An Autobiography of Buffalo Bill (Colonel W. F. Cody)
Buffalo Bill (William Frederick Cody)
Part 2 out of 5
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
"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 back
"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
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
"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
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
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 a mile."
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
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 so?"
"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
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 scout.
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 invade Kansas.
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
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
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 Southern army."
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
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 Zarrah.
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
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 next afternoon.
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
"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
"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
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 Springs?"
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 it.
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
"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 reach
"How do you know?"
"We have been riding where ponies have been grazing for the last mile."
"I haven't seen any tracks," said the General in surprise. "Show me
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
"It looks to me as if we had better fall into position," said Sherman.
"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
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 hostile race.
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
"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."
As the old chief concluded, General Sherman, rising, shook his hand and
"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 congregated here."
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 of soap.
"If we are going to have a banquet every day," said one officer, "I
think I'll do my eating in our own camp."
[Illustration: CHIEF SATANTA PASSED THE PEACE-PIPE TO GENERAL SHERMAN
AND SAID: "MY GREAT WHITE BROTHERS"]
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
"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 quartermaster.
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 Kearney.
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
fiancee 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 frontier!"
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
My argument was not convincing. "I am going to take my daughter home
again," said my father-in-law, and started toward the stateroom.
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
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 start."
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 me outside.
"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
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 distant.
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
"General," I returned, "that is one of the best horses at the fort."
"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 half-trot.
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 easier gait.
"I have no time to waste on the road," he said. "I want to push right
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
"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
"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
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 there.
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
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
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 saloon.
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
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 annoyance.
"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
The attacking party was small and we were fully prepared. When they
discovered this they fired a few shots and galloped away.
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 congenial.
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 window.
"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
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 him.
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
"I have no time to listen to you," I shouted over my shoulder.
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
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
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 and whittling.
"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 there."
"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
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 lieutenants.
"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
"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 behind them.
The herd came rushing up past me, not a hundred yards distant, while
their pursuers followed, three hundred yards in the rear.
"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 twelve shots.
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, anyway?"
"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
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
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 surprise.
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
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 wanted.
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
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
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' mounts.
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 railroad camp.
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 Indians.
[Illustration: WINNING MY NAME--"BUFFALO BILL"]
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
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 would remember.
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
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 canon 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 in it.
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.
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
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 "run."
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 of it.
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 Comstock's
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
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 Plains.
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
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
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
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 surrounded.
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
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
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 sight.
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
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 he said:
"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 escape.
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 fort.
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 were delayed.
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 threatened assault.
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 at night."
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
"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 buffaloes."
"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 again.
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
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 dispatches
"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"
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 seventy-five miles.
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 Major Cox.
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 Indian.
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 you."
"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 solid sleep.
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
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
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 one.
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 region.
"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 honor.
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 associated.
General Sheridan, being anxious to punish the Indians who had lately
fought General Forsythe, did not give the regiment much of a rest. On
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