Part 7 out of 9
toward Anderson's cover. Three reports followed each other in
rapid succession, and the three Indians bit the dust. There
was now a general charge on Anderson, but he fired so fast and
true that the Indians fell back, carrying with them two more
of their number.
The Captain now felt it his duty to help Anderson, and was
about to open fire with his revolvers, when Anderson, who,
no doubt, expected as much, yelled three or four times, saying
in a sort of a cry, “My arm is broken; keep quiet; can't work
the Spencer any more.” The brave fellow no doubt intended
this as a warning to the Captain not to discover himself by
firing, and he reluctantly accepted the admonition and kept
A rush by some thirty warriors was now made on Anderson, and,
notwithstanding his disabled condition, he managed to kill
three more Indians before he was taken. He was overpowered,
however, dragged out of the bushes, and scalped in full sight
of the Captain. He fought to the last, and compelled them to
kill him to save their own lives. Nothing could exceed the
rage of the Indians, and especially old Spotted Tail, as he
saw the body of warrior after warrior carried down the hill,
until nine dead Indians were laid beside Anderson. In his
grief for the loss of his braves, the old chief kicked the
corpse of poor Anderson, and the other Indians came up and
mutilated it horribly.
In a few minutes after the death of Anderson, a mounted party
was seen coming over the hills, and about thirty warriors rode
up to Spotted Tail, and reported that they had captured the
ambulance and killed all who were in it. They exhibited to
Spotted Tail the scalps of all Captain Mitchell's late
companions, except that of Cramer. The ambulance horses were
brought back, each carrying what is known “down East” as a
“noble red man.”
In a few moments the warriors had their dead comrades securely
strapped to ponies, and, mounting their own, set out toward
the Republican. As soon as they were out of sight, and it
became dark, Captain Mitchell started for the camp, where he
arrived about ten o'clock, and told the story of the
“Cottonwood Massacre,” as I have here related it.
Early the next morning I was sent out with a large force to
pursue and, if possible, overtake and punish the Indians.
For two days I followed them hard, and, on the evening of the
second day, came upon a small party as they were crossing a
stream, but in attempting to charge them, they scattered over
the prairie and were soon lost in the darkness. The trail now
divided in every direction, and it would have been impossible
to follow it unless each soldier had pursued some half a dozen
warriors, when it is not likely he would have returned. So we
turned back, and marched for Cottonwood. The bodies of the
dead had been brought in and buried, and everything had been
found as Captain Mitchell had stated.
Private Wise was severely censured for not immediately going
to camp and giving the alarm, but he said he had no idea the
wagon and its sick men had ever left the cañon, for there
were at least one hundred and fifty warriors around it when
he came away, so he thought he might as well rest until
morning before bearing such dismal news as he had to
communicate to his fellow-soldiers.
In 1867 nearly all the Plains tribes of Indians evinced a sullen
disposition, and the indications were that the country was on the eve
of a prolonged savage war. The cause of this, perhaps, might well be
attributed to the encroachments by the whites, upon the great
hunting-grounds of the tribes. The transcontinental lines of railway
were nearly completed and in their wake followed an immigration from
the Eastern states, unprecedented in the history of the nation.
President Andrew Johnson appointed a Peace Commission, composed of
a large number of the most distinguished men of the country, both
military and civil. Their duty was to visit the various chiefs, and
endeavour to make such treaties with them as would ensure permanent
peace. History shows that so far as the object for which it was
created is concerned, it was a stupendous farce. Let it be understood,
however, that the failure to accomplish the work intended, was through
no fault of the Commission. The fault lies with Congress which
neglected to make the necessary appropriations to carry out the
stipulations of the treaties. On account of this broken faith on the
part of the government there occurred a series of massacres, and a
prolonged war, which cost millions of dollars.
One of the stipulations on the part of the Commission was that the
Sioux, Arapahoes, and Cheyennes were to surrender that portion of
their country along the Big Horn Mountains and territory tributary to
them. The Man afraid of his Horses and Red Cloud were very determined
in their opposition, and Red Cloud with his entire band withdrew,
shortly after commencing his work of mischief. It is a fact that so
indignant and enraged were the Indians at the idea of the government
depriving them of their favourite hunting-grounds, that a messenger,
sent out to induce the chiefs to come in, was badly whipped, insulted,
and ordered to go back to where he came from.
Old Major Bridger, the celebrated scout, and Jack Stead, the
interpreter of the Commission, had no faith in the propositions of
some of the chiefs, notably Black Horse, who agreed to accept the
proposition of the Commission and ally themselves with the whites.
These chiefs were the representatives of over a hundred lodges; they
had been out on a hunt when they met Red Cloud who stated to them
that they must join the Sioux and drive the white man back. To their
honour be it said, these chiefs kept their word and fulfilled to
the letter the pledges to keep the peace which they had given the
Following the so-called treaty a series of depredations was made by
discontented bands of Indians, and culminated in the massacre of
troops near Fort Phil Kearny. The following account of this fight is
taken from Senate Document No. 13, 1867:—
On the morning of December 21 the picket at the signal station
signalled to the fort that the wood train was attacked by the
Indians, and corralled, and the escort fighting. This was not
far from 11 o'clock A.M., and the train was about two miles
from the fort, and moving toward the timber. Almost immediately
a few Indian pickets appeared on one or two of the surrounding
heights, and a party of about twenty near the Big Piney, where
the mountain road crossed the same, within howitzer range of
the fort. Shells were thrown among them from the artillery in
the fort, and they fled.
The following detail, viz., fifty men and two officers from
the four different infantry companies, and twenty-six
cavalrymen and one officer, was made by Colonel Carrington.
The entire force formed in good order, and was placed under
command of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Fetterman, who received
the following orders from Colonel Carrington: “Support the
wood train, relieve it, and report to me. Do not engage or
pursue Indians at its expense; under no circumstances pursue
over Lodge Trail Ridge.” These instructions were repeated by
Colonel Carrington in a loud voice, to the command when in
motion, and outside the fort, and again delivered in substance
through Lieutenant Wands, officer of the day, to Lieutenant
Grummond, who was requested to communicate them again to
Colonel Fetterman moved out rapidly to the right of the wood
road, for the purpose, no doubt, of cutting off the retreat of
the Indians then attacking the train. As he advanced across
the Piney, a few Indians appeared in his front and on his
flanks, and continued flitting about him, beyond rifle range,
till they disappeared beyond Lodge Trail Ridge. When he was
on Lodge Trail Ridge, the picket signalled the fort that the
Indians had retreated from the train; the train had broken
corral and moved on toward the timber. The train made the
round trip, and was not again disturbed that day.
At about fifteen minutes before twelve o'clock, Colonel
Fetterman's command had reached the crest of Lodge Trail Ridge,
was deployed as skirmishers, and at a halt. Without regard
to orders, for reasons that the silence of Colonel Fetterman
now prevents us from giving, he, with the command, in a few
moments disappeared, having cleared the ridge, still moving
north. Firing at once commenced, and increased in rapidity
till, in about fifteen minutes and at about 12 o'clock M.,
it was a continuous and rapid fire of musketry, plainly
audible at the fort. Assistant Surgeon Hines, having been
ordered to join Fetterman, found Indians on a part of Lodge
Trail Ridge not visible from the fort, and could not reach
the force there struggling to preserve its existence. As soon
as the firing became rapid Colonel Carrington ordered Captain
Ten Eyck, with about seventy-six men, being all the men for
duty in the fort, and two wagons with ammunition, to join
Colonel Fetterman immediately. He moved out and advanced
rapidly toward the point from which the sound of firing
proceeded, but did not move by so short a route as he might
have done. The sound of firing continued to be heard during
his advance, diminishing in rapidity and number of shots till
he reached a high summit overlooking the battle-field, at
about a quarter before one o'clock, when one or two shots
closed all sound of conflict.
Whether he could have reached the scene of action by marching
over the shortest route as rapidly as possible in time to have
relieved Colonel Fetterman's command, I am unable to determine.
Immediately after Captain Ten Eyck moved out, and by orders
of Colonel Carrington issued at the same time as the orders
detailing that officer to join Colonel Fetterman, the
quartermaster's employees, convalescents, and all others in
the garrison, were armed and provided with ammunition, and
held in readiness to reënforce the troops fighting, or defend
Captain Ten Eyck reported, as soon as he reached a summit
commanding a view of the battle-field, that the Peno Valley
was full of Indians; that he could see nothing of Colonel
Fetterman's party, and requested that a howitzer should be
sent him. The howitzer was not sent. The Indians, who at
first beckoned him to come down, now commenced retreating, and
Captain Ten Eyck, advancing to a point where the Indians had
been standing in a circle, found the dead naked bodies of
Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Fetterman, Captain Brown, and about
sixty-five of the soldiers of their command. At this point
there were no indications of a severe struggle. All the
bodies lay in a space not exceeding thirty-five feet in
diameter. No empty cartridge shells were lying about, and
there were some full cartridges. A few American horses lay
dead a short distance off, all with their heads toward the
fort. This spot was by the roadside, and beyond the summit of
the hill rising to the east of Peno Creek. The road, after
rising this hill, follows this ridge along for about half or
three-quarters of a mile, and then descends abruptly to Peno
Creek. At about half the distance from where these bodies lay
to the point where the road commences to descend to Peno Creek
was the dead body of Lieutenant Grummond; and still farther on,
at the point where the road commences to descend to Peno Creek,
were the dead bodies of the three citizens and four or five of
the old, long-tried, and experienced soldiers. A great number
of empty cartridge shells were on the ground at this point,
and more than fifty lying on the ground about one of the dead
citizens, who used a Henry rifle. Within a few hundred yards
in front of this position ten Indian ponies lay dead, and
there were sixty-five pools of dark and clotted blood.
No Indian ponies or pools of blood were found at any other
point. Our conclusion, therefore, is that the Indians were
massed to resist Colonel Fetterman's advance along Peno Creek
on both sides of the road; that Colonel Fetterman formed his
advanced lines on the summit of the hill overlooking the creek
and valley, with a reserve near where the large number of dead
bodies lay; that the Indians, in force of from fifteen to
eighteen hundred warriors, attacked him vigorously in this
position, and were successfully resisted by him for half an
hour or more; that the command then being short of ammunition,
and seized with panic at this event and the great numerical
superiority of the Indians, attempted to retreat toward the
fort; that the mountaineers and old soldiers, who had learned
that a movement from Indians, in an engagement, was equivalent
to death, remained in their first position, and were killed
there; that immediately upon the commencement of the retreat
the Indians charged upon and surrounded the party, who could
not now be formed by their officers, and were immediately
killed. Only six men of the whole command were killed by
balls, and two of these, Lieutenant-Colonel Fetterman and
Captain Brown, no doubt inflicted this death upon themselves,
or each other, by their own hands, for both were shot through
the left temple, and powder burnt into the skin and flesh
about the wound. These officers had also often-times asserted
that they would not be taken alive by Indians.
In the critical examination we have given this painful and
horrible affair, we do not find of the immediate participants
any officer living deserving of censure; and, even if evidence
justifies it, it would ill become us to speak evil of or
censure those dead who sacrificed life struggling to maintain
the authority and power of the government and add new lustre
to our arms and fame. . . .
The difficulty, in a “nutshell,” was that the commanding
officer of the district was furnished no more troops or
supplies for this state of war than had been provided and
furnished him for a state of profound peace.
BUFFALO BILL'S ADVENTURES.
In May, 1857, I started for Salt Lake City with a herd of beef cattle,
in charge of Frank and Bill McCarthy, for General Albert Sidney
Johnston's army, which was then being sent across the plains to fight
Nothing occurred to interrupt our journey until we reached Plum Creek,
on the South Platte River, thirty-five miles west of old Fort Kearny.
We had made a morning drive and had camped for dinner. The wagon-masters
and a majority of the men had gone to sleep under the mess wagons;
the cattle were being guarded by three men, and the cook was preparing
dinner. No one had any idea that Indians were anywhere near us.
The first warning we had that they were infesting that part of the
country was the firing of shots, and the whoops and yells from a party
of them, who, catching us napping, gave us a most unwelcome surprise.
All the men jumped to their feet and seized their guns. They saw with
astonishment the cattle running in every direction, stampeded by the
Indians, who had shot and killed the three men who were on day-herd
duty; and the red devils were now charging down upon the rest of us.
I then thought of mother's fears of my falling into the hands of the
Indians, and I had about made up my mind that such was to be my fate;
but when I saw how coolly and determinedly the McCarthy brothers were
conducting themselves and giving orders to the little band, I became
convinced that we would “stand the Indians off,” as the saying is.
Our men were all well armed with Colt's revolvers and Mississippi
yagers, which last carried a bullet and two buckshot.
The McCarthy boys, at the proper moment, gave orders to fire upon the
advancing enemy. The volley checked them, although they returned the
compliment, and shot one of our party through the leg. Frank McCarthy
then sang out, “Boys, make a break for the slough yonder, and we can
have the bank for a breastwork.”
We made a run for the slough, which was only a short distance off,
and succeeded in safely reaching it, bringing with us the wounded man.
The bank proved to be a very effective breastwork, affording us good
protection. We had been there but a short time when Frank McCarthy,
seeing that the longer we were corralled the worse it would be for us,
“Well, boys, we'll try to make our way back to Fort Kearny by wading
in the river and keeping the bank for a breastwork.”
We all agreed that this was the best plan, and we accordingly
proceeded down the river several miles in this way, managing to keep
the Indians at a safe distance with our guns, until the slough made
a junction with the main Platte River. From there down, we found the
river at times quite deep; and in order to carry the wounded man along
with us, we constructed a raft of poles for his accommodation, and in
this way he was transported.
Occasionally the water would be too deep for us to wade, and we were
obliged to put our weapons on the raft and swim. The Indians followed
us pretty close, and were continually watching for an opportunity to
get a good range and give us a raking fire. Covering ourselves by
keeping well under the bank, we pushed ahead as rapidly as possible,
and made pretty good progress, the night finding us still on the way
and our enemies yet on our track.
I, being the youngest and smallest of the party, became somewhat tired,
and without noticing it I had fallen behind the others for some little
distance. It was about ten o'clock and we were keeping very quiet and
hugging close to the bank, when I happened to look up to the moonlit
sky and saw the plumed head of an Indian peeping over the bank.
Instead of hurrying ahead and alarming the men in a quiet way,
I instantly aimed my gun at his head and fired. The report rang out
sharp and loud on the night air, and was immediately followed by an
Indian whoop; and the next moment about six feet of dead Indian came
tumbling into the river. I was not only overcome with astonishment,
but was badly scared, as I could hardly realize what I had done.
I expected to see the whole force of Indians come down upon us. While
I was standing thus bewildered, the men who had heard the shot and the
war-whoop and had seen the Indian take a tumble, came rushing back.
“Who fired that shot?” cried Frank McCarthy.
“I did,” replied I, rather proudly, as my confidence returned and I
saw the men coming up.
“Yes, and little Billy has killed an Indian stone-dead—too dead to
skin,” said one of the men, who had approached nearer than the rest,
and had almost stumbled over the corpse. From that time forward I
became a hero and an Indian killer. This was, of course, the first
Indian I had ever shot, and as I was then not more than eleven years
of age, my exploit created quite a sensation.
The other Indians, upon learning what had happened to their advance,
fired several shots without effect, but which hastened our retreat
down the river. We reached Fort Kearny just as the reveille was being
sounded, bringing the wounded man with us. After the peril through
which we had passed, it was a relief to feel that once more I was safe
after such a dangerous initiation.
Frank McCarthy immediately reported to the commanding officer and
informed him of all that had happened. The commandant at once ordered
a company of cavalry and one of infantry to proceed to Plum Creek on
a forced march—taking a howitzer with them—to endeavour to recapture
the cattle from the Indians.
The firm of Russell, Majors, & Waddell had a division agent at Kearny,
and this agent mounted us on mules so that we could accompany the
troops. On reaching the place where the Indians had surprised us,
we found the bodies of the three men, whom they had killed and scalped
and literally cut into pieces. We, of course, buried the remains.
We caught but few of the cattle; the most of them had been driven off
and stampeded with the buffaloes, there being numerous immense herds
of the latter in that section of the country at the time. The Indians'
trail was discovered running South toward the Republican River, and
the troops followed it to the head of Plum Creek, and there abandoned
it, returning to Fort Kearny without having seen a single redskin.
The company's agent, seeing that there was no further use for us in
that vicinity—as we had lost our cattle and mules—sent us back to
Fort Leavenworth. The company, it is proper to state, did not have
to stand the loss of the expedition, as the government held itself
responsible for such depredations by the Indians.
On the day that I got into Leavenworth, sometime in July, I was
interviewed for the first time in my life by a newspaper reporter,
and the next morning I found my name in print as “the youngest Indian
slayer on the plains.” I am candid enough to admit that I felt very
much elated over this notoriety. Again and again I read with eager
interest the long and sensational account of our adventure.
My exploit was related in a very graphic manner, and for a long time
afterward I was considerable of a hero. The reporter who had thus set
me up, as I then thought, on the highest pinnacle of fame, was John
Hutchinson, and I felt very grateful to him. He now lives in Wichita,
In the following summer, Russell, Majors, & Waddell entered upon a
contract with the Government for transporting supplies for General
Albert Sidney Johnston's army that was sent against the Mormons.
A large number of teams and teamsters were required for this purpose,
and as the route was considered a dangerous one, men were not easily
engaged for the service, though the pay was forty dollars a month in
gold. An old wagon-master named Lew Simpson, one of the best who ever
commanded a bull-train, was upon the point of starting with about ten
wagons for the company, direct for Salt Lake, and as he had known me
for some time as an ambitious youth, requested me to accompany him as
an extra hand. My duties would be light, and in fact I would have
nothing to do, unless some one of the drivers should become sick,
in which case I should be required to take his place. But even more
seductive than this was the promise that I should be provided with
a mule of my own to ride, and be subject to the orders of no one save
The offer was made in such a manner that I became at once wild to go,
but my mother interposed an emphatic objection and urged me to abandon
so reckless a desire. She reminded me that in addition to the fact
that the trip would possibly occupy a year, the journey was one of
extreme peril, beset as it was by Mormon assassins and treacherous
Indians, and begged me to accept the lesson of my last experience and
narrow escape as a providential warning. But to her pleadings and
remonstrances I returned the answer that I had determined to follow
the plains as an occupation, and while I appreciated her advice, and
desired greatly to honour her commands, yet I could not forego my
determination to accompany the train.
Seeing that it was impossible to keep me at home, she reluctantly
gave her consent, but not until she had called upon Mr. Russell and
Mr. Simpson in regard to the matter, and had obtained from the latter
gentleman his promise that I should be well taken care of, if we had
to winter in the mountains. She did not like the appearance of
Simpson, and upon inquiry she learned, to her dismay, that he was a
desperate character, and that on nearly every trip he had made across
the plains he had killed some one. Such a man, she thought, was not
a fit master or companion for her son, and she was very anxious to
have me go with some other wagon-master; but I still insisted on
remaining with Simpson.
“Madam, I can assure you that Lew Simpson is one of the most reliable
wagon-masters on the plains,” said Mr. Russell, “and he has taken a
great fancy to Billy. If your boy is bound to go, he can go with no
better man. No one will dare to impose on him while he is with Lew
Simpson, whom I will instruct to take good care of the boy. Upon
reaching Fort Laramie, Billy can, if he wishes, exchange places with
some fresh man coming back on a returning train, and thus come home
without making the whole trip.”
This seemed to satisfy mother, and then she had a long talk with
Simpson himself, imploring him not to forget his promise to take
good care of her precious boy. He promised everything that she asked.
Thus, after much trouble, I became one of the members of Simpson's
train. Before taking our departure, I arranged with Russell, Majors,
& Waddell that when my pay fell due it should be paid over to my
mother. As a matter of interest to the general reader, it may be well
in this connection to give a brief description of a freight train.
The wagons used in those days by Russell, Majors, & Waddell were known
as the “J. Murphy wagons,” made at St. Louis specially for the plains
business. They were very large and very strongly built, being capable
of carrying seven thousand pounds of freight each. The wagon-boxes
were very commodious—being about as large as the rooms of an ordinary
house—and were covered with two heavy canvas sheets to protect the
merchandise from the rain. These wagons were generally sent out from
Leavenworth, each loaded with six thousand pounds of freight, and each
drawn by several yokes of oxen in charge of one driver. A train
consisted of twenty-five wagons, all in charge of one man, who was
known as the wagon-master. The second man in command was the
assistant wagon-master; then came the “extra hand,” next the night
herder; and lastly, the cavayard driver, whose duty it was to drive
the lame and loose cattle. There were thirty-one men all told in a
train. The men did their own cooking, being divided into messes of
seven. One man cooked, another brought wood and water, another stood
guard, and so on—each having some duty to perform while getting
meals. All were heavily armed with Colt's pistols and Mississippi
yagers, and every one always had his weapons handy so as to be
prepared for any emergency.
The wagon-master, in the language of the plains, was called the
“bull-wagon boss”; the teamsters were known as “bull-whackers”;
and the whole train was denominated a “bull-outfit.” Everything at
that time was called an “outfit.” The men of the plains were always
full of droll humour and exciting stories of their own experiences,
and many an hour I spent in listening to the recitals of thrilling
adventures and hairbreadth escapes.
The trail to Salt Lake ran through Kansas northwestwardly, crossing
the Big Blue River, then over the Big and Little Sandy, coming into
Nebraska near the Big Sandy. The next stream of any importance was
the Little Blue, along which the trail ran for sixty miles; then
crossed a range of sand-hills, and struck the Platte River ten miles
below old Fort Kearny; thence the course lay up the South Platte to
the old Ash Hollow Crossing, thence eighteen miles across to the North
Platte, near the mouth of the Blue Water, where General Harney had his
great battle in 1855 with the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. From this
point the North Platte was followed, passing Court House Rock,
Chimney Rock, and Scott's Bluffs, and then on to Fort Laramie, where
the Laramie River was crossed. Still following the North Platte for
some considerable distance, the trail crossed the river at old
Richard's Bridge, and followed it up to the celebrated Red Buttes,
crossing the Willow Creeks to the Sweetwater, passing the great
Independence Rock and the Devil's Gate, up to the Three Crossings of
the Sweetwater, thence past the Cold Springs, where, three feet under
the sod, on the hottest day of summer, ice can be found; thence to
the Hot Springs and the Rocky Ridge, and through the Rocky Mountains
and Echo Cañon, and thence on to the Great Salt Lake Valley.
In order to take care of the business which then offered, the freight
for transportation being almost exclusively government provisions,
Russell, Majors, & Waddell operated thirty-five hundred wagons,
for the hauling of which they used forty thousand oxen, and gave
employment to four thousand men; the capital invested by these three
freighters was nearly two million dollars. In their operations,
involving such an immense sum of money, and employing a class of
labourers incomparably reckless, some very stringent rules were
adopted by them, to which all their employees were made to subscribe.
In this code of discipline was the following obligation: “I, ——,
do hereby solemnly swear, before the Great and Living God, that during
my engagement, and while I am in the employ of Russell, Majors,
& Waddell, that I will under no circumstances use profane language;
that I will drink no intoxicating liquors of any kind; that I will
not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in
every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties,
and so direct all my acts as will win the confidence and esteem of my
employers, so help me God.”
This oath was the creation of Mr. Majors, who was a very pious and
rigid disciplinarian; he tried hard to enforce it, but how great was
his failure it is needless to say. It would have been equally
profitable had the old gentleman read the riot act to a herd of
stampeded buffaloes. And he believes it himself now.
The next day we rolled out of camp and proceeded on our way toward
the setting sun. Everything ran along smoothly with us from that
point until we came within about eighteen miles of Green River,
in the Rocky Mountains—where we camped at noon. At this place we had
to drive our cattle about a mile and a half to a creek to water them.
Simpson, his assistant, George Woods, and myself, accompanied by the
usual number of guards, drove the cattle over to the creek, and while
on our way back to camp we suddenly observed a party of twenty horsemen
rapidly approaching us. We were not yet in view of the wagons, as a
rise of ground intervened, and therefore we could not signal the
train-men in case of any unexpected danger befalling us. We had no
suspicion, however, that we were about to be trapped, as the strangers
were white men. When they had come up to us, one of the party, who
evidently was the leader, rode out in front and said:—
“How are you, Mr. Simpson?”
“You've got the best of me, sir,” said Simpson, who did not know him.
“Well, I rather think I have,” coolly replied the stranger, whose
words conveyed a double meaning, as we soon learned. We had all come
to a halt by this time and the strange horsemen had surrounded us.
They were all armed with double-barrelled shot-guns, rifles, and
revolvers. We also were armed with revolvers, but we had no idea of
danger, and these men, much to our surprise, had “got the drop” on us
and had covered us with their weapons, so that we were completely at
their mercy. The whole movement of corralling us was done so quietly
and quickly that it was accomplished before we knew it.
“I'll trouble you for your six-shooters, gentlemen,” now said the leader.
“I'll give 'em to you in a way you don't want,” replied Simpson.
The next moment three guns were levelled at Simpson. “If you make
a move you're a dead man,” said the leader.
Simpson saw that he was taken at a great disadvantage, and thinking
it advisable not to risk the lives of the party by any rash act on
his part, he said: “I see now that you have the best of me; but who
are you, anyhow?”
“I am Joe Smith,” was the reply.
“What! the leader of the Danites?” asked Simpson.
“You are correct,” said Smith, for he it was.
“Yes,” said Simpson, “I know you now; you are a spying scoundrel.”
Simpson had good reasons for calling him this and for applying to him
a much more opprobrious epithet, for only a short time before this,
Joe Smith had visited our train in the disguise of a teamster, and had
remained with us two days. He suddenly disappeared, no one knowing
where he had gone or why he had come among us. But it was all
explained to us now that he had returned with his Mormon Danites.
After they had disarmed us, Simpson asked, “Well, Smith, what are you
going to do with us?”
“Ride back with us and I'll soon show you,” said Smith.
We had no idea of the surprise which awaited us. As we came upon the
top of the ridge, from which we could view our camp, we were astonished
to see the remainder of the train-men disarmed, stationed in a group,
and surrounded by another squad of Danites, while other Mormons were
searching our wagons for such articles as they wanted.
“How is this?” inquired Simpson. “How did you surprise my camp without
a struggle? I can't understand it.”
“Easily enough,” said Smith; “your men were all asleep under the wagons,
except the cooks, who saw us coming and took us for returning
Californians or emigrants, and paid no attention to us until we rode up
and surrounded your train. With our arms covering the men, we woke
them up, and told them all they had to do was to walk out and drop
their pistols—which they saw was the best thing to do under
circumstances over which they had no control—and you can just bet
they did it.”
“And what do you propose to do with us now?” asked Simpson.
“I intend to burn your train,” said he; “you are loaded with supplies
and ammunition for Sidney Johnston, and as I have no way to convey
the stuff to my own people, I'll see that it does not reach the
United States troops.”
“Are you going to turn us adrift here?” asked Simpson, who was anxious
to learn what was going to become of himself and his men.
“No; I am hardly so bad as that. I'll give you enough provisions to
last you until you can reach Fort Bridger,” replied Smith; “and as soon
as your cooks can get the stuff out of the wagons, you can start.”
“On foot?” was the laconic inquiry of Simpson.
“Yes, sir,” was the equally short reply.
“Smith, that's too rough on us men. Put yourself in our place and
see how you would like it,” said Simpson; “you can well afford to give
us at least one wagon and six yokes of oxen to convey us and our
clothing and provisions to Fort Bridger. You're a brute if you don't
“Well,” said Smith, after consulting a minute or two with some of his
company, “I'll do that much for you.”
The cattle and the wagon were brought up according to his orders,
and the clothing and provisions were loaded on.
“Now you can go,” said Smith, after everything had been arranged.
“Joe Smith, I think you are a mean coward to set us afloat in a
hostile country without giving us our arms,” said Simpson, who had
once before asked for the weapons, and had had his request denied.
Smith, after further consultation with his comrades, said:—
“Simpson, you are too brave a man to be turned adrift here without
any means of defence. You shall have your revolvers and guns.”
Our weapons were accordingly handed over to Simpson, and we at once
started for Fort Bridger, knowing that it would be useless to attempt
the recapture of our train.
When we had travelled about two miles, we saw the smoke rise from our
old camp. The Mormons, after taking what goods they wanted and could
carry off, had set fire to the wagons, many of which were loaded with
bacon, lard, hard-tack, and other provisions, which made a very hot,
fierce fire, and the smoke to roll up in dense clouds. Some of the
wagons were loaded with ammunition, and it was not long before loud
reports followed in rapid succession. We waited and witnessed the
burning of the train, and then pushed on to Fort Bridger. Arriving at
this post, we learned that two other trains had been captured and
destroyed in the same way, by the Mormons. This made seventy-five
wagon loads, or 450,000 pounds of supplies, mostly provisions, which
never reached General Johnston's command, to which they had been
After reaching the fort, it being far in November, we decided to spend
the winter there with about four hundred other employees of Russell,
Majors, & Waddell, rather than attempt a return, which would have
exposed us to many dangers and the severity of the rapidly approaching
winter. During this period of hibernation, however, the larders of
the commissary became so depleted that we were placed on one-quarter
rations, and at length, as a final resort, the poor, dreadfully
emaciated mules and oxen were killed to afford sustenance for our
Fort Bridger being located in a prairie, all fuel used there had to
be carried for a distance of nearly two miles, and after our mules and
oxen were butchered we had no other recourse than to carry the wood on
our backs or haul it on sleds, a very tedious and laborious alternative.
Starvation was beginning to lurk about the post when spring approached,
and but for the timely arrival of a westward-bound train loaded with
provisions for Johnston's army, some of our party must certainly have
fallen victims to deadly hunger.
The winter finally passed away, and early in the spring, as soon as
we could travel, the civil employees of the government, with the
teamsters and freighters, started for the Missouri River, the Johnston
expedition having been abandoned. On the way down we stopped at
Fort Laramie, and there met a supply-train bound westward. Of course
we all had a square meal once more, consisting of hard-tack, bacon,
coffee, and beans. I can honestly say that I thought it was the best
meal I had ever eaten; at least I relished it more than any other,
and I think the rest of the party did the same.
On leaving Fort Laramie, Simpson was made brigade wagon-master, and
was put in charge of two large wagon-trains, with about four hundred
extra men, who were bound for Fort Leavenworth. When we came to Ash
Hollow, instead of taking the usual trail over to the South Platte,
Simpson decided to follow the North Platte down to its junction with
the South Platte. The two trains were travelling about fifteen miles
apart, when one morning while Simpson was with the rear train,
he told his assistant wagon-master, George Woods, and myself, to
saddle up our mules, as he wanted us to go with him and overtake the
We started off at about eleven o'clock and had ridden about seven
miles, when—while we were on a big plateau, back of Cedar Bluffs—
we suddenly discovered a band of Indians coming out of the head of a
ravine, half a mile distant, and charging down upon us at full speed.
I thought that our end had come this time. Simpson, however, was
equal to the occasion, for with wonderful promptness he jumped from
his jaded mule, and in a trice shot his own animal and ours also,
and ordered us to assist him to jerk their bodies into a triangle.
This being quickly done, we got inside the barricade of mule flesh
and were prepared to receive the Indians. We were each armed with
a Mississippi yager and two revolvers, and as the Indians came swooping
down on our improvised fort, we opened fire with such good effect that
three fell dead at the first volley. This caused them to retreat out
of range, as with two exceptions they were armed with bows and arrows,
and therefore, to approach near enough to do execution would expose at
least several of them to certain death. Seeing that they could not
take our little fortification, or drive us from it, they circled
around several times, shooting their arrows at us. One of these
struck George Woods in the left shoulder, inflicting only a slight
wound, however, and several lodged in the bodies of the dead mules;
otherwise they did us no harm. The Indians finally galloped off to
a safe distance, where our bullets could not reach them, and seemed
to be holding a council. This was a lucky move for us, for it gave us
an opportunity to reload our guns and pistols, and prepare for the
next charge of the enemy. During the brief cessation of hostilities,
Simpson extracted the arrow from Woods' shoulder, and put an immense
quid of tobacco on the wound. Woods was then ready for business again.
The Indians did not give us a very long rest, for with another
desperate charge, as if to ride over us, they came dashing toward
the mule barricade. We gave them a hot reception with our yagers and
revolvers. They could not stand or understand the rapidly repeating
fire of the revolver, and we checked them again. They circled around
us once more and gave us a few parting shots as they rode off, leaving
behind them another dead Indian and a horse.
For two hours afterward they did not seem to be doing anything but
holding a council. We made good use of this time by digging up the
ground inside the barricade, with our knives, and throwing the loose
earth around and over the mules, and we soon had a very respectable
fortification. We were not troubled any more that day, but during the
night the cunning rascals tried to burn us out by setting fire to the
prairie. The buffalo grass was so short that the fire did not trouble
us much, but the smoke concealed the Indians from our view, and they
thought they could approach close to us without being seen. We were
aware of this and kept a sharp lookout, being prepared all the time
to receive them. They finally abandoned the idea of surprising us.
Next morning, bright and early, they gave us one more grand charge,
and again we “stood them off.” They then rode away half a mile or so
and formed a circle around us. Each man dismounted and sat down,
as if to wait and starve us out. They had evidently seen the advance
train pass on the morning of the previous day, and believed that we
belonged to that outfit and were trying to overtake it; they had
no idea that another train was on its way after us.
Our hopes of escape from this unpleasant and perilous situation now
depended upon the arrival of the rear train, and when we saw that the
Indians were going to besiege us instead of renewing their attacks,
we felt rather confident of receiving timely assistance. We had
expected that the train would be along late in the afternoon of the
previous day, and as the morning wore away we were somewhat anxious
and uneasy at its non-arrival.
At last, about ten o'clock, we began to hear in the distance the loud
and sharp reports of the big bull-whips, which were handled with great
dexterity by the teamsters, and cracked like rifle-shots. These were
as welcome sounds to us as were the notes of the bagpipes to the
besieged garrison at Lucknow, when the reënforcements were coming up
and the pipers were heard playing, “The Campbells are coming.”
In a few moments we saw the lead or head wagon coming slowly over the
ridge, which had concealed the train from our view, and soon the whole
outfit made its appearance. The Indians observed the approaching
train, and, assembling in a group, they held a short consultation.
Then they charged upon us once more, for the last time, and as they
turned and dashed away over the prairie, we sent our farewell shots
rattling after them. The teamsters, seeing the Indians and hearing
the shots, came rushing forward to our assistance, but by the time
they reached us the redskins had almost disappeared from view.
The teamsters eagerly asked us a hundred questions concerning our
fight, admired our fort, and praised our pluck. Simpson's remarkable
presence of mind in planning the defence was the general topic of
conversation among all the men.
When the teams came up we obtained some water and bandages with which
to dress Woods' wound, which had become quite inflamed and painful,
and we then put him into one of the wagons. Simpson and myself
obtained a remount, bade good-by to our dead mules which had served us
so well, and after collecting the ornaments and other plunder from the
dead Indians, we left their bodies and bones to bleach on the prairie.
The train moved on again and we had no other adventures except several
exciting buffalo-hunts on the South Platte, near Plum Creek.
We arrived at Fort Leavenworth about the middle of July, 1858, when
I immediately visited home.
I had been home only about a month, after returning from Fort Bridger,
when I again started out with another train, going this time as
assistant wagon-master under Buck Bomer. We went safely through to
Fort Laramie, which was our destination, and from there we were ordered
to take a load of supplies to a new post called Fort Wallace, which
was being established at Cheyenne Pass. We made this trip and got
back to Fort Laramie about November 1. I then quit the employ of
Russell, Majors, & Waddell, and joined a party of trappers who were
sent out by the post trader, Mr. Ward, to trap on the streams of the
Chugwater and Laramie for beaver, otter, and other fur animals, and
also to poison wolves for their pelts. We were out two months, but as
the expedition did not prove very profitable, and was rather dangerous
on account of the Indians, we abandoned the enterprise and came into
Fort Laramie in the latter part of December.
Being anxious to return to the Missouri River, I joined with two
others, named Scott and Charley, who were also desirous of going East
on a visit, bought three ponies and a pack-mule, and we started out
together. We made rapid progress on our journey, and nothing worthy
of note happened until one afternoon, along the banks of the Little
Blue River, we spied a band of Indians hunting on the opposite side of
the stream, three miles away. We did not escape their notice, and
they gave us a lively chase for two hours, but they could find no good
crossing, and as evening came on we finally got away from them.
We travelled until late in the night, when upon discovering a low,
deep ravine which we thought would make a comfortable and safe
camping-place, we stopped for a rest. In searching for a good place
to make our beds, I found a hole, and called to my companions that
I had found a place for a rest. One of the party was to stand guard
while the others slept. Scott took the first watch, while Charley and
I prepared our beds.
While clearing out the place we felt something rough, but as it was
dark we could not make out what it was. At any rate we concluded that
it was bones or sticks of wood; we thought perhaps it might be the
bones of some animal which had fallen in there and died. These bones,
for such they really proved to be, we pushed one side, and then we lay
down. But Charley, being an inveterate smoker, could not resist the
temptation of indulging in a smoke before going to sleep. So he
sat up and struck a match to light his old pipe. Our subterranean
bedchamber was thus illuminated for a moment or two; I sprang to my
feet in an instant, for a ghastly and horrifying sight was revealed
to us. Eight or ten human skeletons lay scattered upon the ground!
The light of the match died out, but we had seen enough to convince
us that we were in a large grave, into which, perhaps, some unfortunate
emigrants, who had been killed by the Indians, had been thrown; or,
probably, seeking refuge there, they had been corralled and killed
on the spot. If such were the case they had met the fate of thousands
of others, whose friends have never heard of them since they left
their Eastern homes to seek their fortunes in the far West. However,
we did not care to investigate this mystery any further, but we hustled
out of that chamber of death and informed Scott of our discovery.
Most of the plainsmen are very superstitious, and we were no exception
to the general rule. We surely thought that this incident was an evil
omen, and that we would be killed if we remained there any longer.
“Let us dig out of here quicker than we can say Jack Robinson,” said
Scott; and we began to “dig out” at once. We saddled our animals and
hurriedly pushed forward through the darkness, travelling several
miles before we again went into camp. Next morning it was snowing
fiercely, but we proceeded as best we could, and that night we
succeeded in reaching Oak Grove Ranch which had been built during the
summer. We here obtained comfortable accommodations and plenty to eat
and drink—especially the latter.
Scott and Charley were great lovers and consumers of “tanglefoot” and
they soon got gloriously drunk. They kept it up for three days,
during which time they gambled with the ranchmen, who got away with
all their money; but little they cared for that, as they had their
spree. They finally sobered up, and we resumed our journey, urging
our jaded animals as much as they could stand, until we struck
Marysville on the Big Blue. From this place to Leavenworth we secured
first-rate accommodations along the road, as the country had become
pretty well settled.
In the spring of 1879, the Fifth Cavalry were ordered to the Department
of the Platte and took up their line of march for Fort McPherson,
Nebraska. We laid over one day at Fort Wallace, to get supplies, and
from Fort Wallace we moved down to Sheridan, where the command halted
for us to lay in a supply of forage which was stored there. I was
still messing with Major Brown, with whom I went into the village to
purchase a supply of provisions for our mess; but unfortunately we
were in too jolly a mood to fool away money on “grub.” We bought
several articles, however, and put them into the ambulance and sent
them back to camp with our cook. The major and myself did not return
until reveille next morning. Soon afterward the general sounded
“boots and saddles,” and presently the regiment was on its way to
It was late before we went into camp that night and we were very tired
and hungry. Just as Major Brown was having his tent put up, his cook
came to us and asked where the provisions were that he had bought the
“Why, did we not give them to you—did you not bring them to camp in
the ambulance?” asked Brown.
“No, sir; it was only a five-gallon demijohn of whiskey, a five-gallon
demijohn of brandy, and two cases of Old Tom-Cat gin,” said the cook.
“The mischief!” I exclaimed; “didn't we spend any money for grub at
“No, sir,” replied the cook.
“Well, that will do for the present,” said Major Brown.
It seems that our minds had evidently been running on a different
subject than provisions while we were loitering in Sheridan, and we
found ourselves, with a two hundred and fifty mile march ahead of us,
without anything more inviting than ordinary army rations.
At this juncture Captain Denny came up and the major apologized for
not being able to invite him to take supper with us; but we did the
next best thing, and asked him to take a drink. He remarked that that
was what he was looking for, and when he learned of our being out of
commissary supplies and that we had bought nothing except whiskey,
brandy, and gin, he said joyously:—
“Boys, as we have an abundance, you can eat with us and we will drink
It was a satisfactory arrangement, and from that time forward we traded
our liquors for solids. When the rest of the officers heard of what
Brown and I had done they all sent us invitations to dine with them
at any time. We returned the compliment by inviting them to drink
with us whenever they were dry. Although I would not advise anybody
to follow our example, yet it is a fact that we got more provisions
for our whiskey than the same money, which we paid for the liquor,
would have bought; so after all it proved a very profitable investment.
On reaching North Fork of the Beaver and riding down the valley
toward the stream, I suddenly discovered a large, fresh Indian trail.
On examination I found it to be scattered all over the valley on both
sides of the creek, as if a very large village had recently passed
down that way. Judging from the size of the trail, I thought there
could not be less than four hundred lodges, or between twenty-five
hundred and three thousand warriors, women, and children in the band.
I galloped back to the command, distant about three miles, and
reported the news to General Carr, who halted the regiment, and after
consulting a few minutes, ordered me to select a ravine, or as low
ground as possible, so that we could keep the troops out of sight
until we could strike the creek.
We went into camp on the Beaver, and the general ordered Lieutenant
Ward to take twelve men and myself and follow up the trail for several
miles, and find out how fast the Indians were travelling. I was soon
convinced, by the many camps they had made, that they were travelling
slowly, and hunting as they journeyed. We went down the Beaver on
this scout about twelve miles, keeping our horses well concealed under
the banks of the creek, so as not to be discovered.
At this point Lieutenant Ward and myself, leaving our horses behind us,
crawled to the top of a high knoll, where we could have a good view
for some miles down the stream. We peeped over the summit of the hill,
and, not over three miles away, we could see a whole Indian village in
plain sight, and thousands of ponies grazing around on the prairie.
Looking over to our left on the opposite side of the creek,
we observed two or three parties of Indians coming in, loaded down
with buffalo meat.
“This is no place for us, Lieutenant,” said I; “I think we have
important business at the camp to attend to as soon as possible.”
“I agree with you,” said he; “and the quicker we get there the better
it will be for us.”
We quickly descended the hill and joined the men below. Lieutenant
Ward quickly wrote a note to General Carr, and handing it to a corporal,
ordered him to make all possible haste back to the command and deliver
the message. The man started off on a gallop, and Lieutenant Ward
said: “We will march slowly back until we meet the troops, as I think
the general will soon be here, for he will start immediately upon
receiving my note.”
In a few minutes we heard two or three shots in the direction in which
our despatch courier had gone, and soon after we saw him come running
around the bend of the creek, pursued by four or five Indians.
The lieutenant, with his squad of soldiers and myself, at once charged
among them, when they turned and ran across the stream.
“This will not do,” said Lieutenant Ward, “the whole Indian village
will now know that soldiers are near by.”
“Lieutenant, give me that note, and I will take it to the general,”
He gladly handed me the despatch, and spurring my horse I dashed up
the creek. After having ridden a short distance, I observed another
party of Indians also going to the village with meat; but instead of
waiting for them to fire on me, I gave them a shot at long range.
Seeing one man firing at them so boldly, it surprised them, and they
did not know what to make of it. While they were thus considering,
I got between them and our camp. By this time they had recovered from
their surprise, and cutting their buffalo meat loose from their horses,
they came after me at the top of their speed; but as their steeds were
tired out, it did not take me long to leave them far in the rear.
I reached the command in less than an hour, delivered the despatch to
General Carr, and informed him of what I had seen. He instantly had
the bugler sound “boots and saddles,” and all the troops—with the
exception of two companies which we left to guard the train—were soon
galloping in the direction of the Indian camp.
We had ridden about three miles when we met Lieutenant Ward, who was
coming slowly toward us. He reported that he had run into a party of
Indian buffalo-hunters, and had killed one of the number, and had had
one of his horses wounded. We immediately pushed forward, and after
marching about five miles came within sight of hundreds of mounted
Indians advancing up the creek to meet us. They formed a complete
line in front of us. General Carr, being desirous of striking their
village, ordered the troops to charge, break through their line, and
keep straight on. This movement would, no doubt, have been successfully
accomplished had it not been for the rattle-brained and daredevil
French Lieutenant Schinosky, commanding Company B, who, misunderstanding
General Carr's orders, charged upon some Indians at the left, while
the rest of the command dashed through the enemy's line, and was
keeping straight on, when it was observed that Schinosky and his
company were surrounded by four or five hundred redskins. The general,
to save the company, was obliged to sound a halt, and charge back to
the rescue. The company, during this short fight, had several men and
quite a number of horses killed.
All this took up valuable time, and night was coming on. The Indians
were fighting desperately to keep us from reaching their village,
which, being informed by couriers of what was taking place, was
packing up and getting away. During that afternoon it was all that
we could do to hold our own in fighting the mounted warriors, who were
in our front, and contesting every inch of the ground. The general
had left word for our wagon-train to follow up with its escort of two
companies, but as it had not made its appearance he entertained some
fears that it had been surrounded, and to prevent the loss of the
supply-train we had to go back and look for it. About nine o'clock
that evening we found it, and went into camp for the night.
Early the next day we broke camp and passed down the creek, but there
was not an Indian to be seen. They had all disappeared and gone with
their village. Two miles farther we came to where a village had been
located, and here we found nearly everything belonging or pertaining
to an Indian camp, which had been left in the great hurry to get away.
These articles were all gathered up and burned. We then pushed out
on the trail as fast as possible. It led us to the northeast toward
the Republican; but as the Indians had a night the start of us we
entertained but little hope of overtaking them that day. Upon
reaching the Republican in the afternoon the general called a halt,
and as the trail was running more to the east, he concluded to send
his wagon-train on to Fort McPherson by the most direct route, while
he would follow on the trail of the redskins.
Next morning at daylight we again pulled out, and were evidently
gaining rapidly on the Indians, for we could occasionally see them in
the distance. About eleven o'clock that day, while Major Babcock was
ahead of the main command with his company, and while we were crossing
a deep ravine, we were surprised by about three hundred warriors who
commenced a lively fire upon us. Galloping out of the ravine on to
the rough prairie the men dismounted and returned the fire. We soon
succeeded in driving the enemy before us, and were so close upon them
at one time that they abandoned, and threw away nearly all their
lodges and camp equipage, and everything that had any considerable
weight. They left behind them their played-out horses, and for miles
we could see Indian furniture strewn along in every direction.
The trail became divided, and the Indians scattered in small bodies,
all over the prairie. As night was approaching, and our horses were
about giving out, a halt was called. A company was detailed to
collect all the Indian horses running loose over the country, and to
burn the other Indian property.
The command being nearly out of rations I was sent to the nearest
point, old Fort Kearny, about sixty miles distant for supplies.
Shortly after we reached Fort McPherson, which continued to be the
headquarters of the Fifth Cavalry for some time, we fitted out a new
expedition to the Republican River country, and were reënforced by
three companies of the celebrated Pawnee Indian scouts, commanded by
Major Frank North: his officers being Captain Lute North, brother of
the major, Captain Cushing, his brother-in-law, Captain Morse, and
Lieutenants Beecher, Matthews, and Kislandberry. General Carr
recommended at this time to General Augur, who was in command of the
Department, that I be made chief of scouts in the Department of the
Platte, and informed me that in this position I would receive higher
wages than I had been getting in the Department of the Missouri.
This appointment I had not asked for.
I made the acquaintance of Major Frank North, and I found him and his
officers perfect gentlemen, and we were all good friends from the very
start. The Pawnee scouts had made quite a reputation for themselves,
as they had performed brave and valuable services in fighting against
the Sioux, whose bitter enemies they were; being thoroughly acquainted
with the Republican and Beaver country, I was glad that they were to
be with the expedition, and my expectation of the aid they would
render was not disappointed.
During our stay at Fort McPherson I made the acquaintance of Lieutenant
George P. Belden, known as “The White Chief.” I found him to be an
intelligent, dashing fellow, a splendid rider, and an excellent shot.
While we were at this post, General Augur and several of his officers,
and also Thomas Duncan, Brevet Brigadier and Lieutenant-Colonel of the
Fifth Cavalry, paid us a visit for the purpose of reviewing the command.
The regiment turned out in fine style and showed themselves to be
well-drilled soldiers, thoroughly understanding military tactics.
The Pawnee scouts were also reviewed and it was very amusing to see
them in their full regulation uniform. They had been furnished a
regular cavalry uniform and on this parade some of them had their
heavy overcoats on, others their large black hats, with all the brass
accoutrements attached; some of them were minus pantaloons and only
wore a breech-clout. Others wore regulation pantaloons but no shirts,
and were bareheaded; others again had the seat of their pantaloons
cut out, leaving only leggings; some of them wore brass spurs, though
without boots or moccasins; but for all this they seemed to understand
the drill remarkably well for Indians. The commands, of course, were
given to them in their own language by Major North, who could talk it
as well as any full-blooded Pawnee. The Indians were well mounted and
felt proud and elated because they had been made United States soldiers.
Major North had for years complete power over these Indians and could
do more with them than any man living. That evening after the parade
was over the officers and quite a number of ladies visited a grand
Indian dance given by the Pawnees, and of all the Indians I have ever
seen, their dances excel those of any other tribe.
Next day the command started; when encamped, several days after,
on the Republican River near the mouth of the Beaver, we heard the
whoops of the Indians, followed by shots in the vicinity of the mule
herd, which had been taken down to water. One of the herders came
dashing into camp with an arrow sticking into him. My horse was close
at hand, and, mounting him bareback, I at once dashed off after the
mule herd, which had been stampeded. I supposed that certainly
I would be the first man on the ground, but I was mistaken, however,
for the Pawnee Indians, unlike regular soldiers, had not waited to
receive orders from their officers, but had jumped on their ponies
without bridles or saddles, and placing ropes in their mouths, had
dashed off in the direction whence the shots had come, and had got
there ahead of me. It proved to be a party of about fifty Sioux,
who had endeavoured to stampede our mules, and it took them by surprise
to see their inveterate enemies—the Pawnees—coming at full gallop
toward them. They were not aware that the Pawnees were with the
command, and as they knew that it would take regular soldiers some
time to turn out, they thought they would have ample opportunity to
secure the herd before the troops could give chase.
We had a running fight of fifteen miles and several of the enemy were
killed. During this chase I was mounted on an excellent horse, which
Colonel Royall had picked out for me, and for the first mile or two
I was in advance of the Pawnees. Presently a Pawnee shot by me like
an arrow and I could not help admiring the horse he was riding.
Seeing that he possessed rare running qualities, I determined to get
possession of the animal in some way. It was a large buckskin or
yellow horse, and I took a careful view of him so that I would know
him when I returned to camp. After the chase was over I rode up to
Major North and inquired about the buckskin horse.
“Oh, yes,” said the major, “that is one of our favourite steeds.”
“What chance is there to trade for him?” I asked.
“It is a government horse,” said he, “and the Indian who is riding him
is very much attached to him.”
“I have fallen in love with the horse myself,” said I, “and I would
like to know if you have any objections to my trading for him if I can
arrange it satisfactorily with the Indian?”
He replied: “None whatever, and I will help you to do it; you can give
the Indian another horse in his place.”
A few days after this, I persuaded the Indian, by making him several
presents, to trade horses with me, and in this way I became the owner
of the buckskin steed, not as my own property, however, but as a
government horse that I could ride. I gave him the name of “Buckskin
Joe,” and he proved to be a good second Brigham. That horse I rode
off and on during the summers of 1869, '70, '71, and '72, and he was
the horse that the Grand Duke Alexis rode on his buffalo-hunt.
The command scouted several days up the Beaver and Prairie Dog rivers,
occasionally having running fights with war-parties of Indians, but
did not succeed in getting them into a general battle. At the end of
twenty days we found ourselves back on the Republican.
Hitherto the Pawnees had not taken much interest in me, but while at
this camp I gained their respect and admiration by showing them how
I killed buffaloes. I had gone out in company with Major North and
some of the officers, and saw them make a “surround.” Twenty of the
Pawnees circled a herd and succeeded in killing only thirty-two.
While they were cutting up the animals another herd appeared in sight.
The Indians were preparing to surround it, when I asked Major North
to keep them back and let me show them what I could do. He accordingly
informed the Indians of my wish, and they readily consented to let me
have the opportunity. I had learned that Buckskin Joe was an excellent
buffalo horse, and felt confident that I would astonish the natives;
galloping in among the buffaloes, I certainly did so, by killing
thirty-six in less than a half-mile run. At nearly every shot I killed
a buffalo, stringing the animals out on the prairie, not over fifty
feet apart. This manner of killing was greatly admired by the Indians,
who called me a big chief, and from that time on I stood high in their
On leaving camp, the command took a westward course up the Republican,
and Major North with two companies of his Pawnees and two or three
companies of cavalry, under the command of Colonel Royall, made a
scout to the north of the river. Shortly after we had gone into camp,
on the Black Tail Deer Fork, we observed a band of Indians coming over
the prairie at full gallop, singing and yelling and waving their
lances and long poles. At first we supposed them to be Sioux, and all
was excitement for a few moments. We noticed, however, that our
Pawnee Indians made no hostile demonstrations or preparations toward
going out to fight them, but began swinging and yelling themselves.
Captain Lute North stepped up to General Carr and said:—
“General, those are our men who are coming, and they have had a fight.
That is the way they act when they come back from a battle and have
taken any scalps.”
The Pawnees came into camp on the run. Captain North calling to one
of them—a sergeant—soon found out that they had run across a party
of Sioux who were following a large Indian trail. These Indians had
evidently been in a fight, for two or three of them had been wounded,
and they were conveying the injured persons on travois.
The Pawnees had “jumped” them and killed three or four after a sharp
fight, in which much ammunition was expended.
Next morning the command, at an early hour, started out to take up
this Indian trail which they followed for two days as rapidly as
possible, it becoming evident from the many camp-fires which we passed
that we were gaining on the Indians. Wherever they had encamped
we found the print of a woman's shoe, and we concluded that they had
with them some white captive. This made us all the more anxious to
overtake them, and General Carr accordingly selected all his best
horses, which could stand a hard run, and gave orders for the
wagon-train to follow as fast as possible, while he pushed ahead on a
forced march. At the same time I was ordered to pick out five or six
of the best Pawnees, and go on in advance of the command, keeping ten
or twelve miles ahead on the trail, so that when we overtook the
Indians we could find out the location of their camp, and send word to
the troops before they came in sight, thus affording ample time to
arrange a plan for the capture of the village.
After having gone about ten miles in advance of the regiment, we began
to move very cautiously, as we were now evidently nearing the Indians.
We looked carefully over the summits of the hills before exposing
ourselves to plain view, and at last we discovered the village encamped
in the sand-hills south of the South Platte River at Summit Springs.
Here I left the Pawnee scouts to keep watch while I went back and
informed General Carr that the Indians were in sight.
The general at once ordered his men to tighten their saddles and
otherwise prepare for action. Soon all was excitement among the
officers and soldiers, every one being anxious to charge the village.
I now changed my horse for old Buckskin Joe, who had been led for me
thus far, and was comparatively fresh. Acting on my suggestion,
the general made a circuit to the north, believing that if the Indians
had their scouts out, they would naturally be watching in the
direction whence they had come. When we had passed the Indians and
were between them and the Platte River, we turned toward the left and
started for the village.
As we halted on the top of the hill overlooking the camp of the
unsuspecting Indians, General Carr called out to his bugler: “Sound
the charge!” The bugler for a moment became intensely excited, and
actually forgot the notes. The general again sang out: “Sound the
charge!” and yet the bugler was unable to obey the command.
Quartermaster Hays, who had obtained permission to accompany the
expedition, was riding near the general, and comprehending the dilemma
of the man, rushed up to him, jerked the bugle from his hands, and
sounded the charge himself in clear and distinct notes. As the troops
rushed forward, he threw the bugle away, then, drawing his pistols,
was among the first men that entered the village.
The Indians had just driven up their horses and were preparing to make
a move of the camp, when they saw the soldiers coming down upon them.
A great many of them succeeded in jumping upon their ponies, and
leaving everything behind them, advanced out of the village and
prepared to meet the charge; but upon second thought they quickly
concluded that it was useless to try to check us, and those who were
mounted rapidly rode away, while the others on foot fled for safety to
the neighbouring hills. We went through their village, shooting right
and left at everything we saw. The Pawnees, the regular soldiers, and
officers were all mixed up together, and the Sioux were flying in
The pursuit continued until darkness made it impossible to longer
follow the Indians, who had scattered and were heading off in every
direction like a brood of young quails.
It was nearly sunrise when “boots and saddles” was sounded, breakfast
having been disposed of at the first streak of dawn. The command
started in a most seasonable time, but finding that the trail was all
broken up, it was deemed advisable to separate into companies, each
to follow a different one.
The company which I headed struck out toward the northwest over a
route indicating the march of about one hundred Indians, and we
followed this for nearly two days. At a short bend of the Platte a
new trail was discovered leading into the one the company was following,
and at this point it was evident that a junction had been made.
Farther along, evidences of a reunion of the entire village increased,
and now it began to appear that farther pursuit would be somewhat
hazardous, owing to the greater force of the Indians. But there were
plenty of brave men in the company, and nearly all were anxious to
meet the Indians, however great their numbers might be. This anxiety
was appeased on the third day, when a party of about six hundred Sioux
was discovered riding in close ranks near the Platte. The discovery
was mutual, and there was immediate preparation for battle on both
sides. Owing to the overwhelming force of the Indians, extreme caution
became necessary, and instead of advancing boldly, the soldiers sought
advantageous ground. Seeing this, the Indians became convinced that
there had been a division of General Carr's command, and that the
company before them was a fragmentary part of the expedition; they
therefore assumed the aggressive, charging us until we were compelled
to retire to a ravine and act on the defensive. The attack was made
with such caution that the soldiers fell back without undue haste, and
had ample opportunity to secure their horses in the natural pit, which
was a ravine that during wet seasons formed a branch of the Platte.
After circling about the soldiers with the view of measuring their
full strength, the Indians, comprehending how small was the number,
made a desperate charge from two sides, getting so near us that
several of the soldiers were badly wounded by arrows. But the Indians
were received with such a withering fire that they fell back in
confusion, leaving twenty of their warriors on the ground. Another
charge resulted like the first, with heavy loss to the redskins, which
so discouraged them that they drew off and held a protracted council.
After discussing the situation among themselves for more than an hour
they separated, one body making off as though they intended to leave,
but I understood too well to allow the soldiers to be deceived.
The Indians who remained again began to ride in a circle around us,
but maintained a safe distance, out of rifle range. Seeing an
especially well-mounted Indian riding at the head of a squad, passing
around in the same circle more than a dozen times, I decided to take
my chances for dismounting the chief—as he proved to be—and to
accomplish this purpose I crawled on my hands and knees three hundred
yards up the ravine, stopping at a point which I considered would be
in range of the Indian when he should again make the circuit.
My judgment proved correct, for soon the Indian was seen loping his
pony through the grass, and as he slackened speed to cross the ravine,
I rose up and fired, the aim being so well taken that the chief
tumbled to the ground, while his horse, after running a few hundred
yards, approached the soldiers, one of whom ran out and caught hold
of the long lariat attached to the bridle, and thus secured the animal.
When I returned to the company, all of whom had witnessed my feat of
killing an Indian at a range of fully four hundred yards, by general
consent the horse of the victim was given to me.
This Indian whom I killed proved to be Tall Bull, one of the most able
chiefs the Sioux ever had; and his death so affected the Indians that
they at once retreated without further attempt to dislodge us.
Some days after this occurrence General Carr's command was brought
together again, and had an engagement with the Sioux, in which more
than three hundred warriors and a large number of ponies were captured,
together with several hundred squaws, among the latter being Tall
Bull's widow, who told with pathetic interest how the Prairie Chief
had killed her husband.
MASSACRE OF CUSTER'S COMMAND.
I remained at Fort Sedgwick during the winter, and early the following
spring I returned to Fort McPherson, under orders to report to
Major-General Emory of the Fifth Cavalry, who had been appointed
commander of the District of the Republican, with headquarters at that
post. As the command had been almost continuously in the field,
it was generally thought that we were to have a long rest. During
the fall of 1869 there were two or three scouting expeditions sent out,
but nothing of very great importance was accomplished by them.
There was plenty of game in the vicinity, and within a day's ride
there were large herds of deer, antelope, and elk, which I spent a
great deal of time in hunting.
Early one morning in the spring of 1870 the Indians, who had approached
the post during the night, stole twenty-one head of horses from a
government contractor. They also ran off some of the government
animals, and among the number my pony, Powder Face. Company I of the
Fifth Cavalry was immediately ordered out after the savages, and I was
directed to accompany them as trailer. We discovered their tracks
after some difficulty, as the Indians were constantly trying to hide
them, and we followed them sixty miles, when darkness set in.
We were within about four miles of Red Willow Creek, and I felt
confident the Indians would camp that night in the vicinity. Advising
the commanding officer to halt his company and “lay low,” I proceeded
on to the creek, where, moving around cautiously, I suddenly discovered
horses feeding in a bend of the stream on the opposite side. I hurried
back to the troops with the information, and Lieutenant Thomas moved
his company to the bank of the creek, with the intention of remaining
there until daylight, and then, if possible, surprise the Indians.
Just at break of day we mounted our horses, and after riding a short
distance we ascended a slight elevation, when, not over one hundred
yards distant, we looked down into the Indian camp. The Indians,
preparing to make an early start, had driven up their horses and were
in the act of mounting, when they saw us charging down upon them.
In a moment they sprang upon their ponies and dashed away. Had it not
been for the creek, which lay between us and them, we would have got
them before they could have mounted their horses; but as it was rather
miry, we were unexpectedly delayed. The Indians fired some shots at
us while we were crossing, but as soon as we got over we went for them
in hot pursuit. A few of the redskins, not having time to mount,
had started on foot toward the brush. One of these was killed.
A number of our soldiers, who had been detailed before the charge to
gather up any of the Indian horses that might be stampeded, succeeded
in capturing thirty-two. I hurriedly looked over them to see if
Powder Face was there, but he was not. Starting in pursuit of the
fugitives I finally espied an Indian mounted on my favourite, dashing
away and leading all the others. We continued the chase for two or
three miles, overtaking a couple of Indians who were mounted on
one horse. Coming up behind them I fired my rifle, when they were
about thirty feet away; the ball passed through the backs of both,
and they fell head-long to the ground; but I made no stop, however,
just then, for I had my eye on the savage who was riding Powder Face.
It seemed to be fun for him to run away from us, and run away he did,
for the last I saw of him he was going over a divide about three miles
away. I bade him adieu. On my way back to the Indian camp I stopped
and secured the war-bonnets and accoutrements of the pair I had killed,
and at the same time gently raised their hair.
We were feeling rather tired and hungry as we had started out on the
trail thirty-six hours before without breakfast and taking no rations
with us; but there was no murmur of complaint. In the abandoned camp,
however, we had sufficient dried buffalo meat to give us all a meal,
and, after remaining there for two hours to rest our animals, we
commenced our return trip to Fort McPherson, where we arrived at night,
having travelled one hundred and thirty miles in two days.
This being the first fight Lieutenant Thomas had ever commanded in,
he felt highly elated over his success, and hoped that his name would
be mentioned in the special orders for gallantry; sure enough, when we
returned both he, myself, and the whole command received complimentary
mention in a special order. This he certainly deserved, for he was a
brave, energetic, dashing little officer. The war-bonnets which I had
captured I turned over to General Carr, with the request that he
present them to General Augur, whose daughters were visiting at the
post at the time.
Shortly after this another expedition was organized at Fort McPherson
for the Republican River country. It was commanded by General Duncan,
who was a jolly, blustering old fellow, and the officers who knew him
well said that we would have a good time, as he was very fond of
hunting. He was a good fighter, and one of the officers said that an
Indian bullet never could hurt him, as he had been shot in the head
with a cannon-ball which had not injured him in the least, but had
glanced off and killed one of the toughest mules in the army.
The Pawnee scouts, who had been mustered out of service during the
winter of 1869-1870, we reorganized to accompany this expedition.
I was glad of this, as I had become quite attached to one of the
officers, Major North, and to many of the Indians. The only white
scout we had at the post, besides myself, at that time, was John Y.
Nelson, whose Indian name was Sha-Cha-Cha-Opoyeo, which interpreted
means Red Willow fill the Pipe. This man is a character in his way;
he has a Sioux squaw for a wife, and consequently a half-breed family.
We started out from the post with the regimental band playing the
lively air of “The Girl I left behind Me.” We made but a short march
that day, and camped at night at the head of Fox Creek. Next morning
General Duncan sent me word by his orderly that I was to bring up my
gun and shoot at a mark with him; but I can assure the reader that I
did not feel much like shooting anything except myself, for on the
previous night I had returned to Fort McPherson and spent several
hours in interviewing the sutler's store in company with Major Brown.
I looked around for my gun, and found that I had left it behind.
The last that I could remember about it was that I had it at the
sutler's store. I informed Major Brown of my loss, who said that I
was a nice scout to start out without a gun. I replied that that was
not the worst of it, as General Duncan had sent for me to shoot a
match with him, and I did not know what to do; for if the old gentleman
discovered my predicament, he would very likely severely reprimand me.
“Well, Cody,” said he, “the best you can do is to make some excuse,
and then go and borrow a gun from some of the men, and tell the
general you lent yours to some man to go hunting with to-day. While
we are waiting here, I will send back to the post and get your rifle
for you.” I succeeded in obtaining a gun from John Nelson, and then,
marching up to the general's headquarters, I shot the desired match,
which resulted in his favour.
This was the first scout the Pawnees had been on under the command of
General Duncan, and in stationing his guards around the camp, he posted
them in a manner entirely different from General Carr and Colonel
Royall, as he insisted that the different posts should call out the
hour of the night thus:—
“Post No. 1, nine o'clock, all is well!” etc.
The Pawnees, who had their regular turns at standing upon guard, were
ordered to call the hour the same as the white soldiers. This was
very difficult for them to do, as there were but few of them who could
express themselves in English. Major North explained to them that
when the man on post next to them should call out the hour, they must
call it also, copying him as nearly as possible. It was very amusing
to hear them do this. They would try to remember what the other man
had said on the post next to them. For instance, a white soldier
would call out, “Post No. 1, half-past nine o'clock, all is well!”
The Indian standing next to him knew that he was bound to say something
in English, and he would sing out something like the following:—
“Poss number half-pass five cents—go to ——! I don't care!”
This system was really so ridiculous and amusing that the general had
to give it up, and the order was accordingly countermanded.
Nothing of any great interest occurred on this march, until one day,
while proceeding up Prairie Dog Creek, Major North and myself went out
in advance of the command several miles and killed a number of
buffaloes. Night was approaching, and I began to look around for a
suitable camping-ground for the command. Major North dismounted from
his horse and was resting, while I rode down the stream to see if
there was plenty of grass in the vicinity. I found an excellent
camping-spot, and, returning to Major North, told him that I would ride
over the hill a little way, so that the advance guard could see me.
This I did; and when the advance came in sight, I dismounted and lay
down upon the grass to rest.
Suddenly I heard three or four shots, and in a few moments Major North
came dashing up toward me, pursued by eight or ten Indians.
I instantly sprang into my saddle, and fired a few shots at the
Indians, who by this time had all come in sight, to the number of
fifty. We turned our horses and ran, the bullets flying after us
thick and fast, my whip being shot from my hand and daylight being put
through the crown of my hat. We were in close quarters, when suddenly
Lieutenant Volkmar came galloping up to our relief with several
soldiers; and the Indians, seeing them, whirled and retreated.
As soon as Major North got in sight of his Pawnees he began riding in
a circle. This was a sign to them that there were hostile Indians in
front; and in a moment the Pawnees broke ranks pell-mell, and, with
Major North at their head, started for the flying warriors. The rest
of the command pushed forward, also, and chased the enemy for three or
four miles, killing three of them.
But this was a wrong move on our part, as their village was on Prairie
Dog Creek, while they led us in a different direction; one Indian only
kept straight on up the creek—a messenger to the village. Some of
the command, who had followed him, stirred up the village and
accelerated its departure. We finally got back to the main force, and
then learned that we had made a great mistake. Now commenced another
The second day that we had been following these Indians we came upon
an old squaw, whom they had left on the prairie to die. Her people
had built for her a little shade or lodge, and had given her some
provisions, sufficient to last her on her trip to the happy
hunting-grounds. This the Indians often do when pursued by an enemy
and one of their number becomes too old to travel any longer.
This squaw was recognized by John Nelson, who said she was a relative
of his wife. From her we learned that the flying Indians were known
as Pawnee-Killer's band, and that they had lately killed Buck's
surveying party, consisting of eight or nine men, the massacre having
occurred a few days before on Beaver Creek. We knew that they had
had a fight with the surveyors, as we found quite a number of
surveying instruments, which had been left in the abandoned camp.
We drove these Indians across the Platte River and then returned to
Fort McPherson, bringing the old squaw with us; from there she was
sent to the Spotted Tail agency.
Fort McPherson was in the centre of a fine game country, in which
buffalo were particularly plentiful, and though fairly surrounded by
hostile Indians, it offered so many attractions for sportsmen that
several hunting-parties braved the dangers for the pleasures of
buffalo-chasing. In September, 1871, General Sheridan brought a
number of friends out to the post for a grand hunt, coming by way of
North Platte in a special car, and thence by government wagons to
the fort, which was only eighteen miles from that station.
Soon after the departure of General Sheridan's party, General Carr
started out on a twenty days' scout, not so much for the purpose of
fighting 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 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 the expedition.
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 either to 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.
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 before he
discovered who was at the bottom of the affair.
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 with them
continually 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, commanded by General Reynolds. They had
been on duty for some time in Arizona, where they had acquired quite
a reputation on account of their Indian fighting qualities. Shortly
after their arrival 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 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 redskins 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 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 teepee, 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 teepee,
followed by my men. We nearly ran over the Indians, who were
endeavouring 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 reënforcements 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, leaving one to hold the horses, and 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
reënforcements 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 another—myself—slightly
wounded. One of our horses was killed, and Buckskin Joe was wounded,
but I didn't discover the fact until some time afterward, 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 Aleck 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 we killed.
In 1876 the great Sioux war was inaugurated. Colonel Mills had
written me several letters saying that General Crook was anxious for
me to 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 hastened on to
Cheyenne, where the Fifth Cavalry had already arrived. I was met at
the depot by Lieutenant King, adjutant of the regiment, who had 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, one of the boys shouted, “Here's Buffalo
Bill!” Soon after there came three hearty cheers from the regiment.
Officers and men were all 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 the post we found General Sheridan there, accompanied by
General Frye and General Forsythe, 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 committed a great many depredations on the Union
Pacific Railroad, destroying telegraph lines, and also on the Black
Hills road, running off stock, 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 engagements with
roving bands of Indians during the time. General Wesley Merritt—who
had at that time but 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. He also brought orders to
General Merritt to proceed at once to Fort Fetterman and join General
Crook in the Big Horn country.
The extraordinary and sorrowful interest attaching to the destruction
of Custer and his brave followers prompts me to give a brief
description of the causes leading thereto, and some of the details of
that horrible sacrifice which so melts the heart to pity.
When the Black Hills gold fever first broke out in 1874, a rush of
miners into that country resulted in much trouble, as the Indians
always regarded the region with jealous interest, and resisted all
encroachments of white men. Instead of the government adhering to the
treaty of 1868 and restraining white men from going into the Hills,
General Custer was sent out, in 1874, to intimidate the Sioux.
The unrighteous spirit of this order the general wisely disregarded,
but proceeded to Prospect Valley, and from there he pushed into the
Valley of the Little Missouri. Custer expected to find good grazing
ground in this valley, suitable for a camp which he intended to pitch
there for several days, and reconnoitre. The country, however, was
comparatively barren, and the march was therefore continued to the
Belle Fourche Valley, where excellent grazing, water, and plenty of
wood was found.
Crossing the Fourche the regiment was now among the outlying ranges
of the Hills, where a camp was made and some reconnoitring done; but,
finding no Indians, General Custer continued his march, skirting the
Black Hills and passing through a country which he described as
beautiful beyond description, abounding with a most luxurious
vegetation, cool crystal streams, a profusion of bright,
sweet-smelling flowers, and plenty of game.
Proceeding down this lovely valley, which he appropriately named
Floral Park, an Indian camp-fire, recently abandoned, was discovered,
and fearing a collision unless pains were taken to prevent it, Custer
halted and sent out his chief scout, Bloody Knife, with twenty
friendly Indian allies, to trail the departed Sioux. They had gone
but a short distance when, as Custer himself relates,
Two of Bloody Knife's young men came galloping back and
informed me that they had discovered five Indian lodges a few
miles down the valley, and that Bloody Knife, as directed,
had concealed his party in a wooded ravine, where they awaited
further orders. Taking Company E with me, which was afterward
reënforced by the remainder of the scouts and Colonel Hart's
company, I proceeded to the ravine where Bloody Knife and his
party lay concealed, and from the crest beyond obtained a full
view of the five Indian lodges, about which a considerable
number of ponies were grazing. I was enabled to place my
command still nearer to the lodges undiscovered. I then
despatched Agard, the interpreter, with a flag of truce,
accompanied by ten of our Sioux scouts, to acquaint the
occupants of the lodges that we were friendly disposed and
desired to communicate with them. To prevent either treachery
or flight on their part, I galloped the remaining portion of
my advance and surrounded the lodges. This was accomplished
almost before they were aware of our presence. I then entered
the little village and shook hands with its occupants,
assuring them through the interpreter that they had no cause
to fear, as we were not there to molest them, etc.
Finding there was no disposition on the part of General Custer to harm
them, the Indians despatched a courier to their principal village,
requesting the warriors to be present at a council with the whites.
This council was held on the following day, but though Custer dispensed
coffee, sugar, bacon, and other presents to the Indians, his advice to
them regarding the occupation of their country by miners was treated
with indifference, for which, he observes in his official report,
“I cannot blame the poor savages.”
During the summer of 1875 General Crook made several trips into the
Black Hills to drive out the miners and maintain the government's
faith, but while he made many arrests there was no punishment, and
the whole proceeding became farcical. In August of the same year
Custer City was laid out, and two weeks later it contained a population
of six hundred souls. These General Crook drove out, but as he marched
from the place others swarmed in and the population was immediately
It was this inability, or real indisposition, of the government to
enforce the terms of the treaty of 1868, that led to the bitter war
with Sitting Bull, and which terminated so disastrously on the 25th
of June, 1876.
It is a notorious fact that the Sioux Indians, for four years
immediately preceding the Custer massacre, were regularly supplied
with the most improved fire-arms and ammunition by the agencies at
Brûlé, Grand River, Standing Rock, Port Berthold, Cheyenne, and Fort
Peck. Even during the campaign of 1876, in the months of May, June,
and July, just before and after Custer and his band of heroes rode
down into the valley of death, these fighting Indians received eleven
hundred and twenty Remington and Winchester rifles and four hundred
and thirteen thousand rounds of patent ammunition, besides large
quantities of loose powder, lead, and primers, while during the summer
of 1875 they received several thousand stands of arms and more than
a million rounds of ammunition. With this generous provision there is
no cause for wonder that the Sioux were able to resist the government
and attract to their aid all the dissatisfied Cheyennes and other
Indians in the Northwest.
Besides a perfect fighting equipment, all the Indians recognized in
Sitting Bull the elements of a great warrior, one whose superior,
perhaps, has never been known among the tribe; he combined all the
strategic cunning of Tecumseh with the cruel, uncompromising hatred
of Black Kettle, while his leadership was far superior to both.
Having decided to precipitate a terrible war, he chose his position
with consummate judgment, selecting a central vantage point surrounded
by what is known as the “Bad Lands,” and then kept his supply source
open by an assumed friendship with the Canadian French. This he was
the better able to accomplish, since some years before he had
professed conversion to Christianity under the preaching of Father
Desmet and maintained a show of friendship for the Canadians.
War against the Sioux having been brought about by the combined Black
Hill outrages and Sitting Bull's threatening attitude, it was decided
to send out three separate expeditions, one of which should move from
the north, under General Terry, from Fort Lincoln; another from the
east, under General Gibbon, from Fort Ellis, and another from the
south, under General Crook, from Fort Fetterman; these movements were
to be simultaneous, and a junction was expected to be formed near the
headwaters of the Yellowstone River.
For some cause, which I will refrain from discussing, the commands did
not start at the same time. General Crook did not leave Fetterman
until March 1, with seven hundred men and forty days' supply.
The command was entrusted to Colonel Reynolds of the Third Cavalry,
accompanied by General Crook, the department commander. Nothing was
heard from this expedition until the 22d following, when General Crook
forwarded from Fort Reno a brief account of his battle on Powder River.
The result of this fight, which lasted five hours, was the destruction
of Crazy Horse's village of one hundred and five lodges; or that is
the way the despatch read, though many assert that the battle resulted
in little else than a series of remarkable blunders which suffered the
Indians to make good their escape, losing only a small quantity of
One serious trouble rose out of the Powder River fight, which was
found in an assertion made by General Crook, or at least attributed
to him, that his expedition had proved that instead of being fifteen
or twenty thousand hostile Indians in the Black Hills and Big Horn
country, the total number would not exceed two thousand. It was upon
this estimation that the expeditions were prepared.
The Terry column, which was commanded by General Custer, consisted
of twelve companies of the Seventh Cavalry, and three companies of
the Sixth and Seventeenth Infantry, with four Gatling guns, and
a detachment of Indian scouts. This force comprised twenty-eight
officers and seven hundred and forty-seven men of the Seventh Cavalry,
eight officers and one hundred and thirty-five men of the Sixth and
Seventeenth Infantry, two officers and thirty-two men in charge of
the Gatling battery, and forty-five enlisted Indian scouts, a grand
total of thirty-eight officers and nine hundred and fifty-nine men,
The combined forces of Crook, Gibbon, Terry, and Custer did not exceed
twenty-seven hundred men, while opposed to them were fully seventeen
thousand Indians, all of whom were provided with the latest and most
improved patterns of repeating rifles.
On the 16th of June General Crook started for the Rosebud, on which
stream it was reported that Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were
stationed; about the same time a party of Crow Indians who were
operating with General Crook returned from a scout and reported that
General Gibbon, who was on Tongue River, had been attacked by Sitting
Bull, who had captured several horses. Crook pushed on rapidly toward
the Rosebud, leaving his train behind and mounting his infantry on
mules. What were deemed accurate reports stated that Sitting Bull was
still on the Rosebud, only sixty miles from the point where General
Crook camped on the night of the 15th of June. The command travelled
forty miles on the 16th, and when within twenty miles of the Sioux'
principal position, instead of pushing on, General Crook went into camp.
The next morning he was much surprised to find himself attacked by
Sitting Bull, who swooped down upon him with the first streaks of
coming dawn, and a heavy battle followed. General Crook, who had
camped in a basin surrounded on all sides by high hills, soon found
his position so dangerous that it must be changed at all hazards.
The advance was at once with Noyes' battalion occupying a position
on the right, Mills on the right centre, Chambers in the centre, and
the Indian allies on the left. Mills and Noyes charged the enemy in
magnificent style, breaking the line and striking the rear. The fight
continued hot and furious until two o'clock in the afternoon, when a
gallant charge of Colonel Royall, who was in reserve, supported by
the Indian allies, caused the Sioux to draw off to their village,
six miles distant, while General Crook went into camp, where he
remained inactive for two days.
In the meantime, as the official report recites: “Generals Terry and
Gibbon communicated with each other June 1, near the junction of the
Tongue and Yellowstone rivers, and learned that a heavy force of
Indians had concentrated on the opposite bank of the Yellowstone,
but eighteen miles distant. For fourteen days the Indian pickets had
confronted Gibbon's videttes.”
General Gibbon reported to General Terry that the cavalry had
thoroughly scouted the Yellowstone as far as the mouth of the Big Horn,
and no Indians had crossed it. It was now certain that they were not
prepared for them, and on the Powder, Tongue, Rosebud, Little Big Horn,
and Big Horn rivers, General Terry at once commenced feeling for them.
Major Reno of the Seventh Cavalry, with six companies of that regiment,
was sent up Powder River one hundred and fifty miles, to the mouth
of Little Powder River, to look for the Indians, and if possible to
communicate with General Crook. He reached the mouth of the Little
Powder in five days, but saw no Indians, and could hear nothing of
Crook. As he returned, he found on the Rosebud a very large Indian
trail about nine days old, and followed it a short distance, when
he turned about up Tongue River, and reported to General Terry what
he had seen. It was now known that no Indians were on either Tongue
or Little Powder rivers, and the net had narrowed down to Rosebud,
Little Big Horn, and Big Horn rivers.
General Terry had been waiting with Custer and the steamer _Far West_
at the mouth of Tongue River, for Reno's report, and as soon as he
heard it he ordered Custer to march up the south bank to a point
opposite General Gibbon, who was encamped on the north bank of the
Yellowstone. Accordingly Terry, on board the steamer _Far West_,
pushed up the Yellowstone, keeping abreast of General Custer's column.
General Gibbon was found in camp quietly awaiting developments.
A consultation was had with Generals Gibbon and Custer, and then
General Terry definitely fixed upon the plan of action. It was
believed that the Indians were at the head of the Rosebud, or over
on the Little Big Horn, a dividing ridge only fifteen miles wide and
separating the two streams. It was announced by General Terry that
General Custer's column would strike the blow.
At the time that a junction was formed between Gibbon and Terry,
General Crook was about one hundred miles from them, while Sitting
Bull's forces were between the commands. After his battle Crook fell
back to the head of Tongue River. The Powder, Tongue, Rosebud, and
Big Horn rivers all flow northwest, and empty into the Yellowstone;
as Sitting Bull was between the headwaters of the Rosebud and Big Horn,
the main tributary of the latter being known as the Little Big Horn,
a sufficient knowledge of the topography of the country is thus
afforded by which to definitely locate Sitting Bull and his forces.
Having now ascertained the position of the enemy, or reasoned out the
probable position, General Terry sent a despatch to General Sheridan,
as follows: “No Indians have been met with as yet, but traces of a
large and recent camp have been discovered twenty or thirty miles up
the Rosebud. Gibbon's column will move this morning on the north side
of the Yellowstone, for the mouth of the Big Horn, where it will be
ferried across by the supply steamer, and whence it will proceed to
the mouth of the Little Big Horn, and so on. Custer will go to the
Rosebud to-morrow with his whole regiment, and thence to the
headwaters of the Little Big Horn, thence down that stream.”
Following this report came an order, signed by E. W. Smith, Captain of