Saturday, August 29, 2015

AUGUST 29 = Hurricane Katrina



In the early morning hours of today's date, August 29, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina entered the Gulf Coast of the United States. When it slammed into the city of New Orleans the storm had a Category 3 rating – it brought sustained winds of 100–140 miles per hour.  The storm reached some 400 miles across. Levee breaches brought about massive flooding in the city of New Orleans herself, and hundreds of thousands of people across three states, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi were displaced from their flooded homes. It is estimated that Katrina caused approximately $131 billion in damage, and the death toll came to 1,833 people.

New Orleans is Slammed

New Orleans was hit particularly badly. Over time, the Army Corps of Engineers had built a system of levees and seawalls to shield the city from flooding in just such emergencies. But most of these levees failed. About half of New Orleans lies above sea level, but its average elevation is in fact roughly six feet below sea level. And of course the city is effectively surrounded by water. Thus, entire neighborhoods, many of
them containing the city's poorest residents were hit very badly by flooding and were effectively wiped out. Storm survivor Alice Jackson recalls the 29th:

"At 1 a.m., wind started pummeling the house. I woke everyone up and we listened to the radio. We learned that all three of the emergency operation centers were washed away. That's when I knew we were in big trouble. Then we lost the radio.

"All night I'd been watching a giant pine tree in a neighbor's yard. It had been bending mightily, but had stayed rooted. Suddenly I heard a deafening crack, and I yelled, "Run!" Seconds later the tree smashed through the house. We had escaped to the master bedroom closet in the center of the house. My sister-in-law hauled a mattress off the bed and leaned it on top of my mother and my niece. Then we noticed that the walls were heaving, so we raced around the house, opening windows to relieve the pressure build-up.

"Looking outside, we watched in horror as the house behind us turned into what looked like a living, breathing monster. The roof would lift, the house would expand, and then the roof would fall. Finally, the house exploded."

Katrina Flooding Brings Heroism

It had already been pouring rain upon New Orleans for some hours by the morning of this day of Aug. 29.  The city's levees and most of it's drainage canals were completely overtaken by storm surges which reached as high as 9 meters. Low-lying areas suffered from water seeping through the levees left neighborhoods such as the Ninth Ward, and St. Bernard Parish under so much flooding that residents had to flee onto their roofs and attics, just to avoid drowning. In such situations as his, there was a great deal of heroism and personal sacrifice. In efforts that bring to mind the rescue of the British Army at Dunkirk in 1940, people just got into their own boats, or commandeered whatever craft they could find and began rescuing those who were stranded on their rooftops. And the U.S. Coast Guard
remained true to their calling, rescuing 34,000 people in the stricken city. Coast Guard rescue swimmer Jonathan Rice recalls:

"I did a rescue to a two-story building, where this lady threw her infant child at me, and I had to catch the child in the air," Rice said. "I'm sitting here, and I'm holding this child by the arm, and I'm going 'man, what if I would have missed this child's arm?' And she's crying and I pull her up, and I hug her real tight, and I get her inside the aircraft, and she starts smiling at me, and just reaches over and hugs me. She knew that I'd just saved her life."

The Aftermath

As a result of the winds and flooding of Hurricane Katrina some 80 percent of the city of New Orleans wound up being under water to some degree.  And what made it worse was that the governmental agencies involved seemed quite unprepared to deal with the disaster. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin waited until the last minute before declaring a mandatory evacuation of the city. This left many people stranded, and he roads choked with outgoing traffic. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco was reluctant to authorize the Federal Government to take charge of the relief effort. A large number of people who were unable to evacuate were directed to the New Orleans
Super- dome.  But the resources of that facility were quickly over- whelmed, leaving people without adequate food or water. And FEMA, (the Federal Emergency 
Management Agency) took days to set up operations in the city, and even when they did, they didn't seem to have a proper plan of action. It is not my purpose here to go through all of the many mistakes that left people stranded and dying as a result of bad government.  I simply haven't the space.  But President George W. Bush wound up looking as if he didn't understand what people were suffering on the ground. To many, he didn't seem to care. As he wrote later in his autobiography "Decision Points":

"Just as Katrina was more than a hurricane, its impact was more than physical destruction. It eroded citizens' trust in their government.  It exacerbated divisions in our society and politics. And it cast a cloud over my second term."




"Decision Points" by George W. Bush, Crown Publishing Group, New York, 2010


















Tuesday, August 25, 2015

AUGUST 25 = The Great Moon Hoax of 1835!!



"Tuesday, August 25, 1835
GREAT ASTRONOMICAL DISCOVERIES 
LATELY MADE
BY SIR JOHN HERSCHEL, L.L.D. F.R.S. &c.
At the Cape of Good Hope
[From Supplement to the Edinburgh Journal of Science]"

"The next animal perceived would be classed on earth as a monster. It was of a bluish lead color, about the size of a goat, with a head and beard like him, and a single horn, slightly inclined forward from the perpendicular. The female was destitute of horn and beard, but had a much longer tail. It was gregarious, and chiefly abounded on the acclivitous glades of the woods. In elegance of symmetry it rivalled the antelope, and like him it seemed an agile sprightly creature, running with great speed, and springing from the green turf with all the unaccountable antics of a young lamb or kitten. This beautiful creature afforded us the most exquisite amusement."

This is just one of the fanciful creatures which the New York Sun claimed to have found on the surface of the moon with the help of a telescope in Capetown.  In a series of six articles, the paper committed a huge hoax upon its readers, beginning on today's date, August 25, in 1835.  

"The Great Moon Hoax" Begins

Called “The Great Moon Hoax,” the series of articles claimed to be reprinted from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. They were said to be written by one Dr. Andrew Grant, said to be a colleague of Sir John Herschel, a famous astronomer of the day. Dr. Herschel had indeed   
traveled to Capetown, South Africa, in January 1834 and using a powerful new telescope, he had constructed a powerful observatory there.  As Grant described it, Dr. Herschel had seen all manner of fantastic life forms on the moon, including the giant blue goat described above, as well as some furry winged humanoids which flew about as bats (above), unicorns, and two legged beavers. It also drew a vivid picture of the moon's geographical features which included lush vegetation, roaring rivers, and huge amethyst crystals.

"Dr. Grant" Turns Out to be Fictional

Of course the problem was that Herschel, a very real scientist (below), had never seen anything of the sort; wasn't even aware that such claims had been made. There was no Dr. Grant, and the The Edinburgh Journal of Science had ceased publication some years earlier, The 
articles had in fact been satire, meant to poke fun at the fanciful claims being published in the speculative books by such writers as Reverend Thomas Dick, a popular science writer who claimed that there were 4 billion inhabitants on the moon. But the articles had not been recognized as satirical by the readers if the Sun, but instead were widely read by the public. In fact, the Sun's circulation is said to have shot up considerably as a result of these articles. And this sort of amazing science definitely took hold with the public, which hung on every word. 

"The Great Moon Hoax" Finally Collapses

But real scientists had taken an interest in the articles; a group from Yale University arrived in New York, looking for the articles which had been cited in the Edinburgh Journal. But after being directed and re-directed by employees off the Sun between various printing and editorial offices, the men realized that they had been taken in. Here, the historical record available on-line becomes a bit sketchy. "The History Channel" website says that on September 16, 1835, the Sun announced that the whole thing had been a hoax.  But "Wikipedia" says "It was not discovered to be a hoax for several weeks after its publication and, even then, the newspaper did not issue a retraction."  And the public did not seem to be too angered by the whole affair, according to "the History Channel."  In fact the Sun claimed that their circulation had risen considerably as a result of "the Great Moon Hoax" and that indeed, it had wound up staying with increased readership. The validity of this claim is said to have been greatly exaggerated by several sources. No doubt it was overplayed, but the Sun did nevertheless stick around until the 1950's.  So this whole crazy affair couldn't have hurt them too much.


Sources:






























Monday, August 10, 2015

AUGUST 10 = The Smithsonian Institution is Founded



James Smithson (left).  The name probably means very little to most Americans.  In fact he was barely known to the people of his own country - England.  Yes, Mr. Smithson was a life-long Englishman. He never even visited the United States during his life time.  And yet, his gift to the United States of America - an odd addendum to his will - resulted in the building of one of the foremost research institutions and museums in the entire world - the Smithsonian Institution. For on today's date, August 10, in 1846, President James K. Polk signed the Smithsonian Institution Act into law.

Smithson's Strange Bequest

All of his life, James Smithson was a hardworking man who had a problem with legitimacy.  He was the "illegitimate" son of the Duke of Northumberland and Elizabeth Katie Macie, a descendant of King Henry VII.  Smithson inherited a considerable estate from his mother, and studied hard in his chosen field of science, becoming a fellow of the prestigious  Royal Society of London at the age of 22. He published many scientific papers on chemistry and mineral composition.  In geology,  he changed scientific wisdom in proving that zinc carbonates
were true carbonate minerals - one type of zinc carbonate was named "smithsonite" in his honor (right).  Still. there was this problem with his sketchy parentage.  "On my father's side I am a Northumberland, on my mother's I am related to kings, but this avails me not." he once said.  So he wrote out a will in which he left all of his estate to his nephew. And this contained an odd provision: that if his nephew was to die without an heir (legitimate or otherwise), it was to go to “the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”

Smithson's Bequest Sets Off Much Discussion

Smithson's motives are unknown.  Me may very well have turned against the mores of his own country which put such a stigma upon "illegitimacy." It may very well be that with the French Revolutions and Napoleonic Wars still being a recent memory, Smithson thought that his bequest was better off being placed in a country that was far away from all of this warfare, and thus would be a more suitable place for scientific research. Whatever the case, when Mr. Smithson died in 1829 the press in America was quite taken aback by this odd provision. In fact it was given play in the New York American which on Jan. 26,
 1830 published the relevant portion of the will with the headline: "We Find the Following Statement Respecting a Will." Well six years after the death of Smithson, his nephew, Henry James Hungerford did indeed die, heirless as they say. So, on July 1, 1836, the U.S. Congress approved the acceptance of Smithson’s bequest. President Andrew Jackson dispatched Richard Rush (above), former Treasury Secretary and diplomat to England to arrange the whole thing. And two years later Rush returned with the gold that Smithson had left, as well as all of Smithson's papers, The gold when melted down came out to be worth an astronomical $500,000. After much debate,  Congress agreed that the bequest would support the creation of a museum, a library, and a program of research, publication, and collection in the sciences, arts, and history.

The Smithsonian Institution Today....

Today, the Smithsonian stays true to the original ideal set by Joseph Smithson, stating as their mission: "the increase and diffusion of knowledge." From those beginnings the Smithsonian has grown into a true museum of America, comprised of 19 museums and galleries. The
Smith- sonian also includes nine research facilities throughout the world, stating as its vision: "Shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world." And towards that end it is always expanding with new branches such as the recently announced National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Still standing is the original Smithsonian Institution Building the “Castle,” as it has come to be called (above).  Also included is the National Museum of Natural History, which holds the natural science collections, and the National Portrait Gallery. The National Museum of American History contains the original Star-Spangled Banner and hundreds of other artifacts of U.S. history. The National Air and Space Museum has such pieces of aviation history as the Wright brothers’ plane and goes all the way to space exploration with Freedom 7, the space capsule that took the first American into space.

And as said, James Smithson, the Smithsonian Institution’s great benefactor, never made it to America in his lifetime. But after his lifetime he finally made it "across the pond."
He was buried in Genoa Italy upon his death in 1829. But his mortal remains were brought to the United States in 1903, and since that time they have been interred in a tomb in the Smithsonian Building (left).



Sources =













Thursday, August 6, 2015

AUGUST 6 = The Bombing of Hiroshima - 71 Years Ago




"The revelation of the secrets of nature, long mercifully with-held from man, should arouse the most solemn reflections in their minds and consciences of every human being capable of comprehension. We must indeed pray that these awful agencies will be made to conduce to peace among nations, and that instead of wreaking measureless havoc upon the entire globe, they may become a perennial fountain of  world prosperity."

These were the reflections of Sir Winston Churchill on being told about the Atomic Bomb being dropped on Hiroshima in Japan, on today's date, August 5, 1945 - 71 years ago.

A uranium gun-type atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, exploding 2,000 feet above the city in a blast equal to 12-15,000 tons of TNT, destroying five square miles of the city. Within the first two to four months of the bombing, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima. About half of these fatalities occurred on the first day. In the months that followed, a large number of people died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and this was compounded by illness and malnutrition. Although Hiroshima did in fact have a large military garrison, most of those killed were civilians.

The Meaning of the Atomic Bomb...

Those are the basic facts.  What can one say about this event? I admit that I have a very personal bias in this: my father was a Marine serving in the South Pacific.  He would have been but one of the thousands of U.S. military personnel who would have invaded the home islands of Japan. This was indisputably what would have had to happen; the Japanese had no intention of surrendering.  My father and many others might well have been killed and neither myself, nor any member of my family would ever have existed.  If one mourns the loss of civilian life and the destruction that occurred in Hiroshima - as I do - then imagine something very much like that occurring over the whole of Japan, and you have the likely result if the bombs - the one dropped on Nagasaki came three days later - had not been dropped.  So I for one am completely supportive of  President Truman's decision to go ahead with it.  But that does not beget any gladness on my part about the hideous deaths that occurred, nor of the nuclear age that opened on this day when we took this step. War is a tragedy, and this day was perhaps the most tragic of all. This debate will continue - and I urge you, my readers to take part in it by writing in your reaction to my words.

What I shall do now is let a few of the participants speak....

Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Pilot of the "Enola Gay" the plane that dropped the bomb:

"...we made our turn, and as we leveled out our turn the flash occurred.  The man in the tail gunner's position said, 'I can see it coming,' meaning the shock wave. It was a real wallop -- a real bang. It made a lot of noise, and it really shook the airplane....  There was the mushroom cloud growing up, and we watched it blossom... the thing reminded me more of a boiling pot of tar than any other description I can give it.  It was black and boiling underneath with a steam haze on top of it. And of course we had seen the city when we went in, and there was nothing to see when we came back.  It was covered by this boiling, black looking mess."

A Japanese Journalist:

"Suddenly a glaring whitish-pink light appeared in the sky, accompanied by an unnatural tremor that was followed almost immediately by a wave of suffocating heat and a wind that swept away everything in its path. Within a few seconds the thousands of 
people in the streets and the gardens in the center of the town were scorched by a wave of searing heat. Many were killed instantly, others lay writhing on the ground, screaming in agony from the intolerable pain of their burns. Everything standing upright in the way of the blast was annihilated.... Trams were picked up and tossed aside as though they had neither weight nor solidity. Trains were flung off the rails as though they were toys. Horses, dogs, and cattle suffered the same fate as human beings. Every living thing was petrified in an 
attitude of suffering....   Up to about three miles from the center of the explosion, lightly built houses were flattened as though they had been built of cardboard. Those who were inside were either killed or wounded. Those who managed to extricate themselves by some miracle found themselves surrounded by a ring of fire."

United States President Harry Truman:

"The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians. But that attack is only a warning of things to come. If Japan does not surrender, bombs will have to be  dropped on her war industries and, unfortunately, thousands of civilian lives will be lost.

"Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.

"We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan's power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us."

- From Truman's Public Statement of August 9, 1945

Hiroshi Sawachika, Japanese Army Doctor:

"When I felt someone touch my leg, it was a pregnant woman. She said that she was about to die in a few hours. She said, 'I know that I am going to die. But I can feel that my baby is moving inside. It wants to get out of the room. I don't mind if I had died. But if the baby is delivered now, it does not have to die with me. Please help my baby live.' There were no obstetricians there. There was no delivery room. There was no time to take care of her baby. All I could do was to tell 
her that I would come back later when everything was ready for her and her baby. Thus I cheered her up and she looks so happy. But I have to return to the treatment work. There were so many patients. I felt as if I was fighting against the limited time.  Later, I went to the place where I had found her before, she was still there lying in the same place. I patted her on the shoulder, but she said nothing. The person lying next to her said that a short while ago, she had become silent. I still recalled this incident partly because I was not able to fulfill the last wish of this dying young woman. I also remember her because I had a chance to talk with her however short it was."

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first, and so far the only time such weapons have been used other than testing.  Whatever one's view on this event, I think that we can ALL agree in hoping devoutly, that Hiroshima and Nagasaki will remain the only time such weapons have ever been used.


Sources =

"How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History" by Erik Durschmied, MJF Books,
New York, 2012

"The American Heritage Picture History of World War II" by C.L. Sulzberger, American Heritage Publishing Co. Inc. , 1966

http://www.doug-long.com/hst.htm

http://www.inicom.com/hibakusha/hiroshi.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

























Sunday, August 2, 2015

AUGUST 2 = "Wild Bill" Hickok is Killed


"He was a Plainsman in every sense of the word, yet unlike any other of his class. In person he was about six feet one in height, straight as the straightest of the warriors whose implacable foe he was; broad shoulders, well-formed chest and limbs, and a face strikingly handsome; a sharp, clear, blue eye, which stared you straight in the face when in conversation; a finely-shaped nose, inclined to be aquiline; a well-turned mouth, with lips only partially concealed by a handsome moustache. His hair and complexion were those of the perfect blond. The former was worn in uncut ringlets falling carelessly over his powerfully formed shoulders. Add to this figure a costume blending the immaculate neatness of the dandy with the extravagant taste and style of the frontiersman, and you have Wild Bill, then as now the most famous scout on the Plains. Whether on foot or on horseback, he was one of the most perfect types of physical manhood I ever saw."

This was the way that George Armstrong Custer described the appearance of James Butler Hickok, more famously known as "Wild Bill Hickok",  one of the most celebrated gunfighters of America's Old West.  Hickok was one of the most colorful figures in a tapestry which came to be filled with such characters. With the passage of time and the contributions of the popular dime novels, Hickok's exploits were considerably embellished, sometimes by Hickok himself. But he was killed on today's date, August 2 in 1876, while playing poker. The hand he was holding at the time has ever after become known as the "Dead Man's Hand".

William Hickok's Early Life

Born in Troy Grove, Illinois on May 27, 1837 to William Alonzo Hickok and Polly Butler Hickok, his correct name was James Butler Hickok.  His parents were God-fearing Baptists who operated a "station" on the "Underground Railroad", smuggling escaped slaves into freedom. It was when his father was being pursued with escaped slaves that Bill first experienced hostile gunfire. After this the young man became fascinated with guns and gunfire, and began practicing on small animals around his parent's farm.  He developed into an excellent marksman.  His father was killed because of his abolitionist views when Bill was 14.  At 17, Bill went away to work on the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Eventually he wound up as a stagecoach driver. Bill developed a reputation for belligerence in putting his marksmanship to work fighting off bandits who were always trying to rob the stagecoach. This was burnished by a deadly encounter with a bear with Bill killing the bear with his six-inch knife. Such a man was obviously not to be messed with! 

"Wild Bill" Gets Into Gunfights

In July of 1861 while working for the Pony Express station in Nebraska 
he got into a fight with David McCanles, who was always teasing Bill about his girlish appearance. Bill might have dallied with a girl that McCanles fancied. Whatever the case, when McCanles and two of his fellow gunmen came to the station to collect a debt, profanities were exchanged, and gunfire erupted. Hickok who was initially behind a curtain opened fire and killed McCanles, and fatally wounded the  
other two men. No charges were filed and Bill got off on self-defense. Later this would become told again and embellished as the "McCanles Massacre" in which Bill quickly and easily knocked off a dozen outlaws.  Bill went on to serve during the Civil War as a scout. By some accounts it was during this period that he acquired his nick-name.  In  Independence, Missouri, Bill ran into a mob which was bent on (above, Hickok, circa 1860's) hanging a bartender who had shot a man during a brawl. Hickok put a stop to this by firing two shots over their heads. He then stared down the rest of the mob until it broke up.  A woman onlooker who was grateful shouted from the side "Good for you Wild Bill!" She may have mistaken Hickok for another man, but the moniker caught on, and stuck ever after.

The Tutt Gunfight

By this time of post-Civil War America, Bill was becoming well known as a gunfighter and a gambler.  Bill soon found himself in a dispute where he was tested as both. In early 1865, Bill met and befriended Davis Tutt, a former soldier in the Confederate Army.  But the two men had a falling out, and by July of that year they were playing in a poker game. Hickok was on a winning streak when Tutt demanded payment
on a debt from a previous game.Bill didn't have the cash on hand. Tutt then saw Bill's pocket watch on the table and snapped it up as collateral for the "loan". Bill angrily warned Tutt that if he wore the watch he would kill him.  But Tutt appeared in the town square the next day, July 21, proudly sporting the watch. Bill warned him not to approach while wearing the watch.  Tutt began to move toward Bill, and the two men faced each other and fired simultaneously, in true dueling style (above). Tutt's shot missed, but Bill's did not piercing Tutt's heart.  Bill was arrested for murder, but acquitted - a very unpopular result at the time. But this was the first of what became known as the classic western gunfight; an important part of Old West folklore.

Bill Falls on Hard Times

Bill for the next several years held several different jobs, including scouting for George Armstrong Custer.  He also held several jobs as town marshal in places throughout the west.  And he became known as an expert gambler.  By 1871, he was the town marshal in Abilene, Kansas. Samuel Henry who knew Bill described his gambling posture: "His whole bearing was like that of a hunted tiger---restless eyes, which nervously looked about him in all directions closely scrutinizing every stranger. When he played cards, which he did most of the time in the saloons, he sat in the corner of the room to prevent an enemy from stealing up behind him"  In October of 1871 a bunch of rowdies led by Phil Coe started shooting up the town. Coe shot at a wild dog which had tried to bite him. Bill came out of the Alamo Saloon and tried to disarm Coe.  Shots were fired and Bill manged to wound Coe. But a few minutes later, Bill heard someone's footsteps approaching him, and he turned and fired, assuming it to be one of Coe's friends. But it was actually Hickok's Deputy Marshal, Mike Williams, who was
killed.  Coe died three days later. Hickok was dismissed as town Marshal. and William's death haunted Bill for the rest of his life.  Over the next few years, Bill lived off of his reputation as the subject of countless dime novels, and even took part in Buffalo Bill Cody's play "Scouts of the Prairies", a forerunner to Cody's "Wild West Show" (above). But he was slowing down; his eyesight began to suffer and he began wearing glasses. And he continued to brood over his accidental killing of his Deputy in Abilene.

Hickok Meets His End in Deadwood

In the summer of 1876, Bill joined Charlie Utter's wagon train to South Dakota, seeking his fortune in the goldfields.  Along the way, his train picked up "Calamity Jane" (below), another of those amazingly
colorful characters of the Old West - a tough woman and an excellent shot - and she immediately became fast friends with Bill who shared with her a love of drinking and telling tall tales. Jane later claimed that she and Bill were "a couple", but that part of the story remains in doubt. The wagon train arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota in July of 1876.  Bill attempted to live a quiet respectable life, but he fell into drinking too much.  And he tried to live off of his reputation as a gambler, but he no longer had the skills for that - his eyesight was getting worse, and his drinking was taking a toll on his health overall. His winnings dwindled, and he was several times arrested for vagrancy.

On August 1, 1876 Bill was playing poker with several men, one of whom was one Jack McCall (below) who lost badly.  McCall ran out of
money, so Bill gave him enough money to get something to eat, but told him not to play again until he had the money to cover his losses. The following day Hickok came to Nuttall & Mann's Saloon. There he was invited to join in a poker game, but someone was sitting in his preferred seat, facing the door. He hesitated but went ahead and took a seat with his back to the door, and the rest of the saloon.  This would prove to be a fatal misstep.  Jack McCall who had been drinking heavily saw Bill enter the saloon.  He slowly moved over to the corner where Hickok's game was being played, until he was within a few feet of him. He then pulled a double action .45 pistol from under his coat, shouted "Damn you! Take that!" and fired into the back of Hickok's head, killing him instantly. McCall's motive has never been firmly established.  But he likely resented what he saw as Bill's condescending attitude towards him the day before. At the time of his death, the hand that Bill was holding consisted of a pair of black aces, and black eights.  This has since come down through legend as the "Dead Man's Hand".

"Wild Bill" in Death

McCall was charged with murder, but an ad-hoc miner's jury in Deadwood which was still a lawless place acquitted him.  He shortly fled to Colorado wherein he was arrested. The verdict of Deadwood was not legally binding in the eyes of the authorities of Colorado.  So he went before a properly constituted court in the Colorado Territorial
capitol of Yankton. This time he was convicted and hung on March 2, 1877.  As to "Wild Bill" Hickok, he was to become one of the iconic figures of America's storybook - "The Old West".  In death he was already afforded legendary status in the following very reverent account of his appearance in his casket, by St. Louis reporter J.W. Buell:

"His long chestnut hair, evenly parted over his marble brow, hung in waving ringlets over the broad shoulders ; his face was cleanly 
shaved excepting the drooping moustache, which shaded a mouth that in death almost seemed to smile, but in life was unusually grave ; the arms were folded over the stilled breast, which enclosed a heart that had beat with regular pulsation the most startling scenes of blood and violence. The corpse was clad in complete dress-suit of 'black broadcloth, new underclothing and white linen shirt ; beside him in the coffin lay his trusty rifle, which the deceased prized above all other things, and which was to be buried with him in compliance with an often expressed desire."



Sources =

"The Great West"  Edited by Charles Neider, Bonanza Books, New York, 1958

http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-billhickok3.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Bill_Hickok

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calamity_Jane