Old West Books has published their Catalog 62 July 2023 of Rare, Out of Print Books on the American West. Their particular concentration covers, and the first one is obvious, the “American West, Custer, the Fur Trade, Overland Travel, the Cattle Industry, and the Civil War.” There is even a book that describes both Custer and the Civil War, which is the exception, as all of the others always lead to one place, the Custer Battlefield in Montana. Custer not only had a life before Little Big Horn, but even before he was an Indian fighter. These are a few selections from this latest catalogue from Old West.
We will start with a book about one of the most famous and notorious of all against-the-lawmen of the Old West. Jesse James was a pro-Confederate revenge-seeking marauder in Missouri, a state with divided loyalties during the Civil War. James took up with Quantrill's Raiders during and after the Civil War. It was a great place to cut his teeth for the role in robbing and killing for which he would later be renowned. The book is titled Jesse James My Father, written by Jesse James, Jr., published in 1899. You probably never thought of Jesse James in the role of Daddy, but hey, we learn something new everyday. Of course, Jesse wasn't always at home during his son's youth. In fact, James Jr. used a pseudonym during his younger years to hide the unsavory connection. He was actually once arrested for train robbery himself but was acquitted. He became a lawyer, pawnbroker, and opened a restaurant in Los Angeles. He even appeared in a movie about his father. The book, of course, is about his father, but we have provided some background about the son because you probably don't know anything about him but know all about his father. This is a copy of the rare first printing of the first edition. Item 36. Priced at $12,500.
The West was not easily tamed, not so much because of the wilderness of the land but because of the wildness of its characters. Item 22 is The Establishment of Law and Order on Western Plains, by William De Veny, published in 1915. De Veny writes about Dodge City, from which more buffalo hides and meat were shipped between 1872-1880 “than any other half dozen points in the country.” He continues, “About all of the man-killers of the west congregated at one time or another in 1872-1885 in Dodge.” “Many famous men engaged in a business that is not looked upon as legitimate,” naming Bat Masterson, Bill Tilghman, and Wyatt Earp among others. “You could find all the trouble you wanted whenever you cared to go looking for it.” As to how the city supported itself, they had an unusual form of taxation. “The chief revenue of the city came from a fine of 5 to 25 dollars a week levied upon the women of the underworld, of which there were 80 to 150 according to the season.” While the fines may have been placed on the women, one imagines it was the men of Dodge who were indirectly paying for them. $6,500.
This book provides an inside account of the last days of the Civil War, With General Sheridan in Lee's Last Campaign by a Staff Officer, published in 1866. That staff officer was Frederick C. Newhall, but among the others with Sheridan up to Lee's surrender at Appomattox was Gen. George Armstrong Custer. Custer loved publicity like few others, but was also a courageous leader willing to put his life on the line. His impetuous nature could be seen even then, Newhall describing a mad dash of his as “Custer against the world,” and “recklessly riding down all opposers.” It was this reckless bravery that enabled Custer to develop a famed reputation as he headed west after the war to fight Indians. It was an effective strategy, building his name more deeply into the public consciousness, and ultimately, it was what made Custer a famous person even now a century and a half later, though not in a way Custer could have foreseen. Item 50. $375.
Gen. Custer was rapidly building his reputation during the Civil War, but all good things must come to an end. He was carelessly brave one time too many. His denouement is too well known to need repeating. It took a couple of days before soldiers came to the battlefield to bury Custer and his men. They had gone down fighting, but down they went to a man. One of those who helped bury the General and his brother was Thomas Coleman, and item 44 is I Buried Custer, the Diary of Thomas W. Coleman 7th U.S. Cavalry. It was edited by Bruce Liddic with a forward by John M. Carroll. Coleman had served under Major Marcus Reno. Reno's detachment had been battered fighting the Indians, gathering with those of Frederick Benteen in a defensive position on a hill. It was their failure to go to Custer's assistance despite their own predicament that made both controversial figures. Two days later, Coleman was burying Custer and his men. He noted that their bodies had been mutilated, a fact kept quiet for years until after the death of Custer's wife, Elizabeth, half a century later. No one wanted her to know. This is #18 of 25 copies bound in leather and signed by the author, illustrator, and writer of the forward, published in 1979. $395.
Here is another title from the series of people who buried famous people. The book is I buried Hickok, the Memoirs of White Eye Anderson. The author/editor was William B. Secrest, published in 1980. “White Eye,” so named because of a singed white eyebrow, was a friend of Hickok's, spending time with the latter in Deadwood. Evidently, Anderson was displeased with some of the less than accurate portrayals of his friend and wished to set the record straight. He prepared his account near the end of his 92-year life, many decades after Hickok lived. The book also mentions other known figures from the era, including Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane, Liver-eating Johnson, Jesse and Frank James. This is also #18 of 25 leather-bound copies signed by the author and illustrator. Item 60. $395.