Will Welton Gambler
In the early years of the War Between the States, Civil War or War of Northern Aggression, as some southerners called it, a man paid his debts however he could. In the southern states, at times, slaves were used as collateral and won or lost on the turn of a card in games of chance. Whole plantations was lost because of this war and the slaves set free with no where to go or any means of support for food. Many of the slaves starved to death or were hung for thievery because of stealing food or clothing.
Action packed about the trip from Arkansas on the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountians.
During the Civil War there were people who did not believe in slavery and helped the slaves to escape to the north or to the far west. This is about one such incident which happened and how the slaves were moved to Colorado. There are many more stories of such things happening and the destination was one of the western Territory’s. Quiet a few towns sprang up in the west which was for the black people to live and it was for blacks only.
In the western part of the United States a black man was measured by what he could do and his honesty. There were many cowboys, wagon drivers, horse wranglers, cooks, and other jobs the black people excelled in every way. They were accepted by the Indians and some whites as equal men. In the west the black man was accepted into the Calvary and was soon feared as the fiercest fighting man by all hostile Indian.
Jed Marcus had been working the river boats for the last five years. He had been on the Delta Queen for the last two months and was known for his honesty at the poker tables. The air was still cool during the day and could get cold during the night for it was the first part of April 1861. Jed had just finished a letter to his father and mentioned in it he was going to head out this summer and see his mother’s people. He watched as people came up the gang plank for he was looking for potential customers. Of course he would give the passengers time to settle in. Jed would always let the boat get under way, have a good meal, and then he would head to the main deck where the bar and gambling tables were located. However with Lincoln and Congress spouting setting the slaves free it was getting harder at the tables, to get the usual big spenders to turn loose any money, for people new that a war was evidently coming and money might get tight. Most of the men, which played poker for high stakes, had plantations and such in Louisiana or Texas along the mighty Mississippi. The gang plank was starting to swing back onto the boat and Jed stubbed out his cigar, turned from the railing, and headed back to his state room. He was going to lie down for a while and he just might take a nap before the evening meal was served.
At the small state room, six feet wide and eight feet long, Jed removed his suit coat, his boots, and his shoulder holstered .32 before lying down. As he lay there on the bunk he could feel the boat swing away from the pier and into the current. He knew there would be a war coming and he did not want to have to choose sides. One of his brothers lived with his family and their mother in Pennsylvania while the other brother was in South Carolina.
He must have drifted off to sleep for when he woke the sky he could see through the small window was black. Jed got up, shaved, washed up with the water in the pitcher and changed shirts. He made a mental note to either get some laundry done or buy a few more white shirts. Slipping the shoulder holster back over his shoulder he made sure there were four shots in the pistol ready for use. Donning his jacket he then looked in the small mirror hanging over the wash cabinet and straightens his string tie. Stepping back he got a fair look of his five foot two inch frame. He straightened his jacket so the pistol was not quiet as obvious. Ensuring that the door was lock as he exited the room, for he had eight thousand dollars in his valise under the bed, he then went to the dinning room for supper.
Jed had to stand for fifteen minutes or so until he could get a seat at one of the tables. As Jed ate pork roast and potatoes he listened to the conversation around him and heard that President Lincoln was trying to pass a law through Congress to abolish slavery and that some of the southern state representatives were trying to block the law. He could tell that several of the men at the table behind him were true blue blood southerners and one of the men said the slave market had bottomed out. That he could not even sell his slaves for near what he had invested. Shortly the group left the dinning table and Jed over heard them mention going to the bar room on the upper deck. Jed ate slowly to give the men time to hit the whiskey at the saloon before he finished eating. By the time he was finished eating the dinning room was down to just him and a nice looking lady setting with an older lady who looked like something the dogs had drug in and then pissed on the pile and left it out to dry.
Not long afterward Jed was entering the Texas Bar. There were a dozen men standing along the bar drinking and talking loud with the five gaming tables holding five patrons each. The card games were in progress and some of them would probably be going on till dawn or later. At that time several men left the bar and Jed made his way over to order a brew of ale. Jackson the first mate had been stocking the bar with the ale since Jed had saved his life from a stowaway trying to put a knife in his back and Jed taking the knife away from the stowaway and then had thrown the man over the railing into the water. Jed had stood around for over an hour and decided to get a breath of fresh air for the smoke was rising from so many cigars burning. He stepped out on the walkway and almost bumped into the two ladies from the dinning room. Jed was watching the river bank slip by in the moon light when Jackson came up and stopped. They talked awhile and Jackson told of the latest news received by Captain Holt in a telegram which had come as the gang plank was coming up. The South had fired on the Northern Army at Fort Sumter some where on the east coast. Jackson said he had not heard exactly where but the war between the north and the south was starting.
After a while Jed headed back into the gaming room and bar. Several of the tables had became vacant since he had went out side and the one he had been keeping an eye out for had a man just standing, picking up his money, saying, “Hate to leave you men but I need to get some sleep for it will be a long day for me tomorrow.” The man walked away and Jed came over to the table and said, “Mind if I set in for a few hands?” Several of the men waved him to the seat and Charles La Bissau said, “Table stakes and skies the limit.”
Jed set down in the chair, pulled his wallet from his inside coat pocket, took out four thousand dollars of his money from his wallet, he would play tonight and hopefully win if he lost he still had other money in his stateroom, and placed the stack of money on the table. He then returned his wallet to his pocket. He then motioned Herrick the bartender for a glass of ale. La Bissau called over to the bar and ordered whiskey and a new deck of cards. He had a large stack of money in front of him and as the night progressed it seemed to float over towards the other players. By the witching hour La Bissau, Jed, and Fredrick Lumas were the only players. La Bissau stack of money was almost depleted when the next round of cards were dealt by Lumas.
Jed caught two deuces, two nines and the ten spot of hearts. Lumas must have had a good hand for he raised the pot a thousand dollars. Jed saw the thousand and bet two thousand. La Bissau kept fumbling with his money and saw the three thousand to him. Lumas bet four thousand and kicked in the other two thousand to cover Jed’s bet. La Bissau only had a few bills in front of him and Jed knew he had a chance to discard the ten spot and just might draw a deuces or a nine. Jed counted out four thousand to cover the bet and another five thousand into the pot for a raise. If La Bissau was going to stay in the game he would have to come up with nine thousand to cover the bet and Lumas looked to have the five thousand in front of him to copper the pot.