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Civil War Round Table of Kansas City

Battlefield Dispatches #261

"Tuff was Tough"

During the study of the Civil War, one often discovers that an individual's name was often spelled in two or three different ways, and this becomes difficult and confusing for the researcher.

Is the individual being researched one person with a different spelling of his or her surname, or are there two or three different individuals?

Such was the case with William Sloan Tough, who was born in Baltimore, Md., on May 19, 1840, and moved to St. Joseph, Mo., in 1859 at the age of 19. After traveling to Colorado in the "59" Pike's Peak Gold Rush and finding no gold, he returned to St. Joseph and became a successful horse and mule trader.

William S. Tough

Shortly after the beginning of the Civil War, he became a civilian "Scout" for the Union Army. Civilian "Scouts" were very well paid, sometimes as much as $1-$3 per day or $30-$90 or more a month depending on the hazardous nature of their mission in enemy territory. (Note: The base pay of a private soldier in the Union Army was $13 a month).

On July 28, 1863, Capt. Tough was in Fort Scott, Kan., and killed a Union soldier by the name of William Gardner from the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment. The rank of captain was an honorary one from the days when Tough was a "wagon boss" in charge of several supply trains for the Quartermaster Department, because there is no documentation that he was ever a commissioned officer in the Union Army.

According to various descriptions, Gardner and Tough became involved in an argument. Gardner became drunk and followed Tough to kill him. He was killed by Tough.

The following descriptions of the killing of Gardner were from three different individuals, the last of which is the most important because the writer was an eyewitness to the incident.

On returning to camp, I learned by some of the boys who had been to the Fort (Scott) that Wm. H. Gardner was shot twice in the forehead and killed by Capt. Tuff, a scout, last evening in a quarrel.

Capt. Charles W. Porter, In the Devil's Dominions, Vernon County Historical Society, 1998, Page 86.

On the 28th, W.S. Tough, Captain and Chief of Scouts, shot and killed a soldier on the street. It seems that the soldier was drunk and making some demonstration which led Tough to believe that he was endeavoring to draw his pistol.

Wiley Britton, Memoirs of the Rebellion, Pt. 2, (Chicago: Cushing, Thomas & Co. 1882), Page 368.

Do you remember the day (Tough) shot Bill Gardner, one of the most notorious and troublesome of my men, at Fort Scott? He and you (Lyttleton Tough) were grooming your horses, just in from a long scout. Your brother had taken off his belt and revolver and hung them on a peg. He was working on his horse when someone saw Bill Gardner riding up with a drawn revolver and shouted: "Look out Tough!" Tough looked and saw he had not time to get his own revolvers hanging on the peg. He grabbed one from your holsters that was hanging on your hip and quicker than a flash of lightning shot Gardner dead. I witnessed the shot and decided it (was) the greatest exhibition of presence of mind I ever saw. In 10 seconds, he would have been shot. Of course my having witnessed the scene and the bad reputation of Gardner, no one thought of disturbing Capt. Tough.

Letter, James Pond to Lyttleton Tough, April 4, 1901 by a Kansas newspaper editor.

The name of Captain Tuft, or according to his own spelling "Tough," carries with it a degree of terror in Kansas of which people in a peaceable society can have no conception. It reminds some of the loss of horses, some of the destruction of their homes and some of the murder of their dearest friends.

Jayhawking has run its race in Kansas; honest people are on the side of the law; indiscriminate robbery is the result of the Jayhawkers' license and in many cases its friends have paid heavily toward its support.

Tuft himself acknowledges the inevitable tendency of the practice. He says he has few regrets for the past; his victims have not appeared in his dreams, still he doesn't like the business and has determined to lead a better life.

He is now under arrest for killing a man at Fort Scott (presumably Gardner), but if his story is true, the man ought to have been killed and his detention will be brief."

An Editor Looks at Early Day Kansas, Lela Barnes, ed. The Kansas Historical Quarterly, 26, Pt. 2, (Summer 1960): Page 122.

On testimony of witnesses, Capt. Tough (Tuff or Tuft) was released from arrest and continued to be employed by the Union Army as chief of scouts.

The remains of Pvt. William H. Gardner, 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry, were buried in the Fort Scott National Cemetery. And, of course, the war went on!

Civil War Round Table of Kansas City
4125 NW Willow DR
Kansas City, MO 64116

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