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 23 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 23 of 26)
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Nebraska, of the State line, Capt. Braes, and were ready to set sail
to a country that I had long wished to visit, the Motherland.
Accordingly, on Thursday, March 31st, 1887, we set sail from
New York, the piers crowded with thousands of our good friends
who came down to wave their adieux and to wish us a pleasant
voyage. Our departure was an occasion I shall never forget, 1
for as the ship drew away from the pier such cheers went up as
I never before heard, while our Cowboy band played " The Girl
I left Behind Me " in a manner that suggested more reality man
empty sentiment in the familiar air. Salsbury and I, and my
daughter Arta, waved our hats in sad farewells and stood upon


the deck watching the still cheering crowd until theyfac^ 'u
the distance, and we were out upon the deep, for the first time
in my life.


Before starting on the trip several of the Indians expressed
grave fears that if they trusted themselves to the great waters a
horrible death would soon overtake them, and at the last moment
it required all our arts of persuasion to induce them to go on

Red Shirt explained that these fears were caused by a belief
prevalent among many tribes of Indians, that if a red man at-
tempted to cross the ocean, soon after beginning his journey he
would be seized of a malady that would first prostrate the victim
and then slowly consume his flesh, day after day, until at length
the very skin itself would drop from his bones, leaving nothing
but the skeleton and this even could never find burial. This
gruesome belief was repeated by chiefs of the several tribes to
the Indians who had joined me, so that there is little reason for
wonder, that with all our assurances, the poor unlearned children
of a nature run riot by neglect, should hesitate to submit them-
selves to such an experiment.

On the day following our departure from New York the In-
dians began to grow weary and their stomachs, like my own, be-
came both treacherous and rebellious. Their fears were now so
greatly intensified that even Red Shirt, the bravest of his people,
looked anxiously towards the hereafter, and began to feel his
flesh to see if it were really diminishing. The seal of hope-
lessness stamped upon the faces of the Indians aroused my pity,
and though sick as a cow with hollow-horn myself, I used my ut-
most endeavors to cheer them up and relieve their forebodings.
But for two days nearly the whole company was too sick'f or any
other active service than feeding the fishes, in which I am not
proud to say that I performed more than an ordinary share.
On the third day, however, we all began to mend so far that I
called the Indians together in the main saloon and gave them a


Sunday address, as did also Red Shirt, who was now recovered
from his anxiety about the future.

After the third day at sea we had an entertainment every af-
ternoon, in which Mr. Salsbury, as singer and comedian, took
the leading part, to the intense delight of all on board. On the
seventh day a storm came up that raged so fiercely that for a
time the ship had to lay to, and during which our stock suffered
greatly, but we gave them such good care, and had such excellent
luck as well, that none of our animals, save one horse, died on
the trip.

At last as we cast anchor off Gravesend a tug boat approaching
attracted the entire company on deck, for we were expecting to
meet our advance manager, Jno. M. Burke, with general instruc-
tions as to our landing, etc. It turned out, however, to be a
government boat loaded with custom-house and quarantine offi-
cials, under whom we were to pass the usual inspection. Another
official accompanied them, with whom arrangements had been
made for the passage of our arms, as a restriction was placed
upon the landing of our ammunition, of which we had brought a
large quantity, the English government regulations requiring that
it be unloaded and turned over to the arsenal authorities, in whose
charge it was kept during our stay in London, we drawing on
them daily for our supply as needed. I feel in duty bound to
acknowledge here that the English government, through its dif-
ferent officials, extended to us every kind of courtesy, privileges
and general facilities that materially assisted in rendering pleasant
the last few hours of a remarkable voyage. The bovines and
buffalo that were a part of our outfit were inspected, and a special
permit granted us to take them to the Albert dock, the place of
our debarkation, and after holding them in quarantine there for
a few days they were allowed to join us in camp.

Recent disastrous outbreaks of rinderpest, foot and mouth dis-
ease, and other ills that bovine flesh is heir to, necessitate the
law being very strict as regards importation of cattle, all foreign


beasts being required to be killed within twenty-four hours after
their arrival.


uring this delay time was given me for reflection and gradu-
ally as my eyes wandered over the crowded waterway with its
myriads of crafts of every description, from the quaint channel
fishing-boat to the mammoth East India trader and ocean


steamers, topped by the flags of all nations and hailing from
every accessible part of the known world, carrying the produc-
tions of every clime and laden with every commodity, I thought
of the magnitude of the enterprise I was engaged in and wonder-
ed what its results would be.

The freight I had brought with me across the broad Atlantic
was such a strange and curious one that I naturally wondered
whether, after all trouble, time and expense it had cost me, this
pioneer cargo of Nebraska goods would be marketable. In fact,
it would take a much more facile pen than mine to portray the
thick crowding thoughts that scurried through my brain. Stand-
ing on the deck of a ship, called the " State of Nebraska," whose
arrival had evidently been watched for with great curiosity, as
the number of yachts, tug boats and other crafts which surrounded
us attested, my memory wandered back to the days of my youth,
when in search of the necessaries of existence and braving the
dangers of the then vast wild plains, a section of which com-
prised the then unsettled territory of Nebraska. I contrasted
that epoch of my life, its lonely duties and its hardships, and al
its complex history, as the home and battle-ground of a savage
foe, with its present great prosperity and its standing as the em-
pire State of the central West. A certain feeling of pride came
over me when I thought of the good ship on whose deck I stood,
and that her cargo consisted of early pioneers and rude, rough
riders from that section, and of the wild horses of the same dis-
trict, buffalo, deer, elk and antelope the king game of the
prairie, together with over one hundred representatives of that
savage foe that had been compelled to submit to a conquering


civilization and were now accompanying me in friendship, loyalty
and peace, five thousand miles from their homes, braving the
dangers of the to them great unknown sea, now no longer a
tradition, but a reality all of us combined in an exhibition in-
tended to prove to the center of old world civilization that the
vast region of the United States was finally and effectively settled
by the English-speaking race.


This train of thought was interrupted by the sight of a tug
with the starry banner flying from her peak bearing down upon
us, and a tumultuous waving of handkerchiefs on board, evoking
shouts and cheers from all our company.

As the tug came nearer, strains of " The Star Spangled Ban-
ner," rendered by a band on her deck, fell upon our ears, and
immediately our own Cowboy band responded with " Yankee
Doodle," creating a general tumult on our ship as the word was
passed from bow to stern that friends were near. Once along-
side, the company on board the tug proved to be the directors of
the American Exhibition, with Lord Ronald Gower heading a
distinguished committee accompanied by Maj. Burke and repre-
sentatives of the leading journals, who made us feel at last that
our sea voyage was ended.


After the usual introductions, greetings and reception of in-
structions, I accompanied the committee on shore at Gravesend,
where quite an ovation was given us amid cries of " Welcome to
old England" and "three cheers for Bill," which gave pleas-
ing evidence of the public interest that had been awakened in our

A special train of saloon carriages was waiting to convey us to
London and we soon left the quaint old Kentish town behind us,
and in an hour we arrived at Victoria station. The high road-bed
of the railroad, which runs level with the chimney tops, was a
novel sight, as we scurried along through what seemed to be an


endless sea of habitation, and I have scarcely yet found out
where Gravesend finishes and Locdon commences, so dense is the
population of the suburbs off the " boss village " of the British
Isles, and so numerous the small towns through which we
passed. The impression created by the grand Victoria station,
by the underground railroad, the strange sights and busy scenes
of the " West End," the hustle and the bustle of a first evening
view of mighty London, would alone make a chapter.

My first opinion of the streets was that they were sufficiently
lively and noisy to have alarmed all the dogs in every Indian
village in the Platte country, from the Missouri river to the
headwaters of the Platte, in its most primitive days,

A short trip on the somewhat dark and sulphurous under-
ground railroad brought us to West Kensington, a quiet section
of the West End, the station of which had been already connected
by special bridges, then nearly completed, with the grounds as
yet unknown to London, but destined to become the scene of
several months' continuous triumphs. Entering the headquar-
ters of the exhibition we found a bounteous repast set and a
generous welcome accorded us. The heartiness of my reception,
combined with the natural sense of relief after such a journey
and the general indications of success, proved a happy relaxa-
tion of the nervous strain to which I had been subjected for sev-
eral weeks. Speeches, toasts and well wishes, etc., accompanied
the spirited and spirituous celebration of the occasion. My
genial hosts' capacity for the liquid refreshments would have
made me envy them in the 60s, and led me to suspect that there
might be accomplishments in England in which even western
pioneers are excelled.


After brief social converse, and a tranquilizing smoke, we
made a casuai visit to the grounds, where the preparations for the
stabling > the aiena and the grand stand, with busy hundreds of
workmen hastening their completions by night by the aid of
iucigen lights anc 1 bon-fires, presented an animated scene, and a


display of energy rarely witnessed in connection with an amuse-
ment enterprise. These operations were dealing with the expen-
diture of $125,000, including the fencing in of an arena more
than a third of a mile in circumference, flanked by a grand stand
filled with seats and boxes, estimated to accommodate 20,000 per-
sons. Sheltered stands for 10,000 more were also being erected ;
it being understood that room for 40,000 spectators in all should
be provided at each performance. For the Indian encampment
a large hill had been thrown up by spare labor, and this was al-
ready decorated by a grove of newly planted trees. The stables
for horses, mules and mustangs, and the corrals for buffaloes,
antelope, elk, etc., were all in simultaneous course of construction.
Everything so far impressed me very favorably and I began to
feel that if we did not command success we would, with our ad-
vantages of location, surroundings and novelty and realism, at
least deserve it.

The interest evinced by the British workmen in my presence
detracting somewhat from their attention to business, caused us
to retire after a brief inspection. This same curiosity however
was as a straw indicating which way the wind blew. I was now,
for the first time, introduced in its own habitat to that world-
famed vehicle, the London hansom cab. In one of them I was
whirled through the West End, past the famous Hyde Park,
through Piccadilly, around Leicester and Trafalgar squares, to that
central resort and theatrical hub of this vast community, the
Strand. This narrow street, in its relation to the great city, re-
minded me of one of the contracted passes in the " Eockies," to
which traffic had been naturally attracted, and usage had made a
necessity. The density of its foot traffic, the thronging herd of
omnibuses, the twisting, wriggling, shouting, whip-cracking cab-
bies, seemed like Broadway squeezed narrower, and I realized
at once the utility and necessity of the two-wheeled curio in
which 1 was whirled through the bewildering mingle of Strand
traffic. With but one or two hub-bumps we were soon landed at
the magnificent hotel Metropole, in Northumberland avenue,
where I met many American gentlemen from different cities, who


recognized me on sight and gave me hearty greeting. I retired
early, determined to retrace my steps to Gravesend at daylight
and ascend the Thames on board the Nebraska, as my great anxiety
was the successful debarkation.


On an early tide that at its flood I now felt would lead on to for-
tune, with flags flying we entered, amid a perfect ovation, the great
port of London. The ship 's officers pointed out to us as we steamed
by them the places of historical interest.

With each horseman looking after his own mount, we were un-
loaded with a rapidity that astonished the old officials and hands on
the docks. Our entire outfit was as quickly loaded upon three rail-
way trains, for we were yet twelve miles from our future camp, and
speedily we were delivered, people and property, at the Midland rail-
way depot, alongside the grounds. By 6 p. m. our canvas city had
sprung up in the heart of the "West End of London, and from our
flagstaff "Old Glory" floated in the British breeze. The Cowboy
band rendered "The Star-Spangled Banner, " and the vast crowds
that had gathered at all available lookouts gave a storm of cheers.
This was gratifying, and as an evidence of appreciation and grati-
tude the band gave them ' ' God Save the Queen. ' '

Thus the Wild West and Bill Cody of Nebraska, U. S. A., were at
home in camp in London.

The dining tents not being up yet, our first meal was taken in full
view of our kindly and curious visitors. The meal was finished by 7
o'clock, and by 9 the tired occupants of the camp, Indians, Mexicans,
cowboys, scouts, men, women and children were peacefully and
snugly reposing after a long and arduous voyage.


Henry Irving, the great actor ; his genial friend, John Toole ; Miss
Ellen Terry, Justin McCarthy, M. P. ; Minister Phelps, Consul Gen-
eral Waller and Deputy Consul Moffet assisted us greatly in the
ceremonies of landing. Our own Mary Anderson, Mrs. Brown-
Potter, Henry Labouchere, Chas. Wyndham, and, in short, all the


prominent members of the local literati and theatrical profession,
took immense and friendly interest in our enterprise.

Lord Ronald Gower and hundreds of other lords, knights and
ladies of high degree, besides a host of distinguished American resi-
dents of London, visited our camp and stables before the regu-
lar day of opening to give expressions of friendship, good-will and

Our motley and strange people, living in their primitive style, and
feats of our horsemen in their daily exercises were deeply interesting
to our visitors and the innate English love of horsemanship presaged
the success that came to us.

The press was generous to us to an extent probably never known
before. Its columns teemed daily with such eulogistic matter con-
cerning us and our enterprise that I almost feared we might not come
up to the expectations thus raised.

Beside the daily newspapers and literary magazines, Punch and
the other humorous periodicals did their best for us, after their man-
ner, and the poets were melodious about us. Shortly I began to
discover that my lines -had fallen into the pleasant places that London
society ascribes to what it is pleased to term ' * the distinguished for-
eigner. ' ' I also discovered that, at least in such cases as mine, one
should have as many lives as a stack of black cats, all working at
once, or else have the attribute of ubiquity, to keep the pace that was
set for "Buffalo Bill," "Col. Cody," "Bill Cody," "Mr. Cody,"
et al. id omne genus whatever that is.


I was invited in one or the other of these characters, continuously
and numerously, to breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, suppers, garden
parties, athletic layouts, midnight doings, soirees, matinees, dedica-
tions and, in short, was overwhelmed with social attentions.

Of course, all this was pleasant to me as one who loves to live, but
I had business to attend to also, and very strenuous business, for the
"Wild West, and I did my best to meet the demand. Then I was made
an honorary member of nearly all the clubs, social, festive, artistic,
fashionable, and many of them were distinctly distinguishing. No-


tably the Reform Club, where I met the Prince of Wales, the Duke of
Cambridge and other royalty. Then there was luncheon at the Man-
sion House with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress ; dinner at the
Beaufort Club, where that fine sportsman, the Duke of Beaufort, was
host ; a memorable evening at the Savage Club with Mr. Wilson Bar-
rett just home from an American tour presiding, with such choice
spirits present as Henry Irving, John L. Toole and a host of others
of the art, literary and histrionic element of London and the world.
The Duke of Teck entertained me at United Arts Club, Lord Bruce
and other lords at the St. George's Club. The list of all these as
shown by my diary would be exhaustive of the peerage book and the
blue books and would also exhaust the reader, as it came near exhaust-
ing " Buffalo Bill," "Col. Cody," etc. And yet the rounds were
delightful and I appreciated the honors done me and my beloved
country. Through these I met frequently such charming and distin-
guished persons as Chas. Wyndham of the Criterion, Mr. Lawson of
the Daily Telegraph, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Wilde, Madame Minnie
Hauk, Mrs. Navarro, who was our own Mary Anderson ; Miss Emma
Nevada, Mrs. Brown-Potter, and hundreds of the kindred kind. One
of the most delightful affairs was a visit to Mr. Henry Labouchere on
the occasion of a glorious garden production by the Laboucheres of
* ' A Midsummer Night 's Dream. ' '

These are decimatingly few of the many social courtesies extended
me, and I must say that considering the exacting demands upon me
by the preliminary arrangements for so large an exhibition as we
were preparing to give with the Wild West, and polite attention to
the social demands, it has since been a wonder to me how we succeeded
in giving such a great and acceptable a performance on the opening
day, and thereafter, for the show went on for months and the social
amenities kept gait and pace. To make the situating more exacting,
as to my personal work, the hundred or more Indians with us from
the Pine Ridge Agency were all new to the show and were of the wild
variety; besides, we had a hundred new ponies from the plains of
Texas that had never been bridled or saddled, much less shot over,
and all these had to be brought into at least Wild West discipline,
and largely under my personal supervision.



A communication from Marlborough House of April 26, 1887,
resulted in an arrangement for a special performance for their Royal
Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, although everything
about the Wild West buildings was incomplete, the track unfinished
and held back by rainy weather and the hauling of huge timbers,
all combining to make the condition of the grounds unspeakably bad.
But for all this, I determined to pull through, as the Wild West
always suited me the better the more raw and wild that it was.

I retired the night previous to the visit, aching to the core with
care and fatigue, but with the hunter's pleasant anticipations after
striking a country where water is plenty and grazing good, two cir-
cumstances that always bring the frontiersman renewed confidence
and mental as well as bodily repose.

The entertainment to the future King of Great Britain and Em-
peror of India, with his royal party, was, of course, to be an exclusive
one and I got the royal box rigged as handsomely as circumstances
would permit and the taste of chosen artists could devise. The Eng-
lish and American flags were very prevalent in the decorations, and
it was my further object, beside entertaining the Princelings, to make
the occasion a grand, additional dress rehearsal.

The party that was conducted into our precincts was a strong one
numerically as well as in point of exalted rank. The Prince and
Princess of Wales with their three daughters, the Princesses Louise,
Victoria, and Maude, led the way. They were followed by the Mar-
quis of Lome and Princess Louise, his wife, the Duke of Cambridge,
H. S. H. Teck and son, the Comptesse de Paris, the Crown Prince of
Denmark, with numerous lords and ladies in waiting. The Prince of
Wales introduced me to his wife, afterward Alexandra, Queen-Con-
sort, and introductions to the other royal personages followed, in
which Nate Salsbury and Major John Burke were included.

His Royal Highness Edward, Prince of Wales, was then a man
under medium height, somewhat inclined to corpulency, mixed with
the indescribable manner that hedges royalty from constant associa-
tion with state ceremonials and the teachings of the "divine right"


of kings ; there was in the being of this man the simple, plain-spoken
kindliness of a well-bred gentleman. He accepted the evident homage
that surrounded him as a matter of course, but did not act as though
he would exact it.

Many times subsequently I had the pleasure of meeting, and I
found less of the airs of office about him than I have many times seen
displayed by third-rate civic officials, even in our own dearly beloved
and highly-spoken-of democratic republic. But the republic is not
to blame for that, and true Americans rarely show it. The Princess
of Wales was a quiet, self-possessed and gentle lady much given to
innocent merriment and still speaking English, with a slightly-clipped
foreign accent.

All my apprehensions of a mishap because of the unfinished condi-
tion of things about the establishment were dispelled from the
moment the signal was given by "command" of the Prince, and the
Indians, yelling like fiends, galloped out from their ambuscades and
swept around the enclosure like a whirlwind.

The effect was instantaneous and otherwise electric. The Prince
rose from his seat and leaned eagerly over the front of the box
and the entire party seemed thrilled effectually by the spectacle.
' ' Cody, ' ' I said to myself, ' ' You Ve fetched 'em. ' ' From that moment
we were in all right right from the word ' * Go ! "

Every day in our aggregation was in capital form and the whole
thing went off grandly.

Our lady shot experts, on being presented at the finish, committed
the little solacism of offering to shake hands with the Princess, for,
be it known, feminine royalty offers the hand back uppermost which
the person presented is expected to lift with finger tips and salute
with the lips. However, the Princess was quick to perceive and she
solved the situation by taking the proffered hands, somewhat shaded
with gunpowder, and shaking them heartily.

The royal party inspected the Indian encampment after the per-
formance and the Prince had an extended conversation with Red
Shirt extended for an Indian. The Princess, through the inter-
preter, gave the chief welcome to England to which the chief, with


great dignity, responded : ' ' Tell the Great White Chief 's wife that it
gladdens my heart to hear her words. ' '

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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 23 of 26)