THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES
OF BUFFALO BILL
HOW I BECAME A SOLDIER
Early in the fall of 1861 I made a trip to Fort Larned, Kansas,
carrying military dispatches, and in the winter I accompanied George
Long through the country, and assisted him in buying horses for the
The next spring, 1862, an expedition against the Indians was
organized, consisting of a volunteer regiment, the Ninth Kansas under
Colonel Clark . This expedition, which I had joined in the capacity
of guide and scout, proceeded to the Kiowa and Comanche country, on
the Arkansas river, along which stream we scouted all summer between
Fort Lyon and Fort Larned, on the old Santa Fe trail. We had several
engagements with the Indians, but they were of no great importance.
In the winter of 1862, I became one of the "Red Legged Scouts,"
&emdash;a company of scouts commanded by Captain Tuff. Among its
members were some of the most noted Kansas Rangers, such as Red
Clark, the St. Clair brothers, Jack Harvey, an old pony express-rider
named Johnny Fry, and many other well known frontiersmen. Our field
of operations was confined mostly to the Arkansas country and
Southwestern Missouri. We had many a lively skirmish with the
bushwhackers and Younger brothers, and when we were not hunting them,
we were generally employed in carrying dispatches between Forts
Dodge, Gibson, Leavenworth and other posts. Whenever we were in
Leavenworth we had a very festive time. We usually attended all the
balls in full force, and "ran things" to suit ourselves. Thus I
passed the winter of 1862 and the spring of 1863.
Subsequently I engaged to conduct a small train to Denver for some
merchants, and on reaching that place in September, I received a
letter stating that my mother was not expected to live. I hastened
home, and found her dangerously ill. She grew gradually worse, and at
last, on the 22d of November, 1863, she died. Thus passed away a
loving and affectionate mother and a noble, brave, good and loyal
Previous to this sad event my sister Julia had been married to a
gentleman named J. A. Goodman, and they now came to reside at our
house and take charge of the children, as my mother had desired that
they should not be separated. Mr. Goodman became the guardian of the
WITH THE JAY-HAWKERS
I soon left the home now rendered gloomy by the absence of her whom I
had so tenderly loved and going to Leavenworth I entered upon a
dissolute and reckless life &emdash;to my shame be it said
&emdash;and associated with gamblers, drunkards, and bad characters
generally. I continued my dissipation about two months, and was
becoming a very "hard case." About this time the Seventh Kansas
regiment, known as "Jennison's Jayhawkers," returned from the war,
and re-enlisted and reorganized as veterans. Among them I met quite a
number of my old comrades and neighbors, who tried to induce me to
enlist and go South with them. I had no idea of doing anything of the
kind; but one day, after having been under the influence of bad
whisky, I awoke to find myself a soldier in the Seventh Kansas. I did
not remember how or when I had enlisted, but I saw I was in for it,
and that it would not do for me to endeavor to back out.
In the spring of 1864 the regiment was ordered to Tennessee, and
we got into Memphis just about the time that General Sturgis was so
badly whipped by General Forrest. General A. J. Smith re-organized
the army to operate against Forrest and after marching to Tupalo,
Mississippi, we had an engagement with him and defeated him. This
kind of fighting was all new to me, being entirely different from any
in which I had ever before engaged. I soon became a non-commissioned
officer, and was put on detached service as a scout.
After skirmishing around the country with the rest of the army for
some little time, our regiment returned to Memphis, but was
immediately ordered to Cape Giradeau, in Missouri, as a Confederate
force under General Price was then raiding that State. The command of
which my regiment was a par thurried to the front to intercept Price,
and our first fight with him occurred at Pilot Knob. From that time
for nearly six weeks we fought or skirmished every day.
A SINGULAR MEETING WITH WILD BILL
I was still acting as a scout, when one day I rode ahead of the
command, some considerable distance, to pick up all possible
information concerning Price's movements. I was dressed in gray
clothes, or Missouri jeans, and on riding up to a farm house and
entering I saw a man, also dressed in gray costume, sitting at a
table eating bread and milk. He looked up as I entered, and startled
me by saying:&emdash;
"You little rascal, what are you doing in those 'secesh' clothes?"
Judge of my surprise when I recognised in the stranger my old friend
and partner, Wild Bill, disguised as a Confederate officer.
"I ask you the same question, sir," said I, without the least
"Hush! sit down and have some bread and milk, and we'll talk it
all over afterwards," said he.
I accepted the invitation and partook of the refreshments. Wild
Bill paid the woman of the house, and we went out to the gate where
my horse was standing.
"Billy, my boy," said he "I am mighty glad to see you. tIhaven't
seen or heard of you since we got busted on that St. Louis horse
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
"I am a scout under General McNiel. For the last few days I have
been with General Marmaduke's division of Price's army, in disguise
as a Southern officer from Texas, as you see me now," said he.
"That's exactly the kind of business that I am out on to-day,"
said I; "and I want to get some information concerning Price's
"I'll give you all that I have;" and he then went on and told me
all that he knew regarding Price's intentions and the number and
condition of his men. He then asked about my mother, and when he
learned that she was dead he was greatly surprised and grieved; he
thought a great deal of her, for she had treated him almost as one of
her own children. He finally took out a package, which he had
concealed about his person, and handing it to me he said:&emdash;
"Here are some letters which I want you to give to General
"All right," said I as I took them, "but where will I meet you
"Never mind that," he replied; "I am getting so much valuable
information that I propose to stay a little while longer in this
disguise." Thereupon we shook hands and parted.
It is not necessary to say much concerning Price's raid in
general, as that event is a matter of recorded history. I am only
relating the incidents in which I was personally interested either as
one of the actors or as an observer.
A PLEASANT LITTLE EPISODE
Another interesting, and I may say exciting, episode happened to me a
day or two after my unexpected meeting with Wild Bill. I was riding
with the advance guard of our army, and wishing a drink of water, I
stopped at a farm house. There were no men about the premises, and no
one excepting a very fine and intellectual looking lady and her two
daughters. They seemed to be almost frightened to death at seeing me
&emdash;a "yank" &emdash;appear before them. I quieted their fears
somewhat and the mother then asked me how far back the army was. When
I told her it would be along shortly, she expressed her fears that
they would take everything on the premises. They set me out a lunch
and treated me very kindly, so that I really began to sympathize with
them; for I knew that the soldiers would ransack their house and
confiscate everything they could lay their hands on. At last I
resolved to do what I could to protect them.
After the generals and the staff officers had passed by, I took it
upon myself to be a sentry over the house. When the command came
along some of the men rushed up with the intention of entering the
place and carrying off all the desirable plunder possible, and then
tearing and breaking everything to pieces, as they usually did along
the line of march.
"Halt!" I shouted; "I have been placed here by the commanding
officer as a guard over this house, and no man must enter it." This
stopped the first squad; and seeing that my plan was a success, I
remained at my post during the passage of the entire command and kept
out all intruders.
It seemed as if the ladies could not thank me sufficiently for the
protection I had afforded them. They were perfectly aware of the fact
that I had acted without orders and entirely on my own
responsibility, and therefore they felt the more grateful. They
urgently invited me to remain a little while longer and partake of an
excellent dinner which they said they were preparing for me. I was
pretty hungry about that time, as our rations had been rather slim of
late, and a good dinner was a temptation I could not withstand,
especially as it was served up by such elegant ladies. While I was
eating the meal I was most agreeably entertained by the young ladies,
and before I finished it the last of the rear-guard was at least two
miles beyond the house.
Suddenly three men entered the room, and I looked up and saw three
double-barreled shot-guns leveled straight at me. Before I could
speak, however, the mother and her daughters sprang between the men
"Father! Boys! Lower your guns! You must not shoot this man," and
similar exclamations were uttered by all three. The guns were lowered
and then the men, who were the father and brothers of the young
ladies, were informed of what I had done for them. It appeared that
they had been concealed in the woods near by while the army was
passing, and on coming into the house and finding a Yankee there,
they determined to shoot him. Upon learning the facts, the old man
extended his hand to me, saying:&emdash;
"I would not harm a hair of your head for the world; but it is
best that you stay here no longer, as your command is some distance
in advance now, and you might be cut off by bushwhackers before
Bidding them all good-bye, and with many thanks from the mother
and daughters, I mounted my horse and soon overtook the column, happy
in the thought that I had done a good deed, and with no regrets that
I had saved from pillage and destruction the home and property of a
Confederate and his family.
Our command kept crowding against Price and his army until they
were pushed into the vicinity of Kansas City, where their further
advance was checked by United States troops from Kansas; and then was
begun their memorable and extraordinary retreat back into Kansas.
A WONDERFUL ESCAPE
While both armies were drawn up in skirmish line near Fort Scott
Kansas, two men on horseback were seen rapidly leaving the
Confederate lines, and suddenly they made a dash towards us.
Instantly quick volleys were discharged from the Confederates, who
also began a pursuit, and some five hundred shots were fired at the
flying men. It was evident that they were trying to reach our lines,
but when within about a quarter of a mile of us, one of them fell
from his horse to rise no more. He had been fatally shot. His
companion galloped on unhurt, and seven companies of our regiment
charged out and met him, and checked his pursuers. The fugitive was
dressed in Confederate uniform, and as he rode into our lines I
recognized him as Wild Bill, the Union scout. He immediately sought
Generals Pleasanton and McNiel, with whom he held a consultation. He
told them that although Price made a bold showing on the front, by
bringing all his men into view, yet he was really a great deal weaker
than the appearance of his lines would indicate; and that he was then
trying to cross a difficult stream four miles from Fort Scott.
It was late in the afternoon, but General Pleasanton immediately
ordered an advance, and we charged in full force upon the rear of
Price's army, and drove it before us for two hours.
If Wild Bill could have made his successful dash into our lines
earlier in the day, the attack would have been made sooner, and
greater results might have been expected. The Confederates had
suspected him of being a spy for two or three days, and had watched
him too closely to allow an opportunity to get away from them sooner.
His unfortunate companion who had been shot, was a scout from
Springfield, Missouri, whose name I cannot now remember.
From this time on, Wild Bill and myself continued to scout
together until Price's army was driven south of the Arkansas river
and the pursuit abandoned.
Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued