In the Ballad of the Laurie Swain, one of my favorite scenes is when Joseph and Samuel are first attacked by the hired shootist Darryl Benson on a wide open prairie. Joseph’s horse is killed and they are pinned down by the superior rifleman. Joseph must resort to a shoulder stock on his revolver. The shoulder stock was a fairly common, though I think seldom used, attachment for many of the Civil War era firearms. Their utility can be assessed by how few of them continued in production, but still, it gives a better shooting platform than a pistol alone. Joseph fires at Benson from behind his horse and manages to hit him in the head, unseating him and leaving him for dead.
But Darryl Benson is not dead, and the black hole in his head creeps everyone out for the remainder of the novel.
Who would think a man could be shot in the head and live! But truth is stranger than fiction, and I didn’t make this up. This was “found research” that I came across in a non-fiction book titled The Devil Knows how to Ride by Edward Leslie.
Pvt. Jacob Miller of the 9th infantry was struck in the head at Chickamauga, and survived. He sported a gaping hole in his noggin ever after, but lived to a ripe old age nonetheless. It’s a haunting image, and I was so taken with it that I took the injury, transported it from Chickamauga to Texas and put the man on a horse.