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  • Matthew Kerns

The Election

The last election Texas Jack could vote in before he left the prairies of Nebraska for the stages of the east with his best friend and partner Buffalo Bill Cody must have posed a serious dilemma for the Virginia boy turned Texas cowboy. The Republican nominee was the man who had defeated Jack's commanding officer Robert E. Lee in the Virginia woods of Jack's youth, Ulysses S. Grant. Omohundro had been there at Appomattox Courthouse that day when Lee surrendered, cutting through Union lines to make it back home to his family in Palmyra, less than sixty miles northeast. Like many southern men, Omohundro was likely a die-hard Democrat, making a possible exception to vote for his friend Buffalo Bill as a member of the Nebraska legislature.



But the Democrats didn't field a candidate in the election of 1872. Instead, they threw their weight behind the Liberal Republican ticket of Horace Greely and Missouri Governor Benjamin Brown. Of course, there were some serious problems with the Greely as a candidate. Greely, famous for his advice to young men like Jack Omohundro after the Civil War "Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country," had turned out to be an ineffective campaigner. Also, there was the small stumbling block that after citizens voted on November 5, 1872, but before the votes were counted and the electoral college had voted, Horace Greely was dead.


In the days before television, the 24-hour news cycle, near-instant vote tabulation, and social media election frenzy, it took nearly a month for votes to be counted and reported. For the 1872 election, Congress didn't officially count electoral votes until February 2nd of 1873. Greely had died on November 29th, well before any electoral votes could be cast for him. His electors split their votes for his running mate, as well as for three men who hadn't even participated in the election. President Grant won his second term in office, with an electoral margin of victory of 286-66 against all other candidates.


President Grant

The presidential election of 1872 was historic in a few other ways. It was the last in which the state of Arkansas voted for a Republican until 1972. Alabama and Mississippi would not be carried by a Republican again until 1964 and they wouldn't vote against the Democrats until 1948. North Carolina and Virginia wouldn't vote Republican again until 1928. West Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey wouldn't vote Republican again until 1896.


Texas Jack

Between election daywhen Texas Jack stepped into a voting booth in North Platte, Nebraska to choose between the General who had crushed Jack's own Army of Northern Virginia and a man who would die before the election was over—and the confirmation of the votes and swearing-in of President Grant for a second term on March 4, 1873, Texas Jack had enough time to decide with Buffalo Bill to become stage actors, make preparations to leave Nebraska behind, travel to Chicago, star in a stage play, perform that stage play in Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Indianapolis, Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Franklin, Oil City, Titusville, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Utica, Albany, Poughkeepsie, Troy, Pittsfield, Providence, Springfield, Hartford, and Boston. In that time, he met and fell in love with his lovely costar, Giuseppina Morlacchi. He introduced the lasso act to the stage. A dime novel about him—Texas Jack, the White King of the Pawnees—written by Ned Buntline was published in Smith & Street's New York Weekly. Author's Note:

I won't insult your intelligence by telling you who to vote for (though I am happy to discuss it with you if you message me), I would like to remind you to vote. If you aren't one of the millions of Americans who have already voted in this election, go to your polling place this Tuesday, November 3rd, and vote. Regardless of your political affiliations and feelings about the current candidates, this election comes down to your vote. Generations of Americans have fought—against the British, against each other, against fascism and world powers, against unjust policies, and against prejudice and hatred, all to give you this moment to exercise your civic responsibility to make your voice heard. So go vote, both for President, for your Senator and your representative to Congress, and for a host of local candidates and matters that will directly impact your life and your community. If you don't know where to vote, check https://howto.vote/ For more information about Texas Jack and the tumultuous era he lived in, from Civil War to Texas cowboy to "first-class star," preorder your copy of the new book Texas Jack: America's First Cowboy Star by Matthew Kerns, coming April 1, 2021 and available wherever books are sold.


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