Frustrated ex-ranger killed when he smashes his malfunctioning rifle against rock
On this day in 1867, Lt. James Pike of the First United States Cavalry allegedly died when his rifle, which had malfunctioned during an Indian attack, accidentally discharged when he smashed it against a rock in frustration. Pike, whose birth date is unknown, arrived in Texas in 1859 and joined John Henry Brown's company of Texas Rangers. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Pike left Texas and went to Ohio, where he passed himself off as the nephew of Albert Pike. He joined the Fourth Ohio Cavalry in 1861 and saw considerable action as a scout, spy, and courier under Gen. William T. Sherman, who praised his "skill, courage and zeal" but warned him to "cool down." Pike was captured in 1864 and imprisoned in South Carolina, but escaped and returned to Ohio, where he wrote his memoirs of ranger and army service. In the reorganization of the army after the war, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the First U.S. Cavalry and saw at least some duty in California. The Scout and Ranger: Being the Personal Adventures of Corporal Pike, of the Fourth Ohio Cavalry (1865) is highly readable and thought to be generally factual, though many of Pike's claims are demonstrably false. J. Frank Dobie and John H. Jenkins both praised it highly.