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We closed our theatrical season earlier than usual in the spring of 1876, because I was anxious to take part in the Sioux war which was then breaking out. Colonel Hills had written me several letters saying that General Crook was anxious to have me accompany his command, and I promised to do so, intending to overtake him in the Powder river country.

But when I arrived at Chicago, on my way West, I learned that my old regiment, the gallant Fifth Cavalry, was on its way back from Arizona to join General Crook, and that my old commander, General Carr, was in command. He had written to military headquarters at Chicago to learn my whereabouts, as he wished to secure me as his guide and chief of scouts. I then gave up the idea of overtaking General Crook, and hastening on to Cheyenne, where the Fifth Cavalry had already arrived, I was met at the dépôt by Lieutenant King, adjutant of the regiment, he having been sent down from Fort D. A. Russell for that purpose by General Carr, who had learned by a telegram from military headquarters at Chicago that I was on the way. I accompanied the Lieutenant on horseback to the camp, and as we rode up, one of the boys shouted, "Here's Buffalo Bill!" Soon after there came three hearty cheers from the regiment. Officers and men all were glad to see me, and I was equally delighted to meet them once more. The General at once appointed me his guide and chief of scouts.

The next morning the command pulled out for Fort Laramie, and on reaching that post we found General Sheridan there, accompanied by General Frye and General Forsyth, _en route_ to Red Cloud agency. As the command was to remain here a few days, I accompanied General Sheridan to Red Cloud and back, taking a company of cavalry as escort.

The Indians having recently committed a great many depredations on the Black Hills road, the Fifth Cavalry was sent out to scout the country between the Indian agencies and the hills. The command operated on the South Fork of the Cheyenne and at the foot of the Black Hills for about two weeks, having several small engagements with roving bands of Indians during the time. General Wesley Merritt--who had lately received his promotion to the Colonelcy of the Fifth Cavalry--now came out and took control of the regiment. I was sorry that the command was taken from General Carr, because under him it had made its fighting reputation. However, upon becoming acquainted with General Merritt, I found him to be an excellent officer.

The regiment, by continued scouting, soon drove the Indians out of that section of the country, as we supposed, and we had started on our way back to Fort Laramie, when a scout arrived at the camp and reported the massacre of General Custer and his band of heroes on the Little Big Horn, on the 25th of June, 1876; and he also brought orders to General Merritt to proceed at once to Fort Fetterman and join General Crook in the Big Horn country.

Colonel Stanton, who was with the Fifth Cavalry on this scout, had been sent to Red Cloud agency two days before, and that same evening a scout arrived bringing a message from him that eight hundred Cheyenne warriors had that day left the Red Cloud agency to join Sitting Bull's hostile forces in the Big Horn region. Notwithstanding the instructions to proceed immediately to join General Crook by the Way of Fort Fetterman, Colonel Merritt took the responsibility of endeavoring to intercept the Cheyennes, and as the sequel shows he performed a very important service.

He selected five hundred men and horses, and in two hours we were making a forced march back to Hat, or War-Bonnet Creek--the intention being to reach the main Indian trail running to the north across that creek before the Cheyennes could get there. We arrived there the next night, and at daylight the following morning, July 17th, 1876, I went out on a scout, and found that the Indians had not yet crossed the creek. On my way back to the command I discovered a large party of Indians, which proved to be the Cheyennes, coming up from the south, and I hurried to the camp with this important information.

The cavalrymen quietly mounted their horses, and were ordered to remain out of sight, while General Merritt, accompanied by two or three _aides_ and myself, went out on a little tour of observation to a neighboring hill, from the summit of which we saw that the Indians were approaching almost directly towards us. Presently fifteen or twenty of them dashed off to the west in the direction from which we had come the night before; and upon closer observation with our field glasses, we discovered two mounted soldiers, evidently carrying dispatches for us, pushing forward on our trail.

The Indians were evidently endeavoring to intercept these two men, and General Merritt feared that they would accomplish their object. He did not think it advisable to send out any soldiers to the assistance of the couriers, for fear that would show to the Indians that there were troops in the vicinity who were waiting for them. I finally suggested that the best plan was to wait until the couriers came closer to the command, and then, just as the Indians were about to charge, to let me take the scouts and cut them off from the main body of the Cheyennes, who were coming over the divide.

"All right, Cody," said the General, "if you can do that, go ahead."

I rushed back to the command, jumped on my horse, picked out fifteen men, and returned with them to the point of observation. I told General Merritt to give us the word to start out at the proper time, and presently he sang out:

"Go in now, Cody, and be quick about it. They are going to charge on the couriers."

The two messengers were not over four hundred yards from us, and the Indians were only about two hundred yards behind them. We instantly dashed over the bluffs, and advanced on a gallop towards the Indians. A running fight lasted several minutes, during which we drove the enemy some little distance and killed three of their number. The rest of them rode off towards the main body, which had come into plain sight, and halted, upon seeing the skirmish that was going on. We were about half a mile from General Merritt, and the Indians whom we were chasing suddenly turned upon us, and another lively skirmish took place. One of the Indians, who was handsomely decorated with all the ornaments usually worn by a war chief when engaged in a fight, sang out to me, in his own tongue:

"I know you, Pa-he-haska; if you want to fight, come ahead and fight me."

The chief was riding his horse back and forth in front of his men, as if to banter me, and I concluded to accept the challenge. I galloped towards him for fifty yards and he advanced towards me about the same distance, both of us riding at full speed, and then, when we were only about thirty yards apart, I raised my rifle and fired; his horse fell to the ground, having been killed by my bullet.

Almost at the same instant my own horse went down, he having stepped into a hole. The fall did not hurt me much, and I instantly sprang to my feet. The Indian had also recovered himself, and we were now both on foot, and not more than twenty paces apart. We fired at each other simultaneously. My usual luck did not desert me on this occasion, for his bullet missed me, while mine struck him in the breast. He reeled and fell, but before he had fairly touched the ground I was upon him, knife in hand, and had driven the keen-edged weapon to its hilt in his heart. Jerking his war-bonnet off, I scientifically scalped him in about five seconds.

The whole affair from beginning to end occupied but little time, and the Indians, seeing that I was some little distance from my company, now came charging down upon me from a hill, in hopes of cutting me off. General Merritt had witnessed the duel, and realizing the danger I was in, ordered Colonel Mason with Company K to hurry to my rescue. The order came none too soon, for had it been given one minute later I would have had not less than two hundred Indians upon me. As the soldiers came up I swung the Indian chieftain's top-knot and bonnet in the air, and shouted: "_The first scalp for Custer_."

General Merritt, seeing that he could not now ambush the Indians, ordered the whole regiment to charge upon them. They made a stubborn resistance for a little while, but it was of no use for any eight hundred, or even sixteen hundred Indians to try and check a charge of the gallant old Fifth Cavalry, and they soon came to that conclusion and began a running retreat towards Red Cloud Agency. For thirty-five miles we drove them; pushing them so hard that they were obliged to abandon their loose horses, their camp equipage and everything else. We drove them into the agency, and followed in ourselves, notwithstanding the possibility of our having to encounter the thousands of Indians at that point. We were uncertain whether or not the other agency Indians had determined to follow the example of the Cheyennes and strike out upon the war-path; but that made no difference with the Fifth Cavalry, for they would have fought them all if necessary. It was dark when we rode into the agency, where we found thousands of Indians collected together; but they manifested no disposition to fight.

While at the agency I learned the name of the Indian Chief whom I had killed in the morning; it was Yellow Hand; a son of old Cut-nose--a leading chief of the Cheyennes. Cut-nose, having learned that I had killed his son sent a white interpreter to me with a message to the effect that he would give me four mules if I would turn over to him Yellow Hand's war-bonnet, guns, pistols, ornaments, and other paraphernalia which I had captured. I sent back word to the old gentleman that it would give me pleasure to accommodate him, but I could not do it this time.

The next morning we started to join General Crook, who was camped near the foot of Cloud Peak in the Big Horn mountains; awaiting the arrival of the Fifth Cavalry, before proceeding against the Sioux, who were somewhere near the head of the Little Big Horn,--as his scouts informed him. We made rapid marches and reached General Crook's camp on Goose Creek about the 3d of August.

At this camp I met many old friends, among whom was Colonel Royal, who had received his promotion to the Lieutenant Colonelcy of the Third Cavalry. He introduced me to General Crook, whom I had never met before, but of whom I had often heard. He also introduced me to the General's chief guide, Frank Grouard, a half breed, who had lived six years with Sitting Bull, and knew the country thoroughly.

We remained in this camp only one day, and then the whole troop pulled out for the Tongue river, leaving our wagons behind, but taking with us a large pack train. We marched down the Tongue river for two days, thence in a westerly direction over to the Rosebud, where we struck the main Indian trail, leading down this stream. From the size of the trail, which appeared to be about four days old, we estimated that there must have been in the neighborhood of seven thousand Indians who had made the broad trail.

At this point we were overtaken by Jack Crawford, familiarly known as "Captain Jack, the Poet Scout of the Black Hills," and right here I will insert the following lines, written by him, just after the "Custer Massacre," upon receiving from me the following dispatch:

"Jack, old boy, have you heard of the death of Custer?"


Did I hear the news from Custer? Well, I reckon I did, old pard; It came like a streak of lightnin', And, you bet, it hit me hard. I ain't no hand to blubber, And the briny ain't run for years; But chalk me down for a lubber, If I didn't shed regular tears.

What for? Now look you here, Bill, You're a bully boy, that's true; As good as e'er wore buckskin, Or fought with the boys in blue; But I'll bet my bottom dollar Ye had no trouble to muster A tear, or perhaps a hundred, At the news of the death of Custer.

He always thought well of you, pard, And had it been heaven's will, In a few more days you'd met him, And he'd welcome his old scout Bill. For if ye remember at Hat Creek, I met ye with General Carr; We talked of the brave young Custer, And recounted his deeds of war.

But little we knew even then, pard, (And that's just two weeks ago), How little we dreamed of disaster, Or that he had met the foe--That the fearless, reckless hero, So loved by the whole frontier, Had died on the field of battle In this, our centennial year.

I served with him in the army, In the darkest days of the war: And I reckon ye know his record, For he was our guiding star; And the boys who gathered round him To charge in the early morn, War just like the brave who perished With him on the Little Horn.

And where is the satisfaction, And how will the boys get square? By giving the reds more rifles? Invite them to take more hair? We want no scouts, no trappers, Nor men who know the frontier; Phil, old boy, you're mistaken, _We must have the volunteer_.

Never mind that two hundred thousand But give us a hundred instead; Send five thousand men towards Reno, And soon we won't leave a red. It will save Uncle Sam lots of money, In fortress we need not invest, Jest wollup the devils this summer, And the miners will do all the rest.

The Black Hills are filled with miners, The Big Horn will soon be as full, And which will show the most danger To Crazy Horse and old Sitting Bull A band of ten thousand frontier men, Or a couple of forts with a few Of the boys in the East now enlisting--Friend Cody, I leave it with you.

They talk of peace with these demons By feeding and clothing them well: I'd as soon think an angel from Heaven Would reign with contentment in H--l

And one day the Quakers will answer Before the great Judge of us all, For the death of daring young Custer And the boys who round him did fall.

Perhaps I am judging them harshly, But I mean what I'm telling ye, pard; I'm letting them down mighty easy, Perhaps they may think it is hard. But I tell you the day is approaching--The boys are beginning to muster--That day of the great retribution, The day of revenge for our Custer.

And I will be with you, friend Cody, My weight will go in with the boys; I shared all their hardships last winter, I shared all their sorrows and joys; Tell them I'm coming, friend William, I trust I will meet you ere long; Regards to the boys in the mountains; Yours, ever; in friendship still strong.

Jack was a new man in the country, but evidently had plenty of nerve and pluck, as he had brought dispatches from Fort Fetterman, a distance of 300 miles through a dangerous Indian country. The dispatches were for General Crook, and notified him that General Terry was to operate with a large command south of the Yellowstone, and that the two commands would probably consolidate somewhere on the Rosebud.

Jack at once hunted me up and gave me a letter from General Sheridan, informing me that he had appointed him (Jack) as one of the scouts.

While we were conversing, Jack informed me that he had brought me a present from Colonel Jones of Cheyenne, and that he had it in his saddle-pockets. Asking the nature of the gift, he replied that it was only a bottle of good whiskey.

I placed my hand over his mouth and told him to keep still, and not to whisper it even to the winds, for there were too many dry men around us; and only when alone with him did I dare to have him take the treasure from his saddle-pockets.

In this connection I may remark that Jack Crawford is the only man I have ever known that could have brought that bottle of whiskey through without _accident_ befalling it, for he is one of the very few teetotal scouts I ever met.

Not wishing to have a game of "whiskey _solitaire_," I invited General Carr to sample the bottle with me. We soon found a secluded spot, and dismounting, we thought we were going to have a nice little drink all by ourselves, when who should ride up but Mr. Lathrop, the Reporter of the Associated Press of the Pacific slope--to whom we had given the name of the "Death Rattler,"--and who was also known in San Francisco as "the man with the iron jaw," he having, with the true nose of a Reporter, smelt the whiskey from afar off, and had come to "interview" it. He was a good fellow withal, and we were glad to have him join us.

Now to resume: For two or three days we pushed on, but we did not seem to gain much on the Indians, as they were evidently making about the same marches that we were. On the fourth or fifth morning of our pursuit, I rode ahead of the command about ten miles, and mounting a hill I scanned the country far and wide with my field glass, and discovered an immense column of dust rising about ten miles further down the creek, and soon I noticed a body of men marching towards me, that at first I believed to be the Indians of whom we were in pursuit; but subsequently they proved to be General Terry's command. I sent back word to that effect to General Crook, by a scout who had accompanied me, but after he had departed I observed a band of Indians on the opposite side of the creek, and also another party directly in front of me. This led me to believe that I had made a mistake.

But shortly afterwards my attention was attracted by the appearance of a body of soldiers, who were forming into a skirmish line, and then I became convinced that it was General Terry's command after all, and that the red-skins whom I had seen were some of his friendly Indian scouts, who had mistaken me for a Sioux, and fled back to their command terribly excited, shouting, "The Sioux are coming!"

General Terry at once came to the post, and ordered the Seventh Cavalry to form line of battle across the Rosebud; he also ordered up his artillery and had them prepare for action, doubtless dreading another "Custer massacre." I afterwards learned the Indians had seen the dust raised by General Crook's forces, and had reported that the Sioux were coming.

These manoeuvres I witnessed from my position with considerable amusement, thinking the command must be badly demoralized, when one man could cause a whole army to form line of battle and prepare for action. Having enjoyed the situation to my heart's content, I galloped down towards the skirmish line, waving my hat and when within about one hundred yards of the troops, Colonel Weir, of the Seventh Cavalry, galloped out and met me. He recognized me at once, and accompanied me inside the line; then he sang out, "Boys, here's Buffalo Bill. Some of you old soldiers know him; give him a cheer!" Thereupon the regiment gave three rousing cheers, and it was followed up all along the line.

Colonel Weir presented me to General Terry, and in answer to his questions I informed him that the alarm of Indians which had been given was a false one, as the dust seen by his scouts was caused by General Crook's troops. General Terry thereupon rode forward to meet General Crook, and I accompanied him at his request. That night both commands went into camp on the Rosebud. General Terry had his wagon train with him, and everything to make life comfortable on an Indian campaign. He had large wall tents and portable beds to sleep in, and large hospital tents for dining-rooms. His camp looked very comfortable and attractive, and presented a great contrast to that of General Crook, who had for his headquarters only one small fly tent; and whose cooking utensils consisted of a quart cup--in which he made his coffee himself--and a stick, upon which he broiled his bacon. When I compared the two camps, I came to the conclusion that General Crook was an Indian fighter; for it was evident that he had learned that, to follow and fight Indians, a body of men must travel lightly and not be detained by a wagon train or heavy luggage of any kind.

That evening General Terry ordered General Miles to take his regiment, the Fifth Infantry, and return by a forced march to the Yellowstone, and proceed down that river by steamboat to the mouth of Powder river, to intercept the Indians, in case they attempted to cross the Yellowstone. General Mills made a forced march that night of thirty-five miles, which was splendid traveling for an infantry regiment through a mountainous country.

Generals Crook and Terry spent that evening and the next day in council, and on the following morning both commands moved out on the Indian trail. Although General Terry was the senior officer, he did not assume command of both expeditions, but left General Crook in command of his own troops, although they operated together. We crossed the Tongue river to Powder river, and proceeded down the latter stream to a point twenty miles from its junction with the Yellowstone, where the Indian trail turned to the southeast in the direction of the Black Hills. The two commands now being nearly out of supplies, the trail was abandoned, and the troops kept on down Powder river to its confluence with the Yellowstone, and remained there several days. Here we met General Mills, who reported that no Indians had as yet crossed the Yellowstone. Several steamboats soon arrived with a large quantity of supplies, and once more the "Boys in Blue" were made happy.