California Joe

Excerpt from Civil War in Pictures by Fletcher Pratt, ©1955:

California Joe was first heard of by the public when the army was before Yorktown.  I spent an hour yesterday in his tent.  He is a character.  I was surprised by his age.  He is past fifty, but looks a score of years younger.  He stands as straight as an arrow, has an eye as keen as a hawk, nerves as steady as can be, and an endowment of hair and whiskers Reubens would have liked for patriarchal portrait.  He has spent years of his life shooting grizzly bears in the forests and fastnesses of California, and carries a telescopic rifle that in his hand will carry a long ways and with terrific accuracy.  For several days past he has occupied as a shooting-place a hole dug in the ground just big enough for himself.  His unerring rifle has made many a rebel bite the dust.  He says he likes the sport, and means to keep it up.

Things have changed a little since the mid-nineteenth century.  I had to look up the archaic meaning of “fastnesses” (it means “remote”), and the word “score” was apparently in much more common use then than now.  A modern reporter would never reference an artist, for fear of alienating his audience.

But the biggest difference is that a soldier today would never be allowed to say “I enjoy killing people.”


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