THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES
OF BUFFALO BILL
MY FIRST LOVE AFFAIR.
Common school advantages were denied us in the early settlement of
Kansas, and to provide a means for educating the few boys and girls
in the neighborhood of my home, a subscription school was started in
a small log-cabin that was built on the bank of a creek that ran near
our house. My mother took great interest in this school and at her
persuasion I returned home and became enrolled as a pupil, where I
made satisfactory progress until the evil circumstance of a love
affair suddenly blasted my prospects for acquiring an education.
Like all school-boys, I had a sweetheart with whom I was 'dead in
love"-in a juvenile way. Her name was Mary Hyatt. Of course I had a
rival, Stephen Gobel, a boy about three years my senior-the " bully "
of the school. He was terribly jealous, and sought in every way to
revenge himself upon me for having won the childish affections of
sweet little Mary.
The boys of the school used to build play-houses or arbors among
the trees and bushes for their sweethearts. I had built a play-house
for Mary, when Steve, as we called him, leveled it to the ground. We
immediately had a very lively fight, in which I got badly beaten. The
teacher heard of our quarrel and whipped us both. This made matters
worse than ever, as I had received two thrashings to Steve's one; I
smothered my angry feelings as much as possible under the humiliating
circumstances, and during the afternoon recess built another
play-house, thinking that Gobel would not dare to destroy a second
one; but I was mistaken, for he pushed the whole structure over at
the first opportunity. I came up to him just as he finished the job,
"Steve Gobel, the next time you do that, I'll hurt you." And I
meant it too; but he laughed and called me names.
At recess, next morning, I began the construction of still another
play-house, and when I had it about two-thirds finished, Steve slyly
sneaked up to the spot and tipped the whole thing over. I jumped for
him with the quickness of a cat and clutching him by the throat for a
moment I had the advantage of him. But he was too strong for me, and
soon had me on the ground and was beating me severely. While away
from home I had some way come into possession of a very small pocket
dagger, which I had carried about with me in its sheath, using it in
place of a knife. During the struggle this fell from my pocket, and
my hand by accident rested upon it as it lay upon the ground.
Exasperated beyond measure at Steve' s persistence in destroying my
play-houses, and smarting under his blows, I forgot myself for the
moment, grasped the dagger and unthinkingly thrust it into Steve's
thigh. Had it been larger it would probably have injured him
severely; as it was, it made a small wound, sufficient to cause the
blood to flow freely and Steve to cry out in affright: "I am killed!
O! I am killed!"
The school children all rushed to the spot and were terrified at
the scene. "What's the matter?" asked one. "Bill Cody has killed
Steve Gobel," replied another.
The uproar reached the teacher's ear, and I now saw him
approaching, with vengeance in his eye and a big club in his hand. I
knew that he was coming to interview me. I was dreadfully
frightened at what I had done, and undecided whether to run away or
to remain and take the consequences; but the sight of that flag-staff
in the school teacher's hand was too much for me. I no longer
hesitated, but started off like a deer. The teacher followed in hot
pursuit, but soon became convinced that he could not catch me, and
gave up the chase. I kept on running, until I reached one of Russell,
Major & Waddell's freight trains which I had noticed going over
the hill for the West. Fortunately for me I knew the wagon-master,
John Willis, and as soon as I recovered my breath I told him what had
"Served him right, Billy!" said he, "and what's more, we'll go
over and clean out the teacher."
"Oh no; don't do that," said I, for I was afraid that I might fall
into the hands of the wounded boy's friends, who I knew would soon be
looking for me.
"Well, Billy, come along with me; I am bound for Fort Kearney; the
trip will take me forty days. I want you for a cavallard driver."
"All right," I replied, "but I must go home and tell mother about
it, and get some clothes."
" Well, then, to-night after we make our camp, I'll go back with
PURSUED BY THE WOUNDED BOY'S FATHER.
The affray broke up the school for the rest of the day as the
excitement was too much for the children. Late in the afternoon,
after the train had moved on some considerable distance, I saw
Steve's father, his brother Frank, and one of the neighbors rapidly
"Mr. Willis, there comes old Gobel, with Frank and somebody else,
and they are after me-what am I going to do?" I asked.
"Let 'em come," said he, "they can't take you if I've got anything
to say about it, and I rather think I have. Get into one of the
wagons-keep quiet and lay low. I'll manage this little job. Don't you
fret a bit about it."
I obeyed his orders and felt much easier.
Old Gobel, Frank and the neighbor soon came up and inquired for
"He's around here somewhere," said Mr. Willis.
"We want him," said Gobel; " he stabbed my son a little while ago,
and I want to arrest him."
"Well, you can't get him; that settles it; so you needn't waste
any of your time around here," said Willis.
Gobel continued to talk for a few minutes, but getting no greater
satisfaction, the trio returned home.
When night came, Willis accompanied me on horseback to my home.
Mother, who had anxiously searched for me everywhere- being afraid
that something had befallen me at the hands of the Gobels-was
delighted to see me, notwithstanding the difficulty in which I had
become involved. I at once told her that at present I was afraid to
remain at home, and had accordingly made up my mind to absent myself
for a few weeks or months-at least until the excitement should die
out. Mr. Willis said to her that he would take me to Fort Kearney
with him and see that I was properly cared for, and would bring me
back safely in forty days.
Mother at first seriously objected to my going on this trip,
fearing I would fall into the hands of Indians. Her fears, however,
were soon overcome, and she concluded to let me go. She fixed me up a
big bundle of clothing and gave me a quilt. Kissing her and my
sisters a fond farewell, I started off on my first trip across the
plains, with a light heart, too, notwithstanding my trouble of a few
The trip proved a most enjoyable one to me, although no incidents
worthy of note occurred on the way. On my return from Fort Kearney I
was paid off the same as the rest of the employees. The remainder of
the summer and fall I spent in herding cattle and working for
Russell, Majors & Waddell.
I finally ventured home-not without some fear, however, of the
Gobel family-and was delighted to learn that during my absence mother
had had an interview with Mr. Gobel, and having settled the
difficulty with him, the two families had become friends again, and I
may state, incidentally, that they ever remained so. I have since
often met Stephen Gobel, and we have had many a laugh together over
our love affair and the affray at the school-house. Mary Hyatt, the
innocent cause of the whole difficulty, is now married and living in
Chicago. Thus ended my first love scrape.
In the winter of 1856-57 my father, in company with a man named J.
C. Boles, went to Cleveland, Ohio, and organized a colony of about
thirty families, whom they brought to Kansas and located on the
Grasshopper. Several of these families still reside there.
It was during this winter that father, after his return from
Cleveland, caught a severe cold. This, in connection with the wound
he had received at Rively's-from which he had never entirely
recovered-affected him seriously, and in April, 1857, he died at home
from kidney disease.
This sad event left my mother and the family in poor
circumstances, and I determined to follow the plains for a livelihood
for them and myself. I had no difficulty in obtaining work under my
old employers, and in May, 1857, I started for Salt Lake City with a
herd of beef cattle, in charge of Frank and Bill McCarthy, for
General Albert Sidney Johnston's army, which was then being sent
across the plains to fight the Mormons.
MY FIRST FIGHT WITH INDIANS.
Nothing occurred to interrupt our journey until we reached Plum
Creek, on the South Platte River, thirty-five miles west of Old Fort
Kearney. We had made a morning drive and had camped for dinner. The
wagon-masters and a majority of the men had gone to sleep under the
mess wagons; the cattle were being guarded by three men, and the cook
was preparing dinner. No one had any idea that Indians were anywhere
near us. The first warning we had that they were infesting that part
of the country was the firing of shots and the whoops and yells from
a party of them, who, catching us napping, gave us a most unwelcome
surprise. All the men jumped to their feet and seized their guns.
They saw with astonishment the cattle running in every direction,
they having been stampeded by the Indians, who had shot and killed
the three men who were on day-herd duty, and the red devils were now
charging down upon the rest of us.
I then thought of mother's fears of my falling into the hands of
the Indians, and I had about made up my mind that such was to be my
fate; but when I saw how coolly and determinedly the McCarthy
brothers were conducting themselves and giving orders to the little
band, I became convinced that we would "stand the Indians off," as
the saying is. Our men were all well armed with Colt's revolvers and
Mississippi yagers, which last carried a bullet, and two buckshots.
The McCarthy boys, at the proper moment, gave orders to fire upon
the advancing enemy. The volley checked them, although they returned
the compliment, and shot one of our party through the leg. Frank
McCarthy then sang out, " Boys, make a break for the slough yonder,
and we can then have the bank for a breastwork."
We made a run for the slough which was only a short distance off,
and succeeded in safely reaching it, bringing with us the wounded
man. The bank proved to be a very effective breastwork, affording us
good protection. We had been there but a short time when Frank
McCarthy, seeing that the longer we were corralled the worse it would
be for us, said:-
" Well, boys, we'll try to make our way back to Fort Kearney by
wading in the river and keeping the bank for a breast-work."
We all agreed that this was the best plan, and we accordingly
proceeded down the river several miles in this way, managing to keep
the Indians at a safe distance with our guns, until the slough made a
junction with the main Platte River. From there down we found the
river at times quite deep, and in order to carry the wounded man
along with us, we constructed a raft of poles for his accommodation,
and in this way he was transported.
Occasionally the water would be too deep for us to wade, and we
were obliged to put our weapons on the raft and swim. The Indians
followed us pretty close, and were continually watching for an
opportunity to get a good range and give us a raking fire. Covering
ourselves by keeping well under the bank, we pushed ahead as rapidly
as possible, and made pretty good progress, the night finding us
still on the way and our enemies yet on our track.
HOW I KILLED MY FIRST INDIAN.
I, being the youngest and smallest of the party, became somewhat
tired, and without noticing it I had fallen behind the others for
some little distance. It was about ten o'clock and we were keeping
very quiet and hugging close to the bank, when I happened to look up
to the moon-lit sky and saw the plumed head of an Indian peeping over
the bank. Instead of hurrying ahead and alarming the men in a quiet
way, I instantly aimed my gun at his head and fired. The report rang
out sharp and loud on the night air, and was immediately followed by
an Indian whoop, and the next moment about six feet of dead Indian
came tumbling into the river. I was not only overcome with
astonishment, but was badly scared, as I could hardly realize what I
had done. I expected to see the whole force of Indians come down upon
us. While I was standing thus bewildered, the men, who had heard the
shot and the war-whoop and had seen the Indian take a tumble, came
"Who fired that shot?" cried Frank McCarthy.
"I did," replied I, rather proudly, as my confidence returned and
I saw the men coming up.
"Yes, and little Billy has killed an Indian stone-dead-too dead to
skin," said one of the men, who had approached nearer than the rest,
and had almost stumbled upon the corpse. From that time forward I
became a hero and an Indian killer. This was, of course, the first
Indian I had ever shot, and as I was not then more than eleven years
of age, my exploit created quite a sensation.
The other Indians, upon learning what had happened to their
advance fired several shots without effect but which hastened our
retreat down the river. We reached Fort Kearney just as the
reveille was being sounded, bringing the wounded man with us
After the peril through which are had passed it was a relief to
feel that once more I was safe after such a dangerous initiation.
Frank McCarthy immediately reported to the commanding officer and
informed him of all that had happened. The commandant at once ordered
a company of cavalry and one of infantry to proceed to Plum Creek on
a forced march-taking a howitzer with them-to endeavor to recapture
the cattle from the Indians.<
The firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell had a division agent at
Kearney, and this agent mounted us on mules so that we could
accompany the troops. On reaching the place where the Indians had
surprised us, we found the bodies of the three men whom they had
killed and scalped, and literally cut into pieces. We of course
buried the remains. We caught but few of the cattle; the most of them
having been driven off and stampeded with the buffaloes, there being
numerous immense herds of the latter in that section of the country
at the time. The Indians' trail was discovered running south towards
the Republican river, and the troops followed it to the head of Plum
creek, and there abandoned it, returning to Fort Kearney without
having seen a single redskin.
The company's agent, seeing that there was no further use for us
in that vicinity-as we had lost our cattle and mules-sent us back to
Fort Leavenworth. The company, it is proper to state, did not have to
stand the loss of the expedition, as the government held itself
responsible for such depredations by the Indians.
On the day that I got into Leavenworth, sometime in July, I was
interviewed for the first time in my life by a newspaper reporter,
and the next morning I found my name in print as "the youngest Indian
slayer on the plains." I am candid enough to admit that I felt very
much elated over this notoriety. Again and again I read with eager
interest the long and sensational account of our adventure. My
exploit was related in a very graphic manner, and for a long time
afterwards I was considerable of a hero. The reporter who had thus
set me up; as I then thought, on the highest pinnacle of fame, was
John Hutchinson, and I felt very grateful to him. He now lives in
ON THE ROAD TO SALT LAKE
In the following summer Russell, Majors and Waddell entered upon a
contract with the government for transporting supplies for General
Albert Sidney Johnston's army that was sent against the Mormons. A
large number of teams and teamsters were required for this purpose,
and as the route was considered a dangerous one, men were not easily
engaged for the service, though the pay was forty dollars per month
in gold. An old wagon master named Lew Simpson, one of the best that
ever commanded a bull-train, was upon the point of starting with
about ten wagons for the company, direct for Salt Lake, and as he had
known me for some time as an ambitious youth, requested me to
accompany him as an extra hand. My duties would be light, and in fact
I would have nothing to do, unless some one of the drivers should
become sick, in which case I would be required to take his place. But
even more seductive than this inducement was the promise that I
should be provided with a mule of my own to ride, and be subject to
the orders of no one save Simpson himself.
The offer was made in such a manner that I became at once wild to
go, but my mother interposed an emphatic objection and urged me to
abandon so reckless a desire. She reminded me that in addition to the
fact that the trip would possibly occupy a year, the journey was one
of extreme peril, beset as it was by Mormon assassins and treacherous
Indians, and begged me to accept the lesson of my last experience and
narrow escape as a providential warning. But to her pleadings and
remonstrances I returned the answer that I had determined to follow
the plains as an occupation, and while I appreciated her advice and
desired greatly to honor her commands, yet I could not forego my
determination to accompany the train.
Seeing that it was impossible to keep me at home, she reluctantly
gave her consent, but not until she had called upon Mr. Russell and
Mr. Simpson in regard to the matter, and had obtained from the latter
gentleman his promise that I should be well taken care of, if we had
to winter in the mountains. She did not like the appearance of
Simpson, and upon inquiry she learned, to her dismay, that he was a
desperate character, and that on nearly every trip he had made across
the plains he had killed some one. Such a man, she thought, was not a
fit master or companion for her son, and she was very anxious to have
me go with some other wagon-master; but I still insisted upon
remaining with Simpson.
"Madam, l can assure you that Lew Simpson is one of the most
reliable wagon-masters on the plains," said Mr. Russell, "and he has
taken a great fancy to Billy. If your boy is bound to go, he can go
with no better man. No one will dare to impose on him while he is
with Lew Simpson, whom I will instruct to take good care of the boy.
Upon reaching Fort Laramie, Billy can, if he wishes, exchange places
with some fresh man coming back on a returning train, and thus come
home without making the whole trip."
This seemed to satisfy mother, and then she had a long talk with
Simpson himself, imploring him not to forget his promise to take good
care of her precious boy. He promised everything that she asked.
Thus, after much trouble, I became one of the members of Simpson's
train. Before taking our departure, I arranged with Russell, Majors
& Waddel that when my pay fell due it should be paid over to
DESCRIPTION OF THE BULL-TRAIN OUTFIT.
As a matter of interest to the general reader, it may be well in this
connection to give a brief description of a freight trail. The wagons
used in those days by Russell, Majors & Waddel were known as the
"J. Murphy wagons," made at St. Louis specially for the plains
business. They were very large and were strongly built, being capable
of carrying seven thousand pounds of freight each. The wagon-boxes
were very commodious-being about as large as the rooms of an ordinary
house-and were covered with two heavy canvas sheets to protect the
merchandise from the rain. These wagons were generally sent out from
Leavenworth, each loaded with six thousand pounds of freight, and
each drawn by several yokes of oxen in charge of one driver. A train
consisted of twenty-five wagons, all in charge of one man, who was
known as the wagon-master. The second man in command was the
assistant wagon-master; then came the is extra hand," next the night
herder; and lastly, the cavallard driver, whose duty it was to drive
the lame and loose cattle. There were thirty-one men all told in a
train. The men did their own cooking, being divided into messes of
seven. One man cooked, another brought wood and water, another stood
guard, and so on, each having some duty to perform while getting
meals. All were heavily armed with Colt's pistols and Mississippi
yagers, and every one always had his weapons handy so as to be
prepared for any emergency.
The wagon-master, in the language of the plains, was called the
"bull-wagon boss; " the teamsters were known as " bull-whackers; "
and the whole train was denominated a "bull-outfit." Everything at
that time was called an "outfit. " The men of the plains were always
full of droll humor and exciting stories of their own experiences,
and many an hour I spent in listening to the recitals of thrilling
adventures and hair-breadth escapes.
The trail to Salt Lake ran through Kansas northwestwardly, crossing
the Big Blue River, then over the Big and Little Sandy, coming into
Nebraska near the Big Sandy. The next stream of any importance was
the Little Blue, along which the trail ran for sixty miles; then
crossed a range of sand-hills, and struck the Platte River ten miles
below old Fort Kearney; thence the course lay up the South Platte to
the old Ash Hollow Crossing, thence eighteen miles across to the
North Platte, near the mouth of the Blue Water, where General Harney
had his great battle in 1855 with the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians.
From this point the North Platte was followed, passing Court House
Rock, Chimney Rock and Scott's Bluffs, and then on to Fort Laramie,
where the Laramie River was crossed. Still following the North Platte
for some considerable distance, the trail crossed the river at old
Richard's Bridge, and followed it up to the celebrated Red Buttes,
crossing the Willow Creeks to the Sweet Water, passing the great
Independence Rock and the Devil's Gate, up to the Three Crossings of
the Sweet Water, thence past the Cold Springs, where, three feet
under the sod, on the hottest day of summer, ice can be found; thence
to the Hot Springs and the Rocky Ridge, and through the Rocky
Mountains and Echo Canyon, and thence on to the great Salt Lake
In order to take care of the business which then offered, the
freight for transportation being almost exclusively government
provisions, Russell, Majors & Waddell operated 6,250 wagons, for
the hauling of which they used 75,000 oxen, and gave employment to
8,000 men; the capital invested by these three freighters was nearly
$2,000,000. In their operations, involving such an immense sum of
money, and employing a class of laborers incomparably reckless, some
very stringent rules were adopted by the firm, to which all their
employees were made to subscribe.
In this code of discipline was the following obligation: "I, do
hereby solemnly swear, before the Great and Living God, that during
my engagement, and while I am in the employ of Russell, Majors &
Waddell, that I will under no circumstances use profane language;
that I will drink no intoxicating liquors of any kind; that I will
not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm and that in
every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my
duties, and so direct all my acts as will win the confidence and
esteem of my employers, so help me God . "
This oath was the creation of Mr. Majors, who was a very pious and
rigid disciplinarian; he tried hard to enforce it, but how great was
his failure it is needless to say. It would have been equally
profitable had the old gentleman read the riot act to a herd of
stampeded buffaloes. And he believes it himself now.
A BUFFALO STAMPEDE.
Nothing transpired on the trip to delay or give us any trouble
whatever, until the train struck the South Platte River. One day we
camped on the same ground where the Indians had surprised the cattle
herd in charge of the McCarthy brothers. It was with difficulty that
we discovered any traces of anybody ever having camped there before,
the only landmark being the single grave, now covered with grass, in
which we had buried the three men who had been killed. The country
was alive with buffaloes. Vast herds of these monarchs of the plains
were roaming all around us, and we laid over one day for a grand
hunt. Besides killing quite a number of buffaloes and having a day of
rare sport, we captured ten or twelve head of cattle, they being a
portion of the herd which had been stampeded by the Indians two
months before. The next day we pulled out of camp, and the train was
strung out to a considerable length along the road which ran near the
foot of the sand-hills, two miles from the river. Between the road
and the river we saw a large herd of buffaloes grazing quietly, they
having been down to the stream for a drink.
Just at this time we observed a party of returning Californians
coming from the west. They, too, noticed the buffalo herd, and in
another moment they were dashing down upon them, urging their steeds
to the greatest speed. The buffalo herd stampeded at once and broke
down the hills; so hotly were they pursued by the hunters that about
five hundred of them rushed through our train pell-mell, frightening
both men, and oxen. Some of the wagons were turned clear round, and
many of the terrified oxen attempted to run to the a w hills, with
the heavy wagons attached to them. Others turned around so short that
they broke the wagons tongues off. Nearly all the teams got entangled
in their gearing, and became wild and unruly, so that the perplexed
drivers were, all unable to manage them.
The buffaloes, the cattle and the drivers were soon running in
every direction, and the excitement upset nearly everybody and
everything. Many of the cattle broke their yokes and stampeded. One
big buffalo bull became entangled in one of the heavy wagon-chains,
and it is a fact that in his desperate efforts to free himself he not
only actually snapped the strong chain in two, but broke the ox-yoke
to which it was attached, and the last seen of him he was running
towards the hills with it hanging from his horns. A dozen other
equally remarkable incidents happened during the short time that the
frantic buffaloes were playing havoc with our train, and when they
got through and left us our outfit was badly crippled and scattered.
This caused us to go into camp and spend a day in replacing the
broken tongues and repairing other damages, and gathering up our
CAPTURED BY DANITES.
The next day we rolled out of camp and proceeded on our way towards
the setting sun. Everything ran along smoothly with us from that
point until we came within about eighteen miles of Green River, in
the Rocky Mountains-where we camped at noon. At this place we had to
drive our cattle about a mile and a half to a creek to water them.
Simpson, his assistant George Woods and myself, accompanied by the
usual number of guards, drove the cattle over to the creek, and while
on our way back to camp we suddenly observed a party of twenty
horsemen rapidly approaching us. We were not yet in view of our
wagons, as a rise of ground intervened, and therefore we could not
signal the train-men in case of any unexpected danger befalling us.
We had no suspicion, however, that we were about to be trapped, as
the strangers were white men. When they had come up to us, one of the
party, who evidently was the leader, rode out in front and said:-
"How are you, Mr. Simpson?"
"You've got the best of me, sir," said Simpson, who did not know
"Well, I rather think I have," coolly replied the stranger, whose
words conveyed a double meaning, as we soon learned. We had all come
to a halt by this time and the strange horsemen had surrounded us.
They were all armed with double-barreled shot guns, rifles and
revolvers. We also were armed with revolvers, but we had had no idea
of danger, and these men, much to our surprise, had a got the drop on
us and had covered us with their weapons, so that we were completely
at their mercy. The whole movement of corralling us was done so
quietly and quickly that it was accomplished before we knew it.
"I'll trouble you for your six shooters, gentlemen," now said the
"I'll give 'em to you in a way you don't want," replied Simpson.
The next moment three guns were leveled at Simpson. "If you make a
move you're a dead man," said the leader.
Simpson saw that he was taken at a great disadvantage, and
thinking it advisable not to risk the lives of the party by any rash
act on his part, he said: "I see now that you have the best of me,
but who are you, anyhow?"
"I am Joe Smith," was the reply.
"What l the leader of the Danites?" asked Simpson.
"You are correct," said Smith, for he it was.
"Yes," said Simpson, " I know you now; you are a spying
Simpson had good reason for calling him this and applying to him a
much more opprobrious epithet, for only a short time before this, Joe
Smith had visited our train in the disguise of a teamster, and had
remained with us two days. He suddenly disappeared, no one knowing
where he had gone or why he had come among us. But it was all
explained to us now that he had returned with his Mormon Danites.
After they had disarmed us, Simpson asked, "Well, Smith, what are you
going to do with us?"
"Ride back with us and I'll soon show you," said Smith.
DESTRUCTION OF THE TRAIN BY MORMONS.
We had no idea of the surprise which awaited us. As we came upon the
top of the ridge, from which we could view our camp, we were
astonished to see the remainder of the train-men disarmed and
stationed in a group and surrounded by another squad of Danites,
while other Mormons were searching our wagons for such articles as
"How is this ?" inquired Simpson. "How did you surprise my camp
without a struggle? I can't understand it."
"Easily enough," said Smith; "your men were all asleep under the
wagons, except the cooks, who saw us coming and took us for returning
Californians or emigrants, and paid no attention to us until we rode
up and surrounded your train. With our arms covering the men, we woke
them up, and told them all they had to do was to walk out and drop
their pistols-which they saw was the best thing they could do under
circumstances over which they had no control-and you can just bet
they did it."
"And what do you propose to do with us now?" asked Simpson.
"I intend to burn your train," said he; "you are loaded with
supplies and ammunition for Sidney Johnston, and as I have no way to
convey the stuff to my own people, I'll see that it does not reach
the United States troops."
"Are you going to turn us adrift here?" asked Simpson, who was
anxious to learn what was to become of himself and his men.
" No; I am hardly so bad as that. I'll give you enough provisions
to last you until you can reach Fort Bridger," replied Smith; "and as
soon as your cooks can get the stuff out of the wagons, you can
"On foot?" was the laconic inquiry of Simpson.
"Yes, sir," was the equally short reply.
"Smith, that's too rough on us men. Put yourself in our place and
see how you would like it," said Simpson; "you can well afford to
give us at least one wagon and six yokes of oxen to convey us and our
clothing and provisions to Fort Bridger. You're a brute if you don't
"Well," said Smith, after consulting a minute or two with some of
his company, ; "I'll do that much for you."
The cattle and the wagon were brought up according to his orders,
and the clothing and provisions were loaded on.
"Now you can go," said Smith, after everything had been arranged.
"Joe Smith, I think you are a mean coward to set us afloat in a
hostile country without giving us our arms," said Simpson, who had
once before asked for the weapons, and had had his request denied.
Smith, after further consultation with his comrades, said:
"Simpson, you are too brave a man to be turned adrift here without
any means of defence. You shall have your revolvers and guns." Our
weapons were accordingly handed over to Simpson, and we at once
started for Fort Bridger, knowing that it would be useless to attempt
the recapture of our train.
When we had traveled about two miles we saw the smoke arising from
our old camp. The Mormons after taking what goods they wanted and
could carry off, had set fire to the wagons, many of which were
loaded with bacon, lard, hardtack, and other provisions, which made a
very hot, fierce fire, and the smoke to roll up in dense clouds. Some
of the wagons were loaded with ammunition, and it was not long before
loud explosions followed in rapid succession. We waited and witnessed
the burning of the train, and then pushed on to Fort Bridger.
Arriving at this post, we learned that two other trains had been
captured and destroyed in the same way, by the Mormons. This made
seventy-five wagon loads, or 450,000 pounds of supplies, mostly
provisions, which never reached General Johnston's command to which
they had been consigned.
AT THE POINT OF STARVATION.
After reaching the fort, it being far in November, we decided to
spend the winter there with about four hundred other employees of
Russell, Majors & Waddell, rather than attempt a return, which
would have exposed us to many dangers and the severity of the rapidly
approaching winter. During this period of hibernation, however, the
larders of the commissary became so depleted that we were placed on
one quarter rations, and at length, as a final resort, the poor,
dreadfully emaciated mules and oxen were killed to afford sustenance
for our famishing party.
Fort Bridger being located in a prairie, all fuel there used had
to be carried for a distance of nearly two miles, and after our mules
and oxen were butchered we had no other recourse than to carry the
wood on our backs or haul it on sleds, a very tedious and laborious
Starvation was beginning to lurk about the post when spring
approached, and but for the timely arrival of a westward-bound train
loaded with provisions for Johnston's army some of our party must
certainly have fallen victims to deadly hunger.
The winter finally passed away, and early in the spring, as soon
as we could travel, the civil employees of the government, with the
teamsters and freighters, started for the Missouri River, the
Johnston expedition having been abandoned.
On the way down we stopped at Fort Laramie, and there met a supply
train bound westward. Of course we all had a square meal once more,
consisting of hard tack, bacon, coffee and beans. I can honestly say
that I thought it was the best meal I had ever eaten; at least I
relished it more than any other, and I think the rest of the party
did the same.
On leaving Fort Laramie, Simpson was made brigade wagonmaster, and
was put in charge of two large trains, with about four hundred extra
men, who were bound for Fort Leavenworth. When we came to Ash Hollow,
instead of taking the usual trail over to the South Platte, Simpson
concluded to follow the North Platte down to its junction with the
South Platte. The two trains were traveling about fifteen miles
apart, when one morning while Simpson was with the rear train, he
told his assistant wagonmaster, George Woods and myself to saddle up
our mules, as he wanted us to go with him and overtake the head
ATTACKED BY INDIANS.
We started off at about eleven o'clock, and had ridden about seven
miles, when-while we were on a big plateau, back of Cedar Bluffs-we
suddenly discovered a band of Indians coming out of the head of a
ravine, half a mile distant, and charging down upon us at full speed.
I thought that our end had come this time. Simpson, however, was
equal to the occasion, for with wonderful promptness he jumped from
his jaded mule and in a trice shot his own animal and ours also and
ordered us to assist him to jerk their bodies into a triangle. This
being quickly done we got inside the barricade of mule flesh and were
prepared to receive the Indians. We were each armed with a
Mississippi yager and two revolvers, and as the Indians came swooping
down on our improvised fort we opened fire with such good effect that
three fell dead to the first volley. This caused them to retreat out
of range, as with two exceptions they were armed with bows and arrows
and therefore to approach near enough to do execution would expose at
least several of them to certain death.
Seeing that they could not take our little fortification, or drive
us from it, they circled around several times, shooting their arrows
at us. One of these struck George Wood in the left shoulders
inflicting only a slight wound, however, and several lodged in the
bodies of the dead mules; otherwise they did us no harm. The Indians
finally galloped off to a safe distance, where our bullets could not
reach them, and seemed to be holding a council. This was a lucky move
for us, for it gave us an opportunity to reload our guns and pistols,
and prepare for the next charge of the enemy. During the brief
cessation of hostilities, Simpson extracted the arrow from Wood's
shoulder, and put an immense quid of tobacco on the wound. Wood was
then ready for business again.
The Indians did not give us a very long rest, for with another
desperate charge, as if to ride over us, they came dashing towards
the mule barricade. We gave them a hot reception from our yagers and
revolvers. They could not stand or understand the rapidly repeating
fire of the revolver, and we checked them again. They circled around
once more and gave us a few parting shots as they rode off, leaving
behind them another dead Indian and a horse.
For two hours afterwards they did not seem to be doing anything
but holding a council. We made good use of this time by digging up
the ground inside the barricade with our knives and throwing the
loose earth around and over the mules, and we soon had a very
respectable fortification. We were not troubled any more that day,
but during the night the cunning rascals tried to burn us out by
setting fire to the prairie. The buffalo grass was so short that the
fire did not trouble us much, but the smoke concealed the Indians
from our view, and they thought that they could approach close to us
without being seen. We were aware of this and kept a sharp look-out,
being prepared all the time to receive them. They finally abandoned
the idea of surprising us.
A TIMELY RESCUE.
Next morning, bright and early, they gave us one more grand charge
and again we "stood them off." They then rode away half a mile or so
and formed a circle around us. Each man dismounted and sat down, as
if to wait and starve us out. They had evidently seen the advance
train pass on the morning of the previous day, and believed that we
belonged to that outfit and were trying to overtake it; they had no
idea that another train was on its way after us.
Our hopes of escape from this unpleasant and perilous situation
now depended upon the arrival of the rear train, and when we saw that
the Indians were going to besiege us instead of renewing their
attacks, we felt rather confident of receiving timely assistance. We
had expected that the train would be along late in the afternoon of
the previous day, and as the morning wore away we were somewhat
anxious and uneasy at its non-arrival.
At last, about ten o'clock, we began to hear in the distance the
loud and sharp reports of the big bull-whips, which were handled with
great dexterity by the teamsters, and cracked like rifle shots. These
were as welcome sounds to us as were the notes of the bagpipes to the
besieged garrison at Lucknow, when the re-enforcements were coming up
and the pipers were heard playing, "The Campbells are Coming." In a
few moments we saw the lead or head wagon coming slowly over the
ridge, which had concealed the train from our view, and soon the
whole outfit made its appearance. The Indians observed the
approaching train and assembling in a group they held a short
consultation. They then charged upon us once more, for the last time,
and as they turned and dashed away over the prairie we sent our
farewell shots rattling after them. The teamsters, seeing the Indians
and hearing the shots, came rushing forward to our assistance, but by
the time they reached us the red-skins had almost disappeared from
view. The teamsters eagerly asked us a hundred questions concerning
our fight, admired our fort and praised our pluck. Simpson's
remarkable presence of mind in planning the defense was the general
topic of conversation among all the men.
When the teams came up we obtained some water and bandages with
which to dress Wood's wound, which had become quite inflamed and
painful, and we then put him into one of the wagons. Simpson and
myself obtained a remount, bade good-bye to our dead mules which had
served us so well, and after collecting the ornaments and other
plunder from the dead Indians, we left their bodies and bones to
bleach on the prairie. The train moved on again and we had no other
adventures except several exciting buffalo hunts on the South Platte,
near Plum Creek.
We arrived at Fort Leavenworth about the middle of July, 1858,
when I immediately visited home. I found mother in very poor health,
as she was suffering from asthma. My oldest sister Martha, had,
during my absence, been married to John Crone, and was living at
ENGAGE IN TRAPPING.
I had been home only about a month, after returning from Fort
Bridger, when I again started out with another train, going this time
as assistant wagon-master under Buck Bomer. We went safely through to
Fort Laramie, which was our destination, and from there we were
ordered to take a load of supplies to a new post called Fort Wallace,
which was being established at Cheyenne Pass. We made this trip and
got back to Fort Laramie about November 1st. I then quit the employ
of Russell, Majors & Waddell, and joined a party of trappers who
were sent out by the post trader, Mr. Ward, to trap on the streams of
the Chugwater and Laramie for beaver, otter, and other fur animals,
and also to poison wolves for their pelts. We were out two months,
but as the expedition did not prove very profitable, and was rather
dangerous on account of the Indians, we abandoned the enterprise and
came into Fort Laramie in the latter part of December.
Being anxious to return to the Missouri River, I joined with two
others, named Scott and Charley, who were also desirous of going East
on a visit, bought three ponies and a pack-mule, and we started out
together. We made rapid progress on our journey, and nothing worthy
of note happened until, one afternoon, along the banks of the Little
Blue River, we spied a band of Indians hunting on the opposite side
of the stream, three miles away. We did not escape their notice, and
they gave us a lively chase for two hours, but they could find no
good crossing, and as evening came on we finally got away from them.
We traveled until late in the night, when upon discovering a lone,
deep ravine which we thought would make a comfortable and safe
camping-place, we stopped for a rest. In searching for a good place
to make our beds, I found a hole, and called to my companions that I
had found a fine place for a nest. One of the party was to stand
guard while the others slept. Scott took the first watch, while
Charley and I prepared our beds.
A HORRIBLE DISCOVERY.
While clearing out the place we felt something rough, but as it was
dark we could not make out what it was. At any rate we concluded that
it was bones or sticks of wood; we thought perhaps it might be the
bones of some animal which had fallen in there and died. These bones,
for such they really proved to be, we pushed one side and then we lay
down. But Charley, being an inveterate smoker, could not resist the
temptation of indulging in a smoke before going to sleep. So he sat
up and struck a match to light his old pipe. Our subterranean
bed-chamber was thus illuminated for a moment or two; I sprang to my
feet in an instant for a ghastly and horrifying sight was revealed to
us. Eight or ten human skeletons lay scattered upon the ground!
The light of the match died out, but we had seen enough to
convince us that we were in a large grave, into which, perhaps, some
unfortunate emigrants, who had been killed by the Indians, had been
thrown; or, probably, seeking refuge there, they had been corralled
and then killed on the spot. If such were the case they had met the
fate of thousands of others, whose friends have never heard of them
since they left their Eastern homes to seek their fortunes in the far
West. However, we did not care to investigate this mystery any
further, but we hustled out of that chamber of death and informed
Scott of our discovery. Most of the plainsmen are very superstitious,
and we were no exception to the general rule. We surely thought that
this incident was an evil omen, and that we would be killed if we
remained there any longer.
"Let us dig out of here quicker than We can say Jack Robinson,"
said Scott; and we began to "dig out " at once. We saddled our
animals and hurriedly pushed forward through the darkness traveling
several miles before we again went into camp. Next morning it was
snowing fiercely, but we proceeded as best we could, and that night
we succeeded in reaching Oak Grove ranch which had been built during
the summer. We here obtained comfortable accommodations and plenty to
eat and drink-especially the latter.
Scott and Charley were great lovers and consumers of " tanglefoot
" and they soon got gloriously drunk, keeping it up for three days,
during which time they gambled with the ranchmen, who got away with
all their money; but little they cared for that, as they had their
spree. They finally sobered up, and we resumed our journey, urging
our jaded animals as much as they could stand, until we struck
Marysville oil the Big Blue. From this place to Leavenworth we
secured first-rate accommodations along the road, as the country had
become pretty well settled.
It was in February, 1859, that I got home As there was now a good
school in the neighborhood, taught by Mr. Devinny, my mother wished
me to attend it, and I did so for two months and a half-the longest
period of schooling that I ever received at any one time in my life.
As soon as the spring came and the grass began growing, I became
uneasy and discontented, and again longed for the free and open life
of the plains.
OFF FOR PIKES PEAK.
The Pike's Peak gold excitement was then at its height, and everybody
was rushing to the new gold diggings. I caught the gold fever myself,
and joined a party bound for the new town of Auraria on Cherry Creek,
afterwards called Denver, in honor of the then Governor of Kansas. On
arriving at Auraria we pushed on to the gold streams in the
mountains, passing up through Golden Gate and over Guy Hill, and
thence on to Black Hawk. We prospected for two months, but as none of
us knew anything about mining we met with very poor success, and
therefore concluded that prospecting for gold was not our forte. We
accordingly abandoned the enterprise and turned our faces eastward
When we struck the Platte River, the happy thought of constructing
a small raft-which would float us clear to the Missouri and thence
down to Leavenworth-entered our heads, and we accordingly carried out
the plan. Upon the completion of the raft, we stocked it with
provisions and " set sail " down the stream. It was a light craft and
a jolly crew, and all was smooth sailing for four or five days.
When we got near old Julesburg we met with a serious mishap. Our
raft ran into an eddy, and quick as lightning went to pieces,
throwing us all into the stream, which was so deep that we had to
swim ashore. We lost everything we had, which greatly discouraged us,
and we thereupon abandoned the idea of rafting it any further. We
then walked over to Julesburg, which was only a few miles distant.
This ranch, which became a somewhat famous spot, had been established
by "Old Jules," a Frenchman, who was afterwards killed by the
notorious Alf Slade.
A PONY EXPRESS RIDER.
The great pony express, about which so much has been said and
written, was at that time just being started. The line was being
stocked with horses and put into good running condition. At Julesburg
I met Mr. George Chrisman, the leading wagonmaster of Russell, Majors
& Waddell, who had always been a good friend to me. He had bought
out "Old Jules," and was then the owner of Julesburg ranch, and the
agent of the pony express line. He hired me at once as a pony express
rider, but as I was so young he thought I was not able to stand the
fierce riding which was required of the messengers. He knew, however,
that I had been raised in the saddle-that I felt more at home there
than in any other place-and as he saw that I was confident that I
could stand the racket, and could ride as far and endure it as well
as some of the old riders, he gave me a short route of forty-five
miles, with the stations fifteen miles apart, and three changes of
horses. I was required to make fifteen miles an hour, including the
changes of horses. I was fortunate in getting well broken animals,
and being so light, I easily made my forty-five miles on time on my
first trip out, and ever afterwards.
I wrote to mother and told her how well I liked the exciting life
of a pony express rider. She replied, and begged of me to give it up,
as it would surely kill me. She was right about this, as fifteen
miles an hour on horseback would, in a short time, shake any man "
all to pieces; " and there were but very few, if any, riders who
could stand it for any great length of time. Nevertheless, I stuck to
it for two months, and then, upon receiving a letter informing me
that my mother was very sick, I gave it up and went back to the old
home in Salt Creek Valley.
Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued