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 21 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 21 of 26)
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through his side, and as he falters another strikes his noble
breast. Like a strong oak stricken by the lightning's bolt,
shivering the mighty trunk and bending its withering branches
down close to the earth, so fell Ouster; but like the reacting
branches, he rises partly up again, and striking out like a fatally
wounded giant lays three more Indians dead and breaks his
mighty sword on the musket of a fourth ; then, with useless
blade and empty pistol falls back the victim of a dozen wounds.
He is the last to succumb to death, and dies, too, with the glory
of accomplished duty on his conscience and the benediction of a
grateful country on his head. The place where fell these noblest


of God's' heroes is sacred ground, and though it be the Golgotha
of a nation's mistakes it is bathed with precious blood, rich with
the gerins of heroic inheritance.

I have avoided attaching blame to any one, using only the
facts that have been furnished me of how Custer came to attack
the Sioux village and how and why he died.

When the news of the terrible massacre was learned, soldiers
everywhere made a pilgrimage to the sacred place, and friendly
hands reared a monument on that distant spot commemorative of
the heroism of Custer and his men ; collected together all the
bones and relics of the battle and piled them up in pyramidal
form, where they stand in sunshine and storm, overlooking the
Little Big Horn.

Soon after the news of Custer s massacre reached us prepara-
tions were immediately made to avenge his death. The whole
Cheyenne and Sioux tribes were in revolt and a lively, if not
very dangerous, campaign was in prospective.


Two days before receipt of the news of the massacre, Colonel
Stanton, who was with the Fifth Cavalry, had been sent to Red
Cloud agency and on the evening of the receipt of news of the
Custer fight a scout arrived in our camp with a message from
the Colonel informing General Merritt that eight hundred Chey-
enne warriors had that day left Red Cloud agency to join Sitting
Bull's hostile forces in the Big Horn country.

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 impor-
tant 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 thai
the Indians had not yet crossed the creek. On my way back to
the command 1 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 ob-
servation to a
neighboring hill,
from the summit
of which we saw
that the Indians
were approach-
ing almost direct-
ly towards us.
Presently fifteen
or twenty of them
dashed off to the
west in the direc-
tion from which
we had come the
night before;
and upon closer
observation with


we discovered two mounted soldiers, evidently carrying dis-
patches 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 they would show to the
Indians that there were troops in the vicinity who we**e waiting
for them. I finally suggested that the best plan was to

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until tne couriers came closer to the command, and tnen just ai
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

I rushed back to the command, jumped on my horse, picked
out fifteen men, and returned with them to the point of observa-
tion. 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 min-
utes, 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 skir-
mish took place. One of the Indians, who was handsomely dec^
orated 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 wa 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 gopher hole. The fall did not hurt
me much, and I instantly sprang to my feet. The Indian ha<j


also recovered himself, and we were now both on foot, and not
more than twenty paces apart. We fired at each other simul-
taneously. 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 v if air 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 CusterS*

General Merritt, seeing that he could not now ambush the In-
dians, 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, notwith-
standing 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
1 e a d i n g
chief of the
! Cheyennes.
h a v i n g
that I had
killed h i s
son sent a
white i n-
terpreter to
me with a
message to
the effect
that he
would give
me four
mules if I
would turn
over to him
w a r-b o n -


pistols, ornaments, and other paraphernalia which I had captured.
I sent back word to the old gentleman that it would give me pleas-
ure 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 hircu 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
Royall, who had received his promotion to the Lieutenant-Col-
onelcy 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 Sit-
ting 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 be-
hind, 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 ap-
peared to be about four days old, we estimated that there must
have been in the neighborhood of seven thousand Indians in
the war party.

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 mis-
take. 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 Sev-
enth Cavalry to form line of battle across the Rosebud ; he also
ordered up his artillery and had them prepare for action, doubt-
less dreading another " Custer massacre." I afterwards learned
the Indian 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 consid-
erable amusement, thinking the command must be badly demor-
alized, 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!" There-
upon 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 question 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 thereup-
on 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 commo-
dSons hospital tents for dining-rooms. His camp looked very com-


Portable and attractive, and presented a great contrast t J 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 wag-
on train or heavy luggage of any kind.

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

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 op-
erated 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 con-
fluence 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 ODC mors *h* " Boys ID
in Blue " were made happy.





NE evening while we were in camp ox the
Yellowstone at the mouth of Powder river,
I was informed that the commanding offic-
ers had selected Louis Richard, a half breed
and myself to accompany General Mills on
a scouting expedition on the steamer Far
West, down the Yellowstone as far as Glen-
dive creek. We were to ride on the pilot
house and keep a sharp lookout on both sides
of the river for Indian trails that might have
crossed the stream. The idea of scouting on a
steamboat was indeed a novel one to me, and .[ an-
ticipated a pleasant trip.
At daylight next morning we reported on board the steamer
to General Mills, who had with him four or five companies of
his regiment. We were somewhat surprised when he asked us
where our horses were, as we had not supposed that horses would
be needed if the scouting was to be done on the steamer. He said
we might need them before we got back, and thereupon we had
the animals brought on board. In a few minutes we were boom-
ing down the river at the rate of about twenty miles an hour.

The steamer Far West was commanded by Captain Grant Marsh,
whom I found to be an interesting character. I had often heard
of him, for he was and is yet one of the best known river cap-
tains in the country. He it was who, with his steamer the Far (
West, transported the wounded men from the battle of the Little
Big Horn to Fort Abraham Lincoln on the Missouri river, and
on that trip he made the fastest steamboat time on record. He
was a skillful and experienced pilot, handling his boat with re
markable dexterity



While Richard and myself were at our stations on the pilot
house, the steamer with a full head of steam went flying past
islands, around bends over sand-bars, at a rate that was exhilar-

ating. Presently I thought I
could see horses grazing in a dis-
tant bend of the river and I re-
ported the fact to General Mills,
who asked Captain Marsh if he
could land the boat near a large
tree which he pointed out to
him. " Yes, sir; I can land her
there, and make her climb the
tree if necessary,'* said he.

On reaching the spot designat-
ed, General Mills ordered two
companies ashore, while Richard
and myself were instructed to take
our horses off the boat and push
out as rapidly as possible to see if
there were Indians in the vicinity.
While we were getting ashore,
Captain Marsh remarked that if
there was only a good heavy dew
on the grass he would shoot the
steamer ashore and take us on the
scout without the trouble of leaving the boat.

It was a false alarm, .however, as the objects we had seen



proved to be Indian graves. Quite a large number of braves
who had probably been killed in some battle, were laid on
scaffolds, according to the Indian custom, and some of their
clothing had been torn loose from the bodies by the wolves and
was waving in the air.

On arriving at Glendive creek we found that Colonel Rice and
his company of the Fifth Infantry who had been sent there by
General Mills, had built quite a good little fort with their trowel-
bayonets a weapon which Colonel Rice was the inventor of,
and which is, by the way, a very useful implement of war, as it
can be used for a shovel in throwing up intrenchments and can
be profitably utilized in several other ways. On the day pre-
vious to our arrival, Colonel Rice had a fight with a party of
Indians, and had killed two or three of them at long range with
his Rodman cannon.


The Far West was to remain at Glendive over night, and Gen-
eral Mills wished to send dispatches back to General Terry at
once. At his request I took the dispatches and rode seventy-
five miles that night through the bad lands of the Yellowstone,
and reached General Terry's camp next morning, after having
nearly broken my neck a dozen times or more,

There being but little prospect of any more fighting, I deter-
mined to go East as soon as possible to organize a new " Dram-
atic Combination," and have a new drama written for me based
upon the Sioux war. This I knew would be a paying invest,
ment as the Sioux campaign had excited considerable interest.
So I started down the river on the steamer Yellowstone en route
to Fort Beauford. On the same morning Generals Terry and
Crook pulled out for Powder river, to take up the old Indian
trail which we had recently left.

The steamer had proceeded down the stream about twenty
miles when it was met by another boat on its way up the river,
having on board General Whistler and some fresh troops for
General Terrv'? command. Both boats landed* and almost the



first person I met was my old friend and partner, Texas Jack,
who had been sent out as a dispatch carrier for the New York

General Whistler, upon learning that General Terry had left
the Yellowstone, asked me to carry to him some important dis-
patches from General Sheridan, and although I objected, he
insisted upon my performing this duty, saying that it would
only detain me a few hours longer ; as an extra inducement he
offered me the use of his own thorough-bred horse, which was


on the boat. I finally consented to go, and was soon speeding
over the rough and hilly country towards Powder river, and I
delivered the dispatches to General Terry the same evening.
General Whistler's horse, although a good animal was cot used
to such hard riding, and was far more exhausted by the journey
than I was.

After I had taken a lunch, General Terry asked me if I would
carry some dispatches back to General Whistler, and 1 replied
that I would. Captain Smith, General Terry's aid-de-camp,
offered me his horse for the trip, and it proved to be an excel-


lent animal ; for I rode him that same night forty miles over the
bad lands in four hours, and reached General Whistler's steam-
boat at one o'clock. During my absence the Indians had made
their appearance on the different hills in the vicinity, and the
troops from the boat had had several skirmishes with them.
When General Whistler had finished reading the dispatches, he
said: " Cody, I want to send information to General Terry con-
cerning the Indians who have been skirmishing around here all
day. I have been trying all the evening long to induce some
one to carry my dispatches to him, but no one seems willing to
undertake the trip, and I have got to fall back on you. It is
asking a great deal, I know, as you have just ridden eighty
miles; but it is a case of necessity, and if you'll go Cody, I'll
see that you are well paid for it."

" Never mind about the pay," said I, " but get your dispatches
ready and I'll start at once."


In a few minutes he handed me the package and, mounting
the same horse which I had ridden from General Terry's camp,
I struck out for my destination. It was two o'clock in the
morning when I left the boat, and at eight o'clock I rode into
General Terry's camp, just as he was about to march having
made one hundred and twenty miles in twenty-two hours.

General Terry, after reading the dispatches, halted his com-
mand and then rode on and overtook General Crook, with whom
he held a council; the result was that Crook's command moved
on in the direction which they had been pursuing, while Terry's
forces marched back to the Yellowstone and crossed the river
on steamboats. At the urgent request of General Terry I ac-
companied the command on a scout in the direction of the Dry
fork of the Missouri, where it was expected we would strike
some Indians.

The first march out from the Yellowstone was made in the
night, as we wished to get into the hills without being discovered
by the Sioux scouts. After marching three days, a little to the


east of north, we reached the buffalo range and discovered fresh
signs of Indians, who had evidently been killing buffaloes.
General Terry now called on me to carry dispatches to Colonel
Rice, who was still camped at the mouth of Glendive creek, on
the Yellowstone distant about eighty miles from us.

Night had set in with a storm and a drizzling rain was falling
when, at ten o'clock, I started on this ride through a section of
country with which I was entirely unacquainted. I traveled
'through the darkness a distance of about thirty-five miles, and
at daylight I rode into a secluded spot at the head of a ravine
where stood a bunch of ash trees and there I concluded to remain
till night, for I considered it a dangerous undertaking to cross
the wide prairies in broad daylight especially as my horse was
a poor one. I accordingly unsaddled my animal and ate a hearty
breakfast of bacon and hard tack which I had stored in the saddle-
pockets; then, after taking a smoke, I lay down to sleep, with

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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 21 of 26)