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ARCHIVES (1877 -1887)

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES
OF BUFFALO BILL

 

CHAPTER XIV
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 matter whatever."

"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 profitable investment.

 

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 camp.

 

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 thirty-two.

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.

 

The Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued

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