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ARCHIVES (1877 -1887)

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES
OF BUFFALO BILL

 

CHAPTER XIII
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 Sheridan.

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 statements.

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 said:&emdash;

"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 you."

"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 would act."

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 was:&emdash;

"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 Lyon?"

"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 amused thereby.

 

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 it again.

"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 mule."

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 river.

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 his shoes.

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 with blood.

 

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 a moment.

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 from Wyoming.

 

The Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued

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