Satanta mounted his horse, and taking the whisky with him, he rode rapidly away and proceeded straight to his village. He had not been gone over an hour, when he returned to the vicinity of the post accompanied by his warriors who came in from every direction, to the number of seven or eight hundred. It was evident that the irate old rascal was "on his ear," so to speak, and it looked as if he intended to carry out his threat of capturing the fort. The garrison at once turned out and prepared to receive the red-skins, who, when within half a mile, circled around the fort and fired numerous shots into it, instead of trying to take it by assault.
While this circular movement was going on, it was observed that the Indian village in the distance was packing up, preparatory to leaving, and it was soon under way. The mounted warriors remained behind some little time, to give their families an opportunity to get away, as they feared that the troops might possibly in some manner intercept them. Finally, they encircled the post several times, fired some farewell rounds, and then galloped away over the prairie to overtake their fast departing village. On their way thither, they surprised and killed a party of wood-choppers down on the Pawnee Fork, as well as some herders who were guarding beef cattle; some seven or eight men in all, were killed, and it was evident that the Indians meant business.
The soldiers with the wagon—whom I had met at the crossing of the Pawnee Fork—had been out for the bodies of the men. Under the circumstances it was no wonder that the garrison, upon hearing the reports of our guns when we fired upon the party whom we ambushed, should have thought the Indians were coming back to give them another "turn."
We found that all was excitement at the post; double guards had been put on duty, and Captain Parker had all the scouts at his headquarters. He was endeavoring to get some one to take some important dispatches to General Sheridan at Fort Hays. I reported to him at once, and stated where I had met the Indians and how I had escaped from them.
"You was very fortunate, Cody, in thinking of that cattle story; but for that little game your hair would now be an ornament to a Kiowa's lodge," said he.
Just then Dick Curtis spoke up and said: "Cody, the Captain is anxious to send some dispatches to General Sheridan, at Fort Hays, and none of the scouts here seem to be very willing to undertake the trip. They say they are not well enough acquainted with the country to find the way at night."
As a storm was coming up it was quite dark, and the scouts feared that they would lose the way; besides it was a dangerous ride, as a large party of Indians were known to be camped on Walnut Creek, on the direct road to Fort Hays. It was evident that Curtis was trying to induce me to volunteer. I made some evasive answer to Curtis, for I did not care to volunteer after my long day's ride. But Curtis did not let the matter drop. Said he:
"I wish, Bill, that you were not so tired by your chase of to-day, for you know the country better than the rest of the boys, and I am certain that you could go through."
"As far as the ride to Fort Hays is concerned, that alone would matter but little to me," I said, "but it is a risky piece of work just now, as the country is full of hostile Indians; still if no other scout is willing to volunteer, I will chance it. I'll go, provided I am furnished with a good horse. I am tired of being chased on a government mule by Indians." At this Captain Nolan, who had been listening to our conversation, said:
"Bill, you may have the best horse in my company. You can take your choice if you will carry these dispatches. Although it is against regulations to dismount an enlisted man, I have no hesitancy in such a case of urgent necessity as this is, in telling you that you may have any horse you may wish."
"Captain, your first sergeant has a splendid horse, and that's the one I want. If he'll let me ride that horse, I'll be ready to start in one hour, storm or no storm," said I.
"Good enough, Bill; you shall have the horse; but are you sure you can find your way on such a dark night as this?"
"I have hunted on nearly every acre of ground between here and Fort Hays, and I can almost keep my route by the bones of the dead buffaloes." I confidently replied.
"Never fear, Captain, about Cody not finding the way; he is as good in the dark as he is in the daylight," said Curtis.
An orderly was sent for the horse, and the animal was soon brought up, although the sergeant "kicked" a little against letting him go. After eating a lunch and filling a canteen with brandy, I went to headquarters and put my own saddle and bridle on the horse I was to ride. I then got the dispatches, and by ten o'clock was on the road to Fort Hays, which was sixty-five miles distant across the country. The scouts had all bidden me a hearty good-bye, and wished me success, not knowing when, if ever, they would again gaze upon "my warlike form," as the poet would say.
It was dark as pitch, but this I rather liked, as there was little probability of any of the red-skins seeing me unless I stumbled upon them accidentally. My greatest danger was that my horse might run into a hole and fall down, and in this way get away from me. To avoid any such accident, I tied one end of my rawhide lariat to the bridle and the other end to my belt. I didn't propose to be left on foot, alone out on the prairie.
It was, indeed, a wise precaution that I had taken, for within the next three miles the horse, sure enough, stepped into a prairie-dog's hole, and down he went, throwing me clear over his head. Springing to his feet, before I could catch hold of the bridle, he galloped away into the darkness; but when he reached the full length of the lariat, he found that he was picketed to Bison William. I brought him up standing, and after finding my gun, which had dropped to the ground, I went up to him and in a moment was in the saddle again, and went on my way rejoicing keeping straight on my course until I came to the ravines leading into Walnut Creek, twenty-five miles from Fort Larned, where the country became rougher, requiring me to travel slower and more carefully, as I feared the horse might fall over the bank, it being difficult to see anything five feet ahead. As a good horse is not very apt to jump over a bank, if left to guide himself, I let mine pick his own way. I was now proceeding as quietly as possible, for I was in the vicinity of a band of Indians who had recently camped in that locality. I thought that I had passed somewhat above the spot, having made a little circuit to the west with that intention; but as bad luck would have it this time, when I came up near the creek I suddenly rode in among a herd of horses. The animals became frightened and ran off in every direction.
I knew at once that I was among Indian horses, and had walked into the wrong pew; so without waiting to apologize, I backed out as quickly as possible. At this moment a dog, not fifty yards away, set up a howl, and then I heard some Indians engaged in conversation;—they were guarding the horses, and had been sleeping. Hearing my horse's retreating footsteps toward the hills, and thus becoming aware that there had been an enemy in their camp, they mounted their steeds and started for me.
I urged my horse to his full speed, taking the chances of his falling into holes, and guided him up the creek bottom. The Indians followed me as fast as they could by the noise I made, but I soon distanced them; and then crossed the creek.
When I had traveled several miles in a straight course, as I supposed, I took out my compass and by the light of a match saw that I was bearing two points to the east of north. At once changing my course to the direct route, I pushed rapidly on through the darkness towards Smoky Hill River. At about three o'clock in the morning I began traveling more cautiously, as I was afraid of running into another band of Indians. Occasionally I scared up a herd of buffaloes or antelopes, or coyotes, or deer, which would frighten my horse for a moment, but with the exception of these slight alarms I got along all right.
After crossing Smoky Hill River, I felt comparatively safe as this was the last stream I had to cross. Riding on to the northward I struck the old Santa Fe trail, ten miles from Fort Hays, just at break of day.
My horse did not seem much fatigued, and being anxious to make good time and get as near the post as possible before it was fairly daylight as there might be bands of Indians camped along Big Creek, I urged him forward as fast as he could go. As I had not "lost" any Indians, I was not now anxious to make their acquaintance, and shortly after reveille rode into the post. I proceeded directly to General Sheridan's headquarters, and, was met at the door, by Colonel Moore, aid-de-camp on General Sheridan's staff who asked me on what business I had come.
"I have dispatches for General Sheridan, and my instructions from Captain Parker, commanding Fort Larned, are that they shall be delivered to the General as soon as possible," said I.
Colonel Moore invited me into one of the offices, and said he would hand the dispatches to t h e General as soon as he got up.
"I prefer to give these dispatches to General Sheridan myself, and at once," was my reply.
The General, who was sleeping in the same building, hearing our voices, called out, "Send the man in with the dispatches." I was ushered into the General's presence, and as we had met before he recognized me and said:
"Hello, Cody, is that you?"
"Yes, sir; I have some dispatches here for you, from Captain Parker," said I, as I handed the package over to him.
He hurriedly read them, and said they were important; and then he asked me all about General Hazen and where he had gone, and about the breaking out of the Kiowas and Comanches. I gave him all the information that I possessed, and related the events and adventures of the previous day and night.
"Bill," said he, "you must have had a pretty lively ride. You certainly had a close call when you ran into the Indians on Walnut Creek. That was a good joke that you played on old Satanta. I suppose you're pretty tired after your long journey?"
"I am rather weary, General, that's a fact, as I have been in the saddle since yesterday morning;" was my reply, "but my horse is more tired than I am, and needs attention full as much if not more," I added. Thereupon the General called an orderly and gave instructions to have my animal well taken care of, and then he said, "Cody, come in and have some breakfast with me."
"No, thank you, General," said I, "Hays City is only a mile from here, and I prefer riding over there, as I know about every one in the town, and want to see some of my friends."
"Very well; do as you please, and come to the post afterwards as I want to see you," said he.
Bidding him good-morning, and telling him that I would return in a few hours, I rode over to Hays City, and at the Perry House I met many of my old friends who were of course all glad to see me. I took some refreshments and a two hours nap, and afterward returned to Fort Hays, as I was requested.
As I rode up to the headquarters I noticed several scouts in a little group, evidently engaged in conversation on some important matter. Upon inquiry I learned that General Sheridan had informed them that he was desirous of sending a dispatch to Fort Dodge, a distance of ninety-five miles.
The Indians had recently killed two or three men while they were carrying dispatches between Fort Hays and Fort Dodge, and on this account none of the scouts seemed at all anxious to volunteer, although a reward of several hundred dollars was offered to any one who would carry the dispatches. They had learned of my experiences of the previous day, and asked me if I did not think it would be a dangerous trip. I gave it as my opinion that a man might possibly go through without seeing an Indian, but that the chances were ten to one that he would have an exceedingly lively run and a hard time before he reached his destination, if he ever got there at all.
Leaving the scouts to decide among themselves as to who was to go, I reported to General Sheridan, who also informed me that he wished some one to carry dispatches to Fort Dodge. While we were talking, his chief of scouts Dick Parr, entered and stated that none of the scouts had yet volunteered. Upon hearing this I got my "brave" up a little, and said:
"General, if there is no one ready to volunteer, I'll carry your dispatches myself."
"I had not thought of asking you to do this duty, Cody, as you are already pretty hard worked. But it is really important that these dispatches should go through," said the General.
"Well, if you don't get a courier by four o'clock this afternoon, I'll be ready for business at that time. All I want is a fresh horse," said I; "meantime I'll take a little more rest."
It was not much of a rest, however, that I got, for I went over to Hays City again and had "a time with the boys." I came back to the post at the appointed hour, and finding that no one had volunteered, I reported to General Sheridan. He had selected an excellent horse for me, and on handing me the dispatches he said:
"You can start as soon as you wish—the sooner the better; and good luck go with you, my boy."
In about an hour afterwards I was on the road, and just before dark I crossed Smoky Hill River. I had not yet urged my horse much, as I was saving his strength for the latter end of the route, and for any run that I might have to make in case the "wild-boys" should "jump" me. So far I had not seen a sign of Indians, and as evening came on I felt comparatively safe.
I had no adventures worth relating during the night, and just before daylight I found myself approaching Saw-log Crossing, on the Pawnee Fork, having then ridden about seventy miles.
A company of colored cavalry, commanded by Major Cox, was stationed at this point, and I approached their camp cautiously, for fear that the pickets might fire upon me—as the darkey soldiers were liable to shoot first and cry "halt" afterwards. When within hearing distance I yelled out at the top of my voice, and was answered by one of the pickets. I told him not to shoot, as I was a scout from Fort Hays; and then, calling the sergeant of the guard, I went up to the vidette of the post, who readily recognized me. I entered the camp and proceeded to the tent of Major Cox, to whom I handed a letter from General Sheridan requesting him to give me a fresh horse. He at once complied with the request.
After I had slept an hour and had eaten a lunch, I again jumped into the saddle, and before sunrise I was once more on the road. It was twenty-five miles to Fort Dodge, and I arrived there between nine and ten o'clock, without having seen a single Indian.
After delivering the dispatches to the commanding officer, I met Johnny Austin, chief of scouts at this post, who was an old friend of mine. Upon his invitation I took a nap at his house, and when I awoke, fresh for business once more, he informed me that the Indians had been all around the post for the past two or three days, running off cattle and horses, and occasionally killing a stray man. It was a wonder to him that I had met with none of the red-skins on the way there. The Indians, he said, were also very thick on the Arkansas River, between Fort Dodge and Fort Larned, and making considerable trouble. Fort Dodge was located sixty-five miles west of Fort Larned, the latter post being on the Pawnee Fork, about five miles from its junction with the Arkansas River.
The commanding officer at Fort Dodge was anxious to send some dispatches to Fort Larned, but the scouts, like those at Fort Hays, were rather backward about volunteering, as it was considered a very dangerous undertaking to make the trip. As Fort Larned was my post, and as I wanted to go there anyhow, I said to Austin that I would carry the dispatches, and if any of the boys wished to go along, I would like to have them for company's sake. Austin reported my offer to the commanding officer, who sent for me and said he would be happy to have me take his dispatches, if I could stand the trip on top of all that I had already done.
"All I want is a good fresh horse, sir," said I.
"I am sorry to say that we haven't a decent horse here, but we have a reliable and honest government mule, if that will do you," said the officer.
"Trot out your mule," said I, "that's good enough for me. I am ready at any time, sir."
The mule was forthcoming, and at dark I pulled out for Fort Larned, and proceeded uninterruptedly to Coon Creek, thirty miles out from Dodge. I had left the main wagon road some distance to the south, and had traveled parallel with it, thinking this to be a safer course, as the Indians might be lying in wait on the main road for dispatch bearers and scouts.
At Coon Creek I dismounted and led the mule by the bridle down to the water, where I took a drink, using my hat for a dipper. While I was engaged in getting the water, the mule jerked loose and struck out down the creek. I followed him in hopes that he would catch his foot in the bridle rein and stop, but this he seemed to have no idea of doing. He was making straight for the wagon road, and I did not know what minute he might run into a band of Indians. He finally got on the road, but instead of going back toward Fort Dodge, as I naturally expected he would do, he turned eastward toward Fort Larned, and kept up a little jog trot just ahead of me, but would not let me come up to him, although I tried it again and again. I had my gun in my hand, and several times I was strongly tempted to shoot him, and would probably have done so had it not been for fear of bringing Indians down upon me, and besides he was carrying the saddle for me. So I trudged on after the obstinate "critter," and if there ever was a government mule that deserved and received a good round cursing it was that one. I had neglected the precaution of tying one end of my lariat to his bit and the other to my belt, as I had done a few nights before, and I blamed myself for this gross piece of negligence.
Mile after mile I kept on after that mule, and every once in a while I indulged in strong language respecting the whole mule fraternity. From Coon Creek to Fort Larned it was thirty-five miles, and I finally concluded that my prospects were good for "hoofing" the whole distance. We—that is to say, the confounded mule and myself—were making pretty good time. There was nothing to hold the mule, and I was all the time trying to catch him—which urged him on. I made every step count, for I wanted to reach Fort Larned before daylight, in order to avoid if possible the Indians, to whom it would have been "pie" to have caught me there on foot.
The mule stuck to the road and kept on for Larned, and I did the same thing. Just as day was beginning to break, we—that is the mule and myself—found ourselves on a hill looking down into the valley of the Pawnee Fork, in which Fort Larned was located, only four miles away; and when the morning gun belched forth we were within half a mile of the post.
"Now," said I, "Mr. Mule, it is my turn," and raising my gun to my shoulder, in "dead earnest" this time, I blazed away, hitting the animal in the hip. Throwing a second cartridge into the gun, I let him have another shot, and I continued to pour the lead into him until I had him completely laid out. Like the great majority of government mules, he was a tough one to kill, and he clung to life with all the tenaciousness of his obstinate nature. He was, without doubt, the toughest and meanest mule I ever saw, and he died hard.
The troops, hearing the reports of the gun, came rushing out to see what was the matter. They found that the mule had passed in his chips, and when they learned the cause they all agreed that I had served him just right. Taking the saddle and bridle from the dead body, I proceeded into the post and delivered the dispatches to Captain Parker. I then went over to Dick Curtis' house, which was headquarters for the scouts, and there put in several hours of solid sleep.
During the day General Hazen returned from Fort Harker, and he also had some important dispatches to send to General Sheridan. I was feeling quite elated over my big ride; and seeing that I was getting the best of the other scouts in regard to making a record, I volunteered to carry General Hazen's dispatches to Fort Hays. The General accepted my services, although he thought it was unnecessary for me to kill myself. I told him that I had business at Fort Hays, and wished to go there anyway, and it would make no difference to the other scouts, for none of them appeared willing to undertake the trip.
Accordingly, that night I left Fort Larned on an excellent horse, and next morning at daylight found myself once more in General Sheridan's headquarters at Fort Hays. The General was surprised to see me, and still more so when I told him of the time I had made in riding to Fort Dodge, and that I had taken dispatches from Fort Dodge to Fort Larned; and when, in addition to this, I mentioned my journey of the night previous, General Sheridan thought my ride from post to post, taken as a whole, was a remarkable one, and he said that he did not know of its equal. I can safely say that I have never heard of its being beaten in a country infested with hostile Indians.
To recapitulate: I had ridden from Fort Larned to Fort Zarah (a distance of sixty-five miles) and back in twelve hours, including the time when I was taken across the Arkansas by the Indians. In the succeeding twelve hours I had gone from Fort Larned to Fort Hays, a distance of sixty-five miles. In the next twenty-four hours I had gone from Fort Hays to Fort Dodge, a distance of ninety-five miles. The following night I had traveled from Fort Dodge thirty miles on muleback and thirty-five miles on foot to Fort Larned; and the next night sixty-five miles more to Fort Hays. Altogether I had ridden (and walked) 355 miles in fifty-eight riding hours, or an average of over six miles an hour. Of course, this may not be regarded as very fast riding, but taking into consideration the fact that it was mostly done in the night and over a wild country, with no roads to follow, and that I had to be continually on the look out for Indians, it was thought at the time to be a big ride, as well as a most dangerous one.
General Sheridan highly complimented me for what I had done, and informed me that I need not report back to General Hazen, as he had more important work for me to do. He told me that the Fifth Cavalry—one of the finest regiments in the army—was on its way to the Department of the Missouri, and that he was going to send it on an expedition against the Dog Soldier Indians, who were infesting the Republican River region.
"Cody," continued he, "I have decided to appoint you as guide and chief of scouts with the command. How does that suit you?"
"First-rate, General, and I thank you for the honor," I replied, as gracefully as I knew how.
The Dog Soldier Indians were a band of Cheyennes and unruly, turbulent members of other tribes, who would not enter into any treaty, or keep a treaty if they made one, and who had always refused to go upon a reservation. They were a warlike body of well-built, daring and restless braves, and were determined to hold possession of the country in the vicinity of the Republican and Solomon Rivers. They were called "Dog Soldiers" because they were principally Cheyennes—a name derived from the French chien, a dog.
After my conversation with the General, I went over to Hays City, where I met some of General Forsyth's scouts, who had just returned from one of the severest battles ever fought with the Indians. As it will not be out of place in this connection, I will here give a brief history of that memorable event.
The Indians had become quite troublesome, and General Sheridan had selected General George A. Forsyth to go out on an expedition, and punish them for their recent depredations. There was a scarcity of troops at Fort Hays at that time, so General Forsyth recruited a company of frontiersmen who could move rapidly, as they were to carry no luggage, and were to travel without the ordinary transportation. Thirty of these frontiersmen came from Fort Harker, and twenty from Fort Hays. It was certainly a small body of men, but nearly every one of them was an experienced hunter, guide, scout and Indian-fighter, and they could fight the red-skins in their own way.
In four days they were prepared to take the field, and on the morning of the 29th of August, 1868, they rode out of Fort Hays to meet the Indians. Lieutenant F.H. Beecher, of the Third Infantry, nephew of Henry Ward Beecher, was second in command; Brevet Major-General W.H.H. McCall, who had been in the volunteer army, acted as first sergeant; Dr. John Mowers, of Hays City, who had been a volunteer army surgeon, was the surgeon of the expedition; and Sharpe Grover was the chief guide.
Resting at Fort Wallace, they started September 10th, for the town of Sheridan, thirteen miles distant, where a band of Indians had attacked a train, killed two teamsters, and stolen some cattle. Arriving at Sheridan they easily found the Indian trail, and followed it for some distance. On the eighth day out from Fort Wallace, the command went into camp late in the afternoon, on the Arickaree, which was then not more than eight or nine feet wide at that point, and only two or three inches deep. It was evident to the men that they were not far from the Indians, and it was decided that the next day they would find them and give them a fight.
Early next morning, September 19th, the cry of "Indians" startled the command. Every man jumped for his horse. A half-dozen red-skins, yelling and whooping and making a hideous racket, and firing their guns, rode up and attempted to stampede the horses, several of which, together with the four pack-mules, were so frightened that they broke loose and got away. The Indians then rode off, followed by a few shots. In a minute afterwards, hundreds of Indian warriors—it was estimated that there were nearly one thousand—came galloping down upon the command from every quarter, completely hemming them in.
Acting under the order of General Forsyth, the men retreated to a small island, tied their horses in a circle to the bushes, and then, throwing themselves upon the ground, they began the defense by firing at the approaching enemy, who came pretty close and gave them a raking fire. The besieged scouts at the first opportunity threw up a small breastwork with their knives. The firing, however, continued back and forth, and early in the fight Forsyth was twice seriously wounded—once in the right thigh, and once in the left leg. Dr. Mowers was also wounded in the head, and soon died. Two other men had been killed, and several wounded. All the horses of the command were killed by nine o'clock in the morning.
Shortly afterwards over three hundred Dog-Soldier Indians commanded by old "Roman Nose," charged down upon the little band of heroes, giving them volley after volley; but finally the scouts, at a favorable opportunity, returned their fire with telling effect. "Roman Nose" and "Medicine Man" were killed, and fell from their horses when within less than one rod of the scouts, who thereupon sent up a triumphant shout. The charging braves now weakened, and in a few moments they were driven back. It was a brilliant charge, and was most nobly and bravely repulsed. The scouts had again suffered severely, having several men wounded, among the number being Lieutenant Beecher who died that night. The Indians, too, had had quite a number killed, several of whom had fallen close to the earthworks. The dismounted Indian warriors still continued firing, but as the scouts had thrown up their intrenchments sufficiently to protect themselves by closely hugging the ground, little or no damage was done.
A second charge was made by the mounted Indians about two o'clock in the afternoon, and they were again repulsed with a severe loss. Darkness finally came on, and then ensued a cessation of hostilities. Two of the scouts had been killed, four fatally wounded, and fourteen others were wounded more or less severely. There were just twenty-eight able-bodied men left out of the fifty. The supplies had run out, and as Dr. Mowers had been mortally wounded and the medical stores captured, the wounded men could not be properly cared for.
Although they were entirely surrounded, and one hundred and ten miles from the nearest post, the men did not despair. They had an abundance of ammunition, plenty of water, under ground only a short distance, and for food they had their horses and mules. At night two of the scouts, Tradeau and Stillwell, stole through the lines of the Indians, and started swiftly for Fort Wallace to obtain relief. It was a dangerous undertaking, but they were brave and experienced scouts. Stillwell was only nineteen or twenty years old, but he was, in every sense of the word, a thoroughbred frontiersman.
During the night the besieged scouts threw up their breastworks considerably higher and piled the dead animals on top. They dug down to water, and also stored away a lot of horse and mule meat in the sand to keep it fresh as long as possible. The Indians renewed their firing next morning, and kept it up all day, doing but little injury, however, as the scouts were now well entrenched; but many an Indian was sent to his happy hunting ground.
Night came again, and the prospects were indeed gloomy. An attempt was made by two more of the scouts to creep through the Indian lines, but they were detected by the enemy and had to return to their comrades. The next morning the Indians renewed hostilities as usual. Their women and children began to disappear about noon, and then the Indians tried to draw the scouts out by displaying a white flag for a truce. They appeared to want to have a talk with General Forsyth, but as their treachery was well-known, the scouts did not fall into this trap. The Indians had apparently become tired of fighting, especially as they found that they had a most stubborn foe to deal with.
Night once more threw its mantle over the scene, and under the cover of the darkness Donovan and Plyley, two of the best scouts, stealthily made their way out of the camp, and started for Fort Wallace with a dispatch from General Forsyth, who gave a brief summary of the situation, and stated that if necessary he could hold out for six days longer.
When the day dawned again, only a small number of warriors could be seen, and they probably remained to watch, the scouts and keep them corraled. The uninjured men attended to the wounded as well as they could under the adverse circumstances, but from want of proper treatment, evidences of gangrene appeared in some of the wounds on the sixth day. The mule and horse meat became totally unfit for use, but they had nothing else to eat, and had to eat it or starve. Under these trying circumstances the General told the men that any who wished to go might do so, and take their chances; but they all resolved to remain, and die together, if need be.
Relief came at last. Tradeau and Stillwell had safely reached Fort Wallace, and on the morning of the 25th of September, Colonel Carpenter and a detachment of cavalry arrived with supplies. This assistance to the besieged and starving scouts came like a vessel to ship-wrecked men drifting and starving on a raft in mid-ocean.
It was with the survivors of this terrible fight that I spent the few days at Hays City, prior to the arrival of the Fifth Cavalry.
On the third day of October the Fifth Cavalry arrived at Fort Hays, and I at once began making the acquaintance of the different officers of the regiment. I was introduced by General Sheridan to Colonel William Royal, who was in command of the regiment. He was a gallant officer, and an agreeable and pleasant gentleman. He is now stationed at Omaha as Inspector General in the department of the Platte. I also became acquainted with Major W.H. Brown, Major Walker. Captain Sweetman, Quartermaster E.M. Hays, and in fact all the officers of the regiment.
General Sheridan, being anxious to punish the Indians who had lately fought General Forsyth, did not give the regiment much of a rest, and accordingly on the 5th of October it began its march for the Beaver Creek country. The first night we camped on the South fork of Big Creek, four miles west of Hays City. By this time I had become pretty well acquainted with Major Brown and Captain Sweetman, who invited me to mess with them on this expedition; and a jolly mess we had. There were other scouts in the command besides myself, and I particularly remember Tom Renahan, Hank Fields and a character called "Nosey" on account of his long nose.
On the morning of the 6th we pulled out to the north, and during the day I was very favorably struck with the appearance of the regiment. It was a beautiful command, and when strung out on the prairie with a train of seventy-five six-mule wagons, ambulances and pack mules, I felt very proud of my position as guide and chief of scouts of such a warlike expedition.
Just as we were about to go into camp on the Saline river that night, we ran on to a band of about fifteen Indians, who, seeing us, dashed across the creek, followed by some bullets which we sent after them; but as the small band proved to be a scouting party, we pursued them only a mile or two, when our attention was directed to a herd of buffaloes—they being very plenty—and we succeeded in killing ten or fifteen for the command.
The next day we marched thirty miles, and late in the afternoon we went into camp on the South fork of the Solomon. At this encampment Colonel Royal asked me to go out and kill some buffaloes for the boys.
"All right, Colonel, send along a wagon or two to bring in the meat," I said.
"I am not in the habit of sending out my wagons until I know that there is something to be hauled in; kill your buffalo first and then I'll send out the wagons," was the Colonel's reply. I said no more, but went out on a hunt, and after a short absence returned and asked the Colonel to send his wagons over the hill for the half dozen buffaloes I had killed.
The following afternoon he again requested me to go out and get some fresh buffalo meat. I didn't ask him for any wagons this time, but rode out some distance, and coming up with a small herd, I managed to get seven of them headed straight for the encampment, and instead of shooting them just then, I ran them at full speed right into the camp, and then killed them all, one after the other in rapid succession. Colonel Royal witnessed the whole proceeding, which puzzled him somewhat, as he could see no reason why I had not killed them on the prairie. He came up, rather angrily, and demanded an explanation. "I can't allow any such business as this, Cody," said he, "what do you mean by it?"
"I didn't care about asking for any wagons this time, Colonel; so I thought I would make the buffaloes furnish their own transportation," was my reply. The Colonel saw the point in a moment, and had no more to say on the subject.
No Indians had been seen in the vicinity during the day, and Colonel Royal having carefully posted his pickets, supposed everything was serene for the night. But before morning we were roused from our slumbers by hearing shots fired, and immediately afterwards one of the mounted pickets came galloping into camp, saying that there were Indians close at hand. The companies all fell into line, and were soon prepared and anxious to give the red-skins battle; but as the men were yet new in the Indian country a great many of them were considerably excited. No Indians, however, made their appearance, and upon going to the picket-post where the picket said he had seen them, none could be found nor could any traces of them be discovered. The sentinel,—who was an Irishman—insisted that there certainly had been red-skins there.
"But you must be mistaken," said Colonel Royal.
"Upon me sowl, Colonel, I'm not; as shure ez me name's Pat Maloney, one of thim rid divils hit me on the head wid a club, so he did," said Pat; and so, when morning came, the mystery was further investigated and was easily solved. Elk tracks were found in the vicinity and it was undoubtedly a herd of elks that had frightened Pat; as he had turned to run, he had gone under a limb of a tree, against which he hit his head, and supposed he had been struck by a club in the hands of an Indian. It was hard to convince Pat however, of the truth.
A three days uninteresting march brought us to Beaver Creek where we camped and from which point scouting parties were sent out in different directions. Neither of these parties discovering Indians they all returned to camp about the same time, finding it in a state of great excitement, it having been attacked a few hours previous by a party of Indians, who had succeeded in killing two men and in making off with sixty horses belonging to Co. H.
That evening the command started on the trail of these Indian horse-thieves; Major Brown with two companies and three days rations pushing ahead in advance of the main command. Being unsuccessful, however, in overtaking the Indians, and getting nearly out of provisions—it being our eighteenth day out, the entire command marched towards the nearest railroad point, and camped on the Saline River; distant three miles from Buffalo Tank.
While waiting for supplies we received a new commanding officer, Brevet Major-General E.A. Carr, who was the senior major of the regiment, and who ranked Colonel Royal. He brought with him the now celebrated Forsyth scouts, who were commanded by Lieutenant Pepoon, a regular army officer.
It was also while waiting in this camp that Major Brown received a new lieutenant to fill a vacancy in his company. On the day that this officer was to arrive, Major Brown had his private ambulance brought out, and invited me to accompany him to the railroad station to meet his lieutenant, whose name was A.B. Bache. He proved to be a fine gentleman, and a brave, dashing officer. On the way to the depot Major Brown had said, "Now, Cody, when we come back we'll give Bache a lively ride and shake him up a little."
Major Brown was a jolly good fellow, but sometimes he would get "a little off," and as this was one of his "off days" he was bound to amuse himself in some original and mischievous way. Reaching the depot just as the train came in, we easily found the Lieutenant, and giving him the back seat in the ambulance we were soon headed for camp.
Pretty soon Major Brown took the reins from his driver, and at once began whipping the mules. After getting them into a lively gallop he pulled out his revolver and fired several shots. The road was terribly rough and the night was so dark that we could hardly see where we were going. It Was a wonderful piece of luck that we were not tipped over and our necks broken. Finally Bache said, good-humoredly:
"Is this the way you break in all your Lieutenants, Major?"
"Oh, no; I don't do this as a regular thing, but it's the way we frequently ride in this country," said the Major; "just keep your seat, Mr. Bache, and we'll take you through on time." The Major appropriated the reply of the old California stage driver, Hank Monk, to Horace Greely.
We were now rattling down a steep hill at full speed, and just as we reached the bottom, the front wheels struck a deep ditch over which the mules had jumped. We were all brought up standing by the sudden stoppage of the ambulance. Major Brown and myself were nearly pitched out on the wheels, while the Lieutenant came flying headlong from the back seat to the front of the vehicle.
"Take a back seat, Lieutenant," coolly said Major Brown.
"Major, I have just left that seat," said Bache.
We soon lifted the wagon out of the ditch, and then resumed our drive, running into camp under full headway, and creating considerable amusement. Every one recognized the ambulance and knew at once that Major Brown and I were out on a "lark," and therefore there was not much said about our exploit. Halting with a grand flourish in front of his tent, Major Brown jumped out in his most gallant style and politely asked his lieutenant in. A very pleasant evening was spent there, quite a number of the officers calling to make the acquaintance of the new officer, who entertained the visitors with an amusing account of the ride from the depot.
Next morning at an early hour, the command started out on a hunt for Indians. General Carr having a pretty good idea where he would be most likely to find them, directed me to guide him by the nearest route to Elephant Rock on Beaver Creek.
Upon arriving at the south fork of the Beaver on the second day's march, we discovered a large, fresh Indian trail which we hurriedly followed for a distance of eight miles, when suddenly we saw on the bluffs ahead of us, quite a large number of Indians.
General Carr ordered Lieutenant Pepoon's scouts and Company M to the front. This company was commanded by Lieutenant Schinosky, a Frenchman by birth and a reckless dare-devil by nature, who was anxious to have a hair-lifting match. Having advanced his company nearly a mile ahead of the main command, about four hundred Indians suddenly charged down upon him and gave him a lively little fight, until he was supported by our full force.
The Indians kept increasing in numbers all the while until it was estimated that we were fighting from eight hundred to one thousand of them. The engagement became quite general, and several were killed and wounded on each side. The Indians were evidently fighting to give their families and village, a chance to get away. We had undoubtedly surprised them with a larger force than they had expected to see in that part of the country. We fought them until dark, all the time driving them before us. At night they annoyed us considerably by firing down into our camp from the higher hills, and several times the command was ordered out to dislodge them from their position and drive them back.
After having returned from one of these little sallies, Major Brown, Captain Sweetman, Lieutenant Bache and myself were taking supper together, when "whang!" came a bullet into Lieutenant Bache's plate, breaking a hole through it. The bullet came from the gun of one of the Indians, who had returned to the high bluff over-looking our camp. Major Brown declared it was a crack shot, because it broke the plate. We finished our supper without having any more such close calls.
At daylight next morning we struck out on the trail, and soon came to the spot where the Indians had camped the day before. We could see that their village was a very large one, consisting of about five hundred lodges; and we pushed forward rapidly from this point on the trail which ran back toward Prairie Dog Creek.
About two o'clock we came in sight of the retreating village, and soon the warriors turned back to give us battle. They set fire to the prairie grass in front of us, and on all sides, in order to delay us as much as possible. We kept up a running fight for the remainder of the afternoon, and the Indians repeatedly attempted to lead us off the track of their flying village, but their trail was easily followed, as they were continually dropping tepee poles, camp kettles, robes, furs and all heavy articles belonging to them. They were evidently scattering, and it finally became difficult for us to keep on the main trail. When darkness set in, we went into camp, it being useless to try to follow the Indians after nightfall.
Next morning we were again on the trail, which led north, and back towards the Beaver Creek, which stream it crossed within a few miles of the spot where we had first discovered the Indians, they having made nearly a complete circle, in hopes of misleading us. Late in the afternoon, we again saw them going over a hill far ahead of us, and towards evening the main body of warriors came back and fought us once more; but we continued to drive them until darkness set in, when we camped for the night.
The Indians soon scattered in every direction, but we followed the main trail to the Republican river, where we made a cut-off, and then went north towards the Platte river. We found, however, that the Indians by traveling night and day had got a long start, and the General concluded that it was useless to follow them any further, as we had pushed them so hard, and given them such a scare that they would leave the Republican country and go north across the Union Pacific railroad. Most of the Indians, as he had predicted, did cross the Platte river, near Ogallala, on the Union Pacific, and thence continued northward.
That night we returned to the Republican river and camped in a grove of cottonwoods, which I named Carr's Grove, in honor of the commanding officer.
The General told me that the next day's march would be towards the head-waters of the Beaver, and he asked me the distance. I replied that it was about twenty-five miles, and he said we would make it the next day. Getting an early start in the morning, we struck out across the prairie, my position as guide being ahead of the advance guard. About two o'clock General Carr overtook me, and asked how far I supposed it was to water. I thought it was about eight miles, although we could see no sign or indication of any stream in our front.
"Pepoon's scouts say that you are going in the wrong direction," said the General, "and in the way you are bearing it will be fifteen miles before you can strike any of the branches of the Beaver; and that when you do, you will find no water, for the Beavers are dry at this time of the year at that point."
"General, I think the scouts are mistaken," said I, "for the Beaver has more water near its head than it has below; and at the place where we will strike the stream we will find immense beaver dams, large enough and strong enough to cross the whole command, if you wish."
"Well, Cody, go ahead," said he, "I'll leave it to you, but remember that I don't want a dry camp."
"No danger of that," said I, and then I rode on, leaving him to return to the command. As I had predicted, we found water seven or eight miles further on, where we came upon a beautiful little stream—a tributary of the Beaver—hidden in the hills. We had no difficulty in selecting a good halting place, and obtaining fresh spring water and excellent grass. The General, upon learning from me that the stream—which was only eight or nine miles long—had no name, took out his map and located it, and named it Cody's Creek, which name it still bears.
We pulled out early next morning for the Beaver, and when we were approaching the stream I rode on ahead of the advance guard, in order to find a crossing. Just as I turned a bend of the creek, "bang!" went a shot, and down went my horse—myself with him. I disentangled myself, and jumped behind the dead body. Looking in the direction whence the shot had come, I saw two Indians, and at once turned my gun loose on them, but in the excitement of the moment I missed my aim. They fired two or three more shots, and I returned the compliment, wounding one of their horses.
On the opposite side of the creek, going over the hill, I observed a few lodges moving rapidly away, and also some mounted warriors, who could see me, and who kept blazing away with their guns. The two Indians who had fired at me and had killed my horse were retreating across the creek on a beaver dam. I sent a few shots after them to accelerate their speed, and also fired at the ones on the other side of the stream. I was undecided as to whether it was best to run back to the command on foot or hold my position. I knew that within a few minutes the troops would come up, and if they heard the firing they would come rapidly.
The Indians, seeing that I was alone, turned and charged down the hill, and were about to re-cross the creek to corral me, when the advance guard of the command put in an appearance on the ridge, and dashed forward to my rescue. The red-skins whirled and made off.
When General Carr came up, he ordered Company I to go in pursuit of the band. I accompanied Lieutenant Brady, who commanded, and we had a running fight with the Indians, lasting several hours. We captured several head of their horses and most of their lodges. At night we returned to the command, which by this time had crossed the creek on the beaver dam.
We scouted for several days along the river, and had two or three lively skirmishes. Finally our supplies began to run low, and General Carr gave orders to return to Fort Wallace, which we reached three days afterwards, and where we remained several days.
While the regiment was waiting here for orders, I spent most of the time in hunting buffaloes, and one day while I was out with a small party, we were "jumped" by about fifty Indians. We had a severe fight of at least an hour, when we succeeded in driving the enemy. They lost four of their warriors, and probably concluded that we were a hard crowd. I had some excellent marksmen with me, and they did some fine work, sending the bullets thick and fast where they would do the most good. Two or three of our horses had been hit, and one man had been wounded; we were ready and willing to stay with the red-skins as long as they wished—but they finally gave it up however, as a bad job, and rode off. We finished our hunt, and went back to the post loaded down with plenty of buffalo meat, and received the compliments of the General for our little fight.
A TOUGH TIME.
General Carr soon received orders from General Sheridan that he was to make a winter's campaign in the Canadian river country, and that we were to proceed to Fort Lyon, on the Arkansas river, in Colorado, and there fit out for the expedition. Leaving Fort Wallace in November, 1868, we arrived at Fort Lyon in the latter part of the month, and outfitted for the coming expedition.
General Penrose had left this post three weeks previously with a command of some three hundred men. He had taken no wagons with him and his supply train was composed only of pack mules. General Carr was ordered to follow with supplies on his trail and overtake him as soon as possible. I was particularly anxious to catch up with Penrose's command, as my old friend Wild Bill was among his scouts. We followed the trail very easily for the first three days, and then we were caught in Freeze-Out canyon by a fearful snow storm, which compelled us to go into camp for a day. The ground now being covered with snow, we found that it would be almost impossible to follow Penrose's trail any further, especially as he had left no sign to indicate the direction he was going. General Carr sent for me and said that as it was very important that we should not lose the trail, he wished that I would take some scouts with me, and while the command remained in camp, push on as far as possible and see if I could not discover some traces of Penrose or where he had camped at any time.
Accompanied by four men I started out in the blinding snow storm, taking a southerly direction. We rode twenty-four miles, and upon reaching a tributary of the Cimarron, we scouted up and down the stream for a few miles and finally found one of Penrose's old camps. It was now late in the afternoon, and as the command would come up the next day, it was not necessary for all of us to return with the information to General Carr. So riding down into a sheltered place in a bend of the creek, we built a fire and broiled some venison from a deer which we had shot during the day, and after eating a substantial meal, I left the four men there, while I returned to bring up the troops.
It was eleven o'clock at night when I got back to the camp. A light was still burning in the General's tent, he having remained awake, anxiously awaiting my return. He was glad to see me, and was overjoyed at the information I brought, for he had great fears concerning the safety of General Penrose. He roused up his cook and ordered him to get me a good hot supper, all of which I greatly appreciated. I passed the night in the General's tent, and next morning rose refreshed and prepared for a big day's work.
The command took up its march next day for the Cimarron, and had a hard tramp of it on account of the snow having drifted to a great depth in many of the ravines, and in some places the teamsters had to shovel their way through. We arrived at the Cimarron at sundown, and went into a nice warm camp. Upon looking around next morning, we found that Penrose, having been unencumbered by wagons, had kept on the west side of the Cimarron, and the country was so rough that it was impossible for us to stay on his trail with our wagons; but knowing that he would certainly follow down the river, General Carr concluded to take the best wagon route along the stream, which I discovered to be on the east side. Before we could make any headway with our wagon train we had to leave the river and get out on the divide. We were very fortunate that day in finding a splendid road for some distance, until we were all at once brought up standing on a high table-land, overlooking a beautiful winding creek that lay far below us in the valley. The question that troubled us, was, how we were to get the wagons down. We were now in the foot-hills of the Rattoon Mountains, and the bluff we were on was very steep.
"Cody, we're in a nice fix now," said General Carr.
"Oh, that's nothing," was my reply.
"But you can never take the train down," said he.
"Never you mind the train, General. You say you are looking for a good camp. How does that beautiful spot down in the valley suit you?" I asked him.
"That will do. I can easily descend with the cavalry, but how to get the wagons down there is a puzzler to me," said he.
"By the time you've located your camp, your wagons shall be there," said I.
"All right, Cody, I'll leave it to you, as you seem to want to be boss," replied he pleasantly. He at once ordered the command to dismount and lead the horses down the mountain-side. The wagon train was a mile in the rear, and when it came up, one of the drivers asked: "How are we going down there?"
"Run down, slide down or fall down—any way to get down," said I.
"We never can do it; it's too steep; the wagons will run over the mules," said another wagon-master.
"I guess not; the mules have got to keep out of the way," was my reply.
Telling Wilson, the chief wagon-master, to bring on his mess-wagon, which was at the head of the train, I said I would try the experiment at least. Wilson drove the team and wagon to the brink of the hill, and following my directions he brought out some extra chains with which we locked both wheels on each side, and then rough-locked them. We then started the wagon down the hill. The wheel-horses—or rather the wheel-mules—were good on the hold-back, and we got along finely until we nearly reached the bottom, when the wagon crowded the mules so hard that they started on a run and galloped down into the valley and to the place where General Carr had located his camp. Three other wagons immediately followed in the same way, and in half an hour every wagon was in camp, without the least accident having occurred. It was indeed an exciting sight to see the six-mule teams come straight down the mountain and finally break into a full run. At times it looked as if the wagons would turn a somersault and land on the mules.
This proved to be a lucky march for us as far as gaining on Penrose was concerned, for the route he had taken on the west side of the stream turned out to be a bad one, and we went with our immense wagon train as far in one day as Penrose had in seven. His command had marched on to a plateau or high table-land so steep, that not even a pack mule could descend it, and he was obliged to retrace his steps a long ways, thus losing three days time as we afterwards learned.
While in this camp we had a lively turkey hunt. The trees along the banks of the stream were literally alive with wild turkeys, and after unsaddling the horses between two and three hundred soldiers surrounded a grove of timber and had a grand turkey round-up, killing four or five hundred of the birds, with guns, clubs and stones. Of course, we had turkey in every style after this hunt—roast turkey, boiled turkey, fried turkey, "turkey on toast," and so on; and we appropriately called this place Camp Turkey.
From this point on, for several days, we had no trouble in following Penrose's trail, which led us in a southeasterly direction towards the Canadian River. No Indians were seen, nor any signs of them found. One day, while riding in advance of the command, down San Francisco Creek, I heard some one calling my name from a little bunch of willow brush on the opposite bank, and, upon looking closely at the spot, I saw a negro.
"Sakes alive! Massa Bill, am dat you?" asked the man, whom I recognized as one of the colored soldiers of the Tenth Cavalry. I next heard him say to some one in the brush: "Come out o' heah. Dar's Massa Buffalo Bill." Then he sang out, "Massa Bill, is you got any hawd tack?"
"Nary a hard tack; but the wagons will be along presently, and then you can get all you want," said I.
"Dat's de best news I'se heerd foah sixteen long days, Massa Bill," said he. "Where's your command? Where's General Penrose?" I asked.
"I dunno," said the darkey; "we got lost, and we's been a starvin' eber since."
By this time two other negroes had emerged from their place of concealment. They had deserted Penrose's command—which was out of rations and nearly in a starving condition—and were trying to make their way back to Fort Lyon. General Carr concluded, from what they could tell him, that General Penrose was somewhere on Polladora Creek; but we could not learn anything definite from the starved "mokes," for they knew not where they were themselves.
Having learned that General Penrose's troops were in such bad shape, General Carr ordered Major Brown to start out the next morning with two companies of cavalry and fifty pack-mules loaded with provisions, and to make all possible speed to reach and relieve the suffering soldiers. I accompanied this detachment, and on the third day out we found the half-famished soldiers camped on the Polladora. The camp presented a pitiful sight, indeed. For over two weeks the men had had only quarter rations, and were now nearly starved to death. Over two hundred horses and mules were lying dead, having died from fatigue and starvation. General Penrose, having feared that General Carr would not find him, had sent back a company of the Seventh Cavalry to Fort Lyon for supplies; but no word as yet had been heard from them. The rations which Major Brown brought to the command came none too soon, and were the means of saving many a life.
About the first man I saw after reaching the camp was my old, true and tried friend, Wild Bill. That night we had a jolly reunion around the camp-fires.
General Carr, upon arriving with his force, took command of all the troops, he being the senior officer and ranking General Penrose. After selecting a good camp, he unloaded the wagons and sent them back to Fort Lyon for fresh supplies. He then picked out five hundred of the best men and horses, and, taking his pack-train with him, he started south for the Canadian River, distant about forty miles, leaving the rest of the troops at the supply camp.
I was ordered to accompany this expedition. We struck the south fork of the Canadian River, or Rio Colorado, at a point a few miles above the old adobe walls, which at one time had composed a fort, and was the place where Kit Carson once had a big Indian fight. We were now within twelve miles of a new supply depot, called Camp Evans, which had been established for the Third Cavalry and Evans's Expedition from New Mexico. The scouts who had brought in this information also reported that they expected the arrival at Camp Evans of a bull-train from New Mexico with a large quantity of beer for the soldiers. This news was "pie" for Wild Bill and myself, and we determined to lie low for that beer outfit. That very evening it came along, and the beer that was destined for the soldiers at Camp Evans never reached its destination. It went straight down the thirsty throats of General Carr's command. It appears that the Mexicans living near Fort Union had manufactured the beer, and were taking it through to Camp Evans to sell to the troops, but it struck a lively market without going so far. It was sold to our boys in pint cups, and as the weather was very cold we warmed the beer by putting the ends of our picket-pins heated red-hot into the cups. The result was one of the biggest beer jollifications I ever had the misfortune to attend.
One evening General Carr summoned me to his tent, and said he wished to send some scouts with dispatches to Camp Supply, which were to be forwarded from there to Sheridan. He ordered me to call the scouts together at once at his headquarters, and select the men who were to go. I asked him if I should not go myself, but he replied that he wished me to remain with the command, as he could not spare me. The distance to Camp Supply was about two hundred miles, and owing to the very cold weather it was anything but a pleasant trip. Consequently none of the scouts were anxious to undertake it. It was finally settled, however, that Wild Bill, a half-breed called Little Geary, and three other scouts should carry the dispatches, and they accordingly took their departure next day, with instructions to return to the command as soon as possible.
For several days we scouted along the Canadian River, but found no signs of Indians. General Carr then went back to his camp, and soon afterwards our wagon train came in from Fort Lyon with a fresh load of provisions. Our animals being in poor condition, we remained in different camps along San Francisco Creek and the north fork of the Canadian, until Wild Bill and his scouts returned from Camp Supply.
Among the scouts of Penrose's command were fifteen Mexicans, and between them and the American scouts there had existed a feud; when General Carr took command of the expedition—uniting it with his own—and I was made chief of all the scouts, this feud grew more intense, and the Mexicans often threatened to clean us out; but they postponed the undertaking from time to time, until one day, while we were all at the sutler's store, the long-expected fight took place, and resulted in the Mexicans getting severely beaten.
General Carr, upon hearing of the row, sent for Wild Bill and myself, he having concluded, from the various statements which had been made to him, that we were the instigators of the affair. But after listening to what we had to say, he thought that the Mexicans were as much to blame as we were.
It is not to be denied that Wild Bill and myself had been partaking too freely of "tanglefoot" that evening; and General Carr said to me: "Cody, there are plenty of antelopes in the country, and you can do some hunting for the camp while we stay here."
"All right, General, I'll do it."
After that I put in my time hunting, and with splendid success, killing from fifteen to twenty antelopes a day, which kept the men well supplied with fresh meat.
At length, our horses and mules having become sufficiently recruited to travel, we returned to Fort Lyon, arriving there in March, 1869, where the command was to rest and recruit for thirty days, before proceeding to the Department of the Platte, whither it had been ordered.
AN EXCITING CHASE.
General Carr, at my request, kindly granted me one month's leave of absence to visit my family in St. Louis, and ordered Captain Hays, our quartermaster, to let me ride my mule and horse to Sheridan, distant 140 miles, where I was to take the cars. I was instructed to leave the animals in the quartermaster's corral at Fort Wallace until I should come back, but instead of doing this I put them both in the care of my old friend Perry, the hotel-keeper at Sheridan. After a twenty days absence in St. Louis, pleasantly spent with my family, I returned to Sheridan, and there learned that my mule and horse had been seized by the government.
It seems that the quartermaster's agent at Sheridan had reported to General Bankhead, commanding Fort Wallace, and to Captain Laufer, the quartermaster, that I had left the country and had sold a government horse and mule to Mr. Perry, and of course Captain Laufer took possession of the animals and threatened to have Perry arrested for buying government property. Perry explained to him the facts in the case and said that I would return in a few days; but the captain would pay no attention to his statements.
I immediately went over to the office of the quartermaster's agent, and had Perry point him out to me. I at once laid hold of him, and in a short time had treated him to just such a thrashing as his contemptible lie deserved.
He then mounted a horse, rode to Fort Wallace, and reported me to General Bankhead and Captain Laufer, and obtained a guard to return with and protect him.
The next morning I secured a horse from Perry, and proceeding to Fort Wallace demanded my horse and mule from General Bankhead, on the ground that they were quartermaster Hays' property and belonged to General Carr's command, and that I had obtained permission to ride them to Sheridan and back. General Bankhead, in a gruff manner ordered me out of his office and off the reservation, saying that if I didn't take a hurried departure he would have me forcibly put out. I told him to do it and be hanged; I might have used a stronger expression, and upon second thought, I believe I did. I next interviewed Captain Laufer and demanded of him also the horse and mule, as I was responsible for them to Quartermaster Hays. Captain Laufer intimated that I was a liar and that I had disposed of the animals. Hot words ensued between us, and he too ordered me to leave the post. I replied that General Bankhead had commanded me to do the same thing, but that I had not yet gone; and that I did not propose to obey any orders of an inferior officer.
Seeing that it was of no use to make any further effort to get possession of the animals I rode back to Sheridan, and just as I reached there I met the quartermaster's agent coming out from supper, with his head tied up. It occurred to me that he had not received more than one half the punishment justly due him, and that now would be a good time to give him the balance—so I carried the idea into immediate execution. After finishing the job in good style, I informed him that he could not stay in that town while I remained there, and convinced him that Sheridan was not large enough to hold us both at the same time; he accordingly left the place and again went to Fort Wallace, this time reporting to General Bankhead that I had driven him away, and had threatened to kill him.
That night while sleeping at the Perry House, I was awakened by a tap on the shoulder and upon looking up I was considerably surprised to see the room filled with armed negroes who had their guns all pointed at me. The first words I heard came from the sergeant, who said:
"Now look a-heah, Massa Bill, ef you makes a move we'll blow you off de farm, shuah!" Just then Captain Ezekiel entered and ordered the soldiers to stand back.
"Captain, what does this mean?" I asked.
"I am sorry, Bill, but I have been ordered by General Bankhead to arrest you and bring you to Fort Wallace," said he.
"That's all right," said I, "but you could have made the arrest alone, without having brought the whole Thirty-eighth Infantry with you." "I know that, Bill," replied the Captain, "but as you've not been in very good humor for the last day or two, I didn't know how you would act."
I hastily dressed, and accompanied Captain Ezekiel to Fort Wallace, arriving there at two o'clock in the morning.
"Bill, I am really sorry," said Captain Ezekiel, as we alighted, "but I have orders to place you in the guard-house, and I must perform my duty."
"Very well, Captain; I don't blame you a bit," said I; and into the guard-house I went as a prisoner for the first and only time in my life. The sergeant of the—guard who was an old friend of mine, belonging to Captain Graham's company, which was stationed there at the time—did not put me into a cell, but kindly allowed me to stay in his room and occupy his bed, and in a few minutes I was snoring away as if nothing unusual had occurred.
Shortly after reveille Captain Graham called to see me. He thought it was a shame for me to be in the guard-house, and said that he would interview General Bankhead in my behalf as soon as he got up. The Captain had a nice breakfast prepared for me, and then departed. At guard-mount I was not sent for, contrary to my expectations, and thereupon I had word conveyed to Captain Graham, who was officer of the day, that I wanted to see General Bankhead. The Captain informed me that the General absolutely refused to hold any conversation whatever with me.
At this time there was no telegraph line between Fort Wallace and Fort Lyon, and therefore it was impossible for me to telegraph to General Carr, and I determined to send a dispatch direct to General Sheridan. I accordingly wrote out a long telegram informing him of my difficulty, and had it taken to the telegraph office for transmission; but the operator, instead of sending it at once as he should have done, showed it to General Bankhead, who tore it up, and instructed the operator not to pay any attention to what I might say, as he was running that post. Thinking it very strange that I received no answer during the day I went to the telegraph office, accompanied by a guard, and learned from the operator what he had done. "See here, my young friend," said I, "this is a public telegraph line, and I want my telegram sent, or there'll be trouble."
I re-wrote my dispatch and handed it to him, accompanied with the money to pay for the transmission, saying, as I did so: "Young man, I wish that telegram sent direct to Chicago. You know it is your duty to send it, and it must go."
He knew very well that he was compelled to transmit the message, but before doing so he called on General Bankhead and informed him of what I had said, and told him that he would certainly have to send it, for if he didn't he might lose his position. The General, seeing that the telegram would have to go, summoned me to his headquarters, and the first thing he said, after I got into his presence was:
"If I let you go, sir, will you leave the post at once and not bother my agent at Sheridan again?"
"No, sir;" I replied, "I'll do nothing of the kind. I'll remain in the guard-house until I receive an answer from General Sheridan."
"If I give you the horse and mule will you proceed at once to Fort Lyon?"
"No, sir; I have some bills to settle at Sheridan and some other business to transact," replied I.
"Well, sir; will you at least agree not to interfere any further with the quartermaster's agent at Sheridan?"
"I shall not bother him any more, sir, as I have had all I want from him," was my answer.
General Bankhead thereupon sent for Captain Laufer and ordered him to turn the horse and mule over to me. In a few minutes more I was on my way to Sheridan, and after settling my business there, I proceeded to Fort Lyon, arriving two days afterwards. I related my adventures to General Carr, Major Brown, and other officers, who were greatly amused thereby.
"I'm glad you've come, Bill," said General Carr, "as I have been wanting you for the last two weeks. While we have been at this post several valuable animals, as well as a large number of government horses and mules have been stolen, and we think that the thieves are still in the vicinity of the fort, but as yet we have been unable to discover their rendezvous. I have had a party out for the last few days in the neighborhood of old Fort Lyon, and they have found fresh tracks down there and seem to think that the stock is concealed somewhere in the timber, along the Arkansas river. Bill Green, one of the scouts who has just come up from there, can perhaps tell you something more about the matter."
Green, who had been summoned, said that he had discovered fresh trails before striking the heavy timber opposite old Fort Lyon, but that in the tall grass he could not follow them. He had marked the place where he had last seen fresh mule tracks, so that he could find it again.
"Now, Cody, you're just the person we want," said the General.
"Very well, I'll get a fresh mount, and to-morrow I'll go down and see what I can discover," said I.
"You had better take two men besides Green, and a pack mule with eight or ten days' rations," suggested the General, "so that if you find the trail you can follow it up, as I am very anxious to get back this stolen property. The scoundrels have taken one of my private horses and also Lieutenant Forbush's favorite little black race mule."
Next morning I started out after the horse-thieves, being accompanied by Green, Jack Farley, and another scout. The mule track, marked by Green, was easily found, and with very little difficulty I followed it for about two miles into the timber and came upon a place where, as I could plainly see from numerous signs, quite a number of head of stock had been tied among the trees and kept for several days. This was evidently the spot where the thieves had been hiding their stolen stock until they had accumulated quite a herd. From this point it was difficult to trail them, as they had taken the stolen animals out of the timber one by one and in different directions, thus showing that they were experts at the business and experienced frontiersmen, for no Indian could have exhibited more cunning in covering up a trail than did they.
I abandoned the idea of following their trail in this immediate locality, so calling my men together, I told them that we would ride out for about five miles and make a complete circuit about the place, and in this way we would certainly find the trail on which they had moved out. While making the circuit we discovered the tracks of twelve animals—four mules and eight horses—in the edge of some sand-hills, and from this point we had no trouble in trailing them down the Arkansas river, which they had crossed at Sand Creek, and then had gone up the latter stream, in the direction of Denver, to which place they were undoubtedly bound. When nearing Denver their trail became so obscure that we at last lost it; but by inquiring of the settlers along the road which they had taken, we occasionally heard of them.
When within four miles of Denver—this was on a Thursday—we learned that the horse-thieves had passed there two days before. I came to the conclusion they would attempt to dispose of the animals in Denver, and being aware that Saturday was the great auction day there, I thought it best to remain where we were at a hotel, and not go into the city until that day. It certainly would not have been advisable for me to have gone into Denver meantime—because I was well-known there, and if the thieves had learned of my presence in the city they would at once have suspected my business.
Early Saturday morning, we rode into town and stabled our horses at the Elephant Corral. I secured a room from Ed. Chase, overlooking the corral, and then took up my post of observation. I did not have long to wait, for a man, whom I readily recognized as one of our old packers, rode into the corral mounted upon Lieutenant Forbush's racing mule, and leading another government mule, which I also identified. It had been recently branded, and over the "U.S." was a plain "D.B." I waited for the man's companion to put in an appearance, but he did not come, and my conclusion was that he was secreted outside of the city with the rest of the animals.
Presently the black mule belonging to Forbush was put up at auction. Now, thought I, is the time to do my work. So, walking through the crowd, who were bidding for the mule, I approached the man who had offered him for sale. He recognized me and endeavored to escape, but I seized him by the shoulder, saying: "I guess, my friend, that you'll have to go with me. If you make any resistance, I'll shoot you on the spot." He was armed with a pair of pistols, which I took away from him. Then informing the auctioneer that I was a United States detective, and showing him—as well as an inquisitive officer—my commission as such, I told him to stop the sale, as the mule was stolen property, and that I had arrested the thief, whose name was Williams.
Farley and Green, who were near at hand, now came forward, and together we took the prisoner and the mules three miles down the Platte River; there, in a thick bunch of timber, we all dismounted and made preparations to hang Williams from a limb, if he did not tell us where his partner was. At first he denied knowing anything about any partner, or any other stock; but when he saw that we were in earnest, and would hang him at the end of the given time—five minutes—unless he "squealed," he told us that his "pal" was at an unoccupied house three miles further down the river.
We immediately proceeded to the spot indicated, and as we came within sight of the house we saw our stock grazing near by. Just as we rode up to the door, another one of our old packers, whom I recognized as Bill Bevins, stepped to the front, and I covered him instantly with my rifle before he could draw his revolver. I ordered him to throw up his hands, and he obeyed the command. Green then disarmed him and brought him out. We looked through the house and found their saddles, pack-saddles, blankets, overcoats, lariats and two Henry rifles, which we took possession of. The horses and mules we tied in a bunch, and with the whole outfit we returned to Denver, where we lodged Williams and Bevins in jail, in charge of my friend, Sheriff Edward Cook. The next day we took them out, and, tying each one on a mule, we struck out on our return trip to Fort Lyon.
At the hotel outside the city, where we had stopped on Thursday and Friday, we were joined by our man with the pack-mule. That night we camped on Cherry Creek, seventeen miles from Denver. The weather—it being in April—was cold and stormy, but we found a warm and cosy camping place in a bend of the creek. We made our beds in a row, with our feet towards the fire. The prisoners so far had appeared very docile, and had made no attempt to escape, and therefore I did not think it necessary to hobble them. We made them sleep on the inside, and it was so arranged that some one of us should be on guard all the time.
At about one o'clock in the night it began snowing, while I was watching. Shortly before three o'clock, Jack Farley, who was then on guard, and sitting on the foot of the bed, with his back to the prisoners, was kicked clear into the fire by Williams, and the next moment Bevins, who had got hold of his shoes—which I had thought were out of his reach—sprang up and jumped over the fire, and started on a run. I sent a shot after him as soon as I awoke sufficiently to comprehend what was taking place. Williams attempted to follow him, and as he did so, I whirled around and knocked him down with my revolver. Farley by this time had gathered himself out of the fire, and Green had started after Bevins, firing at him on the run; but the prisoner made his escape into the brush. In his flight, unfortunately for him, and luckily for us, he dropped one of his shoes.
Leaving Williams in the charge of Farley and "Long Doc," as we called the man with the pack-mule, Green and myself struck out after Bevins as fast as possible. We heard him breaking through the brush, but knowing that it would be useless to follow him on foot, we went back to the camp and saddled up two of the fastest horses, and at daylight we struck out on his trail, which was plainly visible in the snow. He had got an hour and a half the start of us. His tracks led us in the direction of the mountains and the South Platte River, and as the country through which he was passing was covered with prickly pears, we knew that he could not escape stepping on them with his one bare foot, and hence we were likely to overtake him in a short time. We could see, however, from the long jumps that he was taking, that he was making excellent time, but we frequently noticed, after we had gone some distance, that the prickly pears and stones along his route were cutting his bare foot, as nearly every track of it was spotted with blood.
We had run our horses some twelve miles when we saw Bevins crossing a ridge about two miles ahead. Urging our horses up to their utmost speed, we reached the ridge just as he was descending the divide towards the South Platte, which stream was very deep and swift at this point. It became evident that if he should cross it ahead of us, he would have a good chance of making his escape. So pushing our steeds as fast as possible, we rapidly gained on him, and when within a hundred yards of him I cried to him to halt or I would shoot. Knowing I was a good shot, he stopped, and, coolly sitting down, waited till we came up.
"Bevins, you've given us a good run," said I.
"Yes," said he, "and if I had had fifteen minutes more of a start and got across the Platte, I would have laughed at the idea of your ever catching me."
Bevin's run was the most remarkable feat of the kind ever known, either of a white man, or an Indian. A man who could run bare-footed in the snow eighteen miles through a prickly pear patch, was certainly a "tough one," and that's the kind of a person Bill Bevins was. Upon looking at his bleeding foot I really felt sorry for him. He asked me for my knife, and I gave him my sharp-pointed bowie, with which he dug the prickly pear briars out of his foot. I considered him as "game" a man as I had ever met.
"Bevins, I have got to take you back," said I, "but as you can't walk with that foot, you can ride my horse and I'll foot it."
We accordingly started back for our camp, with Bevins on my horse, which was led either by Green or myself, as we alternately rode the other horse. We kept a close watch on Bevins, for we had ample proof that he needed watching. His wounded foot must have pained him terribly but not a word of complaint escaped him. On arriving at the camp we found Williams bound as we had left him and he seemed sorry that we had captured Bevins.
After breakfasting we resumed our journey, and nothing worth of note again occurred until we reached the Arkansas river, where we found a vacant cabin and at once took possession of it for the night. There was no likelihood of Bevins again trying to escape, for his foot had swollen to an enormous size, and was useless. Believing that Williams could not escape from the cabin, we unbound him. We then went to sleep, leaving Long Doc on guard, the cabin being comfortably warmed and well lighted by the fire. It was a dark, stormy night—so dark that you could hardly see your hand before you. At about ten o'clock, Williams asked Long Doc to allow him to step to the door for a moment.
Long Doc, who had his revolver in his hand, did not think it necessary to wake us up, and believing that he could take care of the prisoner, he granted his request. Williams thereupon walked to the outer edge of the door, while Long Doc, revolver in hand, was watching him from the inside. Suddenly Williams made a spring to the right, and before Doc could even raise his revolver, he had dodged around the house. Doc jumped after him, and fired just as he turned a corner, the report bringing us all to our feet, and in an instant we knew what had happened. I at once covered Bevins with my revolver, but as I saw that he could hardly stir, and was making no demonstration, I lowered the weapon. Just then Doc came in swearing "a blue streak," and announced that Williams had escaped. There was nothing for us to do except to gather our horses close to the cabin and stand guard over them for the rest of the night, to prevent the possibility of Williams sneaking up and stealing one of them. That was the last I ever saw or heard of Williams.
We finally got back to Fort Lyon with Bevins, and General Carr, to whom I immediately reported, complimented us highly on the success of our trip, notwithstanding we had lost one prisoner. The next day we took Bevins to Boggs' ranch on Picket Wire Creek, and there turned him over to the civil authorities, who put him in a log jail to await his trial. He never was tried, however, for he soon made his escape, as I expected he would do. I heard no more of him until 1872, when I learned that he was skirmishing around on Laramie Plains at his old tricks. He sent word by the gentleman from whom I gained this information, that if he ever met me again he would kill me on sight. He finally was arrested and convicted for robbery, and was confined in the prison at Laramie City. Again he made his escape, and soon afterwards he organized a desperate gang of outlaws who infested the country north of the Union Pacific railroad, and when the stages began to run between Cheyenne and Deadwood, in the Black Hills, they robbed the coaches and passengers, frequently making large hauls of plunder. They kept this up for some time, till finally most of the gang were caught, tried, convicted, and sent to the penitentiary for a number of years. Bill Bevins and nearly all of his gang are now confined in the Nebraska state prison, to which they were transferred, from Wyoming.