THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES
OF BUFFALO BILL
A MILITARY EXPEDITION
A day or two after my return to Fort Lyon, the Fifth Cavalry were
ordered to the Department of the Platte, and took up their line of
march for Fort McPherson, Nebraska. We laid over one day at Fort
Wallace, to get supplies, and while here I had occasion to pass
General Bankhead's headquarters. His orderly called to me and said
the General wished to see me. As I entered the General's office he
extended his hand and said: "I hope you have no hard feelings toward
me, Cody, for having you arrested when you were here. I have just had
a talk with General Carr and Quartermaster Hays and they informed me
that you had their permission to ride the horse and mule, and if you
had stated this fact to me there would have been no trouble about the
"That is all right, General," said I; "I will think no more of it.
But I don't believe that your quartermaster's agent will ever again
circulate false stories about me."
" No," said the General; "he has not yet recovered from the
beating that you gave him."
From Fort Wallace we moved down to Sheridan, where the command
halted for us to lay in a supply of forage which was stored there. I
was still messing with Major Brown, with whom I went into the village
to purchase a supply of provisions for our mess; but unfortunately we
were in too jolly a mood to fool away money on "grub." We bought
several articles, however, and put them into the ambulance and sent
them back to the camp with our cook. The Major and myself did not
return until reveille next morning. Soon afterwards the General
sounded "boots and saddles," and presently the regiment was on its
way to McPherson.
It was very late before we went into camp that night and we were
tired and hungry. Just as Major Brown was having his tent put up his
cook came to us and asked where the provisions were that we had
bought the day before.
"Why, did we not give them to you &emdash;did you not bring them
to camp in the ambulance?" asked Major Brown.
"No, sir; it was only a five-gallon demijohn of whisky, a
five-gallon demijohn of brandy, and two cases of Old Tom-Cat gin,"
said the cook.
"The mischief!" I exclaimed; "didn't we spend any money on grub at
all ? "
"No, sir," replied the cook.
"Well, that will do for the present," said Major Brown.
It seems that our minds had evidently been running on a different
subject than provisions while we were loitering in Sheridan, and we
found ourselves, with a two hundred and fifty mile march ahead of us,
without anything more inviting than ordinary army rations.
At this juncture captain Denny came up and the Major apologized
for not being able to invite him to take supper with us; but we did
the next best thing, and asked him to take a drink. He remarked that
that was what he was looking for, and when he learned of our being
out of commissary supplies and that we had bought nothing except
whisky, brandy and gin, he said, joyously:&emdash;
"Boys, as we have an abundance, you can eat with us and we will
drink with you."
It was a satisfactory arrangement, and from that time forward we
traded our liquids for their solids. When the rest of the officers
heard of what Brown and I had done they all sent us invitations to
dine with them at any time. We returned the compliment by inviting
them to drink with us whenever they were dry. Although I would not
advise anybodv to follow our example, yet it is a fact that we got
more provisions for our whisky than the same money, which we paid for
the liquor, would have bought, so after all it proved a very
A BlG INDIAN TRAIL
On reaching north fork of the Beaver and riding down the valley
towards the stream, I suddenly discovered a large fresh Indian trail.
On examination I found it to be scattered all over the valley on both
sides of the creek, as if a very large village had recently passed
down that way. Judging from the size of the trail, I thought there
could not be less than four hundred lodges, or between twenty-five
hundred and three thousand warriors, women and children in the band.
I galloped back to the command, distant about three miles, and
reported the news to General Carr, who halted the regiment, and,
after consulting a few minutes, ordered me to select a ravine, or as
low ground as possible, so that he could keep the troops out of sight
until we could strike the creek.
We went into camp on the Beaver, and the General ordered
Lieutenant Ward to take twelve men and myself and follow up the trail
for several miles, and find out how fast the Indians were traveling.
I was soon convinced, by the many camps they had made, that they were
traveling slowly, and hunting as they journeyed. We went down the
Beaver on this scout about twelve miles, keeping our horses well
concealed under the banks of the creek, so as not to be discovered.
At this point, Lieutenant Ward and myself, leaving our horses
behind us, crawled to the top of a high knoll, where we could have a
good view for some miles distant down the stream. We peeped over the
summit of the hill, and not over three miles away we could see a
whole Indian village in plain sight, and thousands of ponies grazing
around on the prairie. Looking over to our left on the opposite side
of the creek, we observed two or three parties of Indians coming in,
loaded down with buffalo meat.
"This is no place for us, Lieutenant," said I; "I think we have
important business at the camp to attend to as soon as possible."
"I agree with you," said he, "and the quicker we get there the
better it will be for us."
We quickly descended the hill and joined the men below. Lieutenant
Ward hurriedly wrote a note to General Carr, and handing it to a
corporal, ordered him to make all possible haste back to the command
and deliver the message. The man started off on a gallop, and
Lieutenant Ward said: "We will march slowly back until we meet the
troops, as I think the General will soon be here, for he will start
immediately upon receiving my note."
ATTACK ON THE COURIER
In a few minutes we heard two or three shots in the direction in
which our dispatch courier had gone, and soon after we saw him come
running around the bend of the creek, pursued by four or five
Indians. The Lieutenant, with his squad of soldiers and myself, at
once charged upon them, when they turned and ran across the stream.
"This will not do," said Lieutenant Ward, "the whole Indian
village will now know that soldiers are near by.
"Lieutenant, give me that note, and I will take it to the
General," said I.
He gladly handed me the dispatch, and spurring my horse I dashed
up the creek. After having ridden a short distance, I observed
another party of Indians also going to the village with meat; but
instead of waiting for them to fire upon me, I gave them a shot at
long range. Seeing one man firing at them so boldly, it surprised
them, and they did not know what to make of it. While they as were
thus considering, I got between them and our camp. By this time they
had recovered from their surprise, and, cutting their buffalo meat
loose from their horses, they came after me at the top of their
speed; but as their steeds were tired out, it did not take me long to
leave them far in the rear.
I reached the command in less than an hour, delivered the dispatch
to General Carr, and informed him of what I had seen. He instantly
had the bugler sound "boots and saddles," and all the troops
&emdash;with the exception of two companies which we left to guard
the train&emdash;were soon galloping in the direction of the Indian
A LIEUTENANT IN SHARP QUARTERS
We had ridden about three miles when we met Lieutenant Ward, who was
coming slowly towards us. He reported that he had run into a party of
Indian buffalo hunters, and had killed one of the number, and had had
one of his horses wounded. We immediately pushed forward and after
marching about five miles came within sight of hundreds of mounted
Indians advancing up the creek to meet us. They formed a complete
line in front of us. General Carr, being desirous of striking their
village, ordered the troops to charge, break through their line, and
keep straight on. This movement would, no doubt, have been
successfully accomplished had it not been for the rattlebrained and
dare-devil French Lieutenant Schinosky, commanding Company B. who,
misunderstanding General Carr's orders, charged upon some Indians at
the left, while the rest of the command dashed through the enemy's
line, and was keeping straight on, when it was observed that
Schinosky and his company were surrounded by four or five hundred
red-skins. The General, to save the company, was obliged to sound a
halt and charge back to the rescue. The company, during this short
fight, had several men and quite a number of horses killed.
All this took up valuable time, and night was coming on. The
Indians were fighting desperately to keep us from reaching their
village, which being informed by couriers of what was taking place,
was packing up and getting away. During that afternoon it was all we
could do to hold our own in fighting the mounted warriors, who were
in our front and contesting every inch of the ground. The General had
left word for our wagon train to follow up with its escort of two
companies, but as it had not made its appearance he entertained some
fears that it had been surrounded, and to prevent the possible loss
of the supply train we had to go back and look for it. About 9
o'clock that evening
we found it, and went into camp for the night.
Early the next day we broke camp and passed down the creek but
there was not an Indian to be seen. They had all disappeared and gone
on with their village. Two miles fuuther we came to where a village
had been located, and here we found nearly every thing belonging or
pertaining to an Indian camp, which had been left in the great hurry
to get away. These articles were all gathered up and burned. We then
pushed out on the trail as fast as possible. It led us to the
northeast towards the Republican; but as the Indians had a night the
start of us we entertained but little hope of overtaking them that
day. Upon reaching the Republican in the afternoon the General called
a halt, and as the trail was running more to the east, he concluded
to send his wagon train on to Fort McPherson by the most direct
route, while he would follow on the trail of the red-skins.
Next morning at daylight we again pulled out and were evidently
gaining rapidly on the Indians for we could occasionally see them in
the distance. About 11 o'clock that day while Major Babcock was ahead
of the main command with his company, and while we were crossing a
deep ravine, we were surprised by about three hundred warriors who
commenced a lively fire upon us. Galloping out of the ravine on to
the rough prairie the men dismounted and returned the fire. We soon
succeeded in driving the enemy before us, and were so close upon them
at one time that they abandoned and threw away nearly all their
lodges and camp equipages, and everything that had any considerable
weight. They left behind them their played-out horses, and for miles
we could see Indian furniture strewn along in every direction. The
trail became divided, and the Indians scattered in small bodies, all
over the prairie. As night was approaching and our horses were about
giving out, a halt was called. A company was detailed to collect all
the Indian horses running loose over the country, and to burn the
other Indian property.
The command being nearly out of rations I was sent to the nearest
point, Old Fort Kearney, about sixty miles distant for supplies.
RE-ENFORCED BY THE PAWNEE SCOUTS
Shortly after we reached Fort McPherson, which continued to be the
headquarters of the Fifth Cavalry for some time, we fitted out for a
new expedition to the Republican river country, and were re-enforced
by three companies of the celebrated Pawnee Indian scouts, commanded
by Major Frank North: his officers being Captain Lute North, brother
of the Major, Captain Cushing, his brother-in-law, Captain Morse, and
Lieutenants Beecher, Matthews and Kislandberry. General Carr
recommended at this time to General Augur, who was in command of the
Department, that I be made chief of scouts in the Department of the
Platte, and informed me that in this position I would receive higher
wages than I had been getting in the Department of the Missouri. This
appointment I had not asked for.
I made the acquaintance of Major Frank North and I found him and
his officers perfect gentlemen, and we were all good friends from the
very start. The Pawnee scouts had made quite a reputation for
themselves as they had performed brave and valuable services in
fighting against the Sioux, whose bitter enemies they were; being
thoroughly acquainted with the Republican and Beaver country, I was
glad that they were to be with the expedition, and my expectation of
the aid they would render was not disappointed.
During our stay at Fort McPherson I made the acquaintance of
Lieutenant George P. Belden, known as the "White Chief," whose life
was written by Colonel Brisbin, U. S. army. I found him to be an
intelligent, dashing fellow, a splendid rider and an excellent shot.
An hour after our introduction he challenged me for a rifle match,
the preliminaries of which were soon arranged. We were to shoot ten
shots each for fifty dollars, at two hundred yards, off hand. Belden
was to use a Henry rifle, while I was to shoot my old "Lucretia."
This match I won and then Belden proposed to shoot a one hundred yard
match, as I was shooting over his distance. In this match Belden was
victorious. We were now even, and we stopped right there.
A COMICAL SIGHT
While we were at this post General Augur and several of his officers,
and also Thomas Duncan, Brevet Brigadier and Lieutenant-Colonel of
the Fifth Cavalry, paid us a visit for the purpose of reviewing the
command. The regiment turned out in fine style and showed themselves
to be well drilled soldiers, thoroughly understanding military
tactics. The Pawnee scouts were also reviewed and it was very amusing
to see them in their full regulation uniform. They had been furnished
a regular cavalry uniform and on this parade some of them had their
heavy overcoats on, others their large black hats, with all the brass
accoutrements attached; some of them were minus pantaloons and only
wore a breech-clout. Others wore regulation pantaloons but no shirts
and were bare headed; others again had the seat of the pantaloons cut
out, leaving only leggins; some of them wore brass spurs, though
without boots or moccasins; but for all this they seemed to
understand the drill remarkably well for Indians. The commands, of
course, were given to them in their own language by Major North, who
could talk it as well as any full-blooded Pawnee. The Indians were
well mounted and felt proud and elated because they had been made
United States soldiers. Major North had for years complete power over
these Indians and could do more with them than any man living. That
evening after the parade was over the officers and quite a number of
ladies visited a grand Indian dance given by the Pawnees, and of all
the Indians I have seen their dances excel those of any other tribe.
BATTLE BETWEEN THE SIOUX AND PAWNEES
Next day the command started; when encamped, several days after, on
the Republican river near the mouth of the Beaver, we heard the
whoops of Indians, followed by shots in the vicinity of the mule
herd, which had been taken down to water. One of the herders came
dashing into camp with an arrow sticking into him. My horse was close
at hand, and, mounting him bare-back, I at once dashed off after the
mule herd, which had been stampeded. I supposed certainly that I
would be the first man on the ground, but I was mistaken, however,
for the Pawnee Indians, unlike regular soldiers, had not waited to
receive orders from their officers, but had jumped on their ponies
without bridles or saddles, and placing ropes in their mouths, had
dashed off in the direction whence the shots had come, and had got
there ahead of me. It proved to be a party of about fifty Sioux, who
had endeavored to stampede our mules, and it took them by surprise to
see their inveterate enemies &emdash;the Pawnees &emdash;coming at
full gallop towards them. They were not aware that the Pawnees were
with the command, and as they knew that it would take regular
soldiers some time to turn out, they thought they would have ample
opportunity to secure the herd before the troops could give chase.
We had a running fight of fifteen miles and several of the enemy
were killed. During this chase I was mounted on an excellent horse,
which Colonel Royal had picked out for me, and for the first mile or
two I was in advance of the Pawnees. Presently a Pawnee shot by me
like an arrow and I could not help admiring the horse that he was
riding. Seeing that he possessed rare running qualities, I determined
if possible to get possession of the animal in some way. It was a
large buckskin or yellow horse, and I took a careful view of him so
that I would know him when I returned to camp.
After the chase was over I rode up to Major North and inquired
about the buckskin horse.
"Oh, yes," said the Major, "that is one of our favorite steeds."
"What chance is there to trade for him?" I asked.
"It is a government horse," said he, "and the Indian who is riding
him is very much attached to the animal."
"I have fallen in love with the horse myself," said I, "and I
would like to know if you have any objections to my trading for him
if I can arrange it satisfactorily with the Indian?"
He replied: "None whatever, and I will help you to do it; you can
give the Indian another horse in his place."
A few days after this, I persuaded the Indian, by making him
several presents, to trade horses with me, and in this way I became
the owner of the buckskin steed, not as my own property, however, but
as a government horse that I could ride. I gave him the name of
"Buckskin Joe" and he proved to be a second Brigham. That horse I
rode on and off during the summers of 1869, 1870, 1871 and 1872, and
he was the horse that the Grand Duke Alexis rode on his buffalo hunt.
In the winter of 1872, after I had left Fort McPherson, Buckskin Joe
was condemned and sold at public sale, and was bought by Dave Perry,
at North Platte, who in 1877 presented him to me, and I owned him
until his death in 1879.
The command scouted several days up the Beaver and Prairie Dog
rivers, occasionally having running fights with war parties of
Indians, but did not succeed in getting them into a general battle.
At the eyed of twenty days we found ourselves back on the Republican.
THE INDIANS THINK BETTER OF ME
Hitherto the Pawnees had not taken much interest in me, but while
at this camp I gained their respect and admiration by showing them
how I killed buffaloes. Although the Pawnees were excellent buffalo
killers, for Indians, I have never seen one of them who could kill
more than four or five in one run. A number of them generally
surround the herd and then dash in upon them and in this way each one
kills from one to four buffaloes. I had gone out in company with
Major North and some of the officerss and saw them make a "surround."
Twenty of the Pawneee circled a herd and succeeded an killing only
While they were cutting up the animals another herd appeared in
sight. The Indians were preparing to surround it, when I asked Major
North to keep them back and let me show them what I could do. He
accordingly informed the Indians of my wish and they readily
consented to let me have the opportunity. I had learned that Buckskin
Joe was an excellent buffalo horse, and felt confident that I would
astonish the natives; galloping among the buffaloes, I certainly did
so by killing thirty-six in less than a half-mile run. At nearly
every shot I killed a buffalo, stringing the dead animals out on the
prairie, not over fifty feet apart. This manner of killing was
greatly admired by the Indians who called me a big chief, and from
that time on I stood high in their estimation.
Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued