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 9 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 9 of 26)
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at the first shot. My horse then carried me alongside the ue'
one, not ten feet away, and I dropped him at the next fire.

As soon as one buffaio would fall, Brigham would take me so
close to the next that I could almost touch it with my gun. In
this manner I killed the eleven buffaloes with twelve shots ; and ,
as the last animal dropped, my horse stopped. I jumped to the
ground, knowing that he would not leave me it must be remem-
bered that I had been riding him without bridle, reins or saddle
and turning around as the party cf astonished officers rode up, T
said to them :

" Now, gentlemen, allow me to present to you all the tongues
and tender-loins you wish from these buffaloes."

Captain Graham, for such I soon learned was his name, re-
plied : " Well, I never saw the like before. Who under the. sun
are you, anyhow?"

" My name is Cody," said I.

One of the lieutenants, Thompson by name, who had met me
at Fort Harker, then recognized me, and said: " Why, that is
Bill Cody, our old scout." He taen introduced me to the other
officers, who were Captain Graham of the Tenth Cavalry, anq
Lieutenants Reed, Emmie- k and Ezekiel.



Captain Graham, who was considerable of a horseman, greatly
admired Brigham, and said: {t That horse of yours has running

" Yes, sir ; he has not only got the points, he is a runner and
knows how to use the points," said I.

44 So I noticed," said the captain.

They all finally dismounted, and we countinued chatting for
some little time upon the different subjects of horses, buffaloes,


Indians and hunting. They felt a little sore at not getting a single
shot at the buffaloes, but the way I had killed them had, they
said, amply repaid them for their disappointment. They Had
read of such feats in books, but this was the first time they had
ever seen anything of the kind with their own eyes. It was the
first time, also, that they had ever witnessed or heard of a white
man running buffaloes on horseback without a saddle or a bridle.
I told them that Brigham knew nearly as much about the busi-
ness as I did, and if I had twenty bridles they would have been of



no use to me, as he understood everything, and all that he expected
of me was to do the shooting. It is a fact, that Brigham would
stop if a buffalo did not fall at the first fire, so as to give me a
second chance, but if I did not kill the buffalo then, he would go
on, as if to say, *' You are no good, and I will not fool away my
time by giving you more than two shots." Brigham was the best
horse I ever owned or saw for buffalo chasing.

Our conversation was interrupted in a little while by the arri-
val of the wagon which 1 had ordered out; I loaded the hind-
quarters of the youngest buffaloes on it, and then cut out the
tongues and tender-loins, and presented them to the officers, after
which I rode towards the fort with them, while the wagov re-
turned to camp.

Captain Graham told me that he expected to be stationed at
Fort Hays during the summer, and would probably be sent out
on a scouting expedition, and in case he was he would like to have
me accompany him as scout and guide. I replied that notwith-
standing I was very busy with my railroad contract I would go
with him if he was ordered out. I then left the officers and re-
turned to our camp.


That very night the Indians unexpectedly made a raid on the
horses, and ran off five or six of our very best work-teams, leav-
ing us in a very crippled condition. At daylight I jumped on old
Brigham and rode to Fort Hays, where I reported the affair to the
commanding officer; Captain Graham and Lieutenant Emmick
were at once ordered out with their company of one hundred col-
ored troops, to pursue the Indians and recover our stock if possi-
bi3. In an hour we were under way. The darkies had never
been in an Indian fight and were anxious to catch the band we
were after and " Sweep de red debels from off de face of de
y earth." Captain Graham was a brave, dashing officer, eager to
make a record for himself, and it was with difficulty that I could
trail fast enough to keep out of the way of the impatient soldiers.
Every few moments Captain Graham would ride up to see if the


trail was freshening and how soon we should be likely to over-
take the thieves.

At last we reached the Saline river, where we found the In-
dians had only stopped to feed and water the animals, and had
then pushed on towards the Solomon. After crossing the Saline
they made no effort to conceal their trail, thinking they would
not be pursued beyond that point consequenntly we were able to
make excellent time. We reached the Solomon before sunset, and
came to a halt ; we surmised that if the Indians were camped on
this river, that they had no suspicion of our being in the neigh-
borhood. I advised Captain Graham to remain with the company
where it was, while I went ahead on a scout to find the Indians,
if they were in the vicinity.

After riding some distance down the ravine that led to the
river, I left my horse at the foot of a hill; then, creeping to the
top, I looked cautiously over the summit upon the Solomon be-
low. I at cnce discovered :n plain view, not a mile away, a herd
of horses grazing, cur lost ones among them; very shortly ]
made out the Indian camp, noted its lay, and how we could best
approach it. Keporting to Captain Graham, whose eyes fairly
danced with delight at the prospect of surprising and whipping
the red-skins, we concluded to wait until the moon rose, then get
into the timber so as to approach the Indians as closely as possi-
ble without being discovered, and finally to make a sudden dash
into their camp and clean them out. We had everything " cut
and dried," as we thought, but alas! just as we were nearingthe
point where we were lo take the open ground and make our
charge, one of the colored gentlemen became so excited that
he fired off his gun. We immediately commenced the charge,
but the firing of the gun and the noise of Our rush through the
crackling timber alarmed the Indians, who at once sprang to their
horses and were away from us before we reached their late camp.
Captain Graham called out " Follow me, boys! " which we did
for a while, but in the darkness the Indians made good their es-
cape. The bugle then gave the recall, but some of the darkies
did not get back until m< Tiling, having, in their fright, allowed


their horses to run away with them withersoever it suited the ani-
mals' pleasure to go.

We followed the trail the next day for awhile, but as it became
evident that it would be a long chase to overtake the enemy, and
as we had rations only for the day, we commenced the return.
Captain Graham was bitterly disappointed in not being able to
get the fight when it seemed so near at one time. He roundly
cursed the " nigger J> who fired the gun, and as a punishment for
his carelessness, he was compelled to walk all the way back to
Fort Hays.


The construction of the Kansas Pacific railroad was pushed
forward with great rapidity, and when track-laying began it was
only a very short time before the road was ready for construction
trains as far west as the heart of the buffaiO country. Twelve
hundred men were employed in the work, ana as the Indians
were very troublesome it became difficult to obtain sufficient fresh
meat to feed such an army of workmen. This embarrassment
was at length overcome by the construction company engaging
hunters to kill buffaloes, the flesh of which is equal to the best
corn -fed beef.

Having heard of my experience and success as a buffalo hunter,
Messrs. Goddard Brothers, who had the contract for boarding
the employees of the road, met me in Hays City one day and
made me a good offer to become their hunter, and I at once en-
tered into a contract with them. They said that they would re-
quire about twelve buffaloes per day ; that would be twenty-four
hams, as we took only the hind-quarters and hump of each buf-
falo. As this was to be dangerous work, on account of the
Indians, who were riding all over that section of the country,
and as I would be obliged to go from five to ten miles from tne
road each day to hunt the buffaloes, accompanied by only one
man with a light wagon for the transportation of the meat, I of
course demanded a large salary. They could afford to remuner-
ate me well, because the meat would not cost them anything,


They agreed to give me five hundred dollars per month, provided
I furnished them all the fresh meat required.

Leaving my partner, Rose, to complete our grading contract,
I immediately began my career as a buffalo hunter for the Kan-
sas Pacific railroad, and it was not long before I acquired con-
siderable notoriety. It was at this time that the very appropriate
name of " Buffalo Bill" was conferred upon me by the road-
hands. It has stuck to me ever since, and I have never been
ashamed of it.

During my engagement as hunter for the company a period
of less than eighteen months I killed 4,280 buffaloes; and J
had many exciting adventures with the Indians, as well as hair
breadth escapes, some of which are well worth relating.


One day in the spring of 1868 I mounted Brigham and started
for. Smoky Hill river. After galloping about twenty miles I
reached the top of a small hill overlooking the valley of that
beautiful stream. As I was gazing on the landscape, I suddenly
saw a band of about thirty Indians nearly half a mile distant ;
I knew by the way they jumped on their horses that they had seen
me as soon as I came into sight.

The only chance I had for my life was to make a run for it,
and I immediately wheeled and started back towards the railroad.
Brigham seemed to understand what was up, arid he struck oui
as if he comprehended that it was to be a run for life. He
crossed a ravine in a few jumps, and on reaching a ridge beyond
I drew rein, looked back and saw the Indians corning for me at
full speed and evidently well mounted. I would have had little
or no fear of being overtaken if Brigham had been fresh ; but as
he was not, I felt uncertain as to how he would stand a long

My pursuers seemed to be gaining on me a little, and I let
Brigham shoot ahead again ; when we had run about three miles
further, some eight or nine of the Indians were not over two
hundred yards behind, and,, five or six of these seemed to be



shortening the gap at every jump. Brigham now exerted him-
self more than ever, and for the next three or four miles he got
44 right down to business," and did some of the prettiest running
I ever saw. But the Indians were about as well mounted as I was,
and one of their horses in particular a spotted animal was
gaining on me all the time. Nearly all the other horses -were strung
out behind for a distance of two miles, but still chasing after me.


The Indian who was riding the spotted horse was armed with
a rifle, and would occasionally send a bullet whistling along,


sometimes striking the ground ahead of me. I saw that this fel-
low must be checked, or a stray bullet from his gun might hit me
or my horse; so, suddenly stopping Brigham and quickly wheel-
ing him around, I raised old " Lucretia " to my shoulder, took
deliberate aim at the Indian and his horse, hoping to hit one or
the other, and fired. He was not over eighty yards away from
me at this time, and at the crack of my rifle down went his
horse. Not waiting to see if he recovered, I turned


and in a moment we were again fairly flying towards our desti-
nation ; we had urgent business about that time, and were in a
hur^y to get there.

The other Indians had gained on us while 1 was engaged shoot-
ing at their leader, and they sent several shots whizzing past me,
but fortunately none of them hit the intended mark. To re-
turn their compliment I occasionally wheeled myself in the sad-
dle and fired buck at them, and one of my shots broke the leg
of one of their horses, which left its rider hors (e) de combat,
as the French would say*

Only seven or eight Indians now remained in dangerous prox-
imity to me, and as their horses were beginning to lag somewhat,
I checked my faithful old steed a little, to allow him an oppor-
tunity to draw an extra breath or two. I had determined, if it
should come to the worst, to drop into a buffalo wallow, where I
could stand the Indians off for a while; but I was not compelled
to do this, as Br terrain carried me through most ndfoly,


The chase was kept up until we came within three miles of the
end of the railroad track, where two companies of soldiers were
stationed for the purpose of protecting the workmen from the
Indians. One of the outposts saw the Indians chasing me across
the prairie and gave the alarm. In a few minutes I saw, greatly
to my delight, men coming on foot, and cavalrymen too came
galloping to my rescue as soon as they could mount their horses.
When the Indians observed this, they turned and ran in the di-
rection from which they had come. Jn a very few minutes I was
met by some of the infantrymen and trackmen, and jumping to
the ground and pulling the blanket and saddle off of Brigham, I
told them what he had done for me ; they at once took him in
charge, led him around, and rubbed him down so vigorously that
I thought they would rub him to death.

Captain Nolan, of the Tenth Cavalry, now came up with for-
ty of his men, and upon learning what had happened he de-
termined to pursue the Indians, Ho kindly offered me one of


the cavalry horses, and after putting my own saddle and bridle
on the animal, we started out after the flying Indians, who only
a few minutes before had been making it so uncomfortably live-
ly for me. Our horses were all fresh and of excellent stock, and
we soon began shortening the distance between ourselves and the
redskins. Before they had gone five miles we overtook and killed
eight of their number. The others succeeded in making their es-
cape. On coming up to the place where I had killed the first
horse the spotted one -on my "home run," I found that my
bullet had struck him in the forehead and killed him instantly
He was a noble animal, and ought to have been engaged in bet-
ter business.

When we got back to camp I found old Brigham grazing
quietly and contentedly on the grass. He looked up at me as if
to ask if we had got away with any of those fellows who had
chased us. I believe he read the answer in my eyes.


Another very exciting hunting adventure of mine which de-
serves a place in these reminiscences occurred near Saline river.
My companion at the time was a man called Scotty, a butcher,
who generally accompanied me on these hunting expeditions to
cut up the buffaloes and load the meat into a light wagon which
he brought to carry it in. He was a brave little fellow and a most
excellent shot. I had killed some fifteen buffaloes and we had
started for home with a wagon-load of meat. When within about
eight miles of our destination we suddenly ran en to a party of
at least thirty Indians who came riding out of the head of 8

On this occasion I was mounted on a most excellent horse be-
longing to the railroad company and could easily have made my
escape ; but of course I could not leave Scotty, who was^ driving
a pair of mules hitched to the wagon. To think was to act ID
those days ; and as Scottj and I had often talked over a plan of
defense in case we were ever surprised by Indians, we instantly
proceeded to carry it out. We jumped to the ground, unhitched


the mules quicker than it had ever been done before, and tied
them and my horse to the wagon. We threw the buffalo hams
upon the ground and piled them around the wheels in such a
shape as to form a breast-work. All this was done in a shorter
time than it takes to tell it; and then, with our extra box of am-
munition and three or four extra revolvers, which we always
carried along with us, we crept under the wagon and were fully
prepared to give our visitors the warmest kind of a reception.

The Indians came on pell-mell, but when they were within one
hundred yards of us we opened such a sudden and galling fire
upon them that they held up and began to circle arou d the wagon
instead of riling up to take tea with us. They however charged
back and forth upon us several times and their shots killed the
two mules and my horse; but we gave it to them right and left
and had the satisfaction of seeing three of them fall to the ground
not more than fifty yards away. On perceiving how well we were
fortified and protected by our breast-work of hams, they probably
came to the conclusion that it would be a difficult undertaking to
dislodge us, for they drew off and gave us a rest, but only a
short one.


This was the kind of fighting we had been expecting for a long
time, as we knew that sooner or later we would be k< jumped"
by Indians while we were out buffalo hunting. I had an under-
standing with the officers who commanded the troops at the end
of the track, that in case their pickets should at any time notice
a smoke in the direction of our hunting ground they were to give
the alarm, so that assistance might be sent to us, for the smoke
was to indicate that we were in danger.


I now resolved to signal to the troops in the manner agreed
on and at the first opportunity set fire to the grass on the wind-
ward side of the wagon. The fire spread over the prairie at a
rapid rate, causing a dense smoke which I knew would be seen
at the camp. The Indians did not seem to understand this strate-
gic movement. They got off from their horses and from behind
a bank or knoll again peppered away at us ; but we were well


fortified, and whenever they showed their heads we let them
know that we could shoot as well as they.

After we had been cooped up in our little fort for about an
hour, we discovered cavalry coming toward us at full gallop over
the prairie. Our signal of distress had proved a success. The
Indians saw the soldiers at about the same time that we did, and


thinking that it would not be healthy for them to remain much
longer in that vicinity, they mounted their horses and disappeared
down the canons of the creek. When the soldiers came up we had
the satisfaction of showing them five " good " Indians that i^
dead ones. Two hours later we pulled into camp with our load
of meat, which was found to be all right, except that it had s
few oullets and arrows sticking in it.





KETTY soon after the adventures men-
tioned in the preceding chapter, I
had my celebrated buffalo hunt with
Billy Comstock, a noted scout, guide
and interpreter, who was then chief of
scouts at Fort Wallace, Kansas.
Comstock had the reputation, for a long
time, of being a most successful buffalo
hunter, and the officers in particular,
who had seen him kill buffaloes, were
ve*y desirous of backing him in a
match against me. It was accordingly
arranged that I should shoot him a
buffalo-killing match, and the prelim-
inaries were easily and satisfactorily
agreed upon. We were to hunt one
day of eight hours, beginning at eight
o'clock in the morning, and closing at
.four o'clock in the afternoon. The
wager was five hundred dollars a side, and the man who should
kill the greater number of buffaloes from on horseback was to be
declared the winner.

The hunt took place about twenty miles east of Sheridan, and
as it had been pretty well advertised and noised abroad, a large
crowd witnessed the interesting and exciting scene. An excur-
sion party, mostly from St. Louis, consisting of about a hundred
gentlemen and ladies, came out on a special train to view the
sport, and among the number was my wife, with little baby
Arta, who had come to remain with me for a while.

The buffaloes were quite plenty, and it was agreed that we
should go into the same herd at the same time and " make 8


run," as we called it, each one killing as many Rh poesible. A
referee was to follow each of us on horseback when we entered
the herd, and count the buffaloes killed by each man. The St.
Louis excursionists, as well as the other spectators, rode out to
the vicinity of the hunting grounc.i in wagons and on horseback,
keepir.g well out of sight of the buffaloes, so as not to frighten
them, until the time came for us to dash into the herd when
they were to come up as near as they pleased and witness the

We were fortunate in the first run in getting good ground.
Combtock was mounted on one of his favorite horses, while J
rode old Brigham. I felt confident that I had the advantage of
Comstock in two things: first, I had the best buffalo horse that
ever made a track; and second, I was using what was known at
that ame as the needle-gun, a breech-loading Springfield rifle
calibre 50, it was my favorite old " Lucretia," which has al-
ready been introduced to the notice of the reader ; while Comstock
was armed with a Henry rifle, and although he could fire a few
shots quicker than I could, yet I was pretty certain that it did
not carry powder and lead enough to do execution equal to my
calibre 50.


At last the time came to begin the match. Comstock and I
dashed into a herd, followed by the. referees. The buffaloes
separated; Comstock took the left bunch and I the right. My
great forte in killing buffaloes from horseback was to get them
circling by riding my horse at the head of the herd, shooting
the leaders, thus crowding their followers to the left, till they
would finally circle round and round.

On this morning the buffaloes were very accommodating, and
I soon had them running in a beautiful circle, when I dropped
them thick and fast, until I had killed thirty-eight ; which fin-
ished my run. Comstock began shooting at the rear of the herd
which he was chasing, and they kept straight on. He succeeded,
however, in killing twenty-three, but they were scattered ever
a distance of three miles, while mine lay close together. I had


" nursed" my buffaloes, as a billiard-player does tne balls when
he makes a big run.

After the result oi: the first run had been duly announced, our
St. Louis excursion friends who had approached to the place
where we had stopped set out a lot of champagne, which they
had brought with them, and which proved a good drink on a
Kansas prairie, and a buffalo hunter was a good man to get away
with it.

While taking a short rest, we suddenly spied another herd oi
buffaloes coming toward us. It was only a small drove, and we
at once prepared to give the animals a lively reception. They
proved to be a herd of cows and calves - which, by the way, are
quicker in their movements than the bulls. We charged in
among them, and I concluded my run with a score of eighteen,
while Comstock killed fourteen. The score now stood fifty-sis
to thirty -seven, in my favor.


Again the excursion party approached, and once more the
champagne was tapped. After we had eaten a lunch which was
spread for us, we resumed the hunt. Striking out for a distance
of three miles, we came up close to another herd. As I was so
far ahead of my competitor in the number killed, I thought I
could afford to give an extra exhibition of my skill. I had told
the ladies that I would, on the next run, ride my horse without
saddle or bridle. This had raised the excitement to fever heat
among the excursionists, and I remember one fair lady who en-
deavored to prevail upon me not to attempt it.

" That's nothing at all/' said I; " I have done it many a time,
and old Brigham knows as well as I what I am doing, and some-
times a great deal better."

So, leaving my saddle and bridle with the wagons, we rode to
the windward of the buffaloes, as usual, and when within a few
hundred yards of them we dashed into the herd. I soon had
thirteen laid out on the ground, the last one of which I had


driven down close to the wagons, where the ladies were. It

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 9 of 26)