Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

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 any scalps."

The Pawnees came into camp on the run. Captain North calling to one of them--a sergeant--soon found out that they had run across a party of Sioux who were following a large Indian trail. These Indians had evidently been in a fight, for two or three of them had been wounded and they were conveying the injured persons on _travois_. The Pawnees had "jumped" them and 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.

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 riding by.

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.

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 Ned Buntline.

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 Ned Buntline.

"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 time immemorial.

As we had no wagons with us at the time this large and heavy bone was found, we were obliged to leave it.