On our return to Rolla we heard a great deal of talk about the approaching fall races at St. Louis, and Wild Bill having brought a fast running horse from the mountains, determined to take him to that city and match him against some of the high-flyers there; and down to St. Louis we went with this running horse, placing our hopes very high on him.
Wild Bill had no difficulty in making up a race for him. All the money that he and I had we put up on the mountain runner, and as we thought we had a sure thing, we also bet the horse against $250. I rode the horse myself, but nevertheless, our sure thing, like many another sure thing, proved a total failure, and we came out of that race minus the horse and every dollar we had in the world.
Before the race it had been "make or break" with us, and we got "broke." We were "busted" in the largest city we had ever been in, and it is no exaggeration to say that we felt mighty blue.
On the morning after the race we went to the military headquarters, where Bill succeeded in securing an engagement for himself as a government scout, but I being so young failed in obtaining similar employment. Wild Bill, however, raised some money, by borrowing it from a friend, and then buying me a steamboat ticket he sent me back to Leavenworth, while he went to Springfield, which place he made his headquarters while scouting in southeastern Missouri.
One night, after he had returned from a scouting expedition, he took a hand in a game of poker, and in the course of the game he became involved in a quarrel with Dave Tutt, a professional gambler, about a watch which he had won from Tutt, who would not give it up.
Bill told him he had won it fairly, and that he proposed to have it; furthermore, he declared his intention of carrying the watch across the street next morning to military headquarters, at which place he had to report at nine o'clock.
Tutt replied that he would himself carry the watch across the street at nine o'clock, and no other man would do it.
Bill then said to Tutt that if he attempted anything of the kind, he would kill him.
A challenge to a duel had virtually been given and accepted, and everybody knew that the two men meant business. At nine o'clock the next morning, Tutt started to cross the street. Wild Bill, who was standing on the opposite side, told him to stop. At that moment Tutt, who was carrying his revolver in his hand, fired at Bill but missed him. Bill quickly pulled out his revolver and returned the fire, hitting Tutt squarely in the forehead and killing him instantly.
Quite a number of Tutt's friends were standing in the vicinity, having assembled to witness the duel, and Bill, as soon as Tutt fell to the ground, turned to them and asked if any one of them wanted to take it up for Tutt; if so, he would accommodate any of them then and there. But none of them cared to stand in front of Wild Bill to be shot at by him.
Nothing of course was ever done to Bill for the killing of Tutt.
In the fall of 1861 I made a trip to Fort Larned, Kansas, carrying military dispatches, and in the winter I accompanied George Long through the country, and assisted him in buying horses for the government.
The next spring, 1862, an expedition against the Indians was organized, consisting of a volunteer regiment, the Ninth Kansas, under Colonel Clark. This expedition, which I had joined in the capacity of guide and scout, proceeded to the Kiowa and Comanche country, on the Arkansas river, along which stream we scouted all summer between Fort Lyon and Fort Larned, on the old Santa Fe trail. We had several engagements with the Indians, but they were of no great importance.
In the winter of 1862, I became one of the "Red Legged Scouts,"—a company of scouts commanded by Captain Tuff. Among its members were some of the most noted Kansas Rangers, such as Red Clark, the St. Clair brothers, Jack Harvey, an old pony express-rider named Johnny Fry, and many other well known frontiersmen. Our field of operations was confined mostly to the Arkansas country and southwestern Missouri. We had many a lively skirmish with the bushwhackers and Younger brothers, and when we were not hunting them, we were generally employed in carrying dispatches between Forts Dodge, Gibson, Leavenworth, and other posts. Whenever we were in Leavenworth we had a very festive time. We usually attended all the balls in full force, and "ran things" to suit ourselves. Thus I passed the winter of 1862 and the spring of 1863.
Subsequently I engaged to conduct a small train to Denver for some merchants, and on reaching that place in September, I received a letter stating that my mother was not expected to live. I hastened home, and found her dangerously ill. She grew gradually worse, and at last, on the 22d of November, 1863, she died. Thus passed away a loving and affectionate mother and a noble, brave, good and loyal woman. That I loved her above all other persons, no one who has read these reminiscences can for a moment doubt.
Previous to this said event my sister Julia had been married to a gentleman named J.A. Goodman, and they now came to reside at our house and take charge of the children, as my mother had desired that they should not be separated. Mr. Goodman became the guardian of the minor children.
I soon left the home now rendered gloomy by the absence of her whom I had so tenderly loved, and going to Leavenworth I entered upon a dissolute and reckless life—to my shame be it said—and associated with gamblers, drunkards, and bad characters generally. I continued my dissipation about two months, and was becoming a very "hard case." About this time the Seventh Kansas regiment, known as "Jennison's Jay-hawkers," returned from the war, and re-enlisted and re-organized as veterans. Among them I met quite a number of my old comrades and neighbors, who tried to induce me to enlist and go south with them. I had no idea of doing anything of the kind; but one day, after having been under the influence of bad whisky, I awoke to find myself a soldier in the Seventh Kansas. I did not remember how or when I had enlisted, but I saw I was in for it, and that it would not do for me to endeavor to back out.
In the spring of 1864 the regiment was ordered to Tennessee, and we got into Memphis just about the time that General Sturgis was so badly whipped by General Forrest. General A. J. Smith re-organized the army to operate against Forrest, and after marching to Tupalo, Mississippi, we had an engagement with him and defeated him. This kind of fighting was all new to me, being entirely different from any in which I had ever before engaged. I soon became a non-commissioned officer, and was put on detached service as a scout.
After skirmishing around the country with the rest of the army for some little time, our regiment returned to Memphis, but was immediately ordered to Cape Girardeau, in Missouri, as a confederate force under General Price was then raiding that state. The command of which my regiment was a part hurried to the front to intercept Price, and our first fight with him occurred at Pilot Knob. From that time for nearly six weeks we fought or skirmished every day.
I was still acting as a scout, when one day I rode ahead of the command, some considerable distance, to pick up all possible information concerning Price's movements. I was dressed in gray clothes, or Missouri jeans, and on riding up to a farm-house and entering, I saw a man, also dressed in gray costume, sitting at a table eating bread and milk. He looked up as I entered, and startled me by saying:
"You little rascal, what are you doing in those 'secesh' clothes?" Judge of my surprise when I recognized in the stranger my old friend and partner, Wild Bill, disguised as a Confederate officer.
"I ask you the same question, sir," said I without the least hesitation.
"Hush! sit down and have some bread and milk, and we'll talk it all over afterwards," said he.
I accepted the invitation and partook of the refreshments. Wild Bill paid the woman of the house, and we went out to the gate where my horse was standing.
"Billy, my boy," said he, "I am mighty glad to see you. I haven't seen or heard of you since we got busted on that St. Louis' horse-race."
"What are you doing out here?" I asked.
"I am a scout under General McNiel. For the last few days I have been with General Marmaduke's division of Price's army, in disguise as a southern officer from Texas, as you see me now," said he.
"That's exactly the kind of business that I am out on to-day," said I; "and I want to get some information concerning Price's movements."
"I'll give you all that I have;" and he then went on and told me all that he knew regarding Price's intentions, and the number and condition of his men. He then asked about my mother, and when he learned that she was dead he was greatly surprised and grieved; he thought a great deal of her, for she had treated him almost as one of her own children. He finally took out a package, which he had concealed about his person, and handing it to me he said:
"Here are some letters which I want you to give to General McNiel."
"All right," said I as I took them, "but where will I meet you again?"
"Never mind that," he replied; "I am getting so much valuable information that I propose to stay a little while longer in this disguise." Thereupon we shook hands and parted.
It is not necessary to say much concerning Price's raid in general, as that event is a matter of recorded history. I am only relating the incidents in which I was personally interested either as one of the actors or as an observer.
Another interesting and I may say exciting episode happened to me a day or two after my unexpected meeting with Wild Bill. I was riding with the advance guard of our army, and wishing a drink of water, I stopped at a farmhouse. There were no men about the premises, and no one excepting a very fine and intellectual looking lady and her two daughters. They seemed to be almost frightened to death at seeing me—a "yank"—appear before them. I quieted their fears somewhat, and the mother then asked me how far back the army was. When I told her it would be along shortly, she expressed her fears that they would take everything on the premises. They set me out a lunch and treated me rather kindly, so that I really began to sympathize with them; for I knew that the soldiers would ransack their house and confiscate everything they could lay their hands on. At last I resolved to do what I could to protect them. After the generals and the staff officers had passed by, I took it upon myself to be a sentry over the house. When the command came along some of the men rushed up with the intention of entering the place and carrying off all the desirable plunder possible, and then tearing and breaking everything to pieces, as they usually did along the line of march.
"Halt!" I shouted; "I have been placed here by the commanding officer as a guard over this house, and no man must enter it."
This stopped the first squad; and seeing that my plan was a success, I remained at my post during the passage of the entire command and kept out all intruders.
It seemed as if the ladies could not thank me sufficiently for the protection I had afforded them. They were perfectly aware of the fact that I had acted without orders and entirely on my own responsibility, and therefore they felt the more grateful. They urgently invited me to remain a little while longer and partake of an excellent dinner which they said they were preparing for me. I was pretty hungry about that time, as our rations had been rather slim of late, and a good dinner was a temptation I could not withstand, especially as it was to be served up by such elegant ladies. While I was eating the meal, I was most agreeably entertained by the young ladies, and before I had finished it the last of the rear-guard must have been at least two miles from the house.
Suddenly three men entered the room, and I looked up and saw three double-barreled shot-guns leveled straight at me. Before I could speak, however, the mother and her daughters sprang between the men and me.
"Father! Boys! Lower your guns! You must not shoot this man," and similar exclamations, were the cry of all three.
The guns were lowered, and then the men, who were the father and brothers of the young ladies, were informed of what I had done for them. It appeared that they had been concealed in the woods near by while the army was passing, and on coming into the house and finding a Yankee there, they determined to shoot him. Upon learning the facts, the old man extended his hand to me, saying:
"I would not harm a hair of your head for the world; but it is best that you stay here no longer, as your command is some distance from here now, and you might be cut off by bushwhackers before reaching it."
Bidding them all good-bye, and with many thanks from the mother and daughters, I mounted my horse and soon overtook the column, happy in the thought that I had done a good deed, and with no regrets that I had saved from pillage and destruction the home and property of a confederate and his family.
Our command kept crowding against Price and his army until they were pushed into the vicinity of Kansas City, where their further advance was checked by United States troops from Kansas; and then was begun their memorable and extraordinary retreat back into Kansas.
While both armies were drawn up in skirmish line near Fort Scott, Kansas, two men on horseback were seen rapidly leaving the Confederate lines, and suddenly they made a dash towards us. Instantly quick volleys were discharged from the Confederates, who also began a pursuit, and some five hundred shots were fired at the flying men. It was evident that they were trying to reach our lines, but when within about a quarter of a mile of us, one of them fell from his horse to rise no more. He had been fatally shot. His companion galloped on unhurt, and seven companies of our regiment charged out and met him, and checked his pursuers. The fugitive was dressed in Confederate uniform, and as he rode into our lines I recognized him as Wild Bill, the Union scout. He immediately sought Generals Pleasanton and McNiel, with whom he held a consultation. He told them that although Price made a bold showing on the front, by bringing all his men into view, yet he was really a great deal weaker than the appearance of his lines would indicate; and that he was then trying to cross a difficult stream four miles from Fort Scott.
It was late in the afternoon, but General Pleasanton immediately ordered an advance, and we charged in full force upon the rear of Price's army, and drove it before us for two hours.
If Wild Bill could have made his successful dash into our lines earlier in the day, the attack would have been made sooner, and greater results might have been expected. The Confederates had suspected him of being a spy for two or three days, and had watched him too closely to allow an opportunity to get away from them sooner. His unfortunate companion who had been shot, was a scout from Springfield, Missouri, whose name I cannot now remember.
From this time on, Wild Bill and myself continued to scout together until Price's army was driven south of the Arkansas River and the pursuit abandoned. We then returned to Springfield, Missouri, for a rest and for supplies, and Wild Bill and myself spent two weeks there in "having a jolly good time," as some people would express it.
It was during the winter of 1864-65, while I was on detached service at military headquarters, at St. Louis, that I became acquainted with a young lady named Louisa Frederici, whom I greatly admired and in whose charming society I spent many a pleasant hour. The war closing in 1865, I was discharged, and after a brief visit at Leavenworth I returned to St. Louis, having made up my mind to capture the heart of Miss Frederici, whom I now adored above any other young lady I had ever seen. Her lovely face, her gentle disposition and her graceful manners won my admiration and love; and I was not slow in declaring my sentiments to her. The result was that I obtained her consent to marry me in the near future, and when I bade her good-bye I considered myself one of the happiest of men.
Meantime I drove a string of horses from Leavenworth to Fort Kearney, where I met my old friend Bill Trotter, who was then division stage agent. He employed me at once to drive stage between Kearney and Plum Creek, the road running near the spot where I had my first Indian fight with the McCarthy brothers, and where I killed my first Indian, nearly nine years before. I drove stage over this route until February, 1866, and while bounding over the cold, dreary road day after day, my thoughts turned continually towards my promised bride, until I at last determined to abandon staging forever, and marry and settle down. Immediately after coming to this conclusion, I went to St. Louis, where I was most cordially received by my sweetheart; it was arranged between us that our wedding should take place on the 6th day of March, following.
At last the day arrived, and the wedding ceremony was performed at the residence of the bride's parents, in the presence of a large number of invited friends, whose hearty congratulations we received. I was certainly to be congratulated, for I had become possessed of a lovely and noble woman, and as I gazed upon her as she stood beside me arrayed in her wedding costume, I indeed felt proud of her; and from that time to this I have always thought that I made a most fortunate choice for a life partner.
An hour after the ceremony we—my bride and myself—were on board of a Missouri river steamboat, bound for our new home in Kansas. My wife's parents had accompanied us to the boat, and had bidden us a fond farewell and a God-speed on our journey.
During the trip up the river several very amusing, yet awkward incidents occurred, some of which I cannot resist relating. There happened to be on board the boat an excursion party from Lexington, Missouri, and those comprising it seemed to shun me, for some reason which I could not then account for. They would point at me, and quietly talk among themselves, and eye me very closely. Their actions seemed very strange to me. After the boat had proceeded some little distance, I made the acquaintance of several families from Indiana, who were en route to Kansas. A gentleman, who seemed to be the leader of these colonists, said to me, "The people of this excursion party don't seem to have any great love for you."
"What does it mean?" I asked; "What are they saying? It's all a mystery to me."
"They say that you are one of the Kansas jay-hawkers, and one of Jennison's house burners," replied the gentleman.
"I am from Kansas—that's true; and was a soldier and a scout in the Union army," said I; "and I was in Kansas during the border ruffian war of 1856. Perhaps these people know who I am, and that explains their hard looks." I had a lengthy conversation with this gentleman—for such he seemed to be—and entertained him with several chapters of the history of the early Kansas troubles, and told him the experiences of my own family.
In the evening the Lexington folks got up a dance, but neither the Indiana people, my wife or myself were invited to join them. My new-found friend thereupon came to me and said: "Mr. Cody, let us have a dance of our own."
"Very well," was my reply.
"We have some musicians along with us, so we can have plenty of music," remarked the gentleman.
"Good enough!" said I, "and I will hire the negro barber to play the violin for us. He is a good fiddler, as I heard him playing only a little while ago." The result was that we soon organized a good string band and had a splendid dance, keeping it up as long as the Lexington party did theirs.
The second day out from St. Louis, the boat stopped to wood up, at a wild-looking landing. Suddenly twenty horsemen were seen galloping up through the timber, and as they came nearer the boat they fired on the negro deckhands, against whom they seemed to have a special grudge, and who were engaged in throwing wood on board. The negroes all quickly jumped on the boat and pulled in the gang plank, and the captain had only just time to get the steamer out into the stream before the bushwhackers—for such they proved to be—appeared on the bank.
"Where is the black abolition jay-hawker?" shouted the leader.
"Show him to us, and we'll shoot him," yelled another.
But as the boat had got well out in the river by this time, they could not board us, and the captain ordering a full head of steam, pulled out and left them.
I afterwards ascertained that some of the Missourians, who were with the excursion party, were bushwhackers themselves, and had telegraphed to their friends from some previous landing that I was on board, telling them to come to the landing which we had just left, and take me off. Had the villains captured me they would have undoubtedly put an end to my career, and the public would never have had the pleasure of being bored by this autobiography.
I noticed that my wife felt grieved over the manner in which these people had treated me. Just married, she was going into a new country, and seeing how her husband was regarded, how he had been shunned, and how his life had been threatened, I was afraid she might come to the conclusion too soon that she had wedded a "hard customer." So when the boat landed at Kansas City I telegraphed to some of my friends in Leavenworth that I would arrive there in the evening. My object was to have my acquaintances give me a reception, so that my wife could see that I really did have some friends, and was not so bad a man as the bushwhackers tried to make out.
Just as I expected, when the boat reached Leavenworth, I found a general round-up of friends at the landing to receive us. There were about sixty gentlemen and ladies. They had a band of music with them, and we were given a fine serenade. Taking carriages, we all drove to South Leavenworth to the home of my sister Eliza, who had married George Myers, and there we were given a very handsome reception. All this cheered up my wife, who concluded that I was not a desperado after all.
Having promised my wife that I would abandon the plains, I rented a hotel in Salt Creek Valley—the same house by the way, which my mother had formerly kept, but which was then owned by Dr. J.J. Crook, late surgeon of the 7th Kansas. This hotel I called the Golden Rule House, and I kept it until the next September. People generally said I made a good landlord, and knew how to run a hotel—a business qualification which, it is said, is possessed by comparatively few men. But it proved too tame employment for me, and again I sighed for the freedom of the plains. Believing that I could make more money out West on the frontier than I could at Salt Creek Valley, I sold out the Golden Rule House, and started alone for Saline, Kansas, which was then the end of the track of the Kansas Pacific railway, which was at that time being built across the plains. On my way I stopped at Junction City, where I again met my old friend Wild Bill, who was scouting for the government; his headquarters being at Fort Ellsworth, afterwards called Fort Harker. He told me that they needed more scouts at this post, and I accordingly accompanied him to that fort, where I had no difficulty in obtaining employment.
During the winter of 1866-67, I scouted between Fort Ellsworth and Fort Fletcher. In the spring of 1867 I was at Fort Fletcher, when General Custer came out to go on an Indian expedition with General Hancock. I remained at this post until it was drowned out by the heavy floods of Big Creek, on which it was located; the water rose about the fortifications and rendered the place unfit for occupancy; so the government abandoned the fort, and moved the troops and supplies to a new post—which had been named Fort Hays—located further west, on the south fork of Big Creek. It was while scouting in the vicinity of Fort Hays that I had my first ride with the dashing and gallant Custer, who had come up to the post from Fort Ellsworth with an escort of only ten men. He wanted a guide to pilot him to Fort Larned, a distance of sixty-five miles across the country.
I was ordered by the commanding officer to guide General Custer to his desired destination, and I soon received word from the General that he would start out in the morning with the intention of making the trip in one day. Early in the morning, after a good night's rest, I was on hand, mounted on my large mouse-colored mule—an animal of great endurance—and ready for the journey; when the General saw me, he said:
"Cody, I want to travel fast and go through as quickly as possible, and I don't think that mule of yours is fast enough to suit me."
"General, never mind the mule," said I, "he'll get there as soon as your horses. That mule is a good one," as I knew that the animal was better than most horses.
"Very well; go ahead, then," said he, though he looked as if he thought I would delay the party on the road.
For the first fifteen miles, until we came to the Smoky Hill River, which we were to cross, I could hardly keep the mule in advance of the General, who rode a frisky, impatient and ambitious thoroughbred steed; in fact, the whole party was finely mounted. The General repeatedly told me that the mule was "no good," and that I ought to have had a good horse. But after crossing the river and striking the sand-hills, I began letting my mule out a little, and putting the "persuaders" to him. He was soon out-traveling the horses, and by the time we had made about half the distance to Fort Larned, I occasionally had to wait for the General or some of his party, as their horses were beginning to show signs of fatigue.
"General, how about this mule, anyhow?" I asked, at last.
"Cody, you have a better vehicle than I thought you had," was his reply.
From that time on to Fort Larned I had no trouble in keeping ahead of the party. We rode into the fort at four o'clock in the afternoon with about half the escort only, the rest having lagged far behind.
General Custer thanked me for having brought him straight across the country without any trail, and said that if I were not engaged as post scout at Fort Hays he would like to have me accompany him as one of his scouts during the summer; and he added that whenever I was out of employment, if I would come to him he would find something for me to do. This was the beginning of my acquaintance with General Custer, whom I always admired as a man and as an officer.
A few days after my return to Fort Hays, the Indians made a raid on the Kansas Pacific Railroad, killing five or six men and running off about one hundred horses and mules. The news was brought to the commanding officer, who immediately ordered Major Arms, of the Tenth Cavalry—which, by the way, was a negro regiment,—with his company and one mountain howitzer, to go in pursuit of the red-skins, and I was sent along with the expedition as scout and guide. On the second day out we suddenly discovered, on the opposite side of the Saline River, about a mile distant, a large body of Indians, who were charging down upon us. Major Arms, placing the cannon on a little knoll, limbered it up and left twenty men to guard it; and then, with the rest of the command, he crossed the river to meet the Indians.
Just as he had got the men over the stream, we heard a terrific yelling and shouting in our rear, and looking back to the knoll where the cannon had been stationed, we saw the negroes, who had been left there to guard the gun, flying towards us, being pursued by about one hundred Indians; while another large party of the latter were dancing around the captured cannon, as if they had got hold of an elephant and did not know what to do with it.
Major Arms turned his command back and drove the Indians from the gun. The troops then dismounted and took position there. Quite a severe fight ensued, lasting about two hours. Five or six of the soldiers, as well as Major Arms, were wounded, and several of the horses were shot. The Indians seemed to grow thicker and thicker, as if receiving reinforcements from some large party. The colored troops, who had been bragging all the way that if they could only see some Indians "dey would blow 'em off de farm,"—which was a favorite expression of theirs,—were now singing a different tune. Every time the Indians would make a charge at us, the darkeys would cry out:
"Heah dey cum;" "Dey must be ten thousand ob 'em;" "De whole country is alive wid 'em;" "Massa Bill, does you tink we is eber agoin' to get out o' heah?" and many other similar expressions.
Major Arms, who was wounded and lying under the cannon—which, by the way, had become useless,—called me up and asked if I thought there was any show of getting back to the fort. I replied that there was.
Orders were accordingly given by Major Arms for a retreat, the cannon being left behind. During the movement several of our men were killed, but as night came and dense darkness prevailed, we succeeded in making good headway, and got into Fort Hays just at daylight next morning, in a very played-out condition.
During our absence the cholera had broken out at the post, and five or six men were dying daily. It was difficult to tell which was the greater danger—fighting Indians on the prairie, or facing the cholera in camp; but the former was decidedly the more inviting.
Soon after returning to Fort Hays, I was sent with dispatches to Fort Harker. After delivering the messages, I visited the town of Ellsworth, about three miles west of Fort Harker, and there I met a man named William Rose, a contractor on the Kansas Pacific Railroad, who had a contract for grading near Fort Hays. He had had his stock stolen by the Indians, and had come to Ellsworth to buy more.
During the course of our conversation, Mr. Rose incidentally remarked that he had some idea of laying out a town on the west side of Big Creek, about one mile from the fort, where the railroad was to cross. He asked my opinion of the contemplated enterprise, and I told him that I thought it was "a big thing." He then proposed taking me as a partner in the scheme, and suggested that after we got the town laid out and thrown open to the public, we should establish a store and saloon there.
Thinking it would be a grand thing to be half-owner of a town, I at once accepted his proposition. We bought a stock of such articles as are usually found in a frontier store, and transported them to the place on Big Creek, where we were to found our town. We hired a railroad engineer to survey the site and stake it off into lots; and we gave the new town the ancient and historical name of Rome. To a "starter," we donated lots to any one who would build on them, but reserved the corner lots and others which were best located for ourselves. These reserved lots we valued at fifty dollars each.
Our modern Rome, like all mushroom towns along the line of a new railroad, sprang up as if by magic, and in less than one month we had two hundred frame and log houses, three or four stores, several saloons, and one good hotel. Rome was looming up, and Rose and I already considered ourselves millionaires, and thought we "had the world by the tail." But one day a fine-looking gentleman, calling himself Dr. W.E. Webb, appeared in town, and dropping into our store introduced himself in a very pleasant way.
"Gentlemen, you've got a very flourishing little town here. Wouldn't you like to have a partner in your enterprise?"
"No, thank you," said I, "we have too good a thing here to whack up with anybody."
My partner agreed with me, but the conversation was continued, and at last the stranger said:
"Gentlemen, I am the agent or prospector of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and my business is to locate towns for the company along the line."
"We think we have the only suitable town-site in this immediate locality," said Mr. Rose, "and as a town is already started, we have saved the company considerable expense."
"You know as well as I do," said Dr. Webb, "that the company expects to make money by selling lands and town lots; and as you are not disposed to give the company a show, or share with me, I shall probably have to start another town near you. Competition is the life of trade, you know."
"Start your town, if you want to. We've got the 'bulge' on you, and can hold it," said I, somewhat provoked at his threat.
But we acted too independently and too indiscreetly for our own good Dr. Webb, the very next day after his interview with us, began hauling material to a spot about one mile east of us, where he staked out a new town, which he called Hays City. He took great pains to circulate in our town the story that the railroad company would locate their round-houses and machine shops at Hays City, and that it was to be the town and a splendid business center. A ruinous stampede from our place was the result. People who had built in Rome came to the conclusion that they had built in the wrong place; they began pulling down their buildings and moving them over to Hays City, and in less than three days our once flourishing city had dwindled down to the little store which Rose and I had built.
It was on a bright summer morning that we sat on a pine box in front of our crib, moodily viewing the demolition of the last building. Three days before, we had considered ourselves millionaires; on that morning we looked around and saw that we were reduced to the ragged edge of poverty. Our sanguine expectations of realizing immense fortunes were dashed to the ground, and we felt pretty blue. The new town of Hays had swallowed Rome entirely. Mr. Rose facetiously remarked that he felt like "the last rose of summer," with all his lovely companions faded and gone, and he left blooming alone. I told him I was still there, staunch and true, but he replied that that didn't help the matter much. Thus ends the brief history of the "Rise, Decline and Fall" of Modern Rome.
It having become evident to me that there was very little hope of Rome ever regaining its former splendor and prosperity, I sent my wife and daughter Arta—who had been born at Leavenworth in the latter part of December, 1866—to St. Louis on a visit. They had been living with me for some little time in the rear part of our "store."
At this time Mr. Rose and myself had a contract under Schumacher, Miller & Co., constructors of the Kansas Pacific, for grading five miles of track westward from Big Creek, and running through the site of Rome. Notwithstanding we had been deserted, we had some small hope that they would not be able to get water at the new town, and that the people would all soon move back to Rome, as we really had the best location. We determined, therefore, to go on with our grading contract, and wait for something better to turn up. It was indeed hard for us, who had been millionaires, to come down to the level of common railroad contractors— but we had to do it, all the same.
We visited the new town of Hays almost daily, to see how it was progressing, and in a short time we became much better acquainted with Dr. Webb, who had reduced us from our late independent to our present dependent position. We found him a perfect gentleman—a whole-souled, genial-hearted fellow, whom everybody liked and respected. Nearly every day, "Doc." and I would take a ride over the prairie together and hunt buffalo.
On one occasion, having ventured about ten miles from the town, we spied a band of Indians not over two miles distant, who were endeavoring to get between us and the town, and thus cut us off. I was mounted on my celebrated horse Brigham, the fleetest steed I ever owned. On several subsequent occasions he saved my life, and he was the horse that I rode when I killed sixty-nine buffaloes in one day. Dr. Webb was riding a beautiful thoroughbred bay, which he had brought with him from the East. Having such splendid horses, we laughed at the idea of a band of Indians overtaking us on a square run, no matter how well they might be mounted; but not caring to be cut off by them, we ran our steeds about three miles towards home, thus getting between the braves and the town. The Indians were then about three-quarters of a mile distant, and we stopped and waved our hats at them, and fired some shots at long range. There were thirteen in the party, and as they were getting pretty close to us, we struck out for Hays. They came on in pursuit and sent several scattering shots after us, but we easily left them behind. They finally turned and rode off towards the Saline River.
The Doctor thought this glorious sport, and wanted to organize a party to go in pursuit of them, but I induced him to give up this idea, although he did so rather reluctantly. The Doctor soon became quite an expert hunter, and before he had remained on the prairie a year there were but few men in the country who could kill more buffaloes on a hunt than he.
Being aware that Rose and myself felt rather downhearted over our deserted village, the Doctor one day said that, as he had made the proprietors of Rome "howl," he would give us two lots each in Hays, and did so. We finally came to the conclusion that our old town was dead beyond redemption or revival, and we thereupon devoted our undivided attention to our railroad contract. One day we were pushed for horses to work on our scrapers—so I hitched up Brigham, to see how he would work. He was not much used to that kind of labor, and I was about giving up the idea of making a work-horse of him, when one of the men called to me that there were some buffaloes coming over the hill. As there had been no buffaloes seen anywhere in the vicinity of the camp for several days, we had become rather short of meat. I immediately told one of our men to hitch his horses to a wagon and follow me, as I was going out after the herd, and we would bring back some fresh meat for supper. I had no saddle, as mine had been left at the camp a mile distant, so taking the harness from Brigham, I mounted him bareback and started out after the game, being armed with my celebrated buffalo-killer, "Lucretia Borgia,"—a newly-improved breech-loading needle gun, which I had obtained from the government.
While I was riding toward the buffaloes I observed five horsemen coming out from the fort, who had evidently seen the buffaloes from the post, and were going out for a chase. They proved to be some newly-arrived officers in that part of the country, and when they came up closer, I could see by the shoulder straps that the senior officer was a captain, while the others were lieutenants.
"Hello! may friend," sang out the captain, "I see you are after the same game we are."
"Yes, sir; I saw those buffaloes coming over the hill, and as we were about out of fresh meat I thought I would go and get some," said I.
They scanned my cheap-looking outfit pretty closely, and as my horse was not very prepossessing in appearance, having on only a blind bridle, and otherwise looking like a work-horse they evidently considered me a green hand at hunting.
"Do you expect to catch those buffaloes on that Gothic steed?" laughingly asked the captain.
"I hope so, by pushing on the reins hard enough," was my reply.
"You'll never catch them in the world, my fine fellow," said the captain. "It requires a fast horse to overtake the animals on these prairies."
"Does it?" asked I as if I didn't know it.
"Yes; but come along with us as we are going to kill them more for pleasure than anything else. All we want are the tongues and a piece of tender loin, and you may have all that is left," said the generous man.
"I am much obliged to you, Captain, and will follow you," I replied. There were eleven buffaloes in the herd and they were not more than a mile from us. The officers dashed ahead as if they had a sure thing on killing them all before I could come up with them; but I had noticed that the herd was making towards the creek for water, and as I knew buffalo nature, I was perfectly aware that it would be difficult to turn them from their direct course. Thereupon, I started towards the creek to head them off, while the officers came up in the rear and gave chase.
The buffaloes came rushing past me not a hundred yards distant, with the officers about three hundred yards in the rear. Now, thought I, is the time to "get my work in," as they say; and I pulled the blind-bridle from my horse, who knew as well as I did that we were out for buffaloes—as he was a trained hunter. The moment the bridle was off, he started at the top of his speed, running in ahead of the officers, and with a few jumps he brought me alongside of the rear buffalo. Raising old "Lucretia Borgia" to my shoulder, I fired, and killed the animal at the first shot. My horse then carried me alongside the next one, not ten feet away, and I dropped him at the next fire.
As soon as one buffalo would fall, Brigham would take me so close to the next, that I could almost touch it with my gun. In this manner I killed the eleven buffaloes with twelve shots; and, as the last animal dropped, my horse stopped. I jumped to the ground, knowing that he would not leave me—it must be remembered that I had been riding him without bridle, reins or saddle—and turning round as the party of astonished officers rode up, I said to them:
"Now, gentlemen, allow me to present to you all the tongues and tender-loins you wish from these buffaloes."
Captain Graham, for such I soon learned was his name, replied: "Well, I never saw the like before. Who under the sun are you, anyhow?"
"My name is Cody," said I.
One of the lieutenants, Thompson by name, who had met me at Fort Harker, then recognized me, and said: "Why, that is Bill Cody, our old scout." He then introduced me to the other officers, who were Captain Graham, of the Tenth Cavalry, and Lieutenants Reed, Emmick and Ezekiel.
Captain Graham, who was considerable of a horseman, greatly admired Brigham, and said: "That horse of yours has running points."
"Yes, sir; he has not only got the points, he is a runner and knows how to use the points," said I.
"So I noticed," said the captain.
They all finally dismounted, and we continued chatting for some little time upon the different subjects of horses, buffaloes, Indians and hunting. They felt a little sore at not getting a single shot at the buffaloes, but the way I had killed them had, they said, amply repaid them for their disappointment. They had read of such feats in books, but this was the first time they had ever seen anything of the kind with their own eyes. It was the first time, also, that they had ever witnessed or heard of a white man running buffaloes on horseback without a saddle or a bridle.
I told them that Brigham knew nearly as much about the business as I did, and if I had had twenty bridles they would have been of no use to me, as he understood everything, and all that he expected of me was to do the shooting. It is a fact, that Brigham would stop if a buffalo did not fall at the first fire, so as to give me a second chance, but if I did not kill the buffalo then, he would go on, as if to say, "You are no good, and I will not fool away time by giving you more than two shots." Brigham was the best horse I ever owned or saw for buffalo chasing.
Our conversation was interrupted in a little while by the arrival of the wagon which I had ordered out; I loaded the hind-quarters of the youngest buffaloes on it, and then cut out the tongues and tender loins, and presented them to the officers, after which I rode towards the fort with them, while the wagon returned to camp.
Captain Graham told me that he expected to be stationed at Fort Hays during the summer, and would probably be sent out on a scouting expedition, and in case he was he would like to have me accompany him as scout and guide. I replied that notwithstanding I was very busy with my railroad contract I would go with him if he was ordered out. I then left the officers and returned to our camp.
That very night the Indians unexpectedly made a raid on the horses, and ran off five or six of our very best work-teams, leaving us in a very crippled condition. At daylight I jumped on old Brigham and rode to Fort Hays, when I reported the affair to the commanding officer; Captain Graham and Lieutenant Emmick were at once ordered out with their company of one hundred colored troops, to pursue the Indians and recover our stock if possible. In an hour we were under way. The darkies had never been in an Indian fight and were anxious to catch the band we were after and "Sweep de red debels from off de face ob de earth." Captain Graham was a brave, dashing officer, eager to make a record for himself, and it was with difficulty that I could trail fast enough to keep out of the way of the impatient soldiers. Every few moments Captain Graham would ride up to see if the trail was freshening and how soon we should be likely to overtake the thieves.
At last we reached the Saline river, where we found the Indians had only stopped to feed and water the animals, and had then pushed on towards the Solomon. After crossing the Saline they made no effort to conceal their trail, thinking they would not be pursued beyond that point—consequently we were able to make excellent time. We reached the Soloman before sunset, and came to a halt; we surmised that if the Indians were camped on this river, that they had no suspicion of our being in the neighborhood. I advised Captain Graham to remain with the company where it was, while I went ahead on a scout to find the Indians, if they were in the vicinity.
After riding some distance down the ravine that led to the river, I left my horse at the foot of a hill; then, creeping to the top, I looked cautiously over the summit upon the Solomon, below. I at once discovered in plain view, not a mile away, a herd of horses grazing, our lost ones among them; very shortly I made out the Indian camp, noted its lay, and how we could best approach it. Reporting to Captain Graham, whose eyes fairly danced with delight at the prospect of surprising and whipping the redskins, we concluded to wait until the moon rose, then get into the timber so as to approach the Indians as closely as possible without being discovered, and finally to make a sudden dash into their camp, and clean them out. We had everything "cut and dried," as we thought, but, alas! just as we were nearing the point where we were to take the open ground and make our charge, one of the colored gentlemen became so excited that he fired off his gun. We immediately commenced the charge, but the firing of the gun and the noise of our rush through the crackling timber alarmed the Indians, who at once sprang to their horses and were away from us before we reached their late camp. Captain Graham called out "Follow me boys!" which we did for awhile, but in the darkness the Indians made good their escape. The bugle then gave the re-call, but some of the darkies did not get back until morning, having, in their fright, allowed their horses to run away with them whithersoever it suited the animal's pleasure to go.
We followed the trail the next day for awhile, but as it become evident that it would be a long chase to overtake the enemy, and as we had rations only for the day, we commenced the return. Captain Graham was bitterly disappointed in not being able to get the fight when it seemed so near at one time. He roundly cursed the "nigger" who fired the gun, and as a punishment for his carelessness, he was compelled to walk all the way back to Fort Hays.
EARNING A TITLE.
It was about this time that the end of the Kansas Pacific track was in the heart of the buffalo country, and the company was employing about twelve hundred men in the construction of the road. As the Indians were very troublesome, it was difficult to obtain fresh meat for the workmen, and the company therefore concluded to engage the services of hunters to kill buffaloes. Having heard of my experience and success as a buffalo hunter, Messrs. Goddard Brothers, who had the contract for boarding the employees of the road, met me in Hays City one day and made me a good offer to become their hunter, and I at once entered into a contract with them. They said that they would require about twelve buffaloes per day; that would be twenty-four hams, as we took only the hind-quarters and hump of each buffalo. As this was to be dangerous work, on account of the Indians, who were riding all over that section of the country, and as I would be obliged to go from five to ten miles from the road each day to hunt the buffaloes, accompanied by only one man with a light wagon for the transportation of the meat, I of course demanded a large salary. They could afford to remunerate me well, because the meat would not cost them anything. They agreed to give me five hundred dollars per month, provided I furnished them all the fresh meat required.
Leaving my partner, Rose, to complete our grading contract, I immediately began my career as a buffalo hunter for the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and it was not long before I acquired considerable notoriety. It was at this time that the very appropriate name of "Buffalo Bill," was conferred upon me by the road-hands. It has stuck to me ever since, and I have never been ashamed of it.
During my engagement as hunter for the company—a period of less than eighteen mouths—I killed 4,280 buffaloes; and I had many exciting adventures with the Indians, as well as hair-breadth escapes, some of which are well worth relating.
One day in the spring of 1868, I mounted Brigham and started for Smoky Hill River. After galloping about twenty miles I reached the top of a small hill overlooking the valley of that beautiful stream.
As I was gazing on the landscape, I suddenly saw a band of about thirty Indians nearly half a mile distant; I knew by the way they jumped on their horses that they had seen me as soon as I came into sight.
The only chance I had for my life was to make a run for it, and I immediately wheeled and started back towards the railroad. Brigham seemed to understand what was up, and he struck out as if he comprehended that it was to be a run for life. He crossed a ravine in a few jumps, and on reaching a ridge beyond, I drew rein, looked back and saw the Indians coming for me at full speed and evidently well-mounted. I would have had little or no fear of being overtaken if Brigham had been fresh; but as he was not, I felt uncertain as to how he would stand a long chase.
My pursuers seemed to be gaining on me a little, and I let Brigham shoot ahead again; when we had run about three miles farther, some eight or nine of the Indians were not over two hundred yards behind, and five or six of these seemed to be shortening the gap at every jump. Brigham now exerted himself more than ever, and for the next three or four miles he got "right down to business," and did some of the prettiest running I ever saw. But the Indians were about as well-mounted as I was, and one of their horses in particular—a spotted animal—was gaining on me all the time. Nearly all the other horses were strung out behind for a distance of two miles, but still chasing after me.
The Indian who was riding the spotted horse was armed with a rifle, and would occasionally send a bullet whistling along, sometimes striking the ground ahead of me. I saw that this fellow must be checked, or a stray bullet from his gun might hit me or my horse; so, suddenly stopping Brigham, and quickly wheeling him around, I raised old "Lucretia" to my shoulder, took deliberate aim at the Indian and his horse, hoping to hit one or the other, and fired. He was not over eighty yards from me at this time, and at the crack of my rifle down went his horse. Not waiting to see if he recovered, I turned Brigham, and in a moment we were again fairly flying towards our destination; we had urgent business about that time, and were in a hurry to get there.
The other Indians had gained on us while I was engaged in shooting at their leader, and they sent several shots whizzing past me, but fortunately none of them hit the intended mark. To return their compliment I occasionally wheeled myself in the saddle and fired back at them, and one of my shots broke the leg of one of their horses, which left its rider hors(e) de combat, as the French would say.
Only seven or eight Indians now remained in dangerous proximity to me, and as their horses were beginning to lag somewhat, I checked my faithful old steed a little, to allow him an opportunity to draw an extra breath or two. I had determined, if it should come to the worst, to drop into a buffalo wallow, where I could stand the Indians off for a while; but I was not compelled to do this, as Brigham carried me through most nobly.
The chase was kept up until we came within three miles of the end of the railroad track, where two companies of soldiers were stationed for the purpose of protecting the workmen from the Indians. One of the outposts saw the Indians chasing me across the prairie, and gave the alarm. In a few minutes I saw, greatly to my delight, men coming on foot, and cavalrymen, too, came galloping to our rescue as soon as they could mount their horses. When the Indians observed this, they turned and ran in the direction from which they had come. In a very few minutes I was met by some of the infantrymen and trackmen, and jumping to the ground and pulling the blanket and saddle off of Brigham, I told them what he had done for me; they at once took him in charge, led him around, and rubbed him down so vigorously that I thought they would rub him to death.
Captain Nolan, of the Tenth Cavalry, now came up with forty of his men, and upon learning what had happened he determined to pursue the Indians. He kindly offered me one of the cavalry horses, and after putting my own saddle and bridle on the animal, we started out after the flying Indians, who only a few minutes before had been making it so uncomfortably lively for me. Our horses were all fresh and of excellent stock, and we soon began shortening the distance between ourselves and the redskins. Before they had gone five miles we overtook and killed eight of their number. The others succeeded in making their escape. On coming up to the place where I had killed the first horse—the spotted one—on my "home run," I found that my bullet had struck him in the forehead and killed him instantly. He was a noble animal, and ought to have been engaged in better business.
When we got back to camp I found old Brigham grazing quietly and contentedly on the grass. He looked up at me as if to ask if we had got away with any of those fellows who had chased us. I believe he read the answer in my eyes.
Another very exciting hunting adventure of mine which deserves a place in these reminiscences occurred near Saline river. My companion at the time was a man called Scotty, a butcher, who generally accompanied me on these hunting expeditions to cut up the buffaloes and load the meat into a light wagon which he brought to carry it in. He was a brave little fellow and a most excellent shot. I had killed some fifteen buffaloes, and we had started for home with a wagon-load of meat. When within about eight miles of our destination, we suddenly ran on to a party of at least thirty Indians who came riding out of the head of a ravine.
On this occasion I was mounted on a most excellent horse belonging to the railroad company, and could easily have made my escape; but of course I could not leave Scotty who was driving a pair of mules hitched to the wagon. To think was to act, in those days; and as Scotty and I had often talked over a plan of defense in case we were ever surprised by Indians, we instantly proceeded to carry it out. We jumped to the ground, unhitched the mules quicker than it had ever been done before, and tied them and my horse to the wagon. We threw the buffalo hams upon the ground, and piled them around the wheels in such a shape as to form a breastwork. All this was done in a shorter time than it takes to tell it; and then, with our extra box of ammunition and three or four extra revolvers, which we always carried along with us, we crept under the wagon and were fully prepared to give our visitors the warmest kind of a reception.
The Indians came on pell-mell, but when they were within one hundred yards of us we opened such a sudden and galling fire upon them, that they held up and began to circle around the wagon instead of riding up to take tea with us. They however charged back and forth upon us several times, and their shots killed the two mules and my horse; but we gave it to them right and left, and had the satisfaction of seeing three of them fall to the ground not more than fifty yards away. On seeing how well we were fortified and protected by our breastwork of hams, they probably came to the conclusion that it would be a difficult undertaking to dislodge us, for they drew off and gave us a rest, but only a short one.
This was the kind of fighting we had been expecting for a long time, as we knew that sooner or later we would be "jumped" by Indians while we were out buffalo hunting. I had an understanding with the officers who commanded the troops at the end of the track, that in case their pickets should at any time notice a smoke in the direction of our hunting ground, they were to give the alarm, so that assistance might be sent to us for the smoke was to indicate that we were in danger.
I now resolved to signal to the troops in the manner agreed on, and at the first opportunity set fire to the grass on the windward side of the wagon. The fire spread over the prairie at a rapid rate, causing a dense smoke which I knew would be seen at the camp. The Indians did not seem to understand this strategic movement. They got off from their horses, and from behind a bank or knoll, again peppered away at us; but we were well fortified, and whenever they showed their heads we let them know that we could shoot as well as they.
After we had been cooped up in our little fort, for about an hour, we discovered cavalry coming toward us at full gallop over the prairie. Our signal of distress had proved a success. The Indians saw the soldiers at about the same time that we did, and thinking that it would not be healthy for them to remain much longer in that vicinity, they mounted their horses and disappeared down the canons of the creek. When the soldiers came up we had the satisfaction of showing them five "good" Indians, that is dead ones.
Two hours later we pulled into camp with our load of meat, which was found to be all right, except that it had a few bullets and arrows sticking in it.
While I was hunting for the Kansas Pacific railway, I had the pleasure, in the fall of 1867, of meeting the celebrated Kit Carson, one of, if not the oldest and most noted scout, guide, and hunter that our western country has ever produced. He was on his way to Washington. I also met him on his return from the East, and invited him to be my guest for a few days at Hays City, which invitation he accepted. He then proceeded to Fort Lyon, Colorado, near which place his son-in-law, Mr. Boggs, and family, resided. At this time his health was failing, and shortly afterwards he died at Mr. Boggs' residence on the Picket Wire Creek.
CHAMPION BUFFALO KILLER.
Shortly after the adventures mentioned in the preceding chapter, I had my celebrated buffalo hunt with Billy Comstock, a noted scout, guide and interpreter, who was then chief of scouts at Fort Wallace, Kansas. Comstock had the reputation, for a long time, of being a most successful buffalo hunter, and the officers in particular, who had seen him kill buffaloes, were very desirous of backing him in a match against me. It was accordingly arranged that I should shoot him a buffalo-killing match, and the preliminaries were easily and satisfactorily agreed upon. We were to hunt one day of eight hours, beginning at eight o'clock in the morning, and closing at four o'clock in the afternoon. The wager was five hundred dollars a side, and the man who should kill the greater number of buffaloes from on horseback was to be declared the winner.
The hunt took place about twenty miles east of Sheridan, and as it had been pretty well advertised and noised abroad, a large crowd witnessed the interesting and exciting scene. An excursion party, mostly from St. Louis, consisting of about a hundred gentlemen and ladies, came out on a special train to view the sport, and among the number was my wife, with little baby Arta, who had come to remain with me for a while.
The buffaloes were quite plenty, and it was agreed that we should go into the same herd at the same time and "make a run," as we called it, each one killing as many as possible. A referee was to follow each of us on horseback when we entered the herd, and count the buffaloes killed by each man. The St. Louis excursionists, as well as the other spectators, rode out to the vicinity of the hunting grounds in wagons and on horseback, keeping well out of sight of the buffaloes, so as not to frighten them, until the time came for us to dash into the herd; when they were to come up as near as they pleased and witness the chase.
We were fortunate in the first run in getting good ground. Comstock was mounted on one of his favorite horses, while I rode old Brigham. I felt confident that I had the advantage of Comstock in two things—first, I had the best buffalo horse that ever made a track; and second, I was using what was known at that time as the needle-gun, a breech-loading Springfield rifle—calibre 50,—it was my favorite old "Lucretia," which has already been introduced to the notice of the reader; while Comstock was armed with a Henry rifle, and although he could fire a few shots quicker than I could, yet I was pretty certain that it did not carry powder and lead enough to do execution equal to my calibre 50.
At last the time came to begin the match. Comstock and I dashed into a herd, followed by the referees. The buffaloes separated; Comstock took the left bunch and I the right. My great forte in killing buffaloes from horseback was to get them circling by riding my horse at the head of the herd, shooting the leaders, thus crowding their followers to the left, till they would finally circle round and round.
On this morning the buffaloes were very accommodating, and I soon had them running in a beautiful circle, when I dropped them thick and fast, until I had killed thirty-eight; which finished my run.
Comstock began shooting at the rear of the herd, which he was chasing, and they kept straight on. He succeeded, however, in killing twenty-three, but they were scattered over a distance of three miles, while mine lay close together. I had "nursed" my buffaloes, as a billiard-player does the balls when he makes a big run.
After the result of the first run had been duly announced, our St. Louis excursion friends—who had approached to the place where we had stopped—set out a lot of champagne, which they had brought with them, and which proved a good drink on a Kansas prairie, and a buffalo hunter was a good man to get away with it.
While taking a short rest, we suddenly spied another herd of buffaloes coming toward us. It was only a small drove, and we at once prepared to give the animals a lively reception. They proved to be a herd of cows and calves—which, by the way, are quicker in their movements than the bulls. We charged in among them, and I concluded my run with a score of eighteen, while Comstock killed fourteen. The score now stood fifty-six to thirty-seven, in my favor.
Again the excursion party approached, and once more the champagne was tapped. After we had eaten a lunch which was spread for us, we resumed the hunt. Striking out for a distance of three miles, we came up close to another herd. As I was so far ahead of my competitor in the number killed, I thought I could afford to give an extra exhibition of my skill. I had told the ladies that I would, on the next run, ride my horse without saddle or bridle. This had raised the excitement to fever heat among the excursionists, and I remember one fair lady who endeavored to prevail upon me not to attempt it.
"That's nothing at all," said I; "I have done it many a time, and old Brigham knows as well as I what I am doing, and sometimes a great deal better."
So, leaving my saddle and bridle with the wagons, we rode to the windward of the buffaloes, as usual, and when within a few hundred yards of them we dashed into the herd. I soon had thirteen laid out on the ground, the last one of which I had driven down close to the wagons, where the ladies were. It frightened some of the tender creatures to see the buffalo coming at full speed directly toward them; but when he had got within fifty yards of one of the wagons, I shot him dead in his tracks. This made my sixty-ninth buffalo, and finished my third and last run, Comstock having killed forty-six.
As it was now late in the afternoon, Comstock and his backers gave up the idea that he could beat me, and thereupon the referees declared me the winner of the match, as well as the champion buffalo-hunter of the plains.[A]
[Footnote A: Poor Billy Comstock was afterwards treacherously murdered by the Indians. He and Sharpe Grover visited a village of Indians, supposed to be peaceably inclined, near Big Spring Station, in Western Kansas; and after spending several hours with the redskins in friendly conversation, they prepared to depart, having declined an invitation to pass the night there. It appears that Comstock's beautiful white-handled revolver had attracted the attention of the Indians, who overtook him and his companion when they had gone about half a mile. After surrounding the two men they suddenly attacked them. They killed, scalped and robbed Comstock; but Grover, although severely wounded, made his escape, owing to the fleetness of the excellent horse which he was riding. This sad event occurred August 27, 1868.]
On our way back to camp, we took with us some of the choice meat and finest heads. In this connection it will not be out of place to state that during the time I was hunting for the Kansas Pacific, I always brought into camp the best buffalo heads, and turned them over to the company, who found a very good use for them. They had them mounted in the best possible manner, and sent them to all the principal cities and railroad centers in the country, having them placed in prominent positions at the leading hotels, depots, and other public buildings, as a sort of trade-mark, or advertisement, of the Kansas Pacific Railroad; and to-day they attract the attention of the traveler almost everywhere. Whenever I am traveling over the country and see one of these trade-marks, I feel pretty certain that I was the cause of the death of the old fellow whose body it once ornamented, and many a wild and exciting hunt is thus called to mind.
The end of the track finally reached Sheridan, in the month of May, 1868, and as the road was not to be built any farther just then, my services as a hunter were not any longer required. At this time there was a general Indian war raging all along the western borders. General Sheridan had taken up his headquarters at Fort Hayes, in order to be in the field to superintend the campaign in person. As scouts and guides were in great demand, I concluded once more to take up my old avocation of scouting and guiding for the army.
Having no suitable place in which to leave my old and faithful buffalo-hunter Brigham, and not wishing to kill him by scouting, I determined to dispose of him. I was very reluctant to part with him, but I consoled myself with the thought that he would not be likely to receive harder usage in other hands than he had in mine. I had several good offers to sell him; but at the suggestion of some gentlemen in Sheridan, all of whom were anxious to obtain possession of the horse, I put him up at a raffle, in order to give them all an equal chance of becoming the owner of the famous steed. There were ten chances at thirty dollars each, and they were all quickly taken.
Old Brigham was won by a gentleman—Mr. Ike Bonham,—who took him to Wyandotte, Kansas, where he soon added new laurels to his already brilliant record. Although I am getting ahead of my story, I must now follow Brigham for a while. A grand tournament came off four miles from Wyandotte, and Brigham took part in it. As has already been stated, his appearance was not very prepossessing, and nobody suspected him of being anything but the most ordinary kind of a plug. The friends of the rider laughed at him for being mounted on such a dizzy-looking steed. When the exercises—which were of a very tame character, being more for style than speed—were over, and just as the crowd were about to return to the city, a purse of $250 was made up, to be given to the horse that could first reach Wyandotte, four miles distant. The arrangement was carried out, and Brigham was entered as one of the contestants for the purse. Everybody laughed at Mr. Bonham when it became known that he was to ride that poky-looking plug against the five thoroughbreds which were to take part in the race.
When all the preliminaries had been arranged, the signal was given, and off went the horses for Wyandotte. For the first half-mile several of the horses led Brigham, but on the second mile he began passing them one after the other, and on the third mile he was in advance of them all, and was showing them all the road at a lively rate. On the fourth mile his rider let him out, and arrived at the hotel—the home-station—in Wyandotte a long way ahead of his fastest competitor.
Everybody was surprised, as well as disgusted, that such a homely "critter" should be the winner. Brigham, of course, had already acquired a wide reputation, and his name and exploits had often appeared in the newspapers, and when it was learned that this "critter" was none other than the identical buffalo-hunting Brigham, nearly the whole crowd admitted that they had heard of him before, and had they known him in the first place they certainly would have ruled him out.
I finally lost track of Brigham, and for several years I did not know what had become of him. Three years ago, while I was at Memphis, Tennessee, I met a Mr. Wilcox, who had been one of the superintendents of construction of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and he informed me that he owned Brigham, and that he was at that time on his farm, only a few miles out of town. The next day I rode out with Mr. Wilcox and took a look at the gallant old horse. He was comfortably cared for in Mr. Wilcox's stable, and looked the same clever pony that he always was. It seemed as if he almost remembered me, and I put my arms around his neck, as though he had been a long-lost child. Mr. Wilcox bought the horse at Wyandotte, from the gentleman who had won him at the raffle, and he intends to keep him as long as he lives. I am grateful that he is in such good hands, and whenever I again visit Memphis I shall surely go and see Brigham if he is still alive.
But to return to the thread of my narrative, from which I have wandered. Having received the appointment of guide and scout, and having been ordered to report at Fort Larned, then commanded by Captain Dangerfield Parker, I saw it was necessary to take my family—who had remained with me at Sheridan, after the buffalo-hunting match—to Leavenworth, and there leave them. This I did at once, and after providing them with a comfortable little home, I returned and reported for duty at Fort Larned.
The scouts at Fort Larned, when I arrived there, were commanded by Dick Curtis—an old guide, frontiersman and Indian interpreter. There were some three hundred lodges of Kiowa and Comanche Indians camped near the fort. These Indians had not as yet gone upon the war-path, but were restless and discontented, and their leading chiefs, Satanta, Lone Wolf, Kicking Bird, Satank, Sittamore, and other noted warriors, were rather saucy. The post at the time was garrisoned by only two companies of infantry and one of cavalry.
General Hazen, who was at the post, was endeavoring to pacify the Indians and keep them from going on the war-path. I was appointed as his special scout, and one morning he notified me that he was going to Fort Harker, and wished me to accompany him as far as Fort Zarah, thirty miles distant. The General usually traveled in an ambulance, but this trip he was to make in a six-mule wagon, under the escort of a squad of twenty infantrymen. So, early one morning in August, we started; arriving safely at Fort Zarah at twelve o'clock. General Hazen thought it unnecessary that we should go farther, and he proceeded on his way to Fort Harker without an escort, leaving instructions that we should return to Fort Larned the next day.
After the General had gone I went to the sergeant in command of the squad, and told him that I was going back that very afternoon, instead of waiting till the next morning; and I accordingly saddled up my mule and set out for Fort Larned. I proceeded uninterruptedly until I got about half-way between the two posts, when at Pawnee Rock I was suddenly "jumped" by about forty Indians, who came dashing up to me, extending their hands and saying, "How! How!" They were some of the same Indians who had been hanging around Fort Larned in the morning. I saw that they had on their war-paint, and were evidently now out on the war-path.
My first impulse was to shake hands with them, as they seemed so desirous of it. I accordingly reached out my hand to one of them, who grasped it with a tight grip, and jerked me violently forward; another pulled my mule by the bridle, and in a moment I was completely surrounded. Before I could do anything at all, they had seized my revolvers from the holsters, and I received a blow on the head from a tomahawk which nearly rendered me senseless. My gun, which was lying across the saddle, was snatched from its place, and finally the Indian, who had hold of the bridle, started off towards the Arkansas River, leading the mule, which was being lashed by the other Indians who were following.
The savages were all singing, yelling and whooping, as only Indians can do, when they are having their little game all their own way. While looking towards the river I saw, on the opposite side, an immense village moving down along the bank, and then I became convinced that the Indians had left the post and were now starting out on the war-path. My captors crossed the stream with me, and as we waded through the shallow water they continued to lash the mule and myself. Finally they brought me before an important looking body of Indians, who proved to be the chiefs and principal warriors. I soon recognized old Satanta among them, as well as others whom I knew, and I supposed it was all over with me.
The Indians were jabbering away so rapidly among themselves that I could not understand what they were saying. Satanta at last asked me where I had been; and, as good luck would have it, a happy thought struck me. I told him I had been after a herd of cattle or "whoa-haws," as they called them. It so happened that the Indians had been out of meat for several weeks, as the large herd of cattle which had been promised them had not yet arrived, although expected by them.
The moment that I mentioned that I had been searching for the "whoa-haws," old Satanta began questioning me in a very eager manner. He asked me where the cattle were, and I replied that they were back only a few miles, and that I had been sent by General Hazen to inform him that the cattle were coming, and that they were intended for his people. This seemed to please the old rascal, who also wanted to know if there were any soldiers with the herd, and my reply was that there were. Thereupon the chiefs held a consultation, and presently Satanta asked me if General Hazen had really said that they should have the cattle. I replied in the affirmative, and added that I had been directed to bring the cattle to them. I followed this up with a very dignified inquiry, asking why his young men had treated me so. The old wretch intimated that it was only "a freak of the boys"; that the young men had wanted to see if I was brave; in fact, they had only meant to test my bravery, and that the whole thing was a joke.
The veteran liar was now beating me at my own game of lying; but I was very glad of it, as it was in my favor. I did not let him suspect that I doubted his veracity, but I remarked that it was a rough way to treat friends. He immediately ordered his young men to give me back my arms, and scolded them for what they had done. Of course, the sly old dog was now playing it very fine, as he was anxious to get possession of the cattle, with which he believed "there was a heap of soldiers coming." He had concluded it was not best to fight the soldiers if he could get the cattle peaceably.
Another council was held by the chiefs, and in a few minutes old Satanta came and asked me if I would go over and bring the cattle down to the opposite side of the river, so that they could get them. I replied, "Of course; that's my instruction from General Hazen."
Satanta said I must not feel angry at his young men, for they had only been acting in fun. He then inquired if I wished any of his men to accompany me to the cattle herd. I replied that it would be better for me to go alone, and then the soldiers could keep right on to Fort Larned, while I could drive the herd down on the bottom. So, wheeling my mule around, I was soon re-crossing the river, leaving old Satanta in the firm belief that I had told him a straight story, and was going for the cattle, which only existed in my imagination.
I hardly knew what to do, but thought that if I could get the river between the Indians and myself I would have a good three-quarters of a mile the start of them, and could then make a run for Fort Larned, as my mule was a good one.
Thus far my cattle story had panned out all right; but just as I reached the opposite bank of the river, I looked behind and saw that ten or fifteen Indians who had begun to suspect something crooked, were following me. The moment that my mule secured a good foothold on the bank, I urged him into a gentle lope towards the place where, according to my statement, the cattle were to be brought. Upon reaching a little ridge, and riding down the other side out of view, I turned my mule and headed him westward for Fort Larned. I let him out for all that he was worth, and when I came out on a little rise of ground, I looked back, and saw the Indian village in plain sight. My pursuers were now on the ridge which I had passed over, and were looking for me in every direction.
Presently they spied me, and seeing that I was running away, they struck out in swift pursuit, and in a few minutes it became painfully evident that they were gaining on me. They kept up the chase as far as Ash Creek, six miles from Fort Larned. I still led them half a mile, as their horses had not gained much during the last half of the race. My mule seemed to have gotten his second wind, and as I was on the old road I had played the whip and spurs on him without much cessation. The Indians likewise had urged their steeds to the utmost.
Finally, upon reaching the dividing ridge between Ash Greek and Pawnee Fork, I saw Fort Larned only four miles away. It was now sundown, and I heard the evening gun at the fort. The troops of the garrison little dreamed that there was a man flying for his life from the Indians and trying to reach the post. The Indians were once more gaining on me, and when I crossed the Pawnee Fork, two miles from the post, two or three of them were only a quarter of a mile behind me. Just as I had gained the opposite bank of the stream I was overjoyed to see some soldiers in a government wagon, only a short distance off. I yelled at the top of my voice, and riding up to them, told them that the Indians were after me.
Denver Jim, a well-known scout, asked how many there were, and upon my informing him that there were about a dozen, he said: "Let's drive the wagon into the trees, and we'll lay for 'em." The team was hurriedly driven in among the trees and low box-elder bushes, and there secreted.
We did not have to wait long for the Indians, who came dashing up, lashing their horses, which were panting and blowing. We let two of them pass by, but we opened a lively fire on the next three or four, killing two at the first crack. The others following, discovered that they had run into an ambush, and whirling off into the brush they turned and ran back in the direction whence they had come. The two who had passed heard the firing and made their escape. We scalped the two that we had killed, and appropriated their arms and equipments; and then catching their horses, we made our way into the post. The soldiers had heard us firing, and as we were approaching the fort the drums were being beaten, and the buglers were sounding the call to fall in. The officers had thought that Satanta and his Indians were coming in to capture the fort.
It seems that on the morning of that day, two hours after General Hazen had taken his departure, old Satanta drove into the post in an ambulance, which he had received some months before as a present from the government. He appeared to be angry and bent on mischief. In an interview with Captain Parker, the commanding officer, he asked why General Hazen had left the post without supplying the beef cattle which had been promised to him. The Captain told him that the cattle were surely on the road, but he could not explain why they were detained.
The interview proved to be a stormy one, and Satanta made numerous threats, saying that if he wished, he could capture the whole post with his warriors. Captain Parker, who was a brave man, gave Satanta to understand that he was reckoning beyond his powers, and would find it a more difficult undertaking than he had any idea of, as they were prepared for him at any moment. The interview finally terminated, and Satanta angrily left the officers presence. Going over to the sutler's store he sold his ambulance to Mr. Tappan the past trader, and with a portion of the proceeds he secretly managed to secure some whisky from some bad men around the fort. There are always to be found around every frontier post some men who will sell whisky to the Indians at any time and under any circumstances, notwithstanding it is a flagrant violation of both civil and military regulations.