The Life of Hon. William F. Cody
William F. Cody
Part 3 out of 6
"What does it mean?" I asked; "What are they saying? It's all a
mystery to me."
"They say that you are one of the Kansas jay-hawkers, and one of
Jennison's house burners," replied the gentleman.
"I am from Kansas--that's true; and was a soldier and a scout in the
Union army," said I; "and I was in Kansas during the border ruffian war
of 1856. Perhaps these people know who I am, and that explains their
hard looks." I had a lengthy conversation with this gentleman--for such
he seemed to be--and entertained him with several chapters of the
history of the early Kansas troubles, and told him the experiences of
my own family.
In the evening the Lexington folks got up a dance, but neither the
Indiana people, my wife or myself were invited to join them. My
new-found friend thereupon came to me and said: "Mr. Cody, let us have a
dance of our own."
"Very well," was my reply.
"We have some musicians along with us, so we can have plenty of music,"
remarked the gentleman.
"Good enough!" said I, "and I will hire the negro barber to play the
violin for us. He is a good fiddler, as I heard him playing only a
little while ago." The result was that we soon organized a good string
band and had a splendid dance, keeping it up as long as the Lexington
party did theirs.
The second day out from St. Louis, the boat stopped to wood up, at a
wild-looking landing. Suddenly twenty horsemen were seen galloping up
through the timber, and as they came nearer the boat they fired on the
negro deckhands, against whom they seemed to have a special grudge, and
who were engaged in throwing wood on board. The negroes all quickly
jumped on the boat and pulled in the gang plank, and the captain had only
just time to get the steamer out into the stream before the
bushwhackers--for such they proved to be--appeared on the bank.
"Where is the black abolition jay-hawker?" shouted the leader.
"Show him to us, and we'll shoot him," yelled another.
But as the boat had got well out in the river by this time, they could
not board us, and the captain ordering a full head of steam, pulled out
and left them.
I afterwards ascertained that some of the Missourians, who were with the
excursion party, were bushwhackers themselves, and had telegraphed to
their friends from some previous landing that I was on board, telling
them to come to the landing which we had just left, and take me off. Had
the villains captured me they would have undoubtedly put an end to my
career, and the public would never have had the pleasure of being bored
by this autobiography.
I noticed that my wife felt grieved over the manner in which these
people had treated me. Just married, she was going into a new country,
and seeing how her husband was regarded, how he had been shunned, and
how his life had been threatened, I was afraid she might come to the
conclusion too soon that she had wedded a "hard customer." So when the
boat landed at Kansas City I telegraphed to some of my friends in
Leavenworth that I would arrive there in the evening. My object was to
have my acquaintances give me a reception, so that my wife could see
that I really did have some friends, and was not so bad a man as the
bushwhackers tried to make out.
Just as I expected, when the boat reached Leavenworth, I found a general
round-up of friends at the landing to receive us. There were about sixty
gentlemen and ladies. They had a band of music with them, and we were
given a fine serenade. Taking carriages, we all drove to South
Leavenworth to the home of my sister Eliza, who had married George Myers,
and there we were given a very handsome reception. All this cheered up my
wife, who concluded that I was not a desperado after all.
Having promised my wife that I would abandon the plains, I rented a hotel
in Salt Creek Valley--the same house by the way, which my mother had
formerly kept, but which was then owned by Dr. J.J. Crook, late surgeon
of the 7th Kansas. This hotel I called the Golden Rule House, and I kept
it until the next September. People generally said I made a good
landlord, and knew how to run a hotel--a business qualification which, it
is said, is possessed by comparatively few men. But it proved too tame
employment for me, and again I sighed for the freedom of the plains.
Believing that I could make more money out West on the frontier than I
could at Salt Creek Valley, I sold out the Golden Rule House, and started
alone for Saline, Kansas, which was then the end of the track of the
Kansas Pacific railway, which was at that time being built across the
plains. On my way I stopped at Junction City, where I again met my old
friend Wild Bill, who was scouting for the government; his headquarters
being at Fort Ellsworth, afterwards called Fort Harker. He told me that
they needed more scouts at this post, and I accordingly accompanied him
to that fort, where I had no difficulty in obtaining employment.
During the winter of 1866-67, I scouted between Fort Ellsworth and Fort
Fletcher. In the spring of 1867 I was at Fort Fletcher, when General
Custer came out to go on an Indian expedition with General Hancock. I
remained at this post until it was drowned out by the heavy floods of Big
Creek, on which it was located; the water rose about the fortifications
and rendered the place unfit for occupancy; so the government abandoned
the fort, and moved the troops and supplies to a new post--which had been
named Fort Hays--located further west, on the south fork of Big Creek. It
was while scouting in the vicinity of Fort Hays that I had my first ride
with the dashing and gallant Custer, who had come up to the post from
Fort Ellsworth with an escort of only ten men. He wanted a guide to pilot
him to Fort Larned, a distance of sixty-five miles across the country.
I was ordered by the commanding officer to guide General Custer to his
desired destination, and I soon received word from the General that he
would start out in the morning with the intention of making the trip in
one day. Early in the morning, after a good night's rest, I was on hand,
mounted on my large mouse-colored mule--an animal of great endurance--and
ready for the journey; when the General saw me, he said:
"Cody, I want to travel fast and go through as quickly as possible, and I
don't think that mule of yours is fast enough to suit me."
"General, never mind the mule," said I, "he'll get there as soon as your
horses. That mule is a good one," as I knew that the animal was better
than most horses.
"Very well; go ahead, then," said he, though he looked as if he thought I
would delay the party on the road.
For the first fifteen miles, until we came to the Smoky Hill River,
which we were to cross, I could hardly keep the mule in advance of the
General, who rode a frisky, impatient and ambitious thoroughbred steed;
in fact, the whole party was finely mounted. The General repeatedly told
me that the mule was "no good," and that I ought to have had a good
horse. But after crossing the river and striking the sand-hills, I began
letting my mule out a little, and putting the "persuaders" to him. He
was soon out-traveling the horses, and by the time we had made about
half the distance to Fort Larned, I occasionally had to wait for the
General or some of his party, as their horses were beginning to show
signs of fatigue.
"General, how about this mule, anyhow?" I asked, at last.
"Cody, you have a better vehicle than I thought you had," was his reply.
From that time on to Fort Larned I had no trouble in keeping ahead of the
party. We rode into the fort at four o'clock in the afternoon with about
half the escort only, the rest having lagged far behind.
General Custer thanked me for having brought him straight across the
country without any trail, and said that if I were not engaged as post
scout at Fort Hays he would like to have me accompany him as one of his
scouts during the summer; and he added that whenever I was out of
employment, if I would come to him he would find something for me to do.
This was the beginning of my acquaintance with General Custer, whom I
always admired as a man and as an officer.
[Illustration: GENERAL CUSTER]
A few days after my return to Fort Hays, the Indians made a raid on the
Kansas Pacific Railroad, killing five or six men and running off about
one hundred horses and mules. The news was brought to the commanding
officer, who immediately ordered Major Arms, of the Tenth Cavalry--which,
by the way, was a negro regiment,--with his company and one mountain
howitzer, to go in pursuit of the red-skins, and I was sent along with
the expedition as scout and guide. On the second day out we suddenly
discovered, on the opposite side of the Saline River, about a mile
distant, a large body of Indians, who were charging down upon us. Major
Arms, placing the cannon on a little knoll, limbered it up and left
twenty men to guard it; and then, with the rest of the command, he
crossed the river to meet the Indians.
Just as he had got the men over the stream, we heard a terrific yelling
and shouting in our rear, and looking back to the knoll where the cannon
had been stationed, we saw the negroes, who had been left there to guard
the gun, flying towards us, being pursued by about one hundred Indians;
while another large party of the latter were dancing around the captured
cannon, as if they had got hold of an elephant and did not know what to
do with it.
Major Arms turned his command back and drove the Indians from the gun.
The troops then dismounted and took position there. Quite a severe fight
ensued, lasting about two hours. Five or six of the soldiers, as well as
Major Arms, were wounded, and several of the horses were shot. The
Indians seemed to grow thicker and thicker, as if receiving
reinforcements from some large party. The colored troops, who had been
bragging all the way that if they could only see some Indians "dey would
blow 'em off de farm,"--which was a favorite expression of theirs,--were
now singing a different tune. Every time the Indians would make a charge
at us, the darkeys would cry out:
"Heah dey cum;" "Dey must be ten thousand ob 'em;" "De whole country is
alive wid 'em;" "Massa Bill, does you tink we is eber agoin' to get out
o' heah?" and many other similar expressions.
Major Arms, who was wounded and lying under the cannon--which, by the
way, had become useless,--called me up and asked if I thought there was
any show of getting back to the fort. I replied that there was.
Orders were accordingly given by Major Arms for a retreat, the cannon
being left behind. During the movement several of our men were killed,
but as night came and dense darkness prevailed, we succeeded in making
good headway, and got into Fort Hays just at daylight next morning, in a
very played-out condition.
During our absence the cholera had broken out at the post, and five or
six men were dying daily. It was difficult to tell which was the greater
danger--fighting Indians on the prairie, or facing the cholera in camp;
but the former was decidedly the more inviting.
Soon after returning to Fort Hays, I was sent with dispatches to Fort
Harker. After delivering the messages, I visited the town of Ellsworth,
about three miles west of Fort Harker, and there I met a man named
William Rose, a contractor on the Kansas Pacific Railroad, who had a
contract for grading near Fort Hays. He had had his stock stolen by the
Indians, and had come to Ellsworth to buy more.
During the course of our conversation, Mr. Rose incidentally remarked
that he had some idea of laying out a town on the west side of Big Creek,
about one mile from the fort, where the railroad was to cross. He asked
my opinion of the contemplated enterprise, and I told him that I thought
it was "a big thing." He then proposed taking me as a partner in the
scheme, and suggested that after we got the town laid out and thrown open
to the public, we should establish a store and saloon there.
Thinking it would be a grand thing to be half-owner of a town, I at once
accepted his proposition. We bought a stock of such articles as are
usually found in a frontier store, and transported them to the place on
Big Creek, where we were to found our town. We hired a railroad engineer
to survey the site and stake it off into lots; and we gave the new town
the ancient and historical name of Rome. To a "starter," we donated lots
to any one who would build on them, but reserved the corner lots and
others which were best located for ourselves. These reserved lots we
valued at fifty dollars each.
Our modern Rome, like all mushroom towns along the line of a new
railroad, sprang up as if by magic, and in less than one month we had two
hundred frame and log houses, three or four stores, several saloons, and
one good hotel. Rome was looming up, and Rose and I already considered
ourselves millionaires, and thought we "had the world by the tail." But
one day a fine-looking gentleman, calling himself Dr. W.E. Webb, appeared
in town, and dropping into our store introduced himself in a very
"Gentlemen, you've got a very flourishing little town here. Wouldn't you
like to have a partner in your enterprise?"
"No, thank you," said I, "we have too good a thing here to whack up
My partner agreed with me, but the conversation was continued, and at
last the stranger said:
"Gentlemen, I am the agent or prospector of the Kansas Pacific Railroad,
and my business is to locate towns for the company along the line."
"We think we have the only suitable town-site in this immediate
locality," said Mr. Rose, "and as a town is already started, we have
saved the company considerable expense."
"You know as well as I do," said Dr. Webb, "that the company expects to
make money by selling lands and town lots; and as you are not disposed to
give the company a show, or share with me, I shall probably have to start
another town near you. Competition is the life of trade, you know."
"Start your town, if you want to. We've got the 'bulge' on you, and can
hold it," said I, somewhat provoked at his threat.
But we acted too independently and too indiscreetly for our own good Dr.
Webb, the very next day after his interview with us, began hauling
material to a spot about one mile east of us, where he staked out a new
town, which he called Hays City. He took great pains to circulate in our
town the story that the railroad company would locate their round-houses
and machine shops at Hays City, and that it was to be _the_ town and a
splendid business center. A ruinous stampede from our place was the
result. People who had built in Rome came to the conclusion that they had
built in the wrong place; they began pulling down their buildings and
moving them over to Hays City, and in less than three days our once
flourishing city had dwindled down to the little store which Rose and I
It was on a bright summer morning that we sat on a pine box in front of
our crib, moodily viewing the demolition of the last building. Three days
before, we had considered ourselves millionaires; on that morning we
looked around and saw that we were reduced to the ragged edge of poverty.
Our sanguine expectations of realizing immense fortunes were dashed to
the ground, and we felt pretty blue. The new town of Hays had swallowed
Rome entirely. Mr. Rose facetiously remarked that he felt like "the last
rose of summer," with all his lovely companions faded and gone, and _he_
left blooming alone. I told him I was still there, staunch and true, but
he replied that that didn't help the matter much. Thus ends the brief
history of the "Rise, Decline and Fall" of Modern Rome.
It having become evident to me that there was very little hope of Rome
ever regaining its former splendor and prosperity, I sent my wife and
daughter Arta--who had been born at Leavenworth in the latter part of
December, 1866--to St. Louis on a visit. They had been living with me
for some little time in the rear part of our "store."
At this time Mr. Rose and myself had a contract under Schumacher, Miller
& Co., constructors of the Kansas Pacific, for grading five miles of
track westward from Big Creek, and running through the site of Rome.
Notwithstanding we had been deserted, we had some small hope that they
would not be able to get water at the new town, and that the people would
all soon move back to Rome, as we really had the best location. We
determined, therefore, to go on with our grading contract, and wait for
something better to turn up. It was indeed hard for us, who had been
millionaires, to come down to the level of common railroad contractors--
but we had to do it, all the same.
We visited the new town of Hays almost daily, to see how it was
progressing, and in a short time we became much better acquainted with
Dr. Webb, who had reduced us from our late independent to our present
dependent position. We found him a perfect gentleman--a whole-souled,
genial-hearted fellow, whom everybody liked and respected. Kearly
every day, "Doc." and I would take a ride over the prairie together
and hunt buffalo.
On one occasion, having ventured about ten miles from the town, we spied
a band of Indians not over two miles distant, who were endeavoring to get
between us and the town, and thus cut us off. I was mounted on my
celebrated horse Brigham, the fleetest steed I ever owned. On several
subsequent occasions he saved my life, and he was the horse that I rode
when I killed sixty-nine buffaloes in one day. Dr. Webb was riding a
beautiful thoroughbred bay, which he had brought with him from the East.
Having such splendid horses, we laughed at the idea of a band of Indians
overtaking us on a square run, no matter how well they might be mounted;
but not caring to be cut off by them, we ran our steeds about three
miles towards home, thus getting between the braves and the town. The
Indians were then about three-quarters of a mile distant, and we stopped
and waved our hats at them, and fired some shots at long range. There
were thirteen in the party, and as they were getting pretty close to us,
we struck out for Hays. They came on in pursuit and sent several
scattering shots after us, but we easily left them behind. They finally
turned and rode off towards the Saline River.
The Doctor thought this glorious sport, and wanted to organize a party to
go in pursuit of them, but I induced him to give up this idea, although
he did so rather reluctantly. The Doctor soon became quite an expert
hunter, and before he had remained on the prairie a year there were but
few men in the country who could kill more buffaloes on a hunt than he.
Being aware that Rose and myself felt rather downhearted over our
deserted village, the Doctor one day said that, as he had made the
proprietors of Rome "howl," he would give us two lots each in Hays, and
did so. We finally came to the conclusion that our old town was dead
beyond redemption or revival, and we thereupon devoted our undivided
attention to our railroad contract. One day we were pushed for horses to
work on our scrapers--so I hitched up Brigham, to see how he would work.
He was not much used to that kind of labor, and I was about giving up the
idea of making a work-horse of him, when one of the men called to me that
there were some buffaloes coming over the hill. As there had been no
buffaloes seen anywhere in the vicinity of the camp for several days, we
had become rather short of meat. I immediately told one of our men to
hitch his horses to a wagon and follow me, as I was going out after the
herd, and we would bring back some fresh meat for supper. I had no
saddle, as mine had been left at the camp a mile distant, so taking the
harness from Brigham, I mounted him bareback and started out after the
game, being armed with my celebrated buffalo-killer, "Lucretia
Borgia,"--a newly-improved breech-loading needle gun, which I had
obtained from the government.
While I was riding toward the buffaloes I observed five horsemen coming
out from the fort, who had evidently seen the buffaloes from the post,
and were going out for a chase. They proved to be some newly-arrived
officers in that part of the country, and when they came up closer, I
could see by the shoulder straps that the senior officer was a captain,
while the others were lieutenants.
"Hello! may friend," sang out the captain, "I see you are after the same
game we are."
"Yes, sir; I saw those buffaloes coming over the hill, and as we were
about out of fresh meat I thought I would go and get some," said I.
They scanned my cheap-looking outfit pretty closely, and as my horse was
not very prepossessing in appearance, having on only a blind bridle, and
otherwise looking like a work-horse they evidently considered me a green
hand at hunting.
"Do you expect to catch those buffaloes on that Gothic steed?" laughingly
asked the captain.
"I hope so, by pushing on the reins hard enough," was my reply.
"You'll never catch them in the world, my fine fellow," said the captain.
"It requires a fast horse to overtake the animals on these prairies."
"Does it?" asked I as if I didn't know it.
"Yes; but come along with us as we are going to kill them more for
pleasure than anything else. All we want are the tongues and a piece of
tender loin, and you may have all that is left," said the generous man.
"I am much obliged to you, Captain, and will follow you," I replied.
There were eleven buffaloes in the herd and they were not more than a
mile from us. The officers dashed ahead as if they had a sure thing on
killing them all before I could come up with them; but I had noticed that
the herd was making towards the creek for water, and as I knew buffalo
nature, I was perfectly aware that it would be difficult to turn them
from their direct course. Thereupon, I started towards the creek to head
them off, while the officers came up in the rear and gave chase.
The buffaloes came rushing past me not a hundred yards distant, with the
officers about three hundred yards in the rear. Now, thought I, is the
time to "get my work in," as they say; and I pulled the blind-bridle from
my horse, who knew as well as I did that we were out for buffaloes--as he
was a trained hunter. The moment the bridle was off, he started at the
top of his speed, running in ahead of the officers, and with a few jumps
he brought me alongside of the rear buffalo. Raising old "Lucretia
Borgia" to my shoulder, I fired, and killed the animal at the first shot.
My horse then carried me alongside the next one, not ten feet away, and I
dropped him at the next fire.
As soon as one buffalo would fall, Brigham would take me so close to the
next, that I could almost touch it with my gun. In this manner I killed
the eleven buffaloes with twelve shots; and, as the last animal dropped,
my horse stopped. I jumped to the ground, knowing that he would not leave
me--it must be remembered that I had been riding him without bridle,
reins or saddle--and turning round as the party of astonished officers
rode up, I said to them:
"Now, gentlemen, allow me to present to you all the tongues and
tender-loins you wish from these buffaloes."
[Illustration: TONGUES AND TENDER LOINS.]
Captain Graham, for such I soon learned was his name, replied: "Well, I
never saw the like before. Who under the sun are you, anyhow?"
"My name is Cody," said I.
One of the lieutenants, Thompson by name, who had met me at Fort Harker,
then recognized me, and said: "Why, that is Bill Cody, our old scout." He
then introduced me to the other officers, who were Captain Graham, of the
Tenth Cavalry, and Lieutenants Reed, Emmick and Ezekiel.
Captain Graham, who was considerable of a horseman, greatly admired
Brigham, and said: "That horse of yours has running points."
"Yes, sir; he has not only got the points, he is a runner and knows how
to use the points," said I.
"So I noticed," said the captain.
They all finally dismounted, and we continued chatting for some little
time upon the different subjects of horses, buffaloes, Indians and
hunting. They felt a little sore at not getting a single shot at the
buffaloes, but the way I had killed them had, they said, amply repaid
them for their disappointment. They had read of such feats in books, but
this was the first time they had ever seen anything of the kind with
their own eyes. It was the first time, also, that they had ever witnessed
or heard of a white man running buffaloes on horseback without a saddle
or a bridle.
I told them that Brigham knew nearly as much about the business as I did,
and if I had had twenty bridles they would have been of no use to me, as
he understood everything, and all that he expected of me was to do the
shooting. It is a fact, that Brigham would stop if a buffalo did not fall
at the first fire, so as to give me a second chance, but if I did not
kill the buffalo then, he would go on, as if to say, "You are no good,
and I will not fool away time by giving you more than two shots." Brigham
was the best horse I ever owned or saw for buffalo chasing.
Our conversation was interrupted in a little while by the arrival of the
wagon which I had ordered out; I loaded the hind-quarters of the youngest
buffaloes on it, and then cut out the tongues and tender loins, and
presented them to the officers, after which I rode towards the fort with
them, while the wagon returned to camp.
Captain Graham told me that he expected to be stationed at Fort Hays
during the summer, and would probably be sent out on a scouting
expedition, and in case he was he would like to have me accompany him as
scout and guide. I replied that notwithstanding I was very busy with my
railroad contract I would go with him if he was ordered out. I then left
the officers and returned to our camp.
That very night the Indians unexpectedly made a raid on the horses, and
ran off five or six of our very best work-teams, leaving us in a very
crippled condition. At daylight I jumped on old Brigham and rode to Fort
Hays, when I reported the affair to the commanding officer; Captain
Graham and Lieutenant Emmick were at once ordered out with their company
of one hundred colored troops, to pursue the Indians and recover our
stock if possible. In an hour we were under way. The darkies had never
been in an Indian fight and were anxious to catch the band we were after
and "Sweep de red debels from off de face ob de earth." Captain Graham
was a brave, dashing officer, eager to make a record for himself, and it
was with difficulty that I could trail fast enough to keep out of the way
of the impatient soldiers. Every few moments Captain Graham would ride up
to see if the trail was freshening and how soon we should be likely to
overtake the thieves.
At last we reached the Saline river, where we found the Indians had only
stopped to feed and water the animals, and had then pushed on towards the
Solomon. After crossing the Saline they made no effort to conceal their
trail, thinking they would not be pursued beyond that point--consequently
we were able to make excellent time. We reached the Soloman before
sunset, and came to a halt; we surmised that if the Indians were camped
on this river, that they had no suspicion of our being in the
neighborhood. I advised Captain Graham to remain with the company where
it was, while I went ahead on a scout to find the Indians, if they were
in the vicinity.
After riding some distance down the ravine that led to the river, I left
my horse at the foot of a hill; then, creeping to the top, I looked
cautiously over the summit upon the Solomon, below. I at once discovered
in plain view, not a mile away, a herd of horses grazing, our lost ones
among them; very shortly I made out the Indian camp, noted its lay, and
how we could best approach it. Reporting to Captain Graham, whose eyes
fairly danced with delight at the prospect of surprising and whipping
the redskins, we concluded to wait until the moon rose, then get into
the timber so as to approach the Indians as closely as possible without
being discovered, and finally to make a sudden dash into their camp, and
clean them out. We had everything "cut and dried," as we thought, but,
alas! just as we were nearing the point where we were to take the open
ground and make our charge, one of the colored gentlemen became so
excited that he fired off his gun. We immediately commenced the charge,
but the firing of the gun and the noise of our rush through the
crackling timber alarmed the Indians, who at once sprang to their
horses and were away from us before we reached their late camp. Captain
Graham called out "Follow me boys!" which we did for awhile, but in the
darkness the Indians made good their escape. The bugle then gave the
re-call, but some of the darkies did not get back until morning, having,
in their fright, allowed their horses to run away with them withersoever
it suited the animal's pleasure to go.
[Illustration: THE INDIAN HORSE THIEVES.]
We followed the trail the next day for awhile, but as it become evident
that it would be a long chase to overtake the enemy, and as we had
rations only for the day, we commenced the return. Captain Graham was
bitterly disappointed in not being able to get the fight when it seemed
so near at one time. He roundly cursed the "nigger" who fired the gun,
and as a punishment for his carelessness, he was compelled to walk all
the way back to Fort Hays.
EARNING A TITLE.
It was about this time that the end of the Kansas Pacific track was in
the heart of the buffalo country, and the company was employing about
twelve hundred men in the construction of the road. As the Indians were
very troublesome, it was difficult to obtain fresh meat for the workmen,
and the company therefore concluded to engage the services of hunters to
kill buffaloes. Having heard of my experience and success as a buffalo
hunter, Messrs. Goddard Brothers, who had the contract for boarding the
employees of the road, met me in Hays City one day and made me a good
offer to become their hunter, and I at once entered into a contract with
them. They said that they would require about twelve buffaloes per day;
that would be twenty-four hams, as we took only the hind-quarters and
hump of each buffalo. As this was to be dangerous work, on account of the
Indians, who were riding all over that section of the country, and as I
would be obliged to go from five to ten miles from the road each day to
hunt the buffaloes, accompanied by only one man with a light wagon for
the transportation of the meat, I of course demanded a large salary. They
could afford to remunerate me well, because the meat would not cost them
anything. They agreed to give me five hundred dollars per month, provided
I furnished them all the fresh meat required.
Leaving my partner, Rose, to complete our grading contract, I immediately
began my career as a buffalo hunter for the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and
it was not long before I acquired considerable notoriety. It was at this
time that the very appropriate name of "Buffalo Bill," was conferred upon
me by the road-hands. It has stuck to me ever since, and I have never
been ashamed of it.
During my engagement as hunter for the company--a period of less than
eighteen mouths--I killed 4,280 buffaloes; and I had many exciting
adventures with the Indians, as well as hair-breadth escapes, some of
which are well worth relating.
One day in the spring of 1868, I mounted Brigham and started for Smoky
Hill River. After galloping about twenty miles I reached the top of a
small hill overlooking the valley of that beautiful stream.
As I was gazing on the landscape, I suddenly saw a band of about thirty
Indians nearly half a mile distant; I knew by the way they jumped on
their horses that they had seen me as soon as I came into sight.
The only chance I had for my life was to make a run for it, and I
immediately wheeled and started back towards the railroad. Brigham seemed
to understand what was up, and he struck out as if he comprehended that
it was to be a run for life. He crossed a ravine in a few jumps, and on
reaching a ridge beyond, I drew rein, looked back and saw the Indians
coming for me at full speed and evidently well-mounted. I would have had
little or no fear of being overtaken if Brigham had been fresh; but as he
was not, I felt uncertain as to how he would stand a long chase.
[Illustration: BUFFALO BILL.]
My pursuers seemed to be gaining on me a little, and I let Brigham shoot
ahead again; when we had run about three miles farther, some eight or
nine of the Indians were not over two hundred yards behind, and five or
six of these seemed to be shortening the gap at every jump. Brigham now
exerted himself more than ever, and for the next three or four miles he
got "right down to business," and did some of the prettiest running I
ever saw. But the Indians were about as well-mounted as I was, and one of
their horses in particular--a spotted animal--was gaining on me all the
time. Nearly all the other horses were strung out behind for a distance
of two miles, but still chasing after me.
[Illustration: DOWN WENT HIS HORSE.]
The Indian who was riding the spotted horse was armed with a rifle, and
would occasionally send a bullet whistling along, sometimes striking the
ground ahead of me. I saw that this fellow must be checked, or a stray
bullet from his gun might hit me or my horse; so, suddenly stopping
Brigham, and quickly wheeling him around, I raised old "Lucretia" to my
shoulder, took deliberate aim at the Indian and his horse, hoping to hit
one or the other, and fired. He was not over eighty yards from me at this
time, and at the crack of my rifle down went his horse. Not waiting to
see if he recovered, I turned Brigham, and in a moment we were again
fairly flying towards our destination; we had urgent business about that
time, and were in a hurry to get there.
The other Indians had gained on us while I was engaged in shooting at
their leader, and they sent several shots whizzing past me, but
fortunately none of them hit the intended mark. To return their
compliment I occasionally wheeled myself in the saddle and fired back at
them, and one of my shots broke the leg of one of their horses, which
left its rider _hors(e) de combat_, as the French would say.
Only seven or eight Indians now remained in dangerous proximity to me,
and as their horses were beginning to lag somewhat, I checked my faithful
old steed a little, to allow him an opportunity to draw an extra breath
or two. I had determined, if it should come to the worst, to drop into a
buffalo wallow, where I could stand the Indians off for a while; but I
was not compelled to do this, as Brigham carried me through most nobly.
The chase was kept up until we came within three miles of the end of the
railroad track, where two companies of soldiers were stationed for the
purpose of protecting the workmen from the Indians. One of the outposts
saw the Indians chasing me across the prairie, and gave the alarm. In a
few minutes I saw, greatly to my delight, men coming on foot, and
cavalrymen, too, came galloping to our rescue as soon as they could mount
their horses. When the Indians observed this, they turned and ran in the
direction from which they had come. In a very few minutes I was met by
some of the infantrymen and trackmen, and jumping to the ground and
pulling the blanket and saddle off of Brigham, I told them what he had
done for me; they at once took him in charge, led him around, and rubbed
him down so vigorously that I thought they would rub him to death.
Captain Nolan, of the Tenth Cavalry, now came up with forty of his men,
and upon learning what had happened he determined to pursue the Indians.
He kindly offered me one of the cavalry horses, and after putting my own
saddle and bridle on the animal, we started out after the flying Indians,
who only a few minutes before had been making it so uncomfortably lively
for me. Our horses were all fresh and of excellent stock, and we soon
began shortening the distance between ourselves and the redskins. Before
they had gone five miles we overtook and killed eight of their number.
The others succeeded in making their escape. On coming up to the place
where I had killed the first horse--the spotted one--on my "home run," I
found that my bullet had struck him in the forehead and killed him
instantly. He was a noble animal, and ought to have been engaged in
When we got back to camp I found old Brigham grazing quietly and
contentedly on the grass. He looked up at me as if to ask if we had got
away with any of those fellows who had chased us. I believe he read the
answer in my eyes.
Another very exciting hunting adventure of mine which deserves a place in
these reminiscences occurred near Saline river. My companion at the time
was a man called Scotty, a butcher, who generally accompanied me on these
hunting expeditions to cut up the buffaloes and load the meat into a
light wagon which he brought to carry it in. He was a brave little fellow
and a most excellent shot. I had killed some fifteen buffaloes, and we
had started for home with a wagon-load of meat. When within about eight
miles of our destination, we suddenly ran on to a party of at least
thirty Indians who came riding out of the head of a ravine.
On this occasion I was mounted on a most excellent horse belonging to the
railroad company, and could easily have made my escape; but of course I
could not leave Scotty who was driving a pair of mules hitched to the
wagon. To think was to act, in those days; and as Scotty and I had often
talked over a plan of defense in case we were ever surprised by Indians,
we instantly proceeded to carry it out. We jumped to the ground,
unhitched the mules quicker than it had ever been done before, and tied
them and my horse to the wagon. We threw the buffalo hams upon the
ground, and piled them around the wheels in such a shape as to form a
breastwork. All this was done in a shorter time than it takes to tell it;
and then, with our extra box of ammunition and three or four extra
revolvers, which we always carried along with us, we crept under the
wagon and were fully prepared to give our visitors the warmest kind of a
The Indians came on pell-mell, but when they were within one hundred
yards of us we opened such a sudden and galling fire upon them, that they
held up and began to circle around the wagon instead of riding up to
take tea with us. They however charged back and forth upon us several
times, and their shots killed the two mules and my horse; but we gave it
to them right and left, and had the satisfaction of seeing three of them
fall to the ground not more than fifty yards away. On seeing how well we
were fortified and protected by our breastwork of hams, they probably
came to the conclusion that it would be a difficult undertaking to
dislodge us, for they drew off and gave us a rest, but only a short one.
This was the kind of fighting we had been expecting for a long time, as
we knew that sooner or later we would be "jumped" by Indians while we
were out buffalo hunting. I had an understanding with the officers who
commanded the troops at the end of the track, that in case their pickets
should at any time notice a smoke in the direction of our hunting ground,
they were to give the alarm, so that assistance might be sent to us for
the smoke was to indicate that we were in danger.
I now resolved to signal to the troops in the manner agreed on, and at
the first opportunity set fire to the grass on the windward side of the
wagon. The fire spread over the prairie at a rapid rate, causing a dense
smoke which I knew would be seen at the camp. The Indians did not seem to
understand this strategic movement. They got off from their horses, and
from behind a bank or knoll, again peppered away at us; but we were well
fortified, and whenever they showed their heads we let them know that we
could shoot as well as they.
[Illustration: THE FIRE SIGNAL.]
After we had been cooped up in our little fort, for about an hour, we
discovered cavalry coming toward us at full gallop over the prairie. Our
signal of distress had proved a success. The Indians saw the soldiers at
about the same time that we did, and thinking that it would not be
healthy for them to remain much longer in that vicinity, they mounted
their horses and disappeared down the canons of the creek. When the
soldiers came up we had the satisfaction of showing them five "_good_"
Indians, that is dead ones.
Two hours later we pulled into camp with our load of meat, which was
found to be all right, except that it had a few bullets and arrows
sticking in it.
While I was hunting for the Kansas Pacific railway, I had the pleasure,
in the fall of 1867, of meeting the celebrated Kit Carson, one of, if not
the oldest and most noted scout, guide, and hunter that our western
country has ever produced. He was on his way to Washington. I also met
him on his return from the East, and invited him to be my guest for a few
days at Hays City, which invitation he accepted. He then proceeded to
Fort Lyon, Colorado, near which place his son-in-law, Mr. Boggs, and
family, resided. At this time his health was failing, and shortly
afterwards he died at Mr. Boggs' residence on the Picket Wire Creek.
[Illustration: KIT CARSON]
CHAMPION BUFFALO KILLER.
Shortly after the adventures mentioned in the preceding chapter, I had my
celebrated buffalo hunt with Billy Comstock, a noted scout, guide and
interpreter, who was then chief of scouts at Fort Wallace, Kansas.
Comstock had the reputation, for a long time, of being a most successful
buffalo hunter, and the officers in particular, who had seen him kill
buffaloes, were very desirous of backing him in a match against me. It
was accordingly arranged that I should shoot him a buffalo-killing match,
and the preliminaries were easily and satisfactorily agreed upon. We were
to hunt one day of eight hours, beginning at eight o'clock in the
morning, and closing at four o'clock in the afternoon. The wager was five
hundred dollars a side, and the man who should kill the greater number of
buffaloes from on horseback was to be declared the winner.
The hunt took place about twenty miles east of Sheridan, and as it had
been pretty well advertised and noised abroad, a large crowd witnessed
the interesting and exciting scene. An excursion party, mostly from St.
Louis, consisting of about a hundred gentlemen and ladies, came out on a
special train to view the sport, and among the number was my wife, with
little baby Arta, who had come to remain with me for a while.
The buffaloes were quite plenty, and it was agreed that we should go into
the same herd at the same time and "make a run," as we called it, each
one killing as many as possible. A referee was to follow each of us on
horseback when we entered the herd, and count the buffaloes killed by
each man. The St. Louis excursionists, as well as the other spectators,
rode out to the vicinity of the hunting grounds in wagons and on
horseback, keeping well out of sight of the buffaloes, so as not to
frighten them, until the time came for us to dash into the herd; when
they were to come up as near as they pleased and witness the chase.
We were fortunate in the first run in getting good ground. Comstock was
mounted on one of his favorite horses, while I rode old Brigham. I felt
confident that I had the advantage of Comstock in two things--first, I
had the best buffalo horse that ever made a track; and second, I was
using what was known at that time as the needle-gun, a breech-loading
Springfield rifle--calibre 50,--it was my favorite old "Lucretia," which
has already been introduced to the notice of the reader; while Comstock
was armed with a Henry rifle, and although he could fire a few shots
quicker than I could, yet I was pretty certain that it did not carry
powder and lead enough to do execution equal to my calibre 50.
At last the time came to begin the match. Comstock and I dashed into a
herd, followed by the referees. The buffaloes separated; Comstock took
the left bunch and I the right. My great _forte_ in killing buffaloes
from horseback was to get them circling by riding my horse at the head of
the herd, shooting the leaders, thus crowding their followers to the
left, till they would finally circle round and round.
On this morning the buffaloes were very accommodating, and I soon had
them running in a beautiful circle, when I dropped them thick and fast,
until I had killed thirty-eight; which finished my run.
Comstock began shooting at the rear of the herd, which he was chasing,
and they kept straight on. He succeeded, however, in killing
twenty-three, but they were scattered over a distance of three miles,
while mine lay close together. I had "nursed" my buffaloes, as a
billiard-player does the balls when he makes a big run.
After the result of the first run had been duly announced, our St. Louis
excursion friends--who had approached to the place where we had
stopped--set out a lot of champagne, which they had brought with them,
and which proved a good drink on a Kansas prairie, and a buffalo hunter
was a good man to get away with it.
While taking a short rest, we suddenly spied another herd of buffaloes
coming toward us. It was only a small drove, and we at once prepared to
give the animals a lively reception. They proved to be a herd of cows and
calves--which, by the way, are quicker in their movements than the bulls.
We charged in among them, and I concluded my run with a score of
eighteen, while Comstock killed fourteen. The score now stood fifty-six
to thirty-seven, in my favor.
Again the excursion party approached, and once more the champagne was
tapped. After we had eaten a lunch which was spread for us, we resumed
the hunt. Striking out for a distance of three miles, we came up close to
another herd. As I was so far ahead of my competitor in the number
killed, I thought I could afford to give an extra exhibition of my skill.
I had told the ladies that I would, on the next run, ride my horse
without saddle or bridle. This had raised the excitement to fever heat
among the excursionists, and I remember one fair lady who endeavored to
prevail upon me not to attempt it.
"That's nothing at all," said I; "I have done it many a time, and old
Brigham knows as well as I what I am doing, and sometimes a great
So, leaving my saddle and bridle with the wagons, we rode to the windward
of the buffaloes, as usual, and when within a few hundred yards of them
we dashed into the herd. I soon had thirteen laid out on the ground, the
last one of which I had driven down close to the wagons, where the ladies
were. It frightened some of the tender creatures to see the buffalo
coming at full speed directly toward them; but when he had got within
fifty yards of one of the wagons, I shot him dead in his tracks. This
made my sixty-ninth buffalo, and finished my third and last run, Comstock
having killed forty-six.
As it was now late in the afternoon, Comstock and his backers gave up
the idea that he could beat me, and thereupon the referees declared me
the winner of the match, as well as the champion buffalo-hunter of the
[Footnote A: Poor Billy Comstock was afterwards treacherously murdered by
the Indians. He and Sharpe Grover visited a village of Indians, supposed
to be peaceably inclined, near Big Spring Station, in Western Kansas; and
after spending several hours with the redskins in friendly conversation,
they prepared to depart, having declined an invitation to pass the night
there. It appears that Comstock's beautiful white-handled revolver had
attracted the attention of the Indians, who overtook him and his
companion when they had gone about half a mile. After surrounding the two
men they suddenly attacked them. They killed, scalped and robbed
Comstock; but Grover, although severely wounded, made his escape, owing
to the fleetness of the excellent horse which he was riding. This sad
event occurred August 27, 1868.]
On our way back to camp, we took with us some of the choice meat and
finest heads. In this connection it will not be out of place to state
that during the time I was hunting for the Kansas Pacific, I always
brought into camp the best buffalo heads, and turned them over to the
company, who found a very good use for them. They had them mounted in the
best possible manner, and sent them to all the principal cities and
railroad centers in the country, having them placed in prominent
positions at the leading hotels, depots, and other public buildings, as a
sort of trade-mark, or advertisement, of the Kansas Pacific Railroad; and
to-day they attract the attention of the traveler almost everywhere.
Whenever I am traveling over the country and see one of these
trade-marks, I feel pretty certain that I was the cause of the death of
the old fellow whose body it once ornamented, and many a wild and
exciting hunt is thus called to mind.
The end of the track finally reached Sheridan, in the month of May, 1868,
and as the road was not to be built any farther just then, my services as
a hunter were not any longer required. At this time there was a general
Indian war raging all along the western borders. General Sheridan had
taken up his headquarters at Fort Hayes, in order to be in the field to
superintend the campaign in person. As scouts and guides were in great
demand, I concluded once more to take up my old avocation of scouting
and guiding for the army.
Having no suitable place in which to leave my old and faithful
buffalo-hunter Brigham, and not wishing to kill him by scouting, I
determined to dispose of him. I was very reluctant to part with him, but
I consoled myself with the thought that he would not be likely to receive
harder usage in other hands than he had in mine. I had several good
offers to sell him; but at the suggestion of some gentlemen in Sheridan,
all of whom were anxious to obtain possession of the horse, I put him up
at a raffle, in order to give them all an equal chance of becoming the
owner of the famous steed. There were ten chances at thirty dollars each,
and they were all quickly taken.
Old Brigham was won by a gentleman--Mr. Ike Bonham,--who took him to
Wyandotte, Kansas, where he soon added new laurels to his already
brilliant record. Although I am getting ahead of my story, I must now
follow Brigham for a while. A grand tournament came off four miles from
Wyandotte, and Brigham took part in it. As has already been stated, his
appearance was not very prepossessing, and nobody suspected him of being
anything but the most ordinary kind of a plug. The friends of the rider
laughed at him for being mounted on such a dizzy-looking steed. When the
exercises--which were of a very tame character, being more for style than
speed--were over, and just as the crowd were about to return to the city,
a purse of $250 was made up, to be given to the horse that could first
reach Wyandotte, four miles distant. The arrangement was carried out, and
Brigham was entered as one of the contestants for the purse. Everybody
laughed at Mr. Bonham when it became known that he was to ride that
poky-looking plug against the five thoroughbreds which were to take part
in the race.
When all the preliminaries had been arranged, the signal was given, and
off went the horses for Wyandotte. For the first half-mile several of
the horses led Brigham, but on the second mile he began passing them one
after the other, and on the third mile he was in advance of them all, and
was showing them all the road at a lively rate. On the fourth mile his
rider let him out, and arrived at the hotel--the home-station--in
Wyandotte a long way ahead of his fastest competitor.
Everybody was surprised, as well as disgusted, that such a homely
"critter" should be the winner. Brigham, of course, had already acquired
a wide reputation, and his name and exploits had often appeared in the
newspapers, and when it was learned that this "critter" was none other
than the identical buffalo-hunting Brigham, nearly the whole crowd
admitted that they had heard of him before, and had they known him in the
first place they certainly would have ruled him out.
I finally lost track of Brigham, and for several years I did not know
what had become of him. Three years ago, while I was at Memphis,
Tennessee, I met a Mr. Wilcox, who had been one of the superintendents of
construction of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and he informed me that he
owned Brigham, and that he was at that time on his farm, only a few miles
out of town. The next day I rode out with Mr. Wilcox and took a look at
the gallant old horse. He was comfortably cared for in Mr. Wilcox's
stable, and looked the same clever pony that he always was. It seemed as
if he almost remembered me, and I put my arms around his neck, as though
he had been a long-lost child. Mr. Wilcox bought the horse at Wyandotte,
from the gentleman who had won him at the raffle, and he intends to keep
him as long as he lives. I am grateful that he is in such good hands, and
whenever I again visit Memphis I shall surely go and see Brigham if he is
But to return to the thread of my narrative, from which I have wandered.
Having received the appointment of guide and scout, and having been
ordered to report at Fort Larned, then commanded by Captain Dangerfield
Parker, I saw it was necessary to take my family--who had remained with
me at Sheridan, after the buffalo-hunting match--to Leavenworth, and
there leave them. This I did at once, and after providing them with a
comfortable little home, I returned and reported for duty at Fort Larned.
The scouts at Fort Larned, when I arrived there, were commanded by Dick
Curtis--an old guide, frontiersman and Indian interpreter. There were
some three hundred lodges of Kiowa and Comanche Indians camped near the
fort. These Indians had not as yet gone upon the war-path, but were
restless and discontented, and their leading chiefs, Satanta, Lone Wolf,
Kicking Bird, Satank, Sittamore, and other noted warriors, were rather
saucy. The post at the time was garrisoned by only two companies of
infantry and one of cavalry.
General Hazen, who was at the post, was endeavoring to pacify the Indians
and keep them from going on the war-path. I was appointed as his special
scout, and one morning he notified me that he was going to Fort Harker,
and wished me to accompany him as far as Fort Zarah, thirty miles
distant. The General usually traveled in an ambulance, but this trip he
was to make in a six-mule wagon, under the escort of a squad of twenty
infantrymen. So, early one morning in August, we started; arriving safely
at Fort Zarah at twelve o'clock. General Hazen thought it unnecessary
that we should go farther, and he proceeded on his way to Fort Harker
without an escort, leaving instructions that we should return to Fort
Larned the next day.
After the General had gone I went to the sergeant in command of the
squad, and told him that I was going back that very afternoon, instead of
waiting till the next morning; and I accordingly saddled up my mule and
set out for Fort Larned. I proceeded uninterruptedly until I got about
half-way between the two posts, when at Pawnee Rock I was suddenly
"jumped" by about forty Indians, who came dashing up to me, extending
their hands and saying, "How! How!" They were some of the same Indians
who had been hanging around Fort Larned in the morning. I saw that they
had on their war-paint, and were evidently now out on the war-path.
[Illustration: A BIG JOKE.]
My first impulse was to shake hands with them, as they seemed so desirous
of it. I accordingly reached out my hand to one of them, who grasped it
with a tight grip, and jerked me violently forward; another pulled my
mule by the bridle, and in a moment I was completely surrounded. Before I
could do anything at all, they had seized my revolvers from the holsters,
and I received a blow on the head from a tomahawk which nearly rendered
me senseless. My gun, which was lying across the saddle, was snatched
from its place, and finally the Indian, who had hold of the bridle,
started off towards the Arkansas River, leading the mule, which was being
lashed by the other Indians who were following.
The savages were all singing, yelling and whooping, as only Indians can
do, when they are having their little game all their own way. While
looking towards the river I saw, on the opposite side, an immense village
moving down along the bank, and then I became convinced that the Indians
had left the post and were now starting out on the war-path. My captors
crossed the stream with me, and as we waded through the shallow water
they continued to lash the mule and myself. Finally they brought me
before an important looking body of Indians, who proved to be the chiefs
and principal warriors. I soon recognized old Satanta among them, as well
as others whom I knew, and I supposed it was all over with me.
The Indians were jabbering away so rapidly among themselves that I could
not understand what they were saying. Satanta at last asked me where I
had been; and, as good luck would have it, a happy thought struck me. I
told him I had been after a herd of cattle or "whoa-haws," as they called
them. It so happened that the Indians had been out of meat for several
weeks, as the large herd of cattle which had been promised them had not
yet arrived, although expected by them.
The moment that I mentioned that I had been searching for the
"whoa-haws," old Satanta began questioning me in a very eager manner. He
asked me where the cattle were, and I replied that they were back only a
few miles, and that I had been sent by General Hazen to inform him that
the cattle were coming, and that they were intended for his people. This
seemed to please the old rascal, who also wanted to know if there were
any soldiers with the herd, and my reply was that there were. Thereupon
the chiefs held a consultation, and presently Satanta asked me if General
Hazen had really said that they should have the cattle. I replied in the
affirmative, and added that I had been directed to bring the cattle to
them. I followed this up with a very dignified inquiry, asking why his
young men had treated me so. The old wretch intimated that it was only "a
freak of the boys"; that the young men had wanted to see if I was brave;
in fact, they had only meant to test my bravery, and that the whole thing
was a joke.
The veteran liar was now beating me at my own game of lying; but I was
very glad of it, as it was in my favor. I did not let him suspect that I
doubted his veracity, but I remarked that it was a rough way to treat
friends. He immediately ordered his young men to give me back my arms,
and scolded them for what they had done. Of course, the sly old dog was
now playing it very fine, as he was anxious to get possession of the
cattle, with which he believed "there was a heap of soldiers coming." He
had concluded it was not best to fight the soldiers if he could get the
Another council was held by the chiefs, and in a few minutes old Satanta
came and asked me if I would go over and bring the cattle down to the
opposite side of the river, so that they could get them. I replied, "Of
course; that's my instruction from General Hazen."
Satanta said I must not feel angry at his young men, for they had only
been acting in fun. He then inquired if I wished any of his men to
accompany me to the cattle herd. I replied that it would be better for me
to go alone, and then the soldiers could keep right on to Fort Larned,
while I could drive the herd down on the bottom. So, wheeling my mule
around, I was soon re-crossing the river, leaving old Satanta in the
firm belief that I had told him a straight story, and was going for the
cattle, which only existed in my imagination.
I hardly knew what to do, but thought that if I could get the river
between the Indians and myself I would have a good three-quarters of a
mile the start of them, and could then make a run for Fort Larned, as my
mule was a good one.
Thus far my cattle story had panned out all right; but just as I reached
the opposite bank of the river, I looked behind and saw that ten or
fifteen Indians who had begun to suspect something crooked, were
following me. The moment that my mule secured a good foothold on the
bank, I urged him into a gentle lope towards the place where, according
to my statement, the cattle were to be brought. Upon reaching a little
ridge, and riding down the other side out of view, I turned my mule and
headed him westward for Fort Larned. I let him out for all that he was
worth, and when I came out on a little rise of ground, I looked back, and
saw the Indian village in plain sight. My pursuers were now on the ridge
which I had passed over, and were looking for me in every direction.
Presently they spied me, and seeing that I was running away, they struck
out in swift pursuit, and in a few minutes it became painfully evident
that they were gaining on me. They kept up the chase as far as Ash Creek,
six miles from Fort Larned. I still led them half a mile, as their horses
had not gained much during the last half of the race. My mule seemed to
have gotten his second wind, and as I was on the old road I had played
the whip and spurs on him without much cessation. The Indians likewise
had urged their steeds to the utmost.
Finally, upon reaching the dividing ridge between Ash Greek and Pawnee
Fork, I saw Fort Larned only four miles away. It was now sundown, and I
heard the evening gun at the fort. The troops of the garrison little
dreamed that there was a man flying for his life from the Indians and
trying to reach the post. The Indians were once more gaining on me, and
when I crossed the Pawnee Fork, two miles from the post, two or three of
them were only a quarter of a mile behind me. Just as I had gained the
opposite bank of the stream I was overjoyed to see some soldiers in a
government wagon, only a short distance off. I yelled at the top of my
voice, and riding up to them, told them that the Indians were after me.
[Illustration: AMBUSHING THE INDIANS.]
Denver Jim, a well-known scout, asked how many there were, and upon my
informing him that there were about a dozen, he said: "Let's drive the
wagon into the trees, and we'll lay for 'em." The team was hurriedly
driven in among the trees and low box-elder bushes, and there secreted.
We did not have to wait long for the Indians, who came dashing up,
lashing their horses, which were panting and blowing. We let two of them
pass by, but we opened a lively fire on the next three or four, killing
two at the first crack. The others following, discovered that they had
run into an ambush, and whirling off into the brush they turned and ran
back in the direction whence they had come. The two who had passed heard
the firing and made their escape. We scalped the two that we had killed,
and appropriated their arms and equipments; and then catching their
horses, we made our way into the post. The soldiers had heard us firing,
and as we were approaching the fort the drums were being beaten, and the
buglers were sounding the call to fall in. The officers had thought that
Satanta and his Indians were coming in to capture the fort.
It seems that on the morning of that day, two hours after General Hazen
had taken his departure, old Satanta drove into the post in an ambulance,
which he had received some months before as a present from the
government. He appeared to be angry and bent on mischief. In an interview
with Captain Parker, the commanding officer, he asked why General Hazen
had left the post without supplying the beef cattle which had been
promised to him. The Captain told him that the cattle were surely on the
road, but he could not explain why they were detained.
The interview proved to be a stormy one, and Satanta made numerous
threats, saying that if he wished, he could capture the whole post with
his warriors. Captain Parker, who was a brave man, gave Satanta to
understand that he was reckoning beyond his powers, and would find it a
more difficult undertaking than he had any idea of, as they were prepared
for him at any moment. The interview finally terminated, and Satanta
angrily left the officers presence. Going over to the sutler's store he
sold his ambulance to Mr. Tappan the past trader, and with a portion of
the proceeds he secretly managed to secure some whisky from some bad men
around the fort. There are always to be found around every frontier post
some men who will sell whisky to the Indians at any time and under any
circumstances, notwithstanding it is a flagrant violation of both civil
and military regulations.
Satanta mounted his horse, and taking the whisky with him, he rode
rapidly away and proceeded straight to his village. He had not been gone
over an hour, when he returned to the vicinity of the post accompanied
by his warriors who came in from every direction, to the number of seven
or eight hundred. It was evident that the irate old rascal was "on his
ear," so to speak, and it looked as if he intended to carry out his
threat of capturing the fort. The garrison at once turned out and
prepared to receive the red-skins, who, when within half a mile, circled
around the fort and fired numerous shots into it, instead of trying to
take it by assault.
While this circular movement was going on, it was observed that the
Indian village in the distance was packing up, preparatory to leaving,
and it was soon under way. The mounted warriors remained behind some
little time, to give their families an opportunity to get away, as they
feared that the troops might possibly in some manner intercept them.
Finally, they encircled the post several times, fired some farewell
rounds, and then galloped away over the prairie to overtake their fast
departing village. On their way thither, they surprised and killed a
party of wood-choppers down on the Pawnee Fork, as well as some herders
who were guarding beef cattle; some seven or eight men in all, were
killed, and it was evident that the Indians meant business.
The soldiers with the wagon--whom I had met at the crossing of the Pawnee
Fork--had been out for the bodies of the men. Under the circumstances it
was no wonder that the garrison, upon hearing the reports of our guns
when we fired upon the party whom we ambushed, should have thought the
Indians were coming back to give them another "turn."
We found that all was excitement at the post; double guards had been put
on duty, and Captain Parker had all the scouts at his headquarters. He
was endeavoring to get some one to take some important dispatches to
General Sheridan at Fort Hays. I reported to him at once, and stated
where I had met the Indians and how I had escaped from them.
"You was very fortunate, Cody, in thinking of that cattle story; but
for that little game your hair would now be an ornament to a Kiowa's
lodge," said he.
Just then Dick Curtis spoke up and said: "Cody, the Captain is anxious
to send some dispatches to General Sheridan, at Fort Hays, and none of
the scouts here seem to be very willing to undertake the trip. They
say they are not well enough acquainted with the country to find the
way at night."
As a storm was coming up it was quite dark, and the scouts feared that
they would lose the way; besides it was a dangerous ride, as a large
party of Indians were known to be camped on Walnut Creek, on the direct
road to Fort Hays. It was evident that Curtis was trying to induce me to
volunteer. I made some evasive answer to Curtis, for I did not care to
volunteer after my long day's ride. But Curtis did not let the matter
drop. Said he:
"I wish, Bill, that you were not so tired by your chase of to-day, for
you know the country better than the rest of the boys, and I am certain
that you could go through."
"As far as the ride to Fort Hays is concerned, that alone would matter
but little to me," I said, "but it is a risky piece of work just now, as
the country is full of hostile Indians; still if no other scout is
willing to volunteer, I will chance it. I'll go, provided I am furnished
with a good horse. I am tired of being chased on a government mule by
Indians." At this Captain Nolan, who had been listening to our
"Bill, you may have the best horse in my company. You can take your
choice if you will carry these dispatches. Although it is against
regulations to dismount an enlisted man, I have no hesitancy in such a
case of urgent necessity as this is, in telling you that you may have any
horse you may wish."
"Captain, your first sergeant has a splendid horse, and that's the one I
want. If he'll let me ride that horse, I'll be ready to start in one
hour, storm or no storm," said I.
"Good enough, Bill; you shall have the horse; but are you sure you can
find your way on such a dark night as this?"
"I have hunted on nearly every acre of ground between here and Fort Hays,
and I can almost keep my route by the bones of the dead buffaloes." I
"Never fear, Captain, about Cody not finding the way; he is as good in
the dark as he is in the daylight," said Curtis.
An orderly was sent for the horse, and the animal was soon brought up,
although the sergeant "kicked" a little against letting him go. After
eating a lunch and filling a canteen with brandy, I went to
headquarters and put my own saddle and bridle on the horse I was to
ride. I then got the dispatches, and by ten o'clock was on the road to
Fort Hays, which was sixty-five miles distant across the country. The
scouts had all bidden me a hearty good-bye, and wished me success, not
knowing when, if ever, they would again gaze upon "my warlike form," as
the poet would say.
It was dark as pitch, but this I rather liked, as there was little
probability of any of the red-skins seeing me unless I stumbled upon them
accidentally. My greatest danger was that my horse might run into a hole
and fall down, and in this way get away from me. To avoid any such
accident, I tied one end of my rawhide lariat to the bridle and the
other end to my belt. I didn't propose to be left on foot, alone out on
[Illustration: WHOA THERE!]
It was, indeed, a wise precaution that I had taken, for within the next
three miles the horse, sure enough, stepped into a prairie-dog's hole,
and down he went, throwing me clear over his head. Springing to his feet,
before I could catch hold of the bridle, he galloped away into the
darkness; but when he reached the full length of the lariat, he found
that he was picketed to Bison William. I brought him up standing, and
after finding my gun, which had dropped to the ground, I went up to him
and in a moment was in the saddle again, and went on my way rejoicing
keeping straight on my course until I came to the ravines leading into
Walnut Creek, twenty-five miles from Fort Larned, where the country
became rougher, requiring me to travel slower and more carefully, as I
feared the horse might fall over the bank, it being difficult to see
anything five feet ahead. As a good horse is not very apt to jump over a
bank, if left to guide himself, I let mine pick his own way. I was now
proceeding as quietly as possible, for I was in the vicinity of a band of
Indians who had recently camped in that locality. I thought that I had
passed somewhat above the spot, having made a little circuit to the west
with that intention; but as bad luck would have it this time, when I came
up near the creek I suddenly rode in among a herd of horses. The animals
became frightened and ran off in every direction.
I knew at once that I was among Indian horses, and had walked into the
wrong pew; so without waiting to apologize, I backed out as quickly as
possible. At this moment a dog, not fifty yards away, set up a howl, and
then I heard some Indians engaged in conversation;--they were guarding
the horses, and had been sleeping. Hearing my horse's retreating
footsteps toward the hills, and thus becoming aware that there had been
an enemy in their camp, they mounted their steeds and started for me.
I urged my horse to his full speed, taking the chances of his falling
into holes, and guided him up the creek bottom. The Indians followed me
as fast as they could by the noise I made, but I soon distanced them; and
then crossed the creek.
When I had traveled several miles in a straight course, as I supposed, I
took out my compass and by the light of a match saw that I was bearing
two points to the east of north. At once changing my course to the direct
route, I pushed rapidly on through the darkness towards Smoky Hill River.
At about three o'clock in the morning I began traveling more cautiously,
as I was afraid of running into another band of Indians. Occasionally I
scared up a herd of buffaloes or antelopes, or coyotes, or deer, which
would frighten my horse for a moment, but with the exception of these
slight alarms I got along all right.
After crossing Smoky Hill River, I felt comparatively safe as this was
the last stream I had to cross. Riding on to the northward I struck the
old Santa Fe trail, ten miles from Fort Hays, just at break of day.
My horse did not seem much fatigued, and being anxious to make good time
and get as near the post as possible before it was fairly daylight as
there might be bands of Indians camped along Big Creek, I urged him
forward as fast as he could go. As I had not "lost" any Indians, I was
not now anxious to make their acquaintance, and shortly after _reveille_
rode into the post. I proceeded directly to General Sheridan's
headquarters, and, was met at the door, by Colonel Moore, _aid-de-camp_
on General Sheridan's staff who asked me on what business I had come.
"I have dispatches for General Sheridan, and my instructions from Captain
Parker, commanding Fort Larned, are that they shall be delivered to the
General as soon as possible," said I.
Colonel Moore invited me into one of the offices, and said he would hand
the dispatches to t h e General as soon as he got up.
[Illustration: DELIVERING DISPATCHES TO SHERIDAN.]
"I prefer to give these dispatches to General Sheridan myself, and at
once," was my reply.
The General, who was sleeping in the same building, hearing our voices,
called out, "Send the man in with the dispatches." I was ushered into the
General's presence, and as we had met before he recognized me and said:
"Hello, Cody, is that you?"
"Yes, sir; I have some dispatches here for you, from Captain Parker,"
said I, as I handed the package over to him.
He hurriedly read them, and said they were important; and then he asked
me all about General Hazen and where he had gone, and about the
breaking out of the Kiowas and Comanches. I gave him all the
information that I possessed, and related the events and adventures of
the previous day and night.
"Bill," said he, "you must have had a pretty lively ride. You certainly
had a close call when you ran into the Indians on Walnut Creek. That was
a good joke that you played on old Satanta. I suppose you're pretty
tired after your long journey?"
"I am rather weary, General, that's a fact, as I have been in the saddle
since yesterday morning;" was my reply, "but my horse is more tired than
I am, and needs attention full as much if not more," I added. Thereupon
the General called an orderly and gave instructions to have my animal
well taken care of, and then he said, "Cody, come in and have some
breakfast with me."
"No, thank you, General," said I, "Hays City is only a mile from here,
and I prefer riding over there, as I know about every one in the town,
and want to see some of my friends."
"Very well; do as you please, and come to the post afterwards as I want
to see you," said he.
Bidding him good-morning, and telling him that I would return in a few
hours, I rode over to Hays City, and at the Perry House I met many of my
old friends who were of course all glad to see me. I took some
refreshments and a two hours nap, and afterward returned to Fort Hays, as
I was requested.
As I rode up to the headquarters I noticed several scouts in a little
group, evidently engaged in conversation on some important matter.
Upon inquiry I learned that General Sheridan had informed them that he
was desirous of sending a dispatch to Fort Dodge, a distance of
The Indians had recently killed two or three men while they were carrying
dispatches between Fort Hays and Fort Dodge, and on this account none of
the scouts seemed at all anxious to volunteer, although a reward of
several hundred dollars was offered to any one who would carry the
dispatches. They had learned of my experiences of the previous day, and
asked me if I did not think it would be a dangerous trip. I gave it as my
opinion that a man might possibly go through without seeing an Indian,
but that the chances were ten to one that he would have an exceedingly
lively run and a hard time before he reached his destination, if he ever
got there at all.
Leaving the scouts to decide among themselves as to who was to go, I
reported to General Sheridan, who also informed me that he wished some
one to carry dispatches to Fort Dodge. While we were talking, his chief
of scouts Dick Parr, entered and stated that none of the scouts had yet
volunteered. Upon hearing this I got my "brave" up a little, and said:
"General, if there is no one ready to volunteer, I'll carry your
"I had not thought of asking you to do this duty, Cody, as you are
already pretty hard worked. But it is really important that these
dispatches should go through," said the General.
"Well, if you don't get a courier by four o'clock this afternoon, I'll be
ready for business at that time. All I want is a fresh horse," said I;
"meantime I'll take a little more rest."
It was not much of a rest, however, that I got, for I went over to Hays
City again and had "a time with the boys." I came back to the post at the
appointed hour, and finding that no one had volunteered, I reported to
General Sheridan. He had selected an excellent horse for me, and on
handing me the dispatches he said:
"You can start as soon as you wish--the sooner the better; and good luck
go with you, my boy."
In about an hour afterwards I was on the road, and just before dark I
crossed Smoky Hill River. I had not yet urged my horse much, as I was
saving his strength for the latter end of the route, and for any run that
I might have to make in case the "wild-boys" should "jump" me. So far I
had not seen a sign of Indians, and as evening came on I felt
I had no adventures worth relating during the night, and just before
daylight I found myself approaching Saw-log Crossing, on the Pawnee Fork,
having then ridden about seventy miles.
A company of colored cavalry, commanded by Major Cox, was stationed at
this point, and I approached their camp cautiously, for fear that the
pickets might fire upon me--as the darkey soldiers were liable to shoot
first and cry "halt" afterwards. When within hearing distance I yelled
out at the top of my voice, and was answered by one of the pickets. I
told him not to shoot, as I was a scout from Fort Hays; and then, calling
the sergeant of the guard, I went up to the vidette of the post, who
readily recognized me. I entered the camp and proceeded to the tent of
Major Cox, to whom I handed a letter from General Sheridan requesting him
to give me a fresh horse. He at once complied with the request.
After I had slept an hour and had eaten a lunch, I again jumped into the
saddle, and before sunrise I was once more on the road. It was
twenty-five miles to Fort Dodge, and I arrived there between nine and ten
o'clock, without having seen a single Indian.
After delivering the dispatches to the commanding officer, I met Johnny
Austin, chief of scouts at this post, who was an old friend of mine. Upon
his invitation I took a nap at his house, and when I awoke, fresh for
business once more, he informed me that the Indians had been all around
the post for the past two or three days, running off cattle and horses,
and occasionally killing a stray man. It was a wonder to him that I had
met with none of the red-skins on the way there. The Indians, he said,
were also very thick on the Arkansas River, between Fort Dodge and Fort
Larned, and making considerable trouble. Fort Dodge was located
sixty-five miles west of Fort Larned, the latter post being on the Pawnee
Fork, about five miles from its junction with the Arkansas River.
The commanding officer at Fort Dodge was anxious to send some
dispatches to Fort Larned, but the scouts, like those at Fort Hays,
were rather backward about volunteering, as it was considered a very
dangerous undertaking to make the trip. As Fort Larned was my post,
and as I wanted to go there anyhow, I said to Austin that I would carry
the dispatches, and if any of the boys wished to go along, I would like
to have them for company's sake. Austin reported my offer to the
commanding officer, who sent for me and said he would be happy to have
me take his dispatches, if I could stand the trip on top of all that I
had already done.
"All I want is a good fresh horse, sir," said I.
"I am sorry to say that we haven't a decent horse here, but we have
a reliable and honest government mule, if that will do you," said
"Trot out your mule," said I, "that's good enough for me. I am ready at
any time, sir."
The mule was forthcoming, and at dark I pulled out for Fort Larned, and
proceeded uninterruptedly to Coon Creek, thirty miles out from Dodge. I
had left the main wagon road some distance to the south, and had traveled
parallel with it, thinking this to be a safer course, as the Indians
might be lying in wait on the main road for dispatch bearers and scouts.
At Coon Creek I dismounted and led the mule by the bridle down to the
water, where I took a drink, using my hat for a dipper. While I was
engaged in getting the water, the mule jerked loose and struck out down
the creek. I followed him in hopes that he would catch his foot in the
bridle rein and stop, but this he seemed to have no idea of doing. He was
making straight for the wagon road, and I did not know what minute he
might run into a band of Indians. He finally got on the road, but instead
of going back toward Fort Dodge, as I naturally expected he would do, he
turned eastward toward Fort Larned, and kept up a little jog trot just
ahead of me, but would not let me come up to him, although I tried it
again and again. I had my gun in my hand, and several times I was
strongly tempted to shoot him, and would probably have done so had it not
been for fear of bringing Indians down upon me, and besides he was
carrying the saddle for me. So I trudged on after the obstinate
"critter," and if there ever was a government mule that deserved and
received a good round cursing it was that one. I had neglected the
precaution of tying one end of my lariat to his bit and the other to my
belt, as I had done a few nights before, and I blamed myself for this
gross piece of negligence.
Mile after mile I kept on after that mule, and every once in a while I
indulged in strong language respecting the whole mule fraternity. From
Coon Creek to Fort Larned it was thirty-five miles, and I finally
concluded that my prospects were good for "hoofing" the whole distance.
We--that is to say, the confounded mule and myself--were making pretty
good time. There was nothing to hold the mule, and I was all the time
trying to catch him--which urged him on. I made every step count, for I
wanted to reach Fort Larned before daylight, in order to avoid if
possible the Indians, to whom it would have been "pie" to have caught me
there on foot.
The mule stuck to the road and kept on for Larned, and I did the
same thing. Just as day was beginning to break, we--that is the mule
and myself--found ourselves on a hill looking down into the valley
of the Pawnee Fork, in which Fort Larned was located, only four
miles away; and when the morning gun belched forth we were within
half a mile of the post.
"Now," said I, "Mr. Mule, it is my turn," and raising my gun to my
shoulder, in "dead earnest" this time, I blazed away, hitting the animal
in the hip. Throwing a second cartridge into the gun, I let him have
another shot, and I continued to pour the lead into him until I had him
completely laid out. Like the great majority of government mules, he was
a tough one to kill, and he clung to life with all the tenaciousness of
his obstinate nature. He was, without doubt, the toughest and meanest
mule I ever saw, and he died hard.
The troops, hearing the reports of the gun, came rushing out to see what
was the matter. They found that the mule had passed in his chips, and
when they learned the cause they all agreed that I had served him just
right. Taking the saddle and bridle from the dead body, I proceeded into
the post and delivered the dispatches to Captain Parker. I then went over
to Dick Curtis' house, which was headquarters for the scouts, and there
put in several hours of solid sleep.
During the day General Hazen returned from Fort Harker, and he also had
some important dispatches to send to General Sheridan. I was feeling
quite elated over my big ride; and seeing that I was getting the best of
the other scouts in regard to making a record, I volunteered to carry
General Hazen's dispatches to Fort Hays. The General accepted my
services, although he thought it was unnecessary for me to kill myself. I
told him that I had business at Fort Hays, and wished to go there
anyway, and it would make no difference to the other scouts, for none of
them appeared willing to undertake the trip.
Accordingly, that night I left Fort Larned on an excellent horse, and
next morning at daylight found myself once more in General Sheridan's
headquarters at Fort Hays. The General was surprised to see me, and still
more so when I told him of the time I had made in riding to Fort Dodge,
and that I had taken dispatches from Fort Dodge to Fort Larned; and when,
in addition to this, I mentioned my journey of the night previous,
General Sheridan thought my ride from post to post, taken as a whole, was
a remarkable one, and he said that he did not know of its equal. I can
safely say that I have never heard of its being beaten in a country
infested with hostile Indians.
To recapitulate: I had ridden from Fort Larned to Fort Zarah (a distance
of sixty-five miles) and back in twelve hours, including the time when I
was taken across the Arkansas by the Indians. In the succeeding twelve
hours I had gone from Fort Larned to Fort Hays, a distance of sixty-five
miles. In the next twenty-four hours I had gone from Fort Hays to Fort
Dodge, a distance of ninety-five miles. The following night I had
traveled from Fort Dodge thirty miles on muleback and thirty-five miles
on foot to Fort Larned; and the next night sixty-five miles more to Fort
Hays. Altogether I had ridden (and walked) 355 miles in fifty-eight
riding hours, or an average of over six miles an hour. Of course, this
may not be regarded as very fast riding, but taking into consideration
the fact that it was mostly done in the night and over a wild country,
with no roads to follow, and that I had to be continually on the look out
for Indians, it was thought at the time to be a big ride, as well as a
most dangerous one.
General Sheridan highly complimented me for what I had done, and informed
me that I need not report back to General Hazen, as he had more important
work for me to do. He told me that the Fifth Cavalry--one of the finest
regiments in the army--was on its way to the Department of the Missouri,
and that he was going to send it on an expedition against the Dog Soldier
Indians, who were infesting the Republican River region.
"Cody," continued he, "I have decided to appoint you as guide and chief
of scouts with the command. How does that suit you?"
"First-rate, General, and I thank you for the honor," I replied, as
gracefully as I knew how.
The Dog Soldier Indians were a band of Cheyennes and unruly, turbulent
members of other tribes, who would not enter into any treaty, or keep a
treaty if they made one, and who had always refused to go upon a
reservation. They were a warlike body of well-built, daring and restless
braves, and were determined to hold possession of the country in the
vicinity of the Republican and Solomon Rivers. They were called "Dog
Soldiers" because they were principally Cheyennes--a name derived from
the French _chien_, a dog.
After my conversation with the General, I went over to Hays City, where I
met some of General Forsyth's scouts, who had just returned from one of
the severest battles ever fought with the Indians. As it will not be out
of place in this connection, I will here give a brief history of that
[Illustration: GENERAL PHIL. SHERIDAN.]
The Indians had become quite troublesome, and General Sheridan had
selected General George A. Forsyth to go out on an expedition, and
punish them for their recent depredations. There was a scarcity of troops
at Fort Hays at that time, so General Forsyth recruited a company of
frontiersmen who could move rapidly, as they were to carry no luggage,
and were to travel without the ordinary transportation. Thirty of these
frontiersmen came from Fort Harker, and twenty from Fort Hays. It was
certainly a small body of men, but nearly every one of them was an
experienced hunter, guide, scout and Indian-fighter, and they could fight
the red-skins in their own way.
In four days they were prepared to take the field, and on the morning of
the 29th of August, 1868, they rode out of Fort Hays to meet the Indians.
Lieutenant F.H. Beecher, of the Third Infantry, nephew of Henry Ward
Beecher, was second in command; Brevet Major-General W.H.H. McCall, who
had been in the volunteer army, acted as first sergeant; Dr. John Mowers,
of Hays City, who had been a volunteer army surgeon, was the surgeon of
the expedition; and Sharpe Grover was the chief guide.
Resting at Fort Wallace, they started September 10th, for the town of
Sheridan, thirteen miles distant, where a band of Indians had attacked a
train, killed two teamsters, and stolen some cattle. Arriving at Sheridan
they easily found the Indian trail, and followed it for some distance. On
the eighth day out from Fort Wallace, the command went into camp late in
the afternoon, on the Arickaree, which was then not more than eight or
nine feet wide at that point, and only two or three inches deep. It was
evident to the men that they were not far from the Indians, and it was
decided that the next day they would find them and give them a fight.
Early next morning, September 19th, the cry of "Indians" startled the
command. Every man jumped for his horse. A half-dozen red-skins, yelling
and whooping and making a hideous racket, and firing their guns, rode up
and attempted to stampede the horses, several of which, together with the
four pack-mules, were so frightened that they broke loose and got away.
The Indians then rode off, followed by a few shots. In a minute
afterwards, hundreds of Indian warriors--it was estimated that there were
nearly one thousand--came galloping down upon the command from every
quarter, completely hemming them in.
Acting under the order of General Forsyth, the men retreated to a small
island, tied their horses in a circle to the bushes, and then, throwing
themselves upon the ground, they began the defense by firing at the
approaching enemy, who came pretty close and gave them a raking fire. The
besieged scouts at the first opportunity threw up a small breastwork with
their knives. The firing, however, continued back and forth, and early in
the fight Forsyth was twice seriously wounded--once in the right thigh,
and once in the left leg. Dr. Mowers was also wounded in the head, and
soon died. Two other men had been killed, and several wounded. All the
horses of the command were killed by nine o'clock in the morning.
Shortly afterwards over three hundred Dog-Soldier Indians commanded by
old "Roman Nose," charged down upon the little band of heroes, giving
them volley after volley; but finally the scouts, at a favorable
opportunity, returned their fire with telling effect. "Roman Nose" and
"Medicine Man" were killed, and fell from their horses when within less
than one rod of the scouts, who thereupon sent up a triumphant shout. The
charging braves now weakened, and in a few moments they were driven back.
It was a brilliant charge, and was most nobly and bravely repulsed. The
scouts had again suffered severely, having several men wounded, among the
number being Lieutenant Beecher who died that night. The Indians, too,
had had quite a number killed, several of whom had fallen close to the
earthworks. The dismounted Indian warriors still continued firing, but as
the scouts had thrown up their intrenchments sufficiently to protect
themselves by closely hugging the ground, little or no damage was done.
A second charge was made by the mounted Indians about two o'clock in the
afternoon, and they were again repulsed with a severe loss. Darkness
finally came on, and then ensued a cessation of hostilities. Two of the
scouts had been killed, four fatally wounded, and fourteen others were
wounded more or less severely. There were just twenty-eight able-bodied
men left out of the fifty. The supplies had run out, and as Dr. Mowers
had been mortally wounded and the medical stores captured, the wounded
men could not be properly cared for.
Although they were entirely surrounded, and one hundred and ten miles
from the nearest post, the men did not despair. They had an abundance of
ammunition, plenty of water, under ground only a short distance, and for
food they had their horses and mules. At night two of the scouts, Tradeau
and Stillwell, stole through the lines of the Indians, and started
swiftly for Fort Wallace to obtain relief. It was a dangerous
undertaking, but they were brave and experienced scouts. Stillwell was
only nineteen or twenty years old, but he was, in every sense of the
word, a thoroughbred frontiersman.
During the night the besieged scouts threw up their breastworks
considerably higher and piled the dead animals on top. They dug down to
water, and also stored away a lot of horse and mule meat in the sand to
keep it fresh as long as possible. The Indians renewed their firing next
morning, and kept it up all day, doing but little injury, however, as the
scouts were now well entrenched; but many an Indian was sent to his happy
[Illustration: BATTLE ON THE ARICKARRE]
Night came again, and the prospects were indeed gloomy. An attempt was
made by two more of the scouts to creep through the Indian lines, but
they were detected by the enemy and had to return to their comrades.
The next morning the Indians renewed hostilities as usual. Their women
and children began to disappear about noon, and then the Indians tried to
draw the scouts out by displaying a white flag for a truce. They appeared
to want to have a talk with General Forsyth, but as their treachery was
well-known, the scouts did not fall into this trap. The Indians had
apparently become tired of fighting, especially as they found that they
had a most stubborn foe to deal with.
Night once more threw its mantle over the scene, and under the cover of
the darkness Donovan and Plyley, two of the best scouts, stealthily made
their way out of the camp, and started for Fort Wallace with a dispatch
from General Forsyth, who gave a brief summary of the situation, and
stated that if necessary he could hold out for six days longer.
When the day dawned again, only a small number of warriors could be
seen, and they probably remained to watch, the scouts and keep them
corraled. The uninjured men attended to the wounded as well as they
could under the adverse circumstances, but from want of proper
treatment, evidences of gangrene appeared in some of the wounds on the
sixth day. The mule and horse meat became totally unfit for use, but
they had nothing else to eat, and had to eat it or starve. Under these
trying circumstances the General told the men that any who wished to go
might do so, and take their chances; but they all resolved to remain,
and die together, if need be.
Relief came at last. Tradeau and Stillwell had safely reached Fort
Wallace, and on the morning of the 25th of September, Colonel Carpenter
and a detachment of cavalry arrived with supplies. This assistance to the
besieged and starving scouts came like a vessel to ship-wrecked men
drifting and starving on a raft in mid-ocean.
It was with the survivors of this terrible fight that I spent the few
days at Hays City, prior to the arrival of the Fifth Cavalry.
On the third day of October the Fifth Cavalry arrived at Fort Hays, and I
at once began making the acquaintance of the different officers of the
regiment. I was introduced by General Sheridan to Colonel William Royal,
who was in command of the regiment. He was a gallant officer, and an
agreeable and pleasant gentleman. He is now stationed at Omaha as
Inspector General in the department of the Platte. I also became
acquainted with Major W.H. Brown, Major Walker. Captain Sweetman,
Quartermaster E.M. Hays, and in fact all the officers of the regiment.
General Sheridan, being anxious to punish the Indians who had lately
fought General Forsyth, did not give the regiment much of a rest, and
accordingly on the 5th of October it began its march for the 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 pretty well acquainted
with Major Brown and Captain Sweetman, who invited me to mess with them
on this expedition; and a jolly mess we had. There were other scouts in
the command besides myself, and I particularly remember Tom Renahan, Hank
Fields and a character called "Nosey" on account of his long nose.
On the morning of the 6th we pulled out to the north, and during the day
I was very favorably struck with the appearance of the regiment. It was a
beautiful command, and when strung out on the prairie 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 of such a warlike
Just as we were about to go into camp on the Saline river that night, we
ran on to a band of about fifteen Indians, who, seeing us, dashed across
the creek, followed by some bullets which we sent after them; but as the
small band proved to be a scouting party, we pursued them only a mile or
two, when our attention was directed to a herd of buffaloes--they being
very plenty--and we succeeded in killing ten or fifteen for the command.
The next day we marched thirty miles, and late in the afternoon we went
into camp on the South fork of the Solomon. At this encampment Colonel
Royal asked me to go out and kill some buffaloes for the boys.
"All right, Colonel, send along a wagon or two to bring in the
meat," I said.
"I am not in the habit of sending out my wagons until I know that there
is something to be hauled in; kill your buffalo first and then I'll send
out the wagons," was the Colonel's reply. I said no more, but went out on
a hunt, and after a short absence returned and asked the Colonel to send
his wagons over the hill for the half dozen buffaloes I had killed.
The following afternoon he again requested me to go out and get some
fresh buffalo meat. I didn't ask him for any wagons this time, but rode
out some distance, and coming up with a small herd, I managed to get
seven of them headed straight for the encampment, and instead of shooting
them just then, I ran them at full speed right into the camp, and then
killed them all, one after the other in rapid succession. Colonel Royal
witnessed the whole proceeding, which puzzled him somewhat, as he could
see no reason why I had not killed them on the prairie. He came up,
rather angrily, and demanded an explanation. "I can't allow any such
business as this, Cody," said he, "what do you mean by it?"
"I didn't care about asking for any wagons this time, Colonel; so I
thought I would make the buffaloes furnish their own transportation," was
my reply. The Colonel saw the point in a moment, and had no more to say
on the subject.
[Illustration: BRINGING MEAT INTO CAMP.]
No Indians had been seen in the vicinity during the day, and Colonel
Royal having carefully posted his pickets, supposed everything was serene
for the night. But before morning we were roused from our slumbers by
hearing shots fired, and immediately afterwards one of the mounted
pickets came galloping into camp, saying that there were Indians close
at hand. The companies all fell into line, and were soon prepared and
anxious to give the red-skins battle; but as the men were yet new in the
Indian country a great many of them were considerably excited. No
Indians, however, made their appearance, and upon going to the
picket-post where the picket said he had seen them, none could be found
nor could any traces of them be discovered. The sentinel,--who was an
Irishman--insisted that there certainly had been red-skins there.
"But you must be mistaken," said Colonel Royal.
"Upon me sowl, Colonel, I'm not; as shure ez me name's Pat Maloney, one
of thim rid divils hit me on the head wid a club, so he did," said Pat;
and so, when morning came, the mystery was further investigated and was
easily solved. Elk tracks were found in the vicinity and it was
undoubtedly a herd of elks that had frightened Pat; as he had turned to
run, he had gone under a limb of a tree, against which he hit his head,
and supposed he had been struck by a club in the hands of an Indian. It
was hard to convince Pat however, of the truth.
A three days uninteresting march brought us to Beaver Creek where we
camped and from which point scouting parties were sent out in different
directions. Neither of these parties discovering Indians they all
returned to camp about the same time, finding it in a state of great
excitement, it having been attacked a few hours previous by a party of
Indians, who had succeeded in killing two men and in making off with
sixty horses belonging to Co. H.
That evening the command started on the trail of these Indian
horse-thieves; Major Brown with two companies and three days rations
pushing ahead in advance of the main command. Being unsuccessful,
however, in overtaking the Indians, and getting nearly out of
provisions--it being our eighteenth day out, the entire command marched
towards the nearest railroad point, and camped on the Saline River;
distant three miles from Buffalo Tank.
While waiting for supplies we received a new commanding officer, Brevet
Major-General E.A. Carr, who was the senior major of the regiment, and
who ranked Colonel Royal. He brought with him the now celebrated Forsyth
scouts, who were commanded by Lieutenant Pepoon, a regular army officer.
[Illustration: GEN'L E.A. CARR.]
It was also while waiting in this camp that Major Brown received a new
lieutenant to fill a vacancy in his company. On the day that this officer
was to arrive, Major Brown had his private ambulance brought out, and
invited me to accompany him to the railroad station to meet his
lieutenant, whose name was A.B. Bache. He proved to be a fine gentleman,
and a brave, dashing officer. On the way to the depot Major Brown had
said, "Now, Cody, when we come back we'll give Bache a lively ride and
shake him up a little."
Major Brown was a jolly good fellow, but sometimes he would get "a little
off," and as this was one of his "off days" he was bound to amuse himself
in some original and mischievous way. Reaching the depot just as the
train came in, we easily found the Lieutenant, and giving him the back
seat in the ambulance we were soon headed for camp.
Pretty soon Major Brown took the reins from his driver, and at once began
whipping the mules. After getting them into a lively gallop he pulled out
his revolver and fired several shots. The road was terribly rough and the
night was so dark that we could hardly see where we were going. It Was a
wonderful piece of luck that we were not tipped over and our necks
broken. Finally Bache said, good-humoredly:
"Is this the way you break in all your Lieutenants, Major?"
"Oh, no; I don't do this as a regular thing, but it's the way we
frequently ride in this country," said the Major; "just keep your
seat, Mr. Bache, and we'll take you through on time." The Major
appropriated the reply of the old California stage driver, Hank Monk,
to Horace Greely.
We were now rattling down a steep hill at full speed, and 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 by the sudden stoppage
of the ambulance. Major Brown and myself were nearly pitched out on the
wheels, while the Lieutenant came flying headlong from the back seat to
the front of the vehicle.
"Take a back seat, Lieutenant," coolly said Major Brown.
"Major, I have just left that seat," said Bache.
We soon lifted the wagon out of the ditch, and then resumed our drive,
running into camp under full headway, and creating considerable
amusement. Every one recognized the ambulance and knew at once that
Major Brown and I were out on a "lark," and therefore there was not much
said about our exploit. Halting with a grand flourish in front of his
tent, Major Brown jumped out in his most gallant style and politely
asked his lieutenant in. A very pleasant evening was spent there, quite
a number of the officers calling to make the acquaintance of the new
officer, who entertained the visitors with an amusing account of the
ride from the depot.
Next morning at an early hour, the command started out on a hunt for
Indians. General Carr having a pretty good idea where he would be most
likely to find them, directed me to guide him by the nearest route to
Elephant Rock on Beaver Creek.
Upon arriving at the south fork of the Beaver on the second day's march,
we discovered a large, fresh Indian trail which we hurriedly followed for
a distance of eight miles, when suddenly we saw on the bluffs ahead of
us, quite a large number of Indians.
General Carr ordered Lieutenant Pepoon's scouts and Company M to the
front. This company was commanded by Lieutenant Schinosky, a Frenchman by
birth and a reckless dare-devil by nature, who was anxious to have a
hair-lifting match. Having advanced his company nearly a mile ahead of
the main command, about four hundred Indians suddenly charged down upon
him and gave him a lively little fight, until he was supported by our
The Indians kept increasing in numbers all the while until it was
estimated that we were fighting from eight hundred to one thousand of
them. The engagement became quite general, and several were killed and
wounded on each side. The Indians were evidently fighting to give their
families and village, a chance to get away. We had undoubtedly surprised
them with a larger force than they had expected to see in that part of
the country. We fought them until dark, all the time driving them before
us. At night they annoyed us considerably by firing down into our camp
from the higher hills, and several times the command was ordered out to
dislodge them from their position and drive them back.
After having returned from one of these little sallies, Major Brown,
Captain Sweetman, Lieutenant Bache and myself were taking supper
together, when "whang!" came a bullet into Lieutenant Bache's plate,
breaking a hole through it. The bullet came from the gun of one of the
Indians, who had returned to the high bluff over-looking our camp. Major
Brown declared it was a crack shot, because it broke the plate. We
finished our supper without having any more such close calls.
At daylight next morning we struck out on the trail, and soon came to the
spot where the Indians had camped the day before. We could see that
their village was a very large one, consisting of about five hundred
lodges; and we pushed forward rapidly from this point on the trail which
ran back toward Prairie Dog Creek.
About two o'clock we came in sight of the retreating village, and soon
the warriors turned back to give us battle. They set fire to the prairie
grass in front of us, and on all sides, in order to delay us as much as
possible. We kept up a running fight for the remainder of the afternoon,
and the Indians repeatedly attempted to lead us off the track of their
flying village, but their trail was easily followed, as they were
continually dropping tepee poles, camp kettles, robes, furs and all heavy
articles belonging to them. They were evidently scattering, and it
finally became difficult for us to keep on the main trail. When darkness
set in, we went into camp, it being useless to try to follow the Indians
Next morning we were again on the trail, which led north, and back
towards the Beaver Creek, which stream it crossed within a few miles of
the spot where we had first discovered the Indians, they having made
nearly a complete circle, in hopes of misleading us. Late in the
afternoon, we again saw them going over a hill far ahead of us, and
towards evening the main body of warriors came back and fought us once
more; but we continued to drive them until darkness set in, when we
camped for the night.
Tie Indians soon scattered in every direction, but we followed the main
trail to the Republican river, where we made a cut-off, and then went
north towards the Platte river. We found, however, that the Indians by
traveling night and day had got a long start, and the General concluded
that it was useless to follow them any further, as we had pushed them so
hard, and given them such a scare that they would leave the Republican
country and go north across the Union Pacific railroad. Most of the
Indians, as he had predicted, did cross the Platte river, near Ogallala,
on the Union Pacific, 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 the
The General told me that the next day's march would be towards the
head-waters of the Beaver, and he asked me the distance. I replied that
it 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 being ahead of the advance guard. About two
o'clock General Carr overtook me, and asked how far I supposed it was to
water. I thought it was about eight miles, although we could see no sign
or indication of any stream in our front.
"Pepoon's scouts say that you are going in the wrong direction," said the
General, "and in the way you are bearing it will be fifteen miles before
you can strike any of the branches of the Beaver; and that when you do,
you will find no water, for the Beavers are dry at this time of the year
at that point."
Back to Full Books