We went at it, but he said the limit must be $50. We played until daylight began to peep through the skylight of the cabin, and I had to loan him money to defray his expenses. He told the Captain it was the hardest game he ever struck. He sent me the money I loaned him by express, and wrote that if he ever met me on the river again he wanted to be in with my play. It was not long after that when I met him on the steamer Natchez, and we made some big money together, as he got up some fine games with the planters. He was known all along the river, and Captain Leathers thought it strange to see him playing with me; but the gentleman understood it, for I was always "lucky at poker."


While in St. Louis just before the war, I got acquainted with a man from Detroit by the name of James Scott. He was dealing faro bank, and was such a square fellow that all the boys would play against him. He had a big game one evening, and had downed quite a number of the boys, but he did it on the square. He quit dealing to go and get his supper, and while he was out the boys tried to think of some scheme to stick him for enough money to get a square meal for themselves. Finally one of them thought of the same racket that I played on my Jew partner, and they manufactured a sucker. When Jim came back, they were playing a single-handed game of poker. Jim loved poker, and as he had not finished picking his teeth, he stopped at the table to look on. That was just what the boys expected and wanted, so the two hands were run up. Jim was behind the fellow that had the three kings and a pair of sevens; but just after he saw them, some one spoke to him on the other side, so he went around the table. The man with the kings made a big raise, and the other fellow said it was more money than he had. Jim saw his three aces and a pair, so he said: "I am with you, old boy, for $1,000." The money was put up, and then the sucker said he had made a mistake in his hand, and wanted to take down his money; but everybody said he could not take down. Then the fellow threw down two cards and called for two more. The old boy (Jim's partner) gave them to him, and the sucker made another raise just large enough to use up the balance of Jim's thousand. The old boy called the bet just in time to save Jim from putting up another thousand, for they did not want to strike him too heavy the first time. They showed down, and the sucker had caught another king in the draw, and he won the pot. Jim did not say a word, but began to deal the bank. The next night some of the boys that had eaten a good supper at Jim's expense invited him to the theatre. Jim wanted to know the play; they told him "The Hidden Hand." Jim said, "No, boys; I saw that play last night, and I would not see it again for $1,000." Jim is now living in Detroit, and is one of the wealthiest men in the city. His father left him a fortune, and he has not laid down a dollar on a gambling table since; yet he likes the boys, and can tell some of the best stories of any man in this country. He is very fond of the theatres, but he says he never goes when they play "The Hidden Hand."


While sitting in the hall of the steamer Petonia, I noticed a fellow who kept looking at me so closely that I at last said to him, "Do you live on the river, sir?" He replied, "Are you speaking to me?" "Well, yes; I asked you if you lived on the river." He answered me very gruffly, "No sir." I let him alone, for I thought I had seen him before, and it might be I had beat him out of some money; so I got up and walked down the cabin. After I left, he asked the barkeeper who I was, and he told him I was a planter, and the son of one of the wealthiest planters on the coast. The fellow said: "Darn me if he don't look just like a fellow that beat me out of $5,000 some years ago." "I guess you are mistaken; although all planters gamble more or less," said the barkeeper. "Well, let's take a drink; but I was sure he was the same man."

Just as they finished their drink, I walked up and called for some wine. The fellow spoke up and said, "Have a drink with me." I said, "No, you join me, as I see you have finished yours." He accepted, and I ordered a bottle of wine. We sat down to drink the wine, when he said, "You must excuse me for the manner in which I spoke to you a while ago, as I took you for a man that beat me out of $5,000 on one of these boats, some years ago, at a game they called monte." "Well, now," I said; "it must have been the same fellow that beat me, for that's what they called it, monte; but I did not care very much, as I was spending the old gent's money at that time." He replied: "But I did mind it, for I had just sold my place, and was going to put the money into business; but on account of that d——d rascal, I have had to work hard ever since; and I have sworn to kill him the first time I met him." "I do not blame you for feeling as you do, for you could not afford to lose the money; but I did not care, as the old gent had plenty more that I could get whenever I asked for it; and as he sometimes lost pretty heavy himself, he would say to me, 'Son, if you bet you will win or lose; but if you lose, take it cool; for if you could not afford to lose, you had no business to bet.'" "You're right! I did not have any business to bet; but I thought I had a sure thing of winning. I would have killed that fellow the next morning; but when I began looking for him, I found he had got off the boat, and I have never seen him since." I laughed and said, "If you had won the money, you would not have felt like shooting the fellow, would you?" "Oh, no."

I found out the fellow had about $60; but he was just as much a sucker as he was when he lost the $5,000, and I made up my mind to win his money, and then tell him that I was the same man that beat him before. I excused myself, and told my partner all about the fellow, and that I wanted to win his money.

After supper I opened up monte, and caught a good many suckers. My old producer was watching the game and me too. We had about finished up, when my partner said to my old friend, "I would like to make a bet, but I am unlucky; will you bet this $50 for me?" He took the $50, put it up, and won. Then he put up $50 for himself, and lost. My partner wanted to know how he had made such a mistake, when he swelled up like a porpoise, and said: "I believe that is the same fellow that beat me out of my money before." He walked away, and my partner followed him. They were standing at the bar when I came up, and I invited all hands to join me in a drink. Everybody accepted the invitation, except my Arkansas killer. I made up my mind that we would have a fight, so I thought I would not put it off any longer. I turned to him and said, "Come and take a cigar with me, for I see you are not drinking." He replied, "I pick my company." Then I said, "You are in better company just now than you ever were in your life, except the time, some years ago, when you were in my company and lost $5,000." He said, "You are a d——d rascal." I then called him a liar and a coward. He attempted to draw, when my partner caught his arm and gave him one in the face, which was not a very heavy one, for he did not appear to mind it. I had old "Betsy Jane" out and had him covered; then I said, "Lay away your old pop, and we will go down on deck and have it out. You are a much larger man than I am, but I will take a licking from you, if you are man enough to give it to me." We gave our guns to the barkeeper and started down. I heard some bets $50 to $25 on the big Arkansas man, so I gave a friend of mine a roll and told him to take all the odds.

When we got down on deck, the mate made a ring with some barrels, and said: "No man but the fighters shall get inside the ring." The big fellow stripped down to his undershirt, and looked like a young Samson; then the bets ran up $100 to $25. I pulled off my coat and vest, and stepped inside the ring. We shook hands, and time was called, the mate acting as referee. He made a lunge; I dropped my head, and he hit it a terrible blow. Then he got one in below the belt, and I thought for an instant I would lose my supper and the fight; but I rallied, and got a good one in on the side of his neck, which doubled him up like a jackknife; then I ran in, caught him, and let drive with my head. I struck him between the eyes, and he fell over as if he had been shot. I took a seat on one of the barrels, folded my arms, and waited for time to be called. The mate said: "That will do; this man can't fight any more." They took him up stairs, and had the barber fix him up. I was not much the worse for having been in a fight. My friend handed me all my money, and over $400 besides, that he had taken in on the result. I treated all hands, and sent some wine, also the $50 I had won, back to my Arkansas friend. He told the mate and some of the passengers that he had been in a great many fights, but that was the first time he was ever whipped. He said he "whipped himself when he hit my head; but when I gave him that butt, he thought he had been struck with a bar of iron." He told them they did not fight that way out where he lived, and he did not think it was fair. The mate told him everything was fair in a rough-and- tumble fight. I felt sorry for the big fellow when I saw his face, for his nose was broken all up. He forgot all about that he was going to shoot the man that beat him out of his $5,000, for you see I returned the money that I won from him when I had him caught again.


A man by the name of Dock Chambers was working with me at one time, and he was like my partner Foster—he would stoop to little things. I was playing poker one night with a man, and broke him. He got up from the table and went back into the ladies' cabin, and in a short time returned with some diamonds and a lady's watch and chain. He wanted to put them up, but I told him I never played for women's finery. A man offered him about one-half what the stuff was worth, and he was so crazy to play that he was about to let them go, when I advanced him much more on them than the stranger had offered; for I knew he would lose them. We began our play, and in about an hour I had won all the money that I had advanced him on the jewelry. I asked him if he was broke, and he told me that their passage was paid and his wife had some money. I bid him good night and went to bed. The next morning I put the jewelry in a cigar box, gave it to my partner, and told him to find the lady and return it to her. He found her and returned the box. She opened, and found everything her husband had lost; then she gave him $300, and told him to thank me for her. He came back and gave me the thanks, but did not say one word about the $300. I was well paid with the thanks, until I found out that she had sent $300 with them, and that my partner had hogged onto it. I did not say a word at the time, but waited until I could get a big even.

We were coming out of New Orleans a short time after the Chambers trick, and had a good monte business, which we closed up as soon as we had caught all the suckers. I went to a friend of mine who kept a drug store in Vicksburg, and told him I wanted to get even with my partner. I gave him some money, and told him I would open my red and black, and that the jack paid eight for one. I said to him, "You come up and bet $10 on the jack three times, and on the fourth time you put a one-hundred-dollar bill inside of the ten and put it on the same card, and I will make it win." He did just as I told him, and the jack lost the first three times, but the fourth time it won. I paid the $80, and started to make another turn, when the drug man said: "You will have to come again." I said, "There is your $80 and your $10, sir." "Please look at the $10," he replied. I did look at it, and there was a great, big, live $100 inside of it. It was over the limit; but I had turned, and there was no getting out of it. To tell the truth, I did not want to get out, for I was just getting in on my partner. I paid the $800 over to the pill-mixer and shut up shop, as I did not want to lose any more of my "little partner's" money.


I made a mistake one time that came near getting me licked, and it was only the want of nerve that saved me. I feel the effect of the shock to this day, and I believe it will follow me to my grave. I will tell how it happened.

I was playing the little game of monte, and had caught some pretty good fish, when I noticed a Jew, that I had seen in Natchez, standing near the table and watching me and my cards very closely. I took him for one of the finny tribe, and expected to see him swim up and take hold of the hook; but he walked over to the bar and commenced talking to the barkeeper. I found out afterward that he asked the barkeeper who I was, and told him he could beat me at that game I was playing; for says he, "Do you know, there is a little spot on one of the cards, and I don't believe he can see it." The barkeeper was a friend of mine, and he told the Jew that I couldn't see very well, as I was up so much at night. I was fishing along, when back came the sucker. Then I began to think a little better of myself; for I had spotted the fellow, and when I saw him walk off, I began to think that for once I had made a mistake in my man, and was losing some of my conceit. He got up very close, and then he asked me how much I would bet him that he could not turn the card with the old woman on it. I looked at him for a moment, as I had lost a little of my confidence when I saw him go away; but soon I remembered that the best fish will sometimes play around the bait and then swim off, only to come back, dart in and swallow it, hook and all; so I said to him, "I will bet you $500 you can't pick up the old woman the first pick." I had $500 worth of confidence, thirty years ago, that no man could pick up the old woman; but I am married now, and have quit gambling, but I will bet $5,000 that no man can pick up my old mother-in-law the first pick.

Well, the Jew put up $500 and picked up one of the cards, and as his eyesight was so much better than mine, he got the one with the little spot on it; and while he was looking for the old woman on the other side of the card, I put the $500 in my pocket and rang down the curtain. The Jew stood and held on to the card, until I told him if he was done with it I would like to have it. He handed it to me, and then walked over to the barkeeper and said to him, "That man Devol can see better than we thought he could."

I was standing out on the guards smoking, when up came my food for the brain. He said to me: "Mr. Devol, I am a poor man, with a wife and four little children. That money I lost was all I had in the world, and it was given to me by my friends to start me in a little business. If I don't get that money, I am a ruined man, and my poor wife and little children will starve to death, for I will never see them again. Oh, Mr. Devol, take pity on my poor wife and four little children, and give me back the money. You are a rich man, and can make money so fast; and my poor wife and four little children will pray for you as long as we live; and I will tell my children's children what a good man Mr. D——" "Hold on," I said, as I saw the big tears running down the heart-broken man's face. "Here's your money; take it and give it to your family." I handed him a five hundred-dollar bill and turned away, took out my handkerchief, and was just wiping something off my cheek, when I thought I heard something like a laugh. I turned around, and there, a little way off, stood my poor Jew with seven five hundred- dollar bills in his hand, shaking them at me; and he said, "I haven't go no wife nor no four little children, Mr. D——." He did not finish, for I started for him, and he lit out as if the devil, instead of Devol, was after him. When we got to the city, I went into the first harness store I came to and bought a whip, but I never had the nerve to use it.


At one time I was going down the river below Baton Rouge, and there were a lot of raftsmen on board. They all loved to gamble, so one of them opened a chuckaluck game. They were putting down their money with both hands, and the game was over $400 winner. I thought I would give him a little play, so I went to my room and got a set of dice the same size as he was using, and then changed in a five without winning a bet. Then I asked him if I could shake them once for luck. "Oh, yes," he said, for he was playing on the square. I came the change on him, then I put $100 inside of a dollar bill, and put it on the five. He shook them up, when, lo and behold, up came three fives. He picked up my money, and when he saw the $100 he looked worse than a sick monkey; but he paid up like a man. I then came the change back, and quit. A man should learn all the tricks in his trade before he takes down the shutters.


We were going up with Captain Bill Harrison on board the Doubleloon, and just after leaving the wharf I took a look around to find some good-looking suckers. I had not found anything that I thought suited me, and was standing at the bar talking to Captain Bill, when he asked me if the fellows in the barber shop were with me. I said, "What fellows?" For I could see my partners, Brown and Chappell, sitting out on the guards. He said, "Go back and take a peep at them." I did go back, and I saw some fellows with two tables covered all over with jewelry and silverware. They had a wheel with numbers on it, and the corresponding numbers were on the table under the jewelry, etc. They were just getting started, and had some customers who were paying their dollar, and trying their luck turning the wheel. I looked on until I thought I understood the game, and then I went to the pantry and came back. I saw a nice looking watch on one of the numbers, but the space on the wheel that had the same number on it was so very narrow that the wheel would not stop on it one time in a thousand. I asked the boss if the watch was good; and he told me that any one who won it could have $100 in gold if he did not want the watch. I fooled around a little while, then I put down my dollar, and gave the wheel a pretty heavy whirl. She went around about twice, and stopped on the number that called for the watch. The fellow was all broke up, but he gave me $100 in gold, and I put up another dollar. I started the wheel again, and I hope I may never see the back of my neck if she did not stop on the watch again. The boss was dumbfounded. He looked at the wheel, paid me another $100 in gold, and as he paid over the money he looked at me as if he did not like me; and as I make it a rule not to stay where I am not wanted, I went out to see the boys. I told them how it was done, and they went in and got $100 in gold. As they were coming out they heard the fellow say, "Who in the h—l put this molasses on the wheel?"

We opened monte, and caught the wheel man for his entire stock, and we had more Christmas presents than anybody in the State. Molasses will catch more suckers than soft soap.


At one time I was dealing red and black on the wharf-boat at the mouth of Red River, and as there were a number of Texas boys on the boat I was doing a good business. While I was very busy watching the game, a big fellow who was employed by the proprietor of the boat came up and asked me to loan him $100 for a few minutes, as he had made a bet with a man that he could show up that much money. I saw he had been drinking, but I was too busy just then to argue the case, for I knew if I refused him he would want a fuss, as he had the reputation of being a great fighter, and I had been told that he had killed three men; so I handed him a hundred-dollar bill, and went on with my game.

After getting about all the money that the Texas boys would give up, I closed my game and went out to find my $100. I inquired after the fellow, and was told that he was up on the levee, so I waited for him. It was not long until he showed up, and he was pretty drunk. I asked him to give me back the bill, and he told me he had spent it. I was mad, but I did not want to have a fuss just then, as the Texas boys were standing around, and I did not want them to join in; so I said, "If you have spent it, all right; you can hand it to me to-morrow." I was just giving him taffy, for I knew he intended to rob me out of the money, thinking I would not dare to tackle him, but he did not know me. The Texas boys had gone to bed, and there were but few persons in the room. The big killer was standing near the bar, when I saw a chance and let fly; I caught him under the chin and knocked him as stiff as a poker; then I took his big gun out of his pocket and threw it out into the river. I told a black boy to go through his pockets and see if he had my hundred-dollar bill. He did so, and finally found it in his fob pocket. After I got my money back I let him up, and told him to get off the boat; and I said, "If you come back while I am here, I will beat your head off." He lit out. I gave a black man a gun, and told him not to let the fellow on the boat. The next day I was told he was saying he was going to kill me; so I got a double barrel shot-gun, and sent him word to come down and see me. He did not come, but went down to Hog's Point, took a boat, and left that part of the country, as it had got too hot for him around there. I saw him some years later at Laramie City, Dakota, and put the police onto him. They gave him one hour to get out, and that is the last I have ever heard of him.


An old friend of mine by the name of William Hines (who was one of the best steamboat mates that ever ran on the river) and I were laying off at one time in New Orleans, and we took a notion we would get a yacht and have a big sail. We laid in a supply of provisions, and did not forget a five-gallon jug of whisky. We went out to the lake, hired a yacht, and started. Bill was pretty full, so I told him to go below and lay down for a while, and I would look after the boat. The wind was shifting about, and I was afraid the boom would knock him overboard. I was sailing along at a fine rate, tacking about with the wind, and did not notice that Bill had come up on deck until I heard him yell out to me. I looked around and saw the big fat fellow floundering in the water about 100 feet away. I gave her all the rudder, downed sail, and then threw out a line. Bill swam up and caught hold of the line, and then I began pulling him in. I had landed many big suckers, but Bill was no sucker; he was a whale. I got him up alongside, but I was not man enough to pull him up, as the boat stood about four feet out of the water. He was so full of whisky (and water) that he could not help himself. He was about played out, when he said to me, "George I'm a goner." I told him to hold on just a minute. I got a small line, took two half-hitches around his arm, and then made fast to the boat. I knew he could not go down unless his arm pulled out, and there was no danger of that. I took a rest, and then let on as if I was going to raise sail, when Bill said, "George, what are you going to do?" I looked back at him and said, "I have caught a whale, and am not able to pull him in, so I'm going to tow him ashore." Bill looked at me just long enough to satisfy himself that I was in earnest, and said, "For God's sake, George, give me one more pull, for I don't want you to sail in with me in tow." So I went to him, as I had got rested, and he had got sober; we pulled together, and I soon had the big fellow on board. We sailed around for some time; but when we had to make a tack, you can bet your life that Bill was on the lookout for the boom. Every time we would consult the jug, Bill would say, "George, don't tell the boys about how much fun we have had on this trip, will you?"


The deck-hands of the steamer Niagara had been drinking, and some of them were a little drunk. They came up to get more of the fighting stuff, and got into some difficulty with the barkeeper. I was sitting near the bar at the time; and as I was always ready to do my friends a favor, I went out on the guards and tried to stop the fuss, and get the men to go down on deck. One big fellow, who was the fighting man of the crew and a favorite with the mate, thought it was none of my business, and the first thing I knew he cut loose at me. I saw it in time to get up my guard. I did not want to have any difficulty on a boat with any of the officers or crew, so I tried to quiet the fellow down; but he would not have it, but came at me again. I could not avoid it, as he was too drunk to have any sense; so I let fly, caught him under the chin, and brought him down. He was a game one, for he was up and at me once more. I then let into him and gave him a pretty good licking. They took him down on deck, and it was not long until Tom Hawthorn, the mate, came up and asked who it was that had whipped one of his men. The barkeeper told him about all the fuss; but he was mad, and would not excuse any man for defending himself against one of his men. I was in the barber shop at the time, but the barkeeper sent me word to look out for Tom. I went and got my old friend (Betsy Jane), and waited for the fray. I was in the hall when Tom came up looking for me. He walked up and said, "Can't you find any one else to whip, without jumping on one of my men?" I knew he had been told the circumstance, and if he had any sense he would not blame me; but he was mad; and then he intended to teach me a lesson. I knew he would not listen to reason, so I said, "I gave that fellow just what he deserved." He began to pull of his coat, and at the same time said, "Any man that licks one of my men has got to lick me." I saw I had to fight, so I off with my coat and waited for him. He struck out, but I caught it on my arm. I did not want to use my head unless it was necessary; but as he was a tall man with a long reach, he had the advantage. So I watched my chance, then ran in, caught him around the waist, and downed him. It was hard work to keep the old head from taking a hand, but I gave him several good ones on his face and neck. He tried to rise up, when I got in an upper cut which settled him. I let him up, and he went down on deck. He had it in for me, until one night in a saloon, when he hit a man; the fellow got the drop, and would have shot him if I had not taken a hand. After that we were good friends, and he would say to me, "George, you are the only man that can whip my deck-hands."


"For those that fly may fight again, Which he can never do that's slain; Hence, timely running's no mean part Of conduct in the martial art; By which some glorious feats achieve, As citizens by breaking thrive."

When the war broke out, some of the gamblers in New Orleans got up a cavalry company, and named it the Wilson Rangers. I was a member of the company. We armed and equipped ourselves, and the ladies said we were the finest looking set of men in the army. If fine uniforms and good horses had anything to do with it, we were a fine body. When we were ordered out to drill (which was every day), we would mount our fine horses, gallop out back of the city, and the first orders we would receive from our commanding officer would be: "Dismount! Hitch horses! March! Hunt shade! Begin playing!" There was not a company of cavalry in the Southern army that obeyed orders more promptly than we did; for in less than ten minutes from the time the order was given, there would not be a man in the sun. They were all in the shade, seated on the ground in little groups of four, five, and six; and in each group could be seen a little book of tactics (or at least it looked something like a book at a distance). We would remain in the shade until the cool of the evening, when the orders would be given: "Cease playing! Put up books! Prepare to mount! Mount! March!" When we would get back to the city, the people would come out, cheer, wave handkerchiefs, and present us with bouquets; for we had been out drilling in the hot sun, preparing ourselves to protect their homes from the Northern invaders.

After we had become proficient in drill, we were ordered to do patrol duty in the city. The citizens called us their defenders; and we did defend them, so long as there was no hostile foe within five hundred miles of them. We were as brave a body of men as there was in the South, until the news reached us that Commodore Farragut was bombarding Forts Jackson and St. Philip; then we began to realize that the war was getting pretty close to home, and we were a little fearful that our knowledge of the tactics would be but little protection to us if the forts should capitulate. We threw aside the old books we had been studying for so long a time, and took up a new edition that our commander told us was much better in times of immediate danger. So for about six days we devoted ourselves to studying how to get out of the "jack-pot" we had got into, without losing our stake.

We were not kept very long in suspense, for early one beautiful April morning we learned the terrible news that Farragut's fleet had passed the forts, and General Butler with a large land force was marching on the city. We heard the old familiar orders: "Prepare to mount! Mount! March!" But we did not swing into our saddles feeling as gay as when we were on our way to the drill- grounds. We were ordered to the front, and as we rode through the streets the ladies presented us with bouquets, and cheered after us; but then there was but little cheer in that fine body of gamblers. We had many times before attacked the enemy (Tiger) without fear or trembling; but now we were marching to meet a foe with which we were but slightly acquainted. As we passed the old drill-grounds on our way to the front, there was a sigh passed the lips of every man, and our horses turned in, for they (poor dumb brutes) did not know that things had changed.

We were about six miles below the city when the Yankees saw us; but we did not see them, as they were about four miles distant. They were up in the rigging with their glasses, looking for just such suckers as we were; and they turned loose a salute of canister, which came buzzing about our ears, and the next instant we heard an order that we had never heard before: "Retreat!" but we understood it, and lost no time in obeying the command; for I believe we would have executed the movement without orders, if they had not been given just after the first salute. We had a great deal just then to make us feel nervous, but we were thankful for one thing, and that was, we had good fast horses. I had taken mine off the race track, and I was glad of it, for in that race I came out several lengths ahead. When we got back to the city we dismounted without orders, and even forgot to tell the darkies to give our horses a good rubbing-down. We cut the buttons off our coats, buried our sabres, and tried to make ourselves look as much like peaceful citizens as possible; for we had enough of military glory, and were tired of war.

After destroying immense quantities of cotton, sugar, steamboats, ships, and other property, to prevent its falling into the hands of the Unionists, General Lovell with his Confederate troops retreated into the interior of the State, and left the city without any other defense except our company of cavalry; but as we had buried our arms and cut the brass buttons off our beautiful brown corduroy suits, the citizens hadn't as much confidence in our ability to defend as they had when the enemy was five hundred miles away. The merchants expected that the Yankees would sack the city, so they threw open their stores and told everybody to take all they wanted. Bush was boarding with me at the time, and as he was one of the biggest eaters in the world, I wanted more than I could carry; so I hired a dray (for which I had to pay $10), and loaded it down to the guards. We put on a hogshead of sugar, twenty-five hams, a sack of coffee, box of tea, firkin of butter, barrel of potatoes, some hominy, beans, canned fruits, etc. I would have put on more, but the dray wouldn't hold it; and as the load started up Canal Street, I thought, when Bush gets away with all that stuff, I'll make him change his boarding-house. After laying in my stock, I went down to the river to see the fleet come in, and there were all of our company, but they did not make the slightest resistance. The Captain said, "It's no use trying to bluff them fellows, for they have got a full hand."


General Butler took possession of the city the 1st day of May, 1862. His troops gutted the banks, but did not molest the merchants; so those fellows that had given their stuff away were kicking themselves for doing so. He closed up all the gambling-houses, and then issued licenses for public gambling to any one who would pay the fee and take his brother in as a partner. His profits must have been enough to make him independently rich without the spoons. He kept the city very clean, but old yellow-jack got in, and then Ben got a furlough and went up to Washington, and he took the spoons with him. He took the marble statue of Henry Clay out of the state- house at Baton Rouge and shipped it to his home in Massachusetts. He could not hide that as easily as he could the spoons, as after the war the United States Government made him return it, and that nearly killed him.

I had the race-track, and was running games out at the lake. I was making a great deal of money, and would work the boats when I had time. Some one told Butler that I called him names, so he sent for me, and threatened to send me to Tortugas, but I talked him out of that. Some of his officers lost their money against my games and then kicked. The result was, old Ben sent for me again. This time I did not get off so easily. He took me before the Provost Judge, who fined me $1,000 and sent me to jail for one year, and no amount of money could get me out. There were some of the best men in the South in with me, and our friends on the outside did not forget us. We had good beds, and everything to eat that the market afforded. We played poker, and I was making money all the time. I would fee the jailer, and at night he would take me out in the city, so that my prison life was not so very bad. Butler made us a visit one day just at dinner time, and when he saw the birds and wine, you should have heard him roar. "Why," said he, "those d——d rascals are living better than I ever did." The jailer told him that our friends sent in the luxuries. He looked at our big beds, shower bath, and other surroundings and said, "I have a d——d notion to send them to the penitentiary;" but the jailer told him it was pulled down, so he had to give up his d——d notion, and we were glad of it.

I had been in jail for six months, when one day Governor Shipley visited us. He asked the jailer, "Which is Devol?" I was introduced to him, and he asked me where I was raised. I told him in Ohio. He said the crime I was in for was not so very serious, and he told the jailer to turn me out, and I should come to his office. I was let out, and I reported to the Governor. He told me not to beat the officers; I promised I would not, so I was once more a free man.

When Butler heard that I was let out on the Governor's orders, he was mad as the d—-l; so, to get even, he confiscated all my horses, which had cost me over $50,000. I had promised the Governor that I would not beat the officers; but I took my promise back when Ben took my horses, and it was not long after that I caught a sucker paymaster for $19,000, and they did not find out who it was that won the greenbacks. I made a pile of money, bought substitutes for some of my horses, and opened up the race-course again. Ben Butler and I got to be friendly, and he gave me two silver spoons to remember him by, and I have them yet.


I remember a game of poker I had once coming down from Cairo to New Orleans, during the war. There was a paymaster in the game who lost about $3,500, and when we got to Memphis I found out before we landed that he was going to squeal; so I went to the mate and asked him to put me where they could not find me, as I knew when the soldiers came down to the boat I would have to divulge. He put me down in a little locker that was forward of the main hatch, and rolled barrels on it to hide the trap-door. Well, they came down, took lights, and searched the boat and hold, the ladies' and gentlemen's cabin, and at last gave up. After I had staid down there for eight hours, the boat left for New Orleans. I came up into the cabin, and you ought to have seen the passengers look at me. They did not know what to make of my appearance before them; but I told them I was up town and did not know anything of what was going on; and I took in many a dollar after that.


I had a big game of roulette one night during the war, when the Northern officers were traveling up and down the river. The boat was full of officers, and General Banks was on board. Up stepped a big fellow from Texas, who was a detective for General Banks. He pulled out a $100 Confederate bill, and laid it on the red. I picked it up and said I had no Confederate money to pay him in, in case he won. He got very saucy, and went over to the bar, where I could hear every word he said, and told the barkeeper that as soon as I closed that game he would whip me. So I closed up and sent my wheel down stairs in the locker, and walked up to the bar and asked him to take a drink, so that he would make some remark. He said, "I pick my company." I let drive and knocked the ginger out of him, and kept him spinning around until he yelled out. Then came the rush. General Banks and staff, followed by all the boat's officers. The fellow was bleeding like a stuck pig. The clerk told the General how he talked, and he said he got just what he deserved. I then sent down and got my wheel, opened, and all the officers played except General Banks. I was sorry he did not appreciate the game, and change in a few greenbacks.


I was coming up once on the steamer Fairchild, of Louisville, and had won considerable money. There was on board a United States detective. He was asleep at the time the games were going on, and when he came to his breakfast the next morning, there was a great deal of kicking going on about the money and diamonds that the gamblers had won the night before. Some of the passengers at the table knew the detective, and when they got through breakfast they all got with him, and they told him finally they would give him half they had lost if he would get it back. So he saw a big opening, and concluded to make a big bluff to get the money. He came to me as I was standing by the office, and said, "Are you the man who won all the money and diamonds last night?" I told him I was the man. He said, "You must give it back—every cent." That made me laugh, and I think it made him mad, for he pulled back his coat and showed me his badge. Well, I thought he was as good a sucker as any of the rest, or he would not make such a break as that; and when he spoke of my swindling them, I said to him, "Now, sir, I will show you just how I beat those fellows;" and I pulled out three cards, and said, "If you will walk over to the table, I will show you; then if you think there is any swindle about it, I will refund every dollar." He said, "All right." I commenced to play them over, and had him guessing lively, when up stepped the capper and took a look at the cards, and said, "I will bet you $500 I can turn the king." He put up the $500, and did not turn the card; so he and the detective began to whisper to each other, the capper telling him about a spot that was on the right card. Then he made a proposition to go me $500 more. I put up the money to cover his, and he turned the right card, took his money and walked away from the game. Then the detective said, "I will bet you $50 myself." I put up. He laid up $50 and turned the right card. One of the bystanders spoke up and said, "He is only baiting you along till he gets a big bet." I replied, "You are about right." He said, "I will bet you $50 once more." So I put up the amount, and he turned the winning card again. So up stepped the capper and said, "I will bet you $1,000 that I can turn it." "That is just the kind of a bet I like to get." I put up $1,000, and he put up his. Just as he was going to turn, he got the detective by the collar and got his advice. So the detective told him which one it was. "Are you sure?" said the capper. "No, not sure when he gets a big bet like that; but I think so." You see, he had been told I was only baiting for a big bet. Well, the result was, the capper won the bet, and that made the detective swell up like a toad. He would not listen to any of the outsiders' talk any more, but offered to bet $200. I said, "If that is all the money you have, you had better keep it." That made him mad, and he pulled out his long pocket-book and said, "I have got as much money as you." "Perhaps," said I, "you might cripple yourself if you lost much money." "No," said he; "I am no child. When I bet on a fair game like this, I expect to either win or lose." He counted out the money, and I saw he had the $100 he won from me and a little more left. I told him I would bet him $1,100 that he could not turn the king; so he put up. Just as he was about to turn the card, I looked at him and said, "I will let you back out, and give you $100 to take down your money and not turn." "No, no," said he; "not I." "Well," I said, "let her go;" and over she went, but he lost this time.

He drew a long breath and sat down in a chair, and he looked like a sick kitten. Then he got up and went to his room, and finally came out. I thought there would be the d—-l to pay. He called me to one side, and said, "Did you think I was betting in earnest?" "Oh, no," said I, "you were only betting in fun; but I was just keeping in earnest." "Well," said he, "you are not going to keep my money?" "Oh, yes." "I don't care what you do with those other fellows' money, but I want mine," said he, "and I must have it." "Well, you can not have a cent of it." I backed against the bar, and told him he must be crazy if he thought I would give him a cent back, as I never gave a sucker back his money. He then made a motion to his hip; but I had old Betsy Jane in my coat pocket with my hand on it, and my partner was there to assist in holding the fort. He saw his bluff was no good, and he began to give me taffy; saying he had just got that money as a reward for catching a man, and that he had worked six months to get it, and that he had a large family. I told him to go out among the passengers and tell them that he had lost his money at a fair game, and then come to my room and "knock at the back door, and they will not see you come in." Well, he got among them all over the boat, and told them it was a fair game, and he had not a word to say. He came to my room and told me what he had done. I counted out $500 and gave it to him, and told him that if he had not worked so hard for it he never would have got a cent back. So he went off contented, and there was no more squealing on the boat.


During the war I took my gambling tools and started for Brownsville, Texas, and Metamoras. I took passage on board a screw steamer, which had sails also. There were about forty-five passengers, all told. The first two days out of New Orleans were pleasant; but there came on a squall, which tore the sails into threads and came near swamping the vessel. It stopped blowing in about half an hour, and all was calm. There was a young man on board whose father was a very rich man in New York, and had sent his son over to attend to some business. While in New Orleans he became acquainted with a rich firm, and through his letters from his father they intrusted him with $12,000 to be delivered in Brownsville.

It happened that the young man was on deck during the storm, and had to lie flat down and hold on to a coil of chain. After the storm he came into the cabin and said, "I have had bad luck." Of course we were all anxious to know what had happened to him. He said he had had twelve one-thousand-dollar notes in the side pocket of his coat, and the wind had blown his coat over his head, and the bundle went into the Gulf. He said it was money that had been put into his care to be delivered at Brownsville, and that his father would have to stand the loss. We all felt sorry for the fellow, but it soon died out, and there was no more said about it till we got to Brownsville.

When we got to Bagdad and took the stage, he sat close to me and commenced talking about losing the money. He said he felt ashamed to show up at the firm's office. That made me think he was crooked, and I concluded to keep an eye on him. We had not finished our dinners at the hotel in Brownsville, when in marched a squad of soldiers, and the Captain asked which man was Devol. I raised up and said, "That is my name." He said the General in command wanted me. "All right," I said. I went down to headquarters, and when I got there the General said, "Where is the money you won from that young man, coming over on the ship?" I told him I played no cards with any young man on the vessel. "Have you got proof of that?" said the business man to whom the money belonged. "Yes," said I, and I sent to the hotel and got the Captain and the purser, who testified that the young man did not play a card coming over. So I was acquitted, and that was the last of it, as they were all satisfied that the boy did nothing wrong, and really had lost the money.

But I had him spotted; for it takes a rascal to catch a rascal. The Captain and the purser were the only two who did gamble going over, and they were very fond of poker. So my partner and self sat in, and we played four-handed all the way over. We realized about $1,300, which paid our expenses and a few hundred dollars besides.

About six of us agreed to go over to Metamoras that night and spend the evening. The young man said to me that he would like to go along. I said "All right," so we all started, and we had a fine time drinking wine and pony brandy. We went into a gambling-house, and the roulette wheel was going, and a lively game at that. There was one man who was playing very high, and I asked his name. They said it was the Mexican General Cortenas, who was in command of Metamoras. Well, I took out a twenty-dollar bill and laid it on the red, and it came red; I let it lay, and it came red again. I took the $80 and put it over on the black and it won again; so I picked up the money and walked out into the bar-room, and called up every one in the house. At that time a Spaniard would run a knife through you for a dollar, if he caught you in the dark; and a man was not safe to step outside, if they knew he had money on his person. He wanted his pistol in his hand.

Well, the young man was delighted with my playing, and said: "I wish you would play again. I want to put in with you and take half your game." "All right," said I; "after a while." I wanted to get a few more ponies into him, for I was sure he had the money. So I changed the drinks to wine, and I could see his eyes snap at every glass. At last I said, "I guess I will make another play." He stepped back into another room, and came to me, and handed me a brand-new one-thousand-dollar bill that had never been crumpled. I handed it back to him, and told him I would put up $500 of my own, and for him to put his money back; that if I lost, he could get it changed and give me $250. "All right," said he; and I bet $100 on the black, and won it. I bet the same on the red, and it came black again. Then I bet $200 on the red, and it came red. The result was, I played along see-sawing until I was $400 winner, and I quit. I handed my friend $200, and told him I was too tight to play with good judgment.

We had our fun out, and got over to Brownsville about daylight in the morning. We all slept that day, and went over that night again. We did not gamble any that night, but drank wine and smoked our Havanas, and had a good time in general. That night my friend said to me: "I wish I was as smart as you at cards. I could make plenty of money." I said to him, "I can teach you." "Well," said he, "if you get into any game, I want to be an equal partner." He did not know anything about my partner who came over with me, as I had posted him to keep away from me. My partner was a very quiet fellow, who lived in New Orleans. His name was William McGawley.

Well, I told him perhaps I might get up a game with some one. As I was saving him for myself and partner, I did not want the money split up into too many parts. I had too much sense to play in Brownsville, so I fixed up a plan for him and me to take the stage and go to Bagdad, to see if I could not find some one there to play poker. I told McGawley to pay the bill at the hotel, and come to Bagdad the next day with the baggage, which he did. The next evening my young New York friend and I were sitting on the porch at the hotel, when my young friend espied him, and said to me, "You recollect the man who played in the game coming over in the vessel?" "Yes," said I; "there were three besides myself; which one do you mean?" "I don't mean the Captain or the purser, but the other gentleman." "Yes," said I, "I recollect him." "Well," said he, "I just saw him down stairs. I am positive that it is he." I said, "Let us go down and see him." So we both went down and shook hands with him.

My New York friend was very much pleased to see him, thinking I might get a game of poker out of him. So I said, "It is very dull here; what will we do to pass away the time?" I said, "Perhaps we might get up a little game of poker to help us out." McGawley consented to play a little while, so we went and got a room in the hotel and some checks. McGawley asked, "What limit will we play?" I said, "There will be no limit in the game." "All right," said he. I did not want to dwell too long on that $12,000. McGawley went out on purpose to let the gentleman get out his money. The New Yorker asked me how much I would require. I said, "It is going to be an unlimited game, and you had better give me what money you can spare, for if I beat one good hand for him I will break him." He handed me six one thousand-dollar notes. Well, we went to work; and you bet it was lively. I started in $2,000 winner, and you ought to have seen my partner's eyes snap. I don't mean McGawley, of course, for he was a quiet as a lamb. Finally my luck changed, and he beat one hand for $4,000. Then I did commence to kick at my bad luck, and we soon made up another purse. After playing some two hours more, McGawley had all our money; so I said to him, "As you have broke us both, will you lend me $1,000 for a few days, until I get some from New Orleans?" He said, "Certainly," pulled out the money and handed it to me, and I gave my New York partner half, saying, "Perhaps we will have better luck next time, as I will have all the money I want, soon, from New Orleans; then I will tackle him again, and of course you are in with everything that I do."

I had some $600 in silver that I did not know how to get on board the ship, that laid outside of Bagdad, without paying duty on it. So I went to a man from New Orleans, whom I knew well, by the name of Eugene Dupratt. I told him I had this silver, and asked him if he could get it on board the vessel, as he had lighters running all the time. It was about equal to running the blockade, or smuggling. "Well," said he, "I will take yourself, partner, trunks, and silver, and land you safe on board the ship, for $200." "I will give you the money." That night we slipped the things out of the hotel and got them safely on board the lighter, and were soon on board the vessel, and in two hours were under sail for New Orleans. We got home all right, and in ten days after we landed we were both broke, and ready for another trip.


We left New Orleans on a Red River packet, and had been out about an hour, when a man came up to me and said, "Captain, have you any objection to a man opening faro on your boat?" I said, "No, you can open any time you please." He took me to be Captain Heath, and I knew he did not care. He said, "I will open after supper." It was near that time then, and I thought I must go to work if I wanted to beat this man. I found out what room he occupied, and then told my partner to stay and entertain him till I returned. I went to his room, and found an old-fashioned valise that held his tools. I tried the keys I had, and found one to fit. I opened the valise, took out the cards and punched every one of them; then I put them back and carefully locked the valise, went back and invited them to take a drink. Then we went to supper, and after it was over the old fellow brought out his kit and opened a game. He shuffled and put the cards in the box. I asked him what limit he was going to deal. He said, "If any of you put too much on a card, I'll tell you." A good many of the passengers changed in, and he had a lively game. I stood alongside of him, so I could look down into the deck; and when I saw white show, I would copper in the big square, and my partner would play the other end and middle open—for when the white showed, it would be an ace or deuce. In this way we got the old fellow rattled. He changed decks every deal, but had the same bad luck. We finally broke him, and then won his tools. We returned the latter, paid his passage to Shreveport, and gave him $50. After breaking up the faro man, I said, "Gentlemen, I have a game here in which I only need three cards." I opened out, had a fine play, and took in all the money, watches, and pistols that they had. We were then ready to light out, as we had won $2,000 from the old faro dealer, and about $1,200, besides the watches and pistols, at monte. We bid the boys good-bye, and got off at Baton Rouge.


I landed at Natchez one evening just after dark, on the steamer General Quitman. Some one told me that a lady had been robbed of $3,500 that day by some smart thieves. They had watched her go into the bank and draw the money, and then walk over to her carriage, a short distance from the bank. One of the crooks took off his hat, put a pen behind his ear, ran over to the carriage, and said: "Madam, you must excuse me, for I have made a mistake in the money I gave you. You need not get out, but sit still; I will go back and rectify it." She handed him the money, never to see it or him again. After we backed out from Natchez, I opened out my wheel in the barber shop. The passengers came in and played until 1 A. M., when I closed up. While I was packing up my wheel, a fellow came to me and said, "I've got a man with me who has got about $1,700, and I want him to lose it. He loves to play poker; do you think you can beat him?" "Oh, yes," I replied, "I can come pretty near doing it." He said, "I want half, as he is a thief, and no good. I had to divide $3,500 with him that I got in Natchez to-day." "Well, bring him to me, and I will try it;" and he did so. I was not long in doing him up for his part of the stealings. I divided with the other thief, and then opened out my rouge et noir game. The other fellow dropped in, and I won his part of the money, so I had it all. I bid him good night and went to bed; but I could not sleep, because I knew the one I beat last would rob me if he got a chance. I laid in my bed a long time. Presently I heard some one feel the knob of the outside door. I was in the upper berth, and had my pistol under my pillow. My partner was in the lower berth, for he had not been well that night, and went to bed early. Pretty soon, bang went the lock, and a piece of it fell on the floor. Then everything was still for some time, and at last in he came. Just as he commenced to look about him to see how the land lay, I pulled down on him with my gun, as I could see him plainly by the light through the transom. He saw the gun, and did not stop on the order of his going, but he went at once. I got up, dressed myself, and went out to the bar. There was Mr. Thief. I accused him of being in my room, but he denied it. I knew he was lying, but I thought best not to do anything with him, for fear I might have to give up the "stolen money," and I had not lost any myself.


Before the war they had an old steamer fitted up as a wharf-boat and lodging-house at Baton Rouge, to accommodate people that landed late at night, or would be waiting for a boat. This old boat was headquarters for the gamblers that ran the river. Many a night we have played cards in the old cabin until morning, or until our boat would arrive. When thoroughbred gamblers meet around the table at a game of cards, then comes the tug of war. We would have some very hard games at times, and we found it pretty hard to hold our own. My partner proposed that we fix up some plan to down the gamblers that played with us on the old boat, so we finally hit upon a scheme. We bored a hole under one of the tables, and another under one of the beds in a state-room opposite. Then we fixed a nail into a spring, and fastened the spring on the under side of the floor, so that the nail would come up through the floor under the table. Next we attached a fine wire to the spring, and ran it up into the state-room. Then we bored a hole in the bulkhead of the state-room, just over the top berth, so that a person could lie in the berth and look out into the cabin. Now we were ready for the thoroughbreds. When we would get one of our smart friends, we would seat him at our table in his chair, which was always on the side of our state-room. We called it ours, for we had fitted it up just to suit us; and for fear some one would use it when we were out traveling for our health, we paid for it all the time. We had a good boy that liked to lie down and make money, so we would put him in the upper berth while the game was in progress. He would look through the peep-hole, and if our friend had one pair he would pull the wire once; if two pair, twice; if threes, three times; if fours, four times, etc. We would kick off one boot and put our foot over the nail, and then we would be able to tell what hand our friend held. One day I was playing a friend at our table, and he was seated in his chair. I got the signals all right for some time, and then the under-current seemed to be broken. I waited for the signals until I could not wait any longer, for I was a little behind (time), so I picked up a spittoon and let fly at our room. That restored communications, and I received the signals all right. My friend wanted to know what I threw the spittoon for. I told him the cards were running so bad that I got mad; and that an old nigger had told me once it was a good sign to kick over a spittoon when playing cards; so I thought I would not only kick it over, but would break the d——d thing all to pieces. He replied, "I noticed that your luck changed just after you threw her, and I will try it the next time I play in bad luck."


We were passengers with Captain J. M. White on board the steamer Katie, bound for New Orleans, one night, and I had taken a look over the boat, but there was nothing in sight. I was sitting in the hall near the bar, drinking wine and enjoying myself, when a fine looking gentleman came out of his room near by and asked me if supper was over. I told him it was, and asked him to join me in some wine, as he looked like he wanted something. He accepted the invitation, and told me he was hungry. I called the porter and told him to go to the pantry and get the gentleman a lunch, which he did. He thanked me for my kindness, for he thought I acted from pure motives (which I did), and then invited me to join him in some wine. I accepted, for I thought his intentions were honorable. While we were talking and drinking, I asked the barkeeper if he had any of the tickets that the gentleman played the new game with before supper. He said he had, and gave me some of them. I began throwing. We bet the drinks, cigars, and drinks again. I lost most of the time. My capper lost a bet of $500, when the gentleman said: "Good gracious, man! where are your eyes? Can't you see that the baby card has a spot on it?" My partner told him he had not noticed the spot, so the man pointed it out to him. Then he made me another bet, and won.

The gentleman then began to think he was smarter than the man who had lost $500 and could not win it back until he told him about the little spot. I saw he was worked up, so I asked him if he wanted to win something before I quit, as I had no idea of betting money on the game when I sat down; but I would bet him $100 he could not turn the card with the baby on. He flashed his leather, when I saw several large bills; but I pretended not to notice them, and said, "Perhaps you had better not bet, for if you lose it might distress you; but if I lose I will not mind it much, as my father has five plantations." He did not like for me to think that the loss of a paltry $100 would distress him, so he said, "I can afford to bet you $2,000, win or lose." That made me mad, so I said, "I will make it $5,000, if you like." He knew he would win; but he was no hog, and did not want me to ask my old dad for money so soon. My partner wanted him to make it $5,000, and offered to take half, but I said, "No; one at a time, gentlemen." Then the fellow put up, saying to my partner, "I thank you, but I am able to take it myself." He turned the spotted fawn, and found that, if he was not a hog, he was a sucker. I then told him I thought he was too much excited, and invited him to join me in a drink; for I was always very liberal about treating a man that had but little if any money. He accepted the invitation, for now he knew I was a gentleman, and that my motives were honorable. After taking our drinks, he bid me good-night and walked away, and I thought I heard him say, "I would have been better off if I had remained in bed until morning." I thought myself that he "got up too soon."


At one time on the Upper Mississippi, while playing monte, I caught a Jew from Quincy, Ill., who had been down to St. Louis buying a stock of jewelry. I won all his money and the most of his best jewelry. I would not gamble for anything but good stuff in the jewelry line. After I beat the Jew he set up a big kick, and got some of the other losers to join him. They finally agreed that they would make me give up; so they all got after me, and I knew there would be some fun. I got my gun, backed up against the side of the cabin, and said: "Now, gentlemen, I am ready to pay out; the bank is open. The first one that comes shall be the first served, so don't be backward." But, somehow or another, no one wanted to be first, and I stood pat until the boat landed at a town called Warsaw; then I backed out of the cabin, down stairs, and off the boat. When they saw me on the shore, they set up a yell of "Police! Police! Arrest the fellow with the yellow jeans suit." The marshal came running down, and I told him I was the man they wanted arrested; so he waltzed me up to town, and nearly all the passengers followed us—some to get their money back, and others to see the fun. The Captain said he would hold the boat if they would decide the case at once, so the Mayor convened his court and we went into the trial. I had sent for the best lawyer in the town, and he said he would clear me for $50. The Jew was put on the stand, and he swore I snatched his jewelry from him, and a great deal more of the same sort. Some of the passengers that had seen the game swore they did not see any body do any snatching except the Jew. My lawyer handled the case so nicely that I was acquitted. Then you should have heard the passengers laugh at the Jew for all his trouble. They would ask him if he did not want to trade some jewelry for a yellow jeans suit; but he did not have any good jewelry left, and he knew I was not sucker enough to trade for any other kind. There was another boat at the landing, and many of the passengers went up to hear the trial. I went on board the other boat, and in a short time was on my way back to St. Louis. During the trip I ran up a poker hand in a game of euchre, and lifted a man out of $300, which more than paid the expenses of the trial.


We were on board a Red River packet called the J. K. Bell, and we had not made any preparations to gamble. After a while a gentleman came up and asked me if I ever played poker. My partners, Tom Brown and Holly Chappell, and some of the officers of the boat, were sitting there and heard the conversation. They had to put their handkerchiefs in their mouths to keep from laughing, when they heard my answer, "No, I did not." "Well," said he, "I will teach you if you will sit down." He got a deck of cards at the bar, and commenced to show me which were the best hands. I at last agreed to play ten-cent ante. We played along, and I was amused to see him stocking the cards (or at least trying to do so). He gave me three queens, and I lost $10 on them, for he beat them with three aces. Presently he beat a full hand and won $25. That made him think his man was a good sucker. I always laughed at my losing, and kept telling him that after a while I would commence to bet higher. I pulled out a big roll of bills and laid it on the table. Finally I held out four fives, and then I went a big blind on his deal, so that if he did not come in I would throw down my hand, and perhaps there would be no pair in it. About this time he commenced to work with the cards, but I paid very little attention to his work. After playing a while I got three jacks, and then we commenced to bet high. He raised me, and I raised him back, and at last he thought we had enough up. Then I got away with the hand he gave me, and pulled up the four fives. Then the betting became lively. I made him call me; and when he saw my hand, and I had got the money, he grabbed at me and said, "That is not the hand you had." "How the d—-l do you know what I had?" "Well," says he, "where are the other five cards?" "I don't know what you are talking about." He counted the cards carefully and found the jacks, for I had palmed them on top of the deck. Then he pulled out his knife and said, "You are a gambler, and I want my money back." "Oh, is that all? I did not understand. I will give it back, as I don't want to keep your money if you think I did not win it fairly." I let on as though I was taking out the money, when I pulled out old Betsy Jane. He saw her looking him in the face, and he wilted like a calf. I made him apologize, and you never saw a man get such a turning over as they all gave him. They told him he not pick out such apt scholars, for they learn too quickly. What hurt my feelings more than anything else was, that he would not speak to me all the way up to where I got off. As I was leaving the boat I said to him, "Good-bye, sir. We are never too old to learn."


High Miller and I were playing monte one night on the first J. M. White, and had a good game, and made some money. We were about to close up, when a lady and gentleman passed by and saw High throwing the little tempters. They stopped and watched him. I saw they were interested, so I stepped up and lost $100. Then they came back and asked High what kind of a game he was playing. He told them it was the pawn-shop game. The lady wanted to know why he called it pawn-shop? "Because I have two chances to your one," said High. They laughed, and were starting away, when they noticed me turn up a corner on one of the cards. The lady nudged her husband. I made a bet of $500, and won it. The gentleman dropped the lady's arm, got out his money, and put up $100. High told him that he would not bet less than $500; but the gentleman did not want but $100 worth. Then his help-mate tempted him, saying, "It is good." So the man hearkened unto the voice of his wife, put up the $500, turned a card and lost. While High was putting away the money, I grabbed up the right card and turned up the corner again. Then I offered to bet him $1,000 that I could turn the winner. While this was going on the lady was giving her better half a piece of her mind. She was telling him that he was a fool; that he could not see anything, and that she could turn the right card every time. She got out her purse, took out $80 in gold, and asked him how much money he had left. He told her $70. She said, "Give it to me, and I will show you that a woman can beat a man every time." I was counting out my money to put up, when the lady asked me if I would not let her bet first. I said, "Certainly;" for I knew a man never lost anything by being polite to the ladies, and in this particular case I could see we were going to gain $150. High told her he never bet with ladies, but if she would hand the money to her husband he would bet with him. "Him!" says she, "He can't see as well now as when he picked me out for a wife. No, no; he shan't bet any of my money." "All right," says High. So she put up the money. High put up the same amount, and she watched him as though she was afraid he was not going to put up the full $150. After mixing them up a little, High said, "Ready!" The woman took up the card, turned it over, saw it, and then threw it down, instead of giving it to her husband that he also could see. She then took her husband's arm and said, "Come away; my eyes are open; if we stay here that man will win you next, and I don't want to lose you if you are a fool, and can't see as well now as when we were married."

We had a good laugh, took something, and then High said, "George, that woman's a game one; what do you say to giving her back the gold?" "All right," says I. So he offered me the $80, and wanted me to return it. I told him I was not afraid of any man, but, said I, "That woman has got her eyes open, and she may think I am your partner." "No, George," says he, "You closed her eyes when you were putting up that $1,000, and gave way to accommodate a lady; she knows you are a gentleman, and would not have anything to do with gamblers, except to do them the favor of returning money they had won from suckers." His fine words lured me into the trap, so I took the gold and found the lady. I told her that the gambler was sorry he had allowed her to bet, and had requested me to return the money. She looked at me a moment, with her eyes wide open, and said, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow by refusing to accept the money, and may it be a sorrow to you gamblers all the days of your lives."


My old partner Bush and I would play the trains on the Jackson Road out about forty miles above New Orleans, and then get off and wait for a down train. Some times we would be compelled to get off before we had gone that far; but, as a general thing, it would be about that distance before we would get our work in on the suckers. We would go up in the morning to a place called Manshak, and fish until the train would come down in the evening. One day we were fishing and had got some distance apart, when I saw a school of large jack-fish coming down like lightning. I jumped up and grabbed a pike pole that was lying near, slipped the noose over my hand and let fly at them. I struck a big fellow, but he did not stop; he kept right on and pulled me in after him. I yelled to Bush, and he came running to assist me; he reached me a long pole, and then pulled me out. The rope was still on my hand, and the fish was on the pike pole, so we pulled him out, and he weighed about sixty pounds. We took him down on the evening train, and had a part of him broiled for our supper. Bush said it was the largest fish he ever caught. I told him I caught it, when he said: "Why, George, I caught you both."


I have been in some big games in my day, and have always been ready to win a dollar or so whenever I saw a chance. Often in the flush times after the war I have stood up in the bar-room and tossed up a silver dollar or a twenty-dollar gold piece, "heads or tails," for from a hundred to five hundred dollars a throw, and have even indulged in the innocent amusement of spitting at a mark—the money, of course, going to the one that came nearest the spot. But of all the games that I ever ran, I think the biggest was during the war, just after Captain Leathers had purchased the elegant steamer Magenta. The soldiers of the Union Army had burned his fine boat, the Natchez.

The story illustrates the old saying, that one good turn deserves another. When we left New Orleans the boat was full of passengers, and the trip was worth $3,000 to the boat. Reaching Memphis, the Captain soon saw that his chances for a big trip were the best that he had ever had. The boat was loaded to the guards with cotton, and the passenger list was 2350, most of them being cotton brokers, who, of course, carried a great deal of ready money with them. After supper the boat laid up, and commenced blowing off steam. I stepped up to the Captain's office and said to Bob Owens, the clerk: "Bob, what's up—what's the boat laying here for?" "We are in a fix, haven't got enough money in the office to pay the charges on the cotton. It's too late to get anything from the banks, and we shall have to borrow."

I took in the situation in a twinkling, and said: "You needn't look any further; perhaps I can let you have all you want." Bob's face brightened up as he said: "I can get along with $1,000." In ten minutes the money was in his hands and the boat under way.

The supper was over and tables cleared, when I opened out my game of rouge et noir, and it started in big at once. There were twenty-five players, and the smallest money on the table was fifty dollars. At the end of every deal I opened four bottles of wine, which cost me twenty dollars, as the sparkling vintage was then worth five dollars a bottle. There was one man at the table who got pretty full, and finally commenced to put down a thousand dollars at a bet. I was somewhat surprised to see him roll out three thousand-dollar snapping new bills, and put them down. At first I supposed he was a paymaster in the army, but soon learned that he was a cotton buyer, operating for a rich New York firm. Everything was moving on swimmingly, when up came a contractor from Memphis, whose name was Harper. He was a knowing sort of chap; perhaps best described as a "smart aleck." He began to "nip out." I stood it for some time, but finally let go all holds, and started after him, and soon had him broke, though in doing so I lost $12,000 that I had won from the New York party. Then he began to kick, and said the game was not fair; that he was going to have his money back, and threatened to bring up the crew of seventy-five men that he had on board, who had been working on the levee. I sent a message to the mate telling him what to watch out for, so he armed all of the boat's crew, roustabouts and all, with clubs and stone coal, and stationed them at the foot of the stairs; that brought matters to a stand-still. The contractor's men weakened, and the players who were the heaviest losers wanted the throw the contractor overboard, as they said the game was on the square and perfectly fair. There was so much noise made, however, that the passengers began to come out of their state-rooms. The Captain hurried down from the hurricane roof, and ominously shook his head; so I cleared the game, and all was quiet once more. I settled my bar bill, which was $375; and, counting over my money, found I was exactly $19,000 winner, and had I not been disturbed or molested might have won $150,000, as there was more money on board then I ever saw in my life before, and all the men were "high rollers."

That night the contractor and his men got off; the players sobered up, and we resumed operations; but the playing was not so large, nor the players so venturesome. Still I kept the game open till we reached our destination, and came out a few thousands more ahead.


There are always men who have some scheme on hand—some trick or device that is a sure winner. It may be a system, a combination, marked cards, or something of the sort. Such a man was John Brogan, of Alexandria. His stronghold was marked cards. He had played with them for years, and had been remarkably successful, having accumulated considerable property. I was once coming down the Red River, when I made the acquaintance of a shrewd fellow named Neice. He used a small concave reflector about the size of a gold dollar, which he placed in the pile of chips before him, and which in dealing the cards enabled him to see every card, and where it went. He generally played with gamblers, and so adroit was he in his manipulations that they were unable to catch him. I made up my mind that we could both make some money, so I told him that I had a man for him who was well heeled. He was willing to help me, and we started for Alexandria. I got the Captain to land about three miles above the city, and put off my partner, whom I had thoroughly posted. When I reached Alexandria I went at once to the Ice House, for that was the odd name given to the hotel, where I soon found Brogan; and having had a good shake of the hand and a few drinks, we sat down for a social chat about old times, beguiling away the time with choice Havanas.

We had been chatting away for about an hour and a half, when a rough-looking fellow walked into the bar-room and asked if he could get a dram. "I've come a good distance," he said, "and am very tired. The fact is, I have been out in the back country looking up a mill site, and tramped 'round a good deal more than I calculated."

"Take something with me, my friend," spoke up Brogan. "I don't mind," and we all three took a drink together. The stranger called shortly for another round, and as he settled, pulled out a roll of bills as big as a pillow, that at once caught Brogan's eyes. He gave me a significant hunch. After supper the miller walked into the bar-room, purchased a cigar, and walked out. Then Brogan said to me, "How is the best way to get some of that money?" I told him, "I'll play monte for you; perhaps he'll bite at that." John hunted around, and soon brought the miller into the bar-room again. I was up to snuff, and made my talk and showed my cards, and John won $100 from me. Then the miller said, "I'll take a hand." He lost $200. I kept on playing the cards, but the miller would bet no more, remarking to me, "I think you are a sharper."

John then asked the miller if he ever played poker. "Oh, sometimes; I used to play for a quarter ante." "Let's have a little game, then, to pass away time." The game began, and Brogan trotted out his marked cards. I insisted on playing, but the miller said, "No, that I was too smart." So, somewhat crestfallen, I walked out and took a stroll, and was gone perhaps a couple of hours. When I returned they were playing for ten dollars ante, and Brogan was losing very fast. I remained around the card table only for a short time and then went away. When I came back the miller had won every dollar Brogan had as well as his diamonds, amounting to something like $4,500. Brogan came to me and wanted to borrow $500. I said, "Certainly, you can have it; but, John, you are drinking too much; take my advice and wait till morning." "All right; then my luck will change." "Of course, and that miller will be on hand."

Late that night a boat came along, and the miller skipped out. Morning came and I bade John Brogan good-bye. Poor fellow; he never knew why his marked cards didn't work, and I never told him. Both John Brogan and Neice have been dead many years, and, I trust, are happy in the spirit land—perhaps playing chuck-a-luck, marked cards, and concave reflectors with St. Peter and the Apostles.


We were playing monte in the barber shop on board a steamer on one occasion, when a big black fellow, who had been watching the game through the window, asked me if I would bet with a black man. I had never gambled with the niggers, for in those days they were nearly all slaves, and had but little money, and I was looking for suckers who could afford to lose. So I inquired of this big fellow how much he wanted to bet. He said, "I'll bet five or ten dollars." I replied, "If that is all you have, you had better keep it; for I don't want to win a black man's money anyway." That got his African blood up, and he pulled out a pretty big roll, saying, "I got money, massa, if I is a black man." I saw he was well fixed, and so I asked him how he made his money. He replied, "I's a planter, sir, and I just done and sold my cotton." I took out ten twenty-dollar gold pieces, and said, "I will bet you all this against what you have in your hand." "Oh, no, honey," says he, "I got more'n dat." "Then I'll bet you this," I said, pulling out a thousand-dollar note. He put his money down and turned the card, and it was fun to see him open that big mouth, roll the whites of his eyes up, and then throw up both hands, ejaculating: "Laws golly! if dis old nigger hasn't done gone and lost his eyesight, sho 'nuf."


Bluff is a good game, and sometimes it will turn a trick when everything else fails. I boarded Morgan's Railroad, as it was called, upon one occasion at Algiers. Trains on that road were generally full of suckers, as the road connected with the Galveston steamers at Burwick's Bay. Tom Brown and Holly Chappell, my partners, were both along; and as game was plenty along the road, we carried our shotguns along, and in the event of no bigger game were accustomed to get off and shoot snipe, catching the return train to the city in the evening. Sure enough, there was a party of traders aboard, and Brown lost no time in making their acquaintance and opening out. One of them commenced to cut his clothes the minute he got a glimpse of the corner after Chappell made one cap. To make matters more binding, I came up and lost $1,200. Then the ball opened, and it was not more than half and hour before we had downed the party. Then the devil was to pay. One of the party said: "Look here; I must have my money back, or h—l will flop around here mighty quick." Then they all joined in and made a big kick; and as I saw fun brewing, I slipped into the baggage-car, changed hats and coats with the baggage-master, got his badge and my double-barrelled shotgun. Then I rushed into the car and drew the bead on the party who had collected around the boys, giving a war-whoop and demanding in stentorian tones, "Who has been playing cards in this car?"

"I have," said Brown.

"Get off this train mighty quick;" and I pulled the rope. My partners lost no time in getting off. Pulling the rope again, the train started; and when the conductor came back, I explained that somebody would have been hurt, had I not acted as I did. This was satisfactory, and going back he told the party that gambling on the road was against the rules, and that he could have them all arrested when the bay was reached, if he wished. This had the effect of quieting them down, especially as they knew that the man who had won their money was off the train. I was not long in reaching the baggage-car and returning the borrowed articles, and quietly slipping off at the first station, not forgetting my shotgun. Hunting was good that day, and I bagged ten snipe and thirteen robbins, which the boys helped me eat at our old friend Cassidy's restaurant, on Gravier Street, opposite the St. Charles Hotel. The boys all agreed that my conduct was all that saved the boodle, which consisted of $3,300 and two gold watches. Thus it is that a little management, backed by a double-barrelled shotgun and an official badge, is often times a powerful persuader.


I was coming down from Baton Rouge one night in a stern-wheel boat. The night before I had gone up and had been pretty lucky, so I resolved to try and reach New Orleans in time for the next evening's packet. McGawley, my partner at the time, was along; and as we took a survey of the passengers, we noticed that most of them were raftsmen who had just been paid off. They were a pretty tough lot, but appeared to be well heeled, so I was not long in making up my mind to see the color of their money. I managed to scrape an acquaintance with a couple of them, and invited them to drink; then I proposed a game of euchre, to which both agreed. We made it four- handed, and played for the drinks, then the cigars, until finally I resolved to feel one of them; so I ran him up a hand. He sat on my left, and ordered me up. I gave him the laugh and said, "I'll euchre you."

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