New Perspectives on THE WEST
The Program People Places Events Resources Lesson Plans Quiz
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)



We closed our theatrical season earlier than usual in the spring of 1876, because I was anxious to take part in the Sioux war which was then breaking out. Colonel Mills had written me several letters saying that General Crook was anxious to have me accompany his command, and I promised to do so, intending to overtake him in the Powder river country. But when I arrived at Chicago, on my way west, I learned that my old regiment, the gallant Fifth Cavalry was on its way back from Arizona to join General Crook, and that my old commander, General Carr, was in command. He had written to military headquarters at Chicago to learn mv whereabouts, as he wished to secure me as his guide and chief of scouts. I then gave up the idea of overtaking General Crook and hastening on to Cheyenne, where the Fifth Cavalry had already arrived, I was met at the depot by Lieutenant Iving, adjutant of the regiment, he having been sent down from Fort D. A. Russell for that purpose by General Carr, who had learned by a telegram from military headquarters at Chicago that I was on the way. I accompanied the lieutenant on horseback to the camp, and as we rode, one of the boys shouted, "Here's Buffalo Bill!" Soon after there came three hearty cheers from the regiment. Officers and men were all glad to see me, and I was equally delighted to meet them once more. The General at once appointed me his guide and chief of scouts.

The next morning the command pulled out for Fort Laramie, and on reaching the post we found General Sheridan there, accompanied by General Frye and General Forsyth, en route to Red Cloud agency. As the command was to remain here a few days, I accompanied General Sheridan to Red Cloud and back, taking a company of cavalry as escort.

The Indians having recently committed a great many depredations on the Union Pacific railroad, destroying telegraph lines, and also on the Black Hills road running off stock, the Fifth Cavalry was sent out to scout the country between the Indian agencies and the hills. The command operated on the South fork of the Cheyenne and at the foot of the Black Hills for about two weeks, having several small engagements with roving bands of Indians during the time. General Wesley Merritt &emdash;who had lately received his promotion to the Colonelcy of the Fifth Cavalry &emdash;now came out and took control of the regiment. I was sorry that the command was taken from General Carr, because under him it had made its fighting reputation. However, upon becoming acquainted with General Merritt, I found him to be an excellent officer.


The regiment, by continued scouting, soon drove the Indians out of that section of the country, as we supposed, and we had started on our way back to Fort Laramie, when a scout arrived at the camp and reported the massacre of General Custer and his band of heroes on the Little Big Horn, on the 25th of June, 1876: and he also brought orders to General Merritt to proceed at once to Fort Fetterman and join General Crook in the Big Horn county.

The extraordinary and sorrowful interest attaching to the destruction of Custer and his brave followers, felt by the whole civilized world, prompts me to give herewith a brief description of the causes leading thereto, and some of the details of that horrible sacrifice which so melts the heart to pity.

When the Black Hills gold fever first broke out in 1874, a rush of miners into that country resulted in much trouble, as the Indians always regarded that region with jealous interest, and resisted all encroachments of white men. Instead of the Govsrnment adhering to the treaty of 1868 and restraining white men from going into the Hills, Gen. Custer was sent out, in 1874, to intimidate the Sioux. The unrighteous spirit of this order the General wisely disregarded, but proceeded to Prospect Valley, and from there he pushed on to the valley of the Little Missouri. Custer expected to find good grazing ground in this valley, suitable for a camp which he intended to pitch there for several days, and reconnoiter, but the country was comparatively barren and the march was therefore continued to the Belle Fourche valley, where excellent grazing, water, and plenty of wood was found.

Crossing the Fourche the expedition was now among the outIying ranges of the Hills, where a camp was made and some reconnoitering done; but finding no Indians, Gen. Custer continued his march, skirting the Black Hills and passing through a country which he described as beautiful beyond description, abounding with a most luxurious vegetation, cool, crystal streams a profusion of gaudy, sweet smelling flowers, and plenty of game.

Proceeding down this lovely valley, which he appropriately named Floral Park, an Indian camp-fire, recently abandoned, was discovered, and fearing a collision unless pains were taken to prevent it, Custer halted and sent out his chief scout, Bloody Knife, with twenty friendly Indian allies to trail the departed Sioux. They had gone but a short distance when, as Custer himself relates: "Two of Bloody Knife's young men came galloping back and informed me that they had discovered five Indian lodges a few miles down the valley, and that Bloody Knife, as directed, had concealed his party in a wooded ravine, where they awaited further orders. Taking E company with me, which was afterward reinforced by the remainder of the scouts and Col. Hart's company, I proceeded to the ravine where Bloody Knife and his party lay concealed, and from the crest beyond obtained a full view of the five Indian lodges, about which a considerable number of ponies were grazing. I was enabled to place my command still nearer to the lodges undiscovered. I then dispatched Agard, the interpreter, with a flag of truce, accompanied by ten of our Sioux scouts, to acquaint the occupants of the lodges that we were friendly disposed and desired to communicate with them. To prevent either treachery or flight on their part, I galloped the remaining portion of my advance and surrounded the lodges. This was accomplished almost before they were aware of our presence. I then entered the little village and shook hands with its occupants, assuring them through the interpreter, that they had no cause to fear, as we were not there to molest them, etc."

Finding there was no disposition on the part of Gen. Custer to harm them, the Indians dispatched a courier to their principal village, requesting the warriors to be present at a council with the whites. This council was held on the following day, but though Custer dispensed coffee, sugar, bacon and other presents to the Indians, his advice to them regarding the occupation of their country by miners was treated with indifference, for which, he observes in his official report, "I cannot blame the poor savages."


During the summer of 1875 Gen. Crook made several trips into the Black Hills to drive out the miners and maintain the government's faith, but while he made many arrests there was no punishment and the whole proceeding became farcical. In August of the same year Custer City was laid out and two weeks later it contained a population of six hundred souls. These Gen. Crook drove out, but as he marched from the place others swarmed in and the population was immediately renewed.

It was this inability, or real indisposition, of the government to enforce the terms of the treaty of 1868 that led to the bitter war with Sitting Bull and which terminated so disastrously on the 25th of June, 1876.

It is a notorious fact that the Sioux Indians, for four years immediately preceding the Custer massacre, were regularly supplied with the most improved fire-arms and ammunition by the agencies at Brule, Grand River, Standing Rock, Fort Berthold, Cheyenne and Fort Peck. Even during the campaign of 1876, in the months of May, June and July, just before and after Custer and his band of heroes rode down into the valley of death, these fighting Indians received eleven hundred and twenty Winchester and Remington rifles and 413,000 rounds of patent ammunition, besides large quantities of loose powder, lead and primers, while during the summer of 1875 they received several thousand stand of arms and more than a million rounds of ammunition. With this generous provision there is no cause for wonder that the Sioux were able to resist the government and attract to their aid all the dissatisfied Cheyennes and other Indians in the Northwest.

Besides a perfect fighting equipment, all the Indians recognized in Sitting Bull the elements of a great warrior, one whose superior, perhaps, has never been known among any tribe; he combined all the strategic cunning of Tecumseh with the cruel, uncompromising hatred of Black Kettle, while his leadership was far superior to both. Having decided to precipitate a terrible war, he chose his position with consummate judgment, selecting a central vantage point surrounded by what is known as the "bad lands," and then kept his supply source open by an assumed friendship with the Canadian French. This he was the better able to accomplish, since some years before he had professed conversion to Christianity under the preaching of Father DeSmet and maintained a show of great friendship for the Canadians.


War against the Sioux having been declared, brought about by the combined causes of Black Hill outrages and Sitting Bull's threatening attitude, it was decided to send out three separate expeditions, one of which should move from the north, under Gen. Terry, from Fort Lincoln; another from the east, under Gen. Gibbon, from Fort Ellis, and another from the south, under Gen. Crook, from Fort Fetterman; these movements were to be simultaneous, and a junction was expected to be formed near the headwaters of the Yellowstone river.

For some cause, which I will refrain from discussing, the commands did not start at the same time. Gen. Crook did not leave Fetterman until March 1st, with seven hundred men and forty days' supply. The command was intrusted to Col. Reynolds, of the Third Cavalry, accompanied by Gen. Crook, the department commander. Nothing was heard of this expedition until the 22d following, when Gen. Crook forwarded from Ft. Reno a brief account of his battle on Powder river. The result of this fight, which lasted five hours, was the destruction of Crazy Horse's village of one bundred and five lodges; or that is the way the dispatch read, though many assert that the battle resulted in little else than a series of remarkable blunders which suffered the Indians to make good their escape, losing only a small quantity of their property.

One serious trouble arose out of the Powder river fight, which was found in an assertion made by Gen. Crook, or at least attributed to him, that his expedition had proved that instead of there being 15,000 or 20,000 hostile Indians in the Black Hills and Big Horn county, that the total number would not exceed 2,000. It was upon this estimation that the expeditions were prepared.

The Terry column, which was commanded by Gen. Custer, consisted of twelve companies of the Seventh Cavalry, and three companies of the Sixth and Seventeenth Infantry, with four Gatling guns, and a detachment of Indian scouts. This force comprised twenty-eight officers and seven hundred and forty-seven men, of the Seventh Cavalry, eight officers and one hundred and thirty-five men of the Sixth and Seventeenth Infantry, two officers and thirty-two men in charge of the Gatling battery, and forty-five enlisted Indian scouts, a grand total of thirty-eight officers and nine hundred and fifty-nine men, including scouts.

The combined forces of Crook, Gibbon, Terry and Custer, did not exceed tweety-seven hundred men, while opposed to them were fully 17,000 Indians, all of whom were provided with the latest and most improved patterns of repeating rifles.

On the 16th of June Gen. Crook started for the Rosebud, on which stream it was reported that Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were stationed; about the same time a party of Crow Indians, who were operating with Gen. Crook, returned from a scout and reported that Gen. Gibbon, who was on Tongue river, had been attacked by Sitting Bull, who had captured several horses Crook pushed on rapidly toward the Rosebud, leaving his train behind and mounting his infantry on mules. What were deemed accurate reports, stated that Sitting Bull was still on the Rosebud, only sixty miles from the point where Gen. Crook camped on the night of the 15th of June. The command traveled forty miles on the sixteenth, and when within twenty miles of the Sioux' principal position, instead of pushing on, Gen. Crook went into camp.


The next morning he was much surprised at finding himself attacked by Sitting Bull, who swooped down on him with the first streaks of coming dawn, and a heavy battle followed. Gen. Crook, who had camped in a basin surrounded on all sides by high hills, soon found his position so dangerous that it must be changed at all hazards. The advance was therefore sounded with Noyes' battalion occupying a position on the right, Mills on the right center, Chambers in the center, and the Indian allies on the left. Mills and Noyes charged the enemy in magnificent style, breaking the line and striking the rear. The fight continued hot and furious until 2 P. M., when a gallant charge of Col. Royal, who was in reserve, supported by the Indian allies, caused the Sioux to draw off to their village, six miles distant, while Gen. Crook went into camp, where he remained inactive for two days.

In the meantime, as the official report recites: "Generals Terry and Gibbon communicated with each other June 1st, near the junction of the Tongue and Yellowstone rivers, and learned that a heavy force of Indians had concentrated on the opposite bank of the Yellowstone, but eighteen miles distant. For fourteen days the Indian pickets had confronted Gibbon's videttes."

Gen. Gibbon reported to Gen. Terry that the cavalry had thoroughly scouted the Yellowstone as far as the mouth of the Big Horn, and no Indians had crossed it. It was now certain that they were not prepared for them, and on the Powder, Tongue, Rosebud, Little Horn and Big Horn rivers, Gen. Terry at once commenced feeling for them. Major Reno, of the Seventh Cavalry, with six companies of that regiment, was sent up Powder river one hundred and fifty miles, to the mouth of Little Powder to look for the Indians, and, if possible to communicate with General Crook. He reached the mouth of the Little Powder in five days, but saw no Indians, and could hear nothing of Crook. As he returned, he found on the Rosebud a very large Indian trail, about nine days old, and followed it a short distance, when he turned about up Tongue river, and reported to Gen. Terry what he had seen. It was now known that no Indians were on either Tongue or Little Powder rivers, and the net had narrowed down to Rosebud, Little Horn and Big Horn rivers.

Gen. Terry, who had been waiting with Custer and the steamer Far West, at the mouth of Tongue river, for Reno's report, as soon as he heard it, ordered Custer to march up the south bank to a point opposite Gen. Gibbon, who was encamped on the north bank of the Yellowstone. Accordingly Terry, on board the steamer Far West, pushed up the Yellowstone, keeping abreast of Gen. Custer's column.

Gen. Gibbon was found in camp quietly awaiting developments. A consultation was had with Gens. Gibbon and Custer, and then Gen. Terry definitely fixed upon the plan of action. It was believed the Indians were at the head of the Rosebud, or over on the Little Horn, a dividing ridge only fifteen miles wide separating the two streams. It was announced by Gen. Terry that Gen. Custer's column "would strike the blow."

At the time that a junction was formed between Gibbon and Terry, Gen. Crook was about one hundred miles from them, while Sitting Bull's forces were between the commands. Crook, after his battle, fell back to the head of Tongue river. The Powder, Tongue, Rosebud and Big Horn rivers all flow northwest, and empty into the Yellowstone; as Sitting Bull was between the headwaters of the Rosebud and Big Horn, the main tributary of the latter being known as the Little Big Horn, a sufficient knowledge of the topography of the country is thus afforded by which to definitely locate Sitting Bull and his forces.

Having now ascertained the position of the enemy, or reasoned out the probable position, Gen. Terry sent a dispatch to Gen. Sheridan, as follows: "No Indians have been met with as yet, but traces of a large and recent camp have been discovered twenty or thirty miles up the Rosebud. Gibbon's column will move this morning on the north side of the Yellowstone, for the mouth of the Big Horn, where it will be ferried across by the supply steamer, and whence it will proceed to the of the Little Horn, and so on. Custer will go up the Rosebud tomorrow with his whole regiment, and thence to the headwaters of the Little Horn, thence down that stream."

Following this report came an order, signed by E. W. Smith, Captain of the Eighteenth Infantry, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, directing General Custer to follow the Indian trail discovered, pushing the Indians from one side while Gen. Gibbon pursued them from an opposite direction. As no instructions were given as to the rate each division should travel, Custer, noted for his quick, energetic movements, made ninety miles the first three days, and, discovering the Indians in large numbers, divided his command into three divisions, one of which he placed under Major Reno, another under Major Benteen, and led the other himself.


As Custer made a detour to enter the village, Reno struck a large body of Indians, who, after retreating nearly three miles turned on the troops and ran them pell mell across Grassy creek into the woods. Reno over-estimated the strength of his enemies and thought he was being surrounded. Benteen came up to the support of Reno, but he too took fright and got out of his posltion without striking the enemy.

While Reno and Benteen were trying to keep open a way for their retreat, Custer charged on the village, first sending a courier, Trumpeter Martin, to Reno and Benteen with the following dispatch: " Big village; be quick; send on the packs." This order was too plain to be misconstrued. It clearly meant that he had discovered the village, which he intended attacking at once; to hurry forward to his support and bring up the packs; ambulances, etc. But instead of obeying orders, Reno and Benteen stood aloof, fearful lest they should endanger their position, while the brave Custer and his squad of noble heroes rushed down like a terrible avalanche upon the Indian village. In a moment, fateful incident, the Indians came swarming about that heroic band until the very earth seemed to open and let loose the elements of volcanic fury, or like a riot of the fiends of Erebus, blazing with the hot sulphur of their impious dominion. Down from the hillside, up through the valleys, that dreadful torrent of Indian cruelty and massacre poured around the little squad to swallow it up with one grand swoop of fire. But Custer was there at the head, like Spartacus fighting the legions about him, tall, graceful, brave as a lion at bay, and with thunderbolts in his hands. His brave followers formed a hollow square, and met the rush, and roar, and fury of the demons. Bravely they breasted that battle shock, bravely stood up and faced the leaden hail, nor quailed when looking into the blazing muzzles of five thousand deadly rifles.


Brushing away the powder grimes that had settled in his face, Custer looked over the boiling sea of fury around him, peering through the smoke for some signs of Reno and Benteen, but seeing none yet thinking of the aid which must soon come, with cheering words to his comrades, he renewed the battle, fighting still like a Hercules and piling heaps of victims around his very feet.

Hour after hour passed and yet no friendly sign of Reno's coming; nothing to be seen saving the battle smoke, streaks of fire splitting through the misty clouds, blood flowing in rivulets under tramping feet, dying comrades, and Indians swarming about him, rending the air with their demoniacal "hi-yi-yip-yah,&emdash;yah-hi-yah."


The fight continued with unabated fury until late in the afternoon; men had sunk down beside their gallant leader until there was but a handful left, only a dozen, bleeding from many wounds and hot carbines in their stiffening hands. The day is almost done, when look! heaven now defend him! the charm of his life is broken, for Custer has fallen; a bullet cleaves a pathway through his side, and as he falters another strikes his noble breast. Like a strong oak stricken by the lightning's bolt, shivering the mighty trunk and bending its withering branches down close to the earth, so fell Custer; but like the reacting branches, he rises partly up again, and striking out like a fatally wounded giant lays three more Indians dead and breaks his mighty sword on the musket of a fourth; then, with useless blade and empty pistol falls back the victim of a dozen wounds. He is the last to succumb to death, and dies, too, with the glory of accomplished duty on his conscience and the benediction of a grateful country on his head. The place where fell these noblest of God's heroes is sacred ground, and though it be the Golgotha of a nation's mistakes it is bathed with precious blood, rich with the germs of heroic inheritance.

I have avoided attaching blame to any one, using only the facts that have been furnished me of how Custer came to attack the Sioux village and how and why he died.

When the news of the terrible massacre was learned, soldiers everywhere made a pilgrimage to the sacred place, and friendly hands reared a monument on that distant spot commemorative of the heroism of Custer and his men; collected together all the bones and relics of the battle and piled them up in pyramidal form, where they stand in sunshine and storm, overlooking the Little Big Horn.

Soon after the news of Custer's massacre reached us preparations were immediately made to avenge his death. The whole Cheyenne and Sioux tribes were in revolt and a lively, if not very dangerous, campaign was in prospective.


Two days before receipt of the news of the massacre, Colonel Stanton, who was with the Fifth Cavalry, had been sent to Red Cloud agency and on the evening of the receipt of news of the Custer fight a scout arrived in our camp with a message from the Colonel informing General Merritt that eight hundred Cheyenne warriors had that day left Red Cloud agency to join Sitting Bull's hostile forces in the Big Horn country.

Notwithstanding the instructions to proceed immediately to join General Crook by the way of Fort Fetterman, Colonel Merritt took the responsibility of endeavoring to intercept the Cheyennes, and as the sequel shows he performed a very important service.

He selected five hundred men and horses, and in two hours we were making a forced march back to Hat, or War Bonnet creek &emdash;the intention being to reach the main Indian trail running to the north across that creek before the Cheyennes could get there. We arrived there the next night, and at daylight the following morning, July 17th, 1876, I went out on a scout, and found that the Indians had not yet crossed the creek. On my way back to the command I discovered a large party of Indians, which proved to be the Cheyennes, coming up from the south, and I hurried to the camp with this important information.

The cavalrymen quietly mounted their horses, and were ordered to remain out of sight, while general Merritt, accompanied by two or three aides and myself, went out on a little tour of observation to a neighboring hill, from the summit of which we saw that the Indians were approaching almost directly towards us. Presently fifteen or twenty of them dashed off to the west in the direction from which we had come the night before; and upon closer observation with our field glasses, we discovered two mounted soldiers, evidently carrying dispatches for us, pushing forward on our trail.


The Indians were evidently endeavoring to intercept these two men, and General Merritt feared that they would accomplish their object. He did not think it advisable to send out any soldiers to the assistance of the couriers, for fear they would show to the Indians that there were troops in the vicinity who were waiting for them. I finally suggested that the best plan was to wait until the couriers came closer to the command, and then just as the Indians were about to charge, to let me take the scouts and cut them off from the main body of the Cheyennes, who were coming over the divide.

"All right, Cody," said the General, "if you can do that go ahead."

I rushed back to the command, jumped on my horse, picked out fifteen men, and returned with them to the point of observation. I told General Merritt to give us the word to start out at the proper time, and presently he sang out:

"Go in now, Cody, and be quick about it. They are going to charge on the couriers."

The two messengers were not over four hundred yards from us, and the Indians were only about two hundred yards behind them. We instantly dashed over the bluffs, and advanced on a gallop towards the Indians. A running fight lasted several minutes, during which we drove the enemy some little distance and killed three of their number. The rest of them rode off towards the main body, which had come into plain sight, and halted, upon seeing the skirmish that was going on. We were about half a mile from General Merritt, and the Indians whom we were chasing suddenly turned upon us, and another lively skirmish took place. One of the Indians, who was handsomely decorated with all the ornaments usually worn by a war chief when engaged in a fight, sang out to me, in his own tongue: "I know you, Pa-he-haska; if you want to fight, come ahead and fight me."

The chief was riding his horse back and forth in front of his men, as if to banter me, and I concluded to accept the challenge. I galloped towards him for fifty yards and he advanced towards me about the same distance, both of us riding at full speed, and then, when we were only about thirty yards apart, I raised my rifle and fired; his horse fell to the ground, having been killed by my bullet. Almost at the same instant my own horse went down, he having stepped into a gopher hole. The fall did not hurt me much, and I instantly sprang to my feet. The Indian had also recovered himself, and we were now both on foot, and not more than twenty paces apart. We fired at each other simultaneously. My usual luck did not desert me on this occasion, for his bullet missed me, while mine struck him in the breast. He reeled and fell, but before he had fairly touched the ground I was upon him, knife in hand, and had driven the keen-edged weapon to its hilt in his heart. Jerking his war-bonnet off, I scientifically scalped him in about five seconds.


The whole affair from beginning to end occupied but little time, and the Indians, seeing that I was some little distance from my company, now came charging down upon me from a hill, in hopes of cutting me off. General Merritt had witnessed the duel, and realizing the danger I

was in, ordered Colonel Mason with Company K to hurry to my rescue. The order came none too soon, for had it been given one minute later I would have had not less than two hundred Indians upon me. As the soldiers came up I swung the Indian chieftain's top-knot and bonnet in the air, and shouted:&emdash;

"The first scalp for Custer."

General Merritt, seeing that he could not now ambush the Indians, ordered the whole regiment to charge upon them. They made a stubborn resistance for a little while, but it was of no use for any eight hundred, or even sixteen hundred Indians to try and check a charge of the gallant old Fifth Cavalry, and they soon came to that conclusion and began a running retreat towards Red Cloud agency. For thirty-five miles we drove them pushing them so hard that they were obliged to abandon their loose horses, their camp equipage and everything else. We drove them into the agency, and followed in ourselves, notwithstanding the possibility of our having to encounter the thousands of Indians at that point. We were uncertain whether or not the other agency Indians had determined to follow the example of the Cheyennes and strike out upon the war-path; but that made no difference with the Fifth Cavalry, for they would have fought them all if necessary. It was dark when we rode into the agency, where we found thousands of Indians collected together; but they manifested no disposition to fight.

While at the agency I learned the name of the Indian chief whom I had killed in the morning; it was Yellow Hand, a son of old Cut-Nose &emdash;a leading chief of the Cheyennes. Cut-nose having learned that I had killed his son sent a white interpreter to me with a message to the effect that he would give me four mules if I would turn over to him Yellow Hand's war-bonnet, guns, pistols, ornaments, and other paraphernalia which I had captured. I sent back word to the old gentleman that it would give me pleasure to accommodate him, but I could not do it this time.


The next morning we started to join General Crook, who was camped near the foot of Cloud Peak in the Big Horn mountains, awaiting the arrival of the Fifth Cavalty, before proceeding against the Sioux, who were somewhere near the head of the Little Big Horn, &emdash;as his scouts informed him. We made rapid marches and reached General Crook's camp on Goose creek about the 3d of August.

At this camp I met many old friends, among whom was Colonel Royall, who had received his promotion to the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the Third Cavalry. He introduced me to General Crook, whom I had never met before, but of whom I had often heard. He also introduced me to the General's chief guide, Frank Grouard, a half breed, who had lived six years with Sitting Bull, and knew the country thoroughly.

We remained in this camp only one day, and then the whole troop pulled out for the Tongue river, leaving our wagons behind, but taking with us a large pack train. We marched down the Tongue river for two days, thence in a westerly direction over to the Rosebud, where we struck the main Indian trail, leading down this stream. From the size of the trail, which appeared to be about four days old, we estimated that there must have been in the neighborhood of seven thousand Indians in the war party.

For two or three days we pushed on, but we did not seem to gain much on the Indians, as they were evidently making about the same marches that we were. On the fourth or fifth morning of our pursuit, I rode ahead of the command about ten miles, and mounting a hill I scanned the country far and wide with my field glass, and discovered an immense column of dust rising about ten miles further down the creek, and soon I noticed a body of men marching towards me, that at first I believed to be the Indians of whom we were in pursuit; but subsequently they proved to be General Terry's command. I sent back word to that effect to General Crook, by a scout who had accompanied me, but after he had departed I observed a band of Indians on the opposite side of the creek, and also another party directly in front of me. This led me to believe that I had made a mistake. But shortly afterwards my attention was attracted by the appearance of a body of soldiers, who were forming into a skirmish line, and then I became convinced that it was General Terrify command after all, and that the red-skins whom I had seen were some of his friendly Indian scouts, who had mistaken me for a Sioux, and fled back to their command terribly excited, shouting, "The Sioux are coming!"


General Terry at once came to the post, and ordered the Seventh Cavalry to form line of battle across the Rosebud; he also ordered up his artillery and had them prepare for action, doubtless dreading another "Custer massacre." I afterwards learned the Indian had seen the dust raised by General Crook's forces and had reported that the Sioux were coming.

These manoeuvres I witnessed from my position with considerable amusement, thinking the command must be badly demoralized, when one man could cause a whole army to form line of battle and prepare for action. Having enjoyed the situation to my heart's content, I galloped down towards the skirmish line, waving my hat and when within about one hundred yards of the troops, Colonel Weir, of the Seventh Cavalry, galloped out and met me. He recognised me at once, and accompanied me inside the line; then he sang out, "Boys, here's Buffalo Bill. Some of you old soldiers know him; give him a cheer!" Thereupon the regiment gave three rousing cheers, and it was followed up all along the line.

Colonel Weir presented me to General Terry, and in answer to his question I informed him that the alarm of Indians which had been given was a false one, as the dust seen by his scouts was caused by General Crook's troops. General Terry thereupon rode forward to meet General Crook, and I accompanied him at his request. That night both commands went into camp on the Rosebud. General Terry had his wagon train with him, and everything to make life comfortable on an Indian campaign. He had large wall tents and portable beds to sleep in, and commodious hospital tents for dining-rooms. His camp looked very comfortable and attractive, and presented a great contrast to that of General Crook, who had for his headquarters only one small fly tent; and whose cooking utensils consisted of a quart cup &emdash;in which he made his coffee himself &emdash;and a stick upon which he broiled his bacon. When I compared the two camps, I came to the conclusion that General Crook was an Indian fighter; for it was evident that he had learned that, to follow and fight Indians, a body of men must travel lightly and not be detained by a wagon train or heavy luggage of any kind.

That evening General Terry ordered General Mills to take his regiment, the Fifth Infantry, and return by a forced march to the Yellowstone, and proceed down the river by steamboat to the mouth of Powder river, to intercept the Indians, in case they attempted to cross the Yellowstone. General Miles made a forced march that night of thirty-five miles, which was splendid traveling for an infantry regiment through a mountainous country.

Generals Crook and Terry spent that evening and the next day in council, and on the following morning both commands moved out on the Indian trail. Although General Terry was the senior officer, he did not assume command of both expeditions, but left General Crook in command of his own troops, although they operated together. We crossed the Tongue river to Powder river, and proceeded down the latter stream to a point twenty miles from its junction with the Yellowstone, where the Indian trail turned to the southeast in the direction of the Black Hills. The two commands now being nearly out of supplies, the trail was abandoned, and the troops kept on down Powder river to its confluence with the Yellowstone, and remained there several days. Here we met General Mills, who reported that no Indians had as yet crossed the Yellowstone. Several steamboats soon arrived with a large quantity of supplies, and once more the "Boys in Blue" were made happy.


The Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued

Show Autobiography Contents

The Program | People | Places | Events | Resources | Lesson Plans | Quiz