New Perspectives on THE WEST
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Archives of THE WEST
Episode One
(to 1806)
Episode Two
(1806 to 1848)
Episode Three
(1848 to 1856)
Episode Four
(1856 to 1868)
Episode Five
(1868 to 1874)
Episode Six
(1874 to 1877)
Episode Seven
(1877 to 1887)
Episode Eight
(1887 to 1914)

ARCHIVES (1877 -1887)




Camp-life and fighting guerrillas is not a very desirable occupation, and even scouting in the service is not so agreeable as making love to pretty girls; appreciating this fact, after nearly four years of hardships along the advance, I was very much pleased with the change when in the winter of 1864-65 I was permitted to spend a time at military headquarters in St. Louis on detached service. It was while I was in this pleasing situation that I became acquainted with a young lady named Louisa Frederici, whom I greatly admired and in whose charming society I spent many a pleasant hour.

The war closing in 1865, I was discharged, and after a brief visit at Leavenworth I returned to St. Louis, having made up my mind to capture the heart of Miss Frederici, whom I now adored above any other young lady that I had ever seen. Her lovely face, her gentle disposition and her graceful manners, won my admiration and love; and I was not slow in declaring my sentiments to her. The result was that I obtained her consent to marry me in the near future, and when I bade her good-bye I considered myself one of the happiest of men.

Meantime I drove a string of horses from Leavenworth to Fort Kearney, where I met my old friend Bill Trotter, who was then division stage agent. He employed me at once to drive stage between Kearney and Plum Creek, the road running near the spot where I had my first Indian fight with the McCarthy brothers, and where I killed my first Indian, nearly nine years before. I drove stage over this route until February, 1866, and while bounding over the cold, dreary road day after day, my thoughts turned continually towards my promised bride, until I at last determined to abandon staging forever, and marry and settle down. Immediately after coming to this conclusion, I went to St. Louis, where I was most cordially received by my sweetheart; it was arranged between us that our wedding should take place on the 6th day of March following.

At last the day arrived and the wedding ceremony was performed at the residence of the bride's parents, in the presence of a large number of invited friends, whose hearty congratulations we received. I was certainly to be congratulated, for I had become possessed of a lovely and noble woman, and as I gazed upon her as she stood beside me arrayed in her wedding costume, I indeed felt proud of her; and from that time to this I have alway thought that I made a most fortunate choice for a life partner.


An hour after the ceremony we &emdash;my bride and myself &emdash;were on board of a Missouri river steamboat, bound for our new home in Kansas. My wife's parents had accompanied us to the boat, and had bidden us a fond farewell and a God-speed on our journey.

During the trip up the river several very amusing, yet awkward, incidents occurred, some of which I cannot resist relating. There happened to be on board the boat an excursion party from Lexington, Missouri, and those comprising it seemed to shun me, for some reason which at the time I could not account for. They would point at me, and quietly talk among themselves, and eye me very closely. Their actions seemed very strange to me. After the boat had proceeded some little distance, I made the acquaintance of several families from Indiana, who were en route to Kansas. A gentleman, who seemed to be the leader of these colonists said to me, "The people of this excursion party don't seem to have any great love for you."

"What does it mean?" I asked; "what are they saying? It's all a mystery to me."

"They say that you are one of the Kansas jay-hawkers, and one of Jennison's house burners," replied the gentleman.

"I am from Kansas &emdash;that's true; and was a soldier and a scout in the Union army," said I; "and I was in Kansas during the border ruffian war of 1856. Perhaps these people know who I am, and that explains their hard looks." I had a lengthy conversation with this gentleman &emdash;for such he seemed to be &emdash;and entertained him with several chapters of the history of the early Kansas troubles, and told him the experiences of my own family.

In the evening the Lexington folks got up a dance, but neither the Indiana people, my wife or myself were invited to join them. My new-found friend thereupon came to me and said: "Mr. Cody, let us have a dance of our own."

"Very well," was my reply.

"We have some musicians along with us, so we can have plenty of music," remarked the gentleman.

"Good enough!" said I, "and I will hire the negro barber to play the violin for us. He is a good fiddler, as I heard him playing only a little while ago." The result was that we soon organized a good string band and had a splendid dance keeping it up as long as the Lexington party did theirs.


The second day out from St. Louis the boat stopped to wood up at a wild looking landing. Suddenly twenty horsemen were seen galloping up through the timber, and as they came nearer the boat they fired on the negro deck-hands, against whom they seemed to have a special grudge, and who were engaged in throwing wood on board. The negroes all quickly jumped on the boat and pulled in the gang-plank, and the captain had only just time to get the steamer out into the stream before the bushwhackers &emdash;for such they proved to be &emdash;appeared on the bank.

"Where is the black Abolition jay-hawker?" shouted the leader. "Show him to us, and we'll shoot him," yelled another. But as the boat had got well out in the river by this time they could not board us, and the captain ordering a full head of steam, pulled out and left them.

I afterwards ascertained that some of the Missourians, who were with the excursion party, were bushwhackers themselves, and had telegraphed to their friends from some previous landing that I was on board, telling them to come to the landing which we had just left and take me off. Had the villains captured me they would have undoubtedly put an end to my career, and the public would never have had the pleasure of being bored by this autobiography.

I noticed that my wife felt grieved over the manner in which these people had treated me. Just married, she was going into a new country, and seeing how her husband was regarded, how he had been shunned, and how his life had been threatened, I was afraid she might come to the conclusion too soon that she had wedded a "hard customer." So when the boat landed at Kansas City I telegraphed to some of my friends in Leavenworth that I would arrive there in the evening. My object was to have my acquaintances give me a reception, so that my wife could see that I really did have some friends and was not so bad a man as the bushwhackers tried to make out.

Just as I expected, when the boat reached Leavenworth I found a general round-up of friends at the landing to receive us. There were about sixty gentlemen and ladies. They had a band of music with them and we were given a fine serenade. Taking carriages we all drove to South Leavenworth to the home of my sister Eliza, who had married George Myers, and there we were given a very handsome reception. All this cheered up my wife, who concluded that I was not a desperado after all.


Having promised my wife that I would abandon the plains, I rented a hotel in Salt Creek Valley &emdash;the same house, by the way, which my mother had formerly kept, but which was then owned by Dr. J. J. Crook, late surgeon of the 7th Kansas. This hotel I called the Golden Rule House, and I kept it until the next September. People generally said I made a good landlord and knew how to run a hotel &emdash;a business qualification which, it is said, is possessed by comparatively few men. But it proved too tame employment for me, and again I sighed for the freedom of the plains. Believing that I could make more money out West on the frontier than I could at Salt Creek Valley, I sold out the Golden Rule House and started alone for Saline, Kansas, which was then the end of the track of the Kansas Pacific railway, which was at that time being built across the plains. On my way I stopped at Junction City, where I again met my old friend Wild Bill, who was scouting for the government, his headquarters being at Fort Ellsworth, afterwards called Fort Harker. He told me that they needed more scouts at this post, and I accordingly accompanied him to that fort, where I had no difficulty in obtaining employment.

During the winter of 1866-67, I scouted between Fort Ellsworth and Fort Fletcher. In the spring of 1867 I was at Fort Fletcher, when General Custer came out to go on an Indian expedition with General Hancock. I remained at this post until it was drowned out by the heavy floods of Big creek, on which it was located; the water rose about the fortifications and rendered the place unfit for occupancy; so the government abandoned the fort and moved the troops and supplies to a new post &emdash;which had been named Fort Hays &emdash;located further west, on the south fork of Big creek. It was while scouting in the vicinity of Fort Hays that I had my first ride with the dashing and gallant Custer, who had come up to the post from Fort Ellsworth with an escort of only ten men. He wanted a guide to pilot him to Fort Larned, a distance of sixty-five miles across the country.


I was ordered by the commanding officer to guide General Custer to his desired destination, and I soon received word from the General that he would start out in the morning with the intention of making the trip in one day. Early in the morning, after a good night's rest, I was on hand, mounted on my large mouse-colored mule &emdash;an animal of great endurance &emdash;and ready for the journey; when the General saw me he said:&emdash;

"Cody, I want to travel fast and go through as quickly as possible, and I don't think that mule of yours is fast enough to suit me."

"General, never mind the mule," said I, "he'll get there as soon as your horses. That mule is a good one," as I knew that the animal was better than most horses.

"Very well; go ahead, then," said he, though he looked as if he thought I would delay the party on the road.

For the first fifteen miles, until we came to the Smoky Hill river, which we were to cross, I could hardly keep the mule in advance of the General, who rode a frisky, impatient and ambitious thoroughbred steed; in fact, the whole party was finely mounted. The General repeatedly told me that the mule was "no good" and that I ought to have had a good horse. But after crossing the river, and striking the sand-hills, I began letting my mule out a littler and putting the "persuaders" to him. He was soon out-traveling the horses, and by the time we had made about half the distance to Fort Larned, I occasionally had to wait for the General or some of his party, as their horses were beginning to show signs of fatigue.

"General, how about this mule, anyhow?" I asked at last.

"Cody, you have a better vehicle than I thought you had," was his reply.

From that time on to Fort Larned I had no trouble in keeping ahead of the party. We rode into the fort at four o'clock in the afternoon with about half the escort only, the rest having lagged far behind.


General Custer thanked me for having brought him straight across the country without any trail, and said that if I were not engaged as post-scout at Fort Hays he would like to have me accompany him as one of his scouts during the summer; and he added that whenever I was out of employment, if I would come to him he would find something for me to do. This was the beginning of my acquaintance with General Custer, whom I always admired as a man and as an officer.

A few days after my return to Fort Hays, the Indians made a raid on the Kansas Pacific railroad, killing five or six men and running off about one hundred horses and mules. The news was brought to the commanding officer, who immediately ordered Major Arms, of the Tenth Cavalry &emdash;which, by the way, was a negro regiment &emdash;with his company and one mountain howitzer, to go in pursuit of the red-skins, and I was sent along with the expedition as scout and guide. On the second day out we suddenly discovered, on the opposite side of the Saline river, about a mile distant, a large body of Indians, who were charging down upon us. Major Arms, placing the cannon on a little knoll, limbered it up and left twenty then to guard it; and then, with the rest of the command, he crossed the river to meet the Indians.

Just as he had got the men over the stream we heard a terrific yelling and shouting in our rear, and looking back to the knoll where the cannon had been stationed, we saw the negroes, who had been left there to guard the gun, flying toward us, being pursued by about one hundred Indians, while another large party of the latter were dancing around the captured cannon, as if they had secured a trophy that was dangerous for them to handle. Major Arms soon turned his attention towards the Indians and with a sharp charge drove them from the gun and recaptured it, but not until the carriage was broken and the gun rendered useless. The fight became hotter when the Indians were reenforced by another large war party, that now came back at us in fine style. In this charge five of our men were killed and many more wounded, among the latter being Major Arms himself. The colored troops became fear-stricken and it was almost impossible to prevent a panic. In this sorry condition, and the danger of our position becoming a perilous one if the unequal contest was continued, Major Arms ordered a retreat, which was obeyed with singular spirit and alacrity. The Indians pursued us for a while, but darkness soon came on and under its protecting mantle we managed to escape, and to reach Fort Hays at daylight the following morning in an exhausted condition.

During our absence on this expedition the cholera broke out at the post, from which terrible disease five or six soldiers died daily, but the colored troops had so much less dread of cholera than they had of Indians that there was no dearth of nurses for the sick, as every negro at the post became a volunteer minister to the cholera patients.


The Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued

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