The Life of Hon. William F. Cody
William F. Cody
Part 5 out of 6
Our camp of this night was named Camp Asch to commemorate our surgeon,
Dr. Asch. The evening was pleasantly spent around the camp fires in
relating the adventures of the day.
Upon crossing the Republican river on the morning of the 26th, we came
upon an immense number of buffaloes scattered over the country in every
direction, as far as the eye could reach and all had an opportunity to
do as much hunting as they wished. The wagons and troops moved slowly
along in the direction of the next camp, while the hunters went off
separately, or by twos and threes, in different directions, and all were
rewarded with abundant success. Lawrence Jerome, however, had his career
suddenly checked. He had dismounted to make a steady and careful shot,
and thoughtlessly let go of the bridle. The buffalo failing to take a
tumble, as he ought to have done, started off at a lively gait, followed
by Buckskin Joe--the horse being determined to do some hunting on his own
account--the last seen of him, he was a little ahead of the buffalo, and
gaining slightly, leaving his late rider to his own reflections and the
prospect of a tramp; his desolate condition was soon discovered and
another horse warranted not to run under any provocation, was sent to
him. It maybe stated here that three days afterwards, as I subsequently
learned, Buckskin Joe, all saddled and bridled, turned up at Fort
We pitched our tents for the night in a charming spot on the bank of
Beaver Creek. The game was so abundant that we remained there one day.
This stopping place was called. Camp Cody, in honor of the reader's
The next day was spent in hunting jack-rabbits, coyotes, elks,
antelopes and wild turkeys. We had a splendid dinner as will be seen
from the following:
BILL OF FARE.
Cisco broiled, fried Dace.
Salmi of Prairie Dog, Stewed Rabbit, Fillet of Buffalo,
Elk, Antelope, Black-tailed Deer, Wild Turkey.
Teal, Mallard, Antelope Chops, Buffalo-Calf Steaks,
Young Wild Turkey.
Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Green Peas.
Champagne Frappe, Champagne au Naturel, Claret,
Whiskey, Brandy, Bass' Ale.
This I considered a pretty square meal for a party of hunters, and
everybody did ample justice to it.
In the evening a court-martial was held, at which I presided as chief
justice. We tried one of the gentlemen for aiding and abetting in the
loss of a government horse, and for having something to do with the
mysterious disappearance of a Colt's pistol. He was charged also with
snoring in a manner that was regarded as fiendish, and with committing a
variety of other less offenses too numerous to mention.
The accused made a feeble defense as to the pistol, and claimed that
instead of losing a government horse, the fact was that the horse had
lost him. His statements were all regarded as "too thin," and finally
failing to prove good character, he confessed all, and threw himself upon
the mercy of the court. The culprit was Lawrence Jerome.
As chief justice I delivered the opinion of the court, which my modesty
does not prevent me from saying, was done in an able and dignified
manner; as an act of clemency I suspended judgment for the time being,
remarking that while the camp fire held out to burn, the vilest sinner
might return; and in hope of the accused's amendment, I would defer
pronouncing sentence. The trial afforded its considerable amusement, and
gave me a splendid opportunity to display the legal knowledge which I had
acquired while acting as justice of the peace at Fort McPherson.
On the morning of the 28th the command crossed the South Beaver, distant
nine miles from Camp Cody, and then striking a fair road we made a rapid
march until we reached our camp on Short Nose or Prairie Dog Creek,
about 2 P. M., after having made twenty-four miles. The remainder of the
afternoon was spent in hunting buffaloes and turkeys. Camp Stager was the
name given to this place, in honor of General Stager, of the Western
Union Telegraph Company.
The next day we made a march of twenty-four miles, and then halted at
about 1 P. M. on the North Solomon River. This day we killed three
buffaloes, two antelopes, two raccoons, and three teal ducks. Near our
camp, which we named Camp Leonard Jerome, was a beaver dam some six feet
high and twenty yards wide; it was near the junction of two streams, and
formed a pond of at least four acres.
On the 30th we traveled twenty-five miles, and during the march nine
turkeys, two rabbits, and three or four buffaloes were killed. We went
into camp on the bank of the South Fork of the Solomon River and called
the place Camp Sam Johnson. We were now but forty-five miles from Fort
Hays, the point at which General Sheridan and his guests expected to
strike the Kansas Pacific Railway, and thence return home. That evening
I volunteered to ride to Fort Hays and meet the party next day,
bringing with me all the letters that might be at the post. Taking the
best horse in the command I started out, expecting to make the trip in
about four hours.
The next morning the command got an early start and traveled thirty miles
to Saline River, where they made their last camp on the plains. As some
of the party were attacking a herd of buffaloes, I rode in from Fort Hays
and got into the middle of the herd, and killed a buffalo or two before
the hunters observed me. I brought a large number of letters, which
proved welcome reading matter.
In the evening we gathered around the camp-fire for the last time. The
duty of naming the camp, which was called Camp Davies, having been duly
performed, we all united in making that night the pleasantest of all that
we had spent together. We had eloquent speeches, songs, and interesting
anecdotes. I was called upon, and entertained the gentlemen with some
lively Indian stories.
The excursionists reached Fort Hays, distant fifteen miles, on the
morning of October 2d, where we pitched our tents for the last time, and
named the camp in honor of Mr. Hecksher. That same afternoon General
Sheridan and his guests took the train for the East, after bidding Major
Browa, Lieutenant Hayes and myself a hearty good-bye, and expressing
themselves as greatly pleased with their hunt, and the manner in which
they had been escorted and guided.
It will be proper and fair to state here that General Davies afterwards
wrote an interesting account of this hunt and published it in a neat
volume of sixty-eight pages, under the title of "Ten Days on the Plains."
I would have inserted the volume bodily in this book, were it not for the
fact that the General has spoken in a rather too complimentary manner of
me. However, I have taken the liberty in this chapter to condense from
the little volume, and in some places I have used the identical language
of General Davies without quoting the same; in fact, to do the General
justice, I ought to close this chapter with several lines of quotation
marks to be pretty generally distributed by the reader throughout my
account of our ten days' hunt.
Soon after the departure of General Sheridan's party, we returned to Fort
McPherson and found General Carr about to start out on a twenty days'
scout, not so much for the purpose of finding Indians, but more for the
object of taking some friends on a hunt. His guests were a couple of
Englishmen,--whose names I cannot now remember--and Mr. McCarthy, of
Syracuse, New York, who was a relative of General Emory. The command
consisted of three companies of the Fifth Cavalry, one company of Pawnee
Indians, and twenty-five wagons. Of course I was called on to accompany
One day, after we had been out from the post for some little time, I was
hunting on Deer Creek, in company with Mr. McCarthy, about eight miles
from the command. I had been wishing for several days to play a joke on
him, and had arranged a plan with Captain Lute North to carry it into
execution. I had informed North at about what time we would be on Deer
Creek, and it was agreed that he should appear in the vicinity with some
of his Pawnees, who were to throw their blankets around them, and come
dashing down upon us, firing and whooping in true Indian style; while he
was to either conceal or disguise himself. This programme was faithfully
and completely carried out. I had been talking about Indians to McCarthy,
and he had become considerably excited, when just as we turned a bend of
the creek, we saw not half a mile from us about twenty Indians, who
instantly started for us on a gallop, firing their guns and yelling at
the top of their voices.
"McCarthy, shall we dismount and fight, or run?" said I.
He didn't wait to reply, but wheeling his horse, started at full speed
down the creek, losing his hat and dropping his gun; away he went, never
once looking back to see if he was being pursued. I tried to stop him by
yelling at him and saying that it was all right, as the Indians were
Pawnees. Unfortunately he did not hear me, but kept straight on, not
stopping his horse until he reached the camp.
[Illustration: MCCARTHY'S FRIGHT.]
I knew that he would tell General Carr that the Indians had jumped him,
and that the General would soon start out with the troops. So as soon as
the Pawnees rode up to me I told them to remain there while I went after
my friend. I rode after him as fast as possible, but he had arrived at
the command some time before me and when I got there the General had, as
I had suspected he would do, ordered out two companies of cavalry to go
in pursuit of the Indians. I told the General that the Indians were only
some Pawnees, who had been out hunting and that they had merely played a
joke upon us. I forgot to inform him that I had put up the trick, but
as he was always fond of a good joke himself, he did not get very angry.
I had picked up McCarthy's hat and gun which I returned to him, and it
was some time afterwards before he discovered who was at the bottom of
When we returned to Fort McPherson we found there Mr. Royal Buck, whose
father had been killed with his entire party by Pawnee Killer's band of
Indians on the Beaver Creek. He had a letter from the commanding officer
of the Department requesting that he be furnished with an escort to go in
search of the remains of his father and the party. Two companies of
cavalry were sent with him and I accompanied them as guide. As the old
squaw, which we had captured, and of which mention is made in a previous
chapter, could not exactly tell us the place on Beaver Creek where the
party had been killed, we searched the country over for two days and
discovered no signs of the murdered men. At last, however, our efforts
were rewarded with success. We found pieces of their wagons and among
other things an old letter or two which Mr. Buck recognized as his
father's handwriting. We then discovered some of the remains, which we
buried; but nothing further. It was now getting late in the fall and we
accordingly returned to Fort McPherson.
A short time after this the Fifth Cavalry was ordered to Arizona, a not
very desirable country to soldier in. I had become greatly attached to
the officers of the regiment, having been continually with them for over
three years, and had about made up my mind to accompany them, when a
letter was received from General Sheridan instructing the commanding
officer "not to take Cody" with him, and saying that I was to remain in
my old position. In a few days the command left for its destination,
taking the cars at McPherson Station, where I bade my old friends adieu.
During the next few weeks I had but little to do, as the post was
garrisoned by infantry, awaiting the arrival of the Third Cavalry.
[Illustration: FINDING THE REMAINS OF THE BUCK PARTY.]
HUNTING WITH A GRAND DUKE.
About the first of January, 1872, General Forsyth and Dr. Asch, of
Sheridan's staff came out to Fort McPherson to make preparations for a
big buffalo hunt for the Grand Duke Alexis, of Russia; and as this was to
be no ordinary affair, these officers had been sent by General Sheridan
to have all the necessary arrangements perfected by the time the Grand
Duke should arrive. They learned from me that there were plenty of
buffaloes in the vicinity and especially on the Red Willow, sixty miles
distant. They said they would like to go over on the Red Willow and pick
out a suitable place for the camp; they also inquired the location of
the Spotted Tail, Sioux Indians. Spotted Tail had permission from the
Government to hunt the buffalo, with his people during the winter, in the
Republican river country. It was my opinion that they were located
somewhere on the Frenchman's Fork about one hundred and fifty miles from
General Sheridan's commissioners informed me, that he wished me to visit
Spotted Tail's camp, and induce about one hundred of the leading warriors
and chiefs, to come to the point where it should be decided to locate the
Alexis hunting camp, and to be there by the time the Grand Duke should
arrive, so that he could see a body of American Indians and observe the
manner in which they killed buffaloes. The Indians would also be called
upon to give a grand war dance in honor of the distinguished visitor.
Next morning General Forsyth and Dr. Asch, accompanied by Captain Hays,
who had been left at Fort McPherson in charge of the Fifth Cavalry
horses, taking an ambulance and a light wagon, to carry their tents, and
provisions sufficient to last them two or three days; started, under my
guidance, with a small escort, for Red Willow Creek, arriving there at
night. The next day we selected a pleasant camping place on a little
knoll in the valley of the Red Willow. General Forsyth and his party
returned to the post the next day while I left for Spotted Tail's camp.
The weather was very cold and I found my journey by no means a pleasant
one as I was obliged to camp out with only my saddle blankets; and
besides, there was more or less danger from the Indians themselves; for,
although Spotted Tail himself was friendly, I was afraid I might have
difficulty in getting into his camp. I was liable at any moment to run
into a party of his young men who might be out hunting, and as I had
many enemies among the Sioux, I would be running considerable risk in
At the end of the first day I camped on Stinking Water, a tributary of
the Frenchman's Fork, where I built a little fire in the timber; but it
was so very cold I was not able to sleep much. Getting an early start in
the morning I followed up the Frenchman's Fork and late in the afternoon
I could see, from the fresh horse tracks and from the dead buffaloes
lying here and there, recently killed, that I was nearing Spotted Tail's
camp. I rode on for a few miles further, and then hiding my horse in a
low ravine, I crawled up a high hill, where I obtained a good view of the
country. I could see for four or five miles up the creek, and got sight
of a village and of two or three hundred ponies in its vicinity. I waited
until night came and then I succeeded in riding into the Indian camp
[Illustration: SPOTTED TAIL.]
I had seen Spotted Tail's camp when he came from the north and I knew the
kind of lodge he was living in. As I entered the village I wrapped a
blanket around my head so that the Indians could not tell whether I was a
white or a red man. In this way I rode around until I found Spotted
Tail's lodge. Dismounting from my horse I opened his tent door and looked
in and saw the old chief lying on some robes. I spoke to him and he
recognized me at once and invited me to enter. Inside the lodge I found a
white man, an old frontiersman, Todd Randall, who was Spotted Tail's
agent and who had lived a great many years with the Indians. He
understood their language perfectly and did all the interpreting for
Spotted Tail. Through him I readily communicated with the chief and
informed him of my errand. I told him that the warriors and chiefs would
greatly please General Sheridan if they would meet him in about ten
sleeps at the old Government crossing of the Red Willow. I further
informed him that there was a great chief from across the water who was
coming there to visit him. Spotted Tail replied that he would be very
glad to go; that the next morning he would call his people together and
select those who would accompany him. I told Spotted Tail how I had
entered his camp. He replied that I had acted wisely; that although his
people were friendly, yet some of his young men had a grudge against me,
and I might have had difficulty with them had I met them away from the
village. He directed his squaw to get me something to eat, and ordered
that my horse be taken care of, and upon his invitation I spent the
remainder of the night in his lodge.
Next morning the chiefs and warriors assembled according to orders, and
to them was stated the object of my visit. They were asked:
"Do you know who this man is?"
"Yes, we know him well," replied one, "that is Pa-he-haska," (that being
my name among the Sioux, which translated means "Long Hair") "that is our
old enemy," a great many of the Indians, who were with Spotted Tail at
this time, had been driven out of the Republican country.
"That is he," said Spotted Tail. "I want all my people to be kind to him
and treat him as my friend."
I noticed that several of them were looking daggers at me. They appeared
as if they wished to raise my hair then and there. Spotted Tail motioned
and I followed him into his lodge, and thereupon the Indians dispersed.
Having the assurance of Spotted Tail that none of the young men would
follow me I started back for the Red Willow, arriving the second night.
There I found Captain Egan with a company of the Second Cavalry and a
wagon train loaded with tents, grain, provisions, etc. The men were
leveling off the ground and were making preparations to put up large wall
tents for the Grand Duke Alexis and his _suite_, and for General
Sheridan, his staff and other officers, and invited guests of the party.
Proceeding to Fort McPherson I reported what had been done. Thereupon
Quartermaster Hays selected from the five or six hundred horses in his
charge, seventy-five of the very best, which were sent to the Red Willow,
to be used by Alexis and his party at the coming hunt. In a day or two a
large supply of provisions, liquors, etc., arrived from Chicago, together
with bedding and furniture for the tents; all of which were sent over to
[Illustration: GRAND DUKE ALEXIS.]
At last, on the morning of the 12th of January, 1872, the Grand Duke and
party arrived at North Platte by special train; in charge of a Mr.
Francis Thompson. Captain Hays and myself, with five or six ambulances,
fifteen or twenty extra saddle-horses and a company of cavalry under
Captain Egan, were at the depot in time to receive them. Presently
General Sheridan and a large, fine-looking young man, whom we at once
concluded to be the Grand Duke came out of the cars and approached us.
General Sheridan at once introduced me to the Grand Duke as Buffalo Bill,
for he it was, and said that I was to take charge of him and show him how
to kill buffalo.
In less than half an hour the whole party were dashing away towards the
south, across the South Platte and towards the Medicine; upon reaching
which point we halted for a change of horses and a lunch. Resuming our
ride we reached Camp Alexis in the afternoon. General Sheridan was well
pleased with the arrangements that had been made and was delighted to
find that Spotted Tail and his Indians had arrived on time. They were
objects of great curiosity to the Grand Duke, who spent considerable time
in looking at them, and watching their exhibitions of horsemanship, sham
fights, etc. That evening the Indians gave the grand war dance, which I
had arranged for.
[Illustration: INDIAN EXERCISES.]
General Custer, who was one of the hunting party, carried on a mild
flirtation with one of Spotted Tail's daughters, who had accompanied her
father thither, and it was noticed also that the Duke Alexis paid
considerable attention to another handsome red-skin maiden. The night
passed pleasantly, and all retired with great expectations of having a
most enjoyable and successful buffalo hunt. The Duke Alexis asked me a
great many questions as to how we shot buffaloes, and what kind of a gun
or pistol we used, and if he was going to have a good horse. I told him
that he was to have my celebrated buffalo horse Buckskin Joe, and when
we went into a buffalo herd all he would have to do was to sit on the
horse's back and fire away.
At nine o'clock next morning we were all in our saddles, and in a few
minutes were galloping over the prairies in search of a buffalo herd. We
had not gone far before we observed a herd some distance ahead of us
crossing our way; after that we proceeded cautiously, so as to keep out
of sight until we were ready to make a charge.
Of course the main thing was to give Alexis the first chance and the best
shot at the buffaloes, and when all was in readiness we dashed over a
little knoll that had hidden us from view, and in a few minutes we were
among them. Alexis at first preferred to use his pistol instead of a gun.
He fired six shots from this weapon at buffaloes only twenty feet away
from him, but as he shot wildly, not one of his bullets took effect.
Riding up to his side and seeing that his weapon was empty, I exchanged
pistols with him. He again fired six shots, without dropping a buffalo.
Seeing that the animals were bound to make their escape without his
killing one of them, unless he had a better weapon, I rode up to him,
gave him my old reliable "Lucretia," and told him to urge his horse close
to the buffaloes, and I would then give him the word when to shoot. At
the same time I gave old Buckskin Joe a blow with my whip, and with a few
jumps the horse carried 4he Grand Duke to within about ten feet of a big
"Now is your time," said I. He fired, and down went the buffalo. The
Grand Duke stopped his horse, dropped his gun on the ground, and
commenced waving his hat. When his _suite_ came galloping up, he began
talking to them in a tongue which I could not understand. Presently
General Sheridan joined the group, and the ambulances were brought up.
Very soon the corks began to fly from the champagne bottles, in honor of
the Grand Duke Alexis, who had killed the first buffalo.
It was reported in a great many of the newspapers that I shot the first
buffalo for Alexis, while in some it was stated that I held the buffalo
while His Royal Highness killed it. But the way I have related the affair
is the correct version.
It was thought that we had had about sport enough for one day, and
accordingly I was directed by General Sheridan to guide the party back to
camp, and we were soon on our way thither. Several of the party, however,
concluded to have a little hunt on their own account, and presently we
saw them galloping over the prairie in different directions in pursuit of
While we were crossing a deep ravine, on our way to camp, we ran into a
small band of buffaloes that had been frightened by some of the hunters.
As they rushed past us, not more than thirty yards distant, Alexis raised
his pistol, fired and killed a buffalo cow. It was either an
extraordinary good shot or a "scratch"--probably the latter, for it
surprised the Grand Duke as well as everybody else. We gave him three
cheers, and when the ambulance came up we took a pull at the champagne
in honor of the Grand Duke's success. I was in hopes that he would kill
five or six more buffaloes before we reached camp, especially if a basket
of champagne was to be opened every time he dropped one.
General Sheridan directed me to take care of the hides and heads of the
buffaloes which Alexis had killed, as the Duke wished to keep them as
souvenirs of the hunt. I also cut out the choice meat from the cow and
brought it into camp, and that night at supper Alexis had the pleasure of
dining on broiled buffalo steak obtained from the animal which he had
We remained at this camp two or three days, during which we hunted most
of the time, the Grand Duke himself killing eight buffaloes.
One day Alexis desired to see how the Indians hunted buffaloes and killed
them with bow and arrow; so Spotted Tail, selecting some of his best
hunters, had them surround a herd, and bring the animals down, not only
with arrows, but with lances. The Grand Duke was told to follow upon the
heels of one celebrated Indian hunter, whose name was "Two Lance," and
watch him bring down the game; for this chief had the reputation of being
able to send an arrow through and through the body of a buffalo. Upon
this occasion he did not belie his reputation, for he sent an arrow
_through_ a buffalo, which fell dead at the shot, and the arrow was given
to Alexis as a souvenir of his hunt on the American Plains.
[Illustration: TWO LANCE KILLING A BUFFALO.]
When the Grand Duke was satisfied with the sport, orders were given for
the return to the railroad. The conveyance provided for the Grand Duke
and General Sheridan was a heavy double-seated open carriage, or rather
an Irish dog-cart, and it was drawn by four spirited cavalry horses which
were not much used to the harness. The driver was Bill Reed, an old
overland stage driver and wagon master; on our way in, the Grand Duke
frequently expressed his admiration of the skillful manner in which Reed
handled the reins.
General Sheridan informed the Duke that I also had been a stage-driver in
the Rocky Mountains, and thereupon His Royal Highness expressed a desire
to see me drive. I was in advance at the time, and General Sheridan sang
out to me:
"Cody, get in here and show the Duke how you can drive. Mr. Reed will
exchange places with you and ride your horse."
"All right, General," said I, and in a few moments I had the reins and we
were rattling away over the prairie. When we were approaching Medicine
Creek, General Sheridan said: "Shake 'em up a little, Bill, and give us
some old-time stage-driving." I gave the horses a crack or two of the
whip, and they started off at a very rapid gait. They had a light load to
pull, and kept increasing their speed at every jump, and I found it
difficult to hold them. They fairly flew over the ground, and at last we
reached a steep hill, or divide, which, led down into the valley of the
Medicine. There was no brake on the wagon, and the horses were not much
on the hold-back. I saw that it would be impossible to stop them. All I
could do was to keep them straight in the track and let them go it down
the hill, for three miles; which distance, I believe, was made in about
six minutes. Every once in a while the hind wheels would strike a rut and
take a bound, and not touch the ground again for fifteen or twenty feet.
The Duke and the General were kept rather busy in holding their positions
on the seats, and when they saw that I was keeping the horses straight in
the road, they seemed to enjoy the dash which we were making. I was
unable to stop the team until they ran into the camp where we were to
obtain a fresh relay, and there I succeeded in checking them. The Grand
Duke said he didn't want any more of that kind of driving, as he
preferred to go a little slower.
On arriving at the railroad, the Duke invited me into his car, and made
me some valuable presents, at the same time giving me a cordial
invitation to visit him, if ever I should come to his country.
General Sheridan took occasion to remind me of an invitation to visit New
York which I had received from some of the gentlemen who accompanied the
General on the hunt from Fort McPherson to Hays City, in September of the
previous year. Said he:
"You will never have a better opportunity to accept that invitation than
now. I have had a talk with General Ord concerning you, and he will give
you a leave of absence whenever you are ready to start. Write a letter to
General Stager, of Chicago, that you are now prepared to accept the
invitation, and he will send you a pass."
Thanking the General for his kindness, I then bade him and the Grand Duke
good-bye, and soon their train was out of sight.
General Ord, commanding the Department of the Platte at the time, and who
had been out on the Alexis hunt, had some business to attend to at Fort
McPherson, and I accepted his invitation to ride over to the post with
him in an ambulance. On the way thither he asked me how I would like to
have an officer's commission in the regular army. He said that General
Sheridan and himself had had some conversation about the matter, and if I
wanted a commission, one could easily be procured for me. I thanked
General Ord for his kindness, and said that although an officer's
commission in the regular army was a tempting prize, yet I preferred to
remain in the position I was then holding. He concluded by stating that
if at any time I should wish a commission, all that I would have to do to
secure it would be to inform him of my desire.
Having determined to visit New York, I acted upon General Sheridan's
suggestion and wrote to General Stager, from whom in a few days I
received my railroad passes. Obtaining thirty days' leave of absence from
the department, I struck out for the East. On arriving in Chicago, in
February, 1872, I was met at the depot by Colonel M.V. Sheridan, who said
that his brother, the General, had not yet returned, but had sent word
that I was to be his and the Colonel's guest, at their house, while I
remained in Chicago.
I spent two or three days very pleasantly in the great city of the West,
meeting several of the gentlemen who had been out on the Sheridan hunt in
September--General Stager, Colonel Wilson, editor of the _Journal_; Mr.
Sam Johnson, General Rucker and others--by all of whom I was most
cordially received and well entertained. I was introduced to quite a
number of the best people of the city, and was invited to several "swell"
dinners. I also accompanied General Sheridan--who meantime had returned
to the city--to a ball at Riverside--an aristocratic suburb.
[Illustration: AN EMBARRASSING SITUATION]
On this occasion I became so embarrassed that it was more difficult for
me to face the throng of beautiful ladies, than it would have been to
confront a hundred hostile Indians. This was my first trip to the East,
and I had not yet become accustomed to being stared at. And besides
this, the hundreds of questions which I was called upon to answer further
embarrassed and perplexed me.
According to the route laid out for me by General Stager, I was to stop
at Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Rochester on my way to New York, and he
provided me with all the necessary railroad passes. Just as I was about
to leave Chicago I met Professor Henry A. Ward, of Rochester, for whom
during the previous year or two I had collected a large number of
specimens of wild animals. He was on his way to Rochester, and kindly
volunteered to act as my guide until we reached that point. We spent one
day in viewing the wonders of Niagara, and I stopped one day at Rochester
and was shown the beauties of that handsome city by Professor Ward, and I
had the honor of receiving an invitation to dine with the Mayor.
On arriving at New York I was met at the depot by Mr. J.G. Hecksher, who
had been appointed as "a committee of one" to escort me to the Union
Club, where James Gordon Bennett, Leonard W. Jerome and others were to
give me an informal reception, and where I was to make my headquarters
during my visit in the great metropolis. I had an elegant dinner at the
club rooms, with the gentlemen who had been out on the September hunt,
and other members of the club.
After dinner, in company with Mr. Hecksher--who acted as my guide--I
started out on the trail of my friend, Ned Buntline, whom we found at the
Brevoort Place Hotel. He was delighted to see me, and insisted on my
becoming his guest. He would listen to no excuses, and on introducing me
to Messrs. Overton & Blair, proprietors of the Brevoort, they also gave
me a pressing invitation to make my home at their house. I finally
compromised the matter by agreeing to divide my time between the Union
Club, the Brevoort House, and Ned Buntline's quarters.
The next few days I spent in viewing the sights of New York, everything
being new and startling, convincing me that as yet I had seen but a small
portion of the world. I received numerous dinner invitations, as well as
invitations to visit different places of amusement and interest; but as
they came in so thick and fast, I soon became badly demoralized and
confused. I found I had accepted invitations to dine at half a dozen or
more houses on the same day and at the same hour. James Gordon Bennett
had prepared a dinner for me, at which quite a large number of his
friends were to be present, but owing to my confusion, arising from the
many other invitations I had received, I forgot all about it, and dined
elsewhere. This was "a bad break," but I did not learn of my mistake
until next day, when at the Union Club House several gentlemen, among
them Lawrence Jerome, inquired "where in the world I had been," and why I
had not put in an appearance at Bennett's dinner. They said that Bennett
had taken great pains to give me a splendid reception, that the party had
waited till nine o'clock for me, and that my non-arrival caused
considerable disappointment. I apologized as well as I could, by saying
that I had been out on a scout and had got lost, and had forgotten all
about the dinner; and expressed my regret for the disappointment I had
created by my forgetfulness. August Belmont, the banker, being near said:
"Never mind, gentlemen, I'll give Cody a dinner at my house."
"Thank you, sir," said I; "I see you are determined that I shall not run
short of rations while I am in the city. I'll be there, sure."
Both Mr. Jerome and Mr. Hecksher told me that I must not disappoint Mr.
Belmont, for his dinners were splendid affairs. I made a note of the
date, and at the appointed time I was promptly at Mr. Belmont's mansion,
where I spent a very enjoyable evening.
Mr. Bennett, who was among the guests, having forgiven my carelessness,
invited me to accompany him to the Liederkranz masked ball, which was to
take place in a few evenings, and would be a grand spectacle. Together we
attended the ball, and during the evening I was well entertained. The
dancers kept on their masks until midnight, and the merry and motley
throng presented a brilliant scene, moving gracefully beneath the bright
gas-light to the inspiriting music. To me it was a novel and entertaining
sight, and in many respects reminded me greatly of an Indian war-dance.
Acting upon the suggestion of Mr. Bennett, I had dressed myself in my
buckskin suit, and I naturally attracted considerable attention;
especially when I took part in the dancing and exhibited some of my
backwoods steps, which, although not as graceful as some, were a great
deal more emphatic. But when I undertook to do artistic dancing, I found
I was decidedly out of place in that crowd, and I accordingly withdrew
from the floor.
I occasionally passed an evening at Niblo's Garden, viewing the many
beauties of "The Black Crook," which was then having its long run, under
the management of Jarrett & Palmer, whose acquaintance I had made, and
who extended to me the freedom of the theater.
Ned Buntline and Fred Maeder had dramatized one of the stories which the
former had written about me for the _New York Weekly_. The drama was
called "Buffalo Bill, the King of Border Men." While I was in New York it
was produced at the Bowery Theater; J.B. Studley, an excellent actor,
appearing in the character of "Buffalo Bill," and Mrs. W.G. Jones, a fine
actress, taking the part of my sister, a leading _role_. I was curious to
see how I would look when represented by some one else, and of course I
was present on the opening night, a private box having been reserved for
me. The theater was packed, every seat being occupied as well as the
standing-room. The drama was played smoothly, and created a great deal of
The audience, upon learning that the real "Buffalo Bill" was present,
gave several cheers between the acts, and I was called on to come out on
the stage and make a speech. Mr. Freleigh, the manager, insisted that I
should comply with the request, and that I should be introduced to Mr.
Studley. I finally consented, and the next moment I found myself standing
behind the footlights and in front of an audience for the first time in
my life. I looked up, then down, then on each side, and everywhere I saw
a sea of human faces, and thousands of eyes all staring at me. I confess
that I felt very much embarrassed--never more so in my life--and I knew
not what to say. I made a desperate effort, and a few words escaped me,
but what they were I could not for the life of me tell, nor could any one
else in the house. My utterances were inaudible even to the leader of the
orchestra, Mr. Dean, who was sitting only a few feet in front of me.
Bowing to the audience, I beat a hasty retreat into one of the canons of
the stage. I never felt more relieved in my life than when I got out of
the view of that immense crowd. That evening Mr. Freleigh offered to
give me five hundred dollars a week to play the part of "Buffalo Bill"
myself. I thought that he was certainly joking, especially as he had
witnessed my awkward performance; but when he assured me that he was in
earnest, I told him that it would be useless for me to attempt anything
of the kind, for I never could talk to a crowd of people like that, even
if it was to save my neck, and that he might as well try to make an actor
out of a government mule. I thanked him for the generous offer, which I
had to decline owing to a lack of confidence in myself; or as some people
might express it, I didn't have the requisite cheek to undertake a thing
of that sort. The play of "Buffalo Bill" had a very successful run of six
or eight weeks, and was afterwards produced in all the principal cities
of the country, everywhere being received with genuine enthusiasm.
I had been in New York about twenty days when General Sheridan arrived in
the city. I met him soon after he got into town. In answer to a question
how I was enjoying myself, I replied that I had struck the best camp I
had ever seen, and if he didn't have any objections I would like to have
my leave of absence extended about ten days. This he willingly did, and
then informed me that my services would soon be required at Fort
McPherson, as there was to be an expedition sent out from that point.
At Westchester, Pennsylvania, I had some relatives living whom I had
never seen, and now being so near, I determined to make them a visit.
Upon mentioning the matter to Buntline, he suggested that we should
together take a trip to Philadelphia, and thence run out to Westchester.
Accordingly the next day found us in the "City of Brotherly Love," and in
a few hours we arrived at the home of my uncle, General Henry R. Guss,
the proprietor of the Green Tree Hotel, who gave us a cordial reception.
Inviting us into the parlor, my uncle brought in the members of his
family, among them an elderly lady, who was my grandmother, as he
informed me. He told me that my Aunt Eliza, his first wife, was dead, and
that he had married a second time; Lizzie Guss, my cousin, I thought was
the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. They were all very anxious to
have us remain several days, but as I had some business to attend to in
New York, I was obliged to return that day. Assuring them, however, that
I would visit them again soon, I bade them adieu, and with Buntline took
the train for New York.
The time soon arrived for my departure for the West; so packing up my
traps I started for home, and on the way thither I spent a day with my
Westchester relatives, who did everything in their power to entertain me
during my brief stay with them.
Upon reaching Fort McPherson, I found that the Third Cavalry, commanded
by General Reynolds, had arrived from Arizona, in which Territory they
had been on duty for some time, and where they had acquired quite a
reputation on account of their Indian fighting qualities.
Shortly after my return, a small party of Indians made a dash on
McPherson Station, about five miles from the fort, killing two or three
men and running off quite a large number of horses. Captain Meinhold and
Lieutenant Lawson with their company were ordered out to pursue and
punish the Indians if possible. I was the guide of the expedition and had
as an assistant T.B. Omohundro, better known as "Texas Jack" and who was
a scout at the post.
Finding the trail, I followed it for two days, although it was difficult
trailing because the red-skins had taken every possible precaution to
conceal their tracks. On the second day Captain Meinhold went into camp
on the South Fork of the Loupe, at a point where the trail was badly
scattered. Six men were detailed to accompany me on a scout in search of
the camp of the fugitives. We had gone but a short distance when we
discovered Indians camped, not more than a mile away, with horses grazing
near by. They were only a small party, and I determined to charge upon
them with my six men, rather than return to the command, because I feared
they would see us as we went back and then they would get away from us
entirely. I asked the men if they were willing to attempt it, and they
replied that they would follow me wherever I would lead them. That was
the kind of spirit that pleased me, and we immediately moved forward on
the enemy, getting as close to them as possible without being seen.
I finally gave the signal to charge, and we dashed into the little camp
with a yell. Five Indians sprang out of a willow tepee, and greeted us
with a volley, and we returned the fire. I was riding Buckskin Joe, who
with a few jumps brought me up to the tepee, followed by my men. We
nearly ran over the Indians who were endeavoring to reach their horses on
the opposite side of the creek. Just as one was jumping the narrow stream
a bullet from my old "Lucretia" overtook him. He never reached the other
bank, but dropped dead in the water. Those of the Indians who were
guarding the horses, seeing what was going on at the camp, came rushing
to the rescue of their friends. I now counted thirteen braves, but as we
had already disposed of two, we had only eleven to take care of. The odds
were nearly two to one against us.
While the Indian reinforcements were approaching the camp I jumped the
creek with Buckskin Joe to meet them, expecting our party would follow
me; but as they could not induce their horses to make the leap, I was the
only one who got over. I ordered the sergeant to dismount his men, and
leaving one to hold the horses, to come over with the rest and help me
drive the Indians off. Before they could do this, two mounted warriors
closed in on me and were shooting at short range. I returned their fire
and had the satisfaction of seeing one of them fall from his horse. At
this moment I felt blood trickling down my forehead, and hastily running
my hand through my hair I discovered that I had received a scalp wound.
The Indian, who had shot me, was not more than ten yards away, and when
he saw his partner tumble from his saddle, he turned to run.
By this time the soldiers had crossed the creek to assist me, and were
blazing away at the other Indians. Urging Buckskin Joe forward, I was
soon alongside of the chap who had wounded me, when raising myself in the
stirrups I shot him through the head.
The reports of our guns had been heard by Captain Meinhold, who at once
started with his company up the creek to our aid, and when the remaining
Indians, whom we were still fighting, saw these reinforcements coming
they whirled their horses and fled; as their steeds were quite fresh they
made their escape. However, we killed six out of the thirteen Indians,
and captured most of their stolen stock. Our loss was one man killed, and
one man--myself--slightly wounded. One of our horses was killed, and
Buckskin Joe was wounded, but I didn't discover the fact until some time
afterwards as he had been shot in the breast and showed no signs of
having received a scratch of any kind. Securing the scalps of the dead
Indians and other trophies we returned to the fort.
I made several other scouts during the summer with different officers of
the Third Cavalry, one being with Major Alick Moore, a good officer,
with whom I was out for thirty days. Another long one was with Major
Curtis, with whom I followed some Indians from the South Platte river to
Fort Randall on the Missouri river in Dakota, on which trip the command
ran out of rations and for fifteen days subsisted entirely upon the game
In the fall of 1872 the Earl of Dunraven and Dr. Kingsley with several
friends came to Fort McPherson with a letter from General Sheridan,
asking me to accompany them on an elk hunt. I did so, and I afterwards
spent several weeks in hunting with the Earl of Dunraven, who was a
thorough sportsman and an excellent hunter. It was while I was out with
the Earl, that a Chicago party--friends of General Sheridan--arrived at
Fort McPherson for the purpose of going out on a hunt. They, too, had a
letter from, the General requesting me to go with them. The Earl had not
yet finished his hunt, but as I had been out with him for several weeks,
and he had by this time learned where to find plenty of elks and other
game, I concluded to leave him and accompany the Chicago party. I
informed him of my intention and gave him my reasons for going, at the
same time telling him that I would send him one of my scouts, Texas Jack,
who was a good hunter, and would be glad to accompany him. The Earl
seemed to be somewhat offended at this, and I don't think he has ever
forgiven me for "going back on him." Let that be as it may, he found
Texas Jack a splendid hunter and guide, and Jack has been his guide on
several hunts since.
[Illustration: TEXAS JACK]
Among the gentlemen who composed the Chicago party were E.P.
Green,--son-in-law of Remington, the rifle manufacturer,--Alexander
Sample, Mr. Milligan, of the firm of Heath & Milligan, of Chicago, and
several others, whose names I do not now remember. Mr. Milligan was a
man full of life, and was continually "boiling over with fun." He was a
regular velocipede, so to speak, and was here, there, and everywhere.
He was exceedingly desirous of having an Indian fight on the trip, not
that he was naturally a blood-thirsty man but just for variety he
wanted a little "Indian pie." He was in every respect the life of the
party, during the entire time that we were out. One day while he was
hunting with Sample and myself we came in sight of a band of thirty
"Milligan, here's what you've been wanting for some time," said I, "for
yonder is a war party of Indians and no mistake; and they'll come for
us, you bet."
"I don't believe this is one of my fighting days," replied Milligan, "and
it occurs to me that I have urgent business at the camp."
Our camp was five or six miles distant on the Dismal river, and our
escort consisted of a company of cavalry commanded by Captain Russell.
The soldiers were in camp, and Milligan thought that Captain Russell
ought to be at once notified of the appearance of these Indians. Knowing
that we could reach the camp in safety, for we were well mounted, I
continued to have considerable amusement at Milligan's expense, who
"Cody, what's making my hat raise up so. I can hardly keep it on my
Sample, who was as cool as a cucumber, said to Milligan: "There must be
something wrong with your hair. It must be trying to get on end."
"It's all very fine for you fellows to stand here and talk," replied
Milligan, "but I am not doing justice to my family by remaining. Sample,
I think we are a couple of old fools to have come out here, and I never
would have done so if it had not been for you."
By this time the Indians had discovered us and were holding a
consultation, and Milligan turned his horse in the direction of the camp.
I never believed that he was half as scared as he seemed to be, but that
he was merely pretending so that we could enjoy our joke. However, we did
not wait any longer but rode into camp and notified Captain Russell, who
immediately started with his company to pursue the band.
While we were riding along with the company Milligan said to Sample:
"Now, Alick, let them come on. We may yet go back to Chicago covered
We struck the trail going north, but as we had not come out on a scout
for Indians, we concluded not to follow them; although Milligan was now
very anxious to proceed and clean them out.
The hunt came to an end in a day or two, and we escorted the visiting
hunters to North Platte, where they took the train for Chicago. Before
their departure they extended to me a very cordial invitation to come to
their city on a visit, promising that I should be well taken care of.
Soon after this I had the pleasure of guiding a party of gentlemen from
Omaha on a buffalo hunt. Among the number were Judge Dundy, Colonel
Watson B. Smith, and U.S. District Attorney Neville. We left Fort
McPherson in good trim. I was greatly amused at the "style" of Mr.
Neville, who wore a stove-pipe hat and a swallow-tail coat, which made up
a very comical rig for a buffalo hunter. As we galloped over the prairie,
he jammed his hat down over his ears to keep it from being shaken off his
head, and in order to stick to his horse, he clung to the pommel of his
saddle. He was not much of a rider, and he went bouncing up and down,
with his swallow-tails flopping in the air. The sight I shall never
forget, for it was enough to make a "horse laugh," and I actually believe
old Buckskin Joe did laugh.
However, we had a splendid hunt, and on the second day I lariated, or
roped, a big buffalo bull and tied him to a tree,--a feat which I had
often performed, and which the gentlemen requested me to do on this
occasion for their benefit, as they had heard of my skill with the
lariat. I captured several other buffaloes in the same way. The gentlemen
returned to Omaha well pleased with their hunt.
In the fall of the year, 1872, a convention was held at Grand Island,
when some of my friends made me their candidate to represent the
Twenty-sixth District in the legislature of Nebraska; but as I had always
been a Democrat and the State was largely Republican, I had no idea of
being elected. In fact I cared very little about it, and therefore made
no effort whatever to secure an election. However, I was elected and that
is the way in which I acquired my title of Honorable.
During the summer and fall of 1872, I received numerous letters from Ned
Buntline, urging me to come East and go upon the stage to represent my
own character. "There's money in it," he wrote, "and you will prove a big
card, as your character is a novelty on the stage."
At times I almost determined to make the venture; but the recollection of
that night when I stood on the stage of the Bowery Theatre and was unable
to utter a word above a whisper, would cause me to stop and think and
become irresolute. I feared that I would be a total failure, and wrote
Buntline to that effect. But he insisted that I would soon get over all
that embarrassment, and become accustomed to the stage, so that I would
think no more of appearing before five thousand people than I would
before half a dozen. He proposed to organize a good company, and wished
me to meet him in Chicago, where the opening performance would be given.
I remained undecided as to what I ought to do. The officers at the fort
as well as my family and friends to whom I had mentioned the matter,
laughed at the idea of my ever becoming an actor. That I, an old scout
who had never seen more than twenty or thirty theatrical performances in
my life, should think of going upon the stage, was ridiculous in the
extreme--so they all said.
A few days after my election to the legislature a happy event occurred in
my family circle, in the birth of a daughter whom we named Ora; about the
same time I received another letter from Buntline, in which he requested
me to appear on the stage for a few months as an experiment; and he said
that if I made a failure or did not like the business, I could easily
return to my old life.
My two sisters who had been living with us had married,--Nellie, to A.
C. Jester, a cattle man, and May, to Ed. Bradford, a railroad
engineer--and consequently left us; and my wife had been wishing for a
long time to visit her parents in St. Louis. Taking these and other
things into consideration I finally resolved to resign my seat in the
legislature and try my luck behind the footlights. I informed General
Reynolds of my determination, telling him at the same time that at the
end of the month, November, I would resign my position under him. The
General regretted to hear this, and advised me not to take the step, for
I was leaving a comfortable little home, where I was sure of making a
good living for my family; while, on the other hand, I was embarking
upon a sea of uncertainty. Having once made up my mind, however, nothing
could change it.
While I was selling my horses and other effects, preparatory to leaving
the fort, one of my brother scouts, Texas Jack, said that he would like
to accompany me. Now as Jack had also appeared as the hero in one of
Ned Buntline's stories, I thought that he would make as good a "star"
as myself, and it was accordingly arranged that Jack should go with me.
On our way East we stopped in Omaha a day or two to visit General Augur
and other officers, and also the gentlemen who were out on the Judge
Dundy hunt. Judge Dundy and his friends gave a dinner party in my honor
at the leading restaurant and entertained me very handsomely during my
stay in the city.
At Omaha I parted with my family, who went to St. Louis, while Jack and
myself proceeded to Chicago. Ned Buntline and Mr. Milligan, having been
apprised of our coming by a telegram, met us at the depot. Mr. Milligan
accompanied us to the Sherman House, where he had made arrangements for
us to be his guests while we remained in the city. I didn't see much of
Buntline that evening, as he hurried off to deliver a temperance lecture
in one of the public halls. The next day we met him by appointment, and
the first thing he said, was:
"Boys, are you ready for business?"
"I can't answer that," replied I, "for we don't know what we are
going to do."
"It's all arranged," said he, "and you'll have no trouble whatever. Come
with me. We'll go and see Nixon, manager of the Amphitheatre. That's the
place where we are to play. We'll open there next Monday night." Jack and
myself accordingly accompanied him to manager Nixon's office without
saying a word, as we didn't know what to say.
"Here we are, Mr. Nixon," said Buntline; "here are the stars for you.
Here are the boys; and they are a fine pair to draw too. Now, Nixon, I am
prepared for business."
Nixon and Buntline had evidently had a talk about the terms of our
engagement. Buntline, it seems, was to furnish the company, the drama,
and the pictorial printing, and was to receive sixty per cent. of the
gross receipts for his share; while Nixon was to furnish the theater, the
_attaches_, the orchestra, and the local printing; and receive forty per
cent. of the gross receipts.
"I am ready for you, Buntline. Have you got your company yet?"
"No, sir; but there are plenty of idle theatrical people in town, and I
can raise a company in two hours," was his reply.
"You haven't much time to spare, if you open on Monday night," said
Nixon. "If you will allow me to look at your drama, to see what kind of
people you want, I'll assist you in organizing your company."
"I have not yet written the drama," said Buntline.
"What the deuce do you mean? This is Wednesday, and you propose to open
on next Monday night. The idea is ridiculous. Here you are at this late
hour without a company and without a drama. This will never do, Buntline.
I shall have to break my contract with you, for you can't possibly write
a drama, cast it, and rehearse it properly for Monday night. Furthermore,
you have no pictorial printing as yet. These two gentlemen, whom you have
with you, have never been on the stage, and they certainly must have time
to study their parts. It is preposterous to think of opening on Monday
night, and I'll cancel the engagement."
This little speech was delivered in rather an excited manner by Mr.
Nixon. Buntline said that he would write the drama that day and also
select his company and have them at the theater for rehearsal next
morning. Nixon laughed at him, and said that there was no use of trying
to undertake anything of the kind in so short a time--it was utterly
impossible to do it. Buntline, whose ire was rising, said to Nixon:
"What rent will you ask for your theater for next week?"
"Six hundred dollars," was the reply.
"Well, sir, I'll take your theater for next week at that price, and here
is half of the amount in advance," said Buntline, as he threw down three
hundred dollars on the stand.
Nixon took the money, gave a receipt for it, and had nothing more to say.
"Now, come with me boys," said Buntline; and away we went to the hotel.
Buntline immediately obtained a supply of pens, ink and paper, and then
engaged all the hotel clerks as penmen. In less than an hour after he had
rented the theater, he was dashing off page after page of his proposed
drama--the work being done in his room at the hotel. He then set his
clerks at copying for him, and at the end of four hours, he jumped up
from the table, and enthusiastically shouted:
"Hurrah for 'The Scouts of the Plains!' That's the name of the play. The
work is done. Hurrah!"
The parts were then all copied off separately by the clerks, and handing
us our respective portions Buntline said:
"Now, boys, go to work, and do your level best to have this dead-letter
perfect for the rehearsal, which takes place to-morrow morning at ten
o'clock, prompt. I want to show Nixon that we'll be ready on time."
[Illustration: STUDYING THE PARTS.]
I looked at my part and then at Jack; and Jack looked at his part and
then at me. Then we looked at each other, and then at Buntline. We did
not know what to make of the man.
"How long will it take you to commit your part to memory, Bill?"
"About six months, as near as I can calculate. How long will it take
you?" answered I.
"It will take me about that length of time to learn the first line," said
Jack. Nevertheless we went to our room and commenced studying. I thought
it was the hardest work I had ever done.
"This is dry business," finally remarked Jack.
"That's just what it is," I answered; "jerk the bell, Jack." The bell-boy
soon appeared. We ordered refreshments; after partaking thereof we
resumed our task. We studied hard for an hour or two, but finally gave it
up as a bad job, although we had succeeded in committing a small portion
to memory. Buntline now came into the room and said:
"Boys, how are you getting along?"
"I guess we'll have to go back on this studying business as it isn't our
_forte_" said I.
"Don't weaken now, Bill; you'll come out on the top of the heap yet. Let
me hear you recite your part," said Buntline. I began "spouting" what I
had learned, but was interrupted by Buntline:
"Tut! tut! you're not saying it right. You must stop at the cue."
"Cue! What the mischief do you mean by the cue? I never saw any cue
except in a billiard room," said I. Buntline thereupon explained it to
me, as well as to Jack, who was ignorant as myself concerning the
"Jack, I think we had better back out and go to hunting again," said I.
"See here, boys; it won't do to go back on me at this stage of the game.
Stick to it, and it may be the turning point in your lives and lead you
on to fortune and to fame."
"A fortune is what we are after, and we'll at least give the wheel a turn
or two and see what luck we have," said I. This satisfied Buntline, but
we didn't study any more after he left us. The next morning we appeared
at rehearsal and were introduced to the company. The first rehearsal was
hardly a success; and the succeeding ones were not much better. The stage
manager did his best to teach Jack and myself what to do, but when Monday
night came we didn't know much more about it than when we began.
The clock struck seven, and then we put on our buckskin suits, which were
the costumes we were to appear in. The theater was being rapidly filled,
and it was evident that we were going to make our _debut_ before a packed
house. As the minutes passed by, Jack and I became more and more nervous.
We occasionally looked through the holes in the curtain, and saw that the
people were continuing to crowd into the theatre; our nervousness
increased to an uncomfortable degree.
When, at length the curtain arose, our courage had returned, so that we
thought we could face the immense crowd; yet when the time came for us
to go on, we were rather slow in making our appearance. As we stepped
forth we were received with a storm of applause, which we acknowledged
with a bow.
[Illustration: BEHIND THE FOOTLIGHTS.]
Buntline, who was taking the part of "Cale Durg," appeared, and gave me
the "cue" to speak "my little piece," but for the life of me I could not
remember a single word. Buntline saw I was "stuck," and a happy thought
occurred to him. He said--as if it were in the play:
"Where have you been, Bill? What has kept you so long?"
Just then my eye happened to fall on Mr. Milligan, who was surrounded by
his friends, the newspaper reporters, and several military officers, all
of whom had heard of his hunt and "Indian fight"--he being a very popular
man, and widely known in Chicago. So I said:
"I have been out on a hunt with Milligan."
This proved to be a big hit. The audience cheered and applauded; which
gave me greater confidence in my ability to get through the performance
all right. Buntline, who is a very versatile man, saw that it would be a
good plan to follow this up, and he said:
"Well, Bill, tell us all about the hunt."
I thereupon proceeded to relate in detail the particulars of the affair.
I succeeded in making it rather funny, and I was frequently interrupted
by rounds of applause. Whenever I began to "weaken," Buntline would give
me a fresh start, by asking some question. In this way I took up fifteen
minutes, without once speaking a word of my part; nor did I speak a word
of it during the whole evening. The prompter, who was standing between
the wings, attempted to prompt me, but it did no good; for while I was on
the stage I "chipped in" anything I thought of.
"The Scouts of the Plains" was an Indian drama, of course; and there were
between forty and fifty "supers" dressed as Indians. In the fight with
them, Jack and I were at home. We blazed away at each other with blank
cartridges; and when the scene ended in a hand-to-hand encounter--a
general knock-down and drag-out--the way Jack and I killed Indians was "a
caution." We would kill them all off in one act, but they would come up
again ready for business in the next. Finally the curtain dropped; the
play was ended; and I congratulated Jack and myself on having made such a
brilliant and-successful _debut_. There was no backing out after that.
The next morning there appeared in the Chicago papers some very funny
criticisms on our first performance. The papers gave us a better send-off
than I expected, for they did not criticise us as actors. The _Chicago
Times_ said that if Buntline had actually spent four hours in writing
that play, it was difficult for any one to see what he had been doing all
the time. Buntline, as "Cale Durg," was killed in the second act, after a
long temperance speech; and the _Inter-Ocean_ said that it was to be
regretted that he had not been killed in the first act. The company,
however, was very good, and Mdlle. Morlacchi, as "Pale Dove,"
particularly fine; while Miss Cafarno "spouted" a poem of some seven
hundred and three verses, more or less, of which the reader will be glad
to know that I only recall the words "I was born in March."
Our engagement proved a decided success financially, if not artistically.
Nixon was greatly surprised at the result, and at the end of the week he
induced Buntline to take him in as a partner in the company.
The next week we played at DeBar's Opera House, in St. Louis, doing an
immense business. The following week we were at Cincinnati, where the
theater was so crowded every night that hundreds were unable to obtain
admission. We met with equal success all over the country. Theatrical
managers, upon hearing of this new and novel combination; which was
drawing such tremendous houses, were all anxious to secure us; and we
received offers of engagements at all the leading theaters. We played
one week at the Boston Theater, and the gross receipts amounted to
$16,200. We also appeared at Niblo's Garden, New York, the theater being
crowded to its utmost capacity every night of the engagement. At the Arch
Street Theater, Philadelphia, it was the same way. There was not a single
city where we did not have crowded houses.
We closed our tour on the 16th of June, 1873, at Port Jervis, New York,
and when I counted up my share of the profits I found that I was only
about $6,000 ahead. I was somewhat disappointed, for, judging from our
large business, I certainly had expected a greater sum.
Texas Jack and myself longed for a hunt on the Western prairies once
more; and on meeting in New York a party of gentlemen who were desirous
of going with us, we all started Westward, and after a pleasant trip
arrived at Fort McPherson.
Texas Jack and I spent several weeks in hunting in the western part of
Nebraska, and at the end of our vacation we felt greatly re-invigorated
and ready for another theatrical campaign. We accordingly proceeded to
New York and organized a company for the season of 1873-74. Thinking that
Wild Bill would be quite an acquisition to the troupe, we wrote to him at
Springfield, Missouri, offering him a large salary if he would play with
us that winter. He was doing nothing at the time, and we thought that he
would like to take a trip through the States, as he had never been East.
Wild Bill accepted our offer, and came on to New York; though he told us
from the start that we could never make an actor out of him. Although he
had a fine stage appearance and was a handsome fellow, and possessed a
good strong voice, yet when he went upon the stage before an audience,
it was almost impossible for him to utter a word. He insisted that we
were making a set of fools of ourselves, and that we were the
laughing-stock of the people. I replied that I did not care for that, as
long as they came and bought tickets to see us.
Wild Bill was continually playing tricks upon the members of the
company, and it was his especial delight to torment the "supers." Quite
frequently in our sham Indian battles he would run up to the "Indians"
(the supers), and putting his pistol close to their legs, would fire at
them and burn them with the powder, instead of shooting over their
heads. This would make them dance and jump, so that it was difficult to
make them fall and die--although they were paid twenty-five cents each
for performing the "dying business." The poor "supers" often complained
to me about this, and threatened not to go on the stage and be killed
again if that man Wild Bill did not stop shooting and burning their
legs. I would order Wild Bill to stop his mischief; he would laugh and
then promise not to do it any more. But it would not be long before he
was at his old tricks again.
My company, known as the "Buffalo Bill Combination," did a fine business,
all through the East. Wild Bill continued his pranks, which caused us
considerable annoyance, but at the same time greatly amused us.
One day at Titusville, Pennsylvania, while Burke, the business agent, was
registering our names and making arrangements for our accommodation,
several of us started for the billiard room; but were met by the
landlord, who stopped me and said that there was a party of roughs from
the lower oil region who were spreeing, and had boasted that they were
staying in town to meet the Buffalo Bill gang and clean them out. The
landlord begged of me not to allow the members of the troupe to enter the
billiard room, as he did not wish any fight in his house. To please the
landlord, and at his suggestion, I called the boys up into the parlor and
explained to them the situation. Wild Bill wanted to go at once and fight
the whole mob, but I persuaded him to keep away from them during the day.
In order to entirely avoid the roughs, the members of the company entered
the theater through a private door from the hotel, as the two buildings
joined each other. While I was standing at the door of the theater taking
the tickets, the landlord of the hotel came rushing up and said that Wild
Bill was having a fight with the roughs in the bar-room. It seemed that
Bill had not been able to resist the temptation of going to see what kind
of a mob it was that wanted to test the pluck of the Buffalo Bill party;
and just as he stepped into the room, one of the bruisers put his hand on
his shoulder and said:
"Hello, Buffalo Bill! we have been looking for you all day."
"My name is not Buffalo Bill; you are mistaken in the man," was
"You are a liar!" said the bruiser.
Bill instantly knocked him down, and then seizing a chair he laid out
four or five of the crowd on the floor, and drove the rest out of the
room. All this was done in a minute or two, and by the time I got down
stairs, Bill was coming out of the bar-room, whistling a lively tune.
"Well!" said he, "I have been interviewing that party who wanted to
clean us out."
"I thought you promised to come into the Opera House by the private
"I did try to follow that trail, but I got lost among the canons, and
then I ran in among the hostiles," said he; "but it is all right now.
They won't bother us any more. I guess those fellows have found us." And
sure enough they had. We heard no more of them after that.
Another incident occurred, one night, at Portland, Maine. Bill found it
impossible to go to sleep at the hotel on account of the continued
talking of some parties who were engaged in a game of cards in an
adjoining room. He called to them several times to make less noise, but
they paid little or no attention to him. He finally got up and went to
the room with the intention of cleaning out the whole crowd. He knocked
and was admitted; greatly to his surprise, he found the party to be some
merchants of the city, whom he had met the previous day. They were
playing poker, and invited him to take a hand. Bill sat down at the
table, and said that, inasmuch as they would not let him sleep, he
wouldn't mind playing for a while, provided they would post him a little
in the game, for he didn't know much about it. At first he didn't play
very well, intentionally making many blunders and asking numerous
questions; but when morning came, he was about seven hundred dollars
ahead. Bill put the money in his pocket, and just as he was leaving the
room he advised them never to wake a man up and invite him to play poker.
[Illustration: LEARNING THE GAME.]
Wild Bill remained with me until we reached Rochester. I met my family
there, and having bought some property in that city, with the intention
of making the place my home, I asked Bill not to cut up any of his
capers, for I wanted the performance to go off smoothly, as I expected a
large audience that evening. He, of course, promised to behave himself.
When the curtain rose the house was crowded. The play proceeded finely
until the Indian fight in the second act, when Bill amused himself by his
old trick of singeing the legs of the "supers."
After the curtain dropped, the "supers" complained to me about it.
Bill's conduct made me angry, and I told him that he must either stop
shooting the "supers," or leave the company. He made no reply, but went
to the dressing-room and changed his buckskin suit for his citizen's
dress, and during one of my scenes I looked down in front and saw him
elbowing his way through the audience and out of the theater. When I had
finished the scene, and had retired from the stage, the stage-carpenter
came up and said:
"That long-haired gentleman, who passed out a few minutes ago, requested
me to tell you that you could go to thunder with your old show."
That was the last time that Wild Bill and I ever performed together on
the stage. After the evening's entertainment I met him at the Osborn
House. By this time he had recovered from his mad fit and was in as good
humor as ever. He had made up his mind to leave for the West the next
day. I endeavored to persuade him to remain with me till spring, and then
we would go together; but it was of no use. I then paid him the money due
him, and Jack and myself made him a present of $1,000 besides.
Bill went to New York the next day, intending to start west from there.
Several days afterwards I learned that he had lost all his money in New
York by playing faro; also that a theatrical manager had engaged him to
play. A company was organized and started out, but as a "star" Wild Bill
was not a success; the further he went the poorer he got. This didn't
suit Bill by any means, and he accordingly retired from the stage. The
company, however, kept on the road, using Bill's name, and employing an
actor to represent him not only on the stage but on the street and
elsewhere. Bill heard of this deception and sent word to the manager to
stop it, but no attention was paid to his message.
Finally, Bill resolved to have satisfaction and he proceeded to a town
where the company was to play; he entered the theater and took a seat
near the stage, and watched the performance until the bogus Wild Bill
appeared. He then sprang upon the stage, knocked the actor clear through
one of the scenes, and grabbing the manager by the shoulders he threw him
over the foot-lights into the orchestra.
[Illustration: GETTING SATISFACTION.]
The other actors screamed and yelled "Police!" The audience could not at
first understand what it all meant, some of them supposing the affair to
be a part of the play.
Wild Bill retired from the stage in good order, resumed his seat, and
told them to go on with their show. A policeman now appearing, Bill was
pointed out as the disturber of the peace; the officer tapping him on the
"I'll have to arrest you, sir."
"How many of you are there?" asked Bill.
"Only myself," said the policeman.
"You had better get some help," said Bill. The officer then called up
another policeman, and Bill again asked:
"How many of you are there now?"
"Two," was the reply.
"Then I advise you to go out and get some more reinforcements," said
Bill, very coolly.
The policemen thereupon spoke to the sheriff, who was dressed in
citizen's clothes. The sheriff came up and said he would have to take him
"All right, sir," replied Bill, "I have no objections to walking out with
you, but I won't go with any two policemen." At the court next morning
Bill stated his reasons for having acted as he had done, and the judge
fined him only three dollars and costs.
This was the last time that Wild Bill appeared on the stage. He shortly
afterwards returned to the West, and on arriving at Cheyenne, he visited
Boulder's gambling room and sat down at a faro table. No one in the room
recognized him, as he had not been in Cheyenne for several years. After
losing two or three bets he threw down a fifty dollar bill and lost that
also. Boulder quietly raked in the money. Bill placed a second fifty
dollar note on another card, when Boulder informed him that the limit was
"You have just taken in a fifty dollar bill which I lost," said Bill.
"Well you needn't make any more such bets, as I will not go above my
limit," replied Boulder.
"I'll just play that fifty dollar bill as it lays. If it loses, it's
yours; if it wins, you'll pay me fifty dollars, or I'll know the
"I am running this game, and I want no talk from you, sir," said Boulder.
One word brought on another, until Boulder threatened to have Bill put
out of the house. Bill was carrying the butt end of a billiard cue for a
cane, and bending over the table, he said: "You'd rob a blind man." Then
he suddenly tapped Boulder on the head with the cane, with such force as
to knock him over. With another sweep of the cane he tumbled the
"look-out" from his chair, and then reaching over into the money drawer
he grabbed a handful of greenbacks and stuck them in his pocket.
At this stage of the game four or five men--who were employed as
"bouncers" for the establishment to throw out the noisy persons--rushed
up to capture Bill, but he knocked them right and left with his cane, and
seeing the whole crowd was now closing in on him, he jumped into a
corner, and with each hand drew a revolver and faced the enemy. At this
moment the bar-keeper recognized him, and sang out in a loud voice:
"Look out boys--that's Wild Bill you've run against."
That settled the matter; for when they heard the name of Wild Bill they
turned and beat a hasty retreat out of the doors and windows, and in less
time than it takes to tell it, Wild Bill was the only man in the room.
He coolly walked over to Dyer's hotel, and retired for the Bight. Boulder
claimed that he had taken $500, but he really got only $200. Boulder,
upon learning that it was Wild Bill who had cleaned him out, said nothing
more about the money. The next day the two men met over a bottle of wine,
and settled their differences in an amicable manner.
Poor Bill was afterwards killed at Deadwood, in the Black Hills, in a
cowardly manner, by a desperado who sneaked up behind him while he was
playing a game of cards in a saloon, and shot him through the back of the
head, without the least provocation. The murderer, Jack McCall, was tried
and hung at Yankton, Dakotah, for the crime. Thus ended the career of a
life-long friend of mine who, in spite of his many faults, was a noble
man, ever brave and generous hearted.
Jack and myself continued playing through the country after Wild Bill
left us, and we finally closed our season in Boston on the 13th of
Business called me from Boston to New York, and after I had been there a
few days, I met an English gentleman, Thomas P. Medley, of London, who
had come to America for a hunt on the Plains. He had often heard of me,
and was anxious to engage me as his guide and companion, and he offered
to pay the liberal salary of one thousand dollars a month while I was
with him. He was a very wealthy man, as I learned upon inquiry, and was a
relative of Mr. Lord, of the firm of Lord & Taylor, of New York. Of
course I accepted his offer.
When we reached the hunting ground in Nebraska, he informed me, somewhat
to my surprise, that he did not want to go out as Alexis did, with
carriages, servants, and other luxuries, but that he wished to rough it
just as I would do--to sleep on the ground in the open air, and kill and
cook his own meat. We started out from North Platte, and spent several
weeks in hunting all over the county. Dr. W. F. Carver, who then resided
at North Platte, and who has recently acquired considerable notoriety as
a rifle-shot, hunted with us for a few days.
Mr. Medley proved to be a very agreeable gentleman and an excellent
hunter. While in camp he busied himself in carrying wood and water,
attending to the fire, and preparing and cooking the meals, never asking
me to do a thing. He did not do this to save expenses, but because he
wanted to do as the other hunters in the party were doing. After spending
as much time as he wished, we returned to the railroad, and he took the
train for the East. Everything that was required on this hunt was paid
for in the most liberal manner by Mr. Medley, who also gave the members
of the party several handsome presents.
About this time an expedition consisting of seven companies of cavalry
and two companies of infantry--to be commanded by Colonel Mills of the
Third Cavalry, was being organized to scout the Powder River and Big Horn
country, and I was employed as guide for the command. Proceeding to
Rawlins, Wyoming, we "outfitted," and other guides were engaged--among
them Tom Sun and Bony Ernest, two noted Rocky Mountain scouts. We there
left the railroad, and passing through the Seminole range of the Rocky
Mountains we established our supply camp at the foot of Independence Rock
on the Sweetwater. I was now on my old familiar stamping ground, and it
seemed like home to me. Fifteen years before, I had ridden the pony
express and driven the overland stages through this region, and the
command was going into the same section of country where Wild Bill's
expedition of stage-drivers and express-riders had recaptured from the
Indians a large number of stolen stage-horses.
Leaving the infantry to guard the supply camp, Colonel Mills struck out
for the north with the seven companies of cavalry. One day while we were
resting on a prairie near the head of Powder river, a horseman was seen
in the distance approaching us. At first it was thought he was an Indian,
but as he came near we saw that he was a white man, and finally when he
rode up to us, I recognized him as "California Joe," a noted scout and
frontiersman who had spent many years in California, on the plains and in
the mountains. He was armed with a heavy old Sharpe's rifle, a revolver
and a knife. I introduced him to Colonel Mills and the other officers and
asked him where he was going. He replied that he was out for a morning
ride only; but the fact was that he had been out prospecting alone for
weeks along the foot of the Big Horn mountains.
Having no permanent occupation just at that time, Joe accompanied us for
two or three days, when Colonel Mills suggested that I had better employ
him as a scout, so that he could make a little money for himself. Joe
didn't seem to care whether I hired him or not; but I put him on the
pay-roll, and while he was with us he drew his five dollars a day. It was
worth the money to have him along for company's sake, for he was a droll
character in his way, and afforded us considerable amusement. We finally
surprised Little Wolf's band of Arapahoes and drove them into the
agencies. We then scouted the Powder river, Crazy Woman's Fork, and Clear
Fork, and then pushed westward through the mountains to the Wind river.
After having been out for a month or two we were ordered to return.
I immediately went East and organized another Dramatic company for the
season of 1874-75, Texas Jack being absent in the Yellowstone country
hunting with the Earl of Dunraven. I played my company in all the
principal cities of the country, doing a good business wherever I went.
The summer of 1875 I spent at Rochester with my family.
For the season of 1875-6, Texas Jack and I reorganized our old
Combination, and made a very successful tour. While we were playing at
Springfield, Massachusetts, April 20th and 21st 1876, a telegram was
handed me just as I was going on the stage. I opened it and found it to
be from Colonel G.W. Torrence, of Rochester, an intimate friend of the
family, who stated that my little boy Kit was dangerously ill with the
scarlet fever. This was indeed sad news, for little Kit had always been
my greatest pride. I sent for John Burke, our business manager, and
showing him the telegram, told him that I would play the first act, and
making a proper excuse to the audience, I would then take the nine
o'clock train that same evening for Rochester, leaving him to play out my
part. This I did, and at ten o'clock the next morning I arrived in
Rochester, and was met at the depot by my intimate friend Moses Kerngood
who at once drove me to my home. I found my little boy unable to speak
but he seemed to recognize me and putting his little arms around my neck
he tried to kiss me. We did everything in our power to save him, but it
was of no avail. The Lord claimed his own, and that evening at six
o'clock my beloved little Kit died in my arms. We laid him away to rest
in the beautiful cemetery of Mount Hope amid sorrow and tears.
I RETURN TO THE PLAINS.
We closed our theatrical season earlier than usual in the spring of 1876,
because I was anxious to take part in the Sioux war which was then
breaking out. Colonel Hills had written me several letters saying that
General Crook was anxious to have me accompany his command, and I
promised to do so, intending to overtake him in the Powder river country.
But when I arrived at Chicago, on my way West, I learned that my old
regiment, the gallant Fifth Cavalry, was on its way back from Arizona to
join General Crook, and that my old commander, General Carr, was in
command. He had written to military headquarters at Chicago to learn my
whereabouts, as he wished to secure me as his guide and chief of scouts.
I then gave up the idea of overtaking General Crook, and hastening on to
Cheyenne, where the Fifth Cavalry had already arrived, I was met at the
depot by Lieutenant King, adjutant of the regiment, he having been sent
down from Fort D. A. Russell for that purpose by General Carr, who had
learned by a telegram from military headquarters at Chicago that I was on
the way. I accompanied the Lieutenant on horseback to the camp, and as we
rode up, one of the boys shouted, "Here's Buffalo Bill!" Soon after there
came three hearty cheers from the regiment. Officers and men all were
glad to see me, and I was equally delighted to meet them once more. The
General at once appointed me his guide and chief of scouts.
The next morning the command pulled out for Fort Laramie, and on reaching
that post we found General Sheridan there, accompanied by General Frye
and General Forsyth, _en route_ to Red Cloud agency. As the command was
to remain here a few days, I accompanied General Sheridan to Red Cloud
and back, taking a company of cavalry as escort.
The Indians having recently committed a great many depredations on the
Black Hills road, the Fifth Cavalry was sent out to scout the country
between the Indian agencies and the hills. The command operated on the
South Fork of the Cheyenne and at the foot of the Black Hills for about
two weeks, having several small engagements with roving bands of Indians
during the time. General Wesley Merritt--who had lately received his
promotion to the Colonelcy of the Fifth Cavalry--now came out and took
control of the regiment. I was sorry that the command was taken from
General Carr, because under him it had made its fighting reputation.
However, upon becoming acquainted with General Merritt, I found him to be
an excellent officer.
The regiment, by continued scouting, soon drove the Indians out of that
section of the country, as we supposed, and we had started on our way
back to Fort Laramie, when a scout arrived at the camp and reported the
massacre of General Custer and his band of heroes on the Little Big Horn,
on the 25th of June, 1876; and he also brought orders to General Merritt
to proceed at once to Fort Fetterman and join General Crook in the Big
Colonel Stanton, who was with the Fifth Cavalry on this scout, had been
sent to Red Cloud agency two days before, and that same evening a scout
arrived bringing a message from him that eight hundred Cheyenne warriors
had that day left the Red Cloud agency to join Sitting Bull's hostile
forces in the Big Horn region. Notwithstanding the instructions to
proceed immediately to join General Crook by the Way of Fort Fetterman,
Colonel Merritt took the responsibility of endeavoring to intercept the
Cheyennes, and as the sequel shows he performed a very important service.
He selected five hundred men and horses, and in two hours we were making
a forced march back to Hat, or War-Bonnet Creek--the intention being to
reach the main Indian trail running to the north across that creek before
the Cheyennes could get there. We arrived there the next night, and at
daylight the following morning, July 17th, 1876, I went out on a scout,
and found that the Indians had not yet crossed the creek. On my way back
to the command I discovered a large party of Indians, which proved to be
the Cheyennes, coming up from the south, and I hurried to the camp with
this important information.
The cavalrymen quietly mounted their horses, and were ordered to remain
out of sight, while General Merritt, accompanied by two or three _aides_
and myself, went out on a little tour of observation to a neighboring
hill, from the summit of which we saw that the Indians were approaching
almost directly towards us. Presently fifteen or twenty of them dashed
off to the west in the direction from which we had come the night before;
and upon closer observation with our field glasses, we discovered two
mounted soldiers, evidently carrying dispatches for us, pushing forward
on our trail.
The Indians were evidently endeavoring to intercept these two men, and
General Merritt feared that they would accomplish their object. He did
not think it advisable to send out any soldiers to the assistance of the
couriers, for fear that would show to the Indians that there were troops
in the vicinity who were waiting for them. I finally suggested that the
best plan was to wait until the couriers came closer to the command, and
then, just as the Indians were about to charge, to let me take the scouts
and cut them off from the main body of the Cheyennes, who were coming
over the divide.
"All right, Cody," said the General, "if you can do that, go ahead."
I rushed back to the command, jumped on my horse, picked out fifteen men,
and returned with them to the point of observation. I told General
Merritt to give us the word to start out at the proper time, and
presently he sang out:
"Go in now, Cody, and be quick about it. They are going to charge on the
The two messengers were not over four hundred yards from us, and the
Indians were only about two hundred yards behind them. We instantly
dashed over the bluffs, and advanced on a gallop towards the Indians. A
running fight lasted several minutes, during which we drove the enemy
some little distance and killed three of their number. The rest of them
rode off towards the main body, which had come into plain sight, and
halted, upon seeing the skirmish that was going on. We were about half
a mile from General Merritt, and the Indians whom we were chasing
suddenly turned upon us, and another lively skirmish took place. One of
the Indians, who was handsomely decorated with all the ornaments
usually worn by a war chief when engaged in a fight, sang out to me, in
his own tongue:
"I know you, Pa-he-haska; if you want to fight, come ahead and fight me."
The chief was riding his horse back and forth in front of his men, as if
to banter me, and I concluded to accept the challenge. I galloped towards
him for fifty yards and he advanced towards me about the same distance,
both of us riding at full speed, and then, when we were only about thirty
yards apart, I raised my rifle and fired; his horse fell to the ground,
having been killed by my bullet.
Almost at the same instant my own horse went down, he having stepped into
a hole. The fall did not hurt me much, and I instantly sprang to my feet.
The Indian had also recovered himself, and we were now both on foot, and
not more than twenty paces apart. We fired at each other simultaneously.
My usual luck did not desert me on this occasion, for his bullet missed
me, while mine struck him in the breast. He reeled and fell, but before
he had fairly touched the ground I was upon him, knife in hand, and had
driven the keen-edged weapon to its hilt in his heart. Jerking his
war-bonnet off, I scientifically scalped him in about five seconds.
The whole affair from beginning to end occupied but little time, and the
Indians, seeing that I was some little distance from my company, now came
charging down upon me from a hill, in hopes of cutting me off. General
Merritt had witnessed the duel, and realizing the danger I was in,
ordered Colonel Mason with Company K to hurry to my rescue. The order
came none too soon, for had it been given one minute later I would have
had not less than two hundred Indians upon me. As the soldiers came up I
swung the Indian chieftain's top-knot and bonnet in the air, and shouted:
"_The first scalp for Custer_."
General Merritt, seeing that he could not now ambush the Indians, ordered
the whole regiment to charge upon them. They made a stubborn resistance
for a little while, but it was of no use for any eight hundred, or even
sixteen hundred Indians to try and check a charge of the gallant old
Fifth Cavalry, and they soon came to that conclusion and began a running
retreat towards Red Cloud Agency. For thirty-five miles we drove them;
pushing them so hard that they were obliged to abandon their loose
horses, their camp equipage and everything else. We drove them into the
agency, and followed in ourselves, notwithstanding the possibility of our
having to encounter the thousands of Indians at that point. We were
uncertain whether or not the other agency Indians had determined to
follow the example of the Cheyennes and strike out upon the war-path; but
that made no difference with the Fifth Cavalry, for they would have
fought them all if necessary. It was dark when we rode into the agency,
where we found thousands of Indians collected together; but they
manifested no disposition to fight.
[Illustration: A DUEL WITH CHIEF YELLOW HAND.]
While at the agency I learned the name of the Indian Chief whom I had
killed in the morning; it was Yellow Hand; a son of old Cut-nose--a
leading chief of the Cheyennes. Cut-nose, having learned that I had
killed his son sent a white interpreter to me with a message to the
effect that he would give me four mules if I would turn over to him
Yellow Hand's war-bonnet, guns, pistols, ornaments, and other
paraphernalia which I had captured. I sent back word to the old gentleman
that it would give me pleasure to accommodate him, but I could not do it
The next morning we started to join General Crook, who was camped near
the foot of Cloud Peak in the Big Horn mountains; awaiting the arrival
of the Fifth Cavalry, before proceeding against the Sioux, who were
somewhere near the head of the Little Big Horn,--as his scouts informed
him. We made rapid marches and reached General Crook's camp on Goose
Creek about the 3d of August.
At this camp I met many old friends, among whom was Colonel Royal, who
had received his promotion to the Lieutenant Colonelcy of the Third
Cavalry. He introduced me to General Crook, whom I had never met before,
but of whom I had often heard. He also introduced me to the General's
chief guide, Frank Grouard, a half breed, who had lived six years with
Sitting Bull, and knew the country thoroughly.
We remained in this camp only one day, and then the whole troop pulled
out for the Tongue river, leaving our wagons behind, but taking with us
a large pack train. We marched down the Tongue river for two days,
thence in a westerly direction over to the Rosebud, where we struck the
main Indian trail, leading down this stream. From the size of the trail,
which appeared to be about four days old, we estimated that there must
have been in the neighborhood of seven thousand Indians who had made the
At this point we were overtaken by Jack Crawford, familiarly known as
"Captain Jack, the Poet Scout of the Black Hills," and right here I will
insert the following lines, written by him, just after the "Custer
Massacre," upon receiving from me the following dispatch:
"Jack, old boy, have you heard of the death of Custer?"
Did I hear the news from Custer?
Well, I reckon I did, old pard;
It came like a streak of lightnin',
And, you bet, it hit me hard.
I ain't no hand to blubber,
And the briny ain't run for years;
But chalk me down for a lubber,
If I didn't shed regular tears.
What for? Now look you here, Bill,
You're a bully boy, that's true;
As good as e'er wore buckskin,
Or fought with the boys in blue;
But I'll bet my bottom dollar
Ye had no trouble to muster
A tear, or perhaps a hundred,
At the news of the death of Custer.
He always thought well of you, pard,
And had it been heaven's will,
In a few more days you'd met him,
And he'd welcome his old scout Bill.
For if ye remember at Hat Creek,
I met ye with General Carr;
We talked of the brave young Custer,
And recounted his deeds of war.
But little we knew even then, pard,
(And that's just two weeks ago),
How little we dreamed of disaster,
Or that he had met the foe--
That the fearless, reckless hero,
So loved by the whole frontier,
Had died on the field of battle
In this, our centennial year.
I served with him in the army,
In the darkest days of the war:
And I reckon ye know his record,
For he was our guiding star;
And the boys who gathered round him
To charge in the early morn,
War just like the brave who perished
With him on the Little Horn.
And where is the satisfaction,
And how will the boys get square?
By giving the reds more rifles?
Invite them to take more hair?
We want no scouts, no trappers,
Nor men who know the frontier;
Phil, old boy, you're mistaken,
_We must have the volunteer_.
Never mind that two hundred thousand
But give us a hundred instead;
Send five thousand men towards Reno,
And soon we won't leave a red.
It will save Uncle Sam lots of money,
In fortress we need not invest,
Jest wollup the devils this summer,
And the miners will do all the rest.
The Black Hills are filled with miners,
The Big Horn will soon be as full,
And which will show the most danger
To Crazy Horse and old Sitting Bull
A band of ten thousand frontier men,
Or a couple of forts with a few
Of the boys in the East now enlisting--
Friend Cody, I leave it with you.
They talk of peace with these demons
By feeding and clothing them well:
I'd as soon think an angel from Heaven
Would reign with contentment in H--l
And one day the Quakers will answer
Before the great Judge of us all,
For the death of daring young Custer
And the boys who round him did fall.
Perhaps I am judging them harshly,
But I mean what I'm telling ye, pard;
I'm letting them down mighty easy,
Perhaps they may think it is hard.
But I tell you the day is approaching--
The boys are beginning to muster--
That day of the great retribution,
The day of revenge for our Custer.
And I will be with you, friend Cody,
My weight will go in with the boys;
I shared all their hardships last winter,
I shared all their sorrows and joys;
Tell them I'm coming, friend William,
I trust I will meet you ere long;
Regards to the boys in the mountains;
Yours, ever; in friendship still strong.
Jack was a new man in the country, but evidently had plenty of nerve and
pluck, as he had brought dispatches from Fort Fetterman, a distance of
300 miles through a dangerous Indian country. The dispatches were for
General Crook, and notified him that General Terry was to operate with a
large command south of the Yellowstone, and that the two commands would
probably consolidate somewhere on the Rosebud.
Jack at once hunted me up and gave me a letter from General Sheridan,
informing me that he had appointed him (Jack) as one of the scouts.
While we were conversing, Jack informed me that he had brought me a
present from Colonel Jones of Cheyenne, and that he had it in his
saddle-pockets. Asking the nature of the gift, he replied that it was
only a bottle of good whiskey.
I placed my hand over his mouth and told him to keep still, and not to
whisper it even to the winds, for there were too many dry men around us;
and only when alone with him did I dare to have him take the treasure
from his saddle-pockets.
In this connection I may remark that Jack Crawford is the only man I
have ever known that could have brought that bottle of whiskey through
without _accident_ befalling it, for he is one of the very few teetotal
scouts I ever met.
Not wishing to have a game of "whiskey _solitaire_," I invited General
Carr to sample the bottle with me. We soon found a secluded spot, and
dismounting, we thought we were going to have a nice little drink all by
ourselves, when who should ride up but Mr. Lathrop, the Reporter of the
Associated Press of the Pacific slope--to whom we had given the name of
the "Death Rattler,"--and who was also known in San Francisco as "the man
with the iron jaw," he having, with the true nose of a Reporter, smelt
the whiskey from afar off, and had come to "interview" it. He was a good
fellow withal, and we were glad to have him join us.
Now to resume: For two or three days we pushed on, but we did not seem to
gain much on the Indians, as they were evidently making about the same
marches that we were. On the fourth or fifth morning of our pursuit, I
rode ahead of the command about ten miles, and mounting a hill I scanned
the country far and wide with my field glass, and discovered an immense
column of dust rising about ten miles further down the creek, and soon I
noticed a body of men marching towards me, that at first I believed to be
the Indians of whom we were in pursuit; but subsequently they proved to
be General Terry's command. I sent back word to that effect to General
Crook, by a scout who had accompanied me, but after he had departed I
observed a band of Indians on the opposite side of the creek, and also
another party directly in front of me. This led me to believe that I had
made a mistake.
But shortly afterwards my attention was attracted by the appearance of a
body of soldiers, who were forming into a skirmish line, and then I
became convinced that it was General Terry's command after all, and that
the red-skins whom I had seen were some of his friendly Indian scouts,
who had mistaken me for a Sioux, and fled back to their command terribly
excited, shouting, "The Sioux are coming!"
General Terry at once came to the post, and ordered the Seventh
Cavalry to form line of battle across the Rosebud; he also ordered up
his artillery and had them prepare for action, doubtless dreading
another "Custer massacre." I afterwards learned the Indians had seen
the dust raised by General Crook's forces, and had reported that the
Sioux were coming.
These manoeuvres I witnessed from my position with considerable
amusement, thinking the command must be badly demoralized, when one man
could cause a whole army to form line of battle and prepare for action.
Having enjoyed the situation to my heart's content, I galloped down
towards the skirmish line, waving my hat and when within about one
hundred yards of the troops, Colonel Weir, of the Seventh Cavalry,
galloped out and met me. He recognized me at once, and accompanied me
inside the line; then he sang out, "Boys, here's Buffalo Bill. Some of
you old soldiers know him; give him a cheer!" Thereupon the regiment gave
three rousing cheers, and it was followed up all along the line.
Colonel Weir presented me to General Terry, and in answer to his
questions I informed him that the alarm of Indians which had been given
was a false one, as the dust seen by his scouts was caused by General
Crook's troops. General Terry thereupon rode forward to meet General
Crook, and I accompanied him at his request. That night both commands
went into camp on the Rosebud. General Terry had his wagon train with
him, and everything to make life comfortable on an Indian campaign. He
had large wall tents and portable beds to sleep in, and large hospital
tents for dining-rooms. His camp looked very comfortable and attractive,
and presented a great contrast to that of General Crook, who had for his
headquarters only one small fly tent; and whose cooking utensils
consisted of a quart cup--in which he made his coffee himself--and a
stick, upon which he broiled his bacon. When I compared the two camps, I
came to the conclusion that General Crook was an Indian fighter; for it
was evident that he had learned that, to follow and fight Indians, a body
of men must travel lightly and not be detained by a wagon train or heavy
luggage of any kind.
That evening General Terry ordered General Miles to take his regiment,
the Fifth Infantry, and return by a forced march to the Yellowstone,
and proceed down that river by steamboat to the mouth of Powder river,
to intercept the Indians, in case they attempted to cross the
Yellowstone. General Mills made a forced march that night of
thirty-five miles, which was splendid traveling for an infantry
regiment through a mountainous country.
Generals Crook and Terry spent that evening and the next day in council,
and on the following morning both commands moved out on the Indian trail.
Although General Terry was the senior officer, he did not assume command
of both expeditions, but left General Crook in command of his own troops,
although they operated together. We crossed the Tongue river to Powder
river, and proceeded down the latter stream to a point twenty miles from
its junction with the Yellowstone, where the Indian trail turned to the
southeast in the direction of the Black Hills. The two commands now
being nearly out of supplies, the trail was abandoned, and the troops
kept on down Powder river to its confluence with the Yellowstone, and
remained there several days. Here we met General Mills, who reported that
no Indians had as yet crossed the Yellowstone. Several steamboats soon
arrived with a large quantity of supplies, and once more the "Boys in
Blue" were made happy.
One evening while we were in camp on the Yellowstone at the mouth of
Powder river, I was informed that the commanding officers had selected
Louis Richard, a half breed, and myself to accompany General Mills on a
scouting expedition on the steamer Far West, down the Yellowstone as far
as Glendive Creek. We were to ride on the pilot house and keep a sharp
lookout on both sides of the river for Indian trails that might have
crossed the stream. The idea of scouting on a steamboat was indeed a
novel one to me, and I anticipated a pleasant trip.
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