1846-1917 Buffalo Bill.

Buffalo Bill's own story of his life and deeds; this autobiography tells in his own graphic words the wonderful story of his heroic career; online

. (page 10 of 26)
Online Library1846-1917 Buffalo BillBuffalo Bill's own story of his life and deeds; this autobiography tells in his own graphic words the wonderful story of his heroic career; → online text (page 10 of 26)
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frightened some of the tender creatures to see the buffalo coming at
full speed directly toward them ; but when he had got within fifty
yards of one of the wagons, I shot him dead in his tracks. This
made my sixty-ninth buffalo, and finished my third and last run,
Comstock having killed forty-six.

As it was now late in the afternoon, Comstock and his backers
gave up the idea that he could beat me, and thereupon the ref
erees declared me the winner of the match, as well as the cham
pion buffalo-hunter of the plains.*

On our way back to camp, we took with us some of the choice
meat and finest heads. In this connection it will not be out of
place to state that during the time I was hunting for the Kansas
Pacific, I always brought into camp the best buffalo heads, and
turned them oven* to the company, who found a very good use
for them. They had them mounted in the best possible manner,
and sent them to all the principal cities and railroad centers in
the country, having them placed in prominent positions at the
leading hotels, depots, and other public buildings, as i sort of
trade-mark, or advertisement, of the Kansas Pacific railroad;
and to-day they attract the attention of the traveler almost every-
where. Whenever I am traveling over the country and see one
of these trade-marks, I feel pretty certain that I was the cause
of the death of the old fellow whose body it once ornamented,
and many a wild and exciting hunt is thus called to mind.

The end of the track finally reached Sheridan, in the month of
May, 1868, and as the road was not to be built any farther just

* Poor Billy Comstock was afterwards treacherously murdered by the In-
dians. He and Sharpe Grover visited a Tillage of Indians, supposed to be
peaceably Inclined, near Big Spring station, in Western Kansas; and after
spending several hours with the red-skins in friendly conversation, they prepared
to depart, having declined an Invitation to pass the night there. It appears that
Comstock's beautiful white-handled revolver had attracted the attention of the
Indians, who overtook him and his companion when they had gone about half a
mile. After surrounding the two men they suddenly attacked them. They
killed, scalped and robbed Comstock; but Grover, although severely wounded,
made his escape, owing to the fleetness of the excellent horse which he was
riding. This sad event occurred August 27.


then, my services as a hunter were not any longer required. At
this time there was a general Indian war raging all along the
Western borders. General Sheridan had taken up his headquar-
ters at Fort Hays, in order to be in the field to superintend the
campaign in person. As scouts and guides were in great demand,
I concluded once more to take up my oid avocation of scouting
and guiding for the army.


Having no suitable place in which to leave my old and faithful
buffalo-hunter Brigham, and not wishing to kill him by scouting,
I determined to dispose of hinic I was very reluctant tc part w ; th
him, but I consoled myself with the thought that he would not
be likely to receive harder usage in other hands than he had in
mine. I had several good offers to sell him ; but at the sugges-
tion of some gentlemen in Sheridan, all of whom were anxious to
obtain possession of the horse, I put him up at a raffle, in order
to give them all an equal chance of becoming the owner of the
famous steed. There were ten chances at thirty dollars each, and
they were all quickly taken.

Old Brigham was won by a gentleman Mr. Ike Bonham
who took him to Wyandotte, Kansas, where he soon added new
laurels to his already brilliant record. Although I am getting
ahead of my story, I must now follow Brigham for a while. A
grand tournament came off four miles from Wyandotte, and
Brigham took part in it. As has already been stated, his ap-
pearance was not very prepossessing, and nobody suspected him
of being anything but the most ordinary kind of a plug. The
friends of the rider laughed at him for being mounted on such a
dizzy-looking steed. When the exercises which were of a very
tame character, being more for style than speed were over, and
just as the crowd was about to return to the city, a purse of
$250 was made up, to be given to the horse that could first reach
Wyandotte, four miles distant. The arrangement was carried
out, and Brigham was entered as one of the contestants for the
purse. Everybody laughed at Mr. Bonham when it became



known that he was to ride that poky-looking plug against the five
thoroughbreds which were to take part in the race.

When all the preliminaries had been arranged, the signal was
given, and off went the horses for Wyandotte. For the first half-
inile several of the horses led Brigham, but on the second mile
he began passing them one after another, and on the third mile
he was in advance of them all, and was showing them the road
at a lively rate. On the fourth mile his rider let him out, and
arrived at the hotel the home-station in Wyandotte a long
way ahead of his fastest competitor.

Everybody was surprised as well as disgusted, that such a
homely " critter" should be the winner. Brigham, of course,
had already acquired a wide reputation, and his name and exploits
had often appeared in the newspapers, and when it was learned
that this "critter" was none other than the identical buffalo-
hunting Brigham, nearly the whole crowd admitted that they had
heard of him before, and had they known him in the first place
they certainly would have ruled him out.

But to return to the thread of my narrative, from which I have
wandered. Having received the appointment of guide and scout,
and having been ordered to report at Fort Larned, then com-
manded by Captain Dangerfield Parker, I saw it was necessary
to take my family who had remained with me at Sheridan
after the buffalo-hunting match to Leavenworth and there
leave them. This I did at once, and after providing them with
a comfortable little home I returned and reported for duty at
Fort Larned.


Colonel Cody was not only famous as a scout, hunter, and
Indian fighter, but had an international reputation as a show-
man and evidenced great genius in organizing and managing
the "Wild West Exhibition."


Buffalo Bill's thoughtful attention in giving his horse a
drink from his own hat was thoroughly characteristic of the man
in all his relations with animals, as well as with people.



Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution.





EARLY all the scouts operating in
Western Kansas, at the time of
which I write, made their princi-
pal headquarters at Fort Larned,
and were commanded by Dick
Curtis, an old guide, frontiersman
and Indian interpreter. When I
first visited the place in the line
of duty there were some three
hundred lodges of Kiowas and Comanche Indians
camped near the fort. These Indians had not as yet
gone upon the war-path, but were restless and dis-
contented, and their leading chiefs, Satanta, Lone
Wolf, Kicking Bird, Satank, Sittamore, and other noted war-
riors, were rather saucy. The post at the time was garrisoned
by only two companies of infantry and one of cavalry.

General Hazen, who was at the post, was endeavoring to pacify
the Indians and keep them from going on the war-path. I was
appointed as his special scout, and one morning he notified me
that he was going to Fort Harker and wished me to accompany
him as far Fort Zarah, thirty miles distant. The General usu-
ally traveled in an ambulance, but this trip he was te make
in a six-mule wagon, under the escort of a squad of twenty

So, early one morning in August, \ve started, arriving safely
at Fort Zarah at twelve o'clock. General Hazen thought it
unnecessary that we should go father, and he proceeded on
his way to Fort Harker without an escort, leaving instructions
f ht we should ^urn to F f T 'irned the rvt day.


After the General had gone I went to the sergeant in command
of the squad and told him that I was going back that very aft-
ernoon instead of waiting until the next morning ; and 1 accord-
ingly saddled up my mule and set out for Fort Lamed. I pro-
ceeded uninterruptedly until I got about half-way between the
two posts, when at Pawnee Rock I was suddenly " jumped " by
about forty Indians, who came dashing up to me, extending their
hands and saying, " How ! How !" They were some of the In-
dians who had been hanging around Fort Larned in the morning.
I saw they had on their war paint, and were evidently now out
on the war-path.


My first impulse was to shake hands with them, as they seemed
so desirous of it. I accordingly reached out my hand to one of
them, who grasped it with a tight grip, and jerked me violently
forward ; another pulled my mule by the bridle, and in a mo-
ment I was completly surrounded. Before I could do anything
at all, they had seized my revolvers from the holsters, and I re-
ceived a blow on the head from a tomahawk which nearly ren-
dered me senseless. My gun, which was lying. across the saddle,
was snatched from its place, and finally the Indian who had hold
of the bridle started off towards the Arkansas river, leading the
mule, which was being lashed by the other Indians who were fol-
lowing. The savages were all singing, yelling and whooping, as
only Indians can do, when they are having their little game all
their own way. While looking towards the river I saw, on the
opposite side, an immense village moving down along the bank,
and then I became convinced that the Indians had left the post
and were now starting cut on the war-path. My captors- crossed
the stream with me, and as we waded through the shallow water
they continued to lash the mule and myself. Finally they
brought me before an important looking body of Indians, who
proved to be chiefs and principal warriors. 1 soon recognized
old Satanta among them, as well as others whom I knew and 1
supposed it was all over with me.



The Indians were jabbering away so rapidly among themselves
that I could not understand what they were saying. Satanta at
last asked me where I had been ; and as good luck would have
it, a happy thought struck me : I told him I had been after a herd
el cattle or " whoa-haws," as they called them. It so happened
that the Indians had been out of meat for several weeks, as the
large herd of cattle which had been promised them had not yet
arrived, although expected by them.


The moment I mentioned that I had been searching for the
" whoa-haws," old Santa began questioning me in a very eager


manner. He asked me where the cattle were, and I replied that
they were back only a few miles, and that I had been sent by
General Hazen to inform him that the cattle were coming, and
that they were intended for his people. This seemed to please
the old rascal, who also wanted to know if there were any sol-
diers with the herd, and my reply was that there were. There-
upon the chiefs held a consultation, and presently Satanta asked


me if General Hazen had really said that they should have the
cattle. I replied in the affirmative, and added that I had been
directed to bring the cattle to them . I followed this up with a very
dignified inquiry, asking why his young men had treated me so.
The old wretch intimated that it was only a freak of the boys ; ' '
that the young men wanted to see if I was brave; in fact, they
had only meant to test my bravery, and that the whole thing was
a joke.

The veteran liar was now beating me at my own game of
lying; but I was very glad of it, as it was in my favor. I did
not let him suspect that I doubted his veracity, but I remarked
that it was a rough way to treat friends. He immediately or-
dered his young men to give me back my arms and scolded them
for what they had done. Of course, the sly old dog was now
playing it very fine, as he was anxious to get possession of the
cattle, with which he believed " there was a heap of soldiers
coming." He had concluded it was not best to fight the soldiers
if he could get the cattle peaceably.

Another council was held by the chiefs and in a few minutes
old Satanta came and asked me if I would go over and bring the
cattle down to the opposite side of the river, so that they could
get them. I replied: "Of course; that's my instruction from
General Hazen."

Satanta said I must not feel angry at his young men, for they
had only been acting in fun. He then inquired if I wished any
of his men to accompany me to the cattle herd. I replied that
it would be better for me to go alone, and then the soldiers could
keep right on to Fort Larned, while I could drive the herd down
on the bottom. So, wheeling my mule around, I was soon re-
crossing the river, leaving old Satanta in the firm belief that I
had told him a straight story and was going for the cattle which
only existed in my imagination.

1 harcTy knew what to do, but thought that if I could get the
river between the Indians and myself I would have a good three-
quarters of a mile the start of them, and could then make a run
for Fort Larned, as my mule was a good one.



Thus far my cattle story had panned out all right ; but just as
I reached the opposite bank of the river I looked behind and saw
that ten or fifteen Indians who had begun to suspect something
crooked were following me. The moment that my mule secured
a good foothold on the bank I urged him into a gentle lope
towards the place where, according to my statement, the cattle
were to be brought. Upon reaching a little ridge and riding down
the other side out of view, I turned my mule and headed him
westward for Fort Lamed. I let him out for all that he was
worth, and when I came out on a little rise of ground I looked
back and saw the Indian village in plain sight. My pursuers
were now on the ridge which I had passed over and were looking
for me in every direction.

Presently they spied me, and seeing that I was running away
they struck out in swift pursuit, and in a few minutes it became
painfully evident that they were gaining on me. They kept up
the chase as far as Ash creek, six miles from Fort Larned. I
still led them half a mile, as their horses had not gained much
during the last half of the race. My mule seemed to have gotten
his second wind, and as I was on the old road I played the whip
and spurs on him without much cessation. The Indians like-
wise urged their steeds to the utmost.

Finally, upon reaching the dividing ridge between Ash creek
and Pawnee fork, I saw Fort Larned only four miles away. It
was now sundown and I heard the evening gun at the fort. The
troops of the little garrison little dreamed that there was a man
flying for his life from the Indians ^and trying to reach the post.
The Indians were once more gaining on me, and when I crossed
the Pawnee fork, two miles from the post, two or three of them
were only a quarter of a mile behind me. Just as I had gained
the opposite bank cf the stream I was overjoyed to see some
soldiers in a government wagon only a short distance off. I
yelled at the top of my voice and, riding up to them, told them
that the Indians were after me.



Denver Jim, a well known scout, asked how many there were,
and upon my informing him that there were about a dozen, he said ;
"Let's drive the wagon into the trees, and we'll lay for 'em.'*
The team was hurriedly driven in among the trees and low box-
elder bushes, and there secreted.

We did not have to wait long for the Indians, who carue dash-
ing up, lashing their horses, which were panting and blowing.

We let two
of them
pass by, but
we opened a
lively fi r e
on the next
three or
four, killing
two at the
first crack.
The others
discov e r e d
that they
had run into
an ambush,
and whirl-
ing off into
the brush

and ran back in the direction whence they had come. The two
who had passed heard the firing and made their escape. We
scalped the two that we had killed, and appropriated their arms
and equipments; and then catching their horses, we made our
way into the post. The soldiers had heard us firing, and as we
were approaching the fort the drums were being beaten, and the
buglers were sounding the call to fall in. The officers thought


that Satanta and his Indians were coming in to capture the

It seems that on the morning of that day, two hours after
General Hazen had taken his departure, old Satanta drove into
the post in an ambulance, which he had received some months
before as a present from the government. He appeared to be
angry and bent on mischief. In an interview with Captain Par-
ker, the commanding officer, he asked why General Hazen had
left the post without supplying the beef cattle which he had
promised him. The Captain told him that the cattle were surely
on the road, but he could not explain why they were detained.

The interview proved to be a stormy one, and Satanta made
numerous threats, saying that if he wished, he could capture the
whole post with his warriors. Captain Parker, who was a brave
man, gave Satanta to understand that he was reckoning beyond
his powers, and would find it a more difficult undertaking than he
had any idea of, as they were prepared for him at any moment.
The interview finally terminated, and Satanta angrily left the
officer's presence. Going over to the sutlers store, he sold his am-
bulance to Mr. Tappan the post-trader, and with a portion of the
proceeds he secretly managed to secure some whisky from some
bad men around the fort. There are always to be found about
every frontier post some men who will sell whisky to the Indians
at any time and under any circumstances, notwithstanding it is a
flagrant violation of both civil and military regulations.

Satanta mounted his horse, and taking the whisky with him
he rode rapidly away and proceeded straight to his village. He
had not been gone over an hour, when he returned to the vicinity
of the post accompanied by his warriors who came in from every
direction, to the number of seven or eight hundred. It was evi-
dent that the irate old rascal was "on his ear," so to speak, and
it looked as if he intended to carry out his threat of capturing
the fort. The garrison at once turned out and prepared to re-
ceive the red-skins, who, when within half a mile, circled around
the fort and fired nvmerous shots into it, instead of trying to
take it by assault.



While this circular movement was going on, it was observed that
the Indian village in the distance was packing up, preparatory to
leaving, and it was soon under way. The mounted warriors re-
mained behind some little time, to give their families an opportu-
nity to get away, as they feared that the troops might possibly in
some manner intercept them. Finally, they encircled the post
several times, fired some farewell rounds, and then galloped away
over the prairie to overtake their fast departing village. On
their way thither, they surprised and killed a party of wood-
choppers down on the Pawnee fork, as well as some herders who
were guarding beef cattle ; some seven or eight men in all were
killed, and it was evident that the Indians meant business.

The soldiers with the wagon whom I had met at the crossing
of the Pawnee fork had been out for the bodies of the men.
Under the circumstances it was no wonder that the garrison,
upon hearing the reports of our guns when we fired upon the
party whom we ambushed, should have thought the Indians were
coming back to give them another " turn.'*

We found that all was excitement at the post; double guards
had been put on duty, and Captain Parker had all the scouts at
his headquarters. He was endeavoring to get some one to take
some important dispatches to General Sheridan at Fort Hays.
I reported to him at once, and stated where I met the Indians
and how I had escaped from them.

"You were very fortunate, Cody, in thinking of that cattle
story ; but for that little game your hair would now be an orna-
ment toaKiowa's lodge," said he.

Just then Dick Curtis spoke up and said: " Cody, the Captain
is anxious to send some dispatches to General Sheridan, at Fort
Hays, and none of the scouts here seem to be very willing to un-
dertake the trip. They say they are not well enough acquainted
with the country to find the way at night."


As a storm was coming up it was quite dark, and the scouts
feared that they would lose the way ; besides, it was a dangerous


ride, as a largo party of Indians were known to be camped on
Walnut creek, on the direct road to Fort Hays. It was evident
that Curtis was trying to induce me to volunteer, so I made some
evasive answer to him for I did not care to volunteer after
my long day's ride. But Curtis did not let the matter drop.
Said he :

" I wish, Bill, that you were not so tired by your chase of to-
day, for you know the country better than the rest of the boys,
and I am certain that you could go through."

" As far as the ride to Fort Hays is concerned, that alone
would matter but little to me," I said, " but it is a risky piece of
work just now, as the country is full of hostile Indians ; still, if no
other scout is willing to volunteer, I will chance it. I'll go, pro-
vided I am furnished with a good horse. I am tired of being
chased on a government mule by Indians." At this Captain
Nolan, who had been listening to our conversation, said:

" Bill, you may have the best horse in my company. You
can take your choice if you will carry these dispatches. Although
it is against regulations to dismount an enlisted man, I have no
hesitancy in such a case of urgent necessity as this is, in telling
you that you may have any horse you may wish."

" Captain, your first sergeant has a splendid horse, and that's
the one I want. If he'll let me ride that horse, I'll be ready to
start in one hour, storm or no storm," said I.

"Good enough, Bill; you shall have the horse; but are you
sure you can find your way on such a dark night as this? "

" I have hunted on nearly every acre of ground between here
and Fort Hays, and I can almost keep my route by the bones of
the dead buffaloes," I confidently replied.

" Never fear, Captain, about Cody not finding the way; he is
as good in the dark as he is in the daylight," said Curtis.


An orderly was sent for the horse, and the animal was soon
brought up, although the sergeant " kicked " a little against let-
tur hi cro. After eating a lunch and filling a canteen with



brandy, I went to headquarters and put my own saddle and
bridle on the horse I was to ride. I then got the dispatches, and
by ten o'clock was on the road to Fort Hays, which was sixty-five
miles distant across the country.

It was dark as pitch, but this I rather liked, as there was little
probability of any of the red-skins seeing me unless I stumbled
upon them accidentally. My greatest danger was that my horse
might run into a hole and fall down, and in this way get away

from me. To avoid any such
accident, I tied one end of my raw-
hide lariat to the bridle and the
other end to my belt. I didn't
propose to be left on foot alone
but on the prairie.

It was, indeed, a wise precaution
that I had taken, for within the
next three miles the horse, sure
enough, stepped into a prairie-
dog's hole, and down he went,
throwing me clear over his head.
.Springing to his feet, before I
could catch hold of the bridle, he
galloped away into the darkness ;
I but when he reached the full length
of the lariat, he found that he was
'not so loose as he believed. I
INDIAN BURIAL PLACE. brought him up standing, and

after finding my gun, which had dropped to the ground, I went
up to him and in a moment was in the saddle again, and went on
my way rejoicing, keeping straight on my course until I came to
the ravines leading into Walnut creek, twenty-five miles from
Fort Lamed, where the country became rougher, requiring me

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Online Library1846-1917 Buffalo BillBuffalo Bill's own story of his life and deeds; this autobiography tells in his own graphic words the wonderful story of his heroic career; → online text (page 10 of 26)