An Autobiography of Buffalo Bill (Colonel W. F. Cody)
Buffalo Bill (William Frederick Cody)
Part 5 out of 5
The three men remained in the bushes, lying as low as they could and
making no sound. Looking out now and then, they could see an old Indian
woman going about, taking scalps and mutilating the bodies of the
soldiers who had been slain. Most of the warriors were occupied with
the battle, but now and then a warrior, suspicious that soldiers were
still lurking in the brush, would ride over in their direction and fire
a few shots that whistled uncomfortably close to their heads.
Presently the firing on the hill ceased, and hundreds of Indians came
slowly back. But they were hard pressed by the soldiers, and the battle
was soon resumed, to break out intermittently through the entire night.
In a quiet interval the two soldiers got their horses, and with their
companion and De Rudio holding to the animals' tails forded the river
and made a detour round the Indians. Several times they passed close to
Indians. Once or twice they were fired on and answered the fire, but
their luck was with them and they escaped bringing a general attack
down upon them.
As they were making their way toward the edge of the clearing they saw
directly before them a party of men dressed in the ragged uniforms of
American cavalrymen, and all drew deep breaths of relief. Help seemed
now at hand. But just as they sprang forward to join their supposed
comrades a fiendish yell broke from the horsemen. In another instant
the four unfortunates were rushing to cover, with a dozen Indians, all
dressed in the clothing taken from dead soldiers, in hot pursuit.
The Indians had been planning a characteristic piece of Sioux strategy.
As fast as it could be accomplished they had been stripping the
clothing from dead and wounded soldiers and garbing themselves in it
with the purpose of deceiving the outposts of Reno's command and
surprising the Americans as soon as day broke. Had it not been for the
accidental discovery of the ruse by De Rudio's party it might have
succeeded only too well.
The lieutenant and his companions managed to get away safely and to
find shelter in the woods. But the Indians immediately fired the
underbrush and drove them further and further on. Then, just as they
had begun to despair of their lives, their pursuers, who had been
circling around the tangle of scrub growth, began singing a slow chant
and withdrew to the summit of the hill.
There they remained in council a little time and then cantered away
Fearing another trap, the white men remained for weary hours in their
hiding-place, but at last were compelled by thirst and hunger to come
No Indians were visible, nor did any appear as, worn out and
dispirited, they dragged themselves to the camp of the soldiers. In the
forty-eight hours since he had been cut off from his command De Rudio
had undergone all the horrors of Indian warfare and a hundred times had
given himself up for dead.
Bullets had passed many times within a few inches of him. Half a dozen
times only a lucky chance had intervened between him and the horrible
death that Indians know so well how to inflict. Yet, save for the
bruises from his fall off his horse, and the abrasions of the brush
through which he had traveled, he had never received a scratch.
Of all the Indians I encountered in my years on the Plains the most
resourceful and intelligent, as well as the most dangerous, were the
Sioux. They had the courage of dare-devils combined with real strategy.
They mastered the white man's tactics as soon as they had an
opportunity to observe them. Incidentally they supplied all thinking
and observing white commanders with a great deal that was well worth
learning in the art of warfare. The Sioux fought to win, and in a
desperate encounter were absolutely reckless of life.
But they also fought wisely, and up to the minute of closing in they
conserved their own lives with a vast amount of cleverness. The maxim
put into words by the old Confederate fox, Forrest: "Get there fastest
with the mostest," was always a fighting principle with the Sioux.
They were a strong race of men, the braves tall, with finely shaped
heads and handsome features. They had poise and dignity and a great
deal of pride, and they seldom forgot either a friend or an enemy.
The greatest of all the Sioux in my time, or in any time for that
matter, was that wonderful old fighting man, Sitting Bull, whose life
will some day be written by a historian who can really give him his
Sitting Bull it was who stirred the Indians to the uprising whose
climax was the massacre of the Little Big Horn and the destruction of
For months before this uprising he had been going to and fro among the
Sioux and their allies urging a revolt against the encroaching white
man. It was easy at that time for the Indians to secure rifles. The
Canadian-French traders to the north were only too glad to trade them
these weapons for the splendid supplies of furs which the Indians had
gathered. Many of these rifles were of excellent construction, and on a
number of occasions we discovered to our cost that they outranged the
army carbines with which we were equipped.
After the Custer massacre the frontier became decidedly unsafe for
Sitting Bull and the chiefs who were associated with him, and he
quietly withdrew to Canada, where he was for the time being safe from
There he stayed till his followers began leaving him and returning to
their reservations in the United States. Soon he had only a remnant of
his followers and his immediate family to keep him company. Warily he
began negotiating for immunity, and when he was fully assured that if
he would use his influence to quiet his people and keep them from the
warpath his life would be spared, he consented to return.
He had been lonely and unhappy in Canada. An accomplished orator and a
man with a gift of leadership, he had pined for audiences to sway and
for men to do his bidding. He felt sure that these would be restored to
him once he came back among his people. As to his pledges, I have no
doubt that he fully intended to live up to them. He carried in his
head all the treaties that had been made between his people and the
white men, and could recite their minutest details, together with the
dates of their making and the names of the men who had signed for both
But he was a stickler for the rights of his race, and he devoted far
more thought to the trend of events than did most of his red brothers.
Here was his case, as he often presented it to me:
"The White Man has taken most of our land. He has paid us nothing for
it. He has destroyed or driven away the game that was our meat. In 1868
he arranged to build through the Indians' land a road on which ran iron
horses that ate wood and breathed fire and smoke. We agreed. This road
was only as wide as a man could stretch his arms. But the White Man had
taken from the Indians the land for twenty miles on both sides of it.
This land he had sold for money to people in the East. It was taken
from the Indians. But the Indians got nothing for it.
"The iron horse brought from the East men and women and children, who
took the land from the Indians and drove out the game. They built
fires, and the fires spread and burned the prairie grass on which the
buffalo fed. Also it destroyed the pasturage for the ponies of the
Indians. Soon the friends of the first White Men came and took more
land. Then cities arose and always the White Man's lands were extended
and the Indians pushed farther and farther away from the country that
the Great Father had given them and that had always been theirs.
"When treaties were broken and the Indians trespassed on the rights of
the White Man, my chiefs and I were always here to adjust the White
"When treaties were broken and the Indians' rights were infringed, no
one could find the white chiefs. They were somewhere back toward the
rising sun. There was no one to give us justice. New chiefs of the
White Men came to supplant the old chiefs. They knew nothing of our
wrongs and laughed at us.
"When the Sioux left Minnesota and went beyond the Big Muddy the white
chiefs promised them they would never again be disturbed. Then they
followed us across the river, and when we asked for lands they gave us
each a prairie chicken's flight four ways (a hundred and sixty acres);
this they gave us, who once had all the land there was, and whose habit
is to roam as far as a horse can carry us and then continue our journey
till we have had our fill of wandering.
"We are not as many as the White Man. But we know that this land is our
land. And while we live and can fight, we will fight for it. If the
White Man does not want us to fight, why does he take our land? If we
come and build our lodges on the White Man's land, the White Man drives
us away or kills us. Have we not the same right as the White Man?"
The forfeiture of the Black Hills and unwise reduction of rations kept
alive the Indian discontent. When, in 1889, Congress passed a law
dividing the Sioux reservation into many smaller ones so as to isolate
the different tribes of the Dakota nation a treaty was offered them.
This provided payment for the ponies captured or destroyed in the war
of 1876 and certain other concessions, in return for which the Indians
were to cede about half their land, or eleven million acres, which was
to be opened up for settlement.
The treaty was submitted to the Indians for a vote. They came in from
the woods and the plains to vote on it, and it was carried by a very
narrow majority, many of the Indians insisting that they had been
coerced by their necessities into casting favorable ballots.
Congress delayed and postponed the fulfillment of the promised
conditions, and the Indian unrest increased as the months went by. Even
after the land had been taken over and settled up, Congress did not
pass the appropriation that was necessary before the Indians could get
Sitting Bull was appealed to for aid, and once more began employing his
powerful gift of oratory in the interest of armed resistance against
the white man.
Just at this time a legend whose origin was beyond all power to fathom
became current among the red men of the north.
From one tribe to another spread the tidings that a Messiah was to come
back to earth to use his miraculous power in the interest of the
Indian. The whites were to be driven from the land of the red man. The
old days of the West were to be restored. The ranges were to be
re-stocked with elk, antelope, deer, and buffalo.
Soon a fever of fanaticism had infected every tribe. Not alone were the
Sioux the victims of this amazing delusion, but every tribe on the
continent shared in it.
There was to be a universal brotherhood of red men. Old enmities were
forgotten. Former foes became fast friends. The Yaquis in Mexico sent
out word that they would be ready for the great Armageddon when it
came. As far north as Alaska there were ghost dances and barbaric
festivities to celebrate the coming restoration of the Indian to the
lands of his inheritance.
And as the Indians danced, they talked and sang and thought of war,
while their hatred of the white man broke violently forth.
Very much disquieted at the news of what was going on the War
Department sent out word to stop the dancing and singing. Stop it! You
could as easily have stopped the eruption of Mount Lassen! Among the
other beliefs that spread among the Indians was one that all the sick
would be healed and be able to go into battle, and that young and old,
squaws and braves alike, would be given shirts which would turn the
soldiers' bullets like armor-plate.
Every redskin believed that he could not be injured. None of them had
any fear of battle, or any suspicions that he could be injured in the
course of the great holy war that was to come.
In November, 1890, I was returning from Europe with my Wild West
Company. When the New York pilot came aboard he brought a big packet of
papers. That was before the days of wireless, and we had had no tidings
of what was going on in the world since we had left the other side.
As he came up the ladder he recognized me, and shouted: "Colonel,
there's a big Indian war started! I guess you'll be needed out there."
I seized the papers and eagerly read the details of the threatened
outbreak. I was not surprised when, on arriving at Quarantine, I was
handed a telegram from General Miles.
I was requested to come to Chicago as soon as possible, and to
telegraph the time of my arrival. Canceling all New York engagements, I
caught the first train for the West, and in thirty-six hours reported
to General Miles in his headquarters.
He briefly described to me what had been happening and went over with
me the maps of the Western States where the Indians were getting ready
for war. He said that it was his understanding that the Bad Lands of
North Dakota had been selected as the battle-ground by the Indians, and
asked me to give him all the information I possessed about that country
and its accessibility for troops.
Miles was about to leave for the Pine Ridge Agency, and take command of
the campaign to put down the Indians.
I was thoroughly familiar with the Bad Lands, and spent an hour or more
in discussing the coming campaign with the general. We both agreed that
the Indians had selected a particularly good country for their
uprising, and an especially good season, as in winter, with the hills
covered with snow, and blizzards of almost daily occurrence, it would
be far harder to hunt them out than in summer, when the troops could
Miles said that Sitting Bull had his camp somewhere within forty or
fifty miles of the Standing Rock Agency, and was haranguing the Indians
thereabout, spreading the Messiah talk and getting them to join him. He
asked me if I could go immediately to Standing Rock and Fort Yates, and
thence to Sitting Bull's camp.
He knew that I was an old friend of the chief, and he believed that if
any one could induce the old fox to abandon his plans for a general war
I could. If I could not dissuade him from the warpath the general was
of the opinion that I might be able to delay him in taking it, so that
troops could be sent into the country in time to prevent a horrible
massacre of the defenseless white settlers, who were already in terror
of their lives.
I knew that this would be the most dangerous undertaking of my career.
I was sure that if I could reach Sitting Bull he would at least listen
to me. But in the present inflamed state of the Indian mind it would be
next to impossible to get to his camp alive.
Nevertheless I was quite ready to take the risk. I knew what fearful
damage could be done by a sudden uprising of fanatical and infuriated
Indians, and any danger to me personally was as nothing to the
importance of preventing such, a thing, if possible.
Having no standing as an army officer or as a Government agent, it was
necessary for me to be supplied with some sort of credentials, in order
to secure the assistance I should need on my mission. When I informed
General Miles of this he took one of his visiting-cards from a case and
wrote the following on the back of it:
To COMMANDING OFFICERS OF UNITED STATES TROOPS:
Furnish Colonel William F. Cody with any assistance or escort that
he may ask for.
NELSON A. MILES.
I took the next train for Mandan, N.D., which was the station nearest
the Standing Rock Agency. There I hired a livery team and driver for
the ride of sixty-five miles to the Agency. I had considerable
difficulty in securing a driver, as the report had gone abroad that all
the Indians were on the warpath, and few of the settlers cared to risk
their scalps on such a venture. But I went higher and higher in my
offers, till at last a liveryman figured that a hundred dollars was
sufficient reward for the risk, and, hitching up his team, told me to
After an intensely cold drive we reached the Agency, where I hurried
into the trader's store to thaw out by his stove. I had hardly arrived
before the trader came in and told me that Major McLaughlin, the Indian
agent, wanted to see me. News travels very fast in the Indian country,
especially in war times. Someone about the Post who had seen me driving
in had hurried to headquarters to inform the agent that Buffalo Bill
had arrived by way of reenforcements.
As soon as I got my chilled blood into circulation I went to the
major's quarters, and informed him of the purpose of my visit. We were
old friends, and he was very glad to see me, but he was much concerned
on learning what I intended to do.
"That is impossible!" he said. "The Sioux are threatening a great war.
At this very moment we do not know when the Indians here at the Agency
may rise. We can take care of our own situation, for we have four
troops of cavalry here, but we cannot permit you to go to Sitting
Bull's camp. Not only would you be killed before you got halfway there,
but your presence in the country would precipitate hostilities for
which we are not in the least prepared. I'm sorry, Cody, but it can't
More fully to persuade me of the truth of what he said he took me to
the quarters of Colonel Brown, the commander of the troops at the
Agency, and asked him to talk to me. Brown listened to my statement of
what I proposed and shook his head.
"I've heard of you, Cody, and of your nerve, but this is more than even
you can do. Sitting Bull's camp is forty miles away, and the country
between here and there is swarming with Indians all ready to go on the
warpath, and wholly beyond the sway of reason. I cannot permit you to
make this attempt."
"Do you hear, Cody?" said McLaughlin. "The only thing for you to do is
to stay all night with us and then return to the railroad. Even that
will be risky enough, even for you." "But go you must," added Brown.
"The Agency is under martial law, and I cannot permit you to remain any
longer than tomorrow morning."
There was no arguing with these men. So I resorted to my credentials.
Taking General Miles's card from my pocket, I laid it before Colonel
"What does this mean?" he demanded, and passed the card to McLaughlin.
"It looks like orders," said McLaughlin.
"Yes," said Brown, "and I can't disobey them."
Just then Captain Fatchett, an old friend of mine, came into the
quarters, and Brown turned me over to him for entertainment until I
should formulate my plans for my visit to Sitting Bull. I had never
served with the Eighth Cavalry to which the companies at the Post
belonged, but I had many friends among the officers, and spent a very
pleasant afternoon and evening talking over old times, and getting
information about the present situation.
After guard-mount the next morning I told Colonel Brown that I did not
think I would require an escort for my visit, as the presence of a
number of armed men in the Indian country would be sure to start the
trouble it was our purpose to avoid, or to delay as long as possible.
The man who had driven me over was anxious to return at once, so I
asked for a light spring-wagon and a team of mules.
"Wait an hour or two," said the colonel, "and I'll send the
quartermaster to you."
I waited, and he employed the time, as I afterward learned, in
telegraphing to General Miles, to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs,
to the Secretary of the Interior, and to President Harrison. He
informed all of them that I was there, insisting on going to Sitting
Bull's camp, and that such an errand would not only result in my death,
but would precipitate the outbreak then brewing, and for which he was
not at all prepared. He besought all of them to instruct me to return
While he waited for replies to his dispatches I hunted about the camp
for someone who knew just where Sitting Bull was located and how to get
there. I also wanted a first-class interpreter, as I would have matters
to discuss with Sitting Bull beyond his mastery of English or mine of
Sioux to express. At last I found a man who agreed to go with me as
guide for five hundred dollars, which I promised him without a protest.
Then I went over to the post-trader's store and bought all manner of
presents which I knew would be acceptable to Sitting Bull, his squaw,
and his children.
When I returned to Colonel Brown's quarters he endeavored once more to
put me off. But I would not be put off. I informed him that I had
explicit orders from General Miles as to my mission, and that if he
interfered with me he was violating the orders of his commanding
officer and running into very serious trouble.
At last he reluctantly sent for the quartermaster, and ordered him to
have a span of good mules hitched to a light spring-wagon.
The wagon was driven to the post-trader's store, where I found my guide
and interpreter, and loaded aboard the presents I had bought for the
old warrior. With plenty of robes to keep out the intense cold, we
started out on our journey, a little apprehensive, but fully determined
to go through with it. Five or six miles from the Post we met three men
in a wagon driving toward the Agency. They told us that Sitting Bull's
camp had been lately moved, and that it was now further down the river.
I knew that if the old man was really on the warpath he would be moving
up the river, not down, so I felt considerably reassured.
When we had proceeded a few miles further we heard a yell behind us,
and, looking back, saw a rider approaching at full speed. This proved
to be one of Major McLaughlin's Indian scouts. He bore a telegram
COLONEL WILLIAM F. CODY, Fort Yates, N.D.:
The order for the detention of Sitting Bull has been rescinded.
You are hereby ordered to return to Chicago and report to General
BENJAMIN HARRISON, President.
That ended my mission to Sitting Bull. I still believe I could have got
safely through the country, though there were plenty of chances that I
would be killed or wounded in the attempt.
I returned to the Post, turned back my presents at a loss to myself,
and paid the interpreter fifty dollars for his day's work. He was very
glad to have the fifty and a whole skin, for he could not figure how
the five hundred would be of much help to him if he had been stretched
out on the Plains with an Indian bullet through him.
I was supplied with conveyance back to Mandan by Colonel Brown and took
my departure the next morning. Afterward, in Indianapolis, President
Harrison informed me that he had allowed himself to be persuaded
against my mission in opposition to his own judgment, and said he was
very sorry that he had not allowed me to proceed.
It developed afterward that the people who had moved the President to
interfere consisted of a party of philanthropists who advanced the
argument that my visit would precipitate a war in which Sitting Bull
would be killed, and it was to spare the life of this man that I was
The result of the President's order was that the Ghost Dance War
followed very shortly, and with it came the death of Sitting Bull.
I found that General Miles knew exactly why I had been turned back from
my trip to Sitting Bull. But he was a soldier, and made no criticism of
the order of a superior. General Miles was glad to hear that I had been
made a brigadier-general, but he was still more pleased with the fact
that I knew so many Indians at the Agency.
"You can get around among them," he said, "and learn their intentions
better than any other man I know."
I remained with General Miles until the final surrender of the North
American Indians to the United States Government after three hundred
years of warfare.
This surrender was made to Miles, then lieutenant-general of the army,
and it was eminently fitting that a man who had so ably conducted the
fight of the white race against them and had dealt with them so justly
and honorably should have received their surrender.
With that event ended one of the most picturesque phases of Western
life--Indian fighting. It was with that that I was identified from my
youth to my middle age, and in the time I spent on the Plains, Indian
warfare reached its greatest severity and its highest development.
In the preceding chapters I have sketched briefly some of the most
interesting of my adventures on the Plains. It has been necessary to
omit much that I would like to have told. For twenty years my life was
one of almost continuous excitement, and to tell the whole story would
require many volumes.
It was because of my great interest in the West, and my belief that its
development would be assisted by the interest I could awaken in others,
that I decided to bring the West to the East through the medium of the
Wild West Show. How greatly I was to succeed in this venture I had no
idea when it first occurred to me. As I have told you, I had already
appeared in a small Western show, and was the first man to bring
Indians to the East and exhibit them. But the theater was too small to
give any real impression of what Western life was like. Only in an
arena where horses could be ridden at full gallop, where lassos could
be thrown, and pistols and guns fired without frightening the audience
half to death, could such a thing be attempted.
After getting together a remarkable collection of Indians, cowboys,
Indian ponies, stage-coach drivers, and other typical denizens of my
own country under canvas I found myself almost immediately prosperous.
We showed in the principal cities of the country, and everywhere the
novelty of the exhibition drew great crowds. As owner and principal
actor in the enterprise I met the leading citizens of the United States
socially, and never lost an opportunity to "talk up" the Western
country, which I believed to have a wonderful future. I worked hard on
the program of the entertainment, taking care to make it realistic in
every detail. The wigwam village, the Indian war-dance, the chant of
the Great Spirit as it was sung on the Plains, the rise and fall of the
famous tribes, were all pictured accurately.
It was not an easy thing to do. Sometimes I had to send men on journeys
of more than a hundred miles to get the right kind of war-bonnets, or
to make correct copies of the tepees peculiar to a particular tribe. It
was my effort, in depicting the West, to depict it as it was. I was
much gratified in after years to find that scientists who had carefully
studied the Indians, their traditions and habits, gave me credit for
making very valuable contributions to the sum of human knowledge of the
The first presentation of my show was given in May, 1883, at Omaha,
which I had then chosen as my home. From there we made our first summer
tour, visiting practically every important city in the country.
For my grand entrance I made a spectacle which comprised the most
picturesque features of Western life. Sioux, Arapahoes, Brules, and
Cheyennes in war-paint and feathers led the van, shrieking their
war-whoops and waving the weapons with which they were armed in a
manner to inspire both terror and admiration in the tenderfoot
Next came cowboys and soldiers, all clad exactly as they were when
engaged in their campaigns against the Indians, and lumbering along in
the rear were the old stage-coaches which carried the settlers to the
West in the days before the railroad made the journey easy and
I am sure the people enjoyed this spectacle, for they flocked in crowds
to see it. I know I enjoyed it. There was never a day when, looking
back over the red and white men in my cavalcade, I did not know the
thrill of the trail, and feel a little sorry that my Western adventures
would thereafter have to be lived in spectacles.
Without desiring to dim the glory of any individual I can truthfully
state that the expression "rough riders," which afterward became so
famous, was my own coinage. As I rode out at the front of my parade I
would bow to the audience, circled about on the circus benches, and
shout at the top of my voice:
"Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to introduce you to the rough riders
of the world!"
For three years we toured the United States with great success. One day
an Englishman, whose name I never learned, came to see me after the
"That is a wonderful performance," he told me. "Here in America it
meets with great appreciation, but you have no idea what a sensation it
would be in the Old World, where such things are unheard of."
That set me to thinking. In a few days, after spending hours together
considering the matter, I had made up my mind that Europe should have
an opportunity to study America as nearly at first-hand as possible
through the medium of my entertainment.
Details were soon arranged. In March, 1886, I chartered the steamer
_State of Nebraska_, loaded my Indians, cowboys, horses, and
stage-coaches on board, and set sail for another continent.
It was a strange voyage. The Indians had never been to sea before, and
had never dreamed that such an expanse of water existed on the planet.
They would stand at the rail, after the first days of seasickness were
over, gazing out across the waves, and trying to descry something that
looked like land, or a tree, or anything that seemed familiar and like
home. Then they would shake their heads disconsolately and go below, to
brood and muse and be an extremely unhappy and forlorn lot of savages.
The joy that seized them when at last they came in sight of land, and
were assured that we did not intend to keep on sailing till we fell
over the edge of the earth, was something worth looking at.
At Gravesend we sighted a tug flying the American colors, and when the
band on board responded to our cheers with "The Star-Spangled Banner"
even the Indians tried to sing. Our band replied with "Yankee Doodle,"
and as we moved toward port there was more noise on board than I had
ever heard in any battle on the Plains.
When the landing was made the members of the party were sent in special
coaches to London. Crowds stared at us from every station. The guards
on the train were a little afraid of the solemn and surly-looking
Indians, but they were a friendly and jovial crowd, and when they had
recovered from their own fright at the strange surroundings they were
soon on good terms with the Britishers.
Major John M. Burke, who was my lifetime associate in the show
business, had made all arrangements for housing the big troupe. We went
to work at our leisure with our preparations to astonish the British
public, and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. The big London
amphitheater, a third of a mile in circumference, was just the place
for such an exhibition. The artist's brush was employed on lavish scale
to reproduce the scenery of the Western Plains. I was busy for many
days with preparations, and when our spectacle was finally given it was
received with such a burst of enthusiasm as I had never witnessed
The show began, after the grand entry, with the hour of dawn on the
Plains. Wild animals were scattered about. Within their tents were the
Indians sleeping. As the dawn deepened the Indians came out of their
tents and went through one of their solemn and impressive war-dances.
While this was going on the British audience held its breath. You could
have heard a whisper in almost any part of the arena.
Then in came a courier to announce the neighborhood of a hostile tribe.
Instantly there was a wild scramble for mounts and weapons. The enemy
rushed in, and for ten minutes there was a sham battle which filled the
place with noise and confusion. This battle was copied as exactly as it
could be copied from one of the scrimmages in which I had taken part in
my first days as a scout. Then we gave them a buffalo hunt, in which I
had a hand, and did a little fancy shooting. As a finish there was a
Wild Western cyclone, and a whole Indian village was blown out of
existence for the delectation of the English audience.
The initial performance was given before the Prince and Princess of
Wales, afterward King Edward and his Queen, and their suite. At the
close of the program the Prince and Princess, at their own request,
were introduced to all the leading members of the company, including
many of the Indians. When the cowgirls of the show were presented to
the Princess they stepped forward and offered their hands, which were
taken and well shaken in true democratic fashion.
Red Shirt, the most important chief in the outfit, was highly pleased
when he learned that a princess was to visit him in his camp. He had
the Indian gift of oratory, and he replied to her greeting with a long
and eloquent speech, in which his gestures, if not his words, expressed
plainly the honor he felt in receiving so distinguished a lady. The
fact that he referred to Alexandria as a squaw did not seem to mar her
That the Prince was really pleased with the exhibition was shown by the
fact that he made an immediate report of it to his mother. Shortly
thereafter I received a command from Queen Victoria to appear before
This troubled me a good deal--not that I was not more than eager to
obey this flattering command, but that I was totally at a loss how to
take my show to any of the great residences occupied by Her Majesty.
Finally, after many cautious inquiries, I discovered that she would be
willing to visit the show if a special box was prepared for her. This
we did to the best of our ability. The box was placed upon a dais
covered with crimson velvet and handsomely decorated. When the Queen
arrived I met her at the door of the box, with my sombrero in my hand
and welcomed her to "the Wild West of America."
One of the first acts in the performance was to carry the flag to the
front. This was done by a soldier. Walking around the arena, he offered
the Stars and Stripes as an emblem of the friendship of America to all
the world. On this occasion he carried the flag directly to the royal
box, and dipped it three times before the Queen.
Absolute silence fell over the great throng. Then the Queen rose and
saluted the flag with a bow, her suite following her example. There was
a wild cheer from everyone in the show, Indians included, and soon all
the audience was on its feet, cheering and waving flags and
This gave us a fine start and we never put on a better performance.
When it was all over Her Majesty sent for me, and paid me many
compliments as well as to my country and the West. I found her a most
gracious and charming woman, with none of the haughtiness which I had
supposed was inseparable from a person of such exalted rank. My
subsequent experiences with royalty convinced me that there is more
real democracy among the rulers of the countries of Europe than you
will find among the petty officials of a village.
It was interesting to watch old Red Shirt when he was presented to the
Queen. He clearly felt that this was a ceremony between one ruler and
another, and the dignity with which he went through the introduction
was wonderful to behold. One would have thought to watch him that most
of his life was spent in introductions to kings and queens, and that he
was really a little bored with the effort required to go through with
them. A second command from the Queen resulted in an exhibition before
a number of her royal guests, including the Kings of Saxony, Denmark,
and Greece, the Queen of the Belgians, and the Crown Prince of Austria.
The Deadwood coach, one of the features of the show, was of particular
interest to my royal guests. This was a coach with a history. It was
built in Concord, N.H., and sent by water to San Francisco to run over
a route infested with road-agents. A number of times it was held up and
robbed. Finally, both driver and passengers were killed and the coach
abandoned on the trail. It remained for a long time a derelict, but was
afterward brought into San Francisco by an old stage-driver and placed
on the Overland trail.
As it worked its way East over the Overland route its old luck held
steadily. Again were driver and passengers massacred; again it was
abandoned. At last, when it was "hoodooed" all over the West and no
independent driver or company would have anything to do with it I
discovered it, bought it, and used it for my show.
One of the incidents of my program, as all who have seen it will
remember, was an Indian attack on this coach. The royal visitors wanted
a real taste of Western life--insisted on it, in fact, and the Kings of
Denmark, Greece, Saxony, and the Crown Prince of Austria climbed to the
box with me.
I had secretly instructed the Indians to throw a little real energy
into their pursuit of the coach, and they followed my instructions
rather more completely than I expected. The coach was surrounded by a
demoniac band of shooting and shouting Indians. Blank cartridges were
discharged at perilously close proximity to the rulers of four great
nations. Looking around to quiet my followers, I saw that the guests of
the occasion were a trifle pale, but they were all of them game, and
came out of the affair far less scared than were the absolutely
terrified members of the royal suites, who sat in their boxes and wrung
their hands in wild alarm.
In recognition of this performance the Prince of Wales sent me a
souvenir consisting of a feathered crest, outlined in diamonds, with
the words "Ich dien" worked in jewels underneath. A note in the
Prince's own hand expressed the pleasure of his guests in the
entertainment I had provided for them.
After a tour of the principal cities we returned to America, proud of
our success, and well rewarded in purse for our effort.
The welcome to America was almost as elaborate as that from England. I
quote from the description of it printed in the New York _World_:
The harbor probably has never witnessed a more picturesque scene
than that of yesterday, when the _Persian Monarch_ steamed up from
Quarantine. Buffalo Bill stood on the captain's bridge, his tall
and striking figure clearly outlined, and his long hair waving in
the wind; the gaily painted and blanketed Indians leaned over the
ship's rail; the flags of all nations fluttered from the masts and
connecting cables. The cowboy band played "Yankee Doodle" with a
vim and enthusiasm which faintly indicated the joy felt by
everybody connected with the "Wild West" over the sight of home.
Shortly after my arrival I was much pleased by the receipt of the
FIFTH AVENUE HOTEL, NEW YORK.
COLONEL WM. F. CODY:
_Dear Sir_--In common with all your countrymen, I want to let you
know that I am not only gratified but proud of your management and
success. So far as I can make out, you have been modest, graceful,
and dignified in all you have done to illustrate the history of
civilization on this continent during the past century. I am
especially pleased with the compliment paid you by the Prince of
Wales, who rode with you in the Deadwood coach while it was
attacked by Indians and rescued by cowboys. Such things did occur
in our days, but they never will again.
As nearly as I can estimate, there were in 1865 about nine and
one-half million of buffaloes on the Plains between the Missouri
River and the Rocky Mountains; all are now gone, killed for their
meat, their skins, and their bones. This seems like desecration,
cruelty, and murder, yet they have been replaced by twice as many
cattle. At that date there were about 165,000 Pawnees, Sioux,
Cheyennes, and Arapahoes, who depended upon these buffaloes for
their yearly food. They, too, have gone, but they have been
replaced by twice or thrice as many white men and women, who have
made the earth to blossom as the rose, and who can be counted,
taxed, and governed by the laws of Nature and civilization. This
change has been salutary, and will go on to the end. You have
caught one epoch of this country's history, and have illustrated it
in the very heart of the modern world--London--and I want you to
feel that on this side of the water we appreciate it.
This drama must end; days, years, and centuries follow fast; even
the drama of civilization must have an end. All I aim to accomplish
on this sheet of paper is to assure you that I fully recognize your
work. The presence of the Queen, the beautiful Princess of Wales,
the Prince, and the British public are marks of favor which reflect
back on America sparks of light which illuminate many a house and
cabin in the land where once you guided me honestly and faithfully,
in 1865-66, from Fort Riley to Kearney, in Kansas and Nebraska.
Sincerely your friend,
Our next descent on Europe was made in the steamer _Persian Monarch_,
which was again chartered. This time our destination was France. The
Parisians received the show with as much favor as had the Londoners.
Everything American became the fad during our stay. Fashionable young
men bought American and Mexican saddles for their rides in the Bois.
Cowboy hats appeared everywhere on the street. There was a great cry
for stories of the Plains and all the books that could be found that
dealt with the West were translated into the French language. Relics
from the Plains and mountains, bows, moccasins, and Indian baskets,
sold like hot cakes in the souvenir stores.
While in the city I accepted an invitation from Rosa Bonheur to visit
her at her superb chateau. In return I extended her the freedom of the
show, and she made many studies from life of the fine animals I had
brought over with me. She also painted a portrait of me on my favorite
horse--a picture which I immediately sent home to my wife.
Our sojourn in Rome was lively with incident. The Prince of Simonetta,
who visited the show, declared that he had some wild horses in his
stable which no cowboy could ride. The challenge was promptly taken up
by some of the dare-devils in my party. That the horses might not run
amuck and injure anyone, special booths were erected in the show arena,
where the trial was to be made.
The greatest enthusiasm was manifested by the Romans in the
performance, and it was clear to me that most of them looked eagerly
forward to the mortal injury of some of the members of my company. The
Latin delight in sports like those of the old Roman arena had by no
means died out.
When the horses were loosed in the ring they sprang into the air,
snorted, kicked up their heels, and plainly defied any of the cowboys
to do so much as to lay a hand on them. But in less time than I can
tell it the plainsmen had sent their lassos hurtling through the air,
and the horses discovered that they had met their masters. The
audience, always strong for the winners, forgot their disappointment in
the absence of fatalities, and howled with delight as the cowboys, one
after another, mounted the fractious horses and trotted them
submissively about the arena. We closed this tour of Europe, which was
successful to the end, with a second visit to England.
I have now come to the end of my story. It is a story of "The Great
West that Was," a West that is gone forever.
All my interests are still with the West--the modern West. I have a
number of homes there, the one I love best being in the wonderful Big
Horn Valley, which I hope one day to see one of the garden spots of the
In concluding, I want to express the hope that the dealings of this
Government of ours with the Indians will always be just and fair. They
were the inheritors of the land that we live in. They were not capable
of developing it, or of really appreciating its possibilities, but they
owned it when the White Man came, and the White Man took it away from
them. It was natural that they should resist. It was natural that they
employed the only means of warfare known to them against those whom
they regarded as usurpers. It was our business, as scouts, to be
continually on the warpath against them when they committed
depredations. But no scout ever hated the Indians in general.
There have been times when the Government policy toward the Indians has
been unwise and unjust. That time, I trust, has passed forever. There
are still many thousand Indians in the country, most of them engaged in
agricultural pursuits. Indian blood has added a certain rugged strength
to the characters of many of our Western citizens. At least two United
States Senators are part Indian, and proud of it.
The Indian makes a good citizen, a good farmer, a good soldier. He is a
real American, and all those of us who have come to share with him the
great land that was his heritage should do their share toward seeing
that he is dealt with justly and fairly, and that his rights and
liberties are never infringed by the scheming politician or the
short-sighted administration of law.
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