Sunday, December 12, 2010

Army Scout - Billy Dixon

William "Billy" Dixon (September 25, 1850 – March 9, 1913) scouted the Texas Panhandle for the Army, hunted buffalo for the train companies, defended the Adobe Walls settlement against Indian attack with his legendary buffalo rifle, and was one of eight civilians in the history of the U.S. to receive the Medal of Honor.

Dixon was born in Ohio County, West Virginia on September 25, 1850 and was an orphan at age 12. He lived in Missouri until 1864. He worked in various capacities along the Missouri River until he started working as an mule skinner for the government.

He was a skilled marksman and occasionally scouted for Eastern excursionists brought by the railroads. In 1869, he joined a venture in hunting and trapping on the Saline River northwest of Fort Hays in Kansas.

He scouted Texas as far south as the Salt Fork of the Red River when the buffalo hunters moved into the Texas Panhandle in 1874. He and his group hunted along the Canadian River and its tributaries.

Dixon led the founders of Adobe Walls to the Texas Plains, where he knew buffalo were in abundance. The group of 28 men and one woman occupied the outpost of five buildings 15 miles northeast of Stinnett.

The outpost was attacked on June 27, 1874 by a band of 700 Indians, and that is when Dixon went into the history books for firing "The Shot of the Century."

The stand-off continued into a third day, when a group of Indians were noticed about a mile east of Adobe Walls. It is said that Dixon took aim with his Big 50 Sharps rifle and fired, knocking an Indian off his horse almost a mile away. The Indians then left the settlement alone. Commemorative "Billy Dixon" model reproduction Sharps rifles that supposedly recreate the specifications of Dixon's famous gun are still available today.

Billy Dixon quit buffalo hunting and, the following August, became an army scout. In September 1874, just three months after Adobe Walls, an army dispatch detail consisting of Billy Dixon, another scout Amos Chapman, and four troopers from the 6th Cavalry Regiment (United States) were surrounded and besieged by a large combined band of Kiowas and Comanches, in the Battle of Buffalo Wallow. They holed up in a buffalo wallow located in Hemphill County and, with accurate rifle fire, held off the Indians for an entire day. An extremely cold rainstorm that night discouraged the Indians, and they broke off the fight; every man in the detail was wounded and one trooper killed. For this action Billy Dixon, along with the other survivors of 'The Buffalo Wallow Fight', were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (for Gallantry in Battle). A Texas Historical Marker documents the battle site.

In 1883, Dixon returned to civilian life and built a home near the Adobe Walls site. He was postmaster there for 20 years and also was the first sheriff of Hutchinson County, Texas. He also served as state land commissioner and a justice of the peace.

In 1894, he married Olive King Dixon of Virginia and fathered seven children. They eventually moved to Oklahoma around 1906.

Dixon died from pneumonia at his Cimarron County homestead in 1913 and was buried in Texline. In 1929, his body was reinterred at Adobe Walls near where he stood when he first saw the Indians riding up the valley.

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