An Autobiography of Buffalo Bill (Colonel W. F. Cody)
Buffalo Bill (William Frederick Cody)
Part 3 out of 5
October 5th it began the march to Beaver Creek country.
The first night we camped on the south fork of Big Creek, four miles
west of Hays City. By this time I had become well acquainted with Major
Brown and Captain Sweetman. They invited me to mess with them, and a
jolly mess we had. There were other scouts with the command besides
myself. I particularly remember Tom Kenahan, Hank Fields, and a
character called "Nosey."
The morning of the 6th we pulled out to the north. During the day I was
particularly struck with the appearance of the regiment. It was a
beautiful command, and when strung out on the prairies with, a train of
seventy-five six-mule wagons, ambulances, and pack-mules, I felt very
proud of my position as guide and chief of scouts with such a warlike
Just as we were going into camp on the Saline River that night we ran
into a band of some fifteen Indians. They saw us, and dashed across the
creek, followed by some bullets which we sent after them.
This little band proved to be only a scouting party, so we followed it
only a mile or two. Our attention was directed shortly to a herd of
buffaloes, and we killed ten or fifteen for the command.
Next day we marched thirty miles. When we went into camp Colonel Royal
asked me to go out and kill some buffaloes for the boys.
"All right, colonel," I said; "send along a wagon to bring in the
"I am not in the habit of sending out my wagons till I know there is
something to be hauled in," he said. "Kill your buffaloes first, and
I'll send the wagons."
Without further words I went out on my hunt. After a short absence I
returned and asked the colonel to send his wagons for the half-dozen
buffaloes I had killed.
The following afternoon he again requested me to go out after
buffaloes. I didn't ask for any wagons this time, but rode out some
distance, and, coming upon a small herd, headed seven or eight of them
directly for the camp. Instead of shooting them I ran them at full
speed right into the place and then killed them one after another in
Colonel Royal, who witnessed the whole proceeding, was annoyed and
puzzled, as he could see no good reason why I had not killed the
buffaloes on the prairie.
Coming up angry, he demanded an explanation.
"I can't allow any such business as this, Cody," he exclaimed. "What do
you mean by it!"
"I didn't care about asking for wagons this time, Colonel," I replied.
"I thought I would make the buffaloes furnish their own
The colonel saw the force of my defense, and had no more to say on the
No Indians had been seen in the vicinity during the day. Colonel Royal,
having posted his pickets, supposed that everything was serene for the
night. But before morning we were aroused by shots, and immediately
afterward one of the mounted pickets came galloping into camp with the
announcement that there were Indians close at hand. All the companies
fell into line, prepared and eager for action. The men were still new
to Indian fighting. Many of them were excited.
But, despite the alarm, no Indians made their appearance. Upon going to
the post where the picket said he had seen them, none were to be found,
nor could the faintest trace be discovered.
The sentinel, an Irishman, insisted that there certainly had been
"But you must be mistaken," said the colonel.
"Upon me sowl, I'm not. As sure as me name's Pat Maloney, wan iv them
red devils hit me on th' head with a club, so he did," persisted the
When morning came we made a successful effort to clear up the mystery.
Elk tracks were found in the vicinity, and it was undoubtedly a herd of
elk that had frightened the picket. When he turned to flee he must have
hit his head on an overhanging limb, which he supposed was the club of
a redskin, bent on his murder. It was hard, however, to convince him
that he could have been mistaken.
Three days' march brought us to Beaver Creek, where we encamped and
where scouts were sent out in different directions. None of these
parties discovered Indians, and they all returned to camp at about the
same time. They found it in a state of excitement. A few hours before
the return of the scouts the camp had been attacked by a party of
redskins, who had killed two men and made off with sixty horses
belonging to Company H.
That evening the command started on the trail of the horse thieves.
Major Brown with two companies and three days' rations pushed ahead in
advance of the main command. On the eighteenth day out, being
unsuccessful in the chase, and nearly out of rations, the entire
command marched toward the nearest railroad station and camped on the
Saline river, three miles distant from Buffalo Tank.
While waiting for supplies we were joined by a new commanding officer,
Brevet-Major-Greneral E.A. Carr, who was the senior major of the
regiment and ranked Colonel Royal. He brought with him the celebrated
Forsythe Scouts, who were commanded by Lieutenant Pepoon, a
While in this camp, Major Brown welcomed a new lieutenant, who had come
to fill a vacancy in the command. This was A.B. Bache, and on the day
he was to arrive Major Brown had his private ambulance brought out and
invited me to ride with him to the railroad station to meet the
lieutenant. On the way to the depot he said:
"Now, Cody, we'll give Bache a lively little ride, and shake him up a
The new arrival was given a back seat in the ambulance when he got off
the train, and we headed for the camp.
Presently Major Brown took the reins from his driver and at once began
whipping the mules. When he had got them into a lively gallop he
pulled out his revolver and fired several shots. The road was terribly
rough and the night was intensely dark. We could not see where we were
going, and it was a wonderful piece of luck that the wagon did not tip
over and break our necks.
Finally Bache asked, good-humoredly:
"Is this the way you break in all your new lieutenants, Major?"
"Oh, no," returned the major. "But this is the way we often ride in
this country. Keep your seat, Mr. Bache, and we'll take you through on
time," he quoted, from Hank Monk's famous admonition to Horace Greeley.
We were now rattling down a steep hill at full speed. Just as we
reached the bottom, the front wheels struck a deep ditch over which the
mules had jumped. We were all brought up standing, and Bache plunged
forward headlong to the front of the vehicle.
"Take the back seat, lieutenant," said Major Brown sternly.
Bache replied that he had been trying to do so, keeping his nerve and
his temper. We soon got the wagon out of the ditch and resumed our
drive. We swung into camp under full headway, and created considerable
amusement. Everyone recognized the ambulance, and knew that Major Brown
and I were out for a lark, so little was said about the exploit.
Next morning at an early hour the command started out on another Indian
hunt. General Carr, who had a pretty good idea where he would be likely
to find them, directed me to guide him by the nearest route to Elephant
Fork, on Beaver Creek.
When we arrived at the South Fork of the Beaver, after two days' march,
we discovered a fresh Indian trail. We had followed it hurriedly for
eight miles when we discovered, on a bluff ahead, a large number of
General Carr ordered Lieutenant Pepoon's scouts and Company M to the
front. Company M was commanded by Lieutenant Schinosky, a reckless
dare-devil born in France, who was eager for a brush with the Indians.
In his anxiety to get into the fight he pushed his company nearly a
mile in advance of the main command, when he was jumped by some four
hundred Indians. Until our main force could come to his support he had
as lively a little fight as any one could have asked for.
As the battle proceeded, the Indians continued to increase in numbers.
At last it became apparent that we were fighting eight hundred or a
thousand of them. The engagement was general. There were killed and
wounded on both sides. The Indians were obviously fighting to give
their families and village a chance to get away. We had surprised them
with a larger force than they knew was in that part of the country. The
battle continued steadily until dark. We drove them before us, but they
fought stubbornly. At night they annoyed us by firing down into our
camp from the encircling hills. Several times it was necessary to order
out the command to dislodge them and to drive them back where they
could do no damage.
After one of these sallies, Captain Sweetman, Lieutenant Bache, and
myself were taking supper together when "Whang!" came a bullet into Mr.
Bache's plate. We finished our supper without having any more such
At daylight next morning we took the trail again, soon reaching the
spot where the Indians had camped the night before. Here there had been
a large village, consisting of five hundred lodges. Continuing our
pursuit, we came in sight of the retreating village at two in the
afternoon. At once the warriors turned back and gave us battle.
To delay us as much as possible they set fire to the prairie grass in
front and on all sides of us. For the remainder of the afternoon we
kept up a running fight. Repeatedly the Indians attempted to lead us
away from the trail of their fleeing village. But their trail was
easily followed by the tepee poles, camp-kettles, robes, and all the
paraphernalia which proved too heavy to carry for long, and which were
dropped in the flight. It was useless to try to follow them after
nightfall, and at dark we went into camp.
Next morning we were again on the trail, which led north and back
toward Beaver Creek. The trail crossed this stream a few miles from
where we had first discovered the Indians. They had made almost a
complete circle in the hope of misleading us.
Late in the afternoon we again saw them going over a hill far ahead.
Toward evening the main body of warriors once more came back and fought
us, but we continued to drive them till dusk, when we encamped for the
Soon the Indians, finding they could not hold out against us, scattered
in every direction. We followed the main trail to the Republican River,
where we made a cut-off and proceeded north toward the Platte.
Here we found that the Indians, traveling day and night, had got a long
start. General Carr decided we had pushed them so hard and given them
such a thorough scaring that they would leave the Republican country
and go north across the railroad. It seemed, therefore, unnecessary to
pursue them any further. Most of the Indians did cross the river near
Ogallah as he predicted, and thence continued northward.
That night we returned to the Republican River and camped in a grove of
cottonwoods, which I named Carr's Grove in honor of our commander.
General Carr informed me that the next day's march would be toward the
headwaters of the Beaver. I said that the distance was about
twenty-five miles, and he said we would make it the next day. Getting
an early start in the morning, we struck out across the prairie. My
position, as guide, was the advance guard. About two o'clock General
Carr overtook me and asked me how far I supposed it was to water. I
replied that I thought it was about eight miles, although we could see
no sign of a stream ahead.
"Pepoon's scouts say you are traveling in the wrong direction," said
the general. "They say, the way you are bearing, it will be fifteen
miles before we strike any branches of the Beaver, and that when you do
you will find no water, for they are dry at this season of the year in
"I think the scouts are mistaken, General," I said. "The Beaver has
more water near its head than it has below. At the place where we will
strike the stream we will find immense beaver dams, big and strong
enough to cross your whole command if you wish."
"Well, go ahead," he said. "I leave it to you. But, remember, I don't
want a dry camp."
"No danger of that," I returned and rode on. As I predicted, we found
water seven or eight miles further on. Hidden in the hills was a
beautiful little tributary of the Beaver. We had no trouble in
selecting a fine camp with good spring water and excellent grass.
Learning that the stream, which was but eight miles long, was without a
name, the general took out his map, and, locating it, christened it
Cody's Creek, which name it still bears.
Early the next morning we pulled out for the Beaver. As we were
approaching the stream I rode on ahead of the advance guard in order to
find a crossing. Just as I turned a bend of the creek "Bang!" went a
shot, and down went my horse, accompanied by myself.
I disentangled myself and jumped clear of the carcass, turning my guns
loose at two Indians whom I discovered in the direction from which the
shot had come. In the suddenness of it all I missed my aim. The Indians
fired two or three more shots, and I returned the compliment by
wounding one of their horses.
On the other side of the creek I saw a few lodges moving rapidly away,
and also mounted warriors. They also saw me and began blazing away with
their guns. The Indians who had killed my horse were retreating across
the creek, using a beaver dam for a bridge. I accelerated their pace by
sending a few shots after them and also fired at the warriors across
the stream. I was undecided as to whether it would be best to run back
to the command on foot or to retain my position. The troops, I knew,
would come up in a few minutes. The sound of the firing would hasten
The Indians soon saw that I was alone. They turned and charged down the
hill, and were about to cross the creek and corral me when the advance
guard of the command appeared over the ridge and dashed forward to my
rescue. Then the redskins whirled and made off.
When General Carr arrived he ordered Company I to pursue the band. I
accompanied Lieutenant Brady, who commanded the company. For several
hours we had a running fight with the Indians, capturing several of
their horses and most of their lodges. At night we returned to the
command, which by this time had crossed the dam.
For several days we scouted along the river. We had two or three lively
skirmishes, but at last our supplies began to run low, and the general
ordered us to return to Fort Wallace, which we reached three days
While the regiment remained here, waiting for orders, I spent most of
my time hunting buffaloes. One day while I was out with a small party,
fifty Indians jumped us, and we had a terrific battle for an hour. We
finally managed to drive them off, with four of their warriors killed.
With me were a number of excellent marksmen, and they did fine work,
sending bullets thick and fast where they would do the most execution.
Two or three of our horses were hit. One man was wounded. We were ready
and willing to stay with the Indians as long as they would stay with
us. But they gave it up at last. We finished our hunt and returned to
the Post with plenty of buffalo meat. Here we received the compliments
of General Carr on our little fight.
In a few days orders came from General Sheridan to make a winter
campaign in the Canadian River country. We were to proceed to Fort Lyon
on the Arkansas River and fit out for the expedition. Leaving Fort
Wallace in November, 1868, we arrived at Fort Lyon in the latter part
of the month, and began the work of outfitting.
Three weeks before this, General Penrose had left the Post with a
command of three hundred men. He had taken no wagons with him. His
supply train was composed of pack mules. General Carr was ordered to
follow with supplies on Penrose's trail and to overtake him as soon as
possible. I was particularly anxious to catch up with Penrose's
command, as my old friend, "Wild Bill," was among his scouts.
For the first three days we followed the trail easily. Then we were
caught in Freeze-Out Canon by a fearful snowstorm. This compelled us to
go into camp for a day.
It now became impossible longer to follow Penrose's trail. The ground
was covered with snow, and he had left no sign to show in which
direction he was going.
General Carr sent for me, and told me it was highly important that we
should not lose the trail. He instructed me to take some scouts, and,
while the command remained in camp, to push on as far as possible to
seek for some sign that would indicate the direction Penrose had taken.
Accompanied by four men, I started out in a blinding snowstorm. We rode
twenty-four miles in a southerly direction till we reached a tributary
of the Cimarron. From here we scouted up and down the stream for a few
miles, and at last turned up one of Penrose's old camps.
It was now late in the afternoon. If the camp was to come up the next
day it was necessary for us to return immediately with our information.
We built a fire in a sheltered spot, broiled some venison we had shot
during the day, and after a substantial meal I started back alone,
leaving the others behind.
It was eleven o'clock when I got back into camp. A light was still
burning in General Carr's tent. He was sitting up to await my return.
He was overjoyed at the news I brought him. He had been extremely
anxious concerning the safety of Penrose. Rousing up his cook, he
ordered a hot supper for me, which, after my long, cold ride, I greatly
appreciated. I passed the night in the general's tent, and woke the
next morning fully refreshed and ready for a big day's work.
The snow had drifted deeply overnight, and the command had a hard tramp
through it when it set out next morning for the Cimarron. In many
ravines the drifts had filled in to a great depth. Often the teamsters
had to shovel their way through.
At sundown we reached the Cimarron, and went into a nice warm camp. The
next morning, on looking around, we found that Penrose, who was not
encumbered with wagons, had kept on the west side of the Cimarron. Here
the country was so rough that we could not stay on the trail with
wagons. But we knew that he would continue down the river, and the
general gave orders to take the best route down-stream, which I found
to be on the east side. Before we could make any headway with our wagon
trains we had to leave the river and get out on the divide.
For some distance we found a good road, but suddenly we were brought up
standing on a high table-land overlooking the beautiful winding creek
that lay far below us. How to get the wagons down became a serious
problem for the officers.
We were in the foothills of the rough Raton Mountains. The bluff we
were on was steep and rugged.
"Cody," said General Carr, "we're in a nice fix now."
"That's nothing," I replied.
"But you never can take the train down."
"Never mind the train, General. You are looking for a good camp. How
does that valley suit you?"
"That will do," he said. "I can easily descend with the cavalry, but
how to get the wagons down is a puzzler."
"By the time your camp is located the wagons will be there," I said.
"All right," he returned. "I'll leave it to you, inasmuch as you seem
to want to be the boss." He ordered the command to dismount and lead
the horses down the mountain. When the wagon-train, which was a mile in
the rear, came up, one of the drivers asked:
"How are we going to get down there?"
"Run down, slide down, fall down--any way to get down," I told him.
"We never can do it," said another wagon-master. "It's too steep. The
wagons will run over the mules."
"Oh, no," I said. "The mules will have to keep out of the way."
I instructed Wilson, the chief wagon-master, to bring up his
mess-wagon. He drove the wagon to the brink of the bluff. Following my
directions, he brought out extra chains with which we locked both
wheels on each side, and then rough-locked them.
This done, we started the wagons down the hill. The wheel-horses, or
rather the wheel-mules, were good on the hold back, and we got along
beautifully till the wagon had nearly reached the bottom of the
declivity. Then the wagon crowded the mules so hard that they started
on the run and came galloping down into the valley to the spot General
Carr had selected for his camp. There was not the slightest accident.
Three other wagons followed in the same way. In half an hour every
wagon was in the camp. It was an exciting sight to see the six-mule
teams come almost straight down the mountainside and finally break into
a run. At times it seemed certain that the wagon must turn a somersault
and land on the mules, but nothing of the kind happened.
Our march proved be a lucky one so far as gaining on Penrose was
concerned. The route he had taken on the west side of the stream was
rough and bad, and with our great wagon-train we made as many miles in
one day as he had in seven.
His command had taken a high table-land whose sides were so steep that
not even a pack mule could make the descent, and he had been obliged to
retrace the trail for a great distance, losing three days while doing
The incident of this particular camp we had selected was an exciting
turkey hunt. We found the trees along the river bank literally alive
with turkeys. After unsaddling the horses, two or three hundred
soldiers surrounded a grove of timber, and there was a grand turkey
round-up. Guns, clubs, and even stones were used as weapons. Of course,
after the hunt we had roast turkey, boiled turkey, fried turkey, and
turkey on toast for our fare, and in honor of the birds which had
provided this treat we named the place Camp Turkey.
When we left camp we had an easy trail for several days. Penrose had
taken a southerly direction toward the Canadian River. No Indians were
to be seen, nor did we find any signs of them.
One day, while riding in advance of the command down San Francisco
Creek, I heard some one calling my name from a little bunch of willow
brush on the opposite bank of the stream. Looking closely at the spot,
I saw a colored soldier.
"Sakes alive, Massa Bill, am dat you?" shouted the man, whom I
recognized as a member of the Tenth Cavalry.
"Come out o' heah," I heard him call to someone behind him. "Heah's
Massa Buffalo Bill." Then he sang out to me: "Massa Bill, is you got
"Nary a bit of hardtack, but the wagons will be along presently, and
you can get all you want."
"Dat's de best news Ah's heahd fo' sixteen long days, Massa Bill."
"Where's your command? Where's General Penrose?" I demanded.
"Dunno," said the darky. "We got lost, an' we's been starvin' ever
By this time two other negroes had emerged from their hiding-place.
They had deserted Penrose's command, which was out of rations and in a
starving condition. They were trying to make their way back to old Fort
Lyon. General Carr concluded, from what they could tell him, that
Penrose was somewhere on Polladora Creek. But nothing definite was to
be gleaned from the starving darkies, for they knew very little
General Carr was deeply distressed to learn that Penrose and his men
were in such bad shape. He ordered Major Brown to start out the next
morning with two companies of cavalry and fifty pack mules, loaded with
provisions, and to make all possible speed to reach and relieve the
suffering soldiers. I went with this detachment. On the third day out
we found the half-famished soldiers encamped on the Polladora. The camp
presented a pitiful sight. For over two weeks the men had only quarter
rations and were now nearly starved to death. Over two hundred mules
were lying dead, having succumbed to fatigue and starvation.
Penrose, having no hope that he would be found, had sent back a company
of the Seventh Cavalry to Fort Lyon for supplies. As yet no word had
been heard from them. The rations brought by Major Brown arrived none
too soon. They were the means of saving many lives.
Almost the first man I saw after reaching the camp was my true and
tried friend, "Wild Bill." That night we had a jolly reunion around the
When General Carr came up with his force, he took command of all the
troops, as he was the senior officer. When a good camp had been
selected he unloaded his wagons and sent them back to Fort Lyon for
supplies. He then picked out five hundred of the best men and horses,
and, taking his pack-train with him, started south for the Canadian
River. The remainder of the troops were left at the supply camp.
I was ordered to accompany the expedition bound for the Canadian River.
We struck the south fork of this stream at a point a few miles above
the old adobe walls that were once a fort. Here Kit Carson had had a
big Indian fight.
We were now within twelve miles of a new supply depot called Fort
Evans, established for the Third Cavalry and Evans's expedition from
The scouts who brought this information reported also that they
expected the arrival of a bull-train from New Mexico with a large
quantity of beer for the soldiers.
"Wild Bill" and I determined to "lay" for this beer. That very evening
it came along, and the beer destined for the soldiers at Fort Evans
never reached them. It went straight down the thirsty throats of
General Carr's command.
The Mexicans living near Fort Evans had brewed the beer. They were
taking it to Fort Evans to sell to the troops. But it found a better
market without going so far. It was sold to our boys in pint cups, and,
as the weather was very cold, we warmed it by putting the ends of our
picket pins, heated red-hot, into the brew before we partook of it. The
result was one of the biggest beer jollifications it has ever been my
misfortune to attend.
One evening General Carr summoned me to his tent. He said he wanted to
send some scouts with dispatches to Fort Supply, to be forwarded from
there to General Sheridan. He ordered me to call the scouts together
and to select the men who were to go.
I asked if I were to go, but he replied that he could not spare me. The
distance to Camp Supply was about two hundred miles. Because of the
very cold weather it was sure to be a hard trip. None of the scouts
were at all keen about undertaking it, but it was finally settled that
"Wild Bill," "Little Geary," a half-breed, and three other scouts
should carry the dispatches. They took their departure the next day
with orders to return as soon, as possible.
We scouted for several days along the Canadian River, finding no sign
of Indians. The general then returned to camp, and soon our wagon-train
returned with provisions from Fort Lyon. Our animals were in poor
condition, so we remained in different camps along San Francisco Creek
and on the North Fork of the Canadian till "Wild Bill" and his scouts
returned from Fort Supply.
Among the scouts in Penrose's command were fifteen Mexicans. Among them
and the Americans a bitter feud existed. When Carr united Penrose's
command with his own, and I was made chief of scouts, this feud grew
more intense than ever. The Mexicans often threatened to "clean us
out," but they postponed the execution of the threat from time to time.
At last, however, when we were all in the sutler's store, the
long-expected fight took place, with the result that the Mexicans were
On hearing of the row, General Carr sent for "Wild Bill" and me. From
various reports he had made up his mind that we were the instigators of
the affair. After listening to what we had to say, however, he decided
that the Mexicans were as much to blame as we were. It is possible that
both "Wild Bill" and I had imbibed a few more drinks than we needed
that evening. General Carr said to me:
"Cody, there are plenty of antelopes in the country. You can do some
hunting while we stay here." After that my time was spent in the chase,
and I had fine success. I killed from twenty to twenty-five antelopes
every day, and the camp was supplied with fresh meat.
When the horses and mules belonging to the outfit had been sufficiently
recruited to travel, we returned to Fort Lyon, reaching there in March,
1869. The command recruited and rested for thirty days before
proceeding to the Department of the Platte, whither it had been
At my request, General Carr kindly granted me a month's leave of
absence to visit my family in St. Louis. He instructed Captain Hays,
our quartermaster, to let me ride my mule and horse to Sheridan, 140
miles distant. At Sheridan I was to take the train for St. Louis.
I was instructed to leave the animals in the quartermaster's corral at
Fort Wallace until I should come back. Instead of doing this, I put
them both in charge of my old friend Perry, the hotel-keeper at
After twenty days, pleasantly spent with my family at St. Louis, I
returned to Sheridan. There I learned that my horse and mule had been
seized by the Government.
The quartermaster's agent at Sheridan had reported to General Bankhead,
commanding at Fort Wallace, and to Captain Laufer, the quartermaster,
that I had left the country and had sold the animals to Perry. Laufer
took possession of the animals, and threatened to have Perry arrested
for buying Government property. He refused to pay any attention to
Perry's statement that I would return in a few days, and that the
animals had merely been left in his care.
As soon as I found this out I proceeded to the office of the
quartermaster's agent who had told this lie, and gave him the thrashing
he richly deserved. When I had finished with him he hastened to the
fort, reported what had happened, and returned with a guard to protect
Next morning, securing a horse from Perry, I rode to Fort Wallace and
demanded my horse and mule from General Bankhead. I told him they were
Quartermaster Hays's property and belonged to General Carr's command,
and explained that I had obtained permission to ride them to Sheridan
General Bankhead gruffly ordered me out of his office and off the
reservation, declaring that if I didn't leave in a hurry he would have
me removed by force.
I told him he might do this and be hanged, using, very possibly, a
stronger expression. That night, while sleeping at the Perry House, I
was awakened by a tap on my shoulder and was astonished to see the room
filled with armed negro soldiers with their guns all pointed at me. The
first word came from the sergeant.
"Now looka heah, Massa Bill; if you move we'll blow you off de fahm,
suah!" Just then Captain Ezekial entered, and ordered the soldiers to
"I'm sorry, Bill," he said, when I demanded to know what this meant.
"But I've been ordered by General Bankhead to arrest you and bring you
to Fort Wallace."
"All right," said I. "But you could have made the arrest without
bringing the whole Thirty-eighth Infantry with you."
"I know that, Bill, but you've not been in a very good humor the last
day or two, and we didn't know how you'd act."
I dressed hurriedly and accompanied the captain to Fort Wallace. When
we reached there at two o'clock in the morning the captain said:
"Bill, I'm sorry, but my orders are to put you in the guardhouse."
I told him I did not blame him for carrying out orders, and was made a
guardhouse prisoner for the first and only time in my life. The
sergeant of the guard, who was an old friend from Captain Graham's
company, refused to put me in a cell, kindly allowing me to sleep in
his own bed, and in a few minutes I was sound asleep.
Captain Graham called to see me in the morning. He said it was a shame
to lock me up, and promised to speak to the general about it. At
guard-mount, when I was not summoned, I sent word to Captain Graham
that I wanted to see General Bankhead. He sent back word that the
general refused to have anything to do with me.
As it was impossible to send word to General Carr, I determined to send
a dispatch direct to General Sheridan. I wrote out a long telegram,
informing him of my difficulty. But when it was taken to the telegraph
office for transmission the operator refused to send it at once.
Instead he showed it to General Bankhead, who tore it up. When no reply
came I went to the office, accompanied by a guard, and learned from the
operator what he had done.
"See here, my young friend," said I, "this is a public telegraph line.
I want my telegram sent, or there'll be trouble."
He knew very well it was his duty to send the dispatch. I rewrote it
and gave it to him, with the money to pay for it. But before he made
any effort to transmit it he called on General Bankhead and informed
him of what I had said. Seeing that the dispatch would have to go
through, the general sent for me.
"If I let you go, sir, will you leave the Post at once and not bother
anyone at Sheridan?" he demanded.
"No, sir," I replied, "I'll do nothing of the kind. I'll remain in the
guardhouse till I get an answer from General Sheridan."
"If I give you your horse and mule will you proceed at once to Fort
"No, sir; I have some bills to settle at Sheridan and some other
business to transact."
"Well, sir, will you at least promise not to interfere any further with
the quartermaster's agent at Sheridan?"
"I shall not trouble him any more, sir. I have had all I want from
General Bankhead thereupon sent for Captain Laufer and ordered him to
turn the horse and mule over to me. In a few minutes I was on my way to
Sheridan, and, having settled my business there, I proceeded to Fort
Lyon, arriving there two days afterward. I related my adventures to
General Carr, Major Brown, and the other officers, who were highly
When I returned to General Carr's command after my experience as a
prisoner I was informed that the general had been waiting for me for
"I'm glad you've come, Bill," said the general. "While we've been at
this Post a number of valuable animals have been stolen, as well as
many Government horses and mules. We think the thieves are still near
the fort. Fresh tracks have been found near Fort Lyon. Perhaps Bill
Green, the scout who has been up there, can tell you something about
Sending for Green, I found that he had marked the place where he had
lost the trail of the marauders.
Next morning, accompanied by Green, Jack Farley, and another scout, I
set out after the horse-thieves.
While making a circuit about the tracks we had found leading away from
the spot where Green discovered them, we found the trail of twelve
animals--four mules and eight horses--in the edge of the sandhills.
From this point we had no trouble in trailing them down to the Arkansas
River. This stream they had followed toward Denver, whither they were
When we got within four miles of Denver we found that the thieves had
passed four days before. I concluded that they had decided to dispose
of the animals in Denver. I was aware that Saturday was the big auction
day there, so we went to a hotel outside the town to await that day. I
was too well known in the city to show myself there, for the thieves
would have taken alarm had they learned of my presence.
Early Saturday morning we rode into the city and stabled our animals at
the Elephant Corral. I secured a room in a hotel overlooking the
corral, and took up a post of observation. I did not have to wait long.
A man, whom I recognized at once as Williams, one of our old packers,
rode into the ring, mounted on Lieutenant Forbush's mule, and leading
another Government mule. This mule had been recently branded, and over
the "U.S." a plain "D B" had been stamped.
As the man's confederate did not appear I decided he was outside with
the rest of the stolen animals.
When Mr. Forbush's mule was put up at auction I came down to the corral
and walked through the crowd of bidders.
The packer saw me, and tried to get away, but I seized him firmly by
"I guess, my friend," said I, "that you'll have to go with me. Make any
resistance and I'll shoot you on the spot!"
To the auctioneer and an inquisitive officer I showed my commission as
a United States detective. With Farley and Green, who were close at
hand, I took my prisoner three miles down the Platte. There we
dismounted, and began preparations to hang our prisoner to a limb. We
informed him that he could escape this fate only by telling us where
his partner was hidden.
He at first denied having any partner, but when we gave him five
minutes to live unless he told the truth, he said his pal was in an
unoccupied house three miles farther down the river.
We took up our journey, and, coming in sight of the house, saw a number
of animals grazing near it. As we rode to the door, another of our old
packers, whom I recognized as Bill Bevins, stepped to the front door. I
instantly covered him with my rifle and ordered him to throw up his
hands before he could draw his revolver.
Looking through the house, we found saddles, pack-saddles, lariats,
blankets, overcoats, and two Henry rifles. We returned with the whole
outfit to Denver, where we lodged Williams and Bevins in jail. The next
day we tied each man to a mule and started on the return journey.
At the hotel where we had stopped before making the arrests, we were
joined by our man with the pack mule. That night we camped on Cherry
Creek, seventeen miles from Denver.
It was April, and the weather was cold and stormy. We found a warm and
cozy camping-place in the bend of the creek. We made our beds in a
row--feet to the fire. The prisoners had thus far been docile and I did
not think it necessary to hobble them. They slept inside, and it was
arranged that some one was to be constantly on guard. About one o'clock
in the morning it began snowing. Shortly before three, Jack Farley, who
was on guard, and sitting at the foot of the bed with his back to the
prisoners, was kicked into the fire by Williams. The next instant
Bevins, who had got hold of his shoes, sprang up, jumped over the fire,
and started away on the run.
As soon as I was enough awake to comprehend what was going on I sent a
shot after him. Williams attempted to follow Bevins, but as he did so I
knocked him down with the butt of my revolver. Farley had by this time
got out of the fire. Green had started after Bevins, firing at him as
he ran, but the thief made his escape into the brush.
In his flight, unfortunately for him, he dropped one of his shoes.
Leaving Williams in charge of Farley and "Long Doc," the man with the
pack mule, Green and I struck out for Bevins. We heard him breaking
through the brush, but, knowing it would be useless to try to follow
him on foot, we went back and saddled two of the fastest horses. At
daylight we struck out on his trail, which was plainly visible in the
Though he had an hour and a half's start his track lay through a
country covered with prickly pear. We knew that with a bare foot he
could make little progress. We could see, however by the long jumps he
was taking, that he was making excellent time. Soon the trail became
spotted with blood, where the thorns of the prickly pear had pierced
his shoeless foot.
After a run of twelve miles we saw Bevins crossing a ridge two miles
ahead. We reached the ridge just as he was descending the divide toward
the South Platte, which at this point was very deep and swift.
If he got across the stream he stood a good chance of escape. We pushed
our horses as fast as possible, and when we got within range I told him
to halt or I would shoot. He knew I was a good shot, and coolly sat
down to wait for us.
"Bevins, you gave us a good chase," I said, as we rode up.
"Yes," he returned calmly, "and if I'd had fifteen minutes' more start
and got across the Platte you'd never have caught me."
Bevins's flight was the most remarkable feat of its kind I have ever
heard of. A man who could run barefooted in the snow through a
prickly-pear patch was surely a "tough one." When I looked at the man's
bleeding foot I really felt sorry for him. He asked me for my knife,
and when I gave it to him he dug the thorns out of his foot with its
sharp point. I consider him the gamest man I ever met.
I could not suffer a man with such a foot to walk, so I dismounted, and
he rode my horse back to camp, while Green and I rode the other horse
by turns. We kept a close watch on our prisoner. We had had plenty of
proof that he needed it. His injured foot must have pained him
fearfully, but never a word of complaint escaped him.
After breakfasting we resumed our journey. We had no further trouble
till we reached the Arkansas River, where we found a vacant cabin and
took possession of it for the night.
There was no fear that Bevins would try to escape. His foot was swollen
to a great size, and was useless. Believing that Williams could not get
away from the cabin, we unbound him.
The cabin was comfortably warmed and well-lighted by the fire. We left
"Long Doc" on guard and went to sleep.
At one o'clock Williams asked "Doc" to allow him to step to the door
for a minute. "Doc" had his revolver in hand, and did not think it
necessary to waken us. He granted the request. With "Doc," revolver in
hand, watching him, Williams walked to the outer edge of the floor.
Suddenly he made a spring to the right and was out of sight in the
black darkness before his guard could even raise his revolver.
"Doc" leaped after him, firing just as he rounded the corner of the
cabin. The report brought us all to our feet. I at once covered Bevins
with my revolver, but, seeing that he could barely stir, I lowered it.
Then in came "Doc," swearing a blue streak and announcing that Williams
had escaped. Nothing was left us but to gather our horses close to the
cabin and stand guard the rest of the night to prevent the possibility
of our late prisoner sneaking in and getting away with one of them.
This was the last I ever saw or heard of Williams, but we got back to
Fort Lyon with Bevins.
Though we had lost one of our prisoners, General Carr complimented us
on the success of our trip. The next day we took Bevins to Bogg's
Ranch, on Picket Wire Creek, where he was to await trial. But he never
was tried. He made his escape, as I had expected he would do.
In 1872 I heard that he was at his old tricks on Laramie Plains. A
little later he sent word to me that if he ever met me he would kill me
on sight. Shortly thereafter he was arrested and convicted for robbery,
but made his escape from Laramie City prison. Later he organized a
desperate gang of outlaws which infested the country north of the Union
Pacific. When, the stage began running between Cheyenne and Deadwood,
these outlaws robbed coaches and passengers, often making big hauls of
plunder. Finally most of the gang were caught, tried, and convicted,
and sent to the penitentiary for a number of years. Bevins was among
Soon after my return to Fort Lyon, the Fifth Cavalry was ordered to the
Department of the Platte. While we were at Fort Wallace, getting
supplies en route I passed the quarters of General Bankhead, who had
ordered my arrest on the occasion of my last visit to that Post. The
general sent out for me, and as I entered his office he extended his
"I hope you have no hard feelings for me, Cody," he said. "I have just
had a talk with General Carr and Quartermaster Hays. If you had told me
you had permission to ride that horse and mule, there would have been
"That's all right, General," I said. "I don't believe your
quartermaster's agent will ever circulate any more false stories about
"No," said the general; "he hasn't recovered yet from the beating you
When the command reached the north fork of the Beaver, I rode down the
valley toward the stream, and discovered a large fresh Indian trail. I
found tracks scattered all over the valley and on both sides of the
creek, as if a large village had recently passed that way. I estimated
there could not be less than four hundred lodges, or between
twenty-five hundred and three thousand warriors, women, and children in
When I reported my discovery to General Carr, he halted his regiment,
and, after consulting a few minutes, ordered me to select a ravine, or
as low ground as possible, so that the troops might be kept out of
sight of the Indians until we could strike the creek.
We went into camp on the Beaver. The general ordered Lieutenant Ward to
take twelve men and myself and follow up the trail for several miles.
Our orders were to find out how fast the Indians were traveling. I soon
made up my mind by the frequency of their camps that they were moving
slowly, hunting as they journeyed.
After we had scouted about twelve miles, keeping our horses well
concealed under the bank of the creek, Ward and I left our horses and
crept to a high knoll where there was a good view for some distance
down-stream. As we looked over the summit of the hill we saw a whole
Indian village, not three miles away. Thousands of ponies were grazing
on the prairie. To our left, on the opposite side of the creek, two or
three parties of Indians were coming in, laden with buffalo meat.
"This is no place for us, Lieutenant," said I. "I think we have
business at the camp which must be attended to as soon as possible."
"I agree with you," he returned. "The quicker we get there the better."
We came down the hill as fast as we could and joined our men.
Lieutenant Ward hurriedly wrote a note and sent it to General Carr by a
corporal. As the man started away on a gallop Ward said: "We will
march, slowly back until we meet the troops. I think General Carr will
soon be here."
A minute or two later we heard shots in the direction taken by our
courier. Presently he came flying back around the bend of the creek,
with three or four Indians in hot pursuit. The lieutenant, with his
squad of soldiers, charged upon them. They turned and ran across the
"This will not do," said Ward, when the last redskin had disappeared.
"The whole village will know the soldiers are near by."
"Lieutenant," said I, "give me that note. I'll take it to the general."
He gladly handed me the dispatch. Spurring my horse, I dashed up the
creek. Soon I observed another party of Indians returning to the
village with meat. I did not wait for them to attack me, but sent a
shot after them at long range.
In less than an hour I reached the camp and delivered the dispatch to
General Carr. "Boots and Saddles" was sounded, and all the troops save
two companies, which were left to guard the supply train, were soon
galloping toward the Indian camp.
When we had ridden three miles we met Lieutenant Ward. He had run into
a party of Indian hunters. One of their number had been killed in the
encounter, and one of Ward's horses had been wounded.
At the end of five miles we came in sight of hundreds of Indians,
advancing up the creek to meet us.
They formed a complete line on our front. General Carr, who wanted to
strike their village, ordered the troops to charge, break through the
line, and keep straight on.
No doubt this movement would have been successfully executed had it not
been for the daredevil, rattle-brained Lieutenant Schinosky, commanding
Company B. Misunderstanding the orders, he charged on the Indians on
the left, while the rest of the command swept through the line. The
main body was keeping straight on toward the village when it was
discovered that Schinosky and his company were surrounded by five
To save the company, General Carr was forced to order a halt and hurry
back to the rescue. During the short fight Schinosky had several men
and a number of horses killed.
Valuable time had been consumed by the rescue. Night was coming on. The
Indians were fighting desperately to keep us from reaching their
village, whose population, having been informed by courier of what was
going on, was packing up and getting away.
During the afternoon we had all we could do to hold our own with the
mounted warriors. They stayed stubbornly in our front, contesting every
inch of ground.
The wagon-train, which had been ordered to come up, had not arrived.
Fearful that it had been surrounded, General Carr ordered the command
to return and look for it. We found it at nine o'clock that night, and
went into camp.
Next morning, when we moved down the creek, not an Indian was to be
seen. Village and all, they had disappeared. Two miles down the stream
we came to a spot where the village had been located. Here we found
many articles which had been left in the hurry of flight. These we
gathered up and burned.
The trail, which we followed as rapidly as possible, led northeast
toward the Republican River. On reaching that stream a halt was
ordered. Next morning at daylight we again pulled out. We gained
rapidly on the Indians, and could occasionally see them from a
About eleven o 'clock that morning, while Major Babcock was ahead with
his company, and as we were crossing a deep ravine, we were surprised
by perhaps three hundred warriors. They at once began a lively fire.
Our men galloped out of the ravine to the rough prairie and returned
it. We soon succeeded in driving the enemy before us. At one time we
were so close upon them that they threw away most of their lodges and
camp equipment, and left their played-out horses behind them. For miles
we could see Indian furniture strewn in all directions.
Soon they scattered into small bodies, dividing the trail. At night our
horses began to give out, and a halt was called. A company was detailed
to collect all the loose Indian ponies, and to burn the abandoned camp
We were now nearly out of rations. I was sent for supplies to the
nearest supply point, old Fort Kearney, sixty miles distant.
Shortly after this the command reached Fort McPherson, which for some
time thereafter continued to be the headquarters of the Fifth Cavalry.
We remained there for ten days, fitting out for a new expedition. We
were reenforced by three companies of the celebrated Pawnee Indian
Scouts, commanded by Major Frank North. At General Carr's
recommendation I was now made chief of scouts in the Department of the
Platte, with better pay. I had not sought this position.
I became a firm friend of Major North and his officers from the start.
The scouts had made a good reputation for themselves. They had
performed brave and valuable services in fighting against the Sioux,
whose bitter enemies they were. During our stay at Fort McPherson I
made the acquaintance of Lieutenant George P. Belden, known as "The
White Chief." His life has been written by Colonel Brisbin, of the
army. Belden was a dashing rider and an excellent shot. An hour after
our introduction he challenged me to a rifle match, which was at once
We were to shoot ten shots each at two hundred yards for fifty dollars
a side. Belden was to use a Henry rifle. I was to shoot my old
"Lucretia." This match I won. Belden at once proposed another, a
hundred-yard match, as I was shooting over his distance. This he won.
We were now even, and we stopped right there.
While we were at Fort McPherson, General Augur and
Brevet-Brigadier-General Thomas Duncan, colonel of the Fifth Cavalry,
paid us a visit for the purpose of reviewing our command. The men
turned out in fine style, and showed themselves to be well-drilled
soldiers. Next the Pawnee scouts were reviewed. It was amusing to see
them in their full uniform. They had been supplied with the regular
cavalry uniform, but on this occasion some of them had heavy overcoats,
others large black hats with all the brass accoutrements attached; some
were minus trousers and wore only breech-clouts. Some had regulation
pantaloons, but only shirts. Part of them had cut the breech of their
pantaloons away, leaving only the leggings. Still others had big brass
spurs, but wore no boots nor moccasins.
But they understood the drill remarkably well for Indians. The commands
were given them by Major North, who spoke their tongue as readily as
any full-blooded Pawnee. They were well mounted, and felt proud of the
fact that they were regular United States soldiers. That evening after
the drill many ladies attended the dance of the Indians. Of all savages
I have ever seen, the Pawnees are the most accomplished dancers.
Our command set out on the trail the next day. Shortly afterward, when
we were encamped on the Republican River near the mouth of the Beaver,
we heard the yells of Indians, followed by shots, in the vicinity of
our mule herd, which had been driven down to water.
Presently one of the herders, with an arrow still quivering in his
flesh, came dashing into the camp.
My horse was close at hand. Mounting him bareback, I galloped after the
mule herd, which had been stampeded. I supposed that I would be the
first man on the scene. But I found I was mistaken. The Pawnee scouts,
unlike regular soldiers, had not waited for the formality of orders
from their officers. Jumping their ponies bareback and putting ropes in
the animals' mouths, they had hurried to the place from which the shots
came and got there before I did.
The marauders proved to be a party of fifty or more Sioux, who had
endeavored to stampede our animals. They were painfully surprised to
find their inveterate enemies, the Pawnees, coming toward them at full
gallop. They had no idea the Pawnees were with the command. They knew
that it would take regular soldiers a few minutes to turn out, and
fancied they would have plenty of time to stampede the herd and get
In a running fight of fifteen or twenty miles several of the Sioux were
killed. I was mounted on an excellent horse Colonel Royal had selected
for me. For the first mile or two I was in advance of the Pawnees. Soon
a Pawnee shot past me. I could not help admiring the horse he was
riding. I determined that if possible that horse should be mine. He was
a big buckskin, or yellow horse. I took a careful look at him, so as to
recognize him when we got back to camp.
After the chase was over I rode over to Major North and asked him about
the animal. I was told that he was one of the favorite steeds of the
"What chance is there to trade for him?" I asked.
"It is a Government horse," replied the Major. "The Indian who rides
him is very much attached to him."
I told Major North I had fallen in love with the horse, and asked if he
had any objections to my trying to secure him. He replied that he had
not. A few days later, after making the Indian several presents, I
persuaded him to trade horses with me. In this way I became possessed
of the buckskin, although he still remained Government property. I
named him Buckskin Joe, and he proved to be a second Brigham.
I rode him during the summers of '69, '70, '71, and '72. He was the
horse ridden by the Grand Duke Alexis on his buffalo hunt. In the
winter of '72, after I had left Fort McPherson, Buckskin Joe was
condemned and sold at public sale to Dave Perry at North Platte. In
1877 he presented him to me. He remained on my ranch on the Dismal
River for many years, stone blind, until he died.
At the end of twenty days, after a few unimportant running fights, we
found ourselves back to the Republican River.
Hitherto the Pawnee scouts had not taken much interest in me. But while
at the camp I gained their respect and admiration by showing them how
to kill buffaloes. Though they were excellent buffalo killers, for
Indians, I had never seen them kill more than four or five animals in
one run. A number of them would surround a herd and dash in on it, each
one killing from one to four buffaloes. I had gone out in company with
Major North, and watched them make a "surround." Twenty Pawnees,
circling a herd, killed thirty-two buffaloes.
As they were cutting up the animals, another herd appeared. The Pawnees
were getting ready to surround it, when I asked Major North to keep
them back to let me show them what I could do. He did as I requested. I
knew Buckskin Joe was a good buffalo horse, and, feeling confident that
I would astonish the Indians, I galloped in among the herd. I did
astonish them. In less than a half-mile run I dropped thirty-six,
killing a buffalo at nearly every shot. The dead animals were strung
out over the prairie less than fifty feet apart. This manner of killing
greatly pleased the Indians. They called me "Big Chief," and thereafter
I had a high place in their esteem.
We soon left the camp and took a westward course up the Republican
River. Major North, with two companies of his Pawnees, and Colonel
Royal, with two or three companies of cavalry, made a scout north of
After making camp on the Blacktail Deer Fork we observed a band of
Indians coming over the prairie at full gallop, singing and yelling and
waving their lances and long poles. We first supposed them to be the
hostile Sioux, and for a few moments all was excitement. But the
Pawnees, to our surprise, made no effort to go out to attack them.
Presently they began singing themselves. Major North walked over to
General Carr and said:
"General, those are our men. They had had a fight. That is the way they
act when they come back from battle with captured scalps."
The Pawnees came into camp on the run. We soon learned that they had
run across a party of Sioux who were following a big Indian trail. The
Sioux had evidently been in a fight. Two or three had been wounded, and
were being carried by the others. The Pawnees "jumped" them, and killed
three or four of their number.
Next morning our command came up to the Indian trail where the Sioux
had been found. We followed it for several days. From the number of
campfires we passed we could see that we were gaining on the Sioux.
Wherever they had camped we found the print of a woman's shoe. This
made us all the more eager to overtake them, for it was plain that they
had a white woman as their captive.
All the best horses were selected by the general, and orders were given
for a forced march. The wagon-train was to follow as rapidly as
possible, while the command pushed on ahead.
I was ordered to pick out five or six of the best Pawnees and proceed
in advance of the command, keeping ten or twelve miles ahead, so that
when the Indians were overtaken we could learn the location of their
camp, and give the troops the required information in time to plan an
When we were ten miles in advance of the regiment we began to move
cautiously. We looked carefully over the summits of the hills before
exposing ourselves to observation from the front. At last we made out
the village, encamped in the sandhills south of the South Platte River
at Summit Springs.
Here I left the Pawnees to watch, while I rode back to the command and
informed General Carr that the Indians were in sight.
The men were immediately ordered to tighten their saddles and otherwise
to prepare for action. I changed my horse for old Buckskin Joe. He had
been led for me up to this time, and was comparatively fresh. Acting on
my suggestion, General Carr made a circuit to the north. I knew that if
the Indians had scouts out they would naturally watch in the direction
whence they had come. When we had passed the camp, and were between it
and the river, we turned and started back.
By this maneuver we avoided detection by the Sioux scouts. The general
kept the command wholly out of sight until within a mile of the
village. Then the advance guard was halted till all the soldiers caught
up. Orders were issued that at the sound of the charge the whole
command was to rush into the village.
As we halted on the summit of the hill overlooking the still
unsuspecting Sioux, General Carr called to his bugler:
"Sound the charge!"
The bugler, in his excitement, forgot the notes of the call. Again the
general ordered "Sound the charge!" and again the musician was unable
to obey the command.
Quartermaster Hays, who had obtained permission to join the command,
comprehended the plight of the bugler. Rushing up to him, he seized the
bugle, and sounded the call himself, in clear, distinct tones. As the
troops rushed forward he threw the bugle away, and, drawing his pistol,
was among the first to enter the village. The Indians had just driven
up their horses and were preparing to move camp when they saw the
Many of them jumped on their ponies, and, leaving everything behind
them, advanced to meet the attack. On second thought, however, they
decided it would be useless to resist. Those who were mounted rode
away, while those on foot fled for the neighboring hills. We charged
through their village, shooting right and left at everything we saw.
Pawnees, officers, and regular soldiers were all mixed together, while
the Sioux went flying away in every direction.
The general had instructed the soldiers to keep a sharp look-out for
white women when they entered the village. Two were soon found. One of
them was wounded, and the other had just been killed. Both were Swedes,
and the survivor could not speak English.
A Swedish soldier was soon found to act as interpreter. The woman's
name was Weichel. She said that as soon as the Indians saw the troops
coming, a squaw, the wife of Tall Bull, had killed Mrs. Alerdice, her
companion in captivity, with a hatchet. The infuriated squaw had
attacked Mrs. Weichel, wounding her. The purpose of the squaw was
apparently to prevent both women from telling the soldiers how cruelly
they had been treated.
The attack lasted but a little while. The Indians were driven several
miles away. The soldiers gathered in the herd of Indian horses, which
was running wild over the prairie, and drove the animals back into
camp. After a survey of our work we found we had killed about one
hundred and forty Indians and captured one hundred and twenty squaws
and papooses, two hundred lodges, and eight hundred horses and mules.
General Carr ordered that all the tepees, lodges, buffalo robes, camp
equipage, and provisions, including a large quantity of buffalo meat,
should be gathered and burned. Mrs. Alerdice, the murdered Swedish
captive, was buried. Captain Kane read the burial service, as we had no
chaplain with us. While this was going on, the Sioux warriors recovered
from their panic and came back to give us battle. All around the attack
a fight began. I was on the skirmish line, and noticed an Indian who
was riding a large bay horse, and giving orders to his men in his own
I could understand part of what he said. He was telling them that they
had lost everything and were ruined, and was entreating them to follow
him until they died. The horse this chief was riding was extremely
fleet. I determined to capture him if possible, but I was afraid to
fire at the rider lest I kill the horse.
Often the Indian, as he rode around the skirmish line, passed the head
of a ravine. It occurred to me that if I dismounted and crept up the
ravine, I could, as he passed, easily drop him from the saddle with no
fear of hitting the horse. Accordingly I crept into the ravine and
secreted myself there to wait till Mr. Chief came riding by.
When he was not more than thirty yards away I fired. The next instant
he tumbled from the saddle, and the horse kept on his way without a
rider. Instead of running back to the Indians, he galloped toward the
soldiers, by one of whom he was caught.
Lieutenant Mason, who had been very conspicuous in the fight and had
killed two or three Indians himself, came galloping up the ravine, and,
jumping from his horse, secured the elaborate war-bonnet from the head
of the dead chief, together with all his other accoutrements.
We both rejoined the soldiers. I started in search of the horse, and
found him in the possession of Sergeant McGrath, who had captured him.
McGrath knew that I had been trying to get the horse, and he had seen
me kill its rider. He handed the animal over to me at once. I little
thought at the time that I had captured the fastest running horse west
of the Missouri River, but this later proved to be the fact.
Late that evening our wagon-train arrived. Mrs. Weichel, the wounded
woman, had been carefully attended by the surgeons, and we placed her
in the ambulance. Gathering up the prisoners, squaws, and papooses, we
set out for the South Platte River, eight miles distant, where we went
Next morning, by order of General Carr, all the money found in the
village was turned over to the adjutant. Above two thousand dollars was
collected, and the entire amount was given to Mrs. Weichel.
The command now proceeded to Fort Sedgwick, from which point the
particulars of our fight, which took place Sunday, July 11, 1869, was
telegraphed to all parts of the country.
During our two weeks' stay at this Post, General Augur, of the
Department of the Platte, made us a visit, and complimented the command
highly on the gallant service it had performed. Tall Bull and his
Indians had long been a terror to the border settlements. For their
crushing defeat, and the killing of the chief, General Carr and the
command were complimented in General Orders.
Mrs. Weichel was cared for in the Post hospital. After her recovery she
married the hospital steward. Her former husband had been killed by the
Indians. Our prisoners were sent to the Whetstone Agency, on the
Missouri, where Spotted Tail and the friendly Sioux were then living.
The captured horses and mules were distributed among the officers and
Among the animals which I thus obtained were my Tall Bull horse and a
pony which I called Powder Face. This animal figured afterward in the
stories of "Ned Buntline," and became famous.
One day, while we were waiting at Fort McPherson, General Carr received
a telegram announcing that the Indians had made a dash on the Union
Pacific, killing several section men and running off stock of
O'Fallen's Station. An expedition was going out of Fort McPherson to
catch and punish the redskins if possible.
I was ordered by General Carr to accompany this expedition. That night
I proceeded by rail to Fort McPherson Station, and from there rode
horseback to the fort. Two companies, under command of Major Brown, had
been ordered out. Next morning, as we were about to start, Major Brown
said to me:
"By the way, Cody, we're going to have a character with us on this
scout. It's old 'Ned Buntline,' the novelist."
At the same time I saw a stoutly built man near by who wore a blue
military coat. On his breast were pinned perhaps twenty badges of
secret societies and gold medals. He limped a little as he approached
me, and I concluded that this must be the novelist.
"He has a good mark to shoot at on his left breast," I said to Brown,
"but he looks like a soldier." I was introduced to him by his real
name, which was Colonel E.Z.C. Judson.
"I was to deliver a temperance lecture tonight," said my new
acquaintance, "but no lecture for me when there is a prospect of a
fight. The major has offered me a horse, but I don't know how I shall
stand the ride."
I assured him that he would soon feel at home in the saddle, and we set
out. The command headed for the North Platte, which had been swollen by
mountain rains. In crossing we had to swim our horses. Buntline was the
first man across.
We reached O'Fallen's Station at eleven o'clock. In a short time I
succeeded in finding an Indian trail. The party of Indians, which had
come up from the south, seemed to be a small one. We followed the track
of the Indians, to the North Platte, but they had a start of two days.
Major Brown soon abandoned the pursuit, and returned to Fort Sedgwick.
During this short scout, Buntline had plied me with questions. He was
anxious to go out on the next scout with me.
By this time I had learned that my horse, Tall Bull, was a remarkably
fast runner. Therefore, when Lieutenant Mason, who owned a racer,
challenged me to a race, I immediately accepted. We were to run our
horses a single dash of a half mile for five hundred dollars a side.
Several of the officers, as well as Rube Wood, the post-trader, offered
to make side bets with me. I took them up until I had my last cent on
I saw from the start that it would be easy to beat the lieutenant's
horse, and kept Tall Bull in check, so that no one might know how fast
he really was. I won easily, and pocketed a snug sum. Everybody was now
talking horse race. Major Brown said that if Tall Bull could beat the
Pawnees' fast horse, I could break his whole command.
The next day all the troops were paid off, including the Pawnees. For
two or three days our Indian allies did nothing but run horses, as all
the lately captured animals had to be tested to determine which was the
swiftest. Finally the Pawnees offered to run their favorite against
Tall Bull. They raised three hundred dollars to bet on their horse, and
I covered the money. In addition I took numerous side bets. The race
was a single dash of a mile. Tall Bull won without any trouble, and I
was ahead on this race about seven hundred dollars.
I also got up a race for my pony, Powder Face, against a fast pony
belonging to Major Lute North, of the Pawnee Scouts. I selected a small
boy living at the Post for a jockey, Major North rode his own pony. The
Pawnees, as usual, wanted to bet on their pony, but as I had not yet
ascertained the running qualities of Powder Face I did not care to risk
much on him. Had I known him as well as I did afterward I would have
backed him with every cent I had. He proved to be one of the swiftest
ponies I ever saw, and had evidently been kept as a racer.
The dash between the ponies was to be four hundred yards. When I led
Powder Face over the course he seemed to understand what he was there
for. North was on his pony; my boy was up. I had all I could do to hold
the fiery little fellow back. He was so lively on his feet that I
feared his young rider might not be able to stick on his back.
At last the order to start was given by the judges. I brought Powder
Face up to the score, and the word "Go!" was given. So swiftly did he
jump away that he left his rider sitting on the ground. Nevertheless he
went through and won the race without a rider. It was an easy victory,
and after that I could get no more races.
General Carr having obtained a leave of absence, Colonel Royal was
given command of an expedition that was ordered to go out after the
Indians. In a few days we set out for the Republican, where, we had
learned, there were plenty of Indians.
At Frenchman's Fork we discovered a village, but did not surprise it,
for the Indians had seen us approaching and were in retreat as we
reached their camping-place.
We chased them down-stream and through the sandhills, but they made
better time than we did, and the pursuit was abandoned.
While we were in the sandhills, scouting the Niobrara country, the
Pawnee Indians brought into camp some very large bones, one of which
the surgeon of the expedition pronounced to be the thigh bone of a
human being. The Indians said the bones were those of a race of people
who long ago had lived in that country. They said these people were
three times the size of a man of the present day, that they were so
swift and strong that they could run by the side of a buffalo, and,
taking the animal in one arm, could tear off a leg and eat it as they
These giants, said the Indians, denied the existence of a Great Spirit.
When they heard the thunder or saw the lightning, they laughed and
declared that they were greater than either. This so displeased the
Great Spirit that he caused a deluge. The water rose higher and higher
till it drove these proud giants from the low grounds to the hills and
thence to the mountains. At last even the mountaintops were submerged
and the mammoth men were drowned.
After the flood subsided, the Great Spirit came to the conclusion that
he had made men too large and powerful. He therefore corrected his
mistake by creating a race of the size and strength of the men of the
present day. This is the reason, the Indians told us, that the man of
modern times is small and not like the giants of old. The story has
been handed down among the Pawnees for generations, but what is its
origin no man can say.
One morning, in the spring of 1870, a band of horse-stealing Indians
raided four ranches near the mouth of Fremont Creek, on the North
Platte. After scooping up horses from these ranches they proceeded to
the Fort McPherson herd, which was grazing above the Post, and took
about forty Government animals. Among these was my favorite little
pony, Powder Face.
When the alarm was given, "Boots and Saddles" was sounded. I always
kept one of my best horses by me, and was ready for any surprise. The
horse that I saddled that day was Buckskin Joe.
As I galloped for the herd, I saw the Indians kill two of the herders.
Then, circling all the horses toward the west, they disappeared over a
range of hills. I hurried back to the camp and told the general that I
knew where to pick up the trail. Company I, commanded by a little
red-headed chap--Lieutenant Earl D. Thomas--was the first to report,
mounted, at the adjutant's office. Thomas had but lately graduated from
His sole instructions were: "Follow Cody and be off quick." As he rode
away General Emory called after him: "I will support you with more
troops as fast as they are saddled."
The lieutenant followed me on the run to the spot where I saw the
Indians disappear. Though the redskins had an hour and a half start on
us, we followed them, on a gallop, till we could see that they had
begun to drive their horses in a circle, and then in one direction
after another, making the trail uncertain. It was getting dark, but I
succeeded in keeping on some of the tracks.
All that night the Indians endeavored, by scattering their horses, to
throw us off the trail. At three o'clock in the morning I made up my
mind that they were traveling for the headwaters of Medicine Creek, and
headed straight in that direction.
We found that they had reached the creek, but remained there only long
enough to water their horses. Then they struck off to the southwest. I
informed Lieutenant Thomas that the next water was at the Springs at
the head of Red Willow Creek, thirty-five miles away. The Indians, I
said, would stop there.
Thomas's men had not had time to bring so much as their coats with
them. At the alarm they grabbed their sidearms and carbines and
ammunition belts, and leaped into their saddles. None of us had had
anything to eat since dinner the day before. In the whole outfit there
was not a canteen in which to carry water.
I notified Thomas that he must decide whether the troop was to undergo
the terrible hardship of riding a whole day without food or water, on
the chance of overtaking the Indians and getting their rations and
supplies away from them. He replied that the only instructions he had
received from General Emory were to follow me. I said that if it were
left to me, I would follow the Indians.
"You have heard Cody," said Thomas to his men. "Now, I would like to
hear what you men think about it."
Through their first sergeant they said they had followed Cody on many a
long trail, and were willing to follow him to the end of this one. So
the order to mount was given, and the trail was taken up. Several times
that day we found the Indians had resorted to their old tactics of
going in different directions. They split the herd of horses in
bunches, and scattered them. It was very hard to trail them at good
Forty hours without food, and twelve hours without water, we halted for
a council when darkness set in.
I told Thomas that when we got within three miles of the Springs the
men could rest their horses and get a little sleep, while I pushed on
ahead to look for the Indians. This was done. When we reached the spot
I had designated the saddles were removed, so that the horses could
graze and roll. I rode on ahead.
As I had suspected I should, I found the Indians encamped at the
Springs with the stock grazing around them. As quickly as possible I
got back to the command with my news. The horses were quietly saddled
and we proceeded, seldom speaking or making any noise.
As we rode along I gave the lieutenant and first sergeant the
description of the camp and suggested that it could be best approached
just at daylight. We had but forty-one men. Ten of these, I said,
should be detailed to take charge of the herd, while the lieutenant and
I charged the camp.
The Indians were encamped on a little knoll, around which was miry
ground, making a cavalry charge difficult. The Indians numbered as many
as we did. The safest plan was to dismount some of the men, leaving
others to hold the horses, and proceed to the attack on foot. The rest
of the men were to remain with their horses, and get through, the
marshy ground mounted, if they could.
A halt was called, and this was explained to the men. It didn't take
them long to understand. We approached very cautiously till we got
within a quarter of a mile of the Indians. Then the charge was sounded.
We did not find the land as miry as we had supposed. Dashing in among
the Indians, we completely surprised them. Most of them grabbed the
guns, with which they always slept, and fled to the marsh below the
camp. Others ran for their horses. It was fortunate that we had
dismounted ten men. These were able to follow the Indians who had
escaped to marsh.
When we made the charge my chief thought was to keep a lookout for my
pony, Powder Pace. Soon I saw an Indian, mounted on him, making his
escape. I rushed through the camp, shooting to the left and right, but
keeping a beeline after Powder Face and his rider. Soon another Indian
who was afoot leaped up behind Powder Face's rider. I knew that the
little animal was very swift for a short distance, but that he would be
badly handicapped by the weight of two men.
I realized that my old Buckskin Joe was tired but his staying qualities
were such that I was sure he would overtake Powder Face, carrying
Though I was not a hundred yards behind the object of my pursuit when
the second Indian mounted I was afraid to shoot. It was not yet quite
daylight. I feared to fire lest I hit my beloved pony. For two miles I
followed through the sandhills before I dared to use my rifle.
The Indian riding at the rear had a revolver with which he kept banging
away, but I paid little attention to him. I knew a man shooting behind
with a pistol was likely to hit nothing but air. At last I took a
steady aim while old Joe was running smoothly. The bullet not only hit
the rear man, but passed through him and killed the man in front.
They both fell. I took another shot to make sure they were not playing
'possum. As they fell, Powder Face stopped and looked around, to learn
what it was all about. I called to him, and he came up to me.
Both Indians were wearing beautiful war-bonnets, of which I took
possession, as well as of their fancy trappings. Then, taking Powder
Face by the rope, I led him back to the Springs to see how the
lieutenant had made out.
The herd of horses was held and surrounded by a few soldiers. The rest
were still popping at the Indians. But most of the redskins were either
hidden among the marshes, or had got clear away to the surrounding
I found the lieutenant, and told him I thought we had accomplished all
that was possible. The orderly sounded the recall. I have never seen a
muddier set of boys than those who came out of the marsh and began
rummaging around the Indian camp. We soon discovered two or three
hundred pounds of dried meat--buffalo, deer, and antelope, also a
little coffee and sugar and an old kettle and tin cups which the
Indians had used.
All the men by this time had all the water they wanted. Each was
chewing a piece of dried meat. Pickets were posted to prevent a
surprise. Soon coffee was ready. In a short time everybody was filled
up, and I told Thomas we had better be getting out of there.
Many of the men began saddling the stolen horses, so as to rest their
own. The lieutenant was eager to remain and rest until the
reenforcements that General Emory had promised should arrive.
"Your orders were to follow me, weren't they?" I asked.
"Well, then, keep on following me, and you'll soon see the reason for
getting out of here."
"All right," he agreed. "I've heard the general say that in a tight
place your directions should always be followed."
With most of the men driving the captured horses we started for Fort
McPherson. I didn't take the trail that we had followed in. I knew of a
shorter route, and besides, I didn't want to meet the support that was
coming. I knew the officer in command, and was sure that if he came up
he would take all the glory of the capture away from Lieutenant Thomas.
Naturally I wanted all the credit for Thomas and myself as we were
The soldiers that had been sent out after us found and destroyed the
village, but we did not meet them. They discovered seven or eight dead
Indians, and there were a few more down in the marsh which they
overlooked. The major in command sent out scouts to find our trail.
Texas Jack, who was on this duty, returned and reported that he had
found it, and that we were going back to the fort by another route.
The major said: "That's another of those tricks of Cody's. He will
guide Thomas back and he will get all the glory before I can overtake
We rode into Fort McPherson about six o'clock that evening. I told
Thomas to make his report immediately, which he did. General Emory
complimented him highly, and Thomas generously said that all he did was
to obey orders and follow Cody. A report was made to General Sheridan,
and the next day that officer wired Thomas his congratulations.
The next day the command that was sent out after us returned to the
fort. The major was hotter than a wounded coyote. He told the general
that it was all my fault, and that he did not propose to be treated in
any such manner by any scout, even if it were General Sheridan's pet,
Buffalo Bill. He was told by the general that the less he said about
the matter the better it would be for him. This was Lieutenant Thomas's
first raid, and he was highly elated with its success. He hoped he
would be mentioned for it in Special Orders, and sure enough, when the
Special Orders came along both he and myself, together with the little
command, received complimentary mention. This Thomas richly deserved,
for he was a brave, energetic, and dashing officer. I gave him the two
war-bonnets I had taken from the Indians I shot from the back of Powder
Face, asking that he present them to the daughters of General Augur,
who were then visiting the Post.
Shortly after our return another expedition was organized, with the
Republican River country as its destination. It was commanded by
General Duncan, a blusterer, but a jolly old fellow. The officers who
knew him well said we would have a fine time, as he was very fond of
hunting. He was a good fighter. It was rumored that an Indian's bullet
could never hurt him. A cannon-ball, according to report, had hit him
in the head without injuring him at all, while another cannon-ball,
glancing off his skull, had instantly killed one of the toughest mules
in the army!
The Pawnee scouts, who had been mustered out of service during the
winter of 1869 and '70, were reorganized to accompany this expedition.
I was glad of this. I had become very much attached to Major North, one
of the officers, and to many of the Indians. Beside myself the only
white scout we had in the Post at this time was John Y. Nelson, whose
Indian name was Cha-Sha-Cha-Opeyse, or Red-Willow-Fill-the-Pipe. The
man was a character. He had a squaw wife and a half-breed family. He
was a good fellow, but had few equals and no superiors as a liar.
With the regimental band playing "The Girl I Left Behind Me" we started
out from the Post. A short march brought us to the head of Fox Creek,
where we camped. Next morning General Duncan sent me word that I was to
bring my rifle and shoot at a mark with him. I did not feel like
shooting at anything except myself, for the night before I had been
interviewing the sutler's store, in company with Major Brown. When I
looked for my gun, I found that I had left it behind me. I got cold
consolation from Major Brown when I informed him of my loss. Then I
told him that the general had sent for me to shoot a match with him,
and that if the old man discovered my predicament there would be
"Well, Cody," said the major, "the best thing you can do is to make
some excuse, and then go and borrow a gun from one of the men. Tell the
general you loaned your rifle to someone for a hunt. While you are gone
I will send back to the Post for it."
I got a gun from John Nelson, and marched to the general's
headquarters, where I shot the match. It resulted in his favor.
General Duncan, who had never before commanded the Pawnee Scouts,
confused them by posting the guards in a manner that was new to them.
Furthermore, he insisted that the guards should call the hours through
the night: "Nine o'clock and all is well," etc., giving the numbers of
their posts. Few of the scouts understood English. They were greatly
Major North explained to them that when the man on the post nearest
them called the hour, they must repeat the call as closely as they
could. It was highly amusing to hear them do this. They would try to
remember what the man on the next post had said. For example, when a
white soldier called out "Post Number One, Half-past Nine and all is
well!" the Indians would cry out "Poss Number half-pass five cents go
to h--l I don't care." So ridiculous were their efforts to repeat the
calls, that the general finally gave it up and countermanded the order.
One day, after an uneventful march, Major North and I went out on
Prairie Dog Creek in advance of the command to kill some buffaloes.
Night was approaching, and we looked about for a suitable camping-place
for the soldiers. Major North dismounted and was resting, while I rode
down to the creek to see if there was plenty of grass in the vicinity.
I found an excellent camping spot, and told North I would ride over the
hill a little way, so that the advance guard might see me. This I did,
and when the advance guard came in sight I dismounted and lay down upon
the grass to rest.
Suddenly I heard three or four shots. In a moment Major North came
dashing toward me, pursued by eight or ten Indians. I at once sprang to
the saddle and sent several shots toward the Indians, fifty or more of
whom were now in sight. Then, we turned our horses and ran.
The bullets sang after us. My whip was shot from my hand, and the
daylight was let through the crown of my hat. We were in close
quarters, when Lieutenant Valknar, with several men, came galloping to
our relief. The Indians, discovering them, whirled and fled.
As soon as Major North sighted his Pawnees he began riding in a circle,
which was the signal to them that there were hostile Indians in front.
In an instant they broke ranks pell-mell, with the major at their head,
and went after the flying warriors.
The second day that we had been following the Indians we came upon an
old squaw who had been left on the prairie to die. Her people had built
for her a little shade or lodge, and had given her some
provisions--enough to last her trip to the Happy Hunting-Grounds. This
is often done by the Indians when an enemy is in pursuit and one of
their number becomes too feeble to keep pace with the flight.
Our scout, John Nelson, recognized the squaw as a relative of his
Indian wife. From her we learned that the redskins we were pursuing
were known as the Pawnee Killer band. They had lately killed Buck's
surveying party, consisting of eight or nine men. This massacre had
occurred a few days before on Beaver Creek. We had found a number of
surveying instruments in the abandoned camp, and knew therefore that
the Indians had had a fight with white men. After driving the Indians
across the Platte we returned to Fort McPherson, bringing with us the
old squaw, who was sent to the Spotted Tail Agency.
During my absence my wife had given birth to a son. Though he was
several weeks old when I returned no name had been given him. I called
him Elmo Judson, in honor of Colonel Judson, whose pen name was "Ned
Buntline." But the officers insisted upon calling him Kit Carson Cody
and it was finally settled that this should be his name.
Shortly after my return I received orders instructing me to accompany
Professor Marsh on a fossil-hunting expedition into the rough lands of
the Big Horn Basin. The party was to consist of a number of scientists
besides Professor Marsh, together with twenty-five students from Yale,
which institution was sending out the expedition.
I was to get together thirty-five saddle-horses for the party. The
quartermaster arranged for the transportation, pack mules, etc. But
General Sheridan, under whose direction the scientists were proceeding,
always believed in my ability to select good horses from a
In a few days Professor Marsh and his companions arrived. The Pawnee
Scouts, then in camp, had a year before unearthed some immense fossil
bones, so it was decided that Major North, with a few of these scouts,
should also accompany the expedition. Professor Marsh had heard of this
discovery, and was eager to find some of the same kind of fossils.
Professor Marsh believed that the Basin would be among the last of the
Western lands to be settled. The mountain wall which surrounded it
would turn aside pioneers going to Montana or northern Oregon. These
would head to the east of Big Horn Mountains, while those bound for
Utah, Idaho, and California would go to the south side of the Wind
River Mountains. He was confident, however, that some day the Basin
would be settled and developed, and that in its fertile valleys would
be found the most prosperous people in the world. It was there that my
interest in the great possibilities of the West was aroused.
I never forgot what I heard around the campfire. In 1894 the Carey
Irrigation Act was passed by Congress. A million acres of land was
given to each of the arid States. I was the first man to receive a
concession of two hundred thousand acres from the Wyoming State Land
I could not get away to the Basin till late in the autumn of 1894, so I
formed a partnership with George T. Beck, who proceeded to Wyoming,
where he was found by Professor Elwood Mead, then in the service of the
State. There a site was located and the line of an irrigation canal was
A town was laid out along the canal, and my friends insisted upon
naming it Cody. At this time there was no railroad in the Big Horn
Basin; but shortly afterward the Burlington sent a spur out from its
main line, with Cody as its terminus. In 1896 I went out on a scout to
locate the route of a wagon road from Cody into the Yellowstone Park.
This was during Mr. McKinley's first administration.
I went to Washington, saw the President, and explained to him the
possibilities of a road of eighty miles, the only one entering the
National Park from the East. It would be, I told him, the most
wonderful scenic road in the West. Mr. Roosevelt ordered the building
of this road, which has now become the favorite automobile route into
the Park. Today the Big Horn Basin is one of the richest of American
oil lands, and the Pennsylvania of the West for coal production. Every
one of the prophecies that Professor Marsh made to us around that
campfire has come true.
In December, 1870, I was sent as a witness to Fort D.A. Russell, near
the city of Cheyenne, where a court-martial was to be held. Before
leaving home my wife had given me a list of articles she needed for the
furnishing of our house. These I promised to purchase in Cheyenne.
On arriving at Fort Russell I found many officers, also witnesses at
the court-martial, and put in most of my time with them. A postponement
of a week gave us an opportunity to "do" Cheyenne. That town furnished
abundant opportunities for entertainment, as there was every kind of
game in operation, from roulette to horse-racing. I sent for my horse,
Tall Bull, and a big race was arranged between him and a Cheyenne
favorite called Green's Colt. But before Tall Bull could arrive the
court-martial was over and the race was off. I sold the animal to
Lieutenant Mason. I met many old friends in Cheyenne, among them R.S.
Van Tassell, Tim Dier, Major Talbot, Luke Morrin, Posey Wilson, and
many others. They constituted a pretty wild bunch, and kept me so busy
that I had no time to think about Mrs. Cody's furniture.
On my return, when she asked us for it, I told her I couldn't bring it
with me on the train, and that moreover there were no stores in
Cheyenne where I could get furniture that would be good enough for her,
so I had sent to Dewey & Stone at Omaha for what she needed.
I lost no time in getting over to the club, where I wrote to Dewey &
Stone for all the articles my wife required. In a week the furniture
arrived at Fort McPherson station. I got a couple of six-mule teams and
went after it quick. When it arrived at the house and was unpacked Mrs.
Cody was greatly delighted.
About this time General Emory was very much annoyed by petty offenses
in the vicinity of the Post by civilians over whom he had no
jurisdiction. There was no justice of the peace near the Post, and he
wanted some kind of an officer with authority to attend to these
troublesome persons. One day he told me that I would make an excellent
"You compliment me too highly, General," I replied. "I don't know any
more about law than a Government mule knows about bookkeeping." "That
doesn't make any difference," he said. "I know you will make a good
squire. You accompany Mr. Woodin and Mr. Snell to North Platte in my
private ambulance. They will go on your bond, and you will be appointed
a justice of the peace."
A number of officers from the Post went to North Platte for this
occasion. After I was duly sworn in, there was a celebration. I arrived
home at three o'clock in the morning, Mrs. Cody still being in
ignorance of my newly acquired honor. I was awakened by hearing her
arguing with a man at the door who was asking for the squire. She was
assuring him that no squire was on the premises.
"Doesn't Buffalo Bill live here?" asked the man.
"Yes," admitted Mrs. Cody, "but what has that got to do with it?"
By this time I had dressed, and I went to the door. I informed my wife,
to her amazement, that I was really a squire, and turned to the visitor
to learn his business.
He was a poor man, he said, on his way to Colorado. The night before a
large bunch of horses was being driven past his camp, and one of his
two animals was driven off with the herd. Mounting the other, he
followed and demanded the horse, but the boss of the herd refused to
give it up. He wanted a writ of replevin.
I asked Mrs. Cody if she could write a writ of replevin and she said
she had never heard of such a thing. I hadn't either.
I asked the man in, and Mrs. Cody got breakfast for us. He refused the
drink I set out for him. I felt that I needed a good deal of bracing in
this writ of replevin business, so I drank his as well as mine.
Then I buckled on my revolver, took down my old Lucretia rifle, and,
patting her gently, said: "You will have to be constable for me today."
To my wife and children, who were anxiously watching these proceedings,
"Don't be alarmed. I am a judge now, and I am going into action. Come
on, my friend," I said to the stranger, "get on your horse."
"Why," he protested, "you have no papers to serve on the man, and you
have no constable."
"Don't worry," I said. "I'll soon show you that I am the whole court."
I mounted Joe, and we galloped along about ten miles when we overtook
the herd of horses. I found the boss, riding a big gray horse ahead of
the herd. I ordered him to round up the herd.
"By what authority!" he demanded. "Are you a constable?"
I said I was not only a constable, but the whole court, and one of his
men at the same time whispered to him: "Be careful, that is Buffalo
Bill!" At this time, as well as for years past, I had been chief United
States detective for the army as well as scout and guide. I felt that
with the offices of justice and constable added to these titles I had
all the power necessary to take one horse.
The herd boss evidently thought so, too. After asking if my name were
Cody, and being told that it was, he said:
"Well, there is no need of having a fuss over one horse."
"No," said I, "a horse doesn't mean much to you, but it amounts to a
good deal to this poor immigrant."
"Well," said the herd boss, "how do you propose to settle it?"
"I am going to take you and your whole outfit to Fort McPherson. There
I am going to try you and give you the limit--six months and a
"I can't afford to go back to the Fort," he pleaded, "let's settle it
right here. What will you take to call it off?"
"One hundred and fifty dollars," I said, "and quick!"
Reaching down into his pocket, he pulled out a wallet filled with bills
and counted out a hundred and fifty dollars. By this time the man who
had lost the horse had caught his animal in the herd. He was standing,
holding it, near by.
"Partner," I said to him, "take your horse and go back home."
"Now, boss," I said to the other man, "let me give you a little advice.
Be careful when a stranger gets into your herd and the owner overtakes
you and demands it. You may run into more trouble than I have given
you, for you ought to know by this time that horse-stealing is a
He said: "I didn't care a blank about your being justice of the peace
and constable combined, but when I found out you were Buffalo Bill it
was time to lay down my hand."
"All right, old fellow," I said, "good-by."
As he rode off he called: "It was worth a hundred and fifty dollars
just to get a good look at you," and the other men agreed.
By the time I got back to the fort, guard-mount was over, and a number
of officers were in the club. When they learned how I had disposed of
my first case, they told the general, who was very much pleased.
"I want it noised about among the outside civilians how you handle your
court," he said. The story soon became known all over the surrounding
country. Even the ladies of the Post heard of it, and told my wife and
sisters, to whom I had never mentioned it. They looked upon it as a
Early in the month of September, 1874, word was received at Fort
McPherson that General Sheridan and a party of friends were coming to
the Post to have a grand hunt in the vicinity. They further proposed to
explore the country from Fort McPherson to Fort Hays in Kansas. They
arrived in a special car at North Platte, eighteen miles distant, on
the morning of September 22.
In the party besides General Sheridan were James Gordon Bennett, of
_The New York Herald_, Leonard Lawrence Jerome, Carroll Livingston,
Major J.G. Heckscher, General Fitzhugh, General H.E. Davies, Captain M.
Edward Rogers, Colonel J. Schuyler Crosby, Samuel Johnson, General
Anson Stager, of the Western Union, Charles Wilson, editor of _The
Chicago Journal_, Quartermaster-General Rucker, and Dr. Asch, of
General Sheridan's staff.
They were met at the station by General Emory and Major Brown, with a
cavalry company as escort and a sufficient number of vehicles to carry
the distinguished visitors and their baggage.
At the Fort they found the garrison, under the command of General Carr,
on parade awaiting their arrival.
A train of sixteen wagons was provided to carry the baggage supplies
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