James Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok Joins the Union Army

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Hickok signed on as a teamster for the Union Army in Sedalia, Missouri, and by the end of the year he was a wagonmaster.

In September 1862 he was discharged for an undisclosed reason and there are no records of his whereabouts until late 1863, when he was employed by the Provost Marshal of South-West Missouri as a member of the Springfield detective police. It has been speculated that during the "missing year", Hickok may have been operating as a spy in Southern territory.

Hickok's duties as a police detective were mostly mundane and included counting the number of troops in uniform drinking while on duty, checking hotel liquor licenses and tracking down individuals in debt to the Union to facilitate repayment. In 1864 Hickok and the other detectives had not been paid for some time, and Hickok either resigned or was reassigned as he was hired as a scout by General John B. Sanborn at five dollars a day plus a horse and equipment. In June 1865, Hickok was mustered out and spent his time in and around Springfield gambling.

The year is now 1861 and Hickok, recovered from his injuries, joined the horror known as the Civil War. After the Rock Creek incident Hickok went to Leavenworth Kansas and enlisted in the Union Army. He enlisted as a civilian scout. He took part in the battle of "Wilson Creek" in Missouri. The Union side lost this battle, and their commander was killed. In a letter to his brother Hickok admitted that this was the first time, under fire, that he was scared. Although the historical records are scarce, they do exist and incidents of Hickok's bravery are numerous during his war duty. By 1862 he was made the "chief wagon master" in his unit.

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Hickok was still in Kansas, where he was about to terminate his employment with Jones & Cartwright, the freighting company that rivalled Russell, Majors and Waddell. In July, he was involved in a fracas at a place called Rock Creek, Nebraska Territory, where he became involved in the “McCanles Massacre” during which he is alleged to have killed ten men in hand-to-hand combat. In reality, only three men died and there is doubt that Hickok killed any of them. In the fall of 1861, James Hickok signed on as a teamster for the Union Army at Sedalia, Missouri, but within weeks was employed between Rolla and Springfield, and by the end of the year he was a wagonmaster.