Title: The Shooting of a Boy by Buffalo Bill

Periodical: Daily Alta California

Date: October 12, 1878

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The Shooting of a Boy by Buffalo Bill.

The boy (Michael Gardner), who was shot in Ford's Opera House on Monday night, by Mr. Wm. Cody, more generally known as "Buffalo Bill," remained in the same critical condition yesterday, and the chances of his recovery are yet very slight. He is at his parents' dwelling, No. 136 West street, and by direction of Mr. Cody has been given every attention that money can provide. His father, Bernard Gardner, is a cooper by trade, and is a very industrious man. Michael, like all the rest of the grown children, worked for his living. He was very fond of reading dime novels and Indian stories in boys' periodicals, and worshipped Buffalo Bill as a great hero. From his front seat in the gallery, secured by going early and waiting till the doors opened, as there was a great rush of boys on the opening night, he watched the performance of the exciting drama with the deepest interest, and when the accident occurred was leaning far over the railing. Near the close of the last act there is a trial of skill between Buffalo Bill and other scouts in the troupe at shooting glass balls sprung from a trap. The rifles used in shooting at the glass balls were loaded with bullets, but the charge of powder was supposed to be so small as not to give the bullets any penetrating power, except at such a short distance as the width of the stage. For some reason, Buffalo Bill was not fortunate in his aim on the opening night. Owing to want of practice, short range, or the way in which the rifles were loaded, he did not strike the balls as often as was expected, and this circumstance seemed to disturb him. During the shooting he missed six balls in succession, and misses appeared to be the rule, and hits the exception. The contest was then stopped, and Buffalo Bill, mounting his pony waived adieu to the gathered Indians and scouts, and rode up an ascent representing a mountain, taking his victorious leave, as it were, accompanied by the plaudits of the encampment. As he rode up the mountain, he fired two shots from the rifle with which he had been shooting at the glass balls. The two shots were fired upward. One of them did no damage, the bullet probably going into the flies above the scenery, but the second one struck the boy in the gallery, entering near the shoulder and passing backward, going through the left lung and lodging somewhere in the back. The ball is so far inward that the doctors have no hope of finding it. Whenever the wound is exposed, the air from the lungs can be seen passing through it. The boy is kept under the influence of opiates, and during yesterday weakened very much.

Mr. Cody, in an interview last night, said that the shooting was an accident which gave him genuine regret. He had been shooting at the glass balls with his Springfield rifle, and the cartridges he used had small charges of powder, just enough to make the bullet break the glass. He had no idea that the charge of powder was sufficient to carry the bullets from one side of the theatre to the other. He had tried them yesterday, just to satisfy himself, and found that the bullets did not even penetrate a piece of wood as thin as the side of a cigar-box.

In firing at the glass balls he always stood near the footlights and shot backwards, the bullets lodging in a large target of soft wood suspended in the rear of the stage. The firing at glass balls had ceased, and mounting his pony, he proceeded to make his final exit, going up a "run" at the back of the stage representing a mountain. The Indians of his troupe had not been doing as well as usual, as it was the first night, and they had not been properly stirred up. They are a very excitable people, and the least little thing starts their enthusiasm. For the purpose of stirring them to such a show of wildness as would make the close of the performance exciting to the audience, he shouted as he urged his pony forward and fired two shots in the air.

He had two kinds of cartridges in his belt to use in the rifle. One kind were blank cartridges, and the others, which he had used in shooting at the glass balls, had bullets in them. By mistake, he says, he must have got hold of one of the wrong cartridges. Still, if the boy had worn a coat, that bullet probably would not have scratched him. But as he was in his shirt sleeves, it penetrated the flesh. It was one of those accidents that happen once in a lifetime, and he was really and truly sorry for it. He had been to see the boy, and spent some time with him. He had been informed on good authority that the wound was not at all dangerous, and he intended, with the consent of the parents, taking the boy along with him as soon as he recovered. He was very sure that the reported dangerous character of the wound was an utter mistake.

Title: The Shooting of a Boy by Buffalo Bill

Periodical: Daily Alta California

Date: October 12, 1878

Keywords: Buffalo Bill Combination Cartridges Firearms accidents Firearms Melodrama, American Springfield rifle Targets (Shooting) Theater audiences Traveling theater Wounds and injuries

Place: Baltimore (Md.)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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