Category: The Life of Hon. William F. Cody, Known as Buffalo Bill, the Famous Hunter, Scout and Guide An Autobiography
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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 reprimand me.

"Well, Cody," said he, "the best you can do is to make some excuse, and then go and borrow a gun from some of the men, and tell the General 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 well!" etc.

The Pawnees, who had their regular turns at standing upon guard, were ordered to call the hour the same as the white soldiers. This was very difficult for them to do, as there were but few of them who could express themselves in English. Major North explained to them that when the man on post next to them should call out the hour, they must call it also 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 for sporting.

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 commission.

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 with you."

"You'll have to take the time, or pay the costs here and now," said I.

"How much are the costs?"

"Twenty dollars."

"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?"

"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.

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.]


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