Part 4 out of 6
"General, I think the scouts are mistaken," said I, "for the Beaver has
more water near its head than it has below; and at the place where we
will strike the stream we will find immense beaver dams, large enough and
strong enough to cross the whole command, if you wish."
"Well, Cody, go ahead," said he, "I'll leave it to you, but remember
that I don't want a dry camp."
"No danger of that," said I, and then I rode on, leaving him to return to
the command. As I had predicted, we found water seven or eight miles
further on, where we came upon a beautiful little stream--a tributary of
the Beaver--hidden in the hills. We had no difficulty in selecting a
good halting place, and obtaining fresh spring water and excellent grass.
The General, upon learning from me that the stream--which was only eight
or nine miles long--had no name, took out his map and located it, and
named it Cody's Creek, which name it still bears.
We pulled out early next morning for the Beaver, and when we were
approaching the stream I rode on ahead of the advance guard, in order to
find a crossing. Just as I turned a bend of the creek, "bang!" went a
shot, and down went my horse--myself with him. I disentangled myself, and
jumped behind the dead body. Looking in the direction whence the shot had
come, I saw two Indians, and at once turned my gun loose on them, but in
the excitement of the moment I missed my aim. They fired two or three
more shots, and I returned the compliment, wounding one of their horses.
On the opposite side of the creek, going over the hill, I observed a few
lodges moving rapidly away, and also some mounted warriors, who could see
me, and who kept blazing away with their guns. The two Indians who had
fired at me and had killed my horse were retreating across the creek on a
beaver dam. I sent a few shots after them to accelerate their speed, and
also fired at the ones on the other side of the stream. I was undecided
as to whether it was best to run back to the command on foot or hold my
position. I knew that within a few minutes the troops would come up, and
if they heard the firing they would come rapidly.
The Indians, seeing that I was alone, turned and charged down the hill,
and were about to re-cross the creek to corral me, when the advance guard
of the command put in an appearance on the ridge, and dashed forward to
my rescue. The red-skins whirled and made off.
When General Carr came up, he ordered Company I to go in pursuit of the
band. I accompanied Lieutenant Brady, who commanded, and we had a running
fight with the Indians, lasting several hours. We captured several head
of their horses and most of their lodges. At night we returned to the
command, which by this time had crossed the creek on the beaver dam.
We scouted for several days along the river, and had two or three lively
skirmishes. Finally our supplies began to run low, and General Carr gave
orders to return to Fort Wallace, which we reached three days afterwards,
and where we remained several days.
While the regiment was waiting here for orders, I spent most of the time
in hunting buffaloes, and one day while I was out with a small party, we
were "jumped" by about fifty Indians. We had a severe fight of at least
an hour, when we succeeded in driving the enemy. They lost four of their
warriors, and probably concluded that we were a hard crowd. I had some
excellent marksmen with me, and they did some fine work, sending the
bullets thick and fast where they would do the most good. Two or three of
our horses had been hit, and one man had been wounded; we were ready and
willing to stay with the red-skins as long as they wished--but they
finally gave it up however, as a bad job, and rode off. We finished our
hunt, and went back to the post loaded down with plenty of buffalo meat,
and received the compliments of the General for our little fight.
[Illustration: A HARD CROWD.]
A TOUGH TIME.
General Carr soon received orders from General Sheridan that he was to
make a winter's campaign in the Canadian river country, and that we were
to proceed to Fort Lyon, on the Arkansas river, in Colorado, and there
fit out for the expedition. Leaving Fort Wallace in November, 1868, we
arrived at Fort Lyon in the latter part of the month, and outfitted for
the coming expedition.
General Penrose had left this post three weeks previously with a command
of some three hundred men. He had taken no wagons with him and his supply
train was composed only of pack mules. General Carr was ordered to follow
with supplies on his trail and overtake him as soon as possible. I was
particularly anxious to catch up with Penrose's command, as my old
friend Wild Bill was among his scouts. We followed the trail very easily
for the first three days, and then we were caught in Freeze-Out canyon by
a fearful snow storm, which compelled us to go into camp for a day. The
ground now being covered with snow, we found that it would be almost
impossible to follow Penrose's trail any further, especially as he had
left no sign to indicate the direction he was going. General Carr sent
for me and said that as it was very important that we should not lose the
trail, he wished that I would take some scouts with me, and while the
command remained in camp, push on as far as possible and see if I could
not discover some traces of Penrose or where he had camped at any time.
[Illustration: CAMPING IN THE SNOW.]
Accompanied by four men I started out in the blinding snow storm, taking
a southerly direction. We rode twenty-four miles, and upon reaching a
tributary of the Cimarron, we scouted up and down the stream for a few
miles and finally found one of Penrose's old camps. It was now late in
the afternoon, and as the command would come up the next day, it was not
necessary for all of us to return with the information to General Carr.
So riding down into a sheltered place in a bend of the creek, we built a
fire and broiled some venison from a deer which we had shot during the
day, and after eating a substantial meal, I left the four men there,
while I returned to bring up the troops.
It was eleven o'clock at night when I got back to the camp. A light was
still burning in the General's tent, he having remained awake, anxiously
awaiting my return. He was glad to see me, and was overjoyed at the
information I brought, for he had great fears concerning the safety of
General Penrose. He roused up his cook and ordered him to get me a good
hot supper, all of which I greatly appreciated. I passed the night in the
General's tent, and next morning rose refreshed and prepared for a big
The command took up its march next day for the Cimarron, and had a hard
tramp of it on account of the snow having drifted to a great depth in
many of the ravines, and in some places the teamsters had to shovel their
way through. We arrived at the Cimarron at sundown, and went into a nice
warm camp. Upon looking around next morning, we found that Penrose,
having been unencumbered by wagons, had kept on the west side of the
Cimarron, and the country was so rough that it was impossible for us to
stay on his trail with our wagons; but knowing that he would certainly
follow down the river, General Carr concluded to take the best wagon
route along the stream, which I discovered to be on the east side. Before
we could make any headway with our wagon train we had to leave the river
and get out on the divide. We were very fortunate that day in finding a
splendid road for some distance, until we were all at once brought up
standing on a high table-land, overlooking a beautiful winding creek that
lay far below us in the valley. The question that troubled us, was, how
we were to get the wagons down. We were now in the foot-hills of the
Rattoon Mountains, and the bluff we were on was very steep.
"Cody, we're in a nice fix now," said General Carr.
"Oh, that's nothing," was my reply.
"But you can never take the train down," said he.
"Never you mind the train, General. You say you are looking for a good
camp. How does that beautiful spot down in the valley suit you?" I
"That will do. I can easily descend with the cavalry, but how to get the
wagons down there is a puzzler to me," said he.
"By the time you've located your camp, your wagons shall be
there," said I.
"All right, Cody, I'll leave it to you, as you seem to want to be boss,"
replied he pleasantly. He at once ordered the command to dismount and
lead the horses down the mountain-side. The wagon train was a mile in the
rear, and when it came up, one of the drivers asked: "How are we going
"Run down, slide down or fall down--any way to get down," said I.
"We never can do it; it's too steep; the wagons will run over the mules,"
said another wagon-master.
"I guess not; the mules have got to keep out of the way," was my reply.
Telling Wilson, the chief wagon-master, to bring on his mess-wagon, which
was at the head of the train, I said I would try the experiment at least.
Wilson drove the team and wagon to the brink of the hill, and following
my directions he brought out some extra chains with which we locked both
wheels on each side, and then rough-locked them. We then started the
wagon down the hill. The wheel-horses--or rather the wheel-mules--were
good on the hold-back, and we got along finely until we nearly reached
the bottom, when the wagon crowded the mules so hard that they started on
a run and galloped down into the valley and to the place where General
Carr had located his camp. Three other wagons immediately followed in the
same way, and in half an hour every wagon was in camp, without the least
accident having occurred. It was indeed an exciting sight to see the
six-mule teams come straight down the mountain and finally break into a
full run. At times it looked as if the wagons would turn a somersault and
land on the mules.
This proved to be a lucky march for us as far as gaining on Penrose was
concerned, for the route he had taken on the west side of the stream
turned out to be a bad one, and we went with our immense wagon train as
far in one day as Penrose had in seven. His command had marched on to a
plateau or high table-land so steep, that not even a pack mule could
descend it, and he was obliged to retrace his steps a long ways, thus
losing three days time as we afterwards learned.
While in this camp we had a lively turkey hunt. The. trees along the
banks of the stream were literally alive with wild turkeys, and after
unsaddling the horses between two and three hundred soldiers surrounded a
grove of timber and had a grand turkey round-up, killing four or five
hundred of the birds, with guns, clubs and stones. Of course, we had
turkey in every style after this hunt--roast turkey, boiled turkey, fried
turkey, "turkey on toast," and so on; and we appropriately called this
place Camp Turkey.
From this point on, for several days, we had no trouble in following
Penrose's trail, which led us in a southeasterly direction towards the
Canadian River. No Indians were seen, nor any signs of them found. One
day, while riding in advance of the command, down San Francisco Creek, I
heard some one calling my name from a little bunch of willow brush on the
opposite bank, and, upon looking closely at the spot, I saw a negro.
"Sakes alive! Massa Bill, am dat you?" asked the man, whom I recognized
as one of the colored soldiers of the Tenth Cavalry. I next heard him say
to some one in the brush: "Come out o' heah. Dar's Massa Buffalo Bill."
Then he sang out, "Massa Bill, is you got any hawd tack?"
"Nary a hard tack; but the wagons will be along presently, and then you
can get all you want," said I.
"Dat's de best news I'se heerd foah sixteen long days, Massa Bill," said
he. "Where's your command? Where's General Penrose?" I asked.
"I dunno," said the darkey; "we got lost, and we's been a starvin'
By this time two other negroes had emerged from their place of
concealment. They had deserted Penrose's command--which was out of
rations and nearly in a starving condition--and were trying to make their
way back to Fort Lyon. General Carr concluded, from what they could tell
him, that General Penrose was somewhere on Polladora Creek; but we could
not learn anything definite from the starved "mokes," for they knew not
where they were themselves.
Having learned that General Penrose's troops were in such bad shape,
General Carr ordered Major Brown to start out the next morning with two
companies of cavalry and fifty pack-mules loaded with provisions, and to
make all possible speed to reach and relieve the suffering soldiers. I
accompanied this detachment, and on the third day out we found the
half-famished soldiers camped on the Polladora. The camp presented a
pitiful sight, indeed. For over two weeks the men had had only quarter
rations, and were now nearly starved to death. Over two hundred horses
and mules were lying dead, having died from fatigue and starvation.
General Penrose, having feared that General Carr would not find him, had
sent back a company of the Seventh Cavalry to Fort Lyon for supplies; but
no word as yet had been heard from them. The rations which Major Brown
brought to the command came none too soon, and were the means of saving
many a life.
[Illustration: A WELCOME VISITOR]
About the first man I saw after reaching the camp was my old, true and
tried friend, Wild Bill. That night we had a jolly reunion around the
General Carr, upon arriving with his force, took command of all the
troops, he being the senior officer and ranking General Penrose. After
selecting a good camp, he unloaded the wagons and sent them back to Fort
Lyon for fresh supplies. He then picked out five hundred of the best men
and horses, and, taking his pack-train with him, he started south for the
Canadian River, distant about forty miles, leaving the rest of the troops
at the supply camp.
I was ordered to accompany this expedition. We struck the south fork of
the Canadian River, or Rio Colorado, at a point a few miles above the old
_adobe_ walls, which at one time had composed a fort, and was the place
where Kit Carson once had a big Indian fight. We were now within twelve
miles of a new supply depot, called Camp Evans, which had been
established for the Third Cavalry and Evans's Expedition from New Mexico.
The scouts who had brought in this information also reported that they
expected the arrival at Camp Evans of a bull-train from New Mexico with
a large quantity of beer for the soldiers. This news was "pie" for Wild
Bill and myself, and we determined to lie low for that beer outfit. That
very evening it came along, and the beer that was destined for the
soldiers at Camp Evans never reached its destination. It went straight
down the thirsty throats of General Carr's command. It appears that the
Mexicans living near Fort Union had manufactured the beer, and were
taking it through to Camp Evans to sell to the troops, but it struck a
lively market without going so far. It was sold to our boys in pint cups,
and as the weather was very cold we warmed the beer by putting the ends
of our picket-pins heated red-hot into the cups. The result was one of
the biggest beer jollifications I ever had the misfortune to attend.
One evening General Carr summoned me to his tent, and said he wished to
send some scouts with dispatches to Camp Supply, which were to be
forwarded from there to Sheridan. He ordered me to call the scouts
together at once at his headquarters, and select the men who were to go.
I asked him if I should not go myself, but he replied that he wished me
to remain with the command, as he could not spare me. The distance to
Camp Supply was about two hundred miles, and owing to the very cold
weather it was anything but a pleasant trip. Consequently none of the
scouts were anxious to undertake it. It was finally settled, however,
that Wild Bill, a half-breed called Little Geary, and three other scouts
should carry the dispatches, and they accordingly took their departure
next day, with instructions to return to the command as soon as possible.
For several days we scouted along the Canadian River, but found no signs
of Indians. General Carr then went back to his camp, and soon afterwards
our wagon train came in from Fort Lyon with a fresh load of provisions.
Our animals being in poor condition, we remained in different camps along
San Francisco Creek and the north fork of the Canadian, until Wild Bill
and his scouts returned from Camp Supply.
Among the scouts of Penrose's command were fifteen Mexicans, and between
them and the American scouts there had existed a feud; when General Carr
took command of the expedition--uniting it with his own--and I was made
chief of all the scouts, this feud grew more intense, and the Mexicans
often threatened to clean us out; but they postponed the undertaking from
time to time, until one day, while we were all at the sutler's store, the
long-expected fight took place, and resulted in the Mexicans getting
General Carr, upon hearing of the row, sent for Wild Bill and myself, he
having concluded, from the various statements which had been made to
him, that we were the instigators of the affair. But after listening to
what we had to say, he thought that the Mexicans were as much to blame
as we were.
It is not to be denied that Wild Bill and myself had been partaking too
freely of "tanglefoot" that evening; and General Carr said to me: "Cody,
there are plenty of antelopes in the country, and you can do some hunting
for the camp while we stay here."
"All right, General, I'll do it."
After that I put in my time hunting, and with splendid success, killing
from fifteen to twenty antelopes a day, which kept the men well supplied
with fresh meat.
At length, our horses and mules having become sufficiently recruited to
travel, we returned to Fort Lyon, arriving there in March, 1869, where
the command was to rest and recruit for thirty days, before proceeding to
the Department of the Platte, whither it had been ordered.
AN EXCITING CHASE.
General Carr, at my request, kindly granted me one month's leave of
absence to visit my family in St. Louis, and ordered Captain Hays, our
quartermaster, to let me ride my mule and horse to Sheridan, distant 140
miles, where I was to take the cars. I was instructed to leave the
animals in the quartermaster's corral at Fort Wallace until I should come
back, but instead of doing this I put them both in the care of my old
friend Perry, the hotel-keeper at Sheridan. After a twenty days absence
in St. Louis, pleasantly spent with my family, I returned to Sheridan,
and there learned that my mule and horse had been seized by the
It seems that the quartermaster's agent at Sheridan had reported to
General Bankhead, commanding Fort Wallace, and to Captain Laufer, the
quartermaster, that I had left the country and had sold a government
horse and mule to Mr. Perry, and of course Captain Laufer took possession
of the animals and threatened to have Perry arrested for buying
government property. Perry explained to him the facts in the case and
said that I would return in a few days; but the captain would pay no
attention to his statements.
I immediately went over to the office of the quartermaster's agent, and
had Perry point him out to me. I at once laid hold of him, and in a
short time had treated him to just such a thrashing as his contemptible
He then mounted a horse, rode to Fort Wallace, and reported me to General
Bankhead and Captain Laufer, and obtained a guard to return with and
The next morning I secured a horse from Perry, and proceeding to Fort
Wallace demanded my horse and mule from General Bankhead, on the ground
that they were quartermaster Hays' property and belonged to General
Carr's command, and that I had obtained permission to ride them to
Sheridan and back. General Bankhead, in a gruff manner ordered me out of
his office and off the reservation, saying that if I didn't take a
hurried departure he would have me forcibly put out. I told him to do it
and be hanged; I might have used a stronger expression, and upon second
thought, I believe I did. I next interviewed Captain Laufer and demanded
of him also the horse and mule, as I was responsible for them to
Quartermaster Hays. Captain Laufer intimated that I was a liar and that I
had disposed of the animals. Hot words ensued between us, and he too
ordered me to leave the post. I replied that General Bankhead had
commanded me to do the same thing, but that I had not yet gone; and that
I did not propose to obey any orders of an inferior officer.
Seeing that it was of no use to make any further effort to get possession
of the animals I rode back to Sheridan, and just as I reached there I met
the quartermaster's agent coming out from supper, with his head tied up.
It occurred to me that he had not received more than one half the
punishment justly due him, and that now would be a good time to give him
the balance--so I carried the idea into immediate execution. After
finishing the job in good style, I informed him that he could not stay in
that town while I remained there, and convinced him that Sheridan was not
large enough to hold us both at the same time; he accordingly left the
place and again went to Fort Wallace, this time reporting to General
Bankhead that I had driven him away, and had threatened to kill him.
That night while sleeping at the Perry House, I was awakened by a tap on
the shoulder and upon looking up I was considerably surprised to see the
room filled with armed negroes who had their guns all pointed at me. The
first words I heard came from the sergeant, who said:
"Now look a-heah, Massa Bill, ef you makes a move we'll blow you off de
farm, shuah!" Just then Captain Ezekiel entered and ordered the soldiers
to stand back.
"Captain, what does this mean?" I asked.
"I am sorry, Bill, but I have been ordered by General Bankhead to arrest
you and bring you to Fort Wallace," said he.
"That's all right," said I, "but you could have made the arrest alone,
without having brought the whole Thirty-eighth Infantry with you." "I
know that, Bill," replied the Captain, "but as you've not been in very
good humor for the last day or two, I didn't know how you would act."
I hastily dressed, and accompanied Captain Ezekiel to Fort Wallace,
arriving there at two o'clock in the morning.
"Bill, I am really sorry," said Captain Ezekiel, as we alighted, "but I
have orders to place you in the guard-house, and I must perform my duty."
"Very well, Captain; I don't blame you a bit," said I; and into the
guard-house I went as a prisoner for the first and only time in my life.
The sergeant of the--guard who was an old friend of mine, belonging to
Captain Graham's company, which was stationed there at the time--did not
put me into a cell, but kindly allowed me to stay in his room and occupy
his bed, and in a few minutes I was snoring away as if nothing unusual
Shortly after _reveille_ Captain Graham called to see me. He thought it
was a shame for me to be in the guard-house, and said that he would
interview General Bankhead in my behalf as soon as he got up. The Captain
had a nice breakfast prepared for me, and then departed. At guard-mount I
was not sent for, contrary to my expectations, and thereupon I had word
conveyed to Captain Graham, who was officer of the day, that I wanted to
see General Bankhead. The Captain informed me that the General absolutely
refused to hold any conversation whatever with me.
At this time there was no telegraph line between Fort Wallace and Fort
Lyon, and therefore it was impossible for me to telegraph to General
Carr, and I determined to send a dispatch direct to General Sheridan. I
accordingly wrote out a long telegram informing him of my difficulty,
and had it taken to the telegraph office for transmission; but the
operator, instead of sending it at once as he should have done, showed
it to General Bankhead, who tore it up, and instructed the operator not
to pay any attention to what I might say, as he was running that post.
Thinking it very strange that I received no answer during the day I
went to the telegraph office, accompanied by a guard, and learned from
the operator what he had done. "See here, my young friend," said I,
"this is a public telegraph line, and I want my telegram sent, or
there'll be trouble."
I re-wrote my dispatch and handed it to him, accompanied with the money
to pay for the transmission, saying, as I did so: "Young man, I wish that
telegram sent direct to Chicago. You know it is your duty to send it, and
it must go."
He knew very well that he was compelled to transmit the message, but
before doing so he called on General Bankhead and informed him of what I
had said, and told him that he would certainly have to send it, for if he
didn't he might lose his position. The General, seeing that the telegram
would have to go, summoned me to his headquarters, and the first thing he
said, after I got into his presence was:
"If I let you go, sir, will you leave the post at once and not bother my
agent at Sheridan again?"
"No, sir;" I replied, "I'll do nothing of the kind. I'll remain in the
guard-house until I receive an answer from General Sheridan."
"If I give you the horse and mule will you proceed at once to Fort Lyon?"
"No, sir; I have some bills to settle at Sheridan and some other business
to transact," replied I.
"Well, sir; will you at least agree not to interfere any further with the
quartermaster's agent at Sheridan?"
"I shall not bother him any more, sir, as I have had all I want from
him," was my answer.
General Bankhead thereupon sent for Captain Laufer and ordered him to
turn the horse and mule over to me. In a few minutes more I was on my way
to Sheridan, and after settling my business there, I proceeded to Fort
Lyon, arriving two days afterwards. I related my adventures to General
Carr, Major Brown, and other officers, who were greatly amused thereby.
"I'm glad you've come, Bill," said General Carr, "as I have been
wanting you for the last two weeks. While we have been at this post
several valuable animals, as well as a large number of government
horses and mules have been stolen, and we think that the thieves are
still in the vicinity of the fort, but as yet we have been unable to
discover their rendezvous. I have had a party out for the last few days
in the neighborhood of old Fort Lyon, and they have found fresh tracks
down there and seem to think that the stock is concealed somewhere in
the timber, along the Arkansas river. Bill Green, one of the scouts who
has just come up from there, can perhaps tell you something more about
Green, who had been summoned, said that he had discovered fresh trails
before striking the heavy timber opposite old Fort Lyon, but that in the
tall grass he could not follow them. He had marked the place where he had
last seen fresh mule tracks, so that he could find it again.
"Now, Cody, you're just the person we want," said the General.
"Very well, I'll get a fresh mount, and to-morrow I'll go down and see
what I can discover," said I.
"You had better take two men besides Green, and a pack mule with eight or
ten days' rations," suggested the General, "so that if you find the trail
you can follow it up, as I am very anxious to get back this stolen
property. The scoundrels have taken one of my private horses and also
Lieutenant Forbush's favorite little black race mule."
Next morning I started out after the horse-thieves, being accompanied by
Green, Jack Farley, and another scout. The mule track, marked by Green,
was easily found, and with very little difficulty I followed it for about
two miles into the timber and came upon a place where, as I could plainly
see from numerous signs, quite a number of head of stock had been tied
among the trees and kept for several days. This was evidently the spot
where the thieves had been hiding their stolen stock until they had
accumulated quite a herd. From this point it was difficult to trail
them, as they had taken the stolen animals out of the timber one by one
and in different directions, thus showing that they were experts at the
business and experienced frontiersmen, for no Indian could have exhibited
more cunning in covering up a trail than did they.
I abandoned the idea of following their trail in this immediate locality,
so calling my men together, I told them that we would ride out for about
five miles and make a complete circuit about the place, and in this way
we would certainly find the trail on which they had moved out. While
making the circuit we discovered the tracks of twelve animals--four mules
and eight horses--in the edge of some sand-hills, and from this point we
had no trouble in trailing them down the Arkansas river, which they had
crossed at Sand Creek, and then had gone up the latter stream, in the
direction of Denver, to which place they were undoubtedly bound. When
nearing Denver their trail became so obscure that we at last lost it; but
by inquiring of the settlers along the road which they had taken, we
occasionally heard of them.
When within four miles of Denver--this was on a Thursday--we learned that
the horse-thieves had passed there two days before. I came to the
conclusion they would attempt to dispose of the animals in Denver, and
being aware that Saturday was the great auction day there, I thought it
best to remain where we were at a hotel, and not go into the city until
that day. It certainly would not have been advisable for me to have gone
into Denver meantime--because I was well-known there, and if the thieves
had learned of my presence in the city they would at once have suspected
Early Saturday morning, we rode into town and stabled our horses at the
Elephant Corral. I secured a room from Ed. Chase, overlooking the corral,
and then took up my post of observation. I did not have long to wait, for
a man, whom I readily recognized as one of our old packers, rode into the
corral mounted upon Lieutenant Forbush's racing mule, and leading another
government mule, which I also identified. It had been recently branded,
and over the "U.S." was a plain "D.B." I waited for the man's companion
to put in an appearance, but he did not come, and my conclusion was that
he was secreted outside of the city with the rest of the animals.
Presently the black mule belonging to Forbush was put up at auction. Now,
thought I, is the time to do my work. So, walking through the crowd, who
were bidding for the mule, I approached the man who had offered him for
sale. He recognized me and endeavored to escape, but I seized him by the
shoulder, saying: "I guess, my friend, that you'll have to go with me. If
you make any resistance, I'll shoot you on the spot." He was armed with a
pair of pistols, which I took away from him. Then informing the
auctioneer that I was a United States detective, and showing him--as well
as an inquisitive officer--my commission as such, I told him to stop the
sale, as the mule was stolen property, and that I had arrested the thief,
whose name was Williams.
Farley and Green, who were near at hand, now came forward, and together
we took the prisoner and the mules three miles down the Platte River;
there, in a thick bunch of timber, we all dismounted and made
preparations to hang Williams from a limb, if he did not tell us where
his partner was. At first he denied knowing anything about any partner,
or any other stock; but when he saw that we were in earnest, and would
hang him at the end of the given time--five minutes--unless he
"squealed," he told us that his "pal" was at an unoccupied house three
miles further down the river.
We immediately proceeded to the spot indicated, and as we came within
sight of the house we saw our stock grazing near by. Just as we rode up
to the door, another one of our old packers, whom I recognized as Bill
Bevins, stepped to the front, and I covered him instantly with my rifle
before he could draw his revolver. I ordered him to throw up his hands,
and he obeyed the command. Green then disarmed him and brought him out.
We looked through the house and found their saddles, pack-saddles,
blankets, overcoats, lariats and two Henry rifles, which we took
possession of. The horses and mules we tied in a bunch, and with the
whole outfit we returned to Denver, where we lodged Williams and Bevins
in jail, in charge of my friend, Sheriff Edward Cook. The next day we
took them out, and, tying each one on a mule, we struck out on our return
trip to Fort Lyon.
At the hotel outside the city, where we had stopped on Thursday and
Friday, we were joined by our man with the pack-mule. That night we
camped on Cherry Creek, seventeen miles from Denver. The weather--it
being in April--was cold and stormy, but we found a warm and cosy
camping place in a bend of the creek. We made our beds in a row, with our
feet towards the fire. The prisoners so far had appeared very docile, and
had made no attempt to escape, and therefore I did not think it necessary
to hobble them. We made them sleep on the inside, and it was so arranged
that some one of us should be on guard all the time.
At about one o'clock in the night it began snowing, while I was watching.
Shortly before three o'clock, Jack Farley, who was then on guard, and
sitting on the foot of the bed, with his back to the prisoners, was
kicked clear into the fire by Williams, and the next moment Bevins, who
had got hold of his shoes--which I had thought were out of his
reach--sprang up and jumped over the fire, and started on a run. I sent a
shot after him as soon as I awoke sufficiently to comprehend what was
taking place. Williams attempted to follow him, and as he did so, I
whirled around and knocked him down with my revolver. Farley by this time
had gathered himself out of the fire, and Green had started after Bevins,
firing at him on the run; but the prisoner made his escape into the
brush. In his flight, unfortunately for him, and luckily for us, he
dropped one of his shoes.
Leaving Williams in the charge of Farley and "Long Doc," as we called
the man with the pack-mule, Green and myself struck out after Bevins as
fast as possible. We heard him breaking through the brush, but knowing
that it would be useless to follow him on foot, we went back to the camp
and saddled up two of the fastest horses, and at daylight we struck out
on his trail, which was plainly visible in the snow. He had got an hour
and a half the start of us. His tracks led us in the direction of the
mountains and the South Platte River, and as the country through which he
was passing was covered with prickly pears, we knew that he could not
escape stepping on them with his one bare foot, and hence we were likely
to overtake him in a short time. We could see, however, from the long
jumps that he was taking, that he was making excellent time, but we
frequently noticed, after we had gone some distance, that the prickly
pears and stones along his route were cutting his bare foot, as nearly
every track of it was spotted with blood.
We had run our horses some twelve miles when we saw Bevins crossing a
ridge about two miles ahead. Urging our horses up to their utmost speed,
we reached the ridge just as he was descending the divide towards the
South Platte, which stream was very deep and swift at this point. It
became evident that if he should cross it ahead of us, he would have a
good chance of making his escape. So pushing our steeds as fast as
possible, we rapidly gained on him, and when within a hundred yards of
him I cried to him to halt or I would shoot. Knowing I was a good shot,
he stopped, and, coolly sitting down, waited till we came up.
"Bevins, you've given us a good run," said I.
"Yes," said he, "and if I had had fifteen minutes more of a start and
got across the Platte, I would have laughed at the idea of your ever
Bevin's run was the most remarkable feat of the kind ever known, either
of a white man, or an Indian. A man who could run bare-footed in the
snow eighteen miles through a prickly pear patch, was certainly a
"tough one," and that's the kind of a person Bill Bevins was. Upon
looking at his bleeding foot I really felt sorry for him. He asked me
for my knife, and I gave him my sharp-pointed bowie, with which he dug
the prickly pear briars out of his foot. I considered him as "game" a
man as I had ever met.
"Bevins, I have got to take you back," said I, "but as you can't walk
with that foot, you can ride my horse and I'll foot it."
We accordingly started back for our camp, with Bevins on my horse, which
was led either by Green or myself, as we alternately rode the other
horse. We kept a close watch on Bevins, for we had ample proof that he
needed watching. His wounded foot must have pained him terribly but not a
word of complaint escaped him. On arriving at the camp we found Williams
bound as we had left him and he seemed sorry that we had captured Bevins.
[Illustration: THE RECAPTURE OF BEVINS.]
After breakfasting we resumed our journey, and nothing worth of note
again occurred until we reached the Arkansas river, where we found a
vacant cabin and at once took possession of it for the night. There was
no likelihood of Bevins again trying to escape, for his foot had swollen
to an enormous size, and was useless. Believing that Williams could not
escape from the cabin, we unbound him. We then went to sleep, leaving
Long Doc on guard, the cabin being comfortably warmed and well lighted by
the fire. It was a dark, stormy night--so dark that you could hardly see
your hand before you. At about ten o'clock, Williams asked Long Doc to
allow him to step to the door for a moment.
Long Doc, who had his revolver in his hand, did not think it necessary to
wake us up, and believing that he could take care of the prisoner, he
granted his request. Williams thereupon walked to the outer edge of the
door, while Long Doc, revolver in hand, was watching him from the inside.
Suddenly Williams made a spring to the right, and before Doc could even
raise his revolver, he had dodged around the house. Doc jumped after him,
and fired just as he turned a corner, the report bringing us all to our
feet, and in an instant we knew what had happened. I at once covered
Bevins with my revolver, but as I saw that he could hardly stir, and was
making no demonstration, I lowered the weapon. Just then Doc came in
swearing "a blue streak," and announced that Williams had escaped. There
was nothing for us to do except to gather our horses close to the cabin
and stand guard over them for the rest of the night, to prevent the
possibility of Williams sneaking up and stealing one of them. That was
the last I ever saw or heard of Williams.
We finally got back to Fort Lyon with Bevins, and General Carr, to whom I
immediately reported, complimented us highly on the success of our trip,
notwithstanding we had lost one prisoner. The next day we took Bevins to
Boggs' ranch on Picket Wire Creek, and there turned him over to the civil
authorities, who put him in a log jail to await his trial. He never was
tried, however, for he soon made his escape, as I expected he would do. I
heard no more of him until 1872, when I learned that he was skirmishing
around on Laramie Plains at his old tricks. He sent word by the gentleman
from whom I gained this information, that if he ever met me again he
would kill me on sight. He finally was arrested and convicted for
robbery, and was confined in the prison at Laramie City. Again he made
his escape, and soon afterwards he organized a desperate gang of outlaws
who infested the country north of the Union Pacific railroad, and when
the stages began to run between Cheyenne and Deadwood, in the Black
Hills, they robbed the coaches and passengers, frequently making large
hauls of plunder. They kept this up for some time, till finally most of
the gang were caught, tried, convicted, and sent to the penitentiary for
a number of years. Bill Bevins and nearly all of his gang are now
confined in the Nebraska state prison, to which they were transferred,
[Illustration: ROBBING A STAGE COACH.]
A MILITARY EXPEDITION.
A day or two after my return to Fort Lyon, 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 while there I had occasion to pass General Bankhead's
headquarters. His orderly called to me, and said the General wished to
see me. As I entered the General's office he extended his hand and said:
"I hope you have no hard feelings toward me, Cody, for having you
arrested when you were here. I have just had a talk with General Carr and
Quartermaster Hays, and they informed me that you had their permission to
ride the horse and mule, and if you had stated this fact to me there
would have been no trouble about the matter whatever." "That is all
right, General," said I; "I will think no more of it. But I don't believe
that your quartermaster's agent will ever again circulate false stories
"No," said the General; "he has not yet recovered from the beating that
you gave him."
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 the camp with our
cook. The Major and myself did not return until _reveille_ next morning.
Soon afterwards the General sounded "boots and saddles," and presently
the regiment was on its way to McPherson.
It was very late before we went into camp that night, and we were 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 we had bought the
"Why, did we not give them to you--did you not bring them to camp in the
ambulance?" asked Major 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 on grub at all?"
"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 liquids for their 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 the north fork of the Beaver and riding down the valley
towards 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 hack 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 he
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 traveling. I was soon convinced,
by the many camps they had made, that they were traveling 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 distant 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 hurriedly 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 dispatch courier had gone, and soon after we saw him come flying
around the bend of the creek, pursued by four or five Indians. The
Lieutenant, with his squad of soldiers and myself, at once charged upon
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," said I.
He gladly handed me the dispatch, 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 upon 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 dispatch 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 towards 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 dare-devil
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 red-skins. 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
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 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 possible loss of the supply train we had to go back and look
for it. About 9 o'clock that evening we found it, and went into camp for
Next morning we passed down the creek and there was not an Indian to be
seen. They had all disappeared and gone on with their village. Two miles
further on 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 towards 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 red-skins.
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 11 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 equipages, 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 Kearney, 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 remained there for
ten days, fitting out for a new expedition to the Republican river
country, and were reinforced 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,[B] 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 they did good service.
[Footnote B: Major North is now my partner in a cattle ranch in
During our stay at Fort McPherson I made the acquaintance of Lieutenant
George P. Belden, known as the "White Chief," whose life was written by
Colonel Brisbin, U.S. army. I found him to be an intelligent, dashing
fellow, a splendid rider and an excellent shot. An hour after our
introduction he challenged me for a rifle match, the preliminaries of
which were soon arranged. We were to shoot ten shots each for fifty
dollars, at two hundred yards, off hand. Belden was to use a Henry rifle,
while I was to shoot my old "Lucretia." This match I won and then Belden
proposed to shoot a one hundred yard match, as I was shooting over his
distance. In this match Belden was victorious. We were now even, and we
stopped right there.
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 tine 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 on and were bareheaded; others
again had the seat of the pantaloons cut out, leaving only leggins; some
of them wore brass spurs, but had no boots or moccasins on. 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, has had for years complete power over these
Indians and can 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
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
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
bare-back, I at once dashed off after the mule herd, which had been
stampeded. I supposed certainly that I would be the first man on the
ground. 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 endeavored to stampede our mules, and it took them by
surprise to see their inveterate enemies--the Pawnees--coming at full
gallop towards them. They were not aware that the Pawnees were with the
command, and as they knew that it would take regular soldiers sometime 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 Royal 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 that he was riding. Seeing that
he possessed rare running qualities, I determined if possible 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
"Oh yes," said the Major, "that is one of our favorite 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 the animal."
"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 said: "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 second Brigham. That horse I rode on and off during the
summers of 1869, 1870, 1871 and 1872, and he was the horse that the Grand
Duke Alexis rode on his buffalo hunt. In the winter of 1872, after I had
left Fort McPherson, Buckskin Joe was condemned and sold at public sale,
and was bought by Dave Perry, at North Platte, who in 1877 presented him
to me, and I still own him. He is now at my ranch on the Dismal river,
stone blind, but I shall keep him until he dies.
The command scouted several days up the Beaver and Prairie Dog rivers,
occasionally having running fights with way 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. Although the Pawnees were excellent buffalo killers, for
Indians, I have never seen one of them who could kill more than four or
five in one run. A number of them generally surround the herd and then
dash in upon them, and in this way each one kills from one to four
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 dead 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 estimation."
A DESPERATE FIGHT.
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 Royal, 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 towards 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
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 had killed three or four more of them.
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 to the left and started toward the village.
By this manoeuver we had avoided discovery by the Sioux scouts, and we
were confident of giving them a complete surprise. Keeping the command
wholly out of sight, until we were within a mile of the Indians, the
General halted the advance guard until all closed up, and then issued an
order, that, when he sounded the charge, the whole command was to rush
into 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
every thing 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 neighboring hills.
We went through their village shooting right and left at everything we
saw. The Pawnees, the regular soldiers and the officers were all mixed up
together, and the Sioux were flying in every direction.
General Carr had instructed the command that when they entered the
village, they must keep a sharp look out for white women, as he was
confident the Indians had some captives. The company which had been
ordered to take possession of the village after its capture, soon found
two white women, one of whom had just been killed and the other wounded.
They were both Swedes, and the survivor could not talk English. A
Swedish soldier, however, was soon found who could talk with her. The
name of this woman was Mrs. Weichel, and her story as told to the
soldier was, that as soon as the Indians saw the troops coming down upon
them, a squaw--Tall Bull's wife--had killed Mrs. Alderdice, the other
captive, with a hatchet, and then wounded her. This squaw had evidently
intended to kill both women to prevent them from telling how cruelly
they had been treated.
[Illustration: INDIAN VILLAGE.]
The attack lasted but a short time, and the Indians were driven several
miles away. The soldiers then gathered in the herd of Indian horses,
which were running at large over the country and drove them back to the
camp. After taking a survey of what we had accomplished, it was found
that we had killed about one hundred and forty Indians, and captured one
hundred and twenty squaws and papooses, two hundred lodges, and eight
hundred horses and mules. The village proved to be one of the richest I
had ever seen. The red-skins had everything pertaining to an Indian
camp, besides numerous articles belonging to the white settlers whom
they had killed on the Saline. The Pawnees, as well as the soldiers,
ransacked the camp for curiosities, and found enough to start twenty
museums, besides a large amount of gold and silver. This money had been
stolen from the Swedish settlers whom they had murdered on the Saline.
General Carr ordered that all the tepees, the Indian lodges, buffalo
robes, all camp equipage and provisions, including dried buffalo meat,
amounting to several tons, should be gathered in piles and burned. A
grave was dug in which the dead Swedish woman, Mrs. Alderdice, was
buried. Captain Kane, a religious officer, read the burial service, as
we had no chaplain with us.
While this was going on, the Sioux warriors having recovered from their
surprise, had come back and a battle took place all around the camp. I
was on the skirmish line, and I noticed an Indian, who was riding a
large bay horse, and giving orders to his men in his own
language--which I could occasionally understand--telling them that they
had lost everything, that they were ruined, and he entreated them to
follow him, and fight until they died. His horse was an extraordinary
one, fleet as the wind, dashing here and there, and I determined to
capture him if possible, but I was afraid to fire at the Indian for
fear of killing the horse.
I noticed that the Indian, as he rode around the skirmish line, passed
the head of a ravine not far distant, and it occurred to me that if I
could dismount and creep to the ravine I could, as he passed there,
easily drop him from his saddle without danger of hitting the horse.
Accordingly I crept into and secreted myself in the ravine, reaching the
place unseen by the Indians, and I waited there until Mr. Chief came
When he was not more than thirty yards distant I fired, and the next
moment he tumbled from his saddle, and the horse kept on without his
rider. Instead of running toward the Indians, however, he galloped toward
our men, by one of whom he was caught. Lieutenant Mason, who had been
very conspicuous in the fight and who had killed two or three Indians
himself, single-handed, came galloping up to the ravine and jumping from
his horse, secured the fancy war bonnet from the head of the dead chief,
together with all his other accoutrements. We both then rejoined the
soldiers, and I at once went in search of the horse; I found him in the
possession of Sergeant McGrath, who had caught him. The Sergeant knew
that I had been trying to get the animal and having seen me kill his
rider, he handed him over to me at once.
Little did I think at that time that I had captured a horse which, for
four years afterwards was the fastest runner in the state of Nebraska,
but such proved to be the fact.
[Illustration: THE KILLING OF TALL BULL.]
I jumped on his back and rode him down to the spot where the prisoners
were corraled. One of the squaws among the prisoners suddenly began
crying in a pitiful and hysterical manner at the sight of this horse,
and upon inquiry I found that she was Tall Bull's wife, the same squaw
that had killed one of the white women and wounded the other. She stated
that this was her husband's favorite war-horse, and that only a short
time ago she had seen Tall Bull riding him. I gave her to understand
that her liege lord had passed in his mortal chips and that it would be
sometime before he would ride his favorite horse again, and I informed
her that henceforth I should call the gallant steed "Tall Bull," in
honor of her husband.
Late in the evening our wagon train arrived, and placing the wounded
woman, Mrs. Weichel, in the ambulance--she having been kindly attended to
by the surgeons,--and gathering up the prisoners--the squaws and
papooses--and captured stock, we started at once for the South Platte
River, eight miles distant, and there went into camp.
Next morning General Carr issued an order that all the money found in the
village should be turned over to the adjutant. About one thousand dollars
was thus collected, and the entire amount was given to Mrs. Weichel. The
command then proceeded to Fort Sedgwick, from which point the particulars
of our fight, which took place on Sunday, July 11th, 1869, were
telegraphed to all parts of the country.
We remained at this post for two weeks, during which General Augur, of
the Department of the Platte, paid us a visit, and highly complimented
the command for the gallant service it had performed. For this fight at
Summit Springs General Carr and his command were complimented not only in
General Orders, but received a vote of thanks from the Legislatures of
Nebraska and Colorado--as Tall Bull and his Indians had long been a
terror to the border settlements--and the resolutions of thanks were
elegantly engrossed and sent to General Carr.
The wounded white woman was cared for in the hospital at this post, and
after her recovery she soon married the hospital steward, her former
husband having been killed by the Indians.
Our prisoners were sent to the Whetstone Agency, on the Missouri River,
where Spotted Tail and the friendly Sioux were then living. The
captured horses and mules were distributed among the officers, scouts
and soldiers. Among the animals that I thus obtained were my Tall Bull
horse, and a pony which I called "Powder Face," and which afterwards
became quite celebrated, as he figured prominently in the stories of
One day, while we were lying at Fort Sedgwick, General Carr received a
telegram from Fort McPherson stating that the Indians had made a dash on
the Union Pacific Railroad, and had killed several section-men and run
off some stock near O'Fallon's Station; also that an expedition was going
out from Fort McPherson to catch and punish the red-skins if possible.
The General ordered me to accompany the expedition, and accordingly that
night I proceeded by rail to McPherson Station, and from thence rode on
horseback to the fort. Two companies, under command of Major Brown, had
been ordered out, and next morning, just as we were about to start, Major
Brown said to me:
"By the way, Cody, we are going to have quite an important character with
us as a guest on this scout. It's old Ned Buntline, the novelist."
Just then I noticed a gentleman, who was rather stoutly built, and who
wore a blue military coat, on the left breast of which were pinned
about twenty gold medals and badges of secret societies. He walked a
little lame as he approached us, and I at once concluded that he was
"He has a good mark to shoot at on the left breast," said I to Major
Brown, "but he looks like a soldier." As he came up, Major Brown said:
"Cody, allow me to introduce you to Colonel E.B.O. Judson, otherwise
known as Ned Buntline."
"Colonel Judson, I am glad to meet you," said I; "the Major tells me that
you are to accompany us on the scout."
"Yes, my boy, so I am," said he; "I was to deliver a temperance lecture
to-night, but no lectures for me when there is a prospect for a fight.
The Major has kindly offered me a horse, but I don't know how I'll stand
the ride, for I haven't done any riding lately; but when I was a young
man I spent several years among the fur companies of the Northwest, and
was a good rider and an excellent shot."
"The Major has given you a fine horse, and you'll soon find yourself at
home in the saddle," said I.
The command soon pulled out for the South Platte River, which was very
wide and high, owing to recent mountain rains, and in crossing it we had
to swim our horses in some places. Buntline was the first man across. We
reached O'Fallon's at eleven o'clock, and in a short time I succeeded in
finding the Indian trail; the party seemed to be a small one, which had
come up from the south. We followed their track to the North Platte, but
as they had a start of two days, Major Brown abandoned the pursuit, and
returned to Fort McPherson, while I went back to Fort Sedgwick,
accompanied by Buntline.
During this short scout, Buntline had asked me a great many questions,
and he was determined to go out on the next expedition with me, providing
he could obtain permission from the commanding officer. I introduced him
to the officers--excepting those he already knew--and invited him to
become my guest while he remained at the post, and gave him my pony
Powder Face to ride.
By this time I had learned that my horse Tall Bull was a remarkably fast
runner, and therefore when Lieutenant Mason, who was quite a sport and
owned a racer, challenged me to a race, I immediately accepted it. We
were to run our horses a single dash of half a mile for one hundred
dollars a side. Several of the officers, and also Reub. Wood, the
post-trader, bantered me for side bets, and I took them all until I had
put up my last cent on Tall Bull.
The ground was measured off, the judges were selected, and all other
preliminaries were arranged. We rode our horses ourselves, and coming up
to the score nicely we let them go. I saw from the start that it would be
mere play to beat the Lieutenant's horse, and therefore I held Tall Bull
in check, so that none could see how fast he really could run. I easily
won the race, and pocketed a snug little sum of money. Of course
everybody was now talking horse. Major North remarked that if Tall Bull
could beat the Pawnees' fast horse, I could break his whole command.
The next day the troops were paid off, the Pawnees with the rest, and for
two or three days they did nothing but run horse-races, as all the
recently captured horses had to be tested to find out the swiftest among
them. Finally the Pawnees wanted to run their favorite horse against Tall
Bull, and I accordingly arranged a race with them. They raised three
hundred dollars and bet it on their horse, while of course, I backed Tall
Bull with an equal amount, and in addition took numerous side bets. The
race was a single dash of a mile, and Tall Bull won it without any
difficulty. I was ahead on this race about seven hundred dollars, and the
horse was fast getting a reputation. Heretofore nobody would bet on him,
but now he had plenty of backers.
I also made a race for my pony Powder Face, against a fast pony
belonging to Captain Lute North. I selected a small boy, living at the
post to ride Powder Face, while an Indian boy was to ride the other pony.
The Pawnees as usual wanted to bet on their pony, but as I had not yet
fully ascertained the running qualities of Powder Face, I did not care
about risking very much money on him. Had I known him as well then as I
did afterwards I would have backed him for every dollar I had, for he
proved to be one of the swiftest ponies I ever saw, and had evidently
been kept as a racer.
The race was to be four hundred yards, and when I led the pony over the
track he seemed to understand what he was there for. North and I finally
put the riders on, and it was all I could do to hold the fiery little
animal after the boy became seated on his back. He jumped around and made
such quick movements, that the boy was not at all confident of being able
to stay on him. The order to start was at last given by the judges, and
as I brought Powder Face up to the score and the word "go" was given, he
jumped away so quickly that he left his rider sitting on the ground;
notwithstanding he ran through and won the race without him. It was an
easy victory, and after that I could get up no more races. Thus passed
the time while we were at Fort Sedgwick.
General Carr having obtained a leave of absence, Colonel Royal was given
the command of an expedition that was ordered to go out after the
Indians, and in a few days--after having rested a couple of weeks--we set
out for the Republican; having learned that there were plenty of Indians
in that section of the country. At Frenchman's Fork we discovered an
Indian village, but did not surprise it, for its people had noticed us
approaching, and were retreating when we reached their camping-place. We
chased them down the stream, and they finally turned to the left, went
north, and crossed the South Platte river five miles above Ogallala. We
pushed rapidly after them, following them across the North Platte and on
through the sand-hills towards the Niobrara; but as they were making much
better time than we, the pursuit was abandoned.
While we were in the sand-hills, scouting the Niobrara country, the
Pawnee Indians brought into camp, one night, some very large bones, one
of which a surgeon of the expedition pronounced to be the thigh-bone of a
human being. The Indians claimed that the bones they had found were those
of a person belonging to a race of people who a long time ago lived in
this country. That there was once a race of men on the earth whose size
was about three times that of an ordinary man, and they were so swift and
powerful that they could run along-side of a buffalo, and taking the
animal in one arm could tear off a leg and eat the meat as they walked.
These giants denied the existence of a Great Spirit, and when they heard
the thunder or saw the lightning they laughed at it and said that they
were greater than either. This so displeased the Great Spirit that he
caused a great rain-storm to come, and the water kept rising higher and
higher so that it drove those proud and conceited giants from the low
grounds to the hills, and thence to the mountains, but at last even the
mountain tops were submerged, and then those mammoth men were all
drowned. After the flood had subsided, the Great Spirit came to the
conclusion that he had made man too large and powerful, and that he would
therefore correct the mistake by creating a race of men of smaller size
and less strength. This is the reason, say the Indians, that modern men
are small and not like the giants of old, and they claim that this story
is a matter of Indian history, which has been handed down among them from
As we had no wagons with us at the time this large and heavy bone was
found, we were obliged to leave it.
On returning to Fort McPherson we found that Brevet Major General W.H.
Emory, Colonel of the Fifth Cavalry, and Brevet Brigadier General Thomas
Duncan, Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment, had arrived there during our
absence. General Emory had been appointed to the command of the District
of the Republican, with headquarters at Fort McPherson. As the command
had been continually in the field, it was generally thought that we were
to have a long rest; and it looked as if this post was to be my home and
headquarters for some time to come. I accordingly sent to St. Louis for
my wife and daughter to join me there. General Emory promised to build a
house for me, but before the building was completed my family arrived.
During the fall of 1869 there were two or three scouting expeditions
sent out; but nothing of very great importance was accomplished by them.
I found Fort McPherson to be a lively and pleasant post to be stationed
at, especially as there was plenty of game in the vicinity, and within a
day's ride there were large herds of deer, antelope and elk.
During the winter of 1869-70 I spent a great deal of time in pursuit of
game, and during the season we had two hunting parties of Englishmen
there; one party being that of Mr. Flynn, and the other that of George
Boyd Houghton, of London--the well known caricaturist. Among their
amusements were several horse races, which I arranged, and in which Tall
Bull and Powder Face were invariably the winners. Tall Bull by this time
had such a reputation as a running horse, that it was difficult to make a
race for him. I remember one however, in which he ran against a horse in
Captain Spaulding's Company of the Second Cavalry.
This race was rather a novel affair. I had made a bet that Tall Bull
would beat the Second Cavalry horse around a one mile track, and, during
the time that he was running, I would jump off and on the horse eight
times. I rode the horse bareback; seized his mane with my left hand,
rested my right on his withers, and while he was going at full speed, I
jumped to the ground, and sprang again upon his back, eight times in
succession. Such feats I had seen performed in the circus and I had
practiced considerably at it with Tall Bull, so that I was certain of
winning the race in the manner agreed upon.
Early one morning, in the spring of 1870, the Indians, who had
approached during the night, stole some twenty-one head of horses from
Mr. John Burke--a Government contractor--Ben. Gallagher and Jack Waite.
They also ran off some horses from the post; among the number being my
pony Powder Face. The commandant at once ordered out Lieutenant Thomas
with Company I of the Fifth Cavalry, and directed me to accompany them as
trailer. We discovered the trail after some little difficulty, as the
Indians were continually trying to hide it, and followed it sixty miles,
when darkness set in.
We were now within about four miles of Red Willow Creek and I felt
confident the Indians would camp that night in that vicinity. Advising
Lieutenant Thomas 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 across we went for them in hot pursuit. A
few of the red-skins had not had time to mount and had started on foot
down the creek 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 would be stampeded, succeeded in
capturing thirty-two. I hurriedly looked over them to see if Powder Face
was among them; but he was not there. Starting in pursuit of the
fugitives I finally espied an Indian mounted on my favorite, dashing away
and leading all the others. We continued the chase for two or three
miles, overtaking a couple who were mounted upon one horse. Coming up
behind them I fired my rifle, when about thirty feet distant; the ball
passed through the backs of both, and they fell headlong to the ground;
but I made no stop however just then, for I had my eye on the gentleman
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 was when he went 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 a breakfast or taking any food with
us; but not a murmur or complaint was heard among the men. In the
abandoned Indian camp, however, we found enough dried buffalo meat to
give us all a meal, and after remaining there for two hours, to rest our
animals, we started on our return to Fort McPherson, where we arrived at
night, having traveled 130 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 a 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; another said the ball 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 and '70, were 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 Cha-Sha-Cha-Opoyeo,[C] 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. John is a
good fellow, though as a liar he has but few equals and no superior.
[Footnote C: Since traveled with me in my Dramatic Combination as
interpreter for Sioux Indians.]
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 night before, 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 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
"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 that
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 with him, which
resulted in his favor.
This was the first scout the Pawnees had been out on under command of
General Duncan, and in stationing his guards around the camp he posted
them in a manner entirely different from that of General Carr and Colonel
Royal, and he insisted that the different posts should call out the hour
of the night thus:
"Post No. 1, nine o'clock, all is well! Post No. 2, nine o'clock, all is
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 as
near like him 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. I,
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,[D] 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 to 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 laid down upon the grass to rest.
[Footnote D: Near the lonely camp where I had so long been laid up with a
broken leg, when trapping years before with Dave Harrington.]
Suddenly I heard three or four shots, and in a few moments Major North
came dashing up towards 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 Valkmar 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 rapidly 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 stern chase.
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 and feeble to travel any longer. This squaw was
recognized by John Nelson who said that 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 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.
During my absence, my wife had given birth to a son, and he was several
weeks old when I returned. No name had yet been given him and I selected
that of Elmo Judson, in honor of Ned Buntline; but this the officers and
scouts objected to. Major Brown proposed that we should call him Kit
Carson, and it was finally settled that that should be his name.
During the summer we made one or two more scouts and had a few
skirmishes with the Indians: but nothing of any great importance
transpired. In the fall of 1870, while I was a witness in a court
martial at Fort D.A. Russell I woke up one morning and found that I was
dead broke;--this is not an unusual occurrence to a frontiersman, or an
author I may add, especially when he is endeavoring to kill time--to
raise necessary funds I sold my race horse Tall Bull to Lieutenant
Mason, who had long wanted him.
In the winter of 1870 and 1871 I first met George Watts Garland, an
English gentleman, and a great hunter, whom I had the pleasure of guiding
on several hunts and with whom I spent some weeks. During the winter I
also took several parties out on the Loupe River country, hunting and
trapping. Although I was still chief of scouts I did not have much to do,
as the Indians were comparatively quiet, thus giving me plenty of time
In the spring of 1871 several short scouting expeditions were sent out
from Fort McPherson, but all with minor results.
About this time General Emory was considerably annoyed by petty offenses
committed in the vicinity of the post, and as there was no justice of the
peace in the neighborhood, he was anxious to have such an officer there
to attend to the civilians; one day he remarked to me that I would make
an excellent justice.
"General, you compliment me rather too highly, for I don't know any more
about law than a government mule does about book-keeping," said I.
"That doesn't make any difference," said he, "for I know that you will
make a good 'Squire." He accordingly had the county commissioners
appoint me to the office of justice of the peace, and I soon received my
One morning a man came rushing up to my house and stated that he wanted
to get out a writ of replevin, to recover possession of a horse which a
stranger was taking out of the country. I had no blank forms, and had not
yet received the statutes of Nebraska to copy from, so I asked the man:
"Where is the fellow who has got your horse?"
"He is going up the road, and is about two miles away," replied he.
"Very well," said I, "I will get the writ ready in a minute or two."
I saddled up my horse, and then taking my old reliable gun, "Lucretia," I
said to the man: "That's the best writ of replevin that I can think of;
come along, and we'll get that horse, or know the reason why."
We soon overtook the stranger who was driving a herd of horses, and as we
came up to him, I said:
"Hello, sir; I am an officer, and have an attachment for that horse," and
at the same time I pointed out the animal.
"Well, sir, what are you going to do about it?" he inquired.
"I propose to take you and the horse back to the post," said I.
"You can take the horse," said he, "but I haven't the time to return
"You'll have to take the time, or pay the costs here and now," said I.
"How much are the costs?"
"Here's your money," said he, as he handed me the greenbacks.
I then gave him a little friendly advice, and told him that he was
released from custody. He went on his way a wiser and a poorer man, while
the owner of the horse and myself returned to the fort. I pocketed the
twenty dollars, of course. Some people might think it was not a square
way of doing business, but I didn't know any better just then. I had
several little cases of this kind, and I became better posted on law in
the course of time, being assisted by Lieutenant Burr Reilly, of the
Fifth Cavalry, who had been educated for a lawyer.
One evening I was called upon to perform a marriage ceremony. The
bridegroom was one of the sergeants of the post. I had "braced up" for
the occasion by imbibing rather freely of stimulants, and when I arrived
at the house, with a copy of the Statutes of Nebraska, which I had
recently received, I felt somewhat confused. Whether my bewilderment was
owing to the importance of the occasion and the large assembly, or to the
effect of Louis Woodin's "tanglefoot," I cannot now distinctly
remember--but my suspicions have always been that it was due to the
latter cause. I looked carefully through the statutes to find the
marriage ceremony, but my efforts were unsuccessful. Finally the time
came for the knot to be tied. I told the couple to stand up, and then I
said to the bridegroom:
"Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife, to support and
love her through life?"
"I do," was the reply.
Then addressing myself to the bride, I said, "Do you take this man to be
your lawful wedded husband through life, to love, honor and obey him?"
[Illustration: A WEDDING CEREMONY.]
"I do," was her response.
"Then join hands," said I to both of them; "I now pronounce you to be man
and wife, and whomsoever God and Buffalo Bill have joined together let no
man put asunder. May you live long and prosper. Amen."
This concluded the interesting ceremony, which was followed by the usual
festivities on such occasions. I was highly complimented for the elegant
and eloquent manner in which I had tied the matrimonial knot.
During the summer of 1871, Professor Marsh, of Yale College, came out to
McPherson, with a large party of students to have a hunt and to look for
fossils. Professor Marsh had heard of the big bone which had been found
by the Pawnees in the Niobrara country, and he intended to look for that
as well as other bones. He accordingly secured the services of Major
Frank North and the Pawnees as an escort. I was also to accompany the
bone-hunters, and would have done so had it not been for the fact that
just at that time I was ordered out with a small scouting party to go
after some Indians.
[Illustration: A RIDE FOR LIFE.]
The day before the Professor arrived at the fort, I had been out hunting
on the north side of the North Platte River, near Pawnee Springs, with
several companions, when we were suddenly attacked by Indians, who
wounded one of our number, John Weister. We stood the Indians off for a
little while, and Weister got even with them by killing one of their
party. The Indians, however, outnumbered us, and at last we were forced
to make a run for our lives. In this we succeeded, and reached the fort
in safety. The General wanted to have the Indians pursued, and said he
could not spare me to accompany Professor Marsh.
However, I had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of the eminent
Professor, whom I found to be not only a well-posted person but a very
entertaining gentleman. He gave me a geological history of the country;
told me in what section fossils were to be found; and otherwise
entertained me with several scientific yarns, some of which seemed too
complicated and too mysterious to be believed by an ordinary man like
myself; but it was all clear to him. I rode out with him several miles,
as he was starting on his bone-hunting expedition, and I greatly enjoyed
the ride. His party had been provided with Government transportation and
his students were all mounted on Government horses.
As we rode along he delivered a scientific lecture, and he convinced me
that he knew what he was talking about. I finally bade him good-bye, and
returned to the post. While the fossil-hunters were out on their
expedition, we had several lively little skirmishes with the Indians.
After having been absent some little time Professor Marsh and his party
came back with their wagons loaded down with all kinds of bones, and the
Professor was in his glory. He had evidently struck a bone-yard, and
"gad!"[E] wasn't he happy! But they had failed to find the big bone which
the Pawnees had unearthed the year before.
[Footnote E: A favorite expression of the Professor's.]
Early in the month of September, 1871, information was received at Fort
McPherson that General Sheridan and a party of invited friends were
coming out to the post to have a grand hunt in the vicinity, and to
explore the country from McPherson to Fort Hays, in Kansas. On the
morning of September 22d they arrived in a special car at North Platte, a
station on the Union Pacific, distant eighteen miles from Fort McPherson.
The party consisted of General Sheridan, Lawrence R. Jerome, James Gordon
Bennett, of the _New York Herald_; Leonard W. Jerome, Carroll Livingston,
Major J.G. Hecksher, General Fitzhugh, General H.E. Davies, Captain M.
Edward Rogers, Colonel J. Scuyler Crosby, Samuel Johnson, General Anson
Stager, of the Western Union Telegraph Company; Charles Wilson, editor of
the _Chicago Evening Journal_; General Rucker, Quartermaster-General,
and Dr. Asch--the two last-named being of General Sheridan's staff. They
were met at the station by General Emory and Major Brown, with a cavalry
company as escort and a sufficient number of vehicles to carry the
distinguished visitors and their baggage.
A brisk drive of less than two hours over a hard and smooth road brought
them to the fort, where they found the garrison, consisting of five
companies of the Fifth Cavalry, under the command of General Carr, out
on parade awaiting their arrival. The band played some martial music,
and the cavalry passed very handsomely in review before General
Sheridan. The guests were then most hospitably received, and assigned to
Lieutenant Hayes, the quartermaster of the expedition, arranged
everything for the comfort of the party. One hundred cavalry under
command of Major Brown were detailed as an escort. A train of sixteen
wagons was provided to carry the baggage, supplies, and forage for the
trip; and, besides these, there were three four-horse ambulances in which
the guns were carried, and in which members of the party who became weary
of the saddle might ride and rest. At General Sheridan's request I was to
accompany the expedition; he introduced me to all his friends, and gave
me a good send-off.
During the afternoon and evening the gentlemen were all entertained at
the post in a variety of ways, including dinner and supper parties, and
music and dancing; at a late hour they retired to rest in their tents at
the camp which they occupied outside the post--named Camp Rucker in honor
of General Rucker.
At five o'clock next morning a cavalry bugle sounded the _reveille_, and
soon all were astir in the camp, preparatory to pulling out for the first
day's march. I rose fresh and eager for the trip, and as it was a nobby
and high-toned outfit which I was to accompany, I determined to put on a
little style myself. So I dressed in a new suit of light buckskin,
trimmed along the seams with fringes of the same material; and I put on a
crimson shirt handsomely ornamented on the bosom, while on my head I wore
a broad _sombrero_. Then mounting a snowy white horse--a gallant
stepper--I rode down from the fort to the camp, rifle in hand. I felt
first-rate that morning, and looked well.
The expedition was soon under way. Our road for ten miles wound through a
wooded ravine called Cottonwood Canon, intersecting the high ground, or
divide, as it is called, between the Platte and Republican Rivers. Upon
emerging from the canon we found ourselves upon the plains. First in the
line rode General Sheridan, followed by his guests, and then the
orderlies. Then came the ambulances, in one of which were carried five
greyhounds, brought along to course the antelope and rabbit. With the
ambulances marched a pair of Indian ponies belonging to Lieutenant
Hayes--captured during some Indian fight--and harnessed to a light wagon,
which General Sheridan occasionally used. These little horses, but
thirteen hands high, showed more vigor and endurance than any other of
the animals we had with us. Following the ambulances came the main body
of the escort and the supply wagons.
We marched seventeen miles the first day, and went into camp on Fox
Creek, a tributary of the Republican. No hunting had as yet been done;
but I informed the gentlemen of the party that we would strike the
buffalo country the next day. A hundred or more questions were then
asked me by this one and that one, and the whole evening was spent
principally in buffalo talk, sandwiched with stories of the plains--both
of war and of the chase. Several of the party, who were good vocalists,
gave us some excellent music. We closed the evening by christening the
camp, naming it Camp Brown, in honor of the gallant officer in command of
At three o'clock next morning the bugle called us to an early start. We
had breakfast at half-past four, and at six were in the saddle. All were
eager to see and shoot the buffaloes which I assured them we would
certainly meet during the day. After marching five miles, the advance
guard, of which I had the command, discovered six buffaloes grazing at a
distance of about two miles from us. We returned to the hunters with this
information, and they at once consulted with me as to the best way to
attack the "enemy."
Acting upon my suggestions, Fitzhugh, Crosby, Lawrence Jerome,
Livingston, Hecksher and Rogers, accompanied by myself as guide, rode
through a convenient canon to a point beyond the buffaloes, so that we
were to the windward of the animals. The rest of the party made a detour
of nearly five miles, keeping behind the crest of a hill. We charged down
upon the buffaloes, at full gallop, and just then the other party emerged
from their concealment and witnessed the exciting chase. The buffaloes
started off in a line, single file. Fitzhugh, after a lively gallop, led
us all and soon came alongside the rear buffalo, at which he fired. The
animal faltered, and then with another shot Fitzhugh brought him to the
ground. Crosby dashed by him and leveled another of the herd, while
Livingston dropped a third. Those who were not directly engaged in the
hunt now came up and congratulated the men upon their success, and
Fitzhugh was at once hailed as the winner of the buffalo cup; while all
sympathized with Hecksher, whose chance had been the best at the start,
but who lost by reason of his horse falling and rolling over him.
The hunt being over, the column moved forward on its march passing
through a prairie-dog town, several miles in extent. These animals are
found throughout the plains, living together in a sort of society; their
numberless burrows in their "towns" adjoin each other, so that great care
is necessary in riding through these places, as the ground is so
undermined as often to fall in under the weight of a horse. Around the
entrance to their holes the ground is piled up almost a foot high; on
these little elevations the prairie-dogs sit upon their hind legs,
chattering to each other and observing whatever passes on the plains.
They will permit a person to approach quite near, but when they have
viewed him closely, they dive into their dens with wonderful quickness.
They are difficult to kill, and if hit, generally succeed in crawling
underground before they can be captured. Rattlesnakes and small owls are
generally found in great numbers in the prairie-dog towns, and live in
the same holes with the dogs on friendly terms. A few of the prairie-dogs
were killed, and were found to be very palatable eating.
[Illustration: PRAIRIE-DOG VILLAGE.]
A short distance beyond the dog town we discovered a settlement of five
white men, who proved to be the two Clifford brothers, Arthur Ruff, Dick
Seymour and John Nelson--the latter already referred to in these pages.
Each of them had a squaw wife and numerous half-breed children, living in
tents of buffalo skins. They owned a herd of horses and mules and a few
cattle, and had cultivated a small piece of land. Their principal
occupation was hunting, and they had a large number of buffalo hides,
which, they had tanned in the Indian manner.
Upon reaching Pleasant Valley, on Medicine Creek, our party divided into
two detachments--one hunting along the bank of the stream for elk or
deer, and the other remaining with the main body of the escort. The elk
hunters met with no success whatever, but the others ran across plenty of
buffaloes, and nearly everybody killed one or more before the day was
over. Lawrence Jerome made an excellent shot; while riding in an
ambulance he killed a buffalo which attempted to cross the line of march.
At about four o'clock P.M., we arrived at Mitchell's Fork of the
Medicine, having traveled thirty-five miles during that day, and there we
went into camp--calling it Camp Jack Hayes, in honor of Lieutenant Hayes.
On the next morning, the 25th, we moved out of camp at eight o'clock.
The party was very successful through the day in securing game,
Hecksher, Fitzhugh, Livingston and Lieutenant Hayes; and in fact all did
Lawrence Jerome persuaded me to let him ride Buckskin Joe, the best
buffalo horse in the whole outfit, and on his back he did wonders among
the buffaloes. Leonard Jerome, Bennett and Rogers also were very
successful in buffalo hunting.