Buckskin Joe, The Memories of Edward Jonathan Hoyt. Edited by Glenn Shirley. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966. 185 pages, $5.50.) The subject of these memoirs, drawn from E. J. Hoyt’s own penciled notes, Wild West show and circus ledgers, from a bulky scrapbook and a box of old photographs, is one man’s adventure on the American frontier. The adventure begins in 1841 with the one-year-old child being carried out of a Canadian cabin in the mouth of a wild hog and ends sixty-one years later with the same adventurer, wounded, riding a bull out of tke jungles of revo lutionary Honduras. In between these events we have the drama of a man who hunted and trapped the Quebec woods, fought in so many Civil War battles he “lost track of them,” performed on the high wire in a half-dozen circuses, pioneered a settlement in southern Kansas, mined silver in Leadville, organized a militia to fight the Cheyenne, Comanches and Kiowas, set up his own Wild West show, and prospected for gold in Nova Scotia and Honduras. Of these adventures, the most vivid and most detailed record is that of Buckskin Joe’s volunteer soldiering, through three enlistments, in the Civil War, first with a Pennsylvania unit in 1861-63 and then, after serious illness and desertion to Canada, with a second Pennsylvania regiment. Suffering, physical discomfort and misery, is the main theme of his war diary. He was impressed, too, with the crudeness and insensitivity of hospital staffs in their treatment of the wounded and diseased. But the war did not present a wholly ark prospect for Buckskin Joe. He made lasting friendships with members of his regiment; and with a Johnny Reb, William Palmer, with whom he had exchanged shots in the Peninsular Campaign of 1862, he later developed a business partnership at Leadville. It was this same Palmer who made the Honduras expedition with Joe. Buckskin Joe’s stage and circus career began after the close of the Civil War and his marriage to Beele Hutchins. It ended, for a time, in 1870 with the death of his brother Warren in an acrobatic act which the two of them had originated. On his first visit to the cemetery where the brother was buried, Buckskin Joe turned a backward somersalt over the grave. “This,” he explains, “was the custom of all acrobats of the time.” 78 Western American Literature Early in his memoirs Buckskin Joe records his distaste for school. “I didn’t learn much,” he insists. “Books seemed to be out of my line.” We need not take too seriously this boyish judgment on himself. Because of the breadth of his vocabulary, his sharpness of observation, his feeling for dramatic action, and his ability to see events in historical perspective, we can believe that had he turned his talents to professional writing he could have left us an historical document perhaps more rich and varied than Francis Parkman’s The Oregon Trail. The editor of these memoirs, Glenn Shirley, is the author of ten books dealing with the frontier West.
Unfortunately, the final chapter (concerning the Honduras expedition) is not included in the preview. Nonetheless, the earlier chapters (and illustrations) will give you an overview of his quite colorful life.