Dedicated to My Nephew and Niece,
George Cody Goodman, Anna Bond Goodman,
I am about to take the back-trail through the Old West—the
West that I knew and loved. All my life it has been a pleasure
to show its beauties, its marvels and its possibilities to those
who, under my guidance, saw it for the first time.
Now, going back over the ground, looking at it through the
eyes of memory, it will be a still greater pleasure to take with
me the many readers of this book. And if, in following me
through some of the exciting scenes of the old days, meeting
some of the brave men who made its stirring history, and
listening to my camp-fire tales of the buffalo, the Indian, the
stage-coach and the pony-express, their interest in this vast
land of my youth, should be awakened, I should feel richly
The Indian, tamed, educated and inspired with a taste for
white collars and moving-pictures, is as numerous as ever, but
not so picturesque. On the little tracts of his great
inheritance allotted him by civilization he is working out his
own manifest destiny.
The buffalo has gone. Gone also is the stagecoach whose
progress his pilgrimages often used to interrupt. Gone is the
pony express, whose marvelous efficiency could compete with the
wind, but not with the harnessed lightning flashed over the
telegraph wires. Gone are the very bone-gatherers who
laboriously collected the bleaching relics of the great herds
that once dotted the prairies.
But the West of the old times, with its strong characters,
its stern battles and its tremendous stretches of loneliness,
can never be blotted from my mind. Nor can it, I hope, be
blotted from the memory of the American people, to whom it has
now become a priceless possession.
It has been my privilege to spend my working years on the
frontier. I have known and served with commanders like Sherman,
Sheridan, Miles, Custer and A.A. Carr—men who would be leaders
in any army in any age. I have known and helped to fight with
many of the most notable of the Indian warriors.
Frontiersmen good and bad, gunmen as well as inspired
prophets of the future, have been my camp companions. Thus, I
know the country of which I am about to write as few men now
living have known it.
Recently, in the hope of giving permanent form to the history
of the Plains, I staged many of the Indian battles for the
films. Through the courtesy of the War and Interior Departments
I had the help of the soldiers and the Indians.
Now that this work has been done I am again in the saddle and
at your service for what I trust will be a pleasant and perhaps
instructive journey over the old trails. We shall omit the
hazards and the hardships, but often we shall leave the iron
roads over which the Pullman rolls and, back in the hills, see
the painted Indians winding up the draws, or watch the more
savage Mormon Danites swoop down on the wagon-train. In my later
years I have brought the West to the East—under a tent. Now I
hope to bring the people of the East and of the New West to the
Old West, and possibly here and there to supply new material for
I shall try to vary the journey, for frequent changes of
scenes are grateful to travelers. I shall show you some of the
humors as well as the excitements of the frontier. And our last
halting-place will be at sunrise—the sunrise of the New West,
with its waving grain-fields, fenced flocks and splendid cities,
drawing upon the mountains for the water to make it fertile, and
upon the whole world for men to make it rich.
I was born on a farm near Leclair, Scott County, Iowa,
February 26, 1846. My father, Isaac Cody, had emigrated to what
was then a frontier State. He and his people, as well as my
mother, had all dwelt in Ohio. I remember that there were
Indians all about us, looking savage enough as they slouched
about the village streets or loped along the roads on their
ponies. But they bore no hostility toward anything save work and
soap and water.
We were comfortable and fairly prosperous on the little farm.
My mother, whose maiden name was Mary Ann Leacock, took an
active part in the life of the neighborhood. An education was
scarce in those days. Even school teachers did not always
possess it. Mother's education was far beyond the average, and
the local school board used to require all applicants for
teachers' position to be examined by her before they were
entrusted with the tender intellects of the pioneer children.
But the love of adventure was in father's blood. The
railroad—the only one I had ever seen—extended as far as Port
Byron, Illinois, just across the Mississippi. When the discovery
of gold in California in 1849 set the whole country wild, this
railroad began to bring the Argonauts, bound for the long
overland wagon journey across the Plains. Naturally father
caught the excitement. In 1850 he made a start, but it was
abandoned—why I never knew. But after that he was not content
with Iowa. In 1853 our farm and most of our goods and chattels
were converted into money. And in 1854 we all set out for
Kansas, which was soon to be opened for settlers as a Territory.
Two wagons carried our household goods. A carriage was
provided for my mother and sisters. Father had a trading-wagon
built, and stocked it with red blankets, beads, and other goods
with which to tempt the Indians. My only brother had been killed
by a fall from a horse, so I was second in command, and proud I
was of the job.
My uncle Elijah kept a general store at Weston, Missouri,
just across the Kansas line. He was a large exporter of hemp as
well as a trader. Also he was a slave-owner.
Weston was our first objective. Father had determined to take
up a claim in Kansas and to begin a new life in this stirring
country. Had he foreseen the dreadful consequences to himself
and to his family of this decision we might have remained in
Iowa, in which case perhaps I might have grown up an Iowa
farmer, though that now seems impossible.
Thirty days of a journey that was a constant delight to me
brought us to Weston, where we left the freight-wagons and
mother and my sisters in the care of my uncle.
To my great joy father took me with him on his first trip
into Kansas—where he was to pick out his claim and incidentally
to trade with the Indians from our wagon. I shall never forget
the thrill that ran through me when father, pointing to the
block-house at Fort Leavenworth, said:
"Son, you now see a real military fort for the first time in
your life." And a real fort it was. Cavalry—or dragoons as they
called them then—were engaged in saber drill, their swords
flashing in the sunlight. Artillery was rumbling over the parade
ground. Infantry was marching and wheeling. About the Post were
men dressed all in buckskin with coonskin caps or broad-brimmed
slouch hats—real Westerners of whom I had dreamed. Indians of
all sorts were loafing about—all friendly, but a new and
different kind of Indians from any I had seen—Kickapoos,
Possawatomies, Delawares, Choctaws, and other tribes, of which I
had often heard. Everything I saw fascinated me.
These drills at the Fort were no fancy dress-parades. They
meant business. A thousand miles to the west the Mormons were
running things in Utah with a high hand. No one at Fort
Leavenworth doubted that these very troops would soon be on
their way to determine whether Brigham Young or the United
States Government should be supreme there.
To the north and west the hostile Indians, constantly
irritated by the encroachments of the white man, had become a
growing menace. The block-houses I beheld were evidences of
preparedness against this danger. And in that day the rumblings
of the coming struggle over slavery could already be heard.
Kansas—very soon afterward "Bleeding Kansas"—was destined to be
an early battleground. And we were soon to know something of its
Free-soil men and pro-slavery men were then ready to rush
across the border the minute it was opened for settlement.
Father was a Free-soil man. His brother Elijah who, as I have
said, was a slave-owner, was a believer in the extension of
slavery into the new territory.
Knowing that the soldiers I saw today might next week be on
their way to battle made my eyes big with excitement. I could
have stayed there forever. But father had other plans, and we
were soon on our way. With our trading-wagon we climbed a
hill—later named Sheridan's Ridge for General Philip Sheridan.
From its summit we had a view of Salt Creek Valley, the most
beautiful valley I have ever seen. In this valley lay our future
The hill was very steep, and I remember we had to "lock" or
chain the wagon-wheels as we descended. We made camp in the
valley. The next day father began trading with the Indians, who
were so pleased with the bargains he had to offer that they sent
their friends back to us when they departed. One of the first
trades he made was for a little pony for me—a
four-year-old—which I was told I should have to break myself. I
named him Prince. I had a couple of hard falls, but I made up my
mind I was going to ride that pony or bust, and—I did not bust.
The next evening, looking over toward the west, I saw a truly
frontier sight—a line of trappers winding down the hillside with
their pack animals. My mother had often told me of the trappers
searching the distant mountains for fur-bearing animals and
living a life of fascinating adventure. Here they were in
While some of the men prepared the skins, others built a fire
and began to get a meal. I watched them cook the dried venison,
and was filled with wonder at their method of making bread,
which was to wrap the dough about a stick and hold it over the
coals till it was ready to eat. You can imagine my rapture when
one of them—a pleasant-faced youth—looked up, and catching sight
of me, invited me to share the meal.
Boys are always hungry, but I was especially hungry for such
a meal as that. After it was over I hurried to camp and told my
father all that had passed. At his request I brought the young
trapper who had been so kind to me over to our camp, and there
he had a long talk with father, telling him of his adventures by
land and sea in all parts of the world.
He said that he looked forward with great interest to his
arrival in Weston, as he expected to meet an uncle, Elijah Cody.
He had seen none of his people for many years.
"If Elijah Cody is your uncle, I am too," said my father.
"You must be the long-lost Horace Billings."
Father had guessed right. Horace had wandered long ago from
the Ohio home and none of his family knew of his whereabouts. He
had been to South America and to California, joining a band of
trappers on the Columbia River and coming with them back across
When I showed him my pony he offered to help break him for
me. With very little trouble he rode the peppery little creature
this way and that, and at last when he circled back to camp I
found the animal had been mastered.
In the days that followed Horace gave me many useful lessons
as a horseman. He was the prettiest rider I had ever seen. There
had been a stampede of horses from the Fort, and a reward of ten
dollars a head had been offered for all animals brought in. That
was easy money for Horace. I would gallop along at his side as
he chased the fugitive horses. He had a long, plaited lariat
which settled surely over the neck of the brute he was after.
Then, putting a "della walt" on the pommel of his saddle, he
would check his own mount and bring his captive to a sudden
standstill. He caught and brought in five horses the first day,
and must have captured twenty-five within the next few days,
earning a sum of money which was almost a small fortune in that
Meanwhile the Territory had been opened for settlement. Our
claim, over which the Great Salt Lake trail for California
passed, had been taken up, and as soon as father and I, assisted
by men he hired, could get our log cabin up, the family came on
from Weston. The cabin was a primitive affair. There was no
floor at first. But gradually we built a floor and partitions,
and made it habitable. I spent all my spare time picking up the
Kickapoo tongue from the Indian children in the neighborhood,
and listening with both ears to the tales of the wide plains
The great freighting firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell was
then sending its twenty-five wagon trains out from the Plains to
carry supplies to the soldiers at the frontier forts.
Leavenworth was the firm's headquarters. Russell stayed on the
books, and Majors was the operating man on the Plains. The
trains were wonderful to me, each wagon with its six yoke of
oxen, wagon-masters, extra hands, assistants, bull-whackers and
cavayard driver following with herds of extra oxen. I began at
once making the acquaintance of the men, and by the end of 1854
I knew them all.
Up to this time, while bad blood existed between the
Free-soilers and the pro-slavery men, it had not become a
killing game. The pro-slavery Missourians were in the great
majority. They harassed the Free-soilers considerably and
committed many petty persecutions, but no blood was shed.
Father's brother, Elijah, who kept the store at Weston, was
known to be a pro-slavery man, and for a time it was taken for
granted that father held the same views. But he was never at any
pains to hide his own opinions, being a man who was afraid of
nothing. John Brown of Ossawatomie, later hanged, for the
Harper's Ferry raid, at Charlestown, Va., was his friend. So
were Colonel Jim Lane and many other Abolitionists. He went to
their houses openly, and they came to his. He worked hard with
the men he had hired, cutting the wild hay and cordwood to sell
to the Fort, and planting sod corn under the newly turned sod of
the farm. He also made a garden, plowing and harrowing the soil
and breaking up the sods by hitching horses to branching trees
and drawing them over the ground. He minded his own business and
avoided all the factional disputes with which the neighborhood
In June, 1856, when I was ten years old, father went to the
Fort to collect his pay for hay and wood he had sold there. I
accompanied him on my pony. On our return we saw a crowd of
drunken horsemen in front of Riveley's trading-post—as stores
were called on the frontier. There were many men in the crowd
and they were all drunk, yelling and shooting their pistols in
the air. They caught sight of us immediately and a few of them
advanced toward us as we rode up. Father expected trouble, but
he was not a man to turn back. We rode quietly up to them, and
were about to continue on past when one of them yelled:
"There's that abolition cuss now. Git him up here and make
him declar' hisself!"
"Git off that hoss, Cody!" shouted another.
By this time more than a dozen men were crowding about
father, cursing and abusing him. Soon they tore him from his
horse. One of them rolled a drygoods box from the store.
"Now," he said, "git up on that thar box, and tell us whar'
Standing on the box, father looked at the ringleaders with no
sign of fear.
"I am not ashamed of my views," he said, quietly. "I am not
an Abolitionist, and never have been. I think it is better to
let slavery alone in the States where it is now. But I am not at
all afraid to tell you that I am opposed to its extension, and
that I believe that it should be kept out of Kansas."
His speech was followed by a wild yell of derision. Men began
crowding around him, cursing and shaking their fists. One of
them, whom I recognized as Charlie Dunn, an employee of my Uncle
Elijah, worked his way through the crowd, and jumped up on the
box directly behind father. I saw the gleam of a knife. The next
instant, without a groan, father fell forward stabbed in the
back. Somehow I got off my pony and ran to his assistance,
catching him as he fell. His weight overbore me but I eased him
as he came to the ground.
Dunn was still standing, knife in hand, seeking a chance for
"Look out, ye'll stab the kid!" somebody yelled. Another man,
with a vestige of decency, restrained the murderer. Riveley came
out of the store. There was a little breaking up of the crowd.
Dunn was got away. What happened to him later I shall tell you
in another chapter.
With the help of a friend I got father into a wagon, when the
crowd had gone. I held his head in my lap during the ride home.
I believed he was mortally wounded. He had been stabbed down
through the kidneys, leaving an ugly wound. But he did not die
of it—then. Mother nursed him carefully and had he been spared
further persecution, he might have survived. But this was only
The pro-slavers waited a few days, and finding there was no
move to molest them, grew bold. They announced that they were
coming to our house to finish their work.
One night we heard that a party was organized to carry out
this purpose. As quietly as possible mother helped take father
out into the sod corn, which then grew tall and thick close
about the cabin. She put a shawl round him and a sun-bonnet on
his head to disguise him as he was taken out.
There in the sod corn we made him a bed of hay and blankets
and there we kept him for days, carrying food to him by night.
These were anxious days for my mother and her little family. My
first real work as a scout began then, for I had to keep
constantly on the watch for raids by the ruffians, who had now
sworn that father must die.
As soon as he was able to walk we decided that he must be got
away. Twenty-five miles distant, at Grasshopper Falls, were a
party of his friends. There he hoped one day to plant a colony.
With the help of a few friends we moved him thither one night,
but word of his whereabouts soon reached his enemies.
I kept constantly on the alert, and, hearing that a party had
set out to murder him at the Falls, I got into the saddle and
sped out to warn him.
At a ford on the way I ran into the gang, who had stopped to
water their horses.
As I galloped past, one of them yelled: "There's Cody's kid
now on his way to warn his father. Stop, you, and tell us where
your old man is."
A pistol shot, to terrify me into obedience, accompanied the
command. I may have been terrified, but it was not into
obedience. I got out of there like a shot, and though they rode
hard on my trail my pony was too fast for them. My warning was
We got father as quickly as we could to Lawrence, which was
an abolition stronghold, and where he was safe for the time
being. He gradually got back a part of his strength, enough of
it at any rate to enable him to take part in the repulse of a
raid of Missourians who came over to burn Lawrence and lynch the
Abolitionists. They were driven back across the Missouri River
by the Lawrence men, who trapped them into an ambush and so
frightened them that for the present they rode on their raids no
When father returned to Salt Creek Valley the persecutions
began again. The gangsters drove off all our stock and killed
all our pigs and even the chickens. One night Judge Sharpe, a
disreputable old alcoholic who had been elected a justice of the
peace, came to the house and demanded a meal. Mother, trembling
for the safety of her husband, who lay sick upstairs, hastened
to get it for him. As the old scoundrel sat waiting he caught
sight of me.
"Look yere, kid," he shouted, "ye see this knife?"
He drew a long, wicked bowie. "Well, I'm going to sharpen
that to finish up the job that Charlie Dunn began the other
day." And scowling horribly at me he began whetting the knife on
a stone he picked up from the table.
Now, I knew something about a gun, and there was a gun handy.
It was upstairs, and I lost no time in getting it. Sitting on
the stairs I cocked it and held it across my knees. I am sure
that I should have shot him had he attempted to come up those
He didn't test my shooting ability, however. He got even with
me by taking my beloved pony, Prince, when he left. Mother
pleaded with him to leave it, for it was the only animal we had,
but she might as well have pleaded with a wildcat.
We had now been reduced to utter destitution. Our only food
was what rabbits and birds I could trap and catch with the help
of our faithful old dog Turk, and the sod corn which we grated
into flour. Father could be of no service to us. His presence,
in fact, was merely a menace. So, with the help of Brown, Jim
Lane and other Free-soilers, he made his way back to Ohio and
began recruiting for his Grasshopper Falls colony.
He returned to us in the spring of '57 mortally ill. The
wound inflicted by Dunn had at last fulfilled the murderer's
purpose. Father died in the little log-house, the first man to
shed his blood in the fight against the extension of slavery
into the Northern Territories.
I was eleven years old, and the only man of the family. I
made up my mind to be a breadwinner.
At that time the Fort was full of warlike preparations. A
great number of troops were being assembled to send against the
Mormons. Trouble had been long expected. United States Judges
and Federal officers sent to the Territory of Utah had been
flouted. Some of them never dared take their seats. Those who
did asked assistance. Congress at last decided to give it to
them. General Harney was to command the expedition. Col. Albert
Sidney Johnston, afterward killed at Shiloh, where he fought on
the Confederate side, was in charge of the expedition to which
the earliest trains were to be sent.
Many of the soldiers had already pushed on ahead. Russell,
Majors & Waddell were awarded the contract for taking them
supplies and beef cattle. The supplies were forwarded in the
long trains of twenty-five wagons, of which I have told you. The
cattle were driven after the soldiers, the herds often falling
many miles behind them.
I watched these great preparations eagerly, and it occurred
to me that I ought to have a share in them. I went to Mr.
Majors, whom I always called Uncle Aleck, and asked him for a
job. I told him of our situation, and that I needed it very
badly for the support of my mother and family.
"But you're only a boy, Billy," he objected. "What can you
"I can ride as well as a man," I said. "I could drive
cavayard, couldn't I?" Driving cavayard is herding the extra
cattle that follow the wagon train.
Mr. Majors agreed that I could do this, and consented to
employ me. I was to receive a man's wages, forty dollars a month
and food, and the wages were to be paid to my mother while I was
gone. With forty dollars a month she would be able to support
her daughters and my baby brother in comfort. Before I was
allowed to go to work Uncle Aleck handed me the oath which every
one of his employees must sign. I did my best to live up to its
provisions, but I am afraid that the profanity clause at least
was occasionally violated by some of the bull-whackers. Here is
"We, the undersigned wagon-masters, assistants,
teamsters and all other employees of the firm of Russell, Majors
& Waddell, do hereby sign that we will not swear, drink whisky,
play cards or be cruel to dumb beasts in any way, shape or form.
X (his mark)
(Signed) "WILLIAM FREDERICK CODY."
I signed it with my mark, for I could not write then. After
administering this ironclad oath Mr. Majors gave each man a
My first job was that of accompanying a herd of cattle
destined for beef for the troops that had gone on ahead. Bill
McCarthy, boss of the outfit, was a typical Westerner, rough but
courageous, and with plenty of experience on the frontier.
We progressed peacefully enough till we made Plum Creek,
thirty-six miles west of Fort Kearney, on the South Platte. The
trip had been full of excitement for me. The camp life was
rough, the bacon often rusty and the flour moldy, but the hard
work gave us big appetites. Plainsmen learn not to be
I remember that on some of our trips we obtained such
"luxuries" as dried apples and beans as part of our supplies. We
could only have these once every two or three days, and their
presence in the mess was always a glad occasion.
We were nooning at Plum Creek, the cattle spread out over the
prairie to graze in charge of two herders. Suddenly there was a
sharp Bang! Bang! Bang! and a thunder of hoofs.
"Indians! They've shot the herders and stampeded the cattle!"
cried McCarthy. "Get under the banks of the river, boys—use 'em
for a breastwork!"
We obeyed orders quickly. The Platte, a wide, shallow, muddy
stream, flows under banks which vary from five to thirty feet in
height. Behind them we were in much the position of European
soldiers in a trench. We had our guns, and if the Indians showed
over the bank could have made it hot for them.
McCarthy told us to keep together and to make our way down
the river to Fort Kearney, the nearest refuge. It was a long and
wearying journey, but our lives depended on keeping along the
river bed. Often we would have to wade the stream which, while
knee-deep to the men, was well-nigh waist-deep to me. Gradually
I fell behind, and when night came I was dragging one weary step
after another—dog-tired but still clinging to my old Mississippi
Yaeger rifle, a short muzzle-loader which carried a ball and two
Darkness came, and I still toiled along. The men ahead were
almost out of hearing. Presently the moon rose, dead ahead of
me. And painted boldly across its face was the black figure of
an Indian. There could be no mistaking him for a white man. He
wore the war-bonnet of the Sioux, and at his shoulder was a
rifle, pointed at someone in the bottom below him. I knew well
enough that in another second he would drop one of my friends.
So I raised my Yaeger and fired. I saw the figure collapse, and
heard it come tumbling thirty feet down the bank, landing with a
splash in the water.
McCarthy and the rest of the party, hearing the shot, came
back in a hurry.
"What is it?" asked McCarthy, when he came up to me.
"I don't know," I said. "Whatever it is, it is down there in
McCarthy ran over to the brave. "Hi!" he cried. "Little
Billy's killed an Indian all by himself!"
Not caring to meet any of this gentleman's friends we pushed
on still faster toward Fort Kearney, which we reached about
daylight. We were given food and sent to bed, while the soldiers
set out to look for our slain comrades and to try to recover our
Soldiers from Fort Leavenworth found the herders, killed and
mutilated in the Indian fashion. But the cattle had been
stampeded among the buffalo and it was impossible to recover a
We were taken back to Leavenworth on one of the returning
freight wagon-trains. The news of my exploit was noised about
and made me the envy of all the boys of the neighborhood. The
Leavenworth Times, published by D.B. Anthony, sent a
reporter to get the story of the adventure, and in it my name
was printed for the first time as the youngest Indian slayer of
I was persuaded now that I was destined to lead a life on the
Plains. The two months that our ill-fated expedition had
consumed had not discouraged me. Once more I applied to Mr.
Majors for a job.
"You seem to have a reputation as a frontiersman, Billy," he
said; "I guess I'll have to give yon another chance." He turned
me over to Lew Simpson, who was boss of a twenty-five
wagon-train just starting with supplies for General Albert
Sidney Johnston's army, which was then on its way to Great Salt
Lake to fight the Mormons, whose Destroying Angels, or Danites,
were engaged in many outrages on Gentile immigrants.
Simpson appeared to be glad to have me. "We need Indian
fighters, Billy," he told me, and giving me a mule to ride
assigned me to a job as cavayard driver.
Our long train, twenty-five wagons in a line, each with its
six yoke of oxen, rolled slowly out of Leavenworth over the
western trail. Wagon-master assistants, bull-whackers—thirty men
in all not to mention the cavayard driver—it was an imposing
sight. This was to be a long journey, clear to the Utah country,
and I eagerly looked forward to new adventures.
The first of these came suddenly. We were strung out over the
trail near the Platte, about twenty miles from the scene of the
Indian attack on McCarthy's outfit, watching the buffalo
scattered to right and left of us, when we heard two or three
shots, fired in rapid succession.
Before we could find out who fired them, down upon us came a
herd of buffalo, charging in a furious stampede. There was no
time to do anything but jump behind our wagons. The light
mess-wagon was drawn by six yoke of Texas steers which instantly
became part of the stampede, tearing away over the prairie with
the buffalo, our wagon following along behind. The other wagons
were too heavy for the steers to gallop away with; otherwise the
whole outfit would have gone.
I remember that one big bull came galloping down between two
yoke of oxen, tearing away the gooseneck and the heavy chain
with each lowered horn. I can still see him as he rushed away
with these remarkable decorations dangling from either side.
Whether or not his new ornaments excited the admiration of his
fellows when the herd came to a stand later in the day, I can
The descent of the buffalo upon us lasted only a few minutes,
but so much damage was done that three days were required to
repair it before we could move on. We managed to secure our
mess-wagon, again, which was lucky, for it contained all our
We learned afterward that the stampede had been caused by a
returning party of California gold-seekers, whose shots into the
herd had been our first warning of what was coming. Twice before
we neared the Mormon country we were attacked by Indians. The
army was so far ahead that they had become bold. We beat off the
attacks, but lost two men.
It was white men, however, not Indians, who were to prove our
most dangerous enemies. Arriving near Green River we were
nooning on a ridge about a mile and a half from a little creek,
Halm's Fork, where the stock were driven to water. This was a
hundred and fifteen miles east of Salt Lake City, and well
within the limits of the Mormon country.
Most of the outfit had driven the cattle to the creek, a mile
and a half distant, and were returning slowly, while the animals
grazed along the way back to camp. I was with them. We were out
of sight of the wagons.
As we rose the hill a big bearded man, mounted and surrounded
by a party of armed followers, rode up to our wagon-master.
"Throw up your hands, Simpson!" said the leader, who knew
Simpson's name and his position.
Simpson was a brave man, but the strangers had the drop and
up went his hands. At the same time we saw that the wagons were
surrounded by several hundred men, all mounted and armed, and
the teamsters all rounded up in a bunch. We knew that we had
fallen into the hands of the Mormon Danites, or Destroying
Angels, the ruffians who perpetrated the dreadful Mountain
Meadows Massacre of the same year. The leader was Lot Smith, one
of the bravest and most determined of the whole crowd.
"Now, Simpson," he said, "we are going to be kind to you. You
can have one wagon with the cattle to draw it. Get into it all
the provisions and blankets you can carry, and turn right round
and go back to the Missouri River. You're headed in the wrong
"Can we have our guns?" asked Simpson.
"Not a gun."
"Not a six-shooter. Nothing but food and blankets."
"How are we going to protect ourselves on the way?"
"That's your business. We're doing you a favor to spare your
All Simpson's protests were in vain. There were thirty of us
against several hundred of them. Mormons stood over us while we
loaded a wagon till it sagged with provisions, clothing and
blankets. They had taken away every rifle and every pistol we
possessed. Ordering us to hike for the East, and informing us
that we would be shot down if we attempted to turn back, they
watched us depart.
When we had moved a little way off we saw a blaze against the
sky behind us, and knew that our wagon-train had been fired. The
greasy bacon made thick black smoke and a bright-red flame, and
for a long time the fire burned, till nothing was left but the
iron bolts and axles and tires.
Smith's party, which had been sent out to keep all supplies
from reaching Johnston's army, had burned two other wagon-trains
that same day, as we afterward learned. The wagons were all
completely consumed, and for the next few years the Mormons
would ride out to the scenes to get the iron that was left in
Turned adrift on the desert with not a weapon to defend
ourselves was hardly a pleasant prospect. It meant a walk of a
thousand miles home to Leavenworth. The wagon was loaded to its
full capacity. There was nothing to do but walk. I was not yet
twelve years old, but I had to walk with the rest the full
thousand miles, and we made nearly thirty miles a day.
Fortunately we were not molested by Indians. From passing
wagon-trains we got a few rifles, all they could spare, and with
these we were able to kill game for fresh meat. I wore out three
pairs of moccasins on that journey, and learned then that the
thicker are the soles of your shoes, the easier are your feet on
a long walk over rough ground.
After a month of hard travel we reached Leavenworth. I set
out at once for the log-cabin home, whistling as I walked, and
the first to welcome me was my old dog Turk, who came tearing
toward me and almost knocked me down in his eagerness. I am sure
my mother and sisters were mighty glad to see me. They had
feared that I might never return.
My next journey over the Plains was begun under what, to me,
were very exciting circumstances. I spent the winter of '57-'58
at school. My mother was anxious about my education. But the
master of the frontier school wore out several armfuls of hazel
switches in a vain effort to interest me in the "three R's."
I kept thinking of my short but adventurous past. And as soon
as another opportunity offered to return to it I seized it
That spring my former boss, Lew Simpson, was busily
organizing a "lightning bull team" for his employers, Russell,
Majors & Waddell. Albert Sidney Johnston's soldiers, then moving
West, needed supplies, and needed them in a hurry. Thus far the
mule was the reindeer of draft animals, and mule trains were
forming to hurry the needful supplies to the soldiers.
But Simpson had great faith in the bull. A picked bull train,
he allowed, could beat a mule train all hollow on a long haul.
All he wanted was a chance to prove it.
His employers gave him the chance. For several weeks he had
been picking his animals for the outfit. And now he was to begin
what is perhaps the most remarkable race ever made across the
A mule train was to start a week after Simpson's lightning
bulls began their westward course. Whichever outfit got to Fort
Laramie first would be the winner. No more excitement could have
been occasioned had the contestants been a reindeer and a
jack-rabbit. To my infinite delight Simpson let me join his
My thousand-mile tramp over the Plains had cured me of the
walking habit and I was glad to find that this time I was to
have a horse to ride—part of the way, anyhow. I was to be an
extra hand—which meant that by turns I was to be a bull-whacker,
driver and general-utility man.
I remember that our start was a big event. Men, women and
children watched our chosen animals amble out of Salt Creek. The
"mule skinners," busy with preparations for their own departure,
stopped work to jeer us.
"We'll ketch you in a couple of days or so!" yelled Tom
Stewart, boss of the mule outfit.
But Simpson only grinned. Jeers couldn't shake his confidence
either in himself or his long-horned motive power.
We made the first hundred and fifty miles easily. I was glad
to be a plainsman once more, and took a lively interest in
everything that went forward. We were really making speed, too,
which added to the excitement. The ordinary bull team could do
about fifteen miles a day. Under Simpson's command his specially
selected bulls were doing twenty-five, and doing it right along.
But one day, while we were nooning about one hundred and
fifty miles on the way, one of the boys shouted: "Here come the
Presently Stewart's train came shambling up, and a joyful lot
the "mule skinners" were at what they believed their victory.
But it was a short-lived victory. At the end of the next
three hundred miles we found them, trying to cross the Platte,
and making heavy work of it. The grass fodder had told on the
mules. Supplies from other sources were now exhausted. There
were no farms, no traders, no grain to be had. The race had
become a race of endurance, and the strongest stomachs were
destined to be the winners.
Stewart made a bad job of the crossing. The river was high,
and his mules quickly mired down in the quicksand. The more they
pawed the deeper they went.
Simpson picked a place for crossing below the ford Stewart
had chosen. He put enough bulls on a wagon to insure its easy
progress, and the bulls wallowed through the sand on their round
bellies, using their legs as paddles.
Steward pulled ahead again after he had crossed the river,
but soon his mules grew too feeble to make anything like their
normal speed. We passed them for good and all a few days farther
on, and were far ahead when we reached the North Platte.
Thus ended a race that I shall never forget. Since that time
the stage-coach has outdistanced the bull team, the pony express
has swept past the stage-coach, the locomotive has done in an
hour what the prairie schooner did in three or four days. Soon
the aeroplane will be racing with the automobile for the
But the bull team and the mule team were the continental
carriers of that day, and I am very glad that I took part—on the
winning side—in a race between them.
We soon began meeting parties of soldiers, and lightening our
loads by issuing supplies to them. When at last we reacted Fort
Laramie, the outfit was ordered to Fort Walback, located in
Cheyenne Pass, twenty-five miles from where Cheyenne stands
today, and ninety miles from Fort Laramie.
This was in the very heart of the Indian country. Our animals
were to haul in plows, tools and whatever was necessary in the
constructing of the new fort then building. The wagon-beds were
taken from the wagons to enable the hauling of greater loads.
The beds were piled up at Fort Laramie, and I was assigned to
watch them. It was here that I had abundant time and opportunity
to study the West at first hand. Heretofore I had been on the
march. Now I was on fixed post with plenty of time for
Fort Laramie was an old frontier post, such as has not
existed for many years. Nearby, three or four thousand Sioux,
Northern Cheyennes and Northern Arapahoes were encamped, most of
them spending much of the time at the post. Laramie had been
established by a fur-trading company in 1834. In 1840 or
thereabouts the Government bought it and made it a military
post. It had become the most famous meeting-place of the Plains.
Here the greatest Indian councils were held, and here also came
the most celebrated of the Indian fighters, men whose names had
long been known to me, but whom I never dared hope to see.
Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, Baker, Richards and other of the
celebrated hunters, trappers and Indian fighters were as
familiar about the post as are bankers in Wall Street. All these
men fascinated me, especially Carson, a small, dapper, quiet man
whom everybody held in profound respect.
I used to sit for hours and watch him and the others talk to
the Indians in the sign language. Without a sound they would
carry on long and interesting conversations, tell stories,
inquire about game and trails, and discuss pretty much
everything that men find worth discussing.
I was naturally desirous of mastering this mysterious medium
of speech, and began my education in it with far more interest
than I had given to the "three R's" back at Salt Creek. My
wagon-beds became splendid playhouses for the Indian children
from the villages, who are very much like other children,
despite their red skins.
I joined them in their games, and from them picked up a fair
working knowledge of the Sioux language. The acquaintance I
formed here was to save my scalp and life later, but I little
suspected it then.
I spent the summer of '58 in and about Laramie. I was getting
to be a big, husky boy now, and felt that I had entered on what
was to be my career—as indeed I had.
In January, '59, Simpson was ordered back to Missouri as
brigade train-master of three wagon-trains, traveling a day
apart. Because of much travel the grass along the regular trail
was eaten so close that the feed for the bulls was scanty.
Instead of following the trail down the South Platte,
therefore, Simpson picked a new route along the North Platte.
There was no road, but the grass was still long, and forage for
the cattle was necessary.
We had accomplished about half our journey with no sign of
hostile Indians. Then one day, as Simpson, George Woods and I
were riding ahead to overtake the lead train, a party of Sioux
bore down on us, plainly intent on mischief. There was little
time to act. No cover of any kind was to be had. For us three,
even with our rifles, to have stood up against the Sioux in the
open would have been suicide. Simpson had been trained to think
quickly. Swinging the three mules so that they formed a
triangle, he drew his six-shooter and dropped them where they
"Now there's a little cover, boys," he said, and we all made
ready for the attack.
Our plan of defense was now made for us. First rifles, then,
at closer quarters, revolvers. If it came to a hand-to-hand
conflict we had our knives as a last resort.
The Sioux drew up when they saw how quickly Simpson's wit had
built a barricade for us. Then the arrows began to fly and among
them spattered a few bullets. We were as sparing as possible
with our shots. Most of them told. I had already learned how to
use a rifle, and was glad indeed that I had. If ever a boy stood
in need of that kind of preparedness I did.
Down came the Indians, with the blood-curdling yell which is
always a feature of their military strategy. We waited till they
got well within range. Then at Simpson's order we fired. Three
ponies galloped riderless over the prairie, and our besiegers
hesitated, then wheeled, and rode out of range. But our rest was
short. Back they came. Again we fired, and had the good fortune
to stop three more of them.
Simpson patted me encouragingly on the shoulder. "You're all
right, Billy!" he said, and his praise was music to my ears.
By this time our poor dead mules, who had given their lives
for ours, were stuck full of arrows. Woods had been winged in
the shoulder. Simpson, carefully examining the wound, expressed
his belief that the arrow which inflicted it had not been
A Shower of Arrows Rained On Our
Dead Mules From the Closing Circle of Red-Men.
But we had little time to worry about that or anything else.
Our enemies were still circling, just out of range. Here and
there when they grew incautious we dropped a man or a pony. But
we were still heavily outnumbered. They knew it and we knew it.
Unless help came it was only a question of time till it was all
Daylight came and they still held off. Eagerly we looked to
the westward, but no wagon-train appeared. We began to fear that
something had happened to our friends, when, suddenly one of the
Indians jumped up, and with every evidence of excitement
signaled to the others. In an instant they were all mounted.
"They hear the crack of the bull-whip," said Woods.
He was right. Without another glance in our direction the
Sioux galloped away toward the foot-hills, and as they
disappeared we heard the welcome snap of the long bull-whip, and
saw the first of our wagons coming up the trail. In that day,
however, the plainsman was delivered out of one peril only to be
plunged into another. His days seldom dragged for want of
When we got to Leavenworth, Simpson sent three of us ahead
with the train-book record of the men's time, so that their
money would be ready for them when they arrived at Leavenworth.
Our boss's admonition to ride only at night and to lie under
cover in daytime was hardly needed. We cared for no more Indian
adventures just then.
We made fairly good progress till we got to the Little Blue,
in Colorado. It was an uncomfortable journey, finding our way by
the stars at night and lying all day in such shelters as were to
be found. But the inconvenience of it was far preferable to
being made targets for Indian arrows.
We were sheltered one night from one of the fearful prairie
blizzards that make fall and winter terrible. We had found a
gulley washed out by an autumn storm, and it afforded a little
protection against the wind. Looking down the ravine I saw
ponies moving. I knew there were Indians near, and we looked
about for a hiding-place.
At the head of the ravine I had noticed a cave-like hollow. I
signaled to the two men to follow me, and soon we were snug in a
safe hiding-place. As we were settling down to rest one of the
men lit his pipe. As the cave was illuminated by the glow of the
match there was a wild yell. I thought all the Indians in the
world had jumped us. But the yell had come from my companions.
We were in the exact center of the most grew-some collection
of human skulls and bones I have ever seen. Bones were strewn on
the floor of the cave like driftwood. Skulls were grinning at us
from every corner of the darkness. We had stumbled into a big
grave where some of the Indians had hidden their dead away from
the wolves after a battle. It may be that none of us were
superstitious, but we got out of there in a hurry, and braved
the peril of the storm and the Indians as best we could.
I was a rich boy when I got to Leavenworth. I had nearly a
thousand dollars to turn over to my mother as soon as I should
draw my pay. After a joyful reunion with the family I hitched up
a pair of ponies, and drove her over so that she could witness
this pleasing ceremony. As we were driving home, I heard her
sobbing, and was deeply concerned, for this seemed to me no
occasion for tears. I was quick to ask the reason, and her
answer made me serious.
"You couldn't even write your name, Willie," she said. "You
couldn't sign the payroll. To think my boy cannot so much as
write his name!"
I thought that over all the way home, and determined it
should never happen again.
In Uncle Aleck Majors' book, "Seventy Years on the Frontier,"
he relates how on every wagon-sheet and wagon-bed, on every tree
and barn door, he used to find the name "William F. Cody" in a
large, uncertain scrawl. Those were my writing lessons, and I
took them daily until I had my signature plastered pretty well
over the whole of Salt Creek Valley.
I went to school for a time after that, and at last began
really to take an interest in education. But the Pike's Peak
gold rush took me with it. I could never resist the call of the
trail. With another boy who knew as little of gold-mining as I
did we hired out with a bull-train for Denver, then called
We each had fifty dollars when we got to the gold country,
and with it we bought an elaborate outfit. But there was no
mining to be done save by expensive machinery, and we had our
labor for our pains. At last, both of us strapped, we got work
as timber cutters, which lasted only until we found it would
take us a week to fell a tree. At last we hired out once more as
bull-whackers. That job we understood, and at it we earned
enough money to take us home.
We hired a carpenter to build us a boat, loaded it with grub
and supplies, and started gayly down the Platte for home. But
the bad luck of that trip held steadily. The boat was overturned
in swift and shallow water, and we were stranded, wet and
helpless, on the bank, many miles from home or anywhere else.
Then a miracle happened. Along the trail we heard the
familiar crack of a bull-whip, and when the train came up we
found it was the same with which we had enlisted for the outward
journey, returning to Denver with mining machinery. Among this
machinery was a big steam-boiler, the first to be taken into
Colorado. On the way out the outfit had been jumped by Indians.
The wagon boss, knowing the red man's fear of cannon, had swung
the great boiler around so that it had appeared to point at
them. Never was so big a cannon. Even the 42-centimeter
howitzers of today could not compare with it. The Indians took
one look at it, then departed that part of the country as fast
as their ponies could travel.
We stuck with the train into Denver and back home again, and
glad we were to retire from gold-mining.
Soon after my return to Salt Creek Valley I decided on
another and, I thought, a better way to make a fortune for
myself and my family.
During my stay in and about Fort Laramie I had seen much of
the Indian traders, and accompanied them on a number of
expeditions. Their business was to sell to the Indians various
things they needed, chiefly guns and ammunition, and to take in
return the current Indian coin, which consisted of furs.
With the supplies bought by the money I had earned on the
trip with Simpson, mother and my sisters were fairly
comfortable. I felt that I should be able to embark in the fur
business on my own account—not as a trader but as a trapper.
With my friend Dave Harrington as a companion I set out.
Harrington was older than I, and had trapped before in the
Rockies. I was sure that with my knowledge of the Plains and his
of the ways of the fur-bearing animals, we should form an
excellent partnership, as in truth we did.
We bought a yoke of oxen, a wagon-sheet, wagon, traps of all
sorts, and strychnine with which to poison wolves. Also we laid
in a supply of grub—no luxuries, but coffee, flour, bacon and
everything that we actually needed to sustain life.
We headed west, and about two hundred miles from home we
struck Prairie Creek, where we found abundant signs of beaver,
mink, otter and other fur-bearing animals. No Indians had
troubled us, and we felt safe in establishing headquarters here
and beginning work. The first task was to build a dugout in a
hillside, which we roofed with brush, long grass, and finally
dirt, making everything snug and cozy. A little fireplace in the
wall served as both furnace and kitchen. Outside we built a
corral for the oxen, which completed our camp.
Our trapping was successful from the start, and we were sure
that prosperity was at last in sight.
We set our steel traps along the "runs" used by the animals,
taking great care to hide our tracks, and give the game no
indication of the presence of an enemy. The pelts began to pile
up in our shack. Most of the day we were busy at the traps, or
skinning and salting the hides, and at night we would sit by our
little fire and swap experiences till we fell asleep. Always
there was the wail of the coyotes and the cries of other animals
without, but as long as we saw no Indians we were not worried.
One night, just as we were dozing off, we heard a tremendous
commotion in the corral. Harrington grabbed his gun and hurried
out. He was just in time to see a big bear throw one of our oxen
and proceed with the work of butchering him.
He fired, and the bear, slightly wounded, left the ox and
turned his attention to his assailant. He was leaping at my
partner, growling savagely when I, gun in hand, rounded the
corner of the shack. I took the best aim I could get in the
dark, and the bear, which was within a few feet of my friend,
rolled over dead.
Making sure that he was past harming us we turned our
attention to the poor bull, but he was too far gone to recover,
and another bullet put him out of his misery.
We were now left without a team, and two hundred miles from
home. But wealth in the shape of pelts was accumulating about
us, and we determined to stick it out till spring. Then one of
us could go to the nearest settlement for a teammate for our
remaining steer, while the other stayed in charge of the camp.
This plan had to be carried out far sooner than we expected.
A few days later we espied a herd of elk, which meant plentiful
and excellent meat. We at once started in pursuit. Creeping
stealthily along toward them, keeping out of sight, and awaiting
an opportunity to get a good shot, I slipped on a stone in the
"Snap!" went something and looking down I saw my foot hanging
useless. I had broken my leg just above the ankle and my present
career as a fur-trapper had ended.
I was very miserable when Harrington came up. I urged him to
shoot me as he had the ox, but he laughingly replied that that
would hardly do.
"I'll bring you out all right!" he said. "I owe you a life
anyway for saving me from that bear. I learned a little
something about surgery when I was in Illinois, and I guess I
can fix you up."
He got me back to camp after a long and painful hour and with
a wagon-bow, which he made into a splint, set the fracture. But
our enterprise was at an end. Help would have to be found now,
and before spring. One man and a cripple could never get through
It was determined that Harrington must go for this needful
assistance just as soon as possible. He placed me on our little
bunk, with plenty of blankets to cover me. All our provisions he
put within my reach. A cup was lashed to a long sapling, and
Harrington made a hole in the side of the dugout so that I could
reach this cup out to a snow-bank for my water supply.
Lastly he cut a great pile of wood and heaped it near the
fire. Without leaving the bunk I could thus do a little cooking,
keep the fire up, and eat and sleep. It was not a situation that
I would have chosen, but there was nothing else to do.
The nearest settlement was a hundred and twenty-five miles
distant. Harrington figured that he could make the round trip in
twenty days. My supplies were ample to last that long. I urged
him to start as soon as possible, that he might the sooner
return with a new yoke of oxen. Then I could be hauled out to
where medical attendance was to be had.
I watched him start off afoot, and my heart was heavy. But
soon I stopped thinking of my pain and began to find ways and
means to cure my loneliness. We had brought with us a number of
books, and these I read through most of my waking hours. But the
days grew longer and longer for all that. Every morning when I
woke I cut a notch in a long stick to mark its coming. I had cut
twelve of these notches when one morning I was awakened from a
sound sleep by the touch of a hand on my shoulder.
Instantly concluding that Harrington had returned, I was
about to cry out in delight when I caught a glimpse of a
war-bonnet, surmounting the ugly, painted face of a Sioux brave.
The brilliant colors that had been smeared on his visage told
me more forcibly than words could have done that his tribe was
on the warpath. It was a decidedly unpleasant discovery for me.
While he was asking me in the Sioux language what I was doing
there, and how many more were in the party, other braves began
crowding through the door till the little dugout was packed as
full of Sioux warriors as it could hold.
Outside I could hear the stamping of horses and the voices of
more warriors. I made up my mind it was all over but the
And then a stately old brave worked his way through the crowd
and came toward my bunk. It was plain from the deference
accorded him by the others that he was a chief. And as soon as I
set eyes on him I recognized him as old Rain-in-the-Face, whom I
had often seen and talked with at Fort Laramie, and whose
children taught me the Sioux language as we played about the
wagon-beds together. Among these children was the son who
succeeded to the name of Rain-in-the-Face, and who years later,
it is asserted, killed General George A. Custer in the massacre
of the Little Big Horn.
I showed the chief my broken leg, and asked him if he did not
remember me. He replied that he did. I asked him if he intended
to kill the boy who had been his children's playmate. He
consulted with his warriors, who had begun busily to loot the
cabin. After a long parley the old man told me that my life
would be spared, but my gun and pistol and all my provisions
would be regarded as the spoils of the war.
Vainly I pointed out that he might as well kill me as leave
me without food or the means to defend myself against wolves. He
said that his young men had granted a great deal in consenting
to spare my life. As for food, he pointed to the carcass of a
deer that hung from the wall.
The next morning they mounted their ponies and galloped away.
I was glad enough to see them go. I knew that my life had hung
by a thread while I had been their involuntary host. Only my
friendship with the children of old Rain-in-the-Face had saved
But, even with the Indians gone, I was in a desperate
situation. As they had taken all my matches I had to keep the
fire going continuously. This meant that I could not sleep long
at a time, the lack of rest soon began to tell on me. I would
cut slices from the deer carcass with my knife, and holding it
over the fire with a long stick, cook it, eating it without
salt. Coffee I must do without altogether.
The second day after the departure of the Indians a great
snow fell. The drifts blocked the doorway and covered the
windows. It lay to a depth of several feet on the roof over my
head. My woodpile was covered by the snow that drifted in and it
was with great difficulty that I could get enough wood to keep
my little fire going. And on that fire depended my life. Worse
than all these troubles was the knowledge that the heavy snow
would be sure to delay Harrington.
I would lie there, day after day, a prey to all sorts of dark
imaginings. I fancied him killed by Indians on the trail, or
snowbound and starving on the Plains. Each morning my notches on
my calendar stick were made. Gradually their number grew till at
last the twentieth was duly cut. But no Harrington came.
The wolves, smelling meat within, had now begun to gather
round in increasing numbers. They made the night hideous with
their howlings, and pawed and scratched and dug at the snow by
the doorway, determined to come in and make a meal of everything
the dugout contained, myself included.
How I endured it I do not know. But the Plains teach men and
boys fortitude. Many and many a time as I lay there I resolved
that if I should ever be spared to go back to my home and
friends, the frontier should know me no more.
It was on the twenty-ninth day, as marked on stick, when I
had about given up hope, that I heard a cheerful voice shouting
"Whoa!" and recognized it as the voice of Harrington. A criminal
on the scafford with the noose about his neck and the trap
sagging underneath his feet could not have welcomed a pardon
more eagerly than I welcomed my deliverance out of this
I could make no effort to open the door for him. But I found
voice to answer him when he cried "Hello, Billy!" and in
response to his question assured him that I was all right. He
soon cleared a passageway through the snow, and stood beside me.
"I never expected to see you alive again," he said; "I had a
terrible trip. I didn't think I should ever get through—caught
in the snowstorm and laid up for three days. The cattle wandered
away and I came within an ace of losing them altogether. When I
got started again the snow was so deep I couldn't make much
"Well, you're here," I said, giving him a hug.
Harrington had made a trip few men could have made. He had
risked his life to save mine. All alone he had brought a yoke of
oxen over a country where the trails were all obscured and the
blinding snow made every added mile more perilous.
I was still unable to walk, and he had to do all the work of
packing up for the trip home. In a few days he had loaded the
pelts on board the wagon, covered it with the wagon-sheet we had
used in the dugout, and made me a comfortable bed inside. We had
three hundred beaver and one hundred otter skins to show for our
work. That meant a lot of money when we should get them to the
On the eighth day of the journey home we reached a ranch on
the Republican River, where we rested for a couple of days. Then
we went on to the ranch where Harrington had obtained his cattle
and paid for the yoke with twenty-five beaver skins, the
equivalent of a hundred dollars in money.
At the end of twenty days' travel we reached Salt Creek
Valley, where I was welcomed by my mother and sisters as one
returned from the dead.
So grateful was my mother to Harrington for what he had done
for me that she insisted on his making his home with us. This he
decided to do, and took charge of our farm. The next spring,
this man, who had safely weathered the most perilous of journeys
over the Plains, caught cold while setting out some trees and
fell ill. We brought a doctor from Lawrence, and did everything
in our power to save him, but in a week he died. The loss of a
member of our own family could not have affected us more.
I was now in my fifteenth year and possessed of a growing
appetite for adventure. A very few months had so dulled the
memory of my sufferings in the dugout that I had forgotten all
about my resolve to forsake the frontier forever. I looked about
me for something new and still more exciting.
I was not long in finding it. In April, 1860, the firm of
Russell, Majors & Waddell organized the wonderful "Pony
Express," the most picturesque messenger-service that this
country has ever seen. The route was from St. Joseph, Missouri,
to Sacramento, California, a distance of two thousand miles,
across the Plains, over a dreary stretch of sagebrush and alkali
desert, and through two great mountain ranges.
The system was really a relay race against time. Stations
were built at intervals averaging fifteen miles apart. A rider's
route covered three stations, with an exchange of horses at
each, so that he was expected at the beginning to cover close to
forty-five miles—a good ride when one must average fifteen miles
The firm undertaking the enterprise had been busy for some
time picking the best ponies to be had for money, and the
lightest, most wiry and most experienced riders. This was a life
that appealed to me, and I struck for a job. I was pretty young
in years, but I had already earned a reputation for coming safe
out of perilous adventures, and I was hired.
Naturally our equipment was the very lightest. The messages
which we carried were written on the thinnest paper to be found.
These we carried in a waterproof pouch, slung under our arms. We
wore only such clothing as was absolutely necessary.
The first trip of the Pony Express was made in ten days—an
average of two hundred miles a day. But we soon began stretching
our riders and making better time. Soon we shortened the time to
eight days. President Buchanan's last Presidential message in
December, 1860, was carried in eight days. President Lincoln's
inaugural, the following March, took only seven days and
seventeen hours for the journey between St. Joseph and
We soon got used to the work. When it became apparent to the
men in charge that the boys could do better than forty-five
miles a day the stretches were lengthened. The pay of the rider
was from $100 to $125 a month. It was announced that the further
a man rode the better would be his pay. That put speed and
endurance into all of us.
Stern necessity often compelled us to lengthen our day's work
even beyond our desires. In the hostile Indian country, riders
were frequently shot. In such an event the man whose relief had
been killed had to ride on to the next station, doing two men's
ride. Road-agents were another menace, and often they proved as
deadly as the Indians.
In stretching my own route I found myself getting further and
further west. Finally I was riding well into the foothills of
the Rockies. Still further west my route was pushed. Soon I rode
from Red Buttes to Sweetwater, a distance of seventy-six miles.
Road-agents and Indians infested this country. I never was quite
sure when I started out when I should reach my destination, or
whether I should never reach it at all.
One day I galloped into the station at Three Crossings to
find that my relief had been killed in a drunken row the night
before. There was no one to take his place. His route was
eighty-five miles across country to the west. I had no time to
think it over. Selecting a good pony out of the stables I was
soon on my way.
I arrived at Rocky Ridge, the end of the new route, on
schedule time, and turning back came on to Red Buttes, my
starting-place. The round trip was 320 miles, and I made it in
twenty-one hours and forty minutes.
Excitement was plentiful during my two years' service as a
Pony Express rider. One day as I was leaving Horse Creek, a
party of fifteen Indians jammed me in a sand ravine eight miles
west of the station. They fired at me repeatedly, but my luck
held, and I went unscathed. My mount was a California roan pony,
the fastest in the stables. I dug the spurs into his sides, and,
lying flat on his back, I kept straight on for Sweetwater Bridge
eleven miles distant. A turn back to Horse Creek might have
brought me more speedily to shelter, but I did not dare risk it.
Pursued by Fifteen Bloodthirsty
Indians, I Had a Running Fight of Eleven Miles.
The Indians came on behind, riding with all the speed they
could put into their horses, but my pony drew rapidly ahead. I
had a lead of two miles when I reached the station. There I
found I could get no new pony. The stock-tender had been killed
by the Indians during the night. All his ponies had been stolen
and driven off. I kept on, therefore, to Plonts Station, twelve
miles further along, riding the same pony—a ride of twenty-four
miles on one mount. At Plonts I told the people what had
happened at Sweetwater Bridge. Then, with a fresh horse, I
finished my route without further adventure.
About the middle of September the Indians became very
troublesome on the line of the stage along the Sweetwater,
between Split Rock and Three Crossings. A stage had been robbed
and two passengers killed outright. Lem Flowers, the driver, was
badly wounded. The thievish redskins also drove stock repeatedly
from the stations. They were continually lying in wait for
passing stages and Pony Express riders. It was useless to keep
the Express going until these depredations could be stopped. A
lay-off of six weeks was ordered, and our time was our own.
While we were thus idle a party was organized to carry the
war into the Indians' own country, and teach them that the white
man's property must be let alone. This party I joined.
Stage-drivers, express-riders, stock-tenders and ranchmen,
forty in number, composed this party. All were well armed; all
were good shots, and brave, determined men. "Wild Bill" Hickock,
another of the Western gunmen of whom I shall have something to
tell later, was captain of the expedition. He had come recently
to our division as a stage-driver and had the experience and
courage necessary to that kind of leadership.
Twenty miles out from Sweetwater Bridge, at the head of Horse
Creek, we found an Indian trail running north toward Powder
River. We could see that the horses had been recently shod,
conclusive proof that they were our stolen stock. We pushed on
as fast as we could along the trail to the Powder, thence down
this stream to within forty miles of where old Fort Reno now
stands. Farther on, at Crazy Woman's Fork, we saw evidence that
another party had joined our quarry. The trail was newly made.
The Indians could be hardly more than twenty-four hours ahead of
us. And plainly there was a lot of them.
When we reached Clear Creek, another tributary of the Powder,
we saw horses grazing on the opposite bank. Horses meant
Indians. Never before had the redskins been followed so far into
their own country. Not dreaming that they would be pursued they
had failed to put out scouts.
We quickly got the "lay" of their camp, and held a council to
decide on how to attack them. We knew that they outnumbered us
three to one—perhaps more. Without strategy, all we would get
for our long chase would be the loss of our scalps.
"Wild Bill," who did not know the meaning of fear, made our
plan for us. We were to wait till nightfall, and then, after
creeping up as close as possible on the camp, make a grand ride
right through it, open a general fire upon them, and stampede
It was a plan that called for nerve, but we were full of
spirit, and the more danger there was in an enterprise the more
we relished it. At our captain's signal we rushed pell-mell
through their camp. Had we dropped from the clouds the Indians
could not have been more astonished. At the sound of our shots
they scattered in every direction, yelling warnings to each
other as they fled.
Once clear of the camp we circled to the south and came back
to make sure that we had done a thorough job. A few parting
shots stampeded the stragglers. Then, with one hundred captured
ponies—most, if not all of them, stolen from the Express and
State stations—we rode back to Sweetwater Bridge.
The recovered horses were placed on the road again, and the
Express was resumed. Slade, who was greatly pleased with our
exploit, now assigned me as special or supernumerary rider.
Thereafter while I was with him I had a comparatively easy time
of it, riding only now and then, and having plenty of
opportunity for seeking after the new adventures in which I
Alf Slade, stage-line superintendent, frontiersman, and
dare-devil fighting man, was one of the far-famed gunmen of the
Plains. These were a race of men bred by the perils and hard
conditions of Western life. They became man-killers first from
stern necessity. In that day the man who was not quick on the
trigger had little chance with the outlaws among whom he had to
live. Slade and "Wild Bill," with both of whom I became closely
associated, were men of nerve and courage. But both, having
earned the reputation of gun-fighters, became too eager to live
up to it. Eventually both became outlaws.
Slade, though always a dangerous man, and extremely rough in
his manner, never failed to treat me with kindness. Sober, he
was cool and self-possessed, but never a man to be trifled with.
Drunk, he was a living fury. His services to the company for
which he worked were of high value. He was easily the best
superintendent on the line. But his habit of man-killing at last
resulted in his execution.
Another man who gained even greater notoriety than Slade was
"Wild Bill" Hickock, a tall, yellow-haired giant who had done
splendid service as a scout in the western sector of the Civil
"Wild Bill" I had known since 1857. He and I shared the
pleasure of walking a thousand miles to the Missouri River,
after the bull-train in which we both were employed had been
burned by Lot Smith, the Mormon raider. Afterward we rode the
Pony Express together.
While an express rider, Bill had the fight with the
McCandless gang which will always form an interesting chapter in
the history of the West.
Coming into his swing station at Rock Creek one day, Bill
failed to arouse any one with his shouts for a fresh mount. This
was a certain indication of trouble. It was the stock-tender's
business to be on hand with a relief pony the instant the rider
came in. The Pony Express did not tolerate delays.
Galloping into the yard, Bill dismounted and hurried to the
stable. In the door he saw the stock-tender lying dead, and at
the same instant a woman's screams rang from the cabin near by.
Turning about, Bill found himself face to face with a ruffian
who was rushing from the house, brandishing a six-shooter. He
asked no questions, but pulled one of the two guns he carried
and fired. No sooner had the man fallen, however, than a second,
also armed, came out of the house. Hickock disposed of this
fellow also, and then entered the place, where four others
opened a fusillade on him.
Although the room was thick with smoke, and Bill had to use
extreme care to avoid hitting the woman, who was screaming in
the corner, he managed to kill two of his assailants with his
revolvers and to ward off a blow with a rifle a third had
leveled at him.
The blow knocked the weapon from his hand, but his knife was
still left him, and with it he put the man with the rifle out of
the way. His troubles were not at an end, however. Another man
came climbing in the window to avenge his fellow gangsters. Bill
reached for a rifle which lay on the floor and shot first.
When he took count a few minutes later he discovered that he
had killed five men and wounded a sixth, who escaped in the
thick of the fight.
The woman, who had been knocked unconscious by one of the
desperadoes, was soon revived. She was the stock-tender's wife,
and had been attacked the by gang as soon as they had slain her
The passengers of the Overland stage, which rolled in as Bill
was reviving the terrified woman, were given a view of Western
life which none of them ever forgot.
Bill was the hero of the occasion, and a real hero he was,
for probably never has a man won such a victory against such
terrific odds in all the history of the war against the ruffians
of the West.
It was at Springfield, Missouri, that Bill had his celebrated
fight with Dave Tutt. The fight put an end to Tutt's career. I
was a personal witness to another of his gun exploits, in which,
though the chances were all against him, he protected his own
life and incidentally his money. An inveterate poker player, he
got into a game in Springfield with big players and for high
stakes. Sitting by the table, I noticed that he seemed sleepy
and inattentive. So I kept a close watch on the other fellows.
Presently I observed that one of his opponents was occasionally
dropping a card in his hat, which he held in his lap, until a
number of cards had been laid away for future use in the game.
The pot had gone around several times and was steadily raised
by some of the players, Bill staying right along, though he
still seemed to be drowsy.
The bets kept rising. At last the man with the hatful of
cards picked a hand out of his reserves, put the hat on his head
and raised Bill two hundred dollars. Bill came back with a raise
of two hundred, and as the other covered it he quietly shoved a
pistol into his face and observed:
"I am calling the hand that is in your hat!"
He Shoved a Pistol in the Man's
Face and Said:
"I'm Calling the Hand That's in Your Hat".
Gathering in the pot with his left hand, he held the pistol
with his right and inquired if any of the players had any
objections to offer. They hastened to reply that they had no
objections whatever and we went away from there.
"Bill," I said, when we were well outside the place, "I had
been noticing that fellow's play right along, but I thought you
hadn't. I was going to get into the game myself if he beat you
out of that money."
"Billy," replied Hickock, "I don't want you ever to learn it,
but that is one of my favorite poker tricks. It always wins
against crooked players."
Not all of the gunmen of the West began straight. Some of
them—many, in fact—were thieves and murderers from the
beginning. Such were the members of the McCandless gang, which
Hickock disposed of so thoroughly. All along the stage route
were robbers and man-killers far more vicious than the Indians.
Very early in my career as a frontiersman I had an encounter
with a party of these from which I was extremely fortunate to
escape with my life.
I employed the leisure afforded me by my assignment as an
extra rider in hunting excursions, in which I took a keen
delight. I was returning home empty-handed from a bear hunt,
when night overtook me in a lonely spot near a mountain stream.
I had killed two sage-hens and built a little fire over which to
broil them before my night's rest.
Suddenly I heard a horse whinny farther up the stream.
Thinking instantly of Indians, I ran quickly to my own horse to
prevent him from answering the call, and thus revealing my
Filled with uneasiness as to who and what my human neighbors
might be, I resaddled my horse, and, leaving him tied where I
could reach him in a hurry if need be, made my way up-stream to
reconnoiter. As I came around a bend I received an unpleasant
shock. Not one horse, but fifteen horses, were grazing just
ahead of me.
On the opposite side of the creek a light shone high up the
mountain bank—a light from the window of a dugout. I drew near
very cautiously till I came within, sound of voices within the
place, and discovered that its occupants were conversing in my
own language. That relieved me. I knew the strangers to be white
men. I supposed them to be trappers, and, walking boldly to the
door, I knocked.
Instantly the voices ceased. There ensued absolute silence
for a space, and then came-whisperings, and sounds of men
quietly moving about the dirt floor.
"Who's there?" called someone.
"A friend and a white man," I replied.
The door opened, and a big, ugly-looking fellow stood before
"Come in," he ordered.
I accepted the invitation with hesitation, but there was
nothing else to do. To retreat would have meant pursuit and
Eight of the most villainous-appearing ruffians I have ever
set eyes upon sat about the dugout as I entered. Two of them I
recognized at once as teamsters who had been employed by Simpson
a few months before. Both had been charged with murdering a
ranchman and stealing his horses. Simpson had promptly
discharged them, and it was supposed that they had left the
I gave them no sign of recognition. I was laying my plans to
get out of there as speedily as possible. I was now practically
certain that I had uncovered the hiding-place of a gang of
horse-thieves who could have no possible reason to feel anything
but hostility toward an honest man. The leader of the gang
swaggered toward me and inquired menacingly:
"Where are you going, young man, and who's with you?"
"I am entirely alone," I returned. "I left Horseshoe Station
this morning for a bear hunt. Not finding any bears, I was going
to camp out till morning. I heard one of your horses whinnying,
and came up to your camp."
"Where is your horse?"
"I left him down the creek."
They proposed going for the horse, which was my only means of
getting rid of their unwelcome society. I tried strategy to
"I'll go and get him," I said. "I'll leave my gun here."
This, I fancied, would convince them that I intended to
return, but it didn't.
"Jim and I will go with you," said one of the thieves. "You
can leave your gun here if you want to. You won't need it."
I saw that if I was to get away at all I would have to be
extremely alert. These were old hands, and were not to be easily
fooled. I felt it safer, however, to trust myself with two men
than with six, so I volunteered to show the precious pair where
I had left the horse, and led them to my camp.
The animal was secured, and as one of the men started to lead
him up the stream I picked up the two sage-hens I had intended
for my evening meal. The more closely we approached the dugout
the less I liked the prospect of reëntering it. One plan of
escape had failed. I was sure the ruffians had no intention of
permitting me to leave them and inform the stage people of their
presence in the country.
One more plan suggested itself to me, and I lost no time in
trying it. Dropping one of the sage-hens, I asked the man behind
me to pick it up. As he was groping for it in the darkness, I
pulled one of my Colt's revolvers, and hit him a terrific blow
over the head. He dropped to the ground, senseless.
Wheeling about, I saw that the other man, hearing the fall,
had turned, his hand upon his revolver. It was no time for
argument. I fired and killed him. Then, leaping on my horse, I
dug the spurs into his sides, and back down the trail we went,
over the rocks and rough ground toward safety.
It Was No Time for
Argument. I Fired and Killed Him.
My peril was far from past. At the sound of the shot the six
men in the dugout tumbled forth in hot haste. They stopped an
instant at the scene of the shooting, possibly to revive the man
I had stunned and to learn from him what had happened.
They were too wise to mount their horses, knowing that,
afoot, they could make better time over the rocky country than I
could on horseback. Steadily I heard them gaining, and soon made
up my mind that if I was to evade them at all I must abandon my
Jumping off, I gave him a smart slap with the butt of my
revolver which sent him down the valley. I turned and began to
scramble up the mountainside.
I had climbed hardly forty feet when I heard them pass,
following the sound of my horse's feet. I dodged behind a tree
as they went by, and when I heard them firing farther down the
trail I worked my way up the mountainside.
It was twenty-five miles to Horseshoe Station, and very hard
traveling the first part of the way. But I got to the station,
just before daylight, weary and footsore, but exceedingly
Tired as I was, I woke up the men at the station and told
them of my adventure. Slade himself led the party that set out
to capture my former hosts, and I went along, though nearly beat
Twenty of us, after a brisk ride, reached the dugout at ten
o'clock in the morning. But the thieves had gone. We found a
newly made grave where they had buried the man I had to kill,
and a trail leading southwest toward Denver. That was all. But
my adventure at least resulted in clearing the country of
horse-thieves. Once the gang had gone, no more depredations
occurred for a long time.
After a year's absence from home I began to long to see my
mother and sisters again. In June, 1861, I got a pass over the
stage-line, and returned to Leavenworth. The first rumblings of
the great struggle that was soon to be known as the Civil War
were already reverberating throughout the North; Sumter had been
fired upon in April of that year. Kansas, as every schoolboy
knows, was previously the bloody scene of some of the earliest
My mother's sympathies were strongly with the Union. She knew
that war was bound to come, but so confident was she in the
strength of the Federal Government that she devoutly believed
that the struggle could not last longer than six months at the
Fort Leavenworth and the town of Leavenworth were still
important outfitting posts for the soldiers in the West and
Southwest. The fort was strongly garrisoned by regular troops.
Volunteers were undergoing training. Many of my boyhood friends
were enlisting. I was eager to join them.
But I was still the breadwinner of the family, the sole
support of my sisters and my invalid mother. Not because of
this, but because of her love for me, my mother exacted from me
a promise that I would not enlist for the war while she lived.
But during the summer of 1861 a purely local company, know as
the Red-Legged Scouts, and commanded by Captain Bill Tuff, was
organized. This I felt I could join without breaking my promise
not to enlist for the war, and join it I did. The Red-Legged
Scouts, while they coöperated with the regular army along the
borders of Missouri, had for their specific duty the protection
of Kansas against raiders like Quantrell, and such bandits as
the James Boys, the Younger Brothers, and other desperadoes who
conducted a guerrilla warfare against Union settlers.
We had plenty to do. The guerrillas were daring fellows and
kept us busy. They robbed banks, raided villages, burned
buildings, and looted and plundered wherever there was loot or
plunder to be had.
But Tuff was the same kind of a fighting man as they, and
working in a better cause. With his scouts he put the fear of
the law into the hearts of the guerrillas, and they notably
decreased their depredations in consequence.
Whenever and wherever we found that the scattered bands were
getting together for a general raid we would at once notify the
regulars at Fort Scott or Fort Leavenworth to be ready for them.
Quantrell once managed to collect a thousand men in a hurry, and
to raid and sack Lawrence before the troops could head them off.
But when we got on their trail they were driven speedily back
In the meantime we took care that little mischief was done by
the gangs headed by the James Boys and the Youngers, who
operated in Quantrell's wake and in small bands.
In the spring of '63 I left the Red-Legged Scouts to serve
the Federal Government as guide and scout with the Ninth Kansas
Cavalry. The Kiowas and Comanches were giving trouble along the
old Santa Fe trail and among the settlements of western Kansas.
The Ninth Kansas were sent to tame them and to protect
immigrants and settlers.
This was work that I well understood. We had a lively summer,
for the Indians kept things stirring, but after a summer of hard
fighting we made them understand that the Great White Chief was
a power that the Indians had better not irritate. November, '63,
I returned with the command to Leavenworth. I had money in my
pockets, for my pay had been $150 a month, and I was able to lay
in an abundant supply of provisions for my family.
On the twenty-third day of December my mother passed away.
Her life had been an extremely hard one, but she had borne up
bravely under poverty and privation, supplying with her own
teaching the education that the frontier schools could not give
her children, and by her Christian example setting them all on a
straight road through life.
Border ruffians killed her husband, almost within sight of
her home. She passed months in terror and distress and, until I
became old enough to provide for her, often suffered from direst
poverty. Yet she never complained for herself; her only thoughts
being for her children and the sufferings that were visited upon
them because of their necessary upbringing in a rough and wild
My sister Julia was now married to Al Goodman, a fine and
capable young man, and I was free to follow the promptings of an
adventurous nature and go where my companions were fighting. In
January, 1864, the Seventh Kansas Volunteers came to Leavenworth
from the South, where they had been fighting since the early
years of the war. Among them I found many of my old friends and
schoolmates. I was no longer under promise not to take part in
the war and I enlisted as a private.
In March of that year the regiment was embarked on steamboats
and sent to Memphis, Tennessee, where we joined the command of
General A.J. Smith. General Smith was organizing an army to
fight the illiterate but brilliant Confederate General Forrest,
who was then making a great deal of trouble in southern
While we were mobilizing near Memphis, Colonel Herrick of our
regiment recommended me to General Smith for
membership in a
picked corps to be used for duty as scouts, messengers, and
dispatch carriers. Colonel Herrick recounted my history as a
plainsman, which convinced the commander that I would be useful
in this special line of duty.
When I reported to General Smith, he invited me into his tent
and inquired minutely into my life as a scout.
"You ought to be able to render me valuable service," he
When I replied that I should be only too glad to do so, he
got out a map of Tennessee, and on it showed me where he
believed General Forrest's command to be located. His best
information was that the Confederate commander was then in the
neighborhood of Okolona, Mississippi, about two hundred miles
south, of Memphis.
He instructed me to disguise myself as a Tennessee boy, to
provide myself with a farm horse from the stock in the camp, and
to try to locate Forrest's main command. Having accomplished
this, I was to gather all the information possible concerning
the enemy's strength in men and equipment and defenses, and to
make my way back as speedily as possible.
General Smith expected to start south the following morning,
and he showed me on the map the wagon road he planned to follow,
so that I might know where to find him on my return. He told me
before we parted that the mission on which he was sending me was
exceedingly dangerous. "If you are captured," he said, "you will
be shot as a spy."
To this I replied that my Indian scouting trips had been
equally dangerous, as capture meant torture and death, yet I had
always willingly undertaken them.
"Do you think you can find Forrest's army?" he said. "Well,
if you can't find an army as big as that you're a mighty poor
scout," he said grimly.
General Smith then turned me over to the man who was in
charge of what was called "the refuge herd," from which I found
a mount built on the lines of the average Tennessee farm horse.
This man also provided me with a suit of farmer's clothing, for
which I exchanged my new soldier uniform, and a bag of
provisions. Leading me about a mile from camp, he left me with
"Look out, young fellow. You're taking a dangerous trip."
Then we shook hands and I began my journey.
I had studied carefully the map General Smith had shown me,
and had a fairly accurate idea of the direction I was supposed
to take. Following a wagon road that led to the south, I made
nearly sixty miles the first night. The mare I had chosen proved
a good traveler.
When morning came I saw a big plantation, with the owner's
and negroes' houses, just ahead of me. I was anxious to learn
how my disguise was going to work, and therefore rode boldly up
to the house of the overseer and asked if I could get rest and
some sort of breakfast.
In response to his inquiries I said I was a Tennesseean and
on my way to Holly Springs. I used my best imitation of the
Southern dialect, which I can still use on occasion, and it was
perfectly successful. I was given breakfast, my mare was fed,
and I slept most of the day in a haystack, taking up my journey
again immediately after dinner.
Thereafter I had confidence in my disguise, and, while making
no effort to fall into conversation with people, I did not put
myself out to evade anyone whom I met. None of those with whom I
talked suspected me of being a Northern spy.
At the end of a few days I saw that I was near a large body
of troops. It was in the morning after a hard day-and-night
ride. Fearing to approach the outposts looking weary and fagged
out, I rested for an hour, and then rode up and accosted one of
them. To his challenge I said I was a country boy, and had come
in to see the soldiers. My father and brother, I said, were
fighting with Forrest, and I was almost persuaded to enlist
My story satisfied the guard and I was passed. A little
farther on I obtained permission to pasture my horse with a herd
of animals belonging to the Confederates and, afoot, I proceeded
to the camp of the soldiers. By acting the part of the rural
Tennesseean, making little purchases from the negro food-stands,
and staring open-mouthed at all the camp life, I picked up a
great deal of information without once falling under suspicion.
The question now uppermost in my mind was how I was going to
get away. Toward evening I returned to the pasture, saddled my
mare and rode to the picket line where I had entered. Here, to
my dismay, I discovered that the outposts had been recently
But I used the same story that had gained admission for me.
In a sack tied to my saddle were the food supplies I had bought
from the negroes during the day. These, I explained to the
outposts, were intended as presents for my mother and sisters
back on the farm. They examined the sack, and, finding nothing
contraband in it, allowed me to pass.
I now made all possible speed northward, keeping out of sight
of houses and of strangers. On the second day I passed several
detachments of Forrest's troops, but my training as a scout
enabled me to keep them from seeing me.
Though my mare had proven herself an animal of splendid
endurance, I had to stop and rest her occasionally. At such
times I kept closely hidden. It was on the second morning after
leaving Forrest's command that I sighted the advance guard of
Smith's army. They halted me when I rode up, and for a time I
had more trouble with them than I had had with any of Forrest's
men. I was not alarmed, however, and when the captain told me
that he would have to send me to the rear, I surprised him by
asking to see General Smith.
"Are you anxious to see a big, fighting general?" he asked in
"Yes," I said. "I hear that General Smith can whip Forrest,
and I would like to see any man who can do that."
Without any promises I was sent to the rear, and presently I
noticed General Smith, who, however, failed to recognize me.
I managed, however, to draw near to him and ask him if I
might speak to him for a moment.
Believing me to be a Confederate prisoner, he assented, and
when I had saluted I said:
"General, I am Billy Cody, the man you sent out to the
"Report back to your charge," said the general to the officer
who had me in custody. "I will take care of this man."
My commander was much pleased with my report, which proved to
be extremely accurate and valuable. The disguise he had failed
to penetrate did not deceive my comrades of the Ninth Kansas,
and when I passed them they all called me by name and asked me
where I had been. But my news was for my superior officers, and
I did not need the warning Colonel Herrick gave me to keep my
mouth shut while among the soldiers.
General Smith, to whom I later made a full detailed report,
had spoken highly of my work to Colonel Herrick, who was
gratified to know that his choice of a scout had been justified
It was not long before the whole command knew of my return,
but beyond the fact that I had been on a scouting expedition,
and had brought back information much desired by the commander,
they knew nothing of my journey. The next morning, still riding
the same mare and still wearing my Tennessee clothes, I rode out
with the entire command in the direction of Forrest's army.
Before I had traveled five miles I had been pointed out to
the entire command, and cheers greeted me on every side. As soon
as an opportunity offered I got word with the general and asked
if he had any further special orders for me.
"Just keep around," he said; "I may need you later on."
"But I am a scout," I told him, "and the place for a scout is
ahead of the army, getting information."
"Go ahead," he replied, "and if you see anything that I ought
to know about come back and tell me."
Delighted to be a scout once more, I made my way forward. The
general had given orders that I was to be allowed to pass in and
out the lines at will, so that I was no longer hampered by the
activities of my own friends. I had hardly got beyond the sound
of the troops when I saw a beautiful plantation house, on the
porch of which was a handsome old lady and her two attractive
They were greatly alarmed when I came up, and asked if I
didn't know that the Yankee army would be along in a few minutes
and that my life was in peril. All their own men folks, they
said, were in hiding in the timber.
"Don't you sit here," begged the old lady, when I had seated
myself on the porch to sip a glass of milk for which I had asked
her. "The Yankee troops will go right through this house. They
will break up the piano and every stick of furniture, and leave
the place in ruins. You are sure to be killed or taken
By this time the advance guard was coming up the road.
General Smith passed as I was standing on the porch. I saw that
he had noticed me, though he gave no sign of having done so. As
more troops passed, men began leaving their companies and
rushing toward the house. I walked out and ordered them away in
the name of the general. They all knew who I was, and obeyed,
much to the astonishment of the old lady and her daughter.
Turning to my hostess, I said:
"Madam, I can't keep them out of your chicken-house or your
smoke-house or your storerooms, but I can keep them out of your
home, and I will."
I remained on the porch till the entire command had passed.
Nothing was molested. Much pleased, but still puzzled, the old
lady was now convinced that I was no Tennessee lad, but a
sure-enough Yankee, and one with a remarkable amount of
influence. When I asked for a little something to eat in return
for what I had done, the best there was in the house was spread
My hostess urged me to eat as speedily as possible, and be on
my way. Her men folks, she said, would soon return from the
timber, and if they learned that I was a Yank would shoot me on
the spot. As she was speaking the back door was pushed open and
three men rushed in. The old lady leaped between them and me.
"Don't shoot him!" she cried. "He has protected our property
and our lives." But the men had no murderous intentions.
"Give him all he wants to eat," said the eldest, "and we will
see that he gets back to the Yankee lines in safety. We saw him
from the treetops turn away the Yanks as he stood on the porch."
While I finished my meal they put all manner of questions to
me, being specially impressed that a boy so young could have
kept a great army from foraging so richly stocked a plantation.
I told them that I was a Union scout, and that I had saved their
property on my own responsibility.
"I knew you would be back here," I said. "But I was sure you
wouldn't shoot me when you learned what I had done."
"You bet your life we won't!" they said heartily.
After dinner I was stocked Tip with all the provisions I
wanted, and given a fine bottle of peach brandy, the product of
the plantation. Then the men of the place escorted me to the
rear-guard of the command, which I lost no time in joining. When
I overtook the general and presented him with the peach brandy,
he said gruffly:
"I hear you kept all the men from foraging on that plantation
"Yes, sir," I said. "An old lady and her two daughters were
alone there. My mother had suffered from raids of hostile
soldiers in Kansas. I tried to protect that old lady, as I would
have liked another man to protect my mother in her distress. I
am sorry if I have disobeyed your orders and I am ready for any
punishment you wish to inflict on me."
"My boy," said the general, "you may be too good-hearted for
a soldier, but you have done just what I would have done. My
orders were to destroy all Southern property. But we will forget
your violation, of them."
General Smith kept straight on toward Forrest's stronghold.
Ten miles from the spot where the enemy was encamped, he wheeled
to the left and headed for Tupedo, Mississippi, reaching there
at dark. Forrest speedily discovered that Smith did not intend
to attack him on his own ground. So he broke camp, and, coming
up to the rear, continued a hot fire through the next afternoon.
Arriving near Tupedo, General Smith selected, as a
battleground, the crest of a ridge commanding the position
Forrest had taken up. Between the two armies lay a plantation of
four or five thousand acres. The next morning Forrest dismounted
some four thousand cavalry, and with cavalry and artillery on
his left and right advanced upon our position.
Straight across the plantation they came, while Smith rode
back and forth behind the long breastworks that protected his
men, cautioning them to reserve their fire till it could be made
to tell. All our men were fighting with single shotguns. The
first shot, in a close action, had to count, or a second one
might never be fired.
I had been detailed to follow Smith as he rode to and fro.
With an eye to coming out of the battle with a whole skin I had
picked out a number of trees, behind which I proposed to drop my
horse when the fighting got to close quarters. This was the
fashion I had always employed in Indian fighting. As the
Confederates got within good range, the order "Fire!" rang out.
At that instant I wheeled my horse behind a big oak tree.
Unhappily for me the general was looking directly at me as this
maneuver was executed. When we had driven back and defeated
Forrest's men I was ordered to report at General Smith's tent.
"Young man," said the General, when I stood before him, "you
were recommended to me as an Indian fighter. What were you doing
behind that tree!"
"That is the way we have to fight Indians, sir," I said. "We
get behind anything that offers protection." It was twelve years
later that I convinced General Smith that my theory of Indian
fighting was pretty correct.
After the consolidation of the regular army, following the
war, Smith was sent to the Plains as Colonel of the Seventh
Cavalry. This was afterward known as Custer's regiment, and we
engaged in the battle of the Little Big Horn, in which that
gallant commander was slain. Smith's cavalry command was moving
southward on an expedition against the Kiowas and Comanches in
the Canadian River country, when I joined it as a scout.
Dick Curtis, acting as guide for Smith, had been sent on
ahead across the river, while the main command stopped to water
their horses. Curtis's orders were to proceed straight ahead for
five miles, where the troops would camp. He was followed
immediately by the advance guard, Smith and his staff following
on. We had proceeded about three miles when three or four
hundred Indians attacked us, jumping out of gullies and ravines,
where they had been securely hidden. General Smith at once
ordered the orderlies to sound the recall and retreat, intending
to fall back quickly on the main command.
He was standing close beside a deep ravine as he gave the
order. Knowing that the plan he proposed meant the complete
annihilation of our force, I pushed my horse close to him.
"General," I said, "order your men into the ravine, dismount,
and let number fours hold horses. Then you will be able to stand
off the Indians. If you try to retreat to the main command you
and every man under you will be killed before you have retreated
He immediately saw the sense of my advice. Issuing orders to
enter the ravine, he dismounted with his men behind the bank.
There we stood off the Indians till the soldiers in the rear,
hearing the shots, came charging to the rescue and drove the
Indians away. The rapidity with which we got into the ravine,
and the protection its banks afforded us, enabled us to get away
without losing a man. Had the general's original plan been
carried out none of us would have come away to tell the story. I
was summoned to the general's tent that evening.
"That was a brilliant suggestion of yours, young man," he
said. "This Indian fighting is a new business to me. I realize
that if I had carried out my first order not a man of us would
ever have reached the command alive."
I said: "General, do you remember the battle of Tupedo?"
"I do," he said, with his chest expanding a little. "I was in
command at that battle." The whipping of Forrest had been a
particularly difficult and unusual feat, and General Smith never
failed to show his pride in the achievement whenever the battle
of Tupedo was mentioned.
"Do you remember," I continued, "the young fellow you caught
behind a tree, and sent for him afterward to ask him why he did
"Is it possible you are the man who found Forrest's command!"
he asked in amazement. "I had often wondered what became of
you," he said, when I told him I was the same man. "What have
you been doing since the war!"
I told him I had come West as a scout for General Sherman in
1865 and had been scouting ever since. He was highly delighted
to see me again, and from that time forward, as long as he
remained on the Plains, I resumed my old position as his chief
After the battle of Tupedo, Smith's command was ordered to
Memphis, and from there sent by boat up the Mississippi. We of
the cavalry disembarked at Cape Jardo, Smith remaining behind
with the infantry, which came on later. General Sterling Price,
of the Confederate army, was at this time coming out of Arkansas
into southern Missouri with a large army. His purpose was to
Federal troops were not then plentiful in the West. Smith's
army from Tennessee, Blunt's troops from Kansas, what few
regulars there were in Missouri, and some detachments of Kansas
volunteers were all being moved forward to head off Price. Being
still a member of the Ninth Kansas Cavalry, I now found myself
back in my old country—just ahead of Price's army, which had now
reached the fertile northwestern Missouri.
In carrying dispatches from General McNeil to General Blunt
or General Pleasanton I passed around and through Price's army
many times. I always wore the disguise of a Confederate soldier,
and always escaped detection. Price fought hard and
successfully, gaining ground steadily, till at Westport,
Missouri, and other battlefields near the Kansas line, the
Federal troops checked his advance.
At the Little Blue, a stream that runs through what is now
Kansas City, he was finally turned south, and took up a course
through southern Kansas.
Near Mound City a scouting party of which I was a member
surprised a small detachment of Price's army. Our advantage was
such that they surrendered, and while we were rounding them up I
heard one of them say that we Yanks had captured a bigger prize
than we suspected. When he was asked what this prize consisted
of, the soldier said:
"That big man over yonder is General Marmaduke of the
I had heard much of Marmaduke and greatly admired his dash
and ability as a fighting man. Going over to him, I asked if
there was anything I could do to make him comfortable. He said
that I could. He hadn't had a bite to eat, and he wanted some
food and wanted it right away.
He was surrounding a good lunch I had in my saddle-bag, while
I was ransacking the saddle-bag of a comrade for a bottle of
whisky which I knew to be there.
When we turned our prisoners over to the main command I was
put in charge of General Marmaduke and accompanied him as his
custodian to Fort Leavenworth. The general and I became fast
friends, and our friendship lasted long after the war. Years
after he had finished his term as Governor of Missouri he
visited me in London, where I was giving my Wild West Show. He
was talking with me in my tent one day when the Earl of Lonsdale
and Lord Harrington rode up, dismounted, and came over to where
we were sitting.
I presented Marmaduke to them as the governor of one of
America's greatest States and a famous Confederate general.
Lonsdale, approaching and extending his hand, smiled and said:
"Ah, Colonel Cody, another one of your Yankee friends, eh?"
Marmaduke, who had risen, scowled. But he held out his hand.
"Look here," he said, "I am much pleased to meet you, sir, but I
want you first to understand distinctly that I am no Yank."
When I left General Marmaduke at Leavenworth and returned to
my command, Price was already in retreat. After driving him
across the Arkansas River I returned with my troop to
Springfield, Missouri. From there I went, under General McNeil,
to Fort Smith and other places on the Arkansas border, where he
had several lively skirmishes, and one big and serious
engagement before the war was ended.
The spring of 1865 found us again in Springfield, where we
remained about two months, recuperating and replenishing our
stock. I now got a furlough of thirty days and went to St.
Louis, where I invested part of a thousand dollars I had saved
in fashionable clothes and in rooms at one of the best hotels.
It was while there that I met a young lady of a Southern family,
to whom I paid a great deal of attention, and from whom I
finally extracted a promise that if I would come back to St.
Louis at the end of the war she would marry me.
On my return to Springfield I found an expedition in process
of fitting out for a scouting trip through New Mexico and into
the Arkansas River country, to look after the Indians. With this
party I took part in a number of Indian fights and helped to
save a number of immigrant trains from destruction. On our
return to Fort Leavenworth we found General Sanborn and a number
of others of the former Union leaders who had come to the border
to make peace with the Indians.
The various tribes that roamed the Plains had heard of the
great war, and, believing that it had so exhausted the white man
that he would fall an easy prey to Indian aggression, had begun
to arm themselves and make ready for great conquests. They had
obtained great stores of arms and ammunition. During the last
two years of the war they had been making repeated raids and
inflicting vast damage on the settlers.
At the close of the war, when the volunteers were discharged,
I was left free to return to my old calling. The regular army
was in course of consolidation. Men who had been generals were
compelled to serve as colonels and majors. The consolidated
army's chief business was in the West, where the Indians formed
a real menace, and to the West came the famous fighting men
under whose command I was destined to spend many of the eventful
years to come.
At the close of the war, General William Tecumseh Sherman was
placed at the head of the Peace Commission which had been sent
to the border to take counsel with the Indians. It had become
necessary to put an end to the hostility of the red man
immediately either by treaty or by force. His raids on the
settlers could be endured no longer.
The purpose of the party which Sherman headed was to confer
with the greatest of the hostile chiefs. Treaties were to be
agreed upon if possible. If negotiations for peace failed, the
council would at least act as a stay of hostilities. The army
was rapidly reorganizing, and it would soon be possible to
mobilize enough troops to put down the Indians in case they
refused to come to terms peaceably.
The camp of the Kiowas and Comanches—the first Indians with
whom Sherman meant to deal—was about three hundred miles
southwest of Leavenworth, in the great buffalo range, and in the
midst of the trackless Plains.
By ambulance and on horseback, with wagons to carry the
supplies, the party set out for its first objective—Council
Springs on the Arkansas River, about sixty miles beyond old Fort
I was chosen as one of the scouts or dispatch carriers to
accompany the party. The guide was Dick Curtis, a plainsman of
wide experience among the Indians.
When we arrived at Fort Zarrah we found that no road lay
beyond, and learned that there was no water on the way. It was
determined, therefore, to make a start at two o'clock in the
morning. Curtis said this would enable us to reach our
destination, sixty-five miles further on, by two o'clock the
The outfit consisted of two ambulances and one Government
wagon, which carried the tents and supplies. Each officer had a
horse to ride if he chose. If he preferred to ride in the
ambulance his orderly was on hand to lead his horse for him.
We traveled steadily till ten o'clock in the morning, through
herds of buffalo whose numbers were past counting. I remember
that General Sherman estimated that the number of buffalo on the
Plains at that time must have been more than eleven million. It
required all the energy of the soldiers and scouts to keep a
road cleared through the herds so that the ambulance might pass.
We breakfasted during the morning stop and rested the horses.
For the men there was plenty of water, which we had brought
along in canteens and camp kettles. There was also a little for
the animals, enough to keep them from suffering on the way.
Two o'clock found us still making our way through the buffalo
herds, but with no Council Springs in sight. Curtis was on
ahead, and one of the lieutenants, feeling a little nervous,
rode up to another of the scouts.
"How far are we from the Springs?" he inquired.
"I don't know," said the guide uneasily. "I never was over
here before, but if any one knows where the Springs are that
young fellow over there does." He pointed to me.
"When will we get to the Springs?" asked the officer, turning
in my direction.
"Never—if we keep on going the way we are now," I said.
"Why don't you tell the General that?" he demanded.
I said that Curtis was the guide, not I; whereupon he dropped
back alongside the ambulance in which Sherman was riding and
reported what had happened.
The General instantly called a halt and sent for the scouts.
When all of us, including Curtis, had gathered round him he got
out of the ambulance, and, pulling out a map, directed Curtis to
locate the Springs on it.
"There has never been a survey made of this country,
General," said Curtis. "None of these maps are correct."
"I know that myself," said Sherman. "How far are we from the
The guide hesitated. "I have never been there but once," he
said, "and then I was with a big party of Indians who did the
guiding." He added that on a perfectly flat country, dotted with
buffalo, he could not positively locate our destination. Unless
we were sighted and guided by Indians we would have to chance
Sherman swung round on the rest of us. "Do any of you know
where the Springs are?" he asked, looking directly at me.
"Yes, sir," I said, "I do."
"How do you know, Billy?" asked Curtis.
"I used to come over here with Charley Bath, the Indian
trader," I said.
"Where are we now?" asked Sherman.
"About twelve miles from the Springs. They are due south."
"Due south! And we are traveling due west!"
"Yes, sir," I replied, "but if Mr. Curtis had not turned in a
few minutes I was going to tell you."
So for twelve miles I rode with Sherman, and we became fast
friends. He asked me all manner of questions on the way, and I
found that he knew my father well, and remembered his tragic
death in Salt Creek Valley. He asked what had become of the rest
of the family and all about my career. By the end of the ride I
had told him my life history.
As we were riding along together, with the outfit following
on, I noticed pony tracks from time to time, and knew that we
were nearing the Springs. Presently I said:
"General, we are going to find Indians at the Springs when we
"How do you know?"
"We have been riding where ponies have been grazing for the
"I haven't seen any tracks," said the General in surprise.
"Show me one."
I jumped off my horse, and, thrusting the buffalo grass
aside, I pointed out many tracks of barefooted ponies. "When we
rise that ridge," I told him, "we shall see the village, and
thousands of ponies and Indian lodges."
In a very few minutes this prophecy came true. Curtis and the
other scouts with the officers rode up quickly behind us, and we
all had a fine view of this wonderful sight of the desert—a
great Indian camp. As we stood gazing at the spectacle we
observed great excitement in the village. Warriors by the dozens
were leaping on their horses and riding toward us, till at least
a thousand of them were in the "receiving line."
"It looks to me as if we had better fall into position," said
"It is not necessary," I said. "They have given us the peace
sign. They are coming toward us without arms."
So Sherman, with General Harney, General Sanborn, and the
other officers rode slowly forward to meet the oncoming braves.
"This is where you need Curtis," I told the General as he
advanced. "He is the best Kiowa and Comanche interpreter on the
Plains and he knows every one of these Indians personally."
Curtis was accordingly summoned and made interpreter, while I
was assigned to remain about the commander's tent and given
charge of the scouts.
As the Indians drew near with signs of friendliness, Curtis
introduced the chiefs, Satanta, Lone Wolf, Kicking Bird, and
others to General Sherman as the head of the Peace Commission.
The Indians, having been notified in advance of the coming of
the Commission, had already selected a special spring for our
camp and had prepared a great feast in honor of the meeting. To
this feast, which was spread in the center of the village, the
Commissioners were conducted, while the scouts and the escort
went into camp.
The Indians had erected a great canopy of tanned buffalo
skins on tepee poles. Underneath were robes for seats for the
General and his staff, and thither they were led with great
ceremony. Near by was a great fire on which, buffalo, antelope,
and other animals were roasting. Even coffee and sugar had been
provided, and the feast was served with tin plates for the meat
and tin cups for the coffee. Another tribute to the customs of
the guests was a complete outfit of knives and forks. Napkins,
however, appeared to be lacking.
Indian girls, dressed in elaborate costumes, served the
repast, the elder women preparing the food. Looking on, it
seemed to me to be the most beautiful sight I had ever seen—the
grim old generals, who for the last four and a half years had
been fighting a great war sitting serenely and contentedly down
to meat and drink with the chiefs of a wild, and, till lately, a
After all had eaten, the great chief, Satanta, loaded the big
peace-pipe, whose bowl was hewn from red stone, with a
beautifully carved stem eighteen inches long. The pipe was
passed from mouth to mouth around the circle. After the smoke
was ended Satanta raised his towering bulk above the banqueters.
He drew his red blanket around his broad shoulders, leaving his
naked right arm free, for without his right arm an Indian is
deprived of his real powers of oratory. Making signs to
illustrate his every sentence, he spoke:
"My great white brothers, I welcome you to my camp and to my
people. You can rest in safety, without a thought of fear,
because our hearts are now good to you—because we hope that the
words you are going to speak to us will make us glad that you
have come. We know that you have come a long way to see us. We
feel that you are going to give us or send us presents which
will gladden the hearts of all my people.
"I know that you must be very tired, and as I see that your
tents are pitched it would make our hearts glad to walk over to
your village with you, where you can rest and sleep well, and we
hope that you will dream of the many good things are going to
send us and tell us when you rested.
"I have sent to your tents the choicest of young buffalo,
deer, and antelope, and if there is anything else in my camp
which will make your hearts glad I will be pleased to send it to
you. If any of your horses should stray away, my young men will
bring them back to you."
Chief Satanta Passed the Peace-Pipe
to General Sherman and Said:
"My Great White Brothers".
As the old chief concluded, General Sherman, rising,
shook his hand and said:
"My red brother, your beautiful and romantic reception
has deeply touched the hearts of my friends and myself. We
most heartily thank you for it. When we are rested, and
after we have slept in your wild prairie city, we should
like to hold a council with the chiefs and warriors
When the officers returned to their own camp they agreed
that the feast was very grand, that the Indian maidens who
served it were very pretty in their gay costumes and
beautiful moccasins. Most of them, however, had observed
that the hands of the squaws who did the cooking looked as
if they had not touched water for several months. It stuck
in the memory of some of the guests that, in their efforts
to clean the tinware, the squaws had left more soap in the
corners than was necessary. The coffee had a strong flavor
"If we are going to have a banquet every day," said one
officer, "I think I'll do my eating in our own camp."
General Sherman reminded him that this would be highly
impolite to the hosts, and ordered them, as soldiers, to make
the best of the entertainment and to line up for mess when the
Indians made a feast.
At ten o'clock the next morning the first session of the
great council was held. For three days the white chiefs and the
red chiefs sat in a circle under the canopy, and many promises
of friendship were made by the Indians. When the council was
concluded, General Sherman sent for me.
"Billy," he said, "I want you to send two good men to Fort
Ellsworth with dispatches, where they can be forwarded to Fort
Riley, the end of the telegraph line. After your men are rested
they can return to Fort Zarrah and join us." When the two men
were instructed by the General and were on their way, he took me
into his tent.
"I want to go to Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River," he said,
"then to Fort St. Barine, on the Platte, and then to Laramie;
after that we will go to Cottonwood Springs, then to Fort
Kearney and then to Leavenworth. Can you guide me on that trip?"
I told him that I could, and was made guide, chief of scouts,
and master of transportation, acting with an army officer as
At Bent's Fort another council of two days was held with the
Indians. The journey homeward was made without difficulty. At
Leavenworth I took leave of one of the noblest and
kindest-hearted men I have ever known. In bidding me good-by,
General Sherman said:
"I don't think these councils we have held will amount to
much. There was no sincerity in the Indians' promises. I will
see that the promises we made to them are carried out to the
letter, but when the grass grows in the spring they will be, as
usual, on the warpath. As soon as the regular army is organized
it will have to be sent out here on the border to quell fresh
Indian uprisings, because these Indians will give us no peace
till they are thoroughly thrashed."
The General thanked me for my services, and told me he was
very lucky to find me. "It is not possible that I will be with
the troops when they come," he said. "They will be commanded by
General Philip Sheridan. You will like Sheridan. He is your kind
of a man. I will tell him about you when I see him. I expect to
hear great reports of you when you are guiding the United States
army over the Plains, as you have so faithfully guided me. The
quartermaster has instructions to pay you at the rate of $150 a
month, and as a special reward I have ordered that you be paid
$2000 extra. Good-by! I know you will have good luck, for you
know your business."
After the departure of General Sherman I made a brief visit
to my sisters in Salt Creek Valley, and for a time, there being
no scouting work to do, drove stage between Plum Creek and Fort
I was still corresponding with Miss Frederici, the girl I had
left behind me in St. Louis. My future seemed now secure, so I
decided that it was high time I married and settled down, if a
scout can ever settle down. So, surrendering my stage job, I
returned to Leavenworth and embarked for St. Louis by boat.
After a week's visit at the home of my fiancée we were quietly
married at her home. I made, I suppose, rather a wild-looking
groom. My brown hair hung down over my shoulders, and I had just
started a little mustache and goatee. I was dressed in the
Western fashion, and my appearance was, to say the least,
unusual. We were married at eleven o'clock in the morning, and
took the steamer Morning Star at two in the afternoon for
our honeymoon journey home.
As we left our carriages and entered the steamer, my wife's
father and mother and a number of friends accompanying us, I
noticed that I was attracting considerable excited attention. A
number of people, men and women, were on the deck. As we passed
I heard them whispering:
"There he is! That's him! I'd know him in the dark!"
It was very plain to me that these observations were not
particularly friendly. The glares cast at me were openly
hostile. While we were disposing our baggage in our stateroom—I
had hired the bridal chamber—I heard some of my wife's friends
asking her father if he knew who I was, and whether I had any
credentials. He replied that he had left the matter of
credentials to his daughter.
"Well," said one of the party, "these people on board are
excursionists from Independence, and they say this son-in-law of
yours is the most desperate outlaw, bandit, and house-burner on
The old gentleman was considerably disturbed at this report.
He made up his mind to get a little first-hand information, and
he took the most direct means of getting it.
"Who are you?" he asked, walking over to me. "The people on
board don't give you a very good recommendation."
"Kindly remember," I replied, "that we have had a little war
for the past five years on the border. These people were on one
side and I on the other, and it is natural that they shouldn't
think very highly of me."
My argument was not convincing. "I am going to take my
daughter home again," said my father-in-law, and started toward
I besought him to leave the decision to her, and for the next
ten minutes I pleaded my case with all the eloquence I could
command. I was talking against odds, for my wife, as well as her
parents' friends, were all ardent Southerners, and I am proud to
say that after fifty years of married life, she is still as
strongly "Secesh" as ever. But when I put the case to her she
said gamely that she had taken me for better or for worse and
intended to stick to me.
She was in tears when she said good-by to her parents and
friends, and still in tears after they had left. I tried to
comfort her with assurances that when we came among Northern
people I would not be regarded as such a desperate character,
but my consolation was of little avail. At dinner the hostile
stares that were bent on me from our neighbors at table did not
serve to reassure her. It was some comfort to me afterward when
the captain sent for me and told me that he knew me, that my
Uncle Elijah was his old-time friend, and one of the most
extensive shippers on the steamboat line. "It is shameful the
way these people are treating you," he said, "but let it pass,
and when we get to Independence everything will be all right."
But everything was not all right. In the evening, when I led
my wife out on the floor of the cabin, where the passengers were
dancing, every dancer immediately walked off the floor, the men
scowling and the women with their noses in the air. All that
night my wife wept while I walked the floor.
At daybreak, when we stopped for wood, I heard shots and
shouting. Walking out on deck, I saw the freed negroes who
composed the crew scrambling back on board. The steamboat was
backing out in the stream. Later I learned that my fellow
passengers had wired up the river that I was on board, and an
armed party had ridden down to "get" me.
I quickly returned to the stateroom, and, diving into my
trunk, took out and buckled on a brace of revolvers which had
done excellent service in times past. This action promptly
confirmed my wife's suspicions. She was now certain that I was
the bandit I had been accused of being. I had no time to reason
with her now. Throwing my coat back, so that I rested my hands
on the butts of my revolvers, I strolled out through the crowd.
One or two men who had been doing a great deal of loud
talking a few minutes past backed away, as I walked past and
looked them squarely in the eyes. Nothing more was said, and
soon I reached the steward's office, unmolested. Here I found a
number of men dressed in blue uniforms. They told me they were
discharged members of the Eighth Indiana Volunteers. They were
traveling to Kansas, steerage, saving their money so they might
have it to invest in homes when they reached their destination.
They had all heard of me, and now proposed to arm and defend me
should there be any further hostile demonstrations. I gladly
welcomed their support, more for my wife's sake than for my own.
"My wife," I said, "firmly believes that I am an outlaw."
"You can't blame her," said the spokesman of the party,
"after what has happened. But wait till she gets among Union
people and she will learn her mistake. We know your history, and
of your recent services to General Sherman. We know that old
'Pap' Sherman wouldn't have an outlaw in his service. If you had
seen some of the interviews he has given out about your wife's
father and his friends there would have been trouble at the
My new-found friends did not do things by halves. In order to
be able to give a ball in the cabin they exchanged their
steerage tickets for first-class passage. That night the ball
was given, with my wife and myself as the guests of honor.
The Independence crowd, observing the preparations for the
ball, demanded that the captain stop at the first town and let
them off. They saw that the tide had turned, and were
apprehensive of reprisals. The captain told them that if they
should behave like ladies and gentlemen all would be well.
That night they stood outside looking in while my wife, now
quite reassured, was introduced to the ladies and gentlemen from
Indiana, and danced till she was weary.
We looked for trouble when we reached Independence the next
day. There was a bigger crowd than usual on the levee, but when
it was seen that my Yankee friends had their Spencer carbines
with them all was quiet. As we pulled out the old captain called
"Cody, it is all over now," he said. "But don't you think you
were the only restless man on board. When I backed out into the
river the other night I had to leave four of my best deckhands
either dead or wounded on the bank. I will never forget the way
you walked out through the crowd with that pair of guns in your
hand. I have heard of the execution these weapons can do when
they get in action."
When we stopped at Kansas City I telegraphed to Leavenworth
that we were coming. As the boat approached the Leavenworth
levee my soldier friends were out on deck in their dress
uniforms, and I stood on the deck, my bride on my arm. Soon we
heard the music of the Fort Leavenworth band and the town band,
and crowds of citizens were on the wharf as the boat tied up.
The commandant of the fort, D.R. Anthony, the Mayor of
Leavenworth, my sisters, and hundreds of my friends came rushing
aboard the boat to greet us. That night we were given a big
banquet to which my soldier chums and their wives were invited.
My wife had a glorious time. After it was all over, she put her
arms about my neck and cried:
"Willy, I don't believe you are an outlaw at all!"
I had reluctantly promised my wife that I would abandon the
Plains. It was necessary to make a living, so I rented a hotel
in Salt Creek Valley, the same hotel my mother had formerly
conducted, and set up as a landlord.
It was a typical frontier hotel, patronized by people going
to and from the Plains, and it took considerable tact and
diplomacy to conduct it successfully. I called the place "The
Golden-Rule House," and tried to conduct it on that principle. I
seemed to have the qualifications necessary, but for a man who
had lived my kind of life it proved a tame employment. I found
myself sighing once more for the freedom of the Plains.
Incidentally I felt sure I could make money as a plainsman, and,
now that I had a wife to support, money had become a very
I sold out the Golden-Rule House and set out alone for
Saline, Kansas, which was then at the end of construction of the
Kansas Pacific Railway. On my way I stopped at Junction City,
were I again met my old friend, Wild Bill, who was scouting for
the Government, with headquarters at Fort Ellsworth, afterward
called Fort Harker. He told me more scouts were needed at the
Post, and I accompanied him to the fort, where I had no
difficulty in securing employment.
During the winter of 1866-67 I scouted between Fort Ellsworth
and Fort Fletcher. I was at Fort Fletcher in the spring of 1867
when General Custer came out to accompany General Hancock on an
Indian expedition. I remained here till the post was flooded by
a great rise of Big Creek, on which it was located. The water
overflowed the fortifications, rendering the place unfit for
further occupancy, and it was abandoned by the Government. The
troops were removed to Fort Hays, a new post, located farther
west, on the south fork of Big Creek. It was while I was at Fort
Hays that I had my first ride with the dashing Custer. He had
come up from Ellsworth with an escort of only ten men, and
wanted a guide to pilot him to Fort Larned, sixty-five miles
When Custer learned that I was at the Post he asked that I be
assigned to duty with him. I reported to him at daylight the
next day—none too early, as Custer, with his staff and
orderlies, was already in the saddle. When I was introduced to
Custer he glanced disapprovingly at the mule I was riding.
"I am glad to meet you, Cody," he said. "General Sherman has
told me about you. But I am in a hurry, and I am sorry to see
you riding that mule."
"General," I returned, "that is one of the best horses at the
"It isn't a horse at all," he said, "but if it's the best
you've got we shall have to start."
We rode side by side as we left the fort. My mule had a fast
walk, which kept the general's horse most of the time in a
His animal was a fine Kentucky thoroughbred, but for the kind
of work at hand I had full confidence in my mount. Whenever
Custer was not looking I slyly spurred the mule ahead, and when
he would start forward I would rein him in and pat him by way of
restraint, bidding him not to be too fractious, as we hadn't yet
reached the sandhills. In this way I set a good lively
pace—something like nine miles an hour—all morning.
At Smoky Hill River we rested our animals. Then the general,
who was impatient to be off, ordered a fresh start. I told him
we had still forty miles of sandhills to cross, and advised an
"I have no time to waste on the road," he said. "I want to
push right ahead."
Push right ahead we did. I continued quietly spurring my mule
and then counseling the brute to take it easy. Presently I
noticed that the escort was stringing out far behind, as their
horses became winded with the hard pace through the sand.
Custer, looking back, noticed the same thing.
"I think we are setting too fast a pace for them, Cody," he
said, but when I replied that I thought this was merely the
usual pace for my mule and that I supposed he was in a hurry he
made no further comment.
Several times during the next forty miles we had to stop to
wait for the escort to close up. Their horses, sweating and
panting, had reached almost the limit of their endurance. I
continued patting my animal and ordering him to quiet down, and
Custer at length said:
"You seem to be putting it over me a little today."
When we reached a high ridge overlooking Pawnee Fork we again
waited for our lagging escort. As we waited I said:
"If you want to send a dispatch to the officer in command at
Fort Larned, I will be pleased to take it down for you. You can
follow this ridge till you come to the creek and then follow the
valley right down to the fort."
Custer swung around to the captain, who had just ridden up,
and repeated to him my instructions as to how to reach the fort.
"I shall ride ahead with Cody," he added. "Now, Cody, I am ready
for you and that mouse-colored mule."
The pace I set for General Custer from that time forward was
"some going." When we rode up to the quarters of Captain
Daingerfield Parker, commandant of the post, General Custer
dismounted, and his horse was led off to the stables by an
orderly, while I went to the scouts' quarters. I was personally
sure that my mule was well cared for, and he was fresh as a
daisy the next morning.
After an early breakfast I groomed and saddled my mule, and,
riding down to the general's quarters, waited for him to appear.
I saluted as he came out, and said that if he had any further
orders I was ready to carry them out.
"I am not feeling very pleasant this morning, Cody," he said.
"My horse died during the night."
I said I was very sorry his animal got into too fast a class
the day before.
"Well," he replied, "hereafter I will have nothing to say
against a mule. We will meet again on the Plains. I shall try to
have you detailed as my guide, and then we will have time to
talk over that race."
A few days after my return to Fort Hays the Indians made a
raid on the Kansas Pacific Railroad, killing five or six men and
running off a hundred or more horses and mules. The news was
brought to the commanding officer, who immediately ordered Major
Arms, of the Tenth Cavalry, to go in pursuit of the raiders. The
Tenth Cavalry was a negro regiment. Arms took a company, with
one mountain howitzer, and I was sent along as scout.
On the second day out we discovered a large party of Indians
on the opposite side of the Saline River, and about a mile
distant. The party was charging down on us and there was no time
to lose. Arms placed his howitzer on a little knoll, limbered it
up, and left twenty men to guard it. Then, with the rest of the
command, he crossed the river to meet the redskins.
Just as he had got his men across the stream we heard a
terrific shouting. Looking back toward the knoll where the gun
had been left, we saw our negro gun-guard flying toward us,
pursued by more than a hundred Indians. More Indians were
dancing about the gun, although they had not the slightest
notion what to do with it.
Arms turned back with his command and drove the redskins from
their useless prize. The men dismounted and took up a position
A very lively fight followed. Five or six men, including
Major Arms, were wounded, and a number of the horses were shot.
As the fight proceeded, the enemy seemed to become steadily more
numerous. It was apparent that reinforcements were arriving from
some large party in the rear.
The negro troops, who had been boasting of what they would do
to the Indians, were now singing a different tune.
"We'll jes' blow 'em off'm de fahm," they had said, before
there was an enemy in sight. Now, every time the foe would
charge us, some of the darkies would cry:
"Heah dey come! De whole country is alive wif 'em. Dere must
be ten thousand ob dem. Massa Bill, does you-all reckon we is
ebber gwine to get out o' heah?"
The major, who had been lying under the cannon since
receiving his wound, asked me if I thought there was a chance to
get back to the fort. I replied that there was, and orders were
given for a retreat, the cannon being left behind.
During the movement a number of our men were killed by the
deadly fire of the Indians. But night fell, and in the darkness
we made fairly good headway, arriving at Fort Hays just at
daybreak. During our absence cholera had broken out at the post.
Five or six men were dying daily. For the men there was a choice
of dangers—going out to fight the Indians on the prairie, or
remaining in camp to be stricken with cholera. To most of us the
former was decidedly the more inviting.
"The Rise and Fall of Modern Rome"—was the chapter of
frontier history in which I next figured. For a time I was part
owner of a town, and on my way to fortune. And then one of those
quick changes that mark Western history in the making occurred
and I was left—but I will tell you the story.
At the town of Ellsworth, which I visited one day while
carrying dispatches to Fort Harker, I met William Rose, who had
a contract for trading on the right-of-way of the Kansas Pacific
near Fort Hays. His stock had been stolen by the Indians, and he
had come to Ellsworth to buy more.
Rose was enthusiastic about a project for laying out a town
site on the west side of Big Creek, a mile from the fort, where
the railroad was to cross. When, in response to a request for my
opinion, I told him I thought the scheme a big one, he invited
me to come in as a partner. He suggested that after the town was
laid out and opened to the public we establish a store and
I thought it would be a grand thing to become half owner of a
town, and at once accepted the proposition. We hired a railroad
engineer to survey the town site and stake it into lots. Also we
ordered a big stock of the goods usually kept in a general
merchandise store on the frontier. This done, we gave the town
the ancient and historical name of Rome. As a starter we donated
lots to anyone who would build on them, reserving for ourselves
the corner lots and others which were best located. These
reserved lots we valued at two hundred and fifty dollars each.
When the town was laid out I wrote my wife that I was worth
$250,000, and told her I wanted her to get ready to come to
Ellsworth by rail. She was then visiting her parents at St.
Louis, with our baby daughter whom we had named Arta.
I was at Ellsworth to meet her when she arrived, bringing the
baby. Besides three or four wagons, in which the supplies for
the new general store and furniture for the little house I had
built were loaded, I had a carriage for her and the baby. The
new town of Rome was a hundred miles west. I knew that it would
be a dangerous trip, as the Indians had long been troublesome
along the railroad, and I realized the danger more fully because
of the presence of my wife and little daughter.
A number of immigrants bound for the new town accompanied us.
The first night out I formed the men into a company, one
squad to stand watch while the others slept. All the early part
of the evening I went the rounds of the camp, much to my wife's
"Why are you away so much?" she kept asking. "It is lonesome
here, and I need you."
Rather than let her know of my uneasiness about the Indians,
I told her I was trying to sell lots to the men while they were
en route. As the night wore on and everything seemed quiet I
prepared to get a little rest. I did not take my clothes off,
and, much to my wife's surprise, slept with my rifle and
revolvers close by me. I had just dropped off to sleep when I
heard shots, and knew they could mean nothing but Indians.
The attacking party was small and we were fully prepared.
When they discovered this they fired a few shots and galloped
The second night was almost a repetition of the first. After
another party had been repulsed, Mrs. Cody asked me if I had
brought her and the baby out on the Plains to be killed.
"This is the kind of a life I lead every day and get fat on
it," I said. But she did not seem to think it especially
Everybody turned out to greet us when we arrived in Rome.
Even the gambling-hall houses and the dance-halls closed in our
honor. The next day we moved into our little house. That night
there was a veritable fusillade of revolver shots outside the
"What is that?" asked Mrs. Cody.
"Just a serenade," I said.
"Are yon firing blank cartridges?"
"No. If it became known that revolvers were loaded with blank
cartridges around here we would soon lose some of our most
valued citizens. Everybody in town, from the police judge to
dishwashers, carries a pistol."
"To keep law and order."
That puzzled my wife. She said that in St. Louis policemen
kept law and order, and wanted to know why we didn't have them
to do it out here. I informed her that a policeman would not
last very long in a town like this, which was perfectly true.
On my return from a hunting trip a few days later I met a man
who had come into town on the stage-coach, and whom Mrs. Cody
had seen looking over the town site from every possible angle.
He told me he thought I had selected a good town site—and I
agreed with him. He asked me to go for a ride around the
surrounding country with him the next day. I told him I was
going on a buffalo hunt. He had never killed a buffalo, he said.
He wanted to get a fine head to take back with him, and would be
grateful if I would take him with me. I promised to see that he
got a nice head if he came along, and early the next morning
rode down to his hotel. He was dressed in a smart hunting
costume and had his rifle. We started for the plains, my wagons
following to gather up the meat we should kill.
As we rode out I explained to him how I hunted. "I kill as
many buffalo as I want," I said. "This I call a 'run.' The
wagons come along afterward and the butchers cut the meat and
load it." When I went out on my "run" I told him where to shoot
to kill. But when my work was done I met him coming back
crestfallen. He had failed to get his buffalo down, although he
had shot him three times.
"Come along with me," I said. "I see another herd over there.
I am going to change saddles with you and let you ride the best
buffalo horse on the Plains."
He was astonished and delighted to think I would let him ride
Brigham, the most famous buffalo horse in the West. When we drew
near the herd I pointed out a fine four-year-old bull with a
splendid head. I galloped alongside. Brigham spotted the buffalo
I wanted, and after my companion's third shot the brute fell. My
pupil was overjoyed with his success, and appeared to be so
grateful to me that I felt sure I should be able to sell him
three or four blocks of Rome real estate at least. I invited him
to take dinner, and served as part of the repast the meat of the
buffalo he had shot. The next morning he looked me up and told
me he wanted to make a proposition to me.
"What is it?" I asked. I had thought I was the one who was
going to make a proposition.
"I will give you one-eighth of this town site," he said.
The nerve of this proposal took me off my feet. Here was a
total stranger offering me one-eighth of my own town site as a
reward for what I had done for him.
I told him that if he killed another buffalo I would have to
hog-hobble him and send him out of town; then rode off and left
This magnanimous offer occurred right in front of my own
house. My wife overheard it, and also my reply.
As I rode away, he called out that he wanted to explain, but
I was thoroughly disgusted.
"I have no time to listen to you," I shouted over my
I was bound out on a buffalo hunt to get meat for the graders
twenty miles away on the railroad, and I kept right on going.
Three days afterward I rode back over the ridge above the town
of Rome and looked down on it.
I took several more looks. The town was being torn down and
carted away. The balloon-frame buildings were coming apart
section by section. I could see at least a hundred teams and
wagons carting lumber, furniture, and everything that made up
the town over the prairies to the eastward.
My pupil at buffalo hunting was Dr. Webb, president of the
town-site company of the Kansas Pacific. After I had ridden away
without listening to his explanations he had invited the
citizens of Rome to come over and see where the new railroad
division town of Hays City was to be built. He supplied them
with wagons for the journey from a number of rock wagons that
had been lent him by the Government to assist him in the
location of a new town. The distance was only a mile, and he got
a crowd. At the town site of Hays City he made a speech, telling
the people who he was and what he proposed to do. He said the
railroad would build its repair-shops at the new town, and there
would be employment for many men, and that Hays City was
destined soon to be the most important place on the Plains. He
had already put surveyors to work on the site. Lots, he said,
were then on the market, and could be had far more reasonably
than the lots in Rome.
My fellow-citizens straightway began to pick out their lots
in the new town. Webb loaned them the six-mule Government wagons
to bring over their goods and chattels, together with the
timbers of their houses. When I galloped into Rome that day
there was hardly a house left standing save my little home, our
general store, and a few sod-houses and dugouts.
Mrs. Cody and the baby were sitting on a drygoods box when I
rode up to the store. My partner, Rose, stood near by, whistling
"My word, Rose! What has become of our town!" I cried. Rose
could make no answer. Mrs. Cody said:
"You wrote me you were worth $250,000."
"We've got no time to talk about that now," I said. "What
made this town move away?"
"You ought to have taken Mr. Webb's offer," was her answer.
"Who the dickens is Webb?" I stormed. Rose looked up from his
whittling. "Bill," he said, "that little flapper-jack was the
president of the town-site company for the K.P. Railroad, and
he's run such a bluff on our citizens about a new town site that
is going to be a division-point that they've all moved over
"Yes," commented Mrs. Cody, "and where is your $250,000?"
"Well, I've got to make it yet," I said, and then to Rose:
"How did the fall hit you?"
"From millionaire to pauper."
"It hasn't got through hitting me yet," he said solemnly.
Rose went back to his grading contract, and I resumed my work
as a buffalo hunter. When the Perry House, the Rome hotel, was
moved to Hays City and rebuilt there, I took my wife and
daughter and installed them there.
It was hard to descend from the rank of millionaires to that
of graders and buffalo hunters, but we had to do it. The rise
and fall of modern Rome had made us, and it broke us!
I soon became better acquainted with Dr. Webb, through whose
agency our town of Rome had fallen almost overnight. We visited
him often in Hays, and eventually he presented my partner Rose
and myself each with two lots in the new town.
Webb frequently accompanied me on buffalo-hunting excursions;
and before he had been on the prairie a year there were few men
who could kill more buffalo than he.
Once, when I was riding Brigham, and Webb was mounted on a
splendid thoroughbred bay, we discovered a band of Indians about
two miles distant, maneuvering so as to get between us and the
town. A gallop of three miles brought us between them and home;
but by that time they had come within three-quarters of a mile
of us. We stopped to wave our hands at them, and fired a few
shots at long range. But as there were thirteen in the party,
and they were getting a little too close, we turned and struck
out for Hays. They sent some scattering shots in pursuit, then
wheeled and rode off toward the Saline River.
When there were no buffalo to hunt I tried the experiment of
hitching Brigham to one of our railroad scrapers, but he was not
gaited for that sort of work. I had about given up the idea of
extending his usefulness to railroading when news came that
buffaloes were coming over the hill. There had been none in the
vicinity for some time. As a consequence, meat was scarce.
I took the harness from Brigham, mounted him bareback and
started after the game, being armed with my new buffalo killer
which I had named "Lucretia Borgia," an improved breech-loading
needle-gun which I had obtained from the Government.
As I was riding toward the buffaloes I observed five men
coming from the fort. They, too, had seen the herd and had come
to join the chase. As I neared them I saw that they were
officers, newly arrived at the fort, a captain and four
"Hello, my friend!" sang out the captain as they came up. "I
see you are after the same game we are."
"Yes, sir," I returned. "I saw those buffaloes coming. We are
out of fresh meat, so I thought I would get some."
The captain eyed my cheap-looking outfit closely. Brigham,
though the best buffalo horse in the West, was decidedly
unprepossessing in appearance.
"Do you expect to catch any buffaloes on that Gothic steed!"
asked the captain, with a laugh.
"I hope so."
"You'll never catch them in the world, my fine fellow. It
requires a fast horse to overtake those animals."
"Does it?" I asked innocently.
"Yes. But come along with us. We're going to kill them more
for the sport than anything else. After we take the tongues and
a piece of the tenderloin, you may have what is left."
Eleven animals were in the herd, which was about a mile
distant. I noticed they were making toward the creek for water.
I knew buffalo nature, and was aware that it would be difficult
to turn them from their course. I therefore started toward the
creek to head them off, while the officers dashed madly up
The herd came rushing up past me, not a hundred yards
distant, while their pursuers followed, three hundred yards in
"Now," thought I, "is the time to get in my work." I pulled
the blind bridle from Brigham, who knew as well as I did what
was expected of him. The moment he was free of the bridle he set
out at top speed, running in ahead of the officers. In a few
jumps he brought me alongside the rear buffalo. Raising old
"Lucretia Borgia," I killed the animal with one shot. On went
Brigham to the next buffalo, ten feet farther along, and another
was disposed of. As fast as one animal would fall, Brigham would
pass to the next, getting so close that I could almost touch it
with my gun. In this fashion I killed eleven buffaloes with
As the last one dropped my horse stopped. I jumped to the
ground. Turning round to the astonished officers, who had by
this time caught up, I said:
"Now, gentlemen, allow me to present you with all the tongues
and tenderloins from these animals that you want."
Captain Graham, who, I soon learned, was the senior officer,
gasped. "Well, I never saw the like before! Who are you,
"My name is Cody," I said.
Lieutenant Thompson, one of the party, who had met me at Fort
Harker, cried out: "Why, that is Bill Cody, our old scout." He
introduced me to his comrades, Captain Graham and Lieutenants
Reed, Emmick, and Ezekial.
Graham, something of a horseman himself, greatly admired
Brigham. "That horse of yours has running points," he admitted.
The officers were a little sore at not getting a single shot;
but the way I had killed the buffaloes, they said, amply repaid
them for their disappointment. It was the first time they had
ever seen or heard of a white man running buffaloes without
either saddle or bridle.
I told them Brigham knew nearly as much about the business as
I did. He was a wonderful horse. If the buffalo did not fall at
the first shot he would stop to give me a second chance; but if,
on the second shot, I did not kill the game, he would go on
impatiently as if to say: "I can't fool away my time by giving
you more than two shots!"
Captain Graham told me that he would be stationed at Fort
Hays during the summer. In the event of his being sent out on a
scouting expedition he wanted me as scout and guide. I said that
although I was very busy with my railroad contract I would be
glad to go with him.
That night the Indians unexpectedly raided our horses, and
ran off five or six of the best work-teams. At daylight I jumped
on Brigham, rode to Fort Hays, and reported the raid to the
commanding officer. Captain Graham and Lieutenant Emmick were
ordered out with their company of one hundred colored troops. In
an hour we were under way. The darkies had never been in an
Indian fight and were anxious to "sweep de red debbils off de
face ob de earth." Graham was a dashing officer, eager to make a
record, and it was with difficulty that I could trail fast
enough to keep out of the way of the impatient soldiers. Every
few moments the captain would ride up to see if the trail was
freshening, and to ask how soon we would overtake the marauders.
At the Saline River we found the Indians had stopped only to
graze and water the animals and had pushed on toward Solomon.
After crossing the river they made no effort to conceal their
trail, thinking they were safe from pursuit. We reached Solomon
at sunset. Requesting Captain Graham to keep his command where
it was, I went ahead to try to locate the redmen.
Riding down a ravine that led to the river, I left my horse,
and, creeping uphill, looked cautiously over the summit upon
Solomon. In plain sight, not a mile away, was a herd of horses
grazing, among them the animals which had been stolen from us.
Presently I made out the Indian camp, noted its "lay," and
calculated how best we could approach it.
Graham's eyes danced with excitement when I reported the
prospect of an immediate encounter. We decided to wait until the
moon rose, and then make a sudden dash, taking the redskins by
We thought we had everything cut and dried, but alas! just as
we were nearing the point where we were to take the open ground
and make our charge, one of the colored gentlemen became so
excited that he fired his gun.
We began the charge immediately, but the warning had been
sounded. The Indians at once sprang to their horses, and were
away before we reached their camp. Captain Graham shouted,
"Follow me, boys!" and follow him we did, but in the darkness
the Indians made good their escape. The bugle sounded the
recall, but some of the darkies did not get back to camp until
the next morning, having, in their fright, allowed the horses to
run wherever it suited them to go.
We followed the trail awhile the next day, but it became
evident that it would be a long chase, and as we were short of
rations we started back to camp. Captain Graham was bitterly
disappointed at being cheated out of a fight that seemed at
hand. He roundly cursed the darky who bad given, the warning
with his gun. That gentleman, as a punishment, was compelled to
walk all the way back to Fort Hays.
The western end of the Kansas Pacific was at this time in the
heart of the buffalo country. Twelve hundred men were employed
in the construction of the road. The Indians were very
troublesome, and it was difficult to obtain fresh meat for the
hands. The company therefore concluded to engage expert hunters
to kill buffaloes.
Having heard of my experience and success as a buffalo
hunter, Goddard Brothers, who had the contract for feeding the
men, made me a good offer to become their hunter. They said they
would require about twelve buffaloes a day—twenty-four hams and
twelve humps, as only the hump and hindquarters of each animal
were utilized. The work was dangerous. Indians were riding all
over that section of the country, and my duties would require me
to journey from five to ten miles from the railroad every day in
order to secure the game, accompanied by only one man with a
light wagon to haul the meat back to camp. I demanded a large
salary, which they could well afford to pay, as the meat itself
would cost them nothing. Under the terms of the contract which I
signed with them, I was to receive five hundred dollars a month,
agreeing on my part to supply them with all the meat they
Leaving Rose to complete our grading contract, I at once
began my career as a buffalo hunter for the Kansas Pacific. It
was not long before I acquired a considerable reputation, and it
was at this time that the title "Buffalo Bill" was conferred
upon me by the railroad hands. Of this title, which has stuck to
me through life, I have never been ashamed.
During my engagement as hunter for the company, which covered
a period of eighteen months, I killed 4,280 buffaloes and had
many exciting adventures with the Indians, including a number of
hairbreadth escapes, some of which are well worth relating.
One day, in the spring of 1868, I mounted Brigham and started
for Smoky Hill River. After a gallop of twenty miles I reached
the top of a small hill overlooking that beautiful stream.
Gazing out over the landscape, I saw a band of about thirty
Indians some half-mile distant. I knew by the way they jumped on
their horses they had seen me as soon as I saw them.
My one chance for my life was to run. I wheeled my horse and
started for the railroad. Brigham struck out as if he
comprehended that this was a life-or-death matter. On reaching
the next ridge I looked around and saw the Indians, evidently
well mounted, and coming for me full speed. Brigham put his
whole strength into the flight, and for a few minutes did some
of the prettiest running I ever saw. But the Indians had nearly
as good mounts as he, and one of their horses in particular, a
spotted animal, gained on me steadily.
Occasionally the brave who was riding this fleet horse would
send a bullet whistling after me. Soon they began to strike too
near for comfort. The other Indians were strung out along
behind, and could do no immediate damage. But I saw that the
fellow in the lead must be checked, or a stray bullet might hit
me or the horse. Suddenly stopping Brigham, therefore, I raised
old "Lucretia" to my shoulder and took deliberate aim, hoping to
hit either the horse or the rider. He was not eighty yards
behind me. At the crack of the rifle down went the horse. Not
waiting to see if he regained his feet, Brigham and I went
fairly flying toward our destination. We had urgent business
just then and were in a hurry to attend to it.
The other Indians had gained while I stopped to drop the
leader. A volley of shots whizzed past me. Fortunately none of
them hit. Now and then, to return the compliment, I wheeled and
fired. One of my shots broke the leg of one of my pursuers'
But seven or eight Indians now remained in dangerous
proximity to me. As their horses were beginning to lag, I
checked Brigham to give him an opportunity to get a few extra
breaths. I had determined that if the worst came to the worst I
would drop into a buffalo wallow, where I might possibly stand
off my pursuers. I was not compelled to do this, for Brigham
carried me through nobly.
When we came within three miles of the railroad track, where
two companies of soldiers were stationed, one of the outposts
gave the alarm. In a few minutes, to my great delight, I saw men
on foot and on horseback hurrying to the rescue. The Indians
quickly turned and galloped away as fast as they had come. When
I reached my friends, I turned Brigham over to them. He was led
away and given the care and rub-down that he richly deserved.
Captain Nolan of the Tenth Cavalry now came up with forty
men, and on hearing my account of what had happened determined
to pursue the Indians. I was given a cavalry horse for a remount
and we were off.
Our horses were all fresh and excellent stock. We soon began
shortening the distance between ourselves and the fugitives.
Before they had fled five miles we overtook them and killed
eight of their number. The others succeeded in making their
escape. Upon coming to the place where I had dropped the spotted
horse that carried the leader of my pursuers I found that my
bullet had struck him in the forehead, killing him instantly. He
was a fine animal, and should have been engaged in better
On our return we found old Brigham grazing contentedly. He
looked up inquiring, as if to ask if we had punished the
redskins who pursued us. I think he read the answer in my eyes.
Another adventure which deserves a place in these
reminiscences occurred near the Saline River. My companion at
the time was Scotty, the butcher who accompanied me on my hunts,
to cut up the meat and load it on the wagon for hauling to the
I had killed fifteen buffaloes, and we were on our way home
with a wagonload of meat when we were jumped by a big band of
I was mounted on a splendid horse belonging to the company,
and could easily have made my escape, but Scotty had only the
mule team, which drew the wagon as a means of flight, and of
course I could not leave him.
To think was to act in those days. Scotty and I had often
talked of what we would do in case of a sudden attack, and we
forthwith proceeded to carry out the plan we had made.
Jumping to the ground, we unhitched the mules more quickly
than that operation had ever been performed before. The mules
and my horse we tied to the wagon. We threw the buffalo hams on
the ground and piled them about the wheels so as to form a
breastwork. Then, with an extra box of ammunition and three or
four extra revolvers which we always carried with us, we crept
under the wagon, prepared to give our visitors a reception they
On came the Indians, pell-mell, but when they got within a
hundred yards of us we opened such a sudden and galling fire
that they held up and began circling about us.
Several times they charged. Their shots killed the two mules
and my horse. But we gave it to them right and left, and had the
satisfaction of seeing three of them fall to the ground not more
than fifty feet away.
When we had been cooped up in our little fort for about an
hour we saw the cavalry coming toward us, full gallop, over the
prairie. The Indians saw the soldiers almost as soon as we did.
Mounting their horses, they disappeared down the cañon of the
creek. When the cavalry arrived we had the satisfaction of
showing them five Indians who would be "good" for all time. Two
hours later we reached the camp with our meat, which we found to
be all right, although it had a few bullets and arrows imbedded
It was while I was hunting for the railroad that I became
acquainted with Kit Carson, one of the most noted of the guides,
scouts, and hunters that the West ever produced. He was going
through our country on his way to Washington. I met him again on
his return, and he was my guest for a few days in Hays City. He
then proceeded to Fort Lyon, Colorado, near which his
son-in-law, Mr. Boggs, resided. His health had been failing for
some time, and shortly afterward he died at Mr. Boggs's
residence on Picket Wire Creek.
Soon after the adventure with Scotty I had my celebrated
buffalo shooting contest with Billy Comstock, a well-known
guide, scout, and interpreter. Comstock, who was chief of scouts
at Fort Wallace, had a reputation of being a successful buffalo
hunter, and his friends at the fort—the officers in
particular—were anxious to back him against me.
It was arranged that I should shoot a match with him, and the
preliminaries were easily and satisfactorily arranged. We were
to hunt one day of eight hours, beginning at eight o'clock in
the morning. The wager was five hundred dollars a side, and the
man who should kill the greater number of buffaloes from
horseback was to be declared the winner. Incidentally my title
of "Buffalo Bill" was at stake.
Winning My Name—"Buffalo Bill".
The hunt took place twenty miles east of Sheridan. It had
been well advertised, and there was a big "gallery." An
excursion party, whose members came chiefly from St. Louis and
numbered nearly a hundred ladies and gentlemen, came on a
special train to view the sport. Among them was my wife and my
little daughter Arta, who had come to visit me for a time.
Buffaloes were plentiful. It had been agreed that we should
go into the herd at the same time and make our "runs," each man
killing as many animals as possible. A referee followed each of
us, horseback, and counted the buffaloes killed by each man. The
excursionists and other spectators rode out to the
hunting-grounds in wagons and on horseback, keeping well out of
sight of the buffaloes, so as not to frighten them until the
time came for us to dash into the herd. They were permitted to
approach closely enough to see what was going on.
For the first "run" we were fortunate in getting good ground.
Comstock was mounted on his favorite horse. I rode old Brigham.
I felt confident that I had the advantage in two things: first,
I had the best buffalo horse in the country; second, I was using
what was known at the time as a needle-gun, a breech-loading
Springfield rifle, caliber .50. This was "Lucretia," the weapon
of which I have already told you. Comstock's Henry rifle, though
it could fire more rapidly than mine, did not, I felt certain,
carry powder and lead enough to equal my weapon in execution.
When the time came to go into the herd, Comstock and I dashed
forward, followed by the referees. The animals separated.
Comstock took the left bunch, I the right. My great forte in
killing buffaloes was to get them circling by riding my horse at
the head of the herd and shooting their leaders. Thus the brutes
behind were crowded to the left, so that they were soon going
round and round.
This particular morning the animals were very accommodating.
I soon had them running in a beautiful circle. I dropped them
thick and fast till I had killed thirty-eight, which finished my
Comstock began shooting at the rear of the buffaloes he was
chasing, and they kept on in a straight line. He succeeded in
killing twenty-three, but they were scattered over a distance of
three miles. The animals I had shot lay close together.
Our St. Louis friends set out champagne when the result of
the first run was announced. It proved a good drink on a Kansas
prairie, and a buffalo hunter proved an excellent man to dispose
While we were resting we espied another herd approaching. It
was a small drove, but we prepared to make it serve our purpose.
The buffaloes were cows and calves, quicker in their movements
than the bulls. We charged in among them, and I got eighteen to
Again the spectators approached, and once more the champagne
went round. After a luncheon we resumed the hunt. Three miles
distant we saw another herd. I was so far ahead of my competitor
now that I thought I could afford to give an exhibition of my
skill. Leaving my saddle and bridle behind, I rode, with my
competitor, to windward of the buffaloes.
I soon had thirteen down, the last one of which I had driven
close to the wagons, where the ladies were watching the contest.
It frightened some of the tender creatures to see a buffalo
coming at full speed directly toward them, but I dropped him in
his tracks before he had got within fifty yards of the wagon.
This finished my "run" with a score of sixty-nine buffaloes for
the day. Comstock had killed forty-six.
It was now late in the afternoon. Comstock and his backers
gave up the idea of beating me. The referee declared me the
winner of the match, and the champion buffalo hunter of the
On our return to camp we brought with us the best bits of
meat, as well as the biggest and best buffalo heads. The heads I
always turned over to the company, which found a very good use
for them. They were mounted in the finest possible manner and
sent to the principal cities along the road, as well as to the
railroad centers of the country. Here they were prominently
placed at the leading hotels and in the stations, where they
made an excellent advertisement for the road Today they attract
the attention of travelers almost everywhere. Often, while
touring the country, I see one of them, and feel reasonably
certain that I brought down the animal it once ornamented. Many
a wild and exciting hunt is thus called to my mind.
In May, 1868, the Kansas Pacific track was pushed as far as
Sheridan. Construction was abandoned for the time, and my
services as buffalo hunter were no longer required. A general
Indian war was now raging all along the Western borders. General
Sheridan had taken up headquarters at Fort Hays, in order to be
on the job in person. Scouts and guides were once more in great
demand, and I decided to go back to my old calling.
I did not wish to kill my faithful old Brigham by the rigors
of a scouting campaign. I had no suitable place to leave him,
and determined to dispose of him. At the suggestion of a number
of friends, all of whom wanted him, I put him up at a raffle,
selling ten chances at thirty dollars each, which were all
quickly taken. Ike Bonham, who won him, took him to Wyandotte,
Kansas, where he soon added fresh laurels to his already shining
wreath. In the crowning event of a tournament he easily
outdistanced all entries in a four-mile race to Wyandotte,
winning $250 for his owner, who had been laughed at for entering
such an unprepossessing animal.
I lost track of him after that. For several years I did not
know what had become of him. But many years after, while in
Memphis, I met Mr. Wilcox, who had once been superintendent of
construction on the Kansas Pacific. He informed me that he owned
Brigham, and I rode out to his place to take a look at my
gallant old friend. He seemed to remember me, as I put my arms
about his neck and caressed him like a long-lost child.
When I had received my appointment as guide and scout I was
ordered to report to the commandant of Fort Larned, Captain
Daingerfield Parker. I knew that it would be necessary to take
my family, who had been with me at Sheridan, to Leavenworth and
leave them there. This I did at once.
When I arrived at Larned, I found the scouts under command of
Dick Curtis, an old-time scout of whom I have spoken in these
reminiscences. Three hundred lodges of Kiowa and Comanche
Indians were encamped near the fort. These savages had not yet
gone on the warpath, but they were restless and discontented.
Their leading chief and other warriors were becoming sullen and
insolent. The Post was garrisoned by only two companies of
infantry and one troop of cavalry. General Hazen, who was at the
post, was endeavoring to pacify the Indians; I was appointed as
his special scout.
Early one morning in August I accompanied him to Fort Zarrah,
from which post he proceeded, without an escort, to Fort Harker.
Instructions were left that the escort with me should return to
Larned the next day. After he had gone I went to the sergeant in
command of the squad and informed him I intended to return that
afternoon. I saddled my mule and set out. All went well till I
got about halfway between the two posts, when at Pawnee Rock I
was suddenly jumped by at least forty Indians, who came rushing
up, extending their hands and saying, "How?" "How?" These
redskins had been hanging about Fort Larned that morning. I saw
that they had on their warpaint, and looked for trouble.
As they seemed desirous to shake hands, however, I obeyed my
first friendly impulse, and held out my hand. One of them seized
it with a tight grip and jerked me violently forward. Another
grabbed my mule by the bridle. In a few minutes I was completely
Before I could do anything at all in my defense, they had
taken my revolvers from the holsters and I received a blow on
the head from a tomahawk which rendered me nearly senseless. My
gun, which was lying across the saddle, was snatched from its
place. Finally two Indians, laying hold of the bridle, started
off in the direction of the Arkansas River, leading the mule,
which was lashed by the other Indians who followed along after.
The whole crowd was whooping, singing, and yelling as only
Indians can. Looking toward the opposite side of the river, I
saw the people of a big village moving along the bank, and made
up my mind that the redmen had left the Post, and were on the
warpath in dead earnest.
My captors crossed the stream with me, and as we waded
through the shallow water they lashed both the mule and me. Soon
they brought me before an important-looking body of Indians, who
proved to be the chiefs and principal warriors. Among them I
recognized, old Satanta and others whom I knew. I supposed that
all was over with me.
All at once Satanta asked me where I had been, and I suddenly
had an inspiration.
I said I had been after a herd of cattle or "Whoa-haws" as
they called them. The Indians had been out of meat for several
weeks, and a large herd of cattle which had been promised them
had not arrived.
As soon as I said I had been after "Whoa-haws" old Satanta
began questioning me closely. When he asked where the cattle
were I replied that they were only a few miles distant and that
I had been sent by General Hazen to inform him that the herd was
coming, and that they were intended for his people. This seemed
to please the old rascal. He asked if there were any soldiers
with the herd. I said there were. Thereupon the chiefs held a
consultation. Presently Satanta asked me if the general had
really said they were to have the cattle. I assured him that he
had. I followed this by a dignified inquiry as to why his young
men had treated me so roughly.
He intimated that this was only a boyish freak, for which he
was very sorry. The young men had merely wanted to test my
courage. The whole thing, he said, was a joke. The old liar was
now beating me at the lying game, but I did not care, since I
was getting the best of it.
I did not let him suspect that I doubted his word. He ordered
the young men to restore my arms and reprimanded them for their
conduct. He was playing a crafty game, for he preferred to get
the meat without fighting if possible, and my story that
soldiers were coming had given him food for reflection. After
another council the old man asked me if I would go and bring the
cattle down. "Of course," I told him. "Such are my instructions
from General Hazen."
In response to an inquiry if I wanted any of his young men to
accompany me I said that it would be best to go alone. Wheeling
my mule around, I was soon across the river, leaving the chief
firmly believing that I was really going for the cattle, which
existed only in my imagination.
I knew if I could get the river between me and the Indians I
would have a good three-quarters of a mile start of them and
could make a run for Fort Larned. But as I reached the river
bank I looked about and saw ten or fifteen Indians who had begun
to suspect that all was not as it should be.
The moment my mule secured a good foothold on the bank I
urged him into a gentle lope toward the place where, according
to my story, the cattle were to be brought.
Upon reaching the top of the ridge and riding down the other
side out of view, I turned my mount and headed westward for Fort
Larned. I let him out for all he was worth, and when I reached a
little rise and looked back the Indian village lay in plain
My pursuers were by this time on the ridge I had passed over,
and were looking for me in every direction. Soon they discovered
me, and discovered also that I was running away. They struck out
in swift pursuit. In a few minutes it became painfully evident
that they were gaining.
When I crossed Pawnee Fork, two miles from the Post, two or
three of them were but a quarter of a mile behind. As I gained
the opposite side of the creek I was overjoyed to see some
soldiers in a Government wagon a short distance away. I yelled
at the top of my lungs that the Indians were after me.
When Denver Jim, an old scout, who was with the party, was
informed that there were ten or fifteen Indians in the pursuit
"Let's lay for them."
The wagon was driven hurriedly in among the trees and low
box-elder bushes, and secreted, while we waited. We did not wait
long. Soon up came the Indians, lashing their horses, which were
blowing and panting. We let two of them pass, then opened a
lively fire on the next three or four, killing two at the first
volley. The others discovering that they had run into an ambush,
whirled around and ran back in the direction from which they had
come. The two who had passed heard the firing and made their
The Indians that were killed were scalped, and we
appropriated their arms and equipment. Then, after catching the
horses, we made our way into the Post. The soldiers had heard us
firing, and as we entered the fort drums were beating and the
buglers were sounding the call to fall in. The officers had
thought Satanta and his warriors were coming in to capture the
That very morning, two hours after General Hazen had left,
the old chief drove into the Post in an ambulance which he had
received some months before from the Government. He seemed angry
and bent on mischief. In an interview with Captain Parker, the
ranking officer, he asked why General Hazen had left the fort
without supplying him with beef cattle. The captain said the
cattle were then on the road, but could not explain why they
The chief made numerous threats. He said that if he wanted to
he could capture the whole Post. Captain Parker, who was a brave
man, gave him to understand that he was reckoning beyond his
powers. Satanta finally left in anger. Going to the sutler's
store, he sold his ambulance to the post-trader, and a part of
the proceeds he secretly invested in whisky, which could always
be secured by the Indians from rascally men about a Post,
notwithstanding the military and civil laws.
He then mounted his horse and rode rapidly to his village. He
returned in an hour with seven or eight hundred of his warriors,
and it looked as if he intended to carry out his threat of
capturing the fort. The garrison at once turned out. The
redskins, when within a half mile, began circling around the
fort, firing several shots into it.
While this circling movement was taking place, the soldiers
observed that the whole village had packed up and was on the
move. The mounted warriors remained behind some little time, to
give their families an opportunity to get away. At last they
circled the Post several times more, fired a few parting shots,
and then galloped over the prairie to overtake the
fast-departing village. On their way they surprised and killed a
party of woodchoppers on Pawnee Fork, as well as a party of
herders guarding beef cattle.
The soldiers with the wagon I had opportunely met at the
crossing had been out looking for the bodies of these victims,
seven or eight in all. Under the circumstances it was not
surprising that the report of our guns should have persuaded the
garrison that Satanta's men were coming back to make their
There was much excitement at the Post. The guards had been
doubled. Captain Parker had all the scouts at his headquarters.
He was seeking to get one of them to take dispatches to General
Sheridan at Fort Hays. I reported to him at once, telling him of
my encounter and my escape.
"You were lucky to think of that cattle story, Cody," he
said. "But for that little game your scalp would now be
ornamenting a Kiowa lodge."
"Cody," put in Dick Curtis, "the captain is trying to get
somebody to take dispatches to General Sheridan. None of the
scouts here seem willing to undertake the trip. They say they
are not well enough acquainted with the country to find the way
A storm was coming up, and it was sure to be a dark night.
Not only did the scouts fear they would lose the way, but, with
hostile Indians all about, the undertaking was exceedingly
dangerous. A large party of redskins was known to be encamped at
Walnut Creek, on the direct road to Fort Hays.
Observing that Curtis was obviously trying to induce me to
volunteer, I made an evasive answer. I was wearied from my long
day's ride, and the beating I received from the Indians had not
rested me any. But Curtis was persistent. He said:
"I wish you were not so tired, Bill. You know the country
better than the rest of us. I'm certain you could go through."
"As far as the ride is concerned," I said, "that would not
matter. But this is risky business just now, with the country
full of hostile Indians. Still, if no other man will volunteer I
will chance it, provided I am supplied with a good horse. I am
tired of dodging Indians on a Government mule."
At this, Captain Nolan, who had been listening, said:
"Bill, you can have the best horse in my company."
I picked the horse ridden by Captain Nolan's first sergeant.
To the captain's inquiry as to whether I was sure I could find
my way, I replied:
"I have hunted on every acre of ground between here and Fort
Hays. I can almost keep my route by the bones of the dead
"Never fear about Cody, captain," Curtis added; "he is as
good in the dark as he is in the daylight."
By ten o'clock that night I was on my way to Fort Hays,
sixty-five miles distant across the country.
It was pitch-dark, but this I liked, as it lessened the
probability of the Indians' seeing me unless I stumbled on them
by accident. My greatest danger was that my horse might run into
a hole and fall, and in this way get away from me. To avoid any
such accident I tied one end of my rawhide lariat to my belt and
the other to the bridle. I did not propose to be left alone, on
foot, on that prairie.
Before I had traveled three miles the horse, sure enough,
stepped into a prairie dog's hole. Down he went, throwing me
over his head. He sprang to his feet before I could catch the
bridle, and galloped away into the darkness. But when he reached
the end of his lariat he discovered that he was picketed to
Bison William. I brought him up standing, recovered my gun,
which had fallen to the ground, and was soon in the saddle
Twenty-five miles from Fort Larned the country became
rougher, and I had to travel more carefully. Also I proceeded as
quietly as possible, for I knew I was in the vicinity of the
Indians who had been lately encamped on Walnut Creek. But when I
came up near the creek I unexpectedly rode in among a herd of
horses. The animals became frightened, and ran off in all
directions. Without pausing to make any apology, I backed out as
quickly as possible. But just at that minute a dog, not fifty
yards away, set up a howl. Soon I heard Indians talking. They
had been guarding the horses, and had heard the hoofbeats of my
horse. In an instant they were on their ponies and after me.
I urged my mount to full speed up the creek bottom, taking
chances of his falling into a hole. The Indians followed me as
fast as they could, but I soon outdistanced them.
I struck the old Santa Fe trail ten miles from Fort Hays just
at daybreak. Shortly after reveille I rode into the post, where
Colonel Moore, to whom I reported, asked for the dispatches from
Captain Parker for General Sheridan. He asked me to give them
into his hands, but I said I preferred to hand them to the
general in person. Sheridan, who was sleeping in the same
building, heard our voices and bade me come into his room.
"Hello, Cody!" he said. "Is that you?"
"Yes, sir," I said. "I have dispatches for you."
He read them hurriedly, told me they were very important, and
asked all about the outbreak of the Kiowas and Comanches. I gave
him all the information I possessed.
"Bill," said General Sheridan, "you've had a pretty lively
ride. I suppose you're tired after your long journey."
"Not very," I said.
"Come in and have breakfast with me."
"No, thank you. Hays City is only a mile from here. I know
every one there and want to go over and have a time."
"Very well, do as you please, but come back this afternoon,
for I want to see you."
I got little rest at Hays City, and yet I was soon to set out
on another hard ninety-five-mile journey.
When I rode back to General Sheridan's headquarters, after a
visit with old friends at Hays City, I noticed several scouts in
a little group engaged in conversation on some important topic.
Upon inquiry I learned that General Sheridan wanted a dispatch
sent to Fort Dodge, a distance of ninety-five miles.
The Indians had recently killed two or three men engaged in
carrying dispatches over this route. On this account none of the
scouts were at all anxious to volunteer. A reward of several
hundred dollars had failed to secure any takers.
The scouts had heard of what I had done the day before. They
asked me if I did not think the journey to Fort Dodge dangerous.
I gave as my opinion that a man might possibly go through
without seeing an Indian, but that the chances were ten to one
that he would have an exceedingly lively run before he reached
his destination, provided he got there at all.
Leaving the scouts arguing as to whether any of them would
undertake the venture, I reported to General Sheridan. He
informed me that he was looking for a man to carry dispatches to
Fort Dodge, and, while we were talking, Dick Parr, his chief of
scouts, came in to inform him that none of his scouts would
volunteer. Upon hearing this, I said:
"General, if no one is ready to volunteer, I'll carry your
"I had not thought of asking you to do this, Cody," said the
general. "You are already pretty hard-worked. But it is really
important that these dispatches should go through."
"If you don't get a courier before four this afternoon, I'll
be ready for business," I told him. "All I want is a fresh
horse. Meanwhile I'll get a little more rest."
It was not much of a rest, however, that I got. I went over
to Hays City and had a "time" with the boys. Coming back to the
Post at the appointed hour, I found that no scout had
volunteered. I reported to the general, who had secured an
excellent horse for me. Handing me the dispatches, he said:
"You can start as soon as you wish. The sooner the better.
And good luck to you, my boy!"
An hour later I was on my way. At dusk I crossed the Smoky
Hill River. I did not urge my horse much, as I was saving him
for the latter end of the journey, or for any run I might have
to make should the "wild boys" jump me.
Though I kept a sharp watch through the night I saw no
Indians, and had no adventures worth relating. Just at daylight
I found myself approaching Saw Log River, having ridden about
A company of colored cavalry, under command of Major Cox, was
stationed at this point. I approached the camp cautiously. The
darky soldiers had a habit of shooting first and crying "Halt!"
afterward. When I got within hearing distance I called out, and
was answered by one of the pickets. I shouted to him not to
shoot, informing him that I carried dispatches from Fort Hays.
Then, calling the sergeant of the guard, I went up to the
vidette, who at once recognized me, and took me to the tent of
This officer supplied me with a fresh horse, as requested by
General Sheridan in a letter I brought to him. After an hour's
sleep and a meal, I jumped into the saddle, and before sunrise
was on my way. I reached Fort Dodge, twenty-five miles further
on, between nine and ten o'clock without having seen a single
When I had delivered my dispatches, Johnny Austin, an old
friend, who was chief of scouts at the Post, invited me to come
to his house for a nap. When I awoke Austin told me there had
been Indians all around the Post. He was very much surprised
that I had seen none of them. They had run off cattle and
horses, and occasionally killed a man. Indians, he said, were
also very thick on the Arkansas River between Fort Dodge and
Fort Larned, and had made considerable trouble. The commanding
officer of Fort Dodge was very anxious to send dispatches to
Fort Larned, but the scouts, like those at Fort Hays, were
backward about volunteering. Fort Larned was my Post, and I
wanted to go there anyhow. So I told Austin I would carry the
dispatches, and if any of the boys wanted to go along I would be
glad of their company. This offer was reported to the commanding
officer. He sent for me, and said he would be glad to have me
take the dispatches, if I could stand the trip after what I had
"All I want is a fresh horse, sir," said I.
"I am sorry we haven't a decent horse," he replied, "but we
have a reliable and honest Government mule, if that will do
"Trot out the mule," I told him. "It is good enough for me. I
am ready at any time."
The mule was forthcoming. At dark I pulled out for Fort
Larned, and proceeded without interruption to Coon Creek, thirty
miles from Fort Dodge. I had left the wagon road some distance
to the south, and traveled parallel to it. This I decided would
be the safer course, as the Indians might be lying in watch for
dispatch-bearers and scouts along the main road.
At Coon Creek I dismounted and led the mule down to the river
to get a drink of water. While I was drinking the brute jerked
loose and struck out down the creek. I followed him, trusting
that he would catch his foot in the bridle rein and stop, but he
made straight for the wagon road, where I feared Indians would
be lurking, without a pause. At last he struck the road, but
instead of turning back toward Fort Dodge he headed for Fort
Larned, keeping up a jogtrot that was just too fast to permit me
to overtake him.
I had my gun in hand, and was sorely tempted to shoot him
more than once, and probably would have done so but for the fear
of bringing the Indians down on me. But he was going my way, so
I trudged along after him mile after mile, indulging from time
to time in strong language regarding the entire mule fraternity.
The mule stuck to the road and kept on for Fort Larned, and I
did the same thing. The distance was thirty-five miles. As day
was beginning to break, we—the mule and myself—found ourselves
on a hill looking down on the Pawnee Fork, on which Fort Larned
was located, only four miles away. When the sunrise gun sounded
we were within half a mile of the Post.
I was thoroughly out of patience by this time.
"Now, Mr. Mule," I said, "it is my turn," and threw my gun to
my shoulder. Like the majority of Government mules, he was not
easy to kill. He died hard, but he died.
Hearing the report of the gun, the troops came rushing out to
see what was the matter. When they heard my story they agreed
that the mule had got no more than his deserts. I took the
saddle and bridle and proceeded to the Post, where I delivered
my dispatches to Captain Parker. I then went to Dick Curtis's
house at the scouts' headquarters and put in several hours of
During the day General Hazen returned from Fort Harker. He
had important dispatches to send to General Sheridan. I was
feeling highly elated over my ride, and as I was breaking the
scout records I volunteered for this mission.
The general accepted my offer, though he said there was no
necessity of my killing myself. I said I had business which
called me to Fort Hays, anyway, and that it would make no
difference to the other scouts if he gave me the job, as none of
them were particularly eager for the journey.
Accordingly, that night, I mounted an excellent horse, and
next morning at daylight reached General Sheridan's headquarters
at Fort Hays.
The general was surprised to see me, and still more so when I
told him of the time I had made on the rides I had successfully
undertaken. I believe this record of mine has never been beaten
in a country infested with Indians and subject to blizzards and
other violent weather conditions.
To sum up, I had ridden from Fort Larned to Fort Zarrah, a
distance of sixty-five miles and back in twelve hours. Ten miles
must be added to this for the distance the Indians took me
across the Arkansas River. In the succeeding twenty-four hours I
had gone from Fort Larned to Fort Hays, sixty-five miles, in
eight hours. During the next twenty-four hours I rode from Fort
Hays to Fort Dodge, ninety-five miles. The following night I
traveled from Fort Dodge to Fort Larned, thirty miles on mule
back and thirty-five miles on foot, in twelve hours, and the
next night sixty-five miles more from Fort Larned to Fort Hays.
Altogether I had ridden and walked three hundred and
sixty-five miles in fifty-eight hours, an average of over six
miles an hour.
Taking into consideration the fact that most of this riding
was done in the night over wild country, with no roads to
follow, and that I had continually to look out for Indians, it
was regarded at the time as a big ride as well as a dangerous
What I have set down here concerning it can be verified by
referring to the autobiography of General Sheridan.
General Sheridan complimented me highly on this achievement.
He told me I need not report back to General Hazen, as he had
more important work for me to do. The Fifth Cavalry, one of the
finest regiments of the army, was on its way to the Department
of the Missouri, and he was going to send an expedition against
the Dog Soldier Indians who were infesting the Republican River
"Cody," he said, "I am going to appoint you guide and chief
of scouts of the command. How does that suit you?"
I told him it suited me first rate and thanked him for the
The Dog Soldier Indians were a band of Cheyennes and of
unruly, turbulent members of other tribes who would not enter
into any treaty, and would have kept no treaty if they had made
one. They had always refused to go on a reservation. They got
their name from the word "Cheyenne," which is derived from
chien, the French word for "dog."
On the third of October the Fifth Cavalry arrived at Fort
Hays, and I at once began making the acquaintance of the members
of the regiment. General Sheridan introduced me to Colonel
Royal, the commander, whom I found a gallant officer and an
agreeable gentleman. I also became acquainted with Major W.H.
Brown, Major Walker, Captain Sweetman, Quartermaster E.M. Hays,
and many others of the men with whom I was soon to be
General Sheridan, being anxious to punish the Indians who had
lately fought General Forsythe, did not give the regiment much
of a rest. On October 5th it began the march to Beaver Creek
The first night we camped on the south fork of Big Creek,
four miles west of Hays City. By this time I had become well
acquainted with Major Brown and Captain Sweetman. They invited
me to mess with them, and a jolly mess we had. There were other
scouts with the command besides myself. I particularly remember
Tom Kenahan, Hank Fields, and a character called "Nosey."
The morning of the 6th we pulled out to the north. During the
day I was particularly struck with the appearance of the
regiment. It was a beautiful command, and when strung out on the
prairies with, a train of seventy-five six-mule wagons,
ambulances, and pack-mules, I felt very proud of my position as
guide and chief of scouts with such a warlike expedition.
Just as we were going into camp on the Saline River that
night we ran into a band of some fifteen Indians. They saw us,
and dashed across the creek, followed by some bullets which we
sent after them.
This little band proved to be only a scouting party, so we
followed it only a mile or two. Our attention was directed
shortly to a herd of buffaloes, and we killed ten or fifteen for
Next day we marched thirty miles. When we went into camp
Colonel Royal asked me to go out and kill some buffaloes for the
"All right, colonel," I said; "send along a wagon to bring in
"I am not in the habit of sending out my wagons till I know
there is something to be hauled in," he said. "Kill your
buffaloes first, and I'll send the wagons."
Without further words I went out on my hunt. After a short
absence I returned and asked the colonel to send his wagons for
the half-dozen buffaloes I had killed.
The following afternoon he again requested me to go out after
buffaloes. I didn't ask for any wagons this time, but rode out
some distance, and, coming upon a small herd, headed seven or
eight of them directly for the camp. Instead of shooting them I
ran them at full speed right into the place and then killed them
one after another in rapid succession.
Colonel Royal, who witnessed the whole proceeding, was
annoyed and puzzled, as he could see no good reason why I had
not killed the buffaloes on the prairie.
Coming up angry, he demanded an explanation.
"I can't allow any such business as this, Cody," he
exclaimed. "What do you mean by it!"
"I didn't care about asking for wagons this time, Colonel," I
replied. "I thought I would make the buffaloes furnish their own
The colonel saw the force of my defense, and had no more to
say on the subject.
No Indians had been seen in the vicinity during the day.
Colonel Royal, having posted his pickets, supposed that
everything was serene for the night. But before morning we were
aroused by shots, and immediately afterward one of the mounted
pickets came galloping into camp with the announcement that
there were Indians close at hand. All the companies fell into
line, prepared and eager for action. The men were still new to
Indian fighting. Many of them were excited.
But, despite the alarm, no Indians made their appearance.
Upon going to the post where the picket said he had seen them,
none were to be found, nor could the faintest trace be
The sentinel, an Irishman, insisted that there certainly had
been redskins there.
"But you must be mistaken," said the colonel.
"Upon me sowl, I'm not. As sure as me name's Pat Maloney, wan
iv them red devils hit me on th' head with a club, so he did,"
persisted the picket.
When morning came we made a successful effort to clear up the
mystery. Elk tracks were found in the vicinity, and it was
undoubtedly a herd of elk that had frightened the picket. When
he turned to flee he must have hit his head on an overhanging
limb, which he supposed was the club of a redskin, bent on his
murder. It was hard, however, to convince him that he could have
Three days' march brought us to Beaver Creek, where we
encamped and where scouts were sent out in different directions.
None of these parties discovered Indians, and they all returned
to camp at about the same time. They found it in a state of
excitement. A few hours before the return of the scouts the camp
had been attacked by a party of redskins, who had killed two men
and made off with sixty horses belonging to Company H.
That evening the command started on the trail of the horse
thieves. Major Brown with two companies and three days' rations
pushed ahead in advance of the main command. On the eighteenth
day out, being unsuccessful in the chase, and nearly out of
rations, the entire command marched toward the nearest railroad
station and camped on the Saline river, three miles distant from
While waiting for supplies we were joined by a new commanding
officer, Brevet-Major-Greneral E.A. Carr, who was the senior
major of the regiment and ranked Colonel Royal. He brought with
him the celebrated Forsythe Scouts, who were commanded by
Lieutenant Pepoon, a regular-army officer.
While in this camp, Major Brown welcomed a new lieutenant,
who had come to fill a vacancy in the command. This was A.B.
Bache, and on the day he was to arrive Major Brown had his
private ambulance brought out and invited me to ride with him to
the railroad station to meet the lieutenant. On the way to the
depot he said:
"Now, Cody, we'll give Bache a lively little ride, and shake
him up a little."
The new arrival was given a back seat in the ambulance when
he got off the train, and we headed for the camp.
Presently Major Brown took the reins from his driver and at
once began whipping the mules. When he had got them into a
lively gallop he pulled out his revolver and fired several
shots. The road was terribly rough and the night was intensely
dark. We could not see where we were going, and it was a
wonderful piece of luck that the wagon did not tip over and
break our necks.
Finally Bache asked, good-humoredly:
"Is this the way you break in all your new lieutenants,
"Oh, no," returned the major. "But this is the way we often
ride in this country. Keep your seat, Mr. Bache, and we'll take
you through on time," he quoted, from Hank Monk's famous
admonition to Horace Greeley.
We were now rattling down a steep hill at full speed. Just as
we reached the bottom, the front wheels struck a deep ditch over
which the mules had jumped. We were all brought up standing, and
Bache plunged forward headlong to the front of the vehicle.
"Take the back seat, lieutenant," said Major Brown sternly.
Bache replied that he had been trying to do so, keeping his
nerve and his temper. We soon got the wagon out of the ditch and
resumed our drive. We swung into camp under full headway, and
created considerable amusement. Everyone recognized the
ambulance, and knew that Major Brown and I were out for a lark,
so little was said about the exploit.
Next morning at an early hour the command started out on
another Indian hunt. General Carr, who had a pretty good idea
where he would be likely to find them, directed me to guide him
by the nearest route to Elephant Fork, on Beaver Creek.
When we arrived at the South Fork of the Beaver, after two
days' march, we discovered a fresh Indian trail. We had followed
it hurriedly for eight miles when we discovered, on a bluff
ahead, a large number of Indians.
General Carr ordered Lieutenant Pepoon's scouts and Company M
to the front. Company M was commanded by Lieutenant Schinosky, a
reckless dare-devil born in France, who was eager for a brush
with the Indians.
In his anxiety to get into the fight he pushed his company
nearly a mile in advance of the main command, when he was jumped
by some four hundred Indians. Until our main force could come to
his support he had as lively a little fight as any one could
have asked for.
As the battle proceeded, the Indians continued to increase in
numbers. At last it became apparent that we were fighting eight
hundred or a thousand of them. The engagement was general. There
were killed and wounded on both sides. The Indians were
obviously fighting to give their families and village a chance
to get away. We had surprised them with a larger force than they
knew was in that part of the country. The battle continued
steadily until dark. We drove them before us, but they fought
stubbornly. At night they annoyed us by firing down into our
camp from the encircling hills. Several times it was necessary
to order out the command to dislodge them and to drive them back
where they could do no damage.
After one of these sallies, Captain Sweetman, Lieutenant
Bache, and myself were taking supper together when "Whang!" came
a bullet into Mr. Bache's plate. We finished our supper without
having any more such close calls.
At daylight next morning we took the trail again, soon
reaching the spot where the Indians had camped the night before.
Here there had been a large village, consisting of five hundred
lodges. Continuing our pursuit, we came in sight of the
retreating village at two in the afternoon. At once the warriors
turned back and gave us battle.
To delay us as much as possible they set fire to the prairie
grass in front and on all sides of us. For the remainder of the
afternoon we kept up a running fight. Repeatedly the Indians
attempted to lead us away from the trail of their fleeing
village. But their trail was easily followed by the tepee poles,
camp-kettles, robes, and all the paraphernalia which proved too
heavy to carry for long, and which were dropped in the flight.
It was useless to try to follow them after nightfall, and at
dark we went into camp.
Next morning we were again on the trail, which led north and
back toward Beaver Creek. The trail crossed this stream a few
miles from where we had first discovered the Indians. They had
made almost a complete circle in the hope of misleading us.
Late in the afternoon we again saw them going over a hill far
ahead. Toward evening the main body of warriors once more came
back and fought us, but we continued to drive them till dusk,
when we encamped for the night.
Soon the Indians, finding they could not hold out against us,
scattered in every direction. We followed the main trail to the
Republican River, where we made a cut-off and proceeded north
toward the Platte.
Here we found that the Indians, traveling day and night, had
got a long start. General Carr decided we had pushed them so
hard and given them such a thorough scaring that they would
leave the Republican country and go north across the railroad.
It seemed, therefore, unnecessary to pursue them any further.
Most of the Indians did cross the river near Ogallah as he
predicted, and thence continued northward.
That night we returned to the Republican River and camped in
a grove of cottonwoods, which I named Carr's Grove in honor of
General Carr informed me that the next day's march would be
toward the headwaters of the Beaver. I said that the distance
was about twenty-five miles, and he said we would make it the
next day. Getting an early start in the morning, we struck out
across the prairie. My position, as guide, was the advance
guard. About two o'clock General Carr overtook me and asked me
how far I supposed it was to water. I replied that I thought it
was about eight miles, although we could see no sign of a stream
"Pepoon's scouts say you are traveling in the wrong
direction," said the general. "They say, the way you are
bearing, it will be fifteen miles before we strike any branches
of the Beaver, and that when you do you will find no water, for
they are dry at this season of the year in this locality."
"I think the scouts are mistaken, General," I said. "The
Beaver has more water near its head than it has below. At the
place where we will strike the stream we will find immense
beaver dams, big and strong enough to cross your whole command
if you wish."
"Well, go ahead," he said. "I leave it to you. But, remember,
I don't want a dry camp."
"No danger of that," I returned and rode on. As I predicted,
we found water seven or eight miles further on. Hidden in the
hills was a beautiful little tributary of the Beaver. We had no
trouble in selecting a fine camp with good spring water and
excellent grass. Learning that the stream, which was but eight
miles long, was without a name, the general took out his map,
and, locating it, christened it Cody's Creek, which name it
Early the next morning we pulled out for the Beaver. As we
were approaching the stream I rode on ahead of the advance guard
in order to find a crossing. Just as I turned a bend of the
creek "Bang!" went a shot, and down went my horse, accompanied
I disentangled myself and jumped clear of the carcass,
turning my guns loose at two Indians whom I discovered in the
direction from which the shot had come. In the suddenness of it
all I missed my aim. The Indians fired two or three more shots,
and I returned the compliment by wounding one of their horses.
On the other side of the creek I saw a few lodges moving
rapidly away, and also mounted warriors. They also saw me and
began blazing away with their guns. The Indians who had killed
my horse were retreating across the creek, using a beaver dam
for a bridge. I accelerated their pace by sending a few shots
after them and also fired at the warriors across the stream. I
was undecided as to whether it would be best to run back to the
command on foot or to retain my position. The troops, I knew,
would come up in a few minutes. The sound of the firing would
hasten their arrival.
The Indians soon saw that I was alone. They turned and
charged down the hill, and were about to cross the creek and
corral me when the advance guard of the command appeared over
the ridge and dashed forward to my rescue. Then the redskins
whirled and made off.
When General Carr arrived he ordered Company I to pursue the
band. I accompanied Lieutenant Brady, who commanded the company.
For several hours we had a running fight with the Indians,
capturing several of their horses and most of their lodges. At
night we returned to the command, which by this time had crossed
For several days we scouted along the river. We had two or
three lively skirmishes, but at last our supplies began to run
low, and the general ordered us to return to Fort Wallace, which
we reached three days afterward.
While the regiment remained here, waiting for orders, I spent
most of my time hunting buffaloes. One day while I was out with
a small party, fifty Indians jumped us, and we had a terrific
battle for an hour. We finally managed to drive them off, with
four of their warriors killed. With me were a number of
excellent marksmen, and they did fine work, sending bullets
thick and fast where they would do the most execution.
Two or three of our horses were hit. One man was wounded. We
were ready and willing to stay with the Indians as long as they
would stay with us. But they gave it up at last. We finished our
hunt and returned to the Post with plenty of buffalo meat. Here
we received the compliments of General Carr on our little fight.
In a few days orders came from General Sheridan to make a
winter campaign in the Canadian River country. We were to
proceed to Fort Lyon on the Arkansas River and fit out for the
expedition. Leaving Fort Wallace in November, 1868, we arrived
at Fort Lyon in the latter part of the month, and began the work
Three weeks before this, General Penrose had left the Post
with a command of three hundred men. He had taken no wagons with
him. His supply train was composed of pack mules. General Carr
was ordered to follow with supplies on Penrose's trail and to
overtake him as soon as possible. I was particularly anxious to
catch up with Penrose's command, as my old friend, "Wild Bill,"
was among his scouts.
For the first three days we followed the trail easily. Then
we were caught in Freeze-Out Cañon by a fearful snowstorm. This
compelled us to go into camp for a day.
It now became impossible longer to follow Penrose's trail.
The ground was covered with snow, and he had left no sign to
show in which direction he was going.
General Carr sent for me, and told me it was highly important
that we should not lose the trail. He instructed me to take some
scouts, and, while the command remained in camp, to push on as
far as possible to seek for some sign that would indicate the
direction Penrose had taken.
Accompanied by four men, I started out in a blinding
snowstorm. We rode twenty-four miles in a southerly direction
till we reached a tributary of the Cimarron. From here we
scouted up and down the stream for a few miles, and at last
turned up one of Penrose's old camps.
It was now late in the afternoon. If the camp was to come up
the next day it was necessary for us to return immediately with
We built a fire in a sheltered spot, broiled some venison we
had shot during the day, and after a substantial meal I started
back alone, leaving the others behind.
It was eleven o'clock when I got back into camp. A light was
still burning in General Carr's tent. He was sitting up to await
my return. He was overjoyed at the news I brought him. He had
been extremely anxious concerning the safety of Penrose. Rousing
up his cook, he ordered a hot supper for me, which, after my
long, cold ride, I greatly appreciated. I passed the night in
the general's tent, and woke the next morning fully refreshed
and ready for a big day's work.
The snow had drifted deeply overnight, and the command had a
hard tramp through it when it set out next morning for the
Cimarron. In many ravines the drifts had filled in to a great
depth. Often the teamsters had to shovel their way through.
At sundown we reached the Cimarron, and went into a nice warm
camp. The next morning, on looking around, we found that
Penrose, who was not encumbered with wagons, had kept on the
west side of the Cimarron. Here the country was so rough that we
could not stay on the trail with wagons. But we knew that he
would continue down the river, and the general gave orders to
take the best route down-stream, which I found to be on the east
side. Before we could make any headway with our wagon trains we
had to leave the river and get out on the divide.
For some distance we found a good road, but suddenly we were
brought up standing on a high table-land overlooking the
beautiful winding creek that lay far below us. How to get the
wagons down became a serious problem for the officers.
We were in the foothills of the rough Raton Mountains. The
bluff we were on was steep and rugged.
"Cody," said General Carr, "we're in a nice fix now."
"That's nothing," I replied.
"But you never can take the train down."
"Never mind the train, General. You are looking for a good
camp. How does that valley suit you?"
"That will do," he said. "I can easily descend with the
cavalry, but how to get the wagons down is a puzzler."
"By the time your camp is located the wagons will be there,"
"All right," he returned. "I'll leave it to you, inasmuch as
you seem to want to be the boss." He ordered the command to
dismount and lead the horses down the mountain. When the
wagon-train, which was a mile in the rear, came up, one of the
"How are we going to get down there?"
"Run down, slide down, fall down—any way to get down," I told
"We never can do it," said another wagon-master. "It's too
steep. The wagons will run over the mules."
"Oh, no," I said. "The mules will have to keep out of the
I instructed Wilson, the chief wagon-master, to bring up his
mess-wagon. He drove the wagon to the brink of the bluff.
Following my directions, he brought out extra chains with which
we locked both wheels on each side, and then rough-locked them.
This done, we started the wagons down the hill. The
wheel-horses, or rather the wheel-mules, were good on the hold
back, and we got along beautifully till the wagon had nearly
reached the bottom of the declivity. Then the wagon crowded the
mules so hard that they started on the run and came galloping
down into the valley to the spot General Carr had selected for
his camp. There was not the slightest accident.
Three other wagons followed in the same way. In half an hour
every wagon was in the camp. It was an exciting sight to see the
six-mule teams come almost straight down the mountainside and
finally break into a run. At times it seemed certain that the
wagon must turn a somersault and land on the mules, but nothing
of the kind happened.
Our march proved be a lucky one so far as gaining on Penrose
was concerned. The route he had taken on the west side of the
stream was rough and bad, and with our great wagon-train we made
as many miles in one day as he had in seven.
His command had taken a high table-land whose sides were so
steep that not even a pack mule could make the descent, and he
had been obliged to retrace the trail for a great distance,
losing three days while doing so.
The incident of this particular camp we had selected was an
exciting turkey hunt. We found the trees along the river bank
literally alive with turkeys. After unsaddling the horses, two
or three hundred soldiers surrounded a grove of timber, and
there was a grand turkey round-up. Guns, clubs, and even stones
were used as weapons. Of course, after the hunt we had roast
turkey, boiled turkey, fried turkey, and turkey on toast for our
fare, and in honor of the birds which had provided this treat we
named the place Camp Turkey.
When we left camp we had an easy trail for several days.
Penrose had taken a southerly direction toward the Canadian
River. No Indians were to be seen, nor did we find any signs of
One day, while riding in advance of the command down San
Francisco Creek, I heard some one calling my name from a little
bunch of willow brush on the opposite bank of the stream.
Looking closely at the spot, I saw a colored soldier.
"Sakes alive, Massa Bill, am dat you?" shouted the man, whom
I recognized as a member of the Tenth Cavalry.
"Come out o' heah," I heard him call to someone behind him.
"Heah's Massa Buffalo Bill." Then he sang out to me: "Massa
Bill, is you got any hahdtack?"
"Nary a bit of hardtack, but the wagons will be along
presently, and you can get all you want."
"Dat's de best news Ah's heahd fo' sixteen long days, Massa
"Where's your command? Where's General Penrose?" I demanded.
"Dunno," said the darky. "We got lost, an' we's been starvin'
By this time two other negroes had emerged from their
hiding-place. They had deserted Penrose's command, which was out
of rations and in a starving condition. They were trying to make
their way back to old Fort Lyon. General Carr concluded, from
what they could tell him, that Penrose was somewhere on
Polladora Creek. But nothing definite was to be gleaned from the
starving darkies, for they knew very little themselves.
General Carr was deeply distressed to learn that Penrose and
his men were in such bad shape. He ordered Major Brown to start
out the next morning with two companies of cavalry and fifty
pack mules, loaded with provisions, and to make all possible
speed to reach and relieve the suffering soldiers. I went with
this detachment. On the third day out we found the half-famished
soldiers encamped on the Polladora. The camp presented a pitiful
sight. For over two weeks the men had only quarter rations and
were now nearly starved to death. Over two hundred mules were
lying dead, having succumbed to fatigue and starvation.
Penrose, having no hope that he would be found, had sent back
a company of the Seventh Cavalry to Fort Lyon for supplies. As
yet no word had been heard from them. The rations brought by
Major Brown arrived none too soon. They were the means of saving
Almost the first man I saw after reaching the camp was my
true and tried friend, "Wild Bill." That night we had a jolly
reunion around the campfires.
When General Carr came up with his force, he took command of
all the troops, as he was the senior officer. When a good camp
had been selected he unloaded his wagons and sent them back to
Fort Lyon for supplies. He then picked out five hundred of the
best men and horses, and, taking his pack-train with him,
started south for the Canadian River. The remainder of the
troops were left at the supply camp.
I was ordered to accompany the expedition bound for the
Canadian River. We struck the south fork of this stream at a
point a few miles above the old adobe walls that were once a
fort. Here Kit Carson had had a big Indian fight.
We were now within twelve miles of a new supply depot called
Fort Evans, established for the Third Cavalry and Evans's
expedition from New Mexico.
The scouts who brought this information reported also that
they expected the arrival of a bull-train from New Mexico with a
large quantity of beer for the soldiers.
"Wild Bill" and I determined to "lay" for this beer. That
very evening it came along, and the beer destined for the
soldiers at Fort Evans never reached them. It went straight down
the thirsty throats of General Carr's command.
The Mexicans living near Fort Evans had brewed the beer. They
were taking it to Fort Evans to sell to the troops. But it found
a better market without going so far. It was sold to our boys in
pint cups, and, as the weather was very cold, we warmed it by
putting the ends of our picket pins, heated red-hot, into the
brew before we partook of it. The result was one of the biggest
beer jollifications it has ever been my misfortune to attend.
One evening General Carr summoned me to his tent. He said he
wanted to send some scouts with dispatches to Fort Supply, to be
forwarded from there to General Sheridan. He ordered me to call
the scouts together and to select the men who were to go.
I asked if I were to go, but he replied that he could not
spare me. The distance to Camp Supply was about two hundred
miles. Because of the very cold weather it was sure to be a hard
trip. None of the scouts were at all keen about undertaking it,
but it was finally settled that "Wild Bill," "Little Geary," a
half-breed, and three other scouts should carry the dispatches.
They took their departure the next day with orders to return as
soon, as possible.
We scouted for several days along the Canadian River, finding
no sign of Indians. The general then returned to camp, and soon
our wagon-train returned with provisions from Fort Lyon. Our
animals were in poor condition, so we remained in different
camps along San Francisco Creek and on the North Fork of the
Canadian till "Wild Bill" and his scouts returned from Fort
Among the scouts in Penrose's command were fifteen Mexicans.
Among them and the Americans a bitter feud existed. When Carr
united Penrose's command with his own, and I was made chief of
scouts, this feud grew more intense than ever. The Mexicans
often threatened to "clean us out," but they postponed the
execution of the threat from time to time. At last, however,
when we were all in the sutler's store, the long-expected fight
took place, with the result that the Mexicans were severely
On hearing of the row, General Carr sent for "Wild Bill" and
me. From various reports he had made up his mind that we were
the instigators of the affair. After listening to what we had to
say, however, he decided that the Mexicans were as much to blame
as we were. It is possible that both "Wild Bill" and I had
imbibed a few more drinks than we needed that evening. General
Carr said to me:
"Cody, there are plenty of antelopes in the country. You can
do some hunting while we stay here." After that my time was
spent in the chase, and I had fine success. I killed from twenty
to twenty-five antelopes every day, and the camp was supplied
with fresh meat.
When the horses and mules belonging to the outfit had been
sufficiently recruited to travel, we returned to Fort Lyon,
reaching there in March, 1869. The command recruited and rested
for thirty days before proceeding to the Department of the
Platte, whither it had been ordered.
At my request, General Carr kindly granted me a month's leave
of absence to visit my family in St. Louis. He instructed
Captain Hays, our quartermaster, to let me ride my mule and
horse to Sheridan, 140 miles distant. At Sheridan I was to take
the train for St. Louis.
I was instructed to leave the animals in the quartermaster's
corral at Fort Wallace until I should come back. Instead of
doing this, I put them both in charge of my old friend Perry,
the hotel-keeper at Sheridan.
After twenty days, pleasantly spent with my family at St.
Louis, I returned to Sheridan. There I learned that my horse and
mule had been seized by the Government.
The quartermaster's agent at Sheridan had reported to General
Bankhead, commanding at Fort Wallace, and to Captain Laufer, the
quartermaster, that I had left the country and had sold the
animals to Perry. Laufer took possession of the animals, and
threatened to have Perry arrested for buying Government
property. He refused to pay any attention to Perry's statement
that I would return in a few days, and that the animals had
merely been left in his care.
As soon as I found this out I proceeded to the office of the
quartermaster's agent who had told this lie, and gave him the
thrashing he richly deserved. When I had finished with him he
hastened to the fort, reported what had happened, and returned
with a guard to protect him.
Next morning, securing a horse from Perry, I rode to Fort
Wallace and demanded my horse and mule from General Bankhead. I
told him they were Quartermaster Hays's property and belonged to
General Carr's command, and explained that I had obtained
permission to ride them to Sheridan and return.
General Bankhead gruffly ordered me out of his office and off
the reservation, declaring that if I didn't leave in a hurry he
would have me removed by force.
I told him he might do this and be hanged, using, very
possibly, a stronger expression. That night, while sleeping at
the Perry House, I was awakened by a tap on my shoulder and was
astonished to see the room filled with armed negro soldiers with
their guns all pointed at me. The first word came from the
"Now looka heah, Massa Bill; if you move we'll blow you off
de fahm, suah!" Just then Captain Ezekial entered, and ordered
the soldiers to stand back.
"I'm sorry, Bill," he said, when I demanded to know what this
meant. "But I've been ordered by General Bankhead to arrest you
and bring you to Fort Wallace."
"All right," said I. "But you could have made the arrest
without bringing the whole Thirty-eighth Infantry with you."
"I know that, Bill, but you've not been in a very good humor
the last day or two, and we didn't know how you'd act."
I dressed hurriedly and accompanied the captain to Fort
Wallace. When we reached there at two o'clock in the morning the
"Bill, I'm sorry, but my orders are to put you in the
I told him I did not blame him for carrying out orders, and
was made a guardhouse prisoner for the first and only time in my
life. The sergeant of the guard, who was an old friend from
Captain Graham's company, refused to put me in a cell, kindly
allowing me to sleep in his own bed, and in a few minutes I was
Captain Graham called to see me in the morning. He said it
was a shame to lock me up, and promised to speak to the general
about it. At guard-mount, when I was not summoned, I sent word
to Captain Graham that I wanted to see General Bankhead. He sent
back word that the general refused to have anything to do with
As it was impossible to send word to General Carr, I
determined to send a dispatch direct to General Sheridan. I
wrote out a long telegram, informing him of my difficulty. But
when it was taken to the telegraph office for transmission the
operator refused to send it at once. Instead he showed it to
General Bankhead, who tore it up. When no reply came I went to
the office, accompanied by a guard, and learned from the
operator what he had done.
"See here, my young friend," said I, "this is a public
telegraph line. I want my telegram sent, or there'll be
He knew very well it was his duty to send the dispatch. I
rewrote it and gave it to him, with the money to pay for it. But
before he made any effort to transmit it he called on General
Bankhead and informed him of what I had said. Seeing that the
dispatch would have to go through, the general sent for me.
"If I let you go, sir, will you leave the Post at once and
not bother anyone at Sheridan?" he demanded.
"No, sir," I replied, "I'll do nothing of the kind. I'll
remain in the guardhouse till I get an answer from General
"If I give you your horse and mule will you proceed at once
to Fort Lyon?"
"No, sir; I have some bills to settle at Sheridan and some
other business to transact."
"Well, sir, will you at least promise not to interfere any
further with the quartermaster's agent at Sheridan?"
"I shall not trouble him any more, sir. I have had all I want
General Bankhead thereupon sent for Captain Laufer and
ordered him to turn the horse and mule over to me. In a few
minutes I was on my way to Sheridan, and, having settled my
business there, I proceeded to Fort Lyon, arriving there two
days afterward. I related my adventures to General Carr, Major
Brown, and the other officers, who were highly amused thereby.
When I returned to General Carr's command after my experience
as a prisoner I was informed that the general had been waiting
for me for two weeks.
"I'm glad you've come, Bill," said the general. "While we've
been at this Post a number of valuable animals have been stolen,
as well as many Government horses and mules. We think the
thieves are still near the fort. Fresh tracks have been found
near Fort Lyon. Perhaps Bill Green, the scout who has been up
there, can tell you something about them."
Sending for Green, I found that he had marked the place where
he had lost the trail of the marauders.
Next morning, accompanied by Green, Jack Farley, and another
scout, I set out after the horse-thieves.
While making a circuit about the tracks we had found leading
away from the spot where Green discovered them, we found the
trail of twelve animals—four mules and eight horses—in the edge
of the sandhills.
From this point we had no trouble in trailing them down to
the Arkansas River. This stream they had followed toward Denver,
whither they were undoubtedly bound.
When we got within four miles of Denver we found that the
thieves had passed four days before. I concluded that they had
decided to dispose of the animals in Denver. I was aware that
Saturday was the big auction day there, so we went to a hotel
outside the town to await that day. I was too well known in the
city to show myself there, for the thieves would have taken
alarm had they learned of my presence.
Early Saturday morning we rode into the city and stabled our
animals at the Elephant Corral. I secured a room in a hotel
overlooking the corral, and took up a post of observation. I did
not have to wait long.
A man, whom I recognized at once as Williams, one of our old
packers, rode into the ring, mounted on Lieutenant Forbush's
mule, and leading another Government mule. This mule had been
recently branded, and over the "U.S." a plain "D B" had been
As the man's confederate did not appear I decided he was
outside with the rest of the stolen animals.
When Mr. Forbush's mule was put up at auction I came down to
the corral and walked through the crowd of bidders.
The packer saw me, and tried to get away, but I seized him
firmly by the shoulder.
"I guess, my friend," said I, "that you'll have to go with
me. Make any resistance and I'll shoot you on the spot!"
To the auctioneer and an inquisitive officer I showed my
commission as a United States detective. With Farley and Green,
who were close at hand, I took my prisoner three miles down the
Platte. There we dismounted, and began preparations to hang our
prisoner to a limb. We informed him that he could escape this
fate only by telling us where his partner was hidden.
He at first denied having any partner, but when we gave him
five minutes to live unless he told the truth, he said his pal
was in an unoccupied house three miles farther down the river.
We took up our journey, and, coming in sight of the house,
saw a number of animals grazing near it. As we rode to the door,
another of our old packers, whom I recognized as Bill Bevins,
stepped to the front door. I instantly covered him with my rifle
and ordered him to throw up his hands before he could draw his
Looking through the house, we found saddles, pack-saddles,
lariats, blankets, overcoats, and two Henry rifles. We returned
with the whole outfit to Denver, where we lodged Williams and
Bevins in jail. The next day we tied each man to a mule and
started on the return journey.
At the hotel where we had stopped before making the arrests,
we were joined by our man with the pack mule. That night we
camped on Cherry Creek, seventeen miles from Denver.
It was April, and the weather was cold and stormy. We found a
warm and cozy camping-place in the bend of the creek. We made
our beds in a row—feet to the fire. The prisoners had thus far
been docile and I did not think it necessary to hobble them.
They slept inside, and it was arranged that some one was to be
constantly on guard. About one o'clock in the morning it began
snowing. Shortly before three, Jack Farley, who was on guard,
and sitting at the foot of the bed with his back to the
prisoners, was kicked into the fire by Williams. The next
instant Bevins, who had got hold of his shoes, sprang up, jumped
over the fire, and started away on the run.
As soon as I was enough awake to comprehend what was going on
I sent a shot after him. Williams attempted to follow Bevins,
but as he did so I knocked him down with the butt of my
revolver. Farley had by this time got out of the fire. Green had
started after Bevins, firing at him as he ran, but the thief
made his escape into the brush.
In his flight, unfortunately for him, he dropped one of his
Leaving Williams in charge of Farley and "Long Doc," the man
with the pack mule, Green and I struck out for Bevins. We heard
him breaking through the brush, but, knowing it would be useless
to try to follow him on foot, we went back and saddled two of
the fastest horses. At daylight we struck out on his trail,
which was plainly visible in the snow.
Though he had an hour and a half's start his track lay
through a country covered with prickly pear. We knew that with a
bare foot he could make little progress. We could see, however
by the long jumps he was taking, that he was making excellent
time. Soon the trail became spotted with blood, where the thorns
of the prickly pear had pierced his shoeless foot.
After a run of twelve miles we saw Bevins crossing a ridge
two miles ahead. We reached the ridge just as he was descending
the divide toward the South Platte, which at this point was very
deep and swift.
If he got across the stream he stood a good chance of escape.
We pushed our horses as fast as possible, and when we got within
range I told him to halt or I would shoot. He knew I was a good
shot, and coolly sat down to wait for us.
"Bevins, you gave us a good chase," I said, as we rode up.
"Yes," he returned calmly, "and if I'd had fifteen minutes'
more start and got across the Platte you'd never have caught
Bevins's flight was the most remarkable feat of its kind I
have ever heard of. A man who could run barefooted in the snow
through a prickly-pear patch was surely a "tough one." When I
looked at the man's bleeding foot I really felt sorry for him.
He asked me for my knife, and when I gave it to him he dug the
thorns out of his foot with its sharp point. I consider him the
gamest man I ever met.
I could not suffer a man with such a foot to walk, so I
dismounted, and he rode my horse back to camp, while Green and I
rode the other horse by turns. We kept a close watch on our
prisoner. We had had plenty of proof that he needed it. His
injured foot must have pained him fearfully, but never a word of
complaint escaped him.
After breakfasting we resumed our journey. We had no further
trouble till we reached the Arkansas River, where we found a
vacant cabin and took possession of it for the night.
There was no fear that Bevins would try to escape. His foot
was swollen to a great size, and was useless. Believing that
Williams could not get away from the cabin, we unbound him.
The cabin was comfortably warmed and well-lighted by the
fire. We left "Long Doc" on guard and went to sleep.
At one o'clock Williams asked "Doc" to allow him to step to
the door for a minute. "Doc" had his revolver in hand, and did
not think it necessary to waken us. He granted the request. With
"Doc," revolver in hand, watching him, Williams walked to the
outer edge of the floor. Suddenly he made a spring to the right
and was out of sight in the black darkness before his guard
could even raise his revolver.
"Doc" leaped after him, firing just as he rounded the corner
of the cabin. The report brought us all to our feet. I at once
covered Bevins with my revolver, but, seeing that he could
barely stir, I lowered it.
Then in came "Doc," swearing a blue streak and announcing
that Williams had escaped. Nothing was left us but to gather our
horses close to the cabin and stand guard the rest of the night
to prevent the possibility of our late prisoner sneaking in and
getting away with one of them. This was the last I ever saw or
heard of Williams, but we got back to Fort Lyon with Bevins.
Though we had lost one of our prisoners, General Carr
complimented us on the success of our trip. The next day we took
Bevins to Bogg's Ranch, on Picket Wire Creek, where he was to
await trial. But he never was tried. He made his escape, as I
had expected he would do.
In 1872 I heard that he was at his old tricks on Laramie
Plains. A little later he sent word to me that if he ever met me
he would kill me on sight. Shortly thereafter he was arrested
and convicted for robbery, but made his escape from Laramie City
prison. Later he organized a desperate gang of outlaws which
infested the country north of the Union Pacific. When, the stage
began running between Cheyenne and Deadwood, these outlaws
robbed coaches and passengers, often making big hauls of
plunder. Finally most of the gang were caught, tried, and
convicted, and sent to the penitentiary for a number of years.
Bevins was among the number.
Soon after my return to Fort Lyon, the Fifth Cavalry was
ordered to the Department of the Platte. While we were at Fort
Wallace, getting supplies en route I passed the quarters of
General Bankhead, who had ordered my arrest on the occasion of
my last visit to that Post. The general sent out for me, and as
I entered his office he extended his hand.
"I hope you have no hard feelings for me, Cody," he said. "I
have just had a talk with General Carr and Quartermaster Hays.
If you had told me you had permission to ride that horse and
mule, there would have been no trouble."
"That's all right, General," I said. "I don't believe your
quartermaster's agent will ever circulate any more false stories
"No," said the general; "he hasn't recovered yet from the
beating you gave him."
When the command reached the north fork of the Beaver, I rode
down the valley toward the stream, and discovered a large fresh
Indian trail. I found tracks scattered all over the valley and
on both sides of the creek, as if a large village had recently
passed that way. I estimated there could not be less than four
hundred lodges, or between twenty-five hundred and three
thousand warriors, women, and children in the band.
When I reported my discovery to General Carr, he halted his
regiment, and, after consulting a few minutes, ordered me to
select a ravine, or as low ground as possible, so that the
troops might be kept out of sight of the Indians until we could
strike the creek.
We went into camp on the Beaver. The general ordered
Lieutenant Ward to take twelve men and myself and follow up the
trail for several miles. Our orders were to find out how fast
the Indians were traveling. I soon made up my mind by the
frequency of their camps that they were moving slowly, hunting
as they journeyed.
After we had scouted about twelve miles, keeping our horses
well concealed under the bank of the creek, Ward and I left our
horses and crept to a high knoll where there was a good view for
some distance down-stream. As we looked over the summit of the
hill we saw a whole Indian village, not three miles away.
Thousands of ponies were grazing on the prairie. To our left, on
the opposite side of the creek, two or three parties of Indians
were coming in, laden with buffalo meat.
"This is no place for us, Lieutenant," said I. "I think we
have business at the camp which must be attended to as soon as
"I agree with you," he returned. "The quicker we get there
We came down the hill as fast as we could and joined our men.
Lieutenant Ward hurriedly wrote a note and sent it to General
Carr by a corporal. As the man started away on a gallop Ward
said: "We will march, slowly back until we meet the troops. I
think General Carr will soon be here."
A minute or two later we heard shots in the direction taken
by our courier. Presently he came flying back around the bend of
the creek, with three or four Indians in hot pursuit. The
lieutenant, with his squad of soldiers, charged upon them. They
turned and ran across the stream.
"This will not do," said Ward, when the last redskin had
disappeared. "The whole village will know the soldiers are near
"Lieutenant," said I, "give me that note. I'll take it to the
He gladly handed me the dispatch. Spurring my horse, I dashed
up the creek. Soon I observed another party of Indians returning
to the village with meat. I did not wait for them to attack me,
but sent a shot after them at long range.
In less than an hour I reached the camp and delivered the
dispatch to General Carr. "Boots and Saddles" was sounded, and
all the troops save two companies, which were left to guard the
supply train, were soon galloping toward the Indian camp.
When we had ridden three miles we met Lieutenant Ward. He had
run into a party of Indian hunters. One of their number had been
killed in the encounter, and one of Ward's horses had been
At the end of five miles we came in sight of hundreds of
Indians, advancing up the creek to meet us.
They formed a complete line on our front. General Carr, who
wanted to strike their village, ordered the troops to charge,
break through the line, and keep straight on.
No doubt this movement would have been successfully executed
had it not been for the daredevil, rattle-brained Lieutenant
Schinosky, commanding Company B. Misunderstanding the orders, he
charged on the Indians on the left, while the rest of the
command swept through the line. The main body was keeping
straight on toward the village when it was discovered that
Schinosky and his company were surrounded by five hundred
To save the company, General Carr was forced to order a halt
and hurry back to the rescue. During the short fight Schinosky
had several men and a number of horses killed.
Valuable time had been consumed by the rescue. Night was
coming on. The Indians were fighting desperately to keep us from
reaching their village, whose population, having been informed
by courier of what was going on, was packing up and getting
During the afternoon we had all we could do to hold our own
with the mounted warriors. They stayed stubbornly in our front,
contesting every inch of ground.
The wagon-train, which had been ordered to come up, had not
arrived. Fearful that it had been surrounded, General Carr
ordered the command to return and look for it. We found it at
nine o'clock that night, and went into camp.
Next morning, when we moved down the creek, not an Indian was
to be seen. Village and all, they had disappeared. Two miles
down the stream we came to a spot where the village had been
located. Here we found many articles which had been left in the
hurry of flight. These we gathered up and burned.
The trail, which we followed as rapidly as possible, led
northeast toward the Republican River. On reaching that stream a
halt was ordered. Next morning at daylight we again pulled out.
We gained rapidly on the Indians, and could occasionally see
them from a distance.
About eleven o 'clock that morning, while Major Babcock was
ahead with his company, and as we were crossing a deep ravine,
we were surprised by perhaps three hundred warriors. They at
once began a lively fire. Our men galloped out of the ravine to
the rough prairie and returned it. We soon succeeded in driving
the enemy before us. At one time we were so close upon them that
they threw away most of their lodges and camp equipment, and
left their played-out horses behind them. For miles we could see
Indian furniture strewn in all directions.
Soon they scattered into small bodies, dividing the trail. At
night our horses began to give out, and a halt was called. A
company was detailed to collect all the loose Indian ponies, and
to burn the abandoned camp equipment.
We were now nearly out of rations. I was sent for supplies to
the nearest supply point, old Fort Kearney, sixty miles distant.
Shortly after this the command reached Fort McPherson, which
for some time thereafter continued to be the headquarters of the
Fifth Cavalry. We remained there for ten days, fitting out for a
new expedition. We were reënforced by three companies of the
celebrated Pawnee Indian Scouts, commanded by Major Frank North.
At General Carr's recommendation I was now made chief of scouts
in the Department of the Platte, with better pay. I had not
sought this position.
I became a firm friend of Major North and his officers from
the start. The scouts had made a good reputation for themselves.
They had performed brave and valuable services in fighting
against the Sioux, whose bitter enemies they were. During our
stay at Fort McPherson I made the acquaintance of Lieutenant
George P. Belden, known as "The White Chief." His life has been
written by Colonel Brisbin, of the army. Belden was a dashing
rider and an excellent shot. An hour after our introduction he
challenged me to a rifle match, which was at once arranged.
We were to shoot ten shots each at two hundred yards for
fifty dollars a side. Belden was to use a Henry rifle. I was to
shoot my old "Lucretia." This match I won. Belden at once
proposed another, a hundred-yard match, as I was shooting over
his distance. This he won. We were now even, and we stopped
While we were at Fort McPherson, General Augur and
Brevet-Brigadier-General Thomas Duncan, colonel of the Fifth
Cavalry, paid us a visit for the purpose of reviewing our
command. The men turned out in fine style, and showed themselves
to be well-drilled soldiers. Next the Pawnee scouts were
reviewed. It was amusing to see them in their full uniform. They
had been supplied with the regular cavalry uniform, but on this
occasion some of them had heavy overcoats, others large black
hats with all the brass accoutrements attached; some were minus
trousers and wore only breech-clouts. Some had regulation
pantaloons, but only shirts. Part of them had cut the breech of
their pantaloons away, leaving only the leggings. Still others
had big brass spurs, but wore no boots nor moccasins.
But they understood the drill remarkably well for Indians.
The commands were given them by Major North, who spoke their
tongue as readily as any full-blooded Pawnee. They were well
mounted, and felt proud of the fact that they were regular
United States soldiers. That evening after the drill many ladies
attended the dance of the Indians. Of all savages I have ever
seen, the Pawnees are the most accomplished dancers.
Our command set out on the trail the next day. Shortly
afterward, when we were encamped on the Republican River near
the mouth of the Beaver, we heard the yells of Indians, followed
by shots, in the vicinity of our mule herd, which had been
driven down to water.
Presently one of the herders, with an arrow still quivering
in his flesh, came dashing into the camp.
My horse was close at hand. Mounting him bareback, I galloped
after the mule herd, which had been stampeded. I supposed that I
would be the first man on the scene. But I found I was mistaken.
The Pawnee scouts, unlike regular soldiers, had not waited for
the formality of orders from their officers. Jumping their
ponies bareback and putting ropes in the animals' mouths, they
had hurried to the place from which the shots came and got there
before I did.
The marauders proved to be a party of fifty or more Sioux,
who had endeavored to stampede our animals. They were painfully
surprised to find their inveterate enemies, the Pawnees, coming
toward them at full gallop. They had no idea the Pawnees were
with the command. They knew that it would take regular soldiers
a few minutes to turn out, and fancied they would have plenty of
time to stampede the herd and get away.
In a running fight of fifteen or twenty miles several of the
Sioux were killed. I was mounted on an excellent horse Colonel
Royal had selected for me. For the first mile or two I was in
advance of the Pawnees. Soon a Pawnee shot past me. I could not
help admiring the horse he was riding. I determined that if
possible that horse should be mine. He was a big buckskin, or
yellow horse. I took a careful look at him, so as to recognize
him when we got back to camp.
After the chase was over I rode over to Major North and asked
him about the animal. I was told that he was one of the favorite
steeds of the command.
"What chance is there to trade for him?" I asked.
"It is a Government horse," replied the Major. "The Indian
who rides him is very much attached to him."
I told Major North I had fallen in love with the horse, and
asked if he had any objections to my trying to secure him. He
replied that he had not. A few days later, after making the
Indian several presents, I persuaded him to trade horses with
me. In this way I became possessed of the buckskin, although he
still remained Government property. I named him Buckskin Joe,
and he proved to be a second Brigham.
I rode him during the summers of '69, '70, '71, and '72. He
was the horse ridden by the Grand Duke Alexis on his buffalo
hunt. In the winter of '72, after I had left Fort McPherson,
Buckskin Joe was condemned and sold at public sale to Dave Perry
at North Platte. In 1877 he presented him to me. He remained on
my ranch on the Dismal River for many years, stone blind, until
At the end of twenty days, after a few unimportant running
fights, we found ourselves back to the Republican River.
Hitherto the Pawnee scouts had not taken much interest in me.
But while at the camp I gained their respect and admiration by
showing them how to kill buffaloes. Though they were excellent
buffalo killers, for Indians, I had never seen them kill more
than four or five animals in one run. A number of them would
surround a herd and dash in on it, each one killing from one to
four buffaloes. I had gone out in company with Major North, and
watched them make a "surround." Twenty Pawnees, circling a herd,
killed thirty-two buffaloes.
As they were cutting up the animals, another herd appeared.
The Pawnees were getting ready to surround it, when I asked
Major North to keep them back to let me show them what I could
do. He did as I requested. I knew Buckskin Joe was a good
buffalo horse, and, feeling confident that I would astonish the
Indians, I galloped in among the herd. I did astonish them. In
less than a half-mile run I dropped thirty-six, killing a
buffalo at nearly every shot. The dead animals were strung out
over the prairie less than fifty feet apart. This manner of
killing greatly pleased the Indians. They called me "Big Chief,"
and thereafter I had a high place in their esteem.
We soon left the camp and took a westward course up the
Republican River. Major North, with two companies of his
Pawnees, and Colonel Royal, with two or three companies of
cavalry, made a scout north of the river.
After making camp on the Blacktail Deer Fork we observed a
band of Indians coming over the prairie at full gallop, singing
and yelling and waving their lances and long poles. We first
supposed them to be the hostile Sioux, and for a few moments all
was excitement. But the Pawnees, to our surprise, made no effort
to go out to attack them. Presently they began singing
themselves. Major North walked over to General Carr and said:
"General, those are our men. They had had a fight. That is
the way they act when they come back from battle with captured
The Pawnees came into camp on the run. We soon learned that
they had run across a party of Sioux who were following a big
Indian trail. The Sioux had evidently been in a fight. Two or
three had been wounded, and were being carried by the others.
The Pawnees "jumped" them, and killed three or four of their
Next morning our command came up to the Indian trail where
the Sioux had been found. We followed it for several days. From
the number of campfires we passed we could see that we were
gaining on the Sioux.
Wherever they had camped we found the print of a woman's
shoe. This made us all the more eager to overtake them, for it
was plain that they had a white woman as their captive.
All the best horses were selected by the general, and orders
were given for a forced march. The wagon-train was to follow as
rapidly as possible, while the command pushed on ahead.
I was ordered to pick out five or six of the best Pawnees and
proceed in advance of the command, keeping ten or twelve miles
ahead, so that when the Indians were overtaken we could learn
the location of their camp, and give the troops the required
information in time to plan an effective attack.
When we were ten miles in advance of the regiment we began to
move cautiously. We looked carefully over the summits of the
hills before exposing ourselves to observation from the front.
At last we made out the village, encamped in the sandhills south
of the South Platte River at Summit Springs.
Here I left the Pawnees to watch, while I rode back to the
command and informed General Carr that the Indians were in
The men were immediately ordered to tighten their saddles and
otherwise to prepare for action. I changed my horse for old
Buckskin Joe. He had been led for me up to this time, and was
comparatively fresh. Acting on my suggestion, General Carr made
a circuit to the north. I knew that if the Indians had scouts
out they would naturally watch in the direction whence they had
come. When we had passed the camp, and were between it and the
river, we turned and started back.
By this maneuver we avoided detection by the Sioux scouts.
The general kept the command wholly out of sight until within a
mile of the village. Then the advance guard was halted till all
the soldiers caught up. Orders were issued that at the sound of
the charge the whole command was to rush into the village.
As we halted on the summit of the hill overlooking the still
unsuspecting Sioux, General Carr called to his bugler:
"Sound the charge!"
The bugler, in his excitement, forgot the notes of the call.
Again the general ordered "Sound the charge!" and again the
musician was unable to obey the command.
Quartermaster Hays, who had obtained permission to join the
command, comprehended the plight of the bugler. Rushing up to
him, he seized the bugle, and sounded the call himself, in
clear, distinct tones. As the troops rushed forward he threw the
bugle away, and, drawing his pistol, was among the first to
enter the village. The Indians had just driven up their horses
and were preparing to move camp when they saw the soldiers.
Many of them jumped on their ponies, and, leaving everything
behind them, advanced to meet the attack. On second thought,
however, they decided it would be useless to resist. Those who
were mounted rode away, while those on foot fled for the
neighboring hills. We charged through their village, shooting
right and left at everything we saw. Pawnees, officers, and
regular soldiers were all mixed together, while the Sioux went
flying away in every direction.
The general had instructed the soldiers to keep a sharp
look-out for white women when they entered the village. Two were
soon found. One of them was wounded, and the other had just been
killed. Both were Swedes, and the survivor could not speak
A Swedish soldier was soon found to act as interpreter. The
woman's name was Weichel. She said that as soon as the Indians
saw the troops coming, a squaw, the wife of Tall Bull, had
killed Mrs. Alerdice, her companion in captivity, with a
hatchet. The infuriated squaw had attacked Mrs. Weichel,
wounding her. The purpose of the squaw was apparently to prevent
both women from telling the soldiers how cruelly they had been
The attack lasted but a little while. The Indians were driven
several miles away. The soldiers gathered in the herd of Indian
horses, which was running wild over the prairie, and drove the
animals back into camp. After a survey of our work we found we
had killed about one hundred and forty Indians and captured one
hundred and twenty squaws and papooses, two hundred lodges, and
eight hundred horses and mules.
General Carr ordered that all the tepees, lodges, buffalo
robes, camp equipage, and provisions, including a large quantity
of buffalo meat, should be gathered and burned. Mrs. Alerdice,
the murdered Swedish captive, was buried. Captain Kane read the
burial service, as we had no chaplain with us. While this was
going on, the Sioux warriors recovered from their panic and came
back to give us battle. All around the attack a fight began. I
was on the skirmish line, and noticed an Indian who was riding a
large bay horse, and giving orders to his men in his own
I could understand part of what he said. He was telling them
that they had lost everything and were ruined, and was
entreating them to follow him until they died. The horse this
chief was riding was extremely fleet. I determined to capture
him if possible, but I was afraid to fire at the rider lest I
kill the horse.
Often the Indian, as he rode around the skirmish line, passed
the head of a ravine. It occurred to me that if I dismounted and
crept up the ravine, I could, as he passed, easily drop him from
the saddle with no fear of hitting the horse. Accordingly I
crept into the ravine and secreted myself there to wait till Mr.
Chief came riding by.
When he was not more than thirty yards away I fired. The next
instant he tumbled from the saddle, and the horse kept on his
way without a rider. Instead of running back to the Indians, he
galloped toward the soldiers, by one of whom he was caught.
Lieutenant Mason, who had been very conspicuous in the fight
and had killed two or three Indians himself, came galloping up
the ravine, and, jumping from his horse, secured the elaborate
war-bonnet from the head of the dead chief, together with all
his other accoutrements.
We both rejoined the soldiers. I started in search of the
horse, and found him in the possession of Sergeant McGrath, who
had captured him. McGrath knew that I had been trying to get the
horse, and he had seen me kill its rider. He handed the animal
over to me at once. I little thought at the time that I had
captured the fastest running horse west of the Missouri River,
but this later proved to be the fact.
Late that evening our wagon-train arrived. Mrs. Weichel, the
wounded woman, had been carefully attended by the surgeons, and
we placed her in the ambulance. Gathering up the prisoners,
squaws, and papooses, we set out for the South Platte River,
eight miles distant, where we went into camp.
Next morning, by order of General Carr, all the money found
in the village was turned over to the adjutant. Above two
thousand dollars was collected, and the entire amount was given
to Mrs. Weichel.
The command now proceeded to Fort Sedgwick, from which point
the particulars of our fight, which took place Sunday, July 11,
1869, was telegraphed to all parts of the country.
During our two weeks' stay at this Post, General Augur, of
the Department of the Platte, made us a visit, and complimented
the command highly on the gallant service it had performed. Tall
Bull and his Indians had long been a terror to the border
settlements. For their crushing defeat, and the killing of the
chief, General Carr and the command were complimented in General
Mrs. Weichel was cared for in the Post hospital. After her
recovery she married the hospital steward. Her former husband
had been killed by the Indians. Our prisoners were sent to the
Whetstone Agency, on the Missouri, where Spotted Tail and the
friendly Sioux were then living. The captured horses and mules
were distributed among the officers and soldiers.
Among the animals which I thus obtained were my Tall Bull
horse and a pony which I called Powder Face. This animal figured
afterward in the stories of "Ned Buntline," and became famous.
One day, while we were waiting at Fort McPherson, General
Carr received a telegram announcing that the Indians had made a
dash on the Union Pacific, killing several section men and
running off stock of O'Fallen's Station. An expedition was going
out of Fort McPherson to catch and punish the redskins if
I was ordered by General Carr to accompany this expedition.
That night I proceeded by rail to Fort McPherson Station, and
from there rode horseback to the fort. Two companies, under
command of Major Brown, had been ordered out. Next morning, as
we were about to start, Major Brown said to me:
"By the way, Cody, we're going to have a character with us on
this scout. It's old 'Ned Buntline,' the novelist."
At the same time I saw a stoutly built man near by who wore a
blue military coat. On his breast were pinned perhaps twenty
badges of secret societies and gold medals. He limped a little
as he approached me, and I concluded that this must be the
"He has a good mark to shoot at on his left breast," I said
to Brown, "but he looks like a soldier." I was introduced to him
by his real name, which was Colonel E.Z.C. Judson.
"I was to deliver a temperance lecture tonight," said my new
acquaintance, "but no lecture for me when there is a prospect of
a fight. The major has offered me a horse, but I don't know how
I shall stand the ride."
I assured him that he would soon feel at home in the saddle,
and we set out. The command headed for the North Platte, which
had been swollen by mountain rains. In crossing we had to swim
our horses. Buntline was the first man across.
We reached O'Fallen's Station at eleven o'clock. In a short
time I succeeded in finding an Indian trail. The party of
Indians, which had come up from the south, seemed to be a small
one. We followed the track of the Indians, to the North Platte,
but they had a start of two days. Major Brown soon abandoned the
pursuit, and returned to Fort Sedgwick. During this short scout,
Buntline had plied me with questions. He was anxious to go out
on the next scout with me.
By this time I had learned that my horse, Tall Bull, was a
remarkably fast runner. Therefore, when Lieutenant Mason, who
owned a racer, challenged me to a race, I immediately accepted.
We were to run our horses a single dash of a half mile for five
hundred dollars a side.
Several of the officers, as well as Rube Wood, the
post-trader, offered to make side bets with me. I took them up
until I had my last cent on Tall Bull.
I saw from the start that it would be easy to beat the
lieutenant's horse, and kept Tall Bull in check, so that no one
might know how fast he really was. I won easily, and pocketed a
snug sum. Everybody was now talking horse race. Major Brown said
that if Tall Bull could beat the Pawnees' fast horse, I could
break his whole command.
The next day all the troops were paid off, including the
Pawnees. For two or three days our Indian allies did nothing but
run horses, as all the lately captured animals had to be tested
to determine which was the swiftest. Finally the Pawnees offered
to run their favorite against Tall Bull. They raised three
hundred dollars to bet on their horse, and I covered the money.
In addition I took numerous side bets. The race was a single
dash of a mile. Tall Bull won without any trouble, and I was
ahead on this race about seven hundred dollars.
I also got up a race for my pony, Powder Face, against a fast
pony belonging to Major Lute North, of the Pawnee Scouts. I
selected a small boy living at the Post for a jockey, Major
North rode his own pony. The Pawnees, as usual, wanted to bet on
their pony, but as I had not yet ascertained the running
qualities of Powder Face I did not care to risk much on him. Had
I known him as well as I did afterward I would have backed him
with every cent I had. He proved to be one of the swiftest
ponies I ever saw, and had evidently been kept as a racer.
The dash between the ponies was to be four hundred yards.
When I led Powder Face over the course he seemed to understand
what he was there for. North was on his pony; my boy was up. I
had all I could do to hold the fiery little fellow back. He was
so lively on his feet that I feared his young rider might not be
able to stick on his back.
At last the order to start was given by the judges. I brought
Powder Face up to the score, and the word "Go!" was given. So
swiftly did he jump away that he left his rider sitting on the
ground. Nevertheless he went through and won the race without a
rider. It was an easy victory, and after that I could get no
General Carr having obtained a leave of absence, Colonel
Royal was given command of an expedition that was ordered to go
out after the Indians. In a few days we set out for the
Republican, where, we had learned, there were plenty of Indians.
At Frenchman's Fork we discovered a village, but did not
surprise it, for the Indians had seen us approaching and were in
retreat as we reached their camping-place.
We chased them down-stream and through the sandhills, but
they made better time than we did, and the pursuit was
While we were in the sandhills, scouting the Niobrara
country, the Pawnee Indians brought into camp some very large
bones, one of which the surgeon of the expedition pronounced to
be the thigh bone of a human being. The Indians said the bones
were those of a race of people who long ago had lived in that
country. They said these people were three times the size of a
man of the present day, that they were so swift and strong that
they could run by the side of a buffalo, and, taking the animal
in one arm, could tear off a leg and eat it as they ran.
These giants, said the Indians, denied the existence of a
Great Spirit. When they heard the thunder or saw the lightning,
they laughed and declared that they were greater than either.
This so displeased the Great Spirit that he caused a deluge. The
water rose higher and higher till it drove these proud giants
from the low grounds to the hills and thence to the mountains.
At last even the mountaintops were submerged and the mammoth men
After the flood subsided, the Great Spirit came to the
conclusion that he had made men too large and powerful. He
therefore corrected his mistake by creating a race of the size
and strength of the men of the present day. This is the reason,
the Indians told us, that the man of modern times is small and
not like the giants of old. The story has been handed down among
the Pawnees for generations, but what is its origin no man can
One morning, in the spring of 1870, a band of horse-stealing
Indians raided four ranches near the mouth of Fremont Creek, on
the North Platte. After scooping up horses from these ranches
they proceeded to the Fort McPherson herd, which was grazing
above the Post, and took about forty Government animals. Among
these was my favorite little pony, Powder Face.
When the alarm was given, "Boots and Saddles" was sounded. I
always kept one of my best horses by me, and was ready for any
surprise. The horse that I saddled that day was Buckskin Joe.
As I galloped for the herd, I saw the Indians kill two of the
herders. Then, circling all the horses toward the west, they
disappeared over a range of hills. I hurried back to the camp
and told the general that I knew where to pick up the trail.
Company I, commanded by a little red-headed chap—Lieutenant Earl
D. Thomas—was the first to report, mounted, at the adjutant's
office. Thomas had but lately graduated from West Point.
His sole instructions were: "Follow Cody and be off quick."
As he rode away General Emory called after him: "I will support
you with more troops as fast as they are saddled."
The lieutenant followed me on the run to the spot where I saw
the Indians disappear. Though the redskins had an hour and a
half start on us, we followed them, on a gallop, till we could
see that they had begun to drive their horses in a circle, and
then in one direction after another, making the trail uncertain.
It was getting dark, but I succeeded in keeping on some of the
All that night the Indians endeavored, by scattering their
horses, to throw us off the trail. At three o'clock in the
morning I made up my mind that they were traveling for the
headwaters of Medicine Creek, and headed straight in that
We found that they had reached the creek, but remained there
only long enough to water their horses. Then they struck off to
the southwest. I informed Lieutenant Thomas that the next water
was at the Springs at the head of Red Willow Creek, thirty-five
miles away. The Indians, I said, would stop there.
Thomas's men had not had time to bring so much as their coats
with them. At the alarm they grabbed their sidearms and carbines
and ammunition belts, and leaped into their saddles. None of us
had had anything to eat since dinner the day before. In the
whole outfit there was not a canteen in which to carry water.
I notified Thomas that he must decide whether the troop was
to undergo the terrible hardship of riding a whole day without
food or water, on the chance of overtaking the Indians and
getting their rations and supplies away from them. He replied
that the only instructions he had received from General Emory
were to follow me. I said that if it were left to me, I would
follow the Indians.
"You have heard Cody," said Thomas to his men. "Now, I would
like to hear what you men think about it."
Through their first sergeant they said they had followed Cody
on many a long trail, and were willing to follow him to the end
of this one. So the order to mount was given, and the trail was
taken up. Several times that day we found the Indians had
resorted to their old tactics of going in different directions.
They split the herd of horses in bunches, and scattered them. It
was very hard to trail them at good speed.
Forty hours without food, and twelve hours without water, we
halted for a council when darkness set in.
I told Thomas that when we got within three miles of the
Springs the men could rest their horses and get a little sleep,
while I pushed on ahead to look for the Indians. This was done.
When we reached the spot I had designated the saddles were
removed, so that the horses could graze and roll. I rode on
As I had suspected I should, I found the Indians encamped at
the Springs with the stock grazing around them. As quickly as
possible I got back to the command with my news. The horses were
quietly saddled and we proceeded, seldom speaking or making any
As we rode along I gave the lieutenant and first sergeant the
description of the camp and suggested that it could be best
approached just at daylight. We had but forty-one men. Ten of
these, I said, should be detailed to take charge of the herd,
while the lieutenant and I charged the camp.
The Indians were encamped on a little knoll, around which was
miry ground, making a cavalry charge difficult. The Indians
numbered as many as we did. The safest plan was to dismount some
of the men, leaving others to hold the horses, and proceed to
the attack on foot. The rest of the men were to remain with
their horses, and get through, the marshy ground mounted, if
A halt was called, and this was explained to the men. It
didn't take them long to understand. We approached very
cautiously till we got within a quarter of a mile of the
Indians. Then the charge was sounded. We did not find the land
as miry as we had supposed. Dashing in among the Indians, we
completely surprised them. Most of them grabbed the guns, with
which they always slept, and fled to the marsh below the camp.
Others ran for their horses. It was fortunate that we had
dismounted ten men. These were able to follow the Indians who
had escaped to marsh.
When we made the charge my chief thought was to keep a
lookout for my pony, Powder Pace. Soon I saw an Indian, mounted
on him, making his escape. I rushed through the camp, shooting
to the left and right, but keeping a beeline after Powder Face
and his rider. Soon another Indian who was afoot leaped up
behind Powder Face's rider. I knew that the little animal was
very swift for a short distance, but that he would be badly
handicapped by the weight of two men.
I realized that my old Buckskin Joe was tired but his staying
qualities were such that I was sure he would overtake Powder
Face, carrying double weight.
Though I was not a hundred yards behind the object of my
pursuit when the second Indian mounted I was afraid to shoot. It
was not yet quite daylight. I feared to fire lest I hit my
beloved pony. For two miles I followed through the sandhills
before I dared to use my rifle.
The Indian riding at the rear had a revolver with which he
kept banging away, but I paid little attention to him. I knew a
man shooting behind with a pistol was likely to hit nothing but
air. At last I took a steady aim while old Joe was running
smoothly. The bullet not only hit the rear man, but passed
through him and killed the man in front.
They both fell. I took another shot to make sure they were
not playing 'possum. As they fell, Powder Face stopped and
looked around, to learn what it was all about. I called to him,
and he came up to me.
Both Indians were wearing beautiful war-bonnets, of which I
took possession, as well as of their fancy trappings. Then,
taking Powder Face by the rope, I led him back to the Springs to
see how the lieutenant had made out.
The herd of horses was held and surrounded by a few soldiers.
The rest were still popping at the Indians. But most of the
redskins were either hidden among the marshes, or had got clear
away to the surrounding hills.
I found the lieutenant, and told him I thought we had
accomplished all that was possible. The orderly sounded the
recall. I have never seen a muddier set of boys than those who
came out of the marsh and began rummaging around the Indian
camp. We soon discovered two or three hundred pounds of dried
meat—buffalo, deer, and antelope, also a little coffee and sugar
and an old kettle and tin cups which the Indians had used.
All the men by this time had all the water they wanted. Each
was chewing a piece of dried meat. Pickets were posted to
prevent a surprise. Soon coffee was ready. In a short time
everybody was filled up, and I told Thomas we had better be
getting out of there.
Many of the men began saddling the stolen horses, so as to
rest their own. The lieutenant was eager to remain and rest
until the reënforcements that General Emory had promised should
"Your orders were to follow me, weren't they?" I asked.
"Well, then, keep on following me, and you'll soon see the
reason for getting out of here."
"All right," he agreed. "I've heard the general say that in a
tight place your directions should always be followed."
With most of the men driving the captured horses we started
for Fort McPherson. I didn't take the trail that we had followed
in. I knew of a shorter route, and besides, I didn't want to
meet the support that was coming. I knew the officer in command,
and was sure that if he came up he would take all the glory of
the capture away from Lieutenant Thomas. Naturally I wanted all
the credit for Thomas and myself as we were entitled to.
The soldiers that had been sent out after us found and
destroyed the village, but we did not meet them. They discovered
seven or eight dead Indians, and there were a few more down in
the marsh which they overlooked. The major in command sent out
scouts to find our trail. Texas Jack, who was on this duty,
returned and reported that he had found it, and that we were
going back to the fort by another route.
The major said: "That's another of those tricks of Cody's. He
will guide Thomas back and he will get all the glory before I
can overtake him."
We rode into Fort McPherson about six o'clock that evening. I
told Thomas to make his report immediately, which he did.
General Emory complimented him highly, and Thomas generously
said that all he did was to obey orders and follow Cody. A
report was made to General Sheridan, and the next day that
officer wired Thomas his congratulations.
The next day the command that was sent out after us returned
to the fort. The major was hotter than a wounded coyote. He told
the general that it was all my fault, and that he did not
propose to be treated in any such manner by any scout, even if
it were General Sheridan's pet, Buffalo Bill. He was told by the
general that the less he said about the matter the better it
would be for him. This was Lieutenant Thomas's first raid, and
he was highly elated with its success. He hoped he would be
mentioned for it in Special Orders, and sure enough, when the
Special Orders came along both he and myself, together with the
little command, received complimentary mention. This Thomas
richly deserved, for he was a brave, energetic, and dashing
officer. I gave him the two war-bonnets I had taken from the
Indians I shot from the back of Powder Face, asking that he
present them to the daughters of General Augur, who were then
visiting the Post.
Shortly after our return another expedition was organized,
with the Republican River country as its destination. It was
commanded by General Duncan, a blusterer, but a jolly old
fellow. The officers who knew him well said we would have a fine
time, as he was very fond of hunting. He was a good fighter. It
was rumored that an Indian's bullet could never hurt him. A
cannon-ball, according to report, had hit him in the head
without injuring him at all, while another cannon-ball, glancing
off his skull, had instantly killed one of the toughest mules in
The Pawnee scouts, who had been mustered out of service
during the winter of 1869 and '70, were reorganized to accompany
this expedition. I was glad of this. I had become very much
attached to Major North, one of the officers, and to many of the
Indians. Beside myself the only white scout we had in the Post
at this time was John Y. Nelson, whose Indian name was
Cha-Sha-Cha-Opeyse, or Red-Willow-Fill-the-Pipe. The man was a
character. He had a squaw wife and a half-breed family. He was a
good fellow, but had few equals and no superiors as a liar.
With the regimental band playing "The Girl I Left Behind Me"
we started out from the Post. A short march brought us to the
head of Fox Creek, where we camped. Next morning General Duncan
sent me word that I was to bring my rifle and shoot at a mark
with him. I did not feel like shooting at anything except
myself, for the night before I had been interviewing the
sutler's store, in company with Major Brown. When I looked for
my gun, I found that I had left it behind me. I got cold
consolation from Major Brown when I informed him of my loss.
Then I told him that the general had sent for me to shoot a
match with him, and that if the old man discovered my
predicament there would be trouble.
"Well, Cody," said the major, "the best thing you can do is
to make some excuse, and then go and borrow a gun from one of
the men. Tell the general you loaned your rifle to someone for a
hunt. While you are gone I will send back to the Post for it."
I got a gun from John Nelson, and marched to the general's
headquarters, where I shot the match. It resulted in his favor.
General Duncan, who had never before commanded the Pawnee
Scouts, confused them by posting the guards in a manner that was
new to them. Furthermore, he insisted that the guards should
call the hours through the night: "Nine o'clock and all is
well," etc., giving the numbers of their posts. Few of the
scouts understood English. They were greatly troubled.
Major North explained to them that when the man on the post
nearest them called the hour, they must repeat the call as
closely as they could. It was highly amusing to hear them do
this. They would try to remember what the man on the next post
had said. For example, when a white soldier called out "Post
Number One, Half-past Nine and all is well!" the Indians would
cry out "Poss Number half-pass five cents go to h—l I don't
care." So ridiculous were their efforts to repeat the calls,
that the general finally gave it up and countermanded the order.
One day, after an uneventful march, Major North and I went
out on Prairie Dog Creek in advance of the command to kill some
buffaloes. Night was approaching, and we looked about for a
suitable camping-place for the soldiers. Major North dismounted
and was resting, while I rode down to the creek to see if there
was plenty of grass in the vicinity.
I found an excellent camping spot, and told North I would
ride over the hill a little way, so that the advance guard might
see me. This I did, and when the advance guard came in sight I
dismounted and lay down upon the grass to rest.
Suddenly I heard three or four shots. In a moment Major North
came dashing toward me, pursued by eight or ten Indians. I at
once sprang to the saddle and sent several shots toward the
Indians, fifty or more of whom were now in sight. Then, we
turned our horses and ran.
The bullets sang after us. My whip was shot from my hand, and
the daylight was let through the crown of my hat. We were in
close quarters, when Lieutenant Valknar, with several men, came
galloping to our relief. The Indians, discovering them, whirled
As soon as Major North sighted his Pawnees he began riding in
a circle, which was the signal to them that there were hostile
Indians in front. In an instant they broke ranks pell-mell, with
the major at their head, and went after the flying warriors.
The second day that we had been following the Indians we came
upon an old squaw who had been left on the prairie to die. Her
people had built for her a little shade or lodge, and had given
her some provisions—enough to last her trip to the Happy
Hunting-Grounds. This is often done by the Indians when an enemy
is in pursuit and one of their number becomes too feeble to keep
pace with the flight.
Our scout, John Nelson, recognized the squaw as a relative of
his Indian wife. From her we learned that the redskins we were
pursuing were known as the Pawnee Killer band. They had lately
killed Buck's surveying party, consisting of eight or nine men.
This massacre had occurred a few days before on Beaver Creek. We
had found a number of surveying instruments in the abandoned
camp, and knew therefore that the Indians had had a fight with
white men. After driving the Indians across the Platte we
returned to Fort McPherson, bringing with us the old squaw, who
was sent to the Spotted Tail Agency.
During my absence my wife had given birth to a son. Though he
was several weeks old when I returned no name had been given
him. I called him Elmo Judson, in honor of Colonel Judson, whose
pen name was "Ned Buntline." But the officers insisted upon
calling him Kit Carson Cody and it was finally settled that this
should be his name.
Shortly after my return I received orders instructing me to
accompany Professor Marsh on a fossil-hunting expedition into
the rough lands of the Big Horn Basin. The party was to consist
of a number of scientists besides Professor Marsh, together with
twenty-five students from Yale, which institution was sending
out the expedition.
I was to get together thirty-five saddle-horses for the
party. The quartermaster arranged for the transportation, pack
mules, etc. But General Sheridan, under whose direction the
scientists were proceeding, always believed in my ability to
select good horses from a quartermaster's herd.
In a few days Professor Marsh and his companions arrived. The
Pawnee Scouts, then in camp, had a year before unearthed some
immense fossil bones, so it was decided that Major North, with a
few of these scouts, should also accompany the expedition.
Professor Marsh had heard of this discovery, and was eager to
find some of the same kind of fossils.
Professor Marsh believed that the Basin would be among the
last of the Western lands to be settled. The mountain wall which
surrounded it would turn aside pioneers going to Montana or
northern Oregon. These would head to the east of Big Horn
Mountains, while those bound for Utah, Idaho, and California
would go to the south side of the Wind River Mountains. He was
confident, however, that some day the Basin would be settled and
developed, and that in its fertile valleys would be found the
most prosperous people in the world. It was there that my
interest in the great possibilities of the West was aroused.
I never forgot what I heard around the campfire. In 1894 the
Carey Irrigation Act was passed by Congress. A million acres of
land was given to each of the arid States. I was the first man
to receive a concession of two hundred thousand acres from the
Wyoming State Land Board.
I could not get away to the Basin till late in the autumn of
1894, so I formed a partnership with George T. Beck, who
proceeded to Wyoming, where he was found by Professor Elwood
Mead, then in the service of the State. There a site was located
and the line of an irrigation canal was surveyed.
A town was laid out along the canal, and my friends insisted
upon naming it Cody. At this time there was no railroad in the
Big Horn Basin; but shortly afterward the Burlington sent a spur
out from its main line, with Cody as its terminus. In 1896 I
went out on a scout to locate the route of a wagon road from
Cody into the Yellowstone Park. This was during Mr. McKinley's
I went to Washington, saw the President, and explained to him
the possibilities of a road of eighty miles, the only one
entering the National Park from the East. It would be, I told
him, the most wonderful scenic road in the West. Mr. Roosevelt
ordered the building of this road, which has now become the
favorite automobile route into the Park. Today the Big Horn
Basin is one of the richest of American oil lands, and the
Pennsylvania of the West for coal production. Every one of the
prophecies that Professor Marsh made to us around that campfire
has come true.
In December, 1870, I was sent as a witness to Fort D.A.
Russell, near the city of Cheyenne, where a court-martial was to
be held. Before leaving home my wife had given me a list of
articles she needed for the furnishing of our house. These I
promised to purchase in Cheyenne.
On arriving at Fort Russell I found many officers, also
witnesses at the court-martial, and put in most of my time with
them. A postponement of a week gave us an opportunity to "do"
Cheyenne. That town furnished abundant opportunities for
entertainment, as there was every kind of game in operation,
from roulette to horse-racing. I sent for my horse, Tall Bull,
and a big race was arranged between him and a Cheyenne favorite
called Green's Colt. But before Tall Bull could arrive the
court-martial was over and the race was off. I sold the animal
to Lieutenant Mason. I met many old friends in Cheyenne, among
them R.S. Van Tassell, Tim Dier, Major Talbot, Luke Morrin,
Posey Wilson, and many others. They constituted a pretty wild
bunch, and kept me so busy that I had no time to think about
Mrs. Cody's furniture.
On my return, when she asked us for it, I told her I couldn't
bring it with me on the train, and that moreover there were no
stores in Cheyenne where I could get furniture that would be
good enough for her, so I had sent to Dewey & Stone at Omaha for
what she needed.
I lost no time in getting over to the club, where I wrote to
Dewey & Stone for all the articles my wife required. In a week
the furniture arrived at Fort McPherson station. I got a couple
of six-mule teams and went after it quick. When it arrived at
the house and was unpacked Mrs. Cody was greatly delighted.
About this time General Emory was very much annoyed by petty
offenses in the vicinity of the Post by civilians over whom he
had no jurisdiction. There was no justice of the peace near the
Post, and he wanted some kind of an officer with authority to
attend to these troublesome persons. One day he told me that I
would make an excellent justice.
"You compliment me too highly, General," I replied. "I don't
know any more about law than a Government mule knows about
bookkeeping." "That doesn't make any difference," he said. "I
know you will make a good squire. You accompany Mr. Woodin and
Mr. Snell to North Platte in my private ambulance. They will go
on your bond, and you will be appointed a justice of the peace."
A number of officers from the Post went to North Platte for
this occasion. After I was duly sworn in, there was a
celebration. I arrived home at three o'clock in the morning,
Mrs. Cody still being in ignorance of my newly acquired honor. I
was awakened by hearing her arguing with a man at the door who
was asking for the squire. She was assuring him that no squire
was on the premises.
"Doesn't Buffalo Bill live here?" asked the man.
"Yes," admitted Mrs. Cody, "but what has that got to do with
By this time I had dressed, and I went to the door. I
informed my wife, to her amazement, that I was really a squire,
and turned to the visitor to learn his business.
He was a poor man, he said, on his way to Colorado. The night
before a large bunch of horses was being driven past his camp,
and one of his two animals was driven off with the herd.
Mounting the other, he followed and demanded the horse, but the
boss of the herd refused to give it up. He wanted a writ of
I asked Mrs. Cody if she could write a writ of replevin and
she said she had never heard of such a thing. I hadn't either.
I asked the man in, and Mrs. Cody got breakfast for us. He
refused the drink I set out for him. I felt that I needed a good
deal of bracing in this writ of replevin business, so I drank
his as well as mine.
Then I buckled on my revolver, took down my old Lucretia
rifle, and, patting her gently, said: "You will have to be
constable for me today."
To my wife and children, who were anxiously watching these
proceedings, I said:
"Don't be alarmed. I am a judge now, and I am going into
action. Come on, my friend," I said to the stranger, "get on
"Why," he protested, "you have no papers to serve on the man,
and you have no constable."
"Don't worry," I said. "I'll soon show you that I am the
I mounted Joe, and we galloped along about ten miles when we
overtook the herd of horses. I found the boss, riding a big gray
horse ahead of the herd. I ordered him to round up the herd.
"By what authority!" he demanded. "Are you a constable?"
I said I was not only a constable, but the whole court, and
one of his men at the same time whispered to him: "Be careful,
that is Buffalo Bill!" At this time, as well as for years past,
I had been chief United States detective for the army as well as
scout and guide. I felt that with the offices of justice and
constable added to these titles I had all the power necessary to
take one horse.
The herd boss evidently thought so, too. After asking if my
name were Cody, and being told that it was, he said:
"Well, there is no need of having a fuss over one horse."
"No," said I, "a horse doesn't mean much to you, but it
amounts to a good deal to this poor immigrant."
"Well," said the herd boss, "how do you propose to settle
"I am going to take you and your whole outfit to Fort
McPherson. There I am going to try you and give you the
limit—six months and a five-hundred-dollar fine."
"I can't afford to go back to the Fort," he pleaded, "let's
settle it right here. What will you take to call it off?"
"One hundred and fifty dollars," I said, "and quick!"
Reaching down into his pocket, he pulled out a wallet filled
with bills and counted out a hundred and fifty dollars. By this
time the man who had lost the horse had caught his animal in the
herd. He was standing, holding it, near by.
"Partner," I said to him, "take your horse and go back home."
"Now, boss," I said to the other man, "let me give you a
little advice. Be careful when a stranger gets into your herd
and the owner overtakes you and demands it. You may run into
more trouble than I have given you, for you ought to know by
this time that horse-stealing is a hanging offense."
He said: "I didn't care a blank about your being justice of
the peace and constable combined, but when I found out you were
Buffalo Bill it was time to lay down my hand."
"All right, old fellow," I said, "good-by."
As he rode off he called: "It was worth a hundred and fifty
dollars just to get a good look at you," and the other men
By the time I got back to the fort, guard-mount was over, and
a number of officers were in the club. When they learned how I
had disposed of my first case, they told the general, who was
very much pleased.
"I want it noised about among the outside civilians how you
handle your court," he said. The story soon became known all
over the surrounding country. Even the ladies of the Post heard
of it, and told my wife and sisters, to whom I had never
mentioned it. They looked upon it as a great joke.
Early in the month of September, 1874, word was received at
Fort McPherson that General Sheridan and a party of friends were
coming to the Post to have a grand hunt in the vicinity. They
further proposed to explore the country from Fort McPherson to
Fort Hays in Kansas. They arrived in a special car at North
Platte, eighteen miles distant, on the morning of September 22.
In the party besides General Sheridan were James Gordon
Bennett, of The New York Herald, Leonard Lawrence Jerome,
Carroll Livingston, Major J.G. Heckscher, General Fitzhugh,
General H.E. Davies, Captain M. Edward Rogers, Colonel J.
Schuyler Crosby, Samuel Johnson, General Anson Stager, of the
Western Union, Charles Wilson, editor of The Chicago Journal,
Quartermaster-General Rucker, and Dr. Asch, of General
They were met at the station by General Emory and Major
Brown, with a cavalry company as escort and a sufficient number
of vehicles to carry the distinguished visitors and their
At the Fort they found the garrison, under the command of
General Carr, on parade awaiting their arrival.
A train of sixteen wagons was provided to carry the baggage
supplies and forage for the hunting trip. Besides these there
were three or four horse-ambulances in which the guns were
carried, and in which members of the party might ride when they
became weary of the saddle. I accompanied the expedition at the
request of General Sheridan. He introduced me to everybody and
gave me a good send-off. As it was a high-toned outfit I was to
accompany, I determined to put on a little style myself. I
dressed in a new suit of light buckskin, trimmed along the seams
with fringe of the same material. I put on a crimson shirt,
elaborately decorated on the bosom, and selected a big sombrero
for my head. Then, mounting a showy horse which was a gallant
stepper, I rode down to the fort, rifle in hand.
The expedition was soon under way. First in line rode General
Sheridan, followed by his guests; then the orderlies. Then came
the ambulances, in one of which were carried five greyhounds,
brought along to course antelopes and rabbits.
With the ambulance marched a pair of Indian ponies belonging
to Lieutenant Hayes, captured during an Indian fight. These were
harnessed to a light wagon, which General Sheridan occasionally
used. These little animals, thirteen hands high, showed more
vigor and endurance than any we brought with us.
During our first night in camp the members of the party asked
me hundreds of questions about buffaloes and buffalo hunting.
The entire evening was spent in talk about buffaloes, together
with stories of the Plains, the chase, and the war, which was
then fresh in the minds of all of us. We closed the evening by
christening the camp, Camp Brown, in honor of the gallant
officer who was in command of the escort.
We breakfasted at four the next morning and at six we were in
the saddle. Everyone was eager to see the buffaloes which I had
promised would be met with during the day. After a march of five
miles the advance guard which I commanded sighted six of these
animals grazing about two miles away.
Acting upon my suggestion, Lawrence Jerome, Livingston,
Heckscher, Fitzhugh, Rogers, and Crosby, with myself as guide,
rode through a convenient cañon to a point beyond the herd, and
to windward of them; the rest of the party made a detour of
nearly five miles, keeping behind the crest of a hill.
We charged down on the buffaloes at full gallop, and just
then the other party emerged from their concealment and
witnessed the exciting chase.
The buffaloes started away in a line, single file; Fitzhugh,
after a lively gallop, led us all. Soon he came alongside the
rear buffalo, at which he fired. The animal faltered, and with
another shot Fitzhugh brought him to the ground. Crosby dashed
past and leveled another of the herd, while Livingston dropped a
third. Those who were not directly engaged in the hunt now came
up and congratulated the buffalo killers. Fitzhugh was hailed as
the winner of the Buffalo Cup. There was general sympathy for
Heckscher, whose horse had fallen and rolled over him, thus
putting him out of the race.
The hunt being over, the column moved forward through a
prairie-dog town, several miles in extent. These animals are
found throughout the Plains, living together in a sort of
society. Their numberless burrows in their towns join each other
and the greatest care is necessary in riding among them, since
the ground is so undermined as easily to give way under the
weight of a horse.
Around the entrance to each burrow earth is piled to the
height of at least a foot. On these little elevations the
prairie-dogs sit on their haunches, chattering to each other and
observing whatever passes on the Plains.
They will permit a person to approach very closely, but when
they have viewed him they dive into their holes with wonderful
celerity. They are difficult to kill. If hit they usually
succeed in getting underground before they can be recovered.
Rattlesnakes and little owls are found in great numbers in
the prairie-dog towns, living in the same burrows. We killed and
cooked a few of the prairie-dogs, and found them very palatable.
A short distance beyond the prairie-dog town we found a
settlement of five white men. They Proved to be the two Clifford
brothers, Arthur Ruff, Dick Seymour, and John Nelson. To the
last I have already referred. Each of these men had a squaw for
a wife and numerous half-breed children. They lived in tents of
buffalo skins. They owned a herd of horses and a few cattle, and
had cultivated a small piece of land. Their principal occupation
was hunting, and they had numbers of buffalo hides, which they
had tanned in the Indian fashion.
Upon reaching Pleasant Valley on Medicine Creek the party
divided into two detachments, one hunting along the bank of the
creek for elk and deer, the other remaining with the main body
of the escort.
The elk hunters met with no success whatever, but the others
found plenty of buffaloes and nearly everybody killed one before
the day was done. Lawrence Jerome made an excellent shot. He was
riding in an ambulance, and killed a buffalo that attempted to
cross the line of march. Upon crossing the Republican River on
the morning of the twenty-sixth we came upon an immense number
of buffaloes scattered over the country in every direction. All
had an opportunity to hunt. The wagons and troops moved slowly
along toward the next camp while the hunters rode off in twos
and threes. Each hunter was rewarded with abundant success.
Lawrence Jerome met with the only mishap. He was riding
Buckskin Joe, which I had lent him, and, dismounting to get a
steady shot, thoughtlessly let go of the bridle.
The horse decided to do a little hunting on his own account.
When last seen that day he was ahead of the buffaloes, and
gaining, while his late rider was left to his own reflections.
Three days later Joe, saddled and bridled, turned up at Fort
We pitched our camp for the night in a charming spot on the
bank of Beaver Creek. The game was so abundant that we remained
there the next day. This stopping-place was called Camp Cody, in
honor of the reader's humble servant. The next day was spent in
hunting jack-rabbits, coyotes, elk, antelope, and wild turkeys.
That we had a splendid dinner may be seen from the following
BILL OF FARE
Broiled Cisco; Fried Dace
Salmi of Prairie Dog; Stewed Rabbit; Filet of Buffalo aux
Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Green Peas
Champagne Frappé, Champagne au Naturel, Claret, Whisky, Brandy,
I considered this a fairly good meal for a hunting party.
Everybody did justice to it.
The excursionists reached Fort Hays on the morning of October
second. There we pitched our tents for the last time. That same
afternoon General Sheridan and his guests took the train for the
East. They expressed themselves as highly pleased with the hunt,
as well as with the way they had been guided and escorted.
General Davies afterward wrote the story of this hunt in a
volume of sixty-eight pages, called "Ten Days on the Plains." In
this chapter I have taken the liberty of condensing frequently
from this volume, and in some cases have used the general's
exact language. I ought to insert several lines of quotations
marks, to be pretty generally distributed through the foregoing
After the departure of General Sheridan's party we returned
to Fort McPherson, and found General Carr about to start on a
twenty days' scout. His object was more to take some friends on
a hunt than to look for Indians. His guests were a couple of
Englishmen and Mr. McCarthy of New York, the latter a relative
of General Emory. The command consisted of three companies of
the Fifth Cavalry, one company of Pawnee Scouts, and twenty-five
wagons. Of course I was called to accompany the expedition.
One day, after we had been out for some little time, I
arranged with Major North to play a joke on Mr. McCarthy. I took
him out on a hunt about eight miles from the camp, informing
Major North about what time we should reach there. He had agreed
that he would appear in the vicinity with his Indians, who were
to throw their blankets around them and come dashing down upon
us, firing and whooping in the true Indian style.
This program was faithfully carried out. I had been talking
about Indians to McCarthy, and he had become considerably
excited, when just as we turned a bend in the creek we saw a
band of them not half a mile away. They instantly started after
us on the gallop, yelling and shooting.
"McCarthy," said I, "shall we run or fight?"
He did not wait to reply. Wheeling his horse, he started at
full speed down the creek. He lost his gun and dropped his hat,
but never once did he look back to see if he were pursued. I
tried to stop him by shouting that the Indians were Pawnees and
our friends. He did not hear me, but kept straight on, never
stopping his horse till he reached the camp.
I knew he would tell General Carr that the Indians had jumped
him, and that the general would at once start out with troops.
So as soon as the Pawnees rode up, I told them to remain there
while I rode after my friend.
When I had reached camp, he had given the alarm, and the
general had ordered out two companies of cavalry to go in
pursuit of the Indians.
I told the general the Indians were only Pawnees, and that a
joke had been put up on McCarthy. I neglected to tell him who
had put up the joke. He was fond of a joke himself, and did not
get very angry. I had picked up McCarthy's hat, which I returned
to him. It was some time before it was discovered who was at the
bottom of the affair.
It was while I was stationed at Fort McPherson, where
Brevet-Major-General W.H. Emory was in command, that I acted as
guide for Lord Flynn, an English nobleman who had come over for
a hunt on the Plains. I had been recommended to him by General
Flynn had served in India with the British army. He was a
fine sportsman and a splendid shot, and secured many heads and
skins while he was with me. Money meant little to him. He
insisted on paying all the bills, spending his money lavishly on
both officers and men when he was at the Post.
Once, when we ran out of liquid refreshments while on the
hunt, we rode thirty miles to a saloon, only to find it closed.
Lord Flynn inquired the price of the place, found it to be $500
and bought it. When we left, after having had all we needed to
drink, he gave it—house, bar, stock, and all—to George Dillard,
who had come along with the party as a sort of official
Sir George Watts-Garland also made a hunt with us. He was an
excellent hunter and a thorough gentleman, but he lacked the
personality that made Lord Flynn one of the most popular
visitors who ever came to the Post.
Early in January, 1872, General Forsythe and Dr. Asch, of
General Sheridan's staff, came to Fort McPherson to make
preparations for a grand buffalo hunt to be conducted for the
Grand Duke Alexis. General Sheridan was desirous of giving the
Russian nobleman the hunt of his life. He wanted everything
ready when the Grand Duke arrived, so that he need lose no time
at the Post.
By way of giving their distinguished guest a real taste of
the Plains, the two officers asked me to visit the camp of the
Sioux chief, Spotted Tail, and ask him to bring a hundred of his
warriors to the spot on Red Willow Creek, which, at my
suggestion, had been selected as the Grand Duke's camp.
Spotted Tail had permission from the Government to hunt
buffalo, a privilege that could not be granted to Indians
indiscriminately, as it involved the right to carry and use
firearms. You couldn't always be sure just what kind of game an
Indian might select when you gave him a rifle. It might be
buffalo, or it might be a white man. But Spotted Tail was safe
and sane. Hence the trust that was reposed in him.
Forsythe and Asch, after accompanying me to the site I had
found for the camp, returned to the Post, while I set out to
confer with Mr. Spotted Tail. The weather was very cold, and the
journey was by no means a delightful one. I was obliged to camp
out with only my saddle-blankets to protect me from the weather,
and only my vigilance to protect me from the Indians. Spotted
Tail himself was friendly, but some of his young men were
decidedly hostile. My activities as a scout had made me many
enemies among the Sioux, and it is not their nature easily to
forget old grudges.
At the close of the first day I made camp on a tributary of
Frenchman's Fork, and built a little fire. The night was bitter
cold, and I was so busy keeping warm that I got very little
sleep. The next afternoon I began to notice fresh horse tracks
and the carcasses of recently killed buffaloes. I knew that I
was nearing an Indian camp. It was not policy to ride boldly in
among the Indians, as some of them might be inclined to shoot me
first and discover later that I was a friend of Spotted Tail. So
I hid my horse in a low ravine and crawled up a hill, from whose
summit I obtained a good view of the country.
When night fell, I rode into camp unobserved. As I entered
the camp I wrapped my blanket, Indian fashion, about my head, so
that the redskins would not at once recognize me as a white man.
Then I hunted about till I found Spotted Tail's lodge. The old
chief was stretched lazily out on a pile of robes as I looked
in. He knew who I was and invited me to enter.
In the lodge I found Todd Randall, an old white frontiersman,
who was Spotted Tail's friend and agent, and who had lived a
great many years with the Indians. Randall, who spoke the Sioux
jargon perfectly, did the interpreting, and through him I
readily communicated to the chief the object of my visit.
I said that the warriors and chiefs would greatly please
General Sheridan if they would meet him in about ten sleeps at
the old Government crossing at the Red Willow. I said that a
great chief from far across the water was coming to visit them,
and that he was especially anxious to meet the greatest of the
Spotted Tail replied that he would be very glad to go. He
added that on the morrow he would call his men together and
select from them those who were to accompany him. He told me I
had acted very wisely in coming first to him, as it was known to
him that some of his young men did not like me, and he knew that
they had hasty tempers. He expressed himself as pleased that
they had not met me outside the village, and I assured him that
I was equally pleased that this was so.
The chief then called his squaw, who got me something to eat,
and I passed the remainder of the night in his lodge. Having
informed the old man that this was no ordinary occasion, and
that he would be expected to do the job up right, I returned to
When the day set for the Grand Duke's arrival came there was
a brave array at the station to meet him. Captain Hays and
myself had five or six ambulances to carry his party, Captain
Egan was on hand with a company of cavalry and twenty extra
saddle-horses, and the whole population of the place was
gathered to see the great man from Russia.
The train came in, and from it stepped General Sheridan. A
fine figure of a man was towering above him. This was the
I was presented to the Grand Duke as Buffalo Bill, the man
who would have charge of the hunt. I immediately ordered up the
saddle-horse I had selected for the nobleman, also a fine horse
for General Sheridan. Both men decided to ride for a few miles
before they took seats in the ambulances.
When the whole party was mounted they started south, Texas
Jack acting as guide until such time as I could overtake them.
The Grand Duke was very much interested in the whole proceeding,
particularly in the Indians. It was noticed that he cast
frequent and admiring glances at a handsome red-skinned maiden
who accompanied old Spotted Tail's daughter. When we made camp
my titled guest plied me with questions about buffaloes and how
to kill them. He wanted to know whether a gun or a pistol was
the proper weapon and whether I would be sure to supply him with
a horse that was trained in buffalo hunting.
I told him that I would give him Buckskin Joe, the best
buffalo horse in the country, and that all he would need to do
would be to mount the animal and fire away every time he saw a
At nine o'clock in the morning we were all galloping over the
prairies in search of big game. I waited till everyone was
ready, and then led the party over a little knoll that hid the
herd from view. In a few minutes we were among the buffaloes.
Alexis first chose to use his pistol. He sent six shots in
rapid succession after one bull, at a distance of only twenty
feet, but he fired wildly, and did no damage whatever. I rode up
to his side, and, his pistol having been emptied, gave him mine.
He seized it and fired six more shots, but not a buffalo fell.
I saw that he was pretty sure to come home empty-handed if he
continued this sort of pistol practice. So I gave him my old
"Lucretia" and told him to urge his horse close to the
buffaloes, and not to shoot till I gave him the word. At the
same time I gave Buckskin Joe a cut with my whip which sent him
at a furious gallop to within ten feet of one of the biggest
bulls in the herd.
"Now is your time," I shouted to Alexis. He fired, and down
went the buffalo. Then, to my amazement, he dropped his gun,
waved his hat in the air, and began talking to members of his
suite in his native tongue, which I of course was totally unable
to understand. Old Buckskin Joe was standing behind the horse
that I was riding, apparently quite as much astonished as I was
at this singular conduct of a man he had accepted in good faith
as a buffalo hunter.
There was no more hunting for the Grand Duke just then. The
pride of his achievement had paralyzed any further activity as a
Nimrod in him. Presently General Sheridan came riding up, and
the ambulances were gathered round. Soon corks were popping and
champagne was flowing in honor of the Grand Duke Alexis and his
Many of the newspapers which printed accounts of the hunt
said that I had shot the buffalo for the Grand Duke. Others
asserted that I held the buffalo while the Grand Duke shot him.
But the facts are just as I have related them.
It was evident to all of us that there could be little more
sport for that day. At the request of General Sheridan I guided
the Russians back to camp. Several of the others in the party
decided to indulge in a little hunt on their own account, and
presently we saw them galloping madly over the prairie in all
directions, with terrified buffaloes flying before them.
As we were crossing a stream on our way back to camp we ran
into a small band that had been frightened by some of these
hunters. They came sweeping across our path, not more than
thirty feet away, and as they passed Alexis raised his pistol
and fired generally into the herd. A buffalo cow fell.
It was either an extraordinary shot or a "scratch," probably
the latter. The Duke was as much astonished as any of us at the
result, but we gave him three rousing cheers, and when the
ambulance came up we had a second round of champagne in honor of
the prowess of our distinguished fellow hunter. I began to hope
that he would keep right on killing buffaloes all the afternoon,
for it was apparent that every time he dropped an animal a
basket of champagne was to be opened. And in those days on the
Plains champagne was not a drink that could be indulged in very
I took care of the hides and heads of the buffaloes the Grand
Duke had shot, as he wanted them all preserved as souvenirs of
his hunt, which he was now enjoying immensely. I also cut the
choice meat from the cow that he had killed and brought it into
camp. At supper he had the pleasure of dining on buffalo meat
which he himself had provided.
Eight buffaloes were killed by Alexis during the three days
we remained in camp. He spent most of his time in the saddle,
and soon became really accomplished. After he had satisfied
himself as to his own ability as a buffalo killer he expressed a
desire to see how the Indians hunted them. He had never seen
bows and arrows used in the pursuit of game. Spotted Tail, who
had joined the hunt according to his promise, picked out some of
his best hunters, and when Alexis joined them directed them to
surround a herd. They were armed with bows and arrows and
I told the Grand Duke to follow one particularly skillful
brave whose name was Two Lance, who had a reputation for being
able to drive an arrow clear through the body of a bull. The
Indian proved equal to his fame. He hauled alongside of an
animal, and, bending his powerful bow, let fly an arrow, which
passed directly through the bulky carcass of a galloping brute,
who fell dead instantly. The arrow, at the Grand Duke's request,
was given to him as a souvenir which he doubtless often
exhibited as proof of his story when some of his European
friends proved a little bit skeptical of his yarns of the
When the visitor had had enough of buffalo hunting, orders
were given to return to the railroad. The conveyance provided
for Alexis and General Sheridan was an old-fashioned Irish
dogcart, drawn by four spirited cavalry horses. The driver was
old Bill Reed, an overland-stage driver, and our wagon-master.
The Grand Duke vastly admired the manner in which he handled the
On the way over, General Sheridan told his guest that I too
was a stage-driver, and Alexis expressed a desire to see me
"Cody," called the general, "come back here and exchange
places with Reed. The Grand Duke wants you to drive for a
In a few minutes I had the reins, and we were racing across
the prairie. We jogged along steadily enough, despite a pretty
rapid pace, and this did not suit General Sheridan at all.
"Shake 'em up a little, Bill," he told me as we were
approaching Medicine Creek. "Show us some old-time
I gave the horses a sounding crack with the whip, and they
jumped into their work with a real interest. The load was light
and their pace increased with every second.
Soon they were fairly flying over the ground, and I had all I
could do to maintain any control over them. At last we reached a
steep hill, or divide, the further side of which sloped down to
the creek. There was no brake on the wagon, and the four horses
were not in the least inclined to hold back, appearing to be
wholly unconcerned as to what might happen.
It was impossible to restrain them. My work was cut out for
me in keeping them on the track. So I let them set their own
pace down the hill. The wagon bounded and rebounded from the
bumps in the road, and my two distinguished passengers had to
keep very busy holding their seats.
However, when they saw that the horses were being kept in the
road they assumed an appearance of enjoying themselves. I was
unable to slacken the pace of the horses until they dashed into
the camp where we were to obtain a relay. There I succeeded in
Stage-Coach Driving Was Full of
The Grand Duke and the general said they had got a lot of
enjoyment out of the ride, but I noticed that thereafter they
were perfectly willing to travel at an easier pace.
When we arrived at North Platte, the Grand Duke invited me
into his car, and there, over a few bottles of champagne, we
went over all the details of the hunt. He said the trip was one
which he would never forget and professed himself as wholly
unable to thank me for my part in it.
As I was leaving the car one of his suite approached me, and,
extending a big roll of greenbacks, begged me to accept it as a
slight token of the Grand Duke's appreciation of my services.
I told him I could take nothing for what I had done. He then
handed me a small jewel box, which I slipped into my pocket
without examining, and asked if I would not also accept the
magnificent fur overcoat which Alexis had worn on the hunt.
I had frequently admired this coat, which was made of many
fine Russian furs. I was glad to receive it as a remembrance
from one of the most agreeable men I had ever guided on a
After leaving us Alexis telegraphed to the most famous of New
York jewelers and had made for me a wonderful set of
sleeve-links and a scarf-pin, studded with diamonds and rubies,
each piece in the form of a buffalo head, as large as a silver
Reporters who accompanied the expedition telegraphed the
story of this order to their New York newspapers. When later I
arrived in New York, after this present had been given me, some
of the papers said that Buffalo Bill had come to New York to buy
a shirt on which to wear the jewelry given him by the Grand Duke
Shortly after this, General Ord, who had accompanied the
hunting party, rode over with me to Fort McPherson. On the way
he asked me how I would like to have a commission in the regular
army. General Sheridan, he said, had suggested that I ought to
have a commission, and the matter could be arranged if I desired
I thanked the general, and asked him to thank General
Sheridan. But though a commission was a tempting prize, I
preferred to remain in the position I was holding. He said that
if at any time I felt that I wanted a commission, I only needed
to ask for it, and it would be given to me.
All I looked forward to was the life of the Plains. It was
enough for me to be in the saddle, trusting each day to find
some new adventure. Army life would mean a great deal of
routine, and routine was something I could not endure.
So, giving up forever any hope of wearing an officer's
shoulder-straps, I was about to turn back to the prairies to see
what new opportunities for excitement offered, when a strange
new call came to me.
General J.J. Reynolds, who had just arrived at Fort McPherson
with the Third Cavalry, called me into the office one day and
told me that he had a letter, railroad tickets, and five hundred
dollars for me. Furthermore he informed me that a thirty days'
leave of absence was awaiting me whenever I wanted to take it.
All this was the doing of the "Millionaires' Hunting Party,"
headed by James Gordon Bennett and the Jeromes, which I had
guided the year before.
I was, in short, invited to visit my former charges in New
York, and provided by them with money and mileage, and leisure
for the trip.
Of course going to New York was a very serious business, and
not to be undertaken lightly. The first thing I needed was
clothes, and at my direction the Post tailor constructed what I
thought was the handsomest suit in the world. Then I proceeded
to buy a necktie, so that I could wear the present which had
come in the little box from the Grand Duke—a handsome scarf-pin.
The Grand Ducal overcoat and a new Stetson, added to the
wardrobe I already possessed, completed my outfit. Almost
everything I had was on my back, but just the same I borrowed a
little trunk of my sister, so as to impress New York with the
fact that I had as many clothes as any visitor from the West.
At the last minute I decided to take along my buckskin suit.
Something told me that some of the people I had met in New York
might want to know just how a scout looked in his business
clothes. Mrs. Cody was much astonished because I did not ask for
my brace of pistols, which had accompanied me everywhere I had
gone up to that time.
She had great confidence in these weapons, which more than
once had saved my life. She wanted to know what in the world I
would do without them if I met any bad men in New York. I told
her that I supposed there were policemen in New York whose
business it was to take care of such people. Anyway, I was going
to chance it.
On my arrival at Omaha I was met by a number of friends who
had heard of my expected descent on New York. They drove me at
once to the United States Court, where my old friend, Judge
Dundee, was on the bench. The minute I entered the courtroom the
judge rapped loudly with his gavel and said:
"This court is adjourned while Cody is in town." He joined
the party, and we moved on to the Paxton Hotel, where a banquet
was arranged in my honor.
I left for Chicago the next day. On arriving there, I was met
at the depot by Colonel M.V. Sheridan, brother of General Philip
Sheridan, my old friend and fellow townsman. "Mike" Sheridan,
with his brother, the general, was living in a beautiful house
on Michigan Avenue. There I met a number of the old officers
with whom I had served on the Plains.
I was still wearing the wonderful overcoat that had been
given me by the Grand Duke Alexis, and it was a source of
continuous admiration among the officers, who pronounced it the
most magnificent garment of its kind in America.
The splendor of the general's Michigan Avenue mansion was new
to me; never before had I seen such vast rooms and such
wonderful furnishings. It was necessary to show me how the gas
was turned on and off, and how the water flowed in the bathroom.
I moved around the place in a daze until "Mike," taking pity on
me, escorted me to a barroom, where I was more at home. As we
were partaking of a cocktail, a number of reporters from the
Chicago papers came in. They had been told of my visit and plied
me with questions. In the papers the next morning I found that I
had had adventures that up to that time I had never heard of.
The next evening I had my first adventure in high society, and
it proved more terrifying to me than any Indian fight I had ever
taken part in. Finding I had no proper raiment for a big ball,
which was to be given in my honor, "Mike" Sheridan took me to
the clothing department of Marshall Field's, where I was fitted
with an evening suit.
The general's valet assisted me into these garments that
evening. My long brown hair still flowed down over my shoulders
and I was determined to go to the barber's and have it sheared
before I made a public appearance, but General Sheridan would
not hear of this. He insisted that I crown my long locks with a
plug hat, but here I was adamant. I would go to the party in my
Stetson or I would not go to the party at all.
The ball was held at the Riverside Hotel, which was then one
of the fashionable hostelries of Chicago. When I was escorted
in, I was told to give the colored boy my hat and coat—to this I
violently objected. I prized the coat beyond all my earthly
possessions and intended to take no chances with it. I was
finally persuaded that the boy was a responsible employee of the
hotel and reluctantly gave him the garment. Then I suffered
myself to be led into the ballroom. Here I met a bevy of the
most beautiful women I had ever seen. Fearing every minute that
I would burst my new and tight evening clothes, I bowed to them
all around—but very stiffly. To the general's request that I
join in the next dance I entered a firm refusal. I knew no
dances but square dances, so they got up an old-fashioned
quadrille for me and I managed somehow to go through it. As soon
as it was over, I hurriedly escorted my fair partner to her
seat, then I quickly made my way to the barroom. The man behind
the bar appreciated my plight. He stowed me away in a corner
behind the icebox and in that corner I remained for the rest of
Several times the general and his friends came down to
"moisten up," and each time I heard them wondering aloud what
had become of me. When the music stopped and the party broke up
I emerged from my hiding-place. The next morning I reported to
the general and explained to him that I was going back to the
sagebrush. If New York were like Chicago, I wanted to be
excused. But he insisted that I continue my trip.
At eleven o'clock the next morning he thrust me into a
Pullman car, which was in charge of Mr. Angel, an official of
the Pullman Car Company, and was taking a private party to the
Two of my millionaire hunting companions, J.B. Heckscher and
Colonel Schuyler Crosby, met me at the station and drove me to
the Union Club. That night I was told to put on my evening
clothes and accompany them to a theater. Heckscher was very much
disturbed when he saw the Chicago clawhammer that had been
purchased for me.
"It will do for tonight," he said, "but tomorrow I'll send
you to my tailor and have him make you some clothes fit for a
gentleman to wear."
We saw Edwin Booth in a Shakespearean play. I was told that
all my wealthy hunting friends would join me at breakfast the
next morning. I was up at seven o'clock and waiting for them.
The hours dragged slowly by and no guests arrived. I was nearly
famished, but did not dare eat until the company should be
assembled. About eleven o'clock, when I was practically starved,
Mr. Heckscher turned up. I asked him what time they usually had
breakfast in New York and he said about half-past twelve or any
time therafter up to three.
At one, the gentlemen all made their appearance and were
somewhat astonished at the amount of breakfast I stowed away,
until they were told that I had been fasting since seven o'clock
During my visit to New York, I was taken by Mr. James Gordon
Bennett to Niblo's Garden, where I saw "The Black Crook." We
witnessed the performance from a private box and my breath was
fairly taken away when the curtain went up on the fifth act.
Needless to say, that was the first time I had ever witnessed a
musical show and I thought it the most wonderful spectacle I had
ever gazed upon.
The remainder of my visit in New York was spent in a series
of dinners and theater parties. I was entertained in the house
of each gentleman who had been with me on the hunt. I had the
time of my life.
After I had had about all the high life I could stand for the
time being I set out for Westchester, Pa., to find the only
relative I knew in the East. My mother was born in Germantown.
Her sister had married one Henry R. Guss, of Westchester.
I found on reaching Westchester that my relative was one of
its most important citizens, having the Civil War title of
general. I found his home with no trouble, and he was very
delighted to see me. An old lady, who was a member of his
household, he introduced to me as my grandmother. His first
wife, my Aunt Eliza, was dead, and he had married a second time.
He also introduced me to his son, Captain George Guss, who had
been in the army with him during the Civil War.
It was not until we had talked of old family connections for
an hour or more that they discovered that I was Buffalo Bill;
then they simply flooded me with questions.
To make sure that I would return for a second visit, the
young people of the family accompanied me back to New York. I
was due for a dinner that evening, so I gave them a card to Mr.
Palmer, of Niblo's Garden, and they all went to see "The Black
When I reached the club I was given a telegram from General
Sheridan telling me to hasten to Chicago. He wanted me to hurry
on to Fort McPherson and guide the Third Cavalry, under General
Reynolds, on a military expedition. The Indians had been
committing serious devastations and it was necessary to suppress
them summarily. At the dinner, which was given by Mr. Bennett, I
told my New York friends that I would have to leave for the West
the next day. When the party broke up I went directly to the
Albemarle Hotel and told my cousins that we would have to start
early the next morning for Westchester. There I would remain
When we reached Westchester, my uncle informed me that they
had arranged a fox hunt for the next morning, and that all the
people in the town and vicinity would be present. They wanted to
see a real scout and plainsman in the saddle.
Early next morning many ladies and gentlemen, splendidly
mounted, appeared in front of my uncle's residence. At that time
Westchester possessed the best pack of fox hounds in America.
Captain Trainer, master of the hounds, provided me with a
spirited horse which had on a little sheepskin saddle of a kind
on which I had never ridden. I was familiar neither with the
horse, the saddle, the hounds, nor fox-hunting, and was
extremely nervous. I would have backed out if I could, but I
couldn't, so I mounted the horse and we all started on the
We galloped easily along for perhaps a mile and I was
beginning to think fox-hunting a very tame sport indeed when
suddenly the hounds started off on a trail, all barking at once.
The master of the hounds and several of the other riders struck
off across country on the trail, taking fences and stone walls
at full gallop.
I noticed that my uncle and several elderly gentlemen stuck
to the road and kept at a more moderate gait. The eyes of the
spectators were all on me. I don't know what they expected me to
do, but at any rate they were disappointed. To their manifest
disgust I stayed with the people on the road.
Shortly we came to a tavern and I went in and nerved myself
with a stiff drink, also I had a bottle filled with liquid
courage, which I took along with me. Just by way of making a
second fiasco impossible I took three more drinks while I was in
the bar, then I galloped away and soon overtook the hunters.
The first trail of the hounds had proved false. Two miles
further on they struck a true trail and away they went at full
cry. I had now got used to the saddle and the gait of my horse.
I also had prepared myself in the tavern for any course of
action that might offer.
The M.F.H. began taking stone walls and hedges and I took
every one that he did. Across the country we went and nothing
stopped or daunted me until the quarry was brought to earth. I
was in at the death and was given the honor of keeping the
At two o'clock that afternoon I took my departure for the
West. Mr. Frank Thompson, of the Pennsylvania Railroad, who had
ridden my famous buffalo horse, Buckskin Joe, on the great hunt,
sent me to Chicago in his own private car.
At the station in Chicago I was met with orders from General
Sheridan to continue straight ahead to Fort McPherson as quickly
as possible. The expedition was waiting for me.
At Omaha a party of my friends took me off the train and
entertained me until the departure of the next train. They had
heard of my evening clothes and insisted on my arraying myself
therein for their benefit. My trunk was taken to the Paxton
Hotel and I put on the clawhammer and all that went with it.
About fifty of my Omaha friends accompanied me to the train; in
my silk hat and evening dress I was an imposing spectacle. But I
expected to change into my Plains clothes as soon as I got into
the car. However, these plans were sadly upset. Both my friends
and I had forgotten my trunk, which in the hour of my greatest
need was still reposing in a room in the Paxton Hotel, while in
clothes fit only for a banquet I was speeding over the Plains to
a possible Indian fight.
At Fort McPherson, my old friend, "Buffalo Chips," was
waiting for me. He had been left behind by General Reynolds to
tell me to overtake the command as soon as possible. He had
brought out old Buckskin Joe for me to ride.
The expedition was already well on its way north into the
Loup country and had camped at Pawnee Springs, about eight miles
from McPherson Station, the night before.
Poor old Buffalo Chips almost fell dead when he saw how I was
dressed. The hat especially filled him with amazement and rage,
but there was nothing else to do. I had to go as I was or go not
The champagne with which my Omaha friends had filled my
stateroom I gave to the boys at the station. I did not have to
urge them to accept it. They laughed a good deal at my stovepipe
hat and evening dress, but because of the champagne they let me
off without as much guying as I would otherwise have received.
Jumping on our horses, we struck out on the trail of the
soldiers. It was about one o'clock when we overtook them. As we
neared the rear guard, I pulled off my overcoat and strapped it
behind my saddle. I also put my hair up under my stovepipe hat
and galloped past the command, to all appearances fresh from a
New York ballroom.
"Look at the dude! Look at the dude!" they shouted as I rode
among them. Paying no attention to them, I galloped up and
overtook General Reynolds. Saluting him, I said:
"General, I have come to report for duty."
"Who in thunder are you?" he demanded, looking at me without
a sign of recognition in his eye.
"Why, general," I said, "I am to be your guide on this
He looked at me a second time, and a grin spread over his
"Can it be possible that you are Cody?" he asked. I told him
that I was Cody.
"Let down your hair," he commanded. I took off my hat, and my
hair fell over my shoulders. A loud yell went up from both
officers and enlisted men, as the word went up and down the line
that the dude they had been bedeviling was none other than
Texas Jack and the scouts who were ahead had heard the noise
and came galloping back.
"Welcome back, old chief!" shouted Jack, and the scouts
gathered around me, shaking my hand and congratulating me on my
safe return from the dangers and the perils of the East.
The general asked me how far it was to the Loup Fork. I said
it was about eight miles and offered to proceed there ahead of
the command and select a good sheltered camp. This I did. The
adjutant accompanying the detachment helped me and laid out the
camping spot, and when the command pulled in they disposed
themselves for the night in a beautiful grove of timber where
there was plenty of firewood and good grass for the horses and
mules. Soon the tents were up and big fires were crackling all
I accepted with thanks General Reynolds's invitation to mess
with him on the trip. After dinner, before a big log fire, which
was being built in front of the general's tent, the officers
came up to meet me. Among those to whom I was introduced were
Colonel Anthony Mills, Major Curtiss, Major Alexander Moore,
Captain Jerry Russell, Lieutenant Charles Thompson,
Quartermaster Lieutenant Johnson, Adjutant Captain Minehold, and
Lieutenant Lawson. After this reception, I went down to visit
the scouts in camp. There the boys dug me up all kinds of
clothes, and clothes of the Western kind I very sadly needed.
White had brought along an old buckskin suit. When I had got
this on and an old Stetson on my head, and had my favorite pair
of guns strapped to me and my dear old "Lucretia Borgia" was
within reach, I felt that Buffalo Bill was himself again.
The general informed me that evening that Indians had been
reported on the Dismal River. At breakfast the next morning he
said that a large war party had been committing devastations up
and down the flat. His scouts had discovered their trail going
north and had informed him that they would probably make camp on
the Dismal. There they were sure to be joined by other Indians.
He asked my opinion as to what had best be done.
I told him it was about twenty-five miles from the present
tent to the Dismal River. I said I had better go on, taking
White with me, and try to locate them.
"I've heard of this man White," said the general. "They tell
me that he is your shadow and he follows you every place you
go." I said that this was true and that I had all I could do to
keep him from following me to New York. "It would break his
heart," I said, "if I were to leave him behind now." I added
that Texas Jack knew the country thoroughly and that he could
guide the command to a point on the Dismal River where I could
meet them that night. The general said:
"I have been fighting the Apaches in Arizona, but I find
these Sioux are an entirely different crowd. I know little about
them and I will follow your suggestions. You start now and I
will have the command following you in an hour and a half."
I told White to get our horses at once and also to tell Texas
Jack to report to me. When the latter reported I told him the
general wanted him to guide the command to the course of the
Dismal. When he got there, if he didn't hear from me in the
meantime, he was to select a good camp.
White and I set out, riding carefully and looking for the
trail. We had traveled about ten miles when I found it. The
Indians were headed toward the Dismal. Presently another trail
joined the first one, and then we had to begin extremely careful
I didn't follow the Indian trail, but bordered the left and
struck the river about five miles above the Fork. There we
turned down-stream. Soon on the opposite side we saw a party of
Indians surrounding a herd of elk. I didn't approach them
closely, neither did I follow down the stream any further. We
kept parallel with the course of the river, and soon stopped at
the foot of a high sandhill. From here I knew I could get a view
of the whole country.
I told White to remain there until I came back, and, jumping
off old Joe, I cautiously climbed the hill.
From behind a big soapweed—a plant sometimes called Spanish
Dagger—I got a view of the Dismal River, for several miles. I
immediately discovered smoke arising from a bunch of timber
about three miles below me. Grazing around the timber were
several hundred head of horses. Here I knew the Indian camp to
I slipped down the hill, and, running to old Joe, mounted,
telling White at the same time that I had located the camp. Then
we began circling the sandhill until we got two or three miles
away, keeping out of sight of the Indians all the time. When we
felt we were safe we made a straight sweep to meet the command.
I found the scouts first and told Texas Jack to hold up the
soldiers, keeping them out of sight until he heard from me.
I went on until I met General Reynolds at the head of the
column. He baited the troop on my approach; taking him to one
side, I told him what I had discovered. He said:
"As you know the country and the location of the Indian camp,
tell me how you would proceed."
I suggested that he leave one company as an escort for the
wagon-train and let them follow slowly. I would leave one guide
to show them the way. Then I would take the rest of the cavalry
and push on as rapidly as possible to within a few miles of the
camp. That done, I would divide the command, sending one portion
across the river to the right, five miles below the Indians, and
another one to bear left toward the village. Still another
detachment was to be kept in readiness to move straight for the
camp. This, however, was not to be done until the flanking
column had time to get around and across the river.
It was then two o'clock. By four o'clock the flanking columns
would be in their proper positions to move on and the charge
could begin. I said I would go with the right-hand column and
send Texas Jack with the left-hand column. I would leave White
with the main detachment. I impressed on the general the
necessity of keeping in the ravine of the sandhills so as to be
out of sight of the Indians.
I said that, notwithstanding all the caution that we could
take, we were likely to run into a party of hunters, who would
immediately inform the camp of our presence. In case of
discovery, I said, it would be necessary to make our charge at
General Reynolds called his officers together and gave them
my suggestions as their instructions. In a very few minutes
everything was moving. I accompanied Colonel Mills. His column
had crossed the Dismal and was about two miles to the north of
it when I saw a party of Indians chasing elk.
I knew that sooner or later—probably sooner—these Indians
would see me. I told Colonel Mills he had better send the scout
back to General Reynolds and make all haste to charge the
village. We had no way of sending word to Major Curtiss, who led
the other flanking column, and we had to trust to luck that he
would hear the firing when it started.
Colonel Mills kept his troops on the lowest ground I could
pick out, but we made our way steadily toward the village.
Inside of half an hour we heard firing up the river from
where we were. Colonel Mills at once ordered his troops to
charge. Luckily it collided with the Indians' herd of horses,
which were surrounded, thus depriving most of the braves of
Men were left to guard the animals, and, taking the rest of
the company, we charged the village, reaching it a little after
the arrival of General Reynolds. The attack was not as much a
surprise as we had hoped for. Some of the Indian hunters had
spied the soldiers and notified the camp, but General Reynolds,
coming from the south, had driven all the Indians on foot and
all the squaws and children toward the sandhills on the north.
Mills came pretty near finding more Indians than he was looking
for. Their force largely outnumbered ours when we collided, but
Major Curtiss came charging down from the north just at this
instant. His arrival was such a complete surprise that the
Indians gave up and began waving the white flag. Then all firing
On rounding them up we found that we had captured about two
hundred and fifty warriors, women, and children, most of whom
were from the Spotted Tail Agency.
The general had the Indians instantly disarmed. Most of their
tepees were up and they were ordered to go into them and remain
there. We placed a sufficient guard around the whole camp so
that none could escape. On the arrival of the wagon-train, for
which a scout had been sent, the command went into camp.
Taking me aside, General Reynolds said:
"I want you to send one of your fastest men back to Fort
McPherson. I am sending dispatches to General Ord, asking for
I selected White to make this trip, and he was ready for duty
in five minutes.
We were then sixty-five miles from Fort McPherson Station. I
told White that the matter was urgent and that he must get to
that telegraph office as soon as possible. At ten o'clock the
next morning he rode into our camp with a telegram to General
Reynolds. The general was ordered to disarm all the Indians and
send them under guard of a company of cavalry to the Spotted
General Reynolds was very much delighted with the success of
the expedition. On his arrival at the Fort he received
congratulations from General Ord and from General Sheridan.
General Sheridan asked in his telegram if Cody had gone along.
The general wired back that Cody had gone along and also wrote a
letter telling General Sheridan how he had reported in evening
Of course the papers were soon full of this raid. Al Sorenson
of the Omaha Bee, who had seen my evening clothes and
silk hat in Omaha, wrote an extremely graphic story of my
arrival on the Plains. I soon found that the officers and men in
the Third Cavalry knew all about the incident.
During the spring of '72, the Indians were rather quiet. We
did a little scouting, however, just to keep watch on them. One
day, in the fall of that year, I returned from a scouting
expedition, and as I passed the store there were a lot of men
crowded in front of it. All of them saluted me with "How do you
do, Honorable!" I rode straight to the general's private office.
He also stood at attention and said:
"Good morning, Honorable."
"What does all this 'Honorable' mean, General?" I demanded.
He said: "Of course, you have been off on a scout and you have
not heard, but while you were gone you were nominated and
elected to represent the twenty-sixth district of Nebraska in
the Legislature." I said:
"That is highly complimentary, and I appreciate it, but I am
no politician and I shall have to tender my resignation," and
tender it I did.
My refusal to serve as a lawmaker was unqualified. I knew
nothing about politics. I believe that I made a fairly good
justice of the peace, but that was because of no familiarity
with the written law. I merely applied the principles of
fair-dealing to my cases and did as I would have been done by.
The Golden Rule was the only statute I applied.
I inquired how to free myself formally from the new honors
that had been thrust upon me, and soon another man was serving
in my stead—and quite welcome he was to the pay and credit that
might have been mine.
I returned back to the Plains for employment, but there was
nothing to do. The Indians, for a wonder, were quiet. There was
little stirring in the military posts. I could have continued to
serve in one of them if I had chosen, and the way was still open
to study for a commission as an officer. But army life without
excitement was not interesting for me, and when Ned Buntline
offered me a chance to come East and try my fortunes as an actor
I accepted with misgivings, naturally. Hunting Indians across
a stage differed from following them across the Plains. I knew
the wild western Indian and his ways. I was totally unacquainted
with the tame stage Indian, and the thought of a great gaping
audience looking at me across the footlights made me shudder.
But when my old "pards," Wild Bill and Texas Jack, consented
to try their luck with me in the new enterprise I felt better.
Together we made the trip to New York, and played for a time in
the hodgepodge drama written for us by Ned Buntline himself.
Before any of us would consent to be roped and tied by
Thespis we insisted on a proviso that we be freed whenever duty
called us to the Plains.
The first season was fairly prosperous, and so was the
second. The third year I organized a "show" of my own, with real
Indians in it—the first, I believe, who ever performed on a
stage. I made money and began to get accustomed to the new life,
but in 1876 the call for which I had been listening came.
The Sioux War was just breaking out. I closed the show
earlier than usual and returned to the West. Colonel Mills had
written me several times to say that General Crook wanted me to
accompany his command. When I left Chicago I had expected to
catch up with Crook at the Powder River, but I learned en route
that my old command, the gallant Fifth Cavalry, was on its way
from Arizona to join him, and that General Carr, my former
commander, was at its head.
Carr wanted me as his guide and chief of scouts, and had
written to army headquarters in Chicago to learn where I could
As soon as this news came to me I gave up the idea of
overtaking Crook. I hastened to Cheyenne, where the Fifth
Cavalry had already arrived, and was met at the depot there by
Lieutenant Charles King, adjutant of the regiment, who had been
sent by General Carr from Fort D.A. Russell. In later years, as
General Charles King, this officer became a widely popular
author, and wrote some of the best novels and stories of Indian
life that I have ever read.
As I accompanied the lieutenant back to the fort, we passed
soldiers who recognized me and shouted greetings. When we
entered the Post a great shout of "Here's Buffalo Bill!" arose
from the men on the parade ground. It was like old times, and I
felt a thrill of happiness to be back among my friends, and
bound for one of the regular old-time campaigns. The following
morning the command pulled out for Fort Laramie. We found
General Sheridan there ahead of us, and mighty glad was I to see
that brave and able commander once more. Sheridan was
accompanied by General Frye and General Forsythe, and all were
en route for the Red Cloud Agency, near the center of the Sioux
trouble, which was then reaching really alarming proportions.
The command was to remain at Laramie for a few days; so, at
General Sheridan's request, I accompanied him on his journey. We
were able to accomplish little in the way of peace overtures.
The Indians had lately committed many serious depredations
along the Black Hills trail. Gold had been discovered there in
many new places, and the miners, many of them tenderfoots, and
unused to the ways of the red man, had come into frequent
conflict with their new neighbors. Massacres, some of them very
flagrant, had resulted and most of the treaties our Government
had made with the Indians had been ruthlessly broken.
On my return from the agency, the Fifth Cavalry was sent out
to scout the country between there and the Black Hills. We
operated along the south fork of the Cheyenne and about the foot
of the Black Hills for two weeks, and had several small
engagements with roving bands of Indians during that time.
All these bands were ugly and belligerent, and it was plain
from the spirit they showed that there had been a general
understanding among all the redskins thereabout that the time
had come to drive the white man from the country.
Brevet-General Wesley Merritt, who had lately received his
promotion to the colonelcy of the Fifth Cavalry, now took
command of the regiment. I regretted that the command had been
taken from General Carr. I was fond of him personally, and it
was under him that the regiment made its fine reputation as a
fighting organization. I soon became well acquainted with
General Merritt, however, and found him to be a brave man and an
The regiment did continuous and hard scouting. We soon
believed we had driven all the hostile Indians out of that part
of the country. In fact, we were starting back to Fort Laramie,
regarding the business at hand as finished, when a scout arrived
at our camp and reported the massacre of General Custer and his
whole force on the Little Big Horn.
This massacre occurred June 25, 1876, and its details are
known, or ought to be known, by every schoolboy. Custer was a
brave, dashing, headlong soldier, whose only fault was
He had been warned many times never to expose a small command
to a superior force of Indians, and never to underestimate the
ability and generalship of the Sioux. He had unbounded
confidence, however, in himself and his men, and I believe that
not until he was struck down did he ever doubt that he would be
able to cut his way out of the wall of warriors about him and
turn defeat into a glorious and conspicuous victory.
The news of the massacre, which was the most terrible that
ever overtook a command of our soldiers, was a profound shock to
all of us. We knew at once that we would all have work to do,
and settled grimly into the preparations for it.
Colonel Stanton, who was with the Fifth Cavalry on this
scout, had been sent to the Red Cloud Agency two days before.
That night a message came from him that eight hundred warriors
had left the agency to join Sitting Bull on the Little Big Horn.
Notwithstanding instructions to proceed immediately by way of
Fort Fetterman to join Crook, General Merritt took the
responsibility of endeavoring to intercept the Cheyennes and
thereby performed a very important service.
For this job the general selected five hundred men and
horses. In two hours we were making a forced march back to War
Bonnet Creek. Our intention was to reach the Indian trail
running to the north across this watercourse before the
Cheyennes could get there. We arrived the next night.
At daylight the next morning, July 17, I proceeded ahead on a
scout. I found that the Indians had not yet crossed the creek.
On my way back to the command I discovered a large party of
Indians. I got close enough to observe them, and they proved to
be Cheyennes, coming from the south. With this information. I
hurried back to report.
The cavalrymen were ordered to mount their horses quietly and
remain out of sight, while General Merritt, accompanied by two
or three aides and myself, went on a little tour of observation
to a neighboring hill. From the summit of this we saw the
Indians approaching almost directly toward us. As we stood
watching, fifteen or twenty of them wheeled and dashed off to
the west, from which direction we had come the night before.
Searching the country to see what it was which had caused
this unexpected maneuver, we observed two mounted soldiers
approaching us on the trail. Obviously they were bearing
dispatches from the command of General Merritt.
It was clear that the Indians who had left their main body
were intent on intercepting and murdering these two men. General
Merritt greatly feared that they would accomplish this purpose.
How to aid them was a problem. If soldiers were sent to their
assistance, the Indians would observe the rescuers, and come to
the right conclusion that a body of troops was lying in wait for
them. This of course would turn them back, and the object of our
expedition would be defeated.
The commander asked me if I had any suggestions.
"General," I replied, "why not wait until the scouts get a
little nearer? When they are about to charge on the two men, I
will take fifteen soldiers, dash down and cut them off from
their main body. That will prevent them from going back to
report, and the others will fall into our trap."
The general at once saw the possibilities of the scheme. "If
you can do that, Cody, go ahead," he said.
I at once rushed back to the command and jumped on my horse.
With fifteen of the best men I could pick in a hurry I
returned to the point of observation. I placed myself and my men
at the order of General Merritt, and asked him to give me the
word at the proper time.
He was diligently studying the country before him with his
field-glasses. When he thought the Indians were as close to the
unsuspecting scouts as was safe, he sang out:
"Go on now, Cody, and be quick about it. They are going to
charge on the couriers."
The two soldiers were not more than a hundred yards from us.
The Indians, now making ready to swoop down, were a hundred
yards further on.
We tore over the bluffs and advanced at a gallop. They saw us
and gave battle. A running fight lasted for several minutes,
during which we drove them back a fairly safe distance and
killed three of their number.
The main body of the Cheyennes had now come into plain sight,
and the men who escaped from us rode back toward it. The main
force halted when its leaders beheld the skirmish, and seemed
for a time at a loss as to what was best to do.
We turned toward General Merritt, and when we had made about
half the distance the Indians we had been chasing suddenly
turned toward us and another lively skirmish took place.
One of the Indians, who was elaborately decorated with all
the ornaments usually worn by a great chief when he engaged in a
fight, saw me and sang out:
"I know you, Pa-ho-has-ka! Come and fight with me!"
The name he used was one by which I had long been known by
the Indians. It meant Long-Yellow-Hair.
The chief was riding his horse to and fro in front of his
men, in order to banter me. I concluded to accept his challenge.
I turned and galloped toward him for fifty yards, and he rode
toward me about the same distance. Both of us rode at full
speed. When we were only thirty yards apart I raised my rifle
and fired. His horse dropped dead under him, and he rolled over
on the ground to clear himself of the carcass.
Almost at the same instant my own horse stepped into a hole
and fell heavily. The fall hurt me but little, and almost
instantly I was on my feet. This was no time to lie down and
nurse slight injuries. The chief and I were now both on our
feet, not twenty paces apart. We fired at each other at the same
instant. My usual luck held. His bullet whizzed harmlessly past
my head, while mine struck him full in the breast.
He reeled and fell, but I took no chances. He had barely
touched the ground, when I was upon him, knife in hand, and to
make sure of him drove the steel into his heart.
This whole affair, from beginning to end, occupied but little
time. The Indians, seeing that I was a little distance from my
pony, now came charging down upon me from the hill, in the hope
of cutting me off.
General Merritt had witnessed the duel, and, realizing the
danger I was in, ordered Colonel Mason with Company K to hurry
to my rescue. This order came none too soon. Had it been given
one minute later two hundred Indians would have been upon me,
and this present narration would have had to be made by some one
else. As the soldiers came up I swung the war-bonnet high in the
air and shouted: "The first scalp for Custer!"
It was by this time clear to General Merritt that he could
not ambush the Indians. So he ordered a general charge. For a
time they made a stubborn resistance, but no eight hundred
Indians, or twice that number, for that matter, could make a
successful stand against such veteran and fearless fighters as
the Fifth Cavalry. They soon came to that conclusion themselves
and began a running retreat for the Red Cloud Agency.
For thirty-five miles, over the roughest kind of ground, we
drove them before us. Soon they were forced to abandon their
spare horses and all the equipment they had brought along.
Despite the imminent risk of encountering thousands of other
Indians at the Agency, we drove our late adversaries directly
into it. No one in our command had any assurance that the
Indians gathered there had not gone on the warpath, but little
difference that made to us. The Fifth Cavalry, on the warpath
itself, would stop at nothing. It was dark when we entered the
reservation. All about us we could see the huddling forms of
Indians—thousands of them—enough, in fact, to have consummated
another Custer massacre. But they showed no disposition to
While at the Agency I learned that the Indian I had killed in
the morning was none other than Yellow Hand, a son of old Cut
Nose, who was a leading chief of the Cheyennes. The old man
learned from the members of Yellow Hand's party that I had
killed his son, and sent a white interpreter to me offering four
mules in exchange for the young chief's war-bonnet. This request
I was obliged to refuse, as I wanted it as a trophy of the first
expedition to avenge the death of Custer and his men.
The next morning we started to join the command of General
Crook, which was encamped at the foot of Cloud Peak in the Big
Horn Mountains. They had decided to await the arrival of the
Fifth Cavalry before proceeding against the Sioux, who were
somewhere near the head of the Big Horn River, in a country that
was as nearly inaccessible as any of the Western fastnesses. By
making rapid marches we reached Crook's camp on Goose Creek
about the third of August.
At this camp I met many of my old friends, among them being
Colonel Royal, who had just received his promotion to a
lieutenant-colonelcy. Royal introduced me to General Crook, whom
I had never met before, but with whose reputation as an Indian
fighter I was of course familiar, as was everybody in the West.
The general's chief guide was Frank Grouard, a half-breed, who
had lived six years with Sitting Bull himself, and who was
thoroughly familiar with the Sioux and their country.
After one day in camp the whole command pulled out for Tongue
River, leaving the wagons behind. Our supplies were carried by a
big pack-train. Down the Tongue we marched for two days of hard
going, thence westerly to the Rosebud River. Here we struck the
main Indian trail leading down-stream. From the size of this
trail, which was not more than four days old, we estimated that
at least seven thousand Indians, one of the biggest Indian
armies ever gathered together, must have gone that way. It was
here that we were overtaken by Captain Jack Crawford, widely
known East and West as "The Poet Scout." Crawford had just heard
of the Custer massacre, and had written a very creditable poem
upon receipt of the news. His pen was always ready, and he made
many epics of the West, many of which are still popular
throughout the country.
Jack was a tenderfoot at that time, having lately come to
that country. But he had abundant pluck and courage. He had just
brought dispatches to Crook from Fort Fetterman, riding more
than three hundred miles through a country literally alive with
hostile Indians. These dispatches notified Crook that General
Terry was to operate with a large command south of the
Yellowstone, and that the two commands would probably
consolidate somewhere on the Rosebud. On learning that I was
with Crook, Crawford at once hunted me up, and gave me a letter
from General Sheridan, announcing his appointment as a scout. He
also informed me that he had brought me a present from General
Jones, of Cheyenne.
"What kind of a present?" I inquired, seeing no indication of
any package about Jack.
"A bottle of whisky!" he almost shouted.
I clapped my hand over his mouth. News that whisky was in the
camp was likely to cause a raid by a large number of very dry
scouts and soldier men. Only when Jack and I had assured
ourselves that we were absolutely alone did I dare dip into his
saddle pockets and pull forth the treasure. I will say in
passing that I don't believe there is another scout in the West
that would have brought a full bottle of whisky three hundred
miles. But Jack was "bone dry." As Crawford refused to join me,
and I was never a lone drinker, I invited General Carr over to
sample the bottle. We were just about to have a little drink for
two when into camp rode young Lathrop, the reporter for the
Associated Press to whom we had given the name of Death Rattler.
Death Rattler appeared to have scented the whisky from afar, for
he had no visible errand with us. We were glad to have him,
however, as he was a good fellow, and certainly knew how to
appreciate a drink.
For two or three days the command pushed on, but we did not
seem to gain much on the Indians. They apparently knew exactly
where we were and how fast we were going, and they moved just as
fast as we did.
On the fourth day of our pursuit I rode about ten miles ahead
of the command till I came to a hill which gave a fine view of
the surrounding country. Mounting this, I searched the hills
with my field-glasses. Soon I saw a great column of smoke rising
about ten miles down the creek. As this cloud drifted aside in
the keen wind, I could see a column of men marching beneath it.
These I at first believed to be the Indians we were after, but
closer study revealed them as General Terry's soldiers.
I forthwith dispatched a scout who was with me to take this
news to Crook. But he had no more than gone when I discovered a
band of Indians on the opposite side of the creek and another
party of them directly in front of me. For a few minutes I
fancied that I had made a mistake, and that the men I had seen
under the dust were really Indians after all.
But very shortly I saw a body of soldiers forming a skirmish
line. Then I knew that Terry's men were there, and that the
Indians I had seen were Terry's scouts. These Indians had
mistaken me for an Indian, and, believing that I was the leader
of a big party, shouted excitedly: "The Sioux are coming." That
is why the general threw out the skirmish line I had observed.
General Terry, on coming into the Post, ordered the Seventh
Cavalry to form a line of battle across the Rosebud; he also
brought up his artillery and had the guns unlimbered for action,
doubtless dreading another Custer massacre.
These maneuvers I witnessed from my hill with considerable
amusement, thinking the command must be badly frightened. After
I had enjoyed the situation to my heart's content I galloped
toward the skirmish line, waving my hat. When I was within a
hundred yards of the troops, Colonel Wier of the Seventh Cavalry
rode out to meet me. He recognized me at once, and convoyed me
inside the line, shouting to the soldiers:
"Boys, here's Buffalo Bill!" Thereupon three rousing cheers
ran all the way down the line.
Colonel Wier presented me to General Terry. The latter
questioned me closely and was glad to learn that the alarm had
been a false one. I found that I was not entitled alone to the
credit of having frightened the whole Seventh Cavalry. The
Indian scouts had also seen far behind me the dust raised by
Crook's troops, and were fully satisfied that a very large force
of Sioux was in the vicinity and moving to the attack.
At General Terry's request I accompanied him as he rode
forward to meet Crook. That night both commands went into camp
on the Rosebud. General Terry had his wagon-train with him, so
the camp had everything to make life as comfortable as it can be
on an Indian trail.
The officers had large wall-tents, with portable beds to stow
inside them, and there were large hospital tents to be used as
dining-rooms. Terry's camp looked very comfortable and homelike.
It presented a sharp contrast to the camp of Crook, who had for
his headquarters only one small fly-tent, and whose cooking
utensils consisted of a quart cup in which he brewed his own
coffee, and a sharp stick on which he broiled his bacon. When I
compared these two camps I concluded that Crook was a real
Indian fighter. He had plainly learned that to follow Indians a
soldier must not be hampered by any great weight of luggage or
That evening General Terry ordered General Miles, with the
Fifth Infantry, to return by a forced march to the Yellowstone,
and to proceed by steamboat down that stream to the mouth of the
Powder River, where the Indians could be intercepted in case
they made an attempt to cross the stream. The regiment made a
forced march that night of thirty-five miles, which was splendid
traveling for an infantry regiment through a mountainous
Generals Crook and Terry spent the evening and the next day
in council. The following morning both commands moved out on the
Indian trail. Although Terry was the senior officer, he did not
assume command of both expeditions. Crook was left in command of
his own troops, though the two forces operated together. We
crossed the Tongue River and moved on to the Powder, proceeding
down that stream to a point twenty miles from its junction with
the Yellowstone. There the Indian trail turned to the southeast,
in the direction of the Black Hills.
The two commands were now nearly out of supplies. The trail
was abandoned, and the troops kept on down the Powder River to
its confluence with the Yellowstone. There we remained for
General Nelson A. Miles, who was at the head of the Fifth
Infantry, and who had been scouting in the vicinity, reported
that no Indians had as yet crossed the Yellowstone. Several
steamboats soon arrived with large quantities of supplies, and
the soldiers, who had been a little too close to famine to
please them, were once more provided with full stomachs on which
they could fight comfortably, should the need for fighting
One evening while we were in camp on the Yellowstone at the
mouth of the Powder River I was informed that Louis Richard, a
half-breed scout, and myself, had been selected to accompany
General Miles on a reconnaisance. We were to take the steamer
Far West down the Yellowstone as far as Glendive Creek. We
were to ride in the pilot-house and keep a sharp look-out for
Indians on both banks of the river. The idea of scouting from a
steamboat was to me an altogether novel one, and I was immensely
pleased at the prospect.
At daylight the next morning we reported on the steamer to
General Miles, who had with him four or five companies of his
regiment. We were somewhat surprised when he asked us why we had
not brought our horses. We were at a loss to see how we could
employ horses in the pilothouse of a river steamboat. He said
that we might need them before we got back, so we sent for them
and had them brought on board.
In a few minutes we were looking down the river, the swift
current enabling the little steamer to make a speed of twenty
miles an hour.
The commander of the Far West was Captain Grant March,
a fine chap of whom I had often heard. For many years he was one
of the most famous swift-water river captains in the country. It
was on his steamer that the wounded from the battle of the
Little Big Horn had been transported to Fort Abraham Lincoln, on
the Missouri River. On that trip he made the fastest steamboat
time on record. He was an excellent pilot, and handled his boat
in those swift and dangerous waters with remarkable dexterity.
With Richard and me at our station in the pilothouse the
little steamer went flying down-stream past islands, around
bends, and over sandbars at a rate that was exhilarating, but
sometimes a little disquieting to men who had done most of their
navigating on the deck of a Western pony. Presently, far away
inland, I thought I could see horses grazing, and reported this
belief to General Miles. The general pointed out a large tree on
the bank, and asked the captain if he could land the boat there.
"I can not only land her there; I can make her climb the tree
if you think it would be any use," returned March.
He brought the boat skillfully alongside the tree, and let it
go at that, as the general could see no particular advantage in
sending the steamboat up the tree.
Richard and I were ordered to take our horses and push out as
rapidly as possible to see if there were any Indians in the
vicinity. Meanwhile, General Miles kept his soldiers in
readiness to march instantly if we reported any work for them to
As we rode off, Captain March, sang out:
"Boys, if there was only a heavy dew on the grass, I could
send the old craft right along after you."
It was a false alarm, however. The objects I had seen proved
to be Indian graves, with only good Indians in them. On arriving
at Glendive Creek we found that Colonel Rice and his company of
the Fifth Infantry which had been sent on ahead by General Miles
had built a good little fort with their trowel bayonets. Colonel
Rice was the inventor of this weapon, and it proved very useful
in Indian warfare. It is just as deadly in a charge as the
regular bayonet, and can also be used almost as effectively as a
shovel for digging rifle-pits and throwing up intrenchments.
The Far West was to remain at Glendive overnight.
General Miles wanted a scout to go at once with messages for
General Terry, and I was selected for the job. That night I rode
seventy-five miles through the Bad Lands of the Yellowstone. I
reached General Terry's camp the next morning, after having
nearly broken my neck a dozen times or more.
Anyone who has seen that country in the daytime knows that it
is not exactly the kind of a place one would pick out for
pleasure riding. Imagine riding at night, over such a country,
filled with almost every imaginable obstacle to travel, and
without any real roads, and you can understand the sort of a
ride I had that night. I was mighty glad to see the dawn break,
and to be able to pick my way a little more securely, although I
could not increase the pace at which I had driven my horse
through the long, dark night.
There was no present prospect of carrying this out, however.
After I had taken lunch, General Terry asked me if I would carry
some dispatches to General Whistler, and I replied that I would
be glad to do so. Captain Smith, Terry's aide-de-camp, offered
me his horse, and I was glad to accept the animal, as my own was
pretty well spent. He proved to be a fine mount. I rode him
forty miles that night in four hours, reaching General
Whistler's steamboat at four in the morning. When Whistler had
read the dispatches I handed him he said:
"Cody, I want to send information to General Terry concerning
the Indians that have been skirmishing around here all day. I
have been trying to induce some member in my command to carry
them, but no one wants to go."
"Get your dispatches ready, general," I replied, "and I'll
He went into his quarters and came out presently with a
package, which he handed me. I mounted the same horse which had
brought me, and at eight o'clock that evening reached Terry's
headquarters, just as his force was about to march.
As soon as Terry had read the dispatches he halted his
command, which was already under way. Then he rode on ahead to
overtake General Crook, with whom he held a council. At General
Terry's urgent request I accompanied him on a scout for Dry
Fork, on the Missouri. We marched three days, a little to the
east of north. When we reached the buffalo range we discovered
some fresh Indian signs. The redskins had been killing buffalo,
and the evidences of their work were very plain. Terry now
called on me to carry dispatches to Colonel Rice, who was still
encamped at the mouth of Glendive Creek on the Yellowstone. This
was about eighty miles distant.
Night had set in with a storm. A drizzling rain was falling,
which made the going slippery, and made the blackness of the
Western Plains still blacker. I was entirely unacquainted with
the section of the country through which I was to ride. I
therefore traveled all night and remained in seclusion in the
daytime. I had too many plans for the future to risk a shot from
a hostile redskin who might be hunting white men along my way.
At daylight I unsaddled my mount and made a hearty breakfast
of bacon and hardtack. Then I lighted my pipe, and, making a
pillow of my saddle, lay down to rest.
The smoke and the fatigue of the night's journey soon made me
drowsy, and before I knew it I was fast asleep. Suddenly I was
awakened by a loud rumbling noise. I seized my gun instantly,
and sprang toward my horse, which I had picketed in a hidden
spot in the brush near by where he would be out of sight of any
Climbing a steep hill, I looked cautiously over the country
from which the noise appeared to come. There before me was a
great herd of buffalo, moving at full gallop. Twenty Indians
were behind it, riding hard and firing into the herd as they
rode. Others near by were cutting up the carcasses of the
animals that had already been killed.
I saddled my horse and tied him near me. Then I crawled on my
stomach to the summit of the hill, and for two hours I lay there
watching the progress of the chase.
When the Indians had killed all the buffalo they wanted they
rode off in the direction whence they had come. This happened to
be the way that I hoped to go on my own expedition. I made up my
mind that their camp was located somewhere between me and
Glendive Creek. I was not at all eager to have any communication
with these gentlemen. Therefore, when I resumed my journey at
nightfall, I made a wide detour around the place where I
believed their camp would be. I avoided it successfully,
reaching Colonel Rice's camp just after daybreak.
The colonel had been fighting Indians almost every day since
he encamped at this point. He was anxious that Terry should know
of this so that reënforcements might be sent, and the country
cleared of the redskins. Of course it fell to my lot to carry
this word back to Terry.
I undertook the mission willingly enough, for by this time I
was pretty well used to night riding through a country beset
with perils, and rather enjoyed it.
The strain of my recent rides had told on me, but the
excitement bore me up. Indeed, when a man is engaged in work of
this kind, the exhilaration is such that he forgets all about
the wear and tear on his system, and not until all danger is
over and he is safely resting in camp does he begin to feel what
he has been through. Then a good long sleep usually puts him all
Many and many a time I have driven myself beyond what I
believed was the point of physical endurance, only to find that
I was ready for still further effort if the need should arise.
The fact that I continued in rugged health during all the time I
was on the Plains, and have had little illness throughout my
life, seems to prove that living and working outdoors, despite
its hardships, is far better for a man than any sedentary
occupation can possibly be.
I started back to overhaul General Terry, and on the third
day out I found him at the head of Deer Creek. He was on his way
to Colonel Rice's camp. He was headed in the right direction,
but bearing too far east. He asked me to guide his command in
the right course, which I did. On arriving at Glendive I bade
good-by to the general and his officers and took passage on the
Far West, which was on her way down the Missouri. At
Bismarck I left the steamer, and proceeded by rail to Rochester,
It has been a great pleasure to me to meet and know and serve
with such men as Crook and Miles. I had served long enough on
the Plains to know Indian fighters when I saw them, and I cannot
close this chapter without a tribute to both of these men.
Miles had come to the West as a young man with a brilliant
war record, having risen to a major-general of volunteers at the
age, I think, of 26 or 27.
He took naturally to Indian fighting. He quickly divested
himself of all the tactics that were useless in this particular
kind of warfare, and learned as much about the Indians as any
man ever knew.
Years later, when I was giving my Wild West Show in Madison
Square Garden, General Miles visited it as my guest.
The Indians came crowding around him, and followed him
wherever he went, although other army officers of high
reputation accompanied him on the visit.
This Indian escort at last proved to be almost embarrassing,
for the general could not go to any part of the Garden without
four or five of the braves silently dogging his footsteps and
drinking in his every word.
When this was called to my attention I called one of the old
men aside and asked him why he and his brothers followed Miles
"Heap big chief!" was the reply. "Him lickum Injun chiefs.
Him biggest White Chief. Heap likum." Which was really a very
high tribute, as Indians are not given to extravagant praise.
When we have met from time to time General Miles has been
kind enough to speak well of me and the work I have done on the
Plains. I am very glad to have this opportunity of returning the
Crook was a man who lived and fought without any ostentation,
but who had high courage and used rare judgment. The fact that
he had command of the forces in the West had much to do with
their successes in subduing the hostile red man. Indeed, had not
our army taught the Indians that it was never safe, and usually
extremely dangerous, to go on the warpath against the Big White
Chief, organizations might have been formed which would have
played sad havoc with our growing Western civilization.
I am and always have been a friend of the Indian. I have
always sympathized with him in his struggle to hold the country
that was his by right of birth.
But I have always held that in such a country as America the
march of civilization was inevitable, and that sooner or later
the men who lived in roving tribes, making no real use of the
resources of the country, would be compelled to give way before
the men who tilled the soil and used the lands as the Creator
intended they should be used.
In my dealings with the Indians we always understood each
other. In a fight we did our best to kill each other. In times
of peace we were friends. I could always do more with the
Indians than most white men, and I think my success in getting
so many of them to travel with my organization was because I
understood them and they understood me.
Shrewd as were the generals who conducted the fight against
the Indians, I believe they could have done little without the
services of the men who all over the West served them in the
capacity of scouts.
The adventures of small scouting parties were at times even
more thrilling than the battles between the Indians and the
Among the ablest of the scouts I worked with in the West were
Frank Grouard and Baptiste Pourier. At one time in his childhood
Grouard was to all intents and purposes a Sioux Indian. He lived
with the tribe, hunted and fought with them, and wore the
breech-clout as his only summer garment.
He met some hunters and trappers while living this life.
Their language recalled his childhood, and he presently deserted
his red-skinned friends and came back to his own race.
His knowledge of the tongues of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Crow
Indians and his marvelous proficiency in the universal sign
language made him an extremely desirable acquisition to the
Grouard and "Big Bat" (Baptiste Pourier) were the two scouts
that guided Lieutenant Sibley, a young officer of experience and
ability, on a scout with about thirty officers and John Finnerty
of the Chicago Times, a newspaper man who was known all
over the West.
At eight o'clock at night they left their halting-place, Big
Goose Creek, and in the silent moonlight made a phantom
promenade toward the Little Big Horn.
Presently they made out the presence of a war party ahead of
them, and one of the scouts of this outfit began riding around
in a circle, which meant that the enemy had been discovered.
There were too many Indians to fight in the open, so Grouard
led the soldiers to a deep thicket where there were plenty of
logs and fallen timber out of which to make breastworks.
The Indians repeatedly circled around them and often charged,
but the white men, facing a massacre like that of Custer's men,
steadily held them at bay by accurate shooting.
Soon red reënforcements began to arrive. The Indians, feeling
that they had now a sufficient advantage, attempted another
charge, as the result of which they lost White Antelope, one of
the bravest of their chiefs.
This dampened their ardor, but they kept up an incessant
firing that rattled against the log breastworks like hailstones.
Fearing that the Indians would soon start a fire and burn
them out, Sibley ordered a retreat. The two scouts were left
behind to keep up a desultory fire after night had fallen, in
order to make the Indians think the party was still in its
breastworks. Then the other men in single file struggled up the
precipitous sides of the mountain above them, marching,
stumbling, climbing, and falling according to the character of
the ground they passed over.
The men left behind finally followed on. The temperature fell
below zero, and the night was one of suffering and horror. At
last they gained a point in the mountains about twenty-five
miles distant from Crook's command.
Halting in a sheltered cave, they got a little sleep and
started out just in time to escape observation by a large
war-party which was scouting in their direction.
At night the jaded party, more dead than alive, forded Tongue
River up to their armpits. Two were so exhausted that it was not
considered advisable to permit them to plunge into the icy
stream, and they were left on the bank till help could be sent
Those that got across dragged themselves over the trail to
Crook's camp. The rocks had broken their boots, and with
bleeding feet and many a bullet wound they managed to get within
sight of the camp, where two men of the Second Cavalry found
them and brought them in.
Sibley's men threw themselves on the ground, too exhausted to
go another step. Hot food was brought them, and they soon were
strong enough to go to Camp Cloud Peak, to receive the
hospitality and sympathy of their comrades. The two men who had
been left behind were brought in and cared for.
This expedition was one of the most perilous in the history
of the Plains, and the fact that there were any survivors is due
to the skill, coolness, and courage of the two scouts, Grouard
My work on the Plains brought me many friends, among them
being some of the truest and staunchest that any man ever had.
You who live your lives in cities or among peaceful ways cannot
always tell whether your friends are the kind who would go
through fire for you. But on the Plains one's friends have an
opportunity to prove their mettle. And I found out that most of
mine would as cheerfully risk their lives for me as they would
give me a light for my pipe when I asked it.
Such a friend was old "Buffalo Chips," who certainly deserves
a place in these memoirs of mine.
One morning while I was sitting on my porch at North Platte,
playing with my children, I saw a man limping on crutches from
the direction of the Post hospital. He was a middle-aged man,
but had long, flowing white hair, and the most deeply-pitted
face I have ever beheld.
Noticing that he seemed confused and in trouble, I sent the
children out to bring him to me. He came up haltingly, and in
response to my questioning told me that he had been rejected by
the hospital because he had been a Confederate soldier and it
was against their rules to accept any but Union veterans.
I turned the stranger over to my sister, who prepared a meal
for him while I went over to the adjutant's office to see what
could be done. I met General Emory in the adjutant's office, and
on my promise to pay the ex-Confederate's bills, he gave me an
order admitting him to the hospital. Soon my new protégé, who
said his name was Jim White, was duly installed, and receiving
the treatment of which he stood in sore need.
In a few weeks he had nearly recovered from the wound in his
leg which had necessitated the use of his crutches. Every day he
came to my house to play with the children and to care for my
horses, a service for which he gruffly refused to accept any
Now and then he would borrow one of my rifles for a little
practice. I soon discovered that he was a splendid shot, as well
as an unusually fine horseman. My surprise at these
accomplishments was somewhat lessened when he told me that he
had spent his four years' war service as one of General J.E.B.
Stuart's scouts. Stuart had no other kind of men in his command.
For years, wherever I went, no matter how dangerous the
errand, my new friend went along. The first time he followed me
I still remember vividly. I had left the Post on a five days'
scout, and was particularly anxious that no one should know the
direction I was to take.
When I was four or five miles from the Post I looked back and
saw a solitary horseman riding in my direction about a mile in
my rear. When I stopped he stopped. I rode on for a little way
and looked around again. He was exactly the same distance behind
me, and pulled his horse up when I halted. This maneuver I
repeated several times, always with the same result.
Considerably disquieted by this mysterious pursuit, I decided to
discover the reason for it. I whipped up my horse and when I had
put a sandhill between myself and the man behind I made a quick
detour through a ravine, and came up in his rear. Then I boldly
rode up till I came abreast of him.
He swung around when he heard me coming, and blushed like a
girl when he saw how I had tricked him.
"Look here, White," I demanded, "what the devil are you
following me in this way for?"
"Mrs. Cody said I could follow you if I wanted to," he said,
"and, well, I just followed you, that's all."
That was all he would say. But I knew that he had come along
to keep me from getting hurt if I was attacked, and would rather
die than admit his real reason. So I told him to come along, and
come along he did.
There was no need for his services on that occasion, but a
little later he put me in debt to him for my life. He and I rode
together into a border town, where there were a few gentlemen in
the horse-stealing business who had reason to wish me moved
along to some other sphere. I left White to look after the
horses as we reached the town, and went into a hotel to get a
nip, for which I felt a very great need. White noticed a couple
of rough-looking chaps behind the barn as he put the horses away
and quietly slipped to a window where he could overhear their
"We'll go in while he is taking a drink," one of them was
saying, "and shoot him from behind. He'll never have a chance."
Without a word to me, White hurried into the hotel and got
behind the door. Presently the two men entered, both with drawn
revolvers. But before they could raise them White covered them
with his own weapon and commanded them sternly to throw up their
hands, an order with which they instantly complied after one
look at his face.
I wheeled at the order, and recognized his two captives as
the men I was looking for, a pair of horse-thieves and murderers
whom I had been sent to apprehend. My revolvers were put into
instant requisition, and I kept them covered while White removed
the guns with which they had expected to put me out of their
With White's help I conducted these gentlemen forty miles
back to the sheriff's office, and they walked every step of the
way. Each of them got ten years in the penitentiary as soon as
they could be tried. They either forgave me or forgot me when
they got out, for I never heard of either of them again.
In the campaign of 1876 I secured employment for White as a
scout. He was with me when Terry and Crook's commands separated
on the Yellowstone. By this time he had come to copy my gait, my
dress, my speech, and even my fashion of wearing my hair down on
my shoulders, though mine at that time was brown, and his was
white as the driven snow.
We were making a raid on an Indian village, which was peopled
with very lively and very belligerent savages. I had given White
an old red-lined coat, one which I had worn conspicuously in a
number of battles, and which the Indians had marked as a special
target on that account.
A party of Indians had been driven from among the lodges into
a narrow gorge, and some of the soldiers, among them Captain
Charles King, had gone after them. As they were proceeding
cautiously, keeping tinder cover as much as possible, King
observed White creeping along the opposite bluff, rifle in hand,
looking for a chance at the savages huddled below, and hoping to
distract their fire so they would do as little damage as
possible to the soldiers who were closing in on them.
White crawled along on all-fours till he reached a stunted
tree on the brim of the ravine. There he halted, brought his
rifle to his shoulder in readiness to aim and raised himself
slowly to his feet. He was about to fire, when one of the
Indians in the hole below spotted the red-lined coat. There was
a crack, a puff of smoke, and White toppled over, with a bullet
through his heart. The coat had caught the attention of the
savages, and thus I had been the innocent means of my friend's
death; for, with the soldiers pressing them so hard, it is not
likely that any of the warriors would have wasted a shot had
they not thought they were getting Pa-ho-has-ka. For a long time
the Indians believed that I would be a menace to them no more.
But they discovered their mistake later, and I sent a good many
of them to the Happy Hunting-Grounds as a sort of tribute to my
Poor old White! A more faithful man never took a trail, nor a
braver. He was a credit to me, and to the name which General
Sheridan had first given him in derision, but which afterward
became an honor, the name of "Buffalo Chips."
When Terry and Crook's commands joined on the Yellowstone
both commands went into camp together and guards were placed to
prevent surprise. The scene was typical of the Old West, but it
would astonish anyone whose whole idea of warfare has been
gained by a visit to a modern military post or training camp, or
the vast camps where the reserve forces are drilled and equipped
for the great European war.
Generals Crook, Merritt, and Carr were in rough hunting rigs,
utterly without any mark of their rank. Deerskin, buckskin,
corduroy, canvas, and rags indiscriminately covered the rest of
the command, so that unless you knew the men it was totally
impossible to distinguish between officers and enlisted men.
However, every one in the commands knew every one else, and
there was no confusion.
A great part of that night was spent in swapping stories of
recent experiences. All of them were thrilling, even to veteran
campaigners fresh from the trail. There was no need of drawing
the long bow in those days. The truth was plenty exciting enough
to suit the most exacting, and we sat about like schoolboys,
drinking in each other's tales, and telling our own in exchange.
A story of a personal adventure and a hairbreadth escape in
which Lieutenant De Rudio figured was so typical of the fighting
days of the West that I want my readers to know it. I shall tell
it, as nearly as I can, just as it came to me around the
flickering fire in that picturesque border camp.
De Rudio had just returned from his adventure, and he told it
to us between puffs of his pipe so realistically that I caught
several of my old friends of the Plains peering about into the
darkness as if to make sure that no lurking redskins were
creeping up on them.
In the fight of a few days before De Rudio was guarding a
pony crossing with eight men when one of them sang out:
"Lieutenant, get your horse, quick. Reno (the commander of
the outfit) is retreating!" No trumpet had sounded, however, and
no orders had been given, so the lieutenant hesitated to retire.
His men left in a hurry, but he remained, quietly waiting for
Presently, looking behind him, he saw thirty or forty Indians
coming full gallop. He wheeled and started to get into safer
quarters. As lie did so they cut loose with a volley. He leaned
low on his horse as they shot, and the bullets sang harmlessly
over his head.
Before him was a fringe of thick underbrush along the river,
and into this he forced his unwilling horse. The bullets
followed and clipped the twigs about him like scissors. At last
he gained the creek, forded, and mounted the bank on the other
side. Here, instead of safety, he found hundreds of Indians, all
busily shooting at the soldiers, who were retreating discreetly
in the face of a greatly superior force. He was entirely cut off
from retreat, unless he chose to make a bold dash for his life
right through the middle of the Indians. This he was about to
do, when a young Indian, who had observed him, sent a shot after
him, and his horse fell dead under him, rolling over and over,
while he managed to scramble to his feet.
The shot had attracted the attention of all the Indians in
that immediate neighborhood, and there were plenty of them there
for all offensive purposes. De Rudio jumped down the creek bank
and hid in an excavation while a hail of bullets spattered the
water ahead of him and raised a dozen little clouds of dust at
So heavy had this volley been that the Indians decided that
the bullets had done their work, and a wild yell broke from
Suddenly the yell changed to another sort of outcry, and the
firing abruptly ceased. Peering out, De Rudio saw Captain
Benteen's column coming up over the hill. He began to hope that
his rescue was at hand. But in a few minutes the soldiers
disappeared and the Indians all started off after them.
Just beyond the hill was the noise of a lively battle, and he
made up his mind that Reno's command had rallied, and that if he
could join them he might be saved.
Working his way softly through the brush he was nearing the
summit of the slope when he heard his name whispered and saw
three of his own company in the brush. Two of them were mounted.
The horse of the third had been killed.
The three men remained in the bushes, lying as low as they
could and making no sound. Looking out now and then, they could
see an old Indian woman going about, taking scalps and
mutilating the bodies of the soldiers who had been slain. Most
of the warriors were occupied with the battle, but now and then
a warrior, suspicious that soldiers were still lurking in the
brush, would ride over in their direction and fire a few shots
that whistled uncomfortably close to their heads.
Presently the firing on the hill ceased, and hundreds of
Indians came slowly back. But they were hard pressed by the
soldiers, and the battle was soon resumed, to break out
intermittently through the entire night.
In a quiet interval the two soldiers got their horses, and
with their companion and De Rudio holding to the animals' tails
forded the river and made a détour round the Indians. Several
times they passed close to Indians. Once or twice they were
fired on and answered the fire, but their luck was with them and
they escaped bringing a general attack down upon them.
As they were making their way toward the edge of the clearing
they saw directly before them a party of men dressed in the
ragged uniforms of American cavalrymen, and all drew deep
breaths of relief. Help seemed now at hand. But just as they
sprang forward to join their supposed comrades a fiendish yell
broke from the horsemen. In another instant the four
unfortunates were rushing to cover, with a dozen Indians, all
dressed in the clothing taken from dead soldiers, in hot
The Indians had been planning a characteristic piece of Sioux
strategy. As fast as it could be accomplished they had been
stripping the clothing from dead and wounded soldiers and
garbing themselves in it with the purpose of deceiving the
outposts of Reno's command and surprising the Americans as soon
as day broke. Had it not been for the accidental discovery of
the ruse by De Rudio's party it might have succeeded only too
The lieutenant and his companions managed to get away safely
and to find shelter in the woods. But the Indians immediately
fired the underbrush and drove them further and further on.
Then, just as they had begun to despair of their lives, their
pursuers, who had been circling around the tangle of scrub
growth, began singing a slow chant and withdrew to the summit of
There they remained in council a little time and then
cantered away single file.
Fearing another trap, the white men remained for weary hours
in their hiding-place, but at last were compelled by thirst and
hunger to come out.
No Indians were visible, nor did any appear as, worn out and
dispirited, they dragged themselves to the camp of the soldiers.
In the forty-eight hours since he had been cut off from his
command De Rudio had undergone all the horrors of Indian warfare
and a hundred times had given himself up for dead.
Bullets had passed many times within a few inches of him.
Half a dozen times only a lucky chance had intervened between
him and the horrible death that Indians know so well how to
inflict. Yet, save for the bruises from his fall off his horse,
and the abrasions of the brush through which he had traveled, he
had never received a scratch.
Of all the Indians I encountered in my years on the Plains
the most resourceful and intelligent, as well as the most
dangerous, were the Sioux. They had the courage of dare-devils
combined with real strategy. They mastered the white man's
tactics as soon as they had an opportunity to observe them.
Incidentally they supplied all thinking and observing white
commanders with a great deal that was well worth learning in the
art of warfare. The Sioux fought to win, and in a desperate
encounter were absolutely reckless of life.
But they also fought wisely, and up to the minute of closing
in they conserved their own lives with a vast amount of
cleverness. The maxim put into words by the old Confederate fox,
Forrest: "Get there fastest with the mostest," was always a
fighting principle with the Sioux.
They were a strong race of men, the braves tall, with finely
shaped heads and handsome features. They had poise and dignity
and a great deal of pride, and they seldom forgot either a
friend or an enemy.
The greatest of all the Sioux in my time, or in any time for
that matter, was that wonderful old fighting man, Sitting Bull,
whose life will some day be written by a historian who can
really give him his due.
Sitting Bull it was who stirred the Indians to the uprising
whose climax was the massacre of the Little Big Horn and the
destruction of Custer's command.
For months before this uprising he had been going to and fro
among the Sioux and their allies urging a revolt against the
encroaching white man. It was easy at that time for the Indians
to secure rifles. The Canadian-French traders to the north were
only too glad to trade them these weapons for the splendid
supplies of furs which the Indians had gathered. Many of these
rifles were of excellent construction, and on a number of
occasions we discovered to our cost that they outranged the army
carbines with which we were equipped.
After the Custer massacre the frontier became decidedly
unsafe for Sitting Bull and the chiefs who were associated with
him, and he quietly withdrew to Canada, where he was for the
time being safe from pursuit.
There he stayed till his followers began leaving him and
returning to their reservations in the United States. Soon he
had only a remnant of his followers and his immediate family to
keep him company. Warily he began negotiating for immunity, and
when he was fully assured that if he would use his influence to
quiet his people and keep them from the warpath his life would
be spared, he consented to return.
He had been lonely and unhappy in Canada. An accomplished
orator and a man with a gift of leadership, he had pined for
audiences to sway and for men to do his bidding. He felt sure
that these would be restored to him once he came back among his
people. As to his pledges, I have no doubt that he fully
intended to live up to them. He carried in his head all the
treaties that had been made between his people and the white
men, and could recite their minutest details, together with the
dates of their making and the names of the men who had signed
for both sides.
But he was a stickler for the rights of his race, and he
devoted far more thought to the trend of events than did most of
his red brothers.
Here was his case, as he often presented it to me:
"The White Man has taken most of our land. He has paid us
nothing for it. He has destroyed or driven away the game that
was our meat. In 1868 he arranged to build through the Indians'
land a road on which ran iron horses that ate wood and breathed
fire and smoke. We agreed. This road was only as wide as a man
could stretch his arms. But the White Man had taken from the
Indians the land for twenty miles on both sides of it. This land
he had sold for money to people in the East. It was taken from
the Indians. But the Indians got nothing for it.
"The iron horse brought from the East men and women and
children, who took the land from the Indians and drove out the
game. They built fires, and the fires spread and burned the
prairie grass on which the buffalo fed. Also it destroyed the
pasturage for the ponies of the Indians. Soon the friends of the
first White Men came and took more land. Then cities arose and
always the White Man's lands were extended and the Indians
pushed farther and farther away from the country that the Great
Father had given them and that had always been theirs.
"When treaties were broken and the Indians trespassed on the
rights of the White Man, my chiefs and I were always here to
adjust the White Man's wrongs.
"When treaties were broken and the Indians' rights were
infringed, no one could find the white chiefs. They were
somewhere back toward the rising sun. There was no one to give
us justice. New chiefs of the White Men came to supplant the old
chiefs. They knew nothing of our wrongs and laughed at us.
"When the Sioux left Minnesota and went beyond the Big Muddy
the white chiefs promised them they would never again be
disturbed. Then they followed us across the river, and when we
asked for lands they gave us each a prairie chicken's flight
four ways (a hundred and sixty acres); this they gave us, who
once had all the land there was, and whose habit is to roam as
far as a horse can carry us and then continue our journey till
we have had our fill of wandering.
"We are not as many as the White Man. But we know that this
land is our land. And while we live and can fight, we will fight
for it. If the White Man does not want us to fight, why does he
take our land? If we come and build our lodges on the White
Man's land, the White Man drives us away or kills us. Have we
not the same right as the White Man?"
The forfeiture of the Black Hills and unwise reduction of
rations kept alive the Indian discontent. When, in 1889,
Congress passed a law dividing the Sioux reservation into many
smaller ones so as to isolate the different tribes of the Dakota
nation a treaty was offered them. This provided payment for the
ponies captured or destroyed in the war of 1876 and certain
other concessions, in return for which the Indians were to cede
about half their land, or eleven million acres, which was to be
opened up for settlement.
The treaty was submitted to the Indians for a vote. They came
in from the woods and the plains to vote on it, and it was
carried by a very narrow majority, many of the Indians insisting
that they had been coerced by their necessities into casting
Congress delayed and postponed the fulfillment of the
promised conditions, and the Indian unrest increased as the
months went by. Even after the land had been taken over and
settled up, Congress did not pass the appropriation that was
necessary before the Indians could get their money.
Sitting Bull was appealed to for aid, and once more began
employing his powerful gift of oratory in the interest of armed
resistance against the white man.
Just at this time a legend whose origin was beyond all power
to fathom became current among the red men of the north.
From one tribe to another spread the tidings that a Messiah
was to come back to earth to use his miraculous power in the
interest of the Indian. The whites were to be driven from the
land of the red man. The old days of the West were to be
restored. The ranges were to be re-stocked with elk, antelope,
deer, and buffalo.
Soon a fever of fanaticism had infected every tribe. Not
alone were the Sioux the victims of this amazing delusion, but
every tribe on the continent shared in it.
There was to be a universal brotherhood of red men. Old
enmities were forgotten. Former foes became fast friends. The
Yaquis in Mexico sent out word that they would be ready for the
great Armageddon when it came. As far north as Alaska there were
ghost dances and barbaric festivities to celebrate the coming
restoration of the Indian to the lands of his inheritance.
And as the Indians danced, they talked and sang and thought
of war, while their hatred of the white man broke violently
Very much disquieted at the news of what was going on the War
Department sent out word to stop the dancing and singing. Stop
it! You could as easily have stopped the eruption of Mount
Lassen! Among the other beliefs that spread among the Indians
was one that all the sick would be healed and be able to go into
battle, and that young and old, squaws and braves alike, would
be given shirts which would turn the soldiers' bullets like
Every redskin believed that he could not be injured. None of
them had any fear of battle, or any suspicions that he could be
injured in the course of the great holy war that was to come.
In November, 1890, I was returning from Europe with my Wild
West Company. When the New York pilot came aboard he brought a
big packet of papers. That was before the days of wireless, and
we had had no tidings of what was going on in the world since we
had left the other side.
As he came up the ladder he recognized me, and shouted:
"Colonel, there's a big Indian war started! I guess you'll be
needed out there."
I seized the papers and eagerly read the details of the
threatened outbreak. I was not surprised when, on arriving at
Quarantine, I was handed a telegram from General Miles.
I was requested to come to Chicago as soon as possible, and
to telegraph the time of my arrival. Canceling all New York
engagements, I caught the first train for the West, and in
thirty-six hours reported to General Miles in his headquarters.
He briefly described to me what had been happening and went
over with me the maps of the Western States where the Indians
were getting ready for war. He said that it was his
understanding that the Bad Lands of North Dakota had been
selected as the battle-ground by the Indians, and asked me to
give him all the information I possessed about that country and
its accessibility for troops.
Miles was about to leave for the Pine Ridge Agency, and take
command of the campaign to put down the Indians.
I was thoroughly familiar with the Bad Lands, and spent an
hour or more in discussing the coming campaign with the general.
We both agreed that the Indians had selected a particularly good
country for their uprising, and an especially good season, as in
winter, with the hills covered with snow, and blizzards of
almost daily occurrence, it would be far harder to hunt them out
than in summer, when the troops could travel easily.
Miles said that Sitting Bull had his camp somewhere within
forty or fifty miles of the Standing Rock Agency, and was
haranguing the Indians thereabout, spreading the Messiah talk
and getting them to join him. He asked me if I could go
immediately to Standing Rock and Fort Yates, and thence to
Sitting Bull's camp.
He knew that I was an old friend of the chief, and he
believed that if any one could induce the old fox to abandon his
plans for a general war I could. If I could not dissuade him
from the warpath the general was of the opinion that I might be
able to delay him in taking it, so that troops could be sent
into the country in time to prevent a horrible massacre of the
defenseless white settlers, who were already in terror of their
I knew that this would be the most dangerous undertaking of
my career. I was sure that if I could reach Sitting Bull he
would at least listen to me. But in the present inflamed state
of the Indian mind it would be next to impossible to get to his
Nevertheless I was quite ready to take the risk. I knew what
fearful damage could be done by a sudden uprising of fanatical
and infuriated Indians, and any danger to me personally was as
nothing to the importance of preventing such, a thing, if
Having no standing as an army officer or as a Government
agent, it was necessary for me to be supplied with some sort of
credentials, in order to secure the assistance I should need on
my mission. When I informed General Miles of this he took one of
his visiting-cards from a case and wrote the following on the
back of it:
To COMMANDING OFFICERS OF UNITED STATES TROOPS:
Furnish Colonel William F. Cody with any
assistance or escort that he may ask for.
NELSON A. MILES.
I took the next train for Mandan, N.D., which was the station
nearest the Standing Rock Agency. There I hired a livery team
and driver for the ride of sixty-five miles to the Agency. I had
considerable difficulty in securing a driver, as the report had
gone abroad that all the Indians were on the warpath, and few of
the settlers cared to risk their scalps on such a venture. But I
went higher and higher in my offers, till at last a liveryman
figured that a hundred dollars was sufficient reward for the
risk, and, hitching up his team, told me to come along.
After an intensely cold drive we reached the Agency, where I
hurried into the trader's store to thaw out by his stove. I had
hardly arrived before the trader came in and told me that Major
McLaughlin, the Indian agent, wanted to see me. News travels
very fast in the Indian country, especially in war times.
Someone about the Post who had seen me driving in had hurried to
headquarters to inform the agent that Buffalo Bill had arrived
by way of reënforcements.
As soon as I got my chilled blood into circulation I went to
the major's quarters, and informed him of the purpose of my
visit. We were old friends, and he was very glad to see me, but
he was much concerned on learning what I intended to do.
"That is impossible!" he said. "The Sioux are threatening a
great war. At this very moment we do not know when the Indians
here at the Agency may rise. We can take care of our own
situation, for we have four troops of cavalry here, but we
cannot permit you to go to Sitting Bull's camp. Not only would
you be killed before you got halfway there, but your presence in
the country would precipitate hostilities for which we are not
in the least prepared. I'm sorry, Cody, but it can't be done."
More fully to persuade me of the truth of what he said he
took me to the quarters of Colonel Brown, the commander of the
troops at the Agency, and asked him to talk to me. Brown
listened to my statement of what I proposed and shook his head.
"I've heard of you, Cody, and of your nerve, but this is more
than even you can do. Sitting Bull's camp is forty miles away,
and the country between here and there is swarming with Indians
all ready to go on the warpath, and wholly beyond the sway of
reason. I cannot permit you to make this attempt."
"Do you hear, Cody?" said McLaughlin. "The only thing for you
to do is to stay all night with us and then return to the
railroad. Even that will be risky enough, even for you." "But go
you must," added Brown. "The Agency is under martial law, and I
cannot permit you to remain any longer than tomorrow morning."
There was no arguing with these men. So I resorted to my
credentials. Taking General Miles's card from my pocket, I laid
it before Colonel Brown.
"What does this mean?" he demanded, and passed the card to
"It looks like orders," said McLaughlin.
"Yes," said Brown, "and I can't disobey them."
Just then Captain Fatchett, an old friend of mine, came into
the quarters, and Brown turned me over to him for entertainment
until I should formulate my plans for my visit to Sitting Bull.
I had never served with the Eighth Cavalry to which the
companies at the Post belonged, but I had many friends among the
officers, and spent a very pleasant afternoon and evening
talking over old times, and getting information about the
After guard-mount the next morning I told Colonel Brown that
I did not think I would require an escort for my visit, as the
presence of a number of armed men in the Indian country would be
sure to start the trouble it was our purpose to avoid, or to
delay as long as possible. The man who had driven me over was
anxious to return at once, so I asked for a light spring-wagon
and a team of mules.
"Wait an hour or two," said the colonel, "and I'll send the
quartermaster to you."
I waited, and he employed the time, as I afterward learned,
in telegraphing to General Miles, to the Commissioner of Indian
Affairs, to the Secretary of the Interior, and to President
Harrison. He informed all of them that I was there, insisting on
going to Sitting Bull's camp, and that such an errand would not
only result in my death, but would precipitate the outbreak then
brewing, and for which he was not at all prepared. He besought
all of them to instruct me to return to Mandan.
While he waited for replies to his dispatches I hunted about
the camp for someone who knew just where Sitting Bull was
located and how to get there. I also wanted a first-class
interpreter, as I would have matters to discuss with Sitting
Bull beyond his mastery of English or mine of Sioux to express.
At last I found a man who agreed to go with me as guide for five
hundred dollars, which I promised him without a protest. Then I
went over to the post-trader's store and bought all manner of
presents which I knew would be acceptable to Sitting Bull, his
squaw, and his children.
When I returned to Colonel Brown's quarters he endeavored
once more to put me off. But I would not be put off. I informed
him that I had explicit orders from General Miles as to my
mission, and that if he interfered with me he was violating the
orders of his commanding officer and running into very serious
At last he reluctantly sent for the quartermaster, and
ordered him to have a span of good mules hitched to a light
The wagon was driven to the post-trader's store, where I
found my guide and interpreter, and loaded aboard the presents I
had bought for the old warrior. With plenty of robes to keep out
the intense cold, we started out on our journey, a little
apprehensive, but fully determined to go through with it. Five
or six miles from the Post we met three men in a wagon driving
toward the Agency. They told us that Sitting Bull's camp had
been lately moved, and that it was now further down the river. I
knew that if the old man was really on the warpath he would be
moving up the river, not down, so I felt considerably reassured.
When we had proceeded a few miles further we heard a yell
behind us, and, looking back, saw a rider approaching at full
speed. This proved to be one of Major McLaughlin's Indian
scouts. He bore a telegram reading:
COLONEL WILLIAM F. CODY, Fort Yates, N.D.:
The order for the detention of Sitting Bull has
been rescinded. You are hereby ordered to return to Chicago and
report to General Miles.
BENJAMIN HARRISON, President.
That ended my mission to Sitting Bull. I still believe I
could have got safely through the country, though there were
plenty of chances that I would be killed or wounded in the
I returned to the Post, turned back my presents at a loss to
myself, and paid the interpreter fifty dollars for his day's
work. He was very glad to have the fifty and a whole skin, for
he could not figure how the five hundred would be of much help
to him if he had been stretched out on the Plains with an Indian
bullet through him.
I was supplied with conveyance back to Mandan by Colonel
Brown and took my departure the next morning. Afterward, in
Indianapolis, President Harrison informed me that he had allowed
himself to be persuaded against my mission in opposition to his
own judgment, and said he was very sorry that he had not allowed
me to proceed.
It developed afterward that the people who had moved the
President to interfere consisted of a party of philanthropists
who advanced the argument that my visit would precipitate a war
in which Sitting Bull would be killed, and it was to spare the
life of this man that I was stopped!
The result of the President's order was that the Ghost Dance
War followed very shortly, and with it came the death of Sitting
I found that General Miles knew exactly why I had been turned
back from my trip to Sitting Bull. But he was a soldier, and
made no criticism of the order of a superior. General Miles was
glad to hear that I had been made a brigadier-general, but he
was still more pleased with the fact that I knew so many Indians
at the Agency.
"You can get around among them," he said, "and learn their
intentions better than any other man I know."
I remained with General Miles until the final surrender of
the North American Indians to the United States Government after
three hundred years of warfare.
This surrender was made to Miles, then lieutenant-general of
the army, and it was eminently fitting that a man who had so
ably conducted the fight of the white race against them and had
dealt with them so justly and honorably should have received
With that event ended one of the most picturesque phases of
Western life—Indian fighting. It was with that that I was
identified from my youth to my middle age, and in the time I
spent on the Plains, Indian warfare reached its greatest
severity and its highest development.
In the preceding chapters I have sketched briefly some of the
most interesting of my adventures on the Plains. It has been
necessary to omit much that I would like to have told. For
twenty years my life was one of almost continuous excitement,
and to tell the whole story would require many volumes.
It was because of my great interest in the West, and my
belief that its development would be assisted by the interest I
could awaken in others, that I decided to bring the West to the
East through the medium of the Wild West Show. How greatly I was
to succeed in this venture I had no idea when it first occurred
to me. As I have told you, I had already appeared in a small
Western show, and was the first man to bring Indians to the East
and exhibit them. But the theater was too small to give any real
impression of what Western life was like. Only in an arena where
horses could be ridden at full gallop, where lassos could be
thrown, and pistols and guns fired without frightening the
audience half to death, could such a thing be attempted.
After getting together a remarkable collection of Indians,
cowboys, Indian ponies, stage-coach drivers, and other typical
denizens of my own country under canvas I found myself almost
We showed in the principal cities of the country, and
everywhere the novelty of the exhibition drew great crowds. As
owner and principal actor in the enterprise I met the leading
citizens of the United States socially, and never lost an
opportunity to "talk up" the Western country, which I believed
to have a wonderful future. I worked hard on the program of the
entertainment, taking care to make it realistic in every detail.
The wigwam village, the Indian war-dance, the chant of the Great
Spirit as it was sung on the Plains, the rise and fall of the
famous tribes, were all pictured accurately.
It was not an easy thing to do. Sometimes I had to send men
on journeys of more than a hundred miles to get the right kind
of war-bonnets, or to make correct copies of the tepees peculiar
to a particular tribe. It was my effort, in depicting the West,
to depict it as it was. I was much gratified in after years to
find that scientists who had carefully studied the Indians,
their traditions and habits, gave me credit for making very
valuable contributions to the sum of human knowledge of the
The first presentation of my show was given in May, 1883, at
Omaha, which I had then chosen as my home. From there we made
our first summer tour, visiting practically every important city
in the country.
For my grand entrance I made a spectacle which comprised the
most picturesque features of Western life. Sioux, Arapahoes,
Brulés, and Cheyennes in war-paint and feathers led the van,
shrieking their war-whoops and waving the weapons with which
they were armed in a manner to inspire both terror and
admiration in the tenderfoot audience.
Next came cowboys and soldiers, all clad exactly as they were
when engaged in their campaigns against the Indians, and
lumbering along in the rear were the old stage-coaches which
carried the settlers to the West in the days before the railroad
made the journey easy and pleasant.
I am sure the people enjoyed this spectacle, for they flocked
in crowds to see it. I know I enjoyed it. There was never a day
when, looking back over the red and white men in my cavalcade, I
did not know the thrill of the trail, and feel a little sorry
that my Western adventures would thereafter have to be lived in
Without desiring to dim the glory of any individual I can
truthfully state that the expression "rough riders," which
afterward became so famous, was my own coinage. As I rode out at
the front of my parade I would bow to the audience, circled
about on the circus benches, and shout at the top of my voice:
"Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to introduce you to the
rough riders of the world!"
For three years we toured the United States with great
success. One day an Englishman, whose name I never learned, came
to see me after the show.
"That is a wonderful performance," he told me. "Here in
America it meets with great appreciation, but you have no idea
what a sensation it would be in the Old World, where such things
are unheard of."
That set me to thinking. In a few days, after spending hours
together considering the matter, I had made up my mind that
Europe should have an opportunity to study America as nearly at
first-hand as possible through the medium of my entertainment.
Details were soon arranged. In March, 1886, I chartered the
steamer State of Nebraska, loaded my Indians, cowboys,
horses, and stage-coaches on board, and set sail for another
It was a strange voyage. The Indians had never been to sea
before, and had never dreamed that such an expanse of water
existed on the planet. They would stand at the rail, after the
first days of seasickness were over, gazing out across the
waves, and trying to descry something that looked like land, or
a tree, or anything that seemed familiar and like home. Then
they would shake their heads disconsolately and go below, to
brood and muse and be an extremely unhappy and forlorn lot of
savages. The joy that seized them when at last they came in
sight of land, and were assured that we did not intend to keep
on sailing till we fell over the edge of the earth, was
something worth looking at.
At Gravesend we sighted a tug flying the American colors, and
when the band on board responded to our cheers with "The
Star-Spangled Banner" even the Indians tried to sing. Our band
replied with "Yankee Doodle," and as we moved toward port there
was more noise on board than I had ever heard in any battle on
When the landing was made the members of the party were sent
in special coaches to London. Crowds stared at us from every
station. The guards on the train were a little afraid of the
solemn and surly-looking Indians, but they were a friendly and
jovial crowd, and when they had recovered from their own fright
at the strange surroundings they were soon on good terms with
Major John M. Burke, who was my lifetime associate in the
show business, had made all arrangements for housing the big
troupe. We went to work at our leisure with our preparations to
astonish the British public, and succeeded beyond our wildest
dreams. The big London amphitheater, a third of a mile in
circumference, was just the place for such an exhibition. The
artist's brush was employed on lavish scale to reproduce the
scenery of the Western Plains. I was busy for many days with
preparations, and when our spectacle was finally given it was
received with such a burst of enthusiasm as I had never
The show began, after the grand entry, with the hour of dawn
on the Plains. Wild animals were scattered about. Within their
tents were the Indians sleeping. As the dawn deepened the
Indians came out of their tents and went through one of their
solemn and impressive war-dances. While this was going on the
British audience held its breath. You could have heard a whisper
in almost any part of the arena.
Then in came a courier to announce the neighborhood of a
hostile tribe. Instantly there was a wild scramble for mounts
and weapons. The enemy rushed in, and for ten minutes there was
a sham battle which filled the place with noise and confusion.
This battle was copied as exactly as it could be copied from one
of the scrimmages in which I had taken part in my first days as
a scout. Then we gave them a buffalo hunt, in which I had a
hand, and did a little fancy shooting. As a finish there was a
Wild Western cyclone, and a whole Indian village was blown out
of existence for the delectation of the English audience.
The initial performance was given before the Prince and
Princess of Wales, afterward King Edward and his Queen, and
their suite. At the close of the program the Prince and
Princess, at their own request, were introduced to all the
leading members of the company, including many of the Indians.
When the cowgirls of the show were presented to the Princess
they stepped forward and offered their hands, which were taken
and well shaken in true democratic fashion.
Red Shirt, the most important chief in the outfit, was highly
pleased when he learned that a princess was to visit him in his
camp. He had the Indian gift of oratory, and he replied to her
greeting with a long and eloquent speech, in which his gestures,
if not his words, expressed plainly the honor he felt in
receiving so distinguished a lady. The fact that he referred to
Alexandria as a squaw did not seem to mar her enjoyment.
That the Prince was really pleased with the exhibition was
shown by the fact that he made an immediate report of it to his
mother. Shortly thereafter I received a command from Queen
Victoria to appear before her.
This troubled me a good deal—not that I was not more than
eager to obey this flattering command, but that I was totally at
a loss how to take my show to any of the great residences
occupied by Her Majesty.
Finally, after many cautious inquiries, I discovered that she
would be willing to visit the show if a special box was prepared
for her. This we did to the best of our ability. The box was
placed upon a dais covered with crimson velvet and handsomely
decorated. When the Queen arrived I met her at the door of the
box, with my sombrero in my hand and welcomed her to "the Wild
West of America."
One of the first acts in the performance was to carry the
flag to the front. This was done by a soldier. Walking around
the arena, he offered the Stars and Stripes as an emblem of the
friendship of America to all the world. On this occasion he
carried the flag directly to the royal box, and dipped it three
times before the Queen.
Absolute silence fell over the great throng. Then the Queen
rose and saluted the flag with a bow, her suite following her
example. There was a wild cheer from everyone in the show,
Indians included, and soon all the audience was on its feet,
cheering and waving flags and handkerchiefs.
This gave us a fine start and we never put on a better
performance. When it was all over Her Majesty sent for me, and
paid me many compliments as well as to my country and the West.
I found her a most gracious and charming woman, with none of the
haughtiness which I had supposed was inseparable from a person
of such exalted rank. My subsequent experiences with royalty
convinced me that there is more real democracy among the rulers
of the countries of Europe than you will find among the petty
officials of a village.
It was interesting to watch old Red Shirt when he was
presented to the Queen. He clearly felt that this was a ceremony
between one ruler and another, and the dignity with which he
went through the introduction was wonderful to behold. One would
have thought to watch him that most of his life was spent in
introductions to kings and queens, and that he was really a
little bored with the effort required to go through with them. A
second command from the Queen resulted in an exhibition before a
number of her royal guests, including the Kings of Saxony,
Denmark, and Greece, the Queen of the Belgians, and the Crown
Prince of Austria.
The Deadwood coach, one of the features of the show, was of
particular interest to my royal guests. This was a coach with a
history. It was built in Concord, N.H., and sent by water to San
Francisco to run over a route infested with road-agents. A
number of times it was held up and robbed. Finally, both driver
and passengers were killed and the coach abandoned on the trail.
It remained for a long time a derelict, but was afterward
brought into San Francisco by an old stage-driver and placed on
the Overland trail.
As it worked its way East over the Overland route its old
luck held steadily. Again were driver and passengers massacred;
again it was abandoned. At last, when it was "hoodooed" all over
the West and no independent driver or company would have
anything to do with it I discovered it, bought it, and used it
for my show.
One of the incidents of my program, as all who have seen it
will remember, was an Indian attack on this coach. The royal
visitors wanted a real taste of Western life—insisted on it, in
fact, and the Kings of Denmark, Greece, Saxony, and the Crown
Prince of Austria climbed to the box with me.
I had secretly instructed the Indians to throw a little real
energy into their pursuit of the coach, and they followed my
instructions rather more completely than I expected. The coach
was surrounded by a demoniac band of shooting and shouting
Indians. Blank cartridges were discharged at perilously close
proximity to the rulers of four great nations. Looking around to
quiet my followers, I saw that the guests of the occasion were a
trifle pale, but they were all of them game, and came out of the
affair far less scared than were the absolutely terrified
members of the royal suites, who sat in their boxes and wrung
their hands in wild alarm.
In recognition of this performance the Prince of Wales sent
me a souvenir consisting of a feathered crest, outlined in
diamonds, with the words "Ich dien" worked in jewels underneath.
A note in the Prince's own hand expressed the pleasure of his
guests in the entertainment I had provided for them.
After a tour of the principal cities we returned to America,
proud of our success, and well rewarded in purse for our effort.
The welcome to America was almost as elaborate as that from
England. I quote from the description of it printed in the New
The harbor probably has never witnessed a more
picturesque scene than that of yesterday, when the Persian
Monarch steamed up from Quarantine. Buffalo Bill stood on
the captain's bridge, his tall and striking figure clearly
outlined, and his long hair waving in the wind; the gaily
painted and blanketed Indians leaned over the ship's rail; the
flags of all nations fluttered from the masts and connecting
cables. The cowboy band played "Yankee Doodle" with a vim and
enthusiasm which faintly indicated the joy felt by everybody
connected with the "Wild West" over the sight of home.
Shortly after my arrival I was much pleased by the receipt of
the following letter:
FIFTH AVENUE HOTEL, NEW YORK.
COLONEL WM. F. CODY:
Dear Sir—In common with all your
countrymen, I want to let you know that I am not only gratified
but proud of your management and success. So far as I can make
out, you have been modest, graceful, and dignified in all you
have done to illustrate the history of civilization on this
continent during the past century. I am especially pleased with
the compliment paid you by the Prince of Wales, who rode with
you in the Deadwood coach while it was attacked by Indians and
rescued by cowboys. Such things did occur in our days, but they
never will again.
As nearly as I can estimate, there were in 1865
about nine and one-half million of buffaloes on the Plains
between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains; all are now
gone, killed for their meat, their skins, and their bones. This
seems like desecration, cruelty, and murder, yet they have been
replaced by twice as many cattle. At that date there were about
165,000 Pawnees, Sioux, Cheyennes, and Arapahoes, who depended
upon these buffaloes for their yearly food. They, too, have
gone, but they have been replaced by twice or thrice as many
white men and women, who have made the earth to blossom as the
rose, and who can be counted, taxed, and governed by the laws of
Nature and civilization. This change has been salutary, and will
go on to the end. You have caught one epoch of this country's
history, and have illustrated it in the very heart of the modern
world—London—and I want you to feel that on this side of the
water we appreciate it.
This drama must end; days, years, and centuries
follow fast; even the drama of civilization must have an end.
All I aim to accomplish on this sheet of paper is to assure you
that I fully recognize your work. The presence of the Queen, the
beautiful Princess of Wales, the Prince, and the British public
are marks of favor which reflect back on America sparks of light
which illuminate many a house and cabin in the land where once
you guided me honestly and faithfully, in 1865-66, from Fort
Riley to Kearney, in Kansas and Nebraska.
Sincerely your friend,
Our next descent on Europe was made in the steamer Persian
Monarch, which was again chartered. This time our
destination was France. The Parisians received the show with as
much favor as had the Londoners.
Everything American became the fad during our stay.
Fashionable young men bought American and Mexican saddles for
their rides in the Bois. Cowboy hats appeared everywhere on the
street. There was a great cry for stories of the Plains and all
the books that could be found that dealt with the West were
translated into the French language. Relics from the Plains and
mountains, bows, moccasins, and Indian baskets, sold like hot
cakes in the souvenir stores.
While in the city I accepted an invitation from Rosa Bonheur
to visit her at her superb château. In return I extended her the
freedom of the show, and she made many studies from life of the
fine animals I had brought over with me. She also painted a
portrait of me on my favorite horse—a picture which I
immediately sent home to my wife.
Our sojourn in Rome was lively with incident. The Prince of
Simonetta, who visited the show, declared that he had some wild
horses in his stable which no cowboy could ride. The challenge
was promptly taken up by some of the dare-devils in my party.
That the horses might not run amuck and injure anyone, special
booths were erected in the show arena, where the trial was to be
The greatest enthusiasm was manifested by the Romans in the
performance, and it was clear to me that most of them looked
eagerly forward to the mortal injury of some of the members of
my company. The Latin delight in sports like those of the old
Roman arena had by no means died out.
When the horses were loosed in the ring they sprang into the
air, snorted, kicked up their heels, and plainly defied any of
the cowboys to do so much as to lay a hand on them. But in less
time than I can tell it the plainsmen had sent their lassos
hurtling through the air, and the horses discovered that they
had met their masters. The audience, always strong for the
winners, forgot their disappointment in the absence of
fatalities, and howled with delight as the cowboys, one after
another, mounted the fractious horses and trotted them
submissively about the arena. We closed this tour of Europe,
which was successful to the end, with a second visit to England.
I have now come to the end of my story. It is a story of "The
Great West that Was," a West that is gone forever.
All my interests are still with the West—the modern West. I
have a number of homes there, the one I love best being in the
wonderful Big Horn Valley, which I hope one day to see one of
the garden spots of the world.
In concluding, I want to express the hope that the dealings
of this Government of ours with the Indians will always be just
and fair. They were the inheritors of the land that we live in.
They were not capable of developing it, or of really
appreciating its possibilities, but they owned it when the White
Man came, and the White Man took it away from them. It was
natural that they should resist. It was natural that they
employed the only means of warfare known to them against those
whom they regarded as usurpers. It was our business, as scouts,
to be continually on the warpath against them when they
committed depredations. But no scout ever hated the Indians in
There have been times when the Government policy toward the
Indians has been unwise and unjust. That time, I trust, has
passed forever. There are still many thousand Indians in the
country, most of them engaged in agricultural pursuits. Indian
blood has added a certain rugged strength to the characters of
many of our Western citizens. At least two United States
Senators are part Indian, and proud of it.
The Indian makes a good citizen, a good farmer, a good
soldier. He is a real American, and all those of us who have
come to share with him the great land that was his heritage
should do their share toward seeing that he is dealt with justly
and fairly, and that his rights and liberties are never
infringed by the scheming politician or the short-sighted
administration of law.