THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES
OF BUFFALO BILL
I AM ACCUSED OF SELLING GOVERNMENT PROPERTY
Upon my return to Fort Lyon General Carr granted me a leave of
absence of one month which I improved by paying a visit to my family
which was at this time in St. Louis. The nearest railroad station to
Fort Lyon was Sheridan, fully one hundred and forty miles distant,
and as I had no conveyance of my own, General Carr instructed Captain
Hays, our quartermaster, to give me the use of a horse to make the
necessary journey. When I received the horse it was with instructions
to leave the animal in the quartermaster's corral at Fort Wallace
until my return, but instead of so doing I placed the horse in the
care of an old friend named Perry, who was a hotel-keeper in
After a twenty days' absence in St. Louis, pleasantly spent with
my family, I returned to Sheridan, and there learned that my horse
had been seized by the government. It seems that the quartermaster's
agent at Sheridan had reported to General Bankhead, commanding Fort
Wallace, and to Captain Laufer, the quartermaster, that I had left
the country and had sold a government horse and mule to Mr. Perry,
and of course Captain Laufer took possession of the animals and
threatened to have Perry arrested for buying government property.
Perry explained to him the facts in the case and said that I would
return in a few days; but the Captain would pay no attention to his
I immediately went over to the office of the quartermaster's
agent, and had Perry point him out to me. I at once laid hold of him,
and in a short time had treated him to just such a thrashing as his
contemptible lie deserved. He then mounted a horse, rode to Fort
Wallace, and reported me to General Bankhead and Captain Laufer, and
obtained a guard to return with and protect him.
The next morning I secured a horse from Perry, and proceecling to
Fort Wallace demanded my horse and mule from General Bankhead, on the
ground that they were Quartermaster Hays' property and belonged to
General Carr's command and that I had obtained permission to ride
them to Sheridan and back. General Bankhead in a gruff manner ordered
me out of his office and off the reservation, saying that if I didn't
take hurried departure he would have me forcibly put out. I told him
to do it and be hanged; I might have used a stronger expression, and
upon second thought, I believe I did. I next interviewed Captain
Laufer and demanded of him also the horse and mule, as I was
responsible for them to Quartermaster Hays. Captain Laufer intimated
that I was a liar and that I had disposed of the animals. Hot words
ensued between us, and he too ordered me to leave the post. I replied
that General Bankhead had commanded me to do the same thing, but that
I had not yet gone; and that I did not propose to obey any orders of
an inferior officer.
Seeing that it was of no use to make any further effort to get
possession of the animals I rode back to Sheridan, and just as I
reached there I met the quartermaster's agent coming out from supper,
with his head tied up. It occurred to me that he had not received
more than one-half of the punishment justly due him, and that now
would be a good time to give him the balance &emdash;so I carried the
idea into immediate execution. After finishing the job in good style,
I informed him that he could not stay in that town while I remained
there, and convinced him that Sheridan was not large enough to hold
us both at the same time; he accordingly left the place and again
went to Fort Wallace, this time reporting to General Bankhead that I
had driven him away, and had threatened to kill him.
ARRESTED AND THROWN INTO THE GUARD-HOUSE
That night while sleeping at the Perry House, I was awakened by a tap
on the shoulder and upon looking up I was considerably surprised to
see the room filled with armed negroes who had their guns all pointed
at me. The first words I heard came from the sergeant, who
"Now look a-heah, Massa Bill, ef you make a move we'll blow you
off de farm, shuah!" Just then Captain Ezekiel entered and ordered
the soldiers to stand back.
"Captain, what does this mean?" I asked.
"I am sorry, Bill, but I have been ordered by General Bankhead to
arrest you and bring you to Fort Vlrallace," said he.
"That's all right," said I, "but you could have made the arrest
alone, without having brought the whole Thirty-eighth Infantry with
"I know that, Bill," replied the Captain, "but as you've not been
in very good humor for the last day or two, I didn't know how you
I hastily dressed, and accompanied Captain Ezekiel to Fort
Wallace, arriving there at two o'clock in the morning.
"Bill, I am really sorry," said Captain Ezekiel, as we alighted,
"but I have orders to place you in the guard-house, and I must
perform my duty."
"Very well, Captain; I don't blame you a bit," said I; and into
the guard-house I went as a prisoner for the first and only time in
my life. The sergeant of the guard &emdash;who was an old friend of
mine, belong§ng to Captain Graham's company, which was stationed
there at the time &emdash;did not put me into a cell, but kindly
allowed me to stay in his room and occupy his bed, and in a few
minutes I was snoring away as if nothing unusual had occurred.
Shortly after reveille Captain Graham called to see me. He thought
it was a shame for me to be in the guard-house, and said that he
would interview General Bankhead in my behalf as soon as he got up.
The Captain had a nice breakfast prepared for me, and then departed.
At guard-mount I was not sent for, con trary to my expectations, and
thereupon I had word conveyed to Captain Graham, who was officer of
the day, that I wanted to see General Bankhead. The Captain informed
me that the General absolutely refused to hold any conversation
whatever with me.
At this time there was no telegraph line between Fort Wallace and
Fort Lyon, and therefore it was impossible for me to telegraph to
General Carr, and I determined to send a dispatch direct to General
Sheridan. I accordingly wrote out a long telegram informing him of my
difficulty, and had it taken to the telegraph office for
transmission; but the operator, instead of sending it at once as he
should have done, showed it to General Bankhead, who tore it up, and
instructed the operator not to pay any attention to what I might say,
as he was running that post. Thinking it very strange that I received
no answer during the day I went to the telegraph office, accompanied
by a guard, and learned from the operator what he had done.
A DISPUTE OVER A TELEGRAM.
"See here, my young friend," said I, "this is a public telegraph
line, and I want my telegram sent, or there'll be trouble."
I rewrote my dispatch and handed it to him, accompanied with the
money to pay for the transmission, saying, as I did so: "Young man, I
wish that telegram sent direct to Chicago. You know it is your duty
to send it, and it must go."
He knew very well that he was compelled to transmit the message,
but before doing so he called on General Bankhead and informed him of
what I had said, and told him that he would certainly have to send
it, for if he didn't he might lose his position. The General, seeing
that the telegram would have to go, summoned me to his headquarters,
and the first thing he said, after I got into his presence
"If I let you go, sir, will you leave the post at once and not
bother my agent at Sheridan again?"
"No, sir;" I replied, "I'll do nothing of the kind. I'll remain in
the guard-house until I receive an answer from General Sheridan."
"If I give you the horse and mule will you proceed at once to Fort
"No, sir; I have some bills to settle at Sheridan and some other
business to transact," replied I.
"Well, sir; will you at least agree not to interfere any further
with the quartermaster's agent at Sheridan?"
"I shall not bother him any more, sir, as I have had all I want
from him," was my answer.
General Bankhead thereupon sent for Captain Laufer and ordered him
to turn the horse and mule over to me. In a few minutes more I was on
my way to Sheridan, and after settling my business there, I proceeded
to Fort Lyon, arriving two days afterwards. I related my adventures
to general Carr, Major Brown, and other officers, who were greatly
IN PURSUIT OF HORSE THIEVES
"I'm glad you've come, Bill," said General Carr, "as I have been
wanting you for the last two weeks. While we have been at this post
several valuable animals, as well as a large number of government
horses and mules have been stolen, and we think the thieves are still
in the vicinity of the fort, but as yet we have been unable to
discover their rendezvous. I have had a party out for the last few
days in the neighborhood of old Fort Lyon, and they have found fresh
tracks down there and seem to think that the stock is concealed
somewhere in the timber, along the Arkansas river. Bill Green, one of
the scouts who is just up from there, can perhaps tell you something
more about the matter."
Green, who had been summoned, said that he had discovered fresh
trails before striking the heavy timber opposite old Fort Lyon, but
that in the tall grass he could not follow them. He had marked the
place where he had last seen fresh mule tracks, so that he could find
"Now, Cody, you're just the person we want," said the General.
"Very well, I'll get a fresh mount, and tomorrow I'll go down and
see what I can discover," said I.
"You had better take two men besides Green, and a pack mule with
eight or ten days' rations," suggested the General, "so that if you
find the trail you can follow it up, as I am very anxious to get back
this stolen property. The scoundrels have taken one of my private
horses and also Lieutenant Forbush's favorite little black race
Next morning I started out after the horse-thieves, being
accompanied by Green, Jack Farley and another scout. The mule track,
marked by Green, was easily found, and with very little difficulty I
followed it for about two miles into the timber and came upon a place
where, as I could plainly see from numerous signs, quite a number of
head of stock had been tied among the trees and kept for several
days. This was evidently the spot where the thieves had been hiding
their stolen stock until they had accumulated quite a herd. From this
point it was difficult to trail them, as they had taken the stolen
animals out of the timber one by one and in different directions,
thus showing that they were experts at the business and experienced
frontiersmen, for no Indian could have exhibited more cunning in
covering up a trail than did they.
I abandoned the idea of following their trail in this immediate
locality, so calling my men together, I told them that we would ride
out for about five miles and make a complete circuit about the place,
and in this way we would certainly find the trail on which they had
moved out. While making the circuit we discovered the tracks of
twelve animals &emdash;four mules and eight horses &emdash;in the
edge of some sand-hills, and from this point we had no trouble in
trailing them down the Arkansas river, which they had crossed at Sand
creek, and then had gone up the latter stream, in the direction of
Denver, to which place they were undoubtedly bound. When nearing
Denver their trail became so obscure that we at last lost it; but by
inquiring of the settlers along the road which they had taken, we
occasionally heard of them.
THE THIEVES RUN DOWN
When within four miles of Denver &emdash;this was on a Thursday
&emdash;we learned that the horse-thieves had passed there two days
before. I came to the conclusion they would attempt to dispose of the
animals at Denver, and being aware that Saturday was the great
auction day there, I thought it best to remain where we were, at a
hotel, and not go into the city until that day. It certainly would
not have been advisable for me to have gone into Denver meantime,
because I was well known there, and if the thieves had learned of my
presence in the city they would at once have suspected my business.
Early Saturday morning we rode into town and stabled our horses at
the Elephant corral. I secured a room from Ed. Chase, overlooking the
corral, and then took up my post of observation. I did not have long
to wait, for a man whom I readily recognized as one of our old
packers, rode into the corral mounted upon Lieutenant Forbush's
racing mule, and leading another government mule, which I also
identified. It had been recently branded, and over the "U. S." was a
plain "D. B." I waited for the man's companion to put in an
appearance, but he did not come, and my conclusion was that he was
secreted outside of the city with the rest of the animals.
Presently the black mule belonging to Forbush was put up at
auction. Now, thought I, is the time to do my work. So, walking
through the crowd, who were bidding for the mule, I approached the
man who had offered him for sale. He recognised me and endeavored to
escape, but I seized him by the shoulder, saying: "I guess, my
friend, that you'll have to go with me. If you make any resistance,
I'll shoot you on the spot." He was armed with a pair of pistols,
which I took away from him. Then informing the auctioneer that I was
a United States detective, and showing him &emdash;as well as an
inquisitive officer &emdash;my commission as such, I told him to stop
the sale, as the mule was stolen property, and that I had arrested
the thief, whose name was Williams.
Farley and Green, who were near at hand, now came forward, and
together we took the prisoner and the mules three miles down the
Platte river; there, in a thick bunch of timber, we all dismounted
and made preparations to hang Williams from a limb, if he did not
tell us where his partner was. At first he denied knowing anything
about any partner, or any other stock; but when he saw that we were
in earnest, and would hang him at the end of the given time
&emdash;five minutes &emdash;unless he "squealed," he told us that
his "pal" was at an unoccupied house three miles further down the
We immediately proceeded to the spot indicated, and as we came
within sight of the house we saw our stock grazing near by. Just as
we rode up to the door, another one of our old packers, whom l
recognised as Bill Bevins, stepped to the front and I covered him
instantly with my rifle before he could draw his revolver. I ordered
him to throw up his hands, and he obeyed the command. Green then
disarmed him and brought him out. We looked through the house and
found their saddles, pack-saddles, blankets, overcoats, lariats and
two Henry rifles, which we took possession of. The horses and mules
we tied in a bunch, and with the whole outfit we returned to Denver,
where we lodged Williams and Bevins in jail, in charge of my friend,
Sheriff Edward Cook. The next day we took them out, and tying each
one on a mule we struck out on our return trip to Fort Lyon.
ESCAPE OF BEVINS
At the hotel outside the city, where we had stopped on Thursday
and Friday, we were joined by our man with the pack-mule. That night
we camped on Cherry creek, seventeen miles from Denver. The weather
&emdash;it being in April &emdash;was cold and stormy, but we found a
warm and cosy camping place in a bend of the creek. We made our beds
in a row, with our feet towards the fire. The prisoners so far had
appeared very docile, and had made no attempt to escape, and
therefore I did not think it necessary to hobble them. We made them
sleep on the inside, and it was so arranged that some one of us
should be on guard all the time.
At about one o'clock in the night it began snowing, while I was
watching. Shortly before three o'clock, Jack Farley, who was then on
guard, and sitting on the foot of the bed, with his back to the
prisoners, was kicked clear into the fire by Williams, and the next
moment Bevins, who had got hold of his shoes &emdash;which I had
thought were out of his reach &emdash;sprang up and jumped over the
fire, and started on a run. I sent a shot after him as soon as I
awoke sufficiently to comprehend what was taking place. Williams
attempted to follow him, and as he did so I whirled around an knocked
him down with my revolver. Farley by this time had gathered himself
out of the fire, and Green had started after Bevins, firing at him on
the run; but the prisoner made his escape into the brush. In his
flight, unfortunately for him, and luckily for us, he dropped one of
Leaving Williams in the charge of Farley and "Long Doc," as we
called the man with the pack-mule, Green and myself struck out after
Bevins as fast as possible. We heard him breaking through the brush,
but knowing that it would be useless to follow him on foot, we went
back to the camp and saddled up two of the fastest horses, and at
daylight we struck out on his trail, which was plainly visible in the
anow. He had got an hour and a half the start of us. His tracks led
us in the direction of the mountains and the South Platte river, and,
as the country through which he was passing was covered with prickly
pears, we knew that he could not escape stepping on them with his one
bare foot, and hence we were likely to overtake him in a short time.
We could see, however, from the long jumps that he was taking that he
was making excellent time, but we frequently noticed, after we had
gone some distance, that the prickly pears and stones along his route
were cutting his bare foot, as nearly every track of it was spotted
AN EXTRAORDINARY RUN FOR LIBERTY
We had run our horses some twelve miles when we saw Bevins
crossing a ridge about two miles ahead. Urging our horses up to their
utmost speed, we reached the ridge just as he was descending the
divide towards the South Platte, which stream was very deep and swift
at this point. It became evident that if he should cross it ahead of
us, he would have a good chance of making his escape. So pushing our
steeds as fast as possible, we rapidly gained on him and when within
a hundred yards of him I cried to him to halt or I would shoot.
Knowing I was a good shot, he stopped, and coolly sitting down waited
till we came up.
"Bevins, you've given us a good run," said I.
"Yes." said he. "and if I had had fifteen minutes more of a start,
and got across the Platte, I would have laughed at the idea of your
ever catching me."
Bevins' run was the most remarkable feat of the kind ever known,
either of a white man, or an Indian. A man who could run bare-footed
in the snow eighteen miles through a prickly pear patch, was
certainly a "tough one," and that's the kind of a person Bill Bevins
was. Upon looking at his bleeding foot I really felt sorry for him.
He asked me for my knife, and I gave him my sharp-pointed bowie, with
which he dug the prickly pear briars out of his foot. I considered
him as "game" a man as I had ever met.
"Bevins, I have got to take you back," said I, "but as you can't
walk with that foot, you can ride my horse and I'll foot it."
We accordingly started back for our camp, with Bevins on my horse,
which was led either by Green or myself, as we alternately rode the
other horse. We kept a close watch on Bevins, for we had ample proof
that he needed watching. His wounded foot must have pained him
terribly but not a word of complaint escaped him. On arriving at the
camp we found Williams bound as we had left him and he seemed sorry
that we had captured Bevins.
A SUCCESSFUL BREAK IN THE DARK
After breakfasting we resumed our journey, and nothing worthy of note
again occurred until we reached the Arkansas river, where we found a
vacant cabin and at once took possession of it for the night. There
was no likelihood of Bevins again trying to escape, for his foot had
swollen to an enormous size and was useless. Believing that Williams
could not escape from the cabin, we unbound him. We then went to
sleep, leaving Long Doc on guard, the cabin being comfortably warmed
and well lighted by the fire. It was a dark, stormy night &emdash;so
dark that you could hardly see your hand before you. At about ten
o'clock Williams asked Long Doc to allow him to step to the door for
Long Doc, who had his revolver in his hand, did not think it
necessary to wake us up, and believing that he could take care of the
prisoners he granted his request. Williams thereupon walked to the
outer edge of the door, while Long Doc, revolver in hand, was
watching him from the inside. Suddenly Williams made a spring to the
right, and before Doc could even raise his revolver, he had dodged
around the house. Doc jumped after him, and fired just as he turned a
corner, the report bringing us all to our feet, and in an instant we
knew what had happened. I at once covered Bevins with my revolver,
but as I saw that he could hardly stir, and was making no
demonstrations I lowered the weapon. Just then Doc came in swearing
"a blue streak," and announced that Williams had escaped. There was
nothing for us to do except to gather our horses close to the cabin
and stand guard over them for the rest of the night, to prevent the
possibility of Williams sneaking up and stealing one of them. That
was the last I ever saw or heard of Williams.
BREAKING UP OF THE GANG
We finally got back to Fort Lyon with Bevins, and General Carr,
to whom I immediately reported, complimented us highly on the success
of our trip, notwithstanding we had lost one prisoner. The next day
we took Bevins to Boggs' ranch on Picket Wire creek, and there turned
him over to the civil authorities, who put him in a log jail to await
his trial. He was never tried, however, for he soon made his escape,
as I expected he would. I heard no more of him until 1872, when I
learned that he was skirmishing around on Laramie plains at his old
tricks. He sent word by the gentleman from whom I gained this
information, that if he ever met me again he would kill me on sight.
He was finally arrested and convicted for robbery, and was confined
in the prison at Laramie City. Again he made his escape, and soon
afterwards he organised a desperate gang of outlaws who infested the
country north of the Union Pacific railroad, and when the stages
began to run between Cheyenne and Deadwood, in the Black Hills, they
robbed the coaches and passengers, frequently making large hauls of
plunder. They kept this up for some time, till finally most of the
gang were caught, tried, convicted and sent to the penitentiary for a
number of years. Bill Bevins and nearly all of his gang are now
confined in the Nebraska State prison, to which they were transferred
Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued