General Sheridan informed the Duke that I also had been a stage-driver in the Rocky Mountains, and thereupon His Royal Highness expressed a desire to see me drive. I was in advance at the time, and General Sheridan sang out to me:
"Cody, get in here and show the Duke how you can drive. Mr. Reed will exchange places with you and ride your horse."
"All right, General," said I, and in a few moments I had the reins and we were rattling away over the prairie. When we were approaching Medicine Creek, General Sheridan said: "Shake 'em up a little, Bill, and give us some old-time stage-driving." I gave the horses a crack or two of the whip, and they started off at a very rapid gait. They had a light load to pull, and kept increasing their speed at every jump, and I found it difficult to hold them. They fairly flew over the ground, and at last we reached a steep hill, or divide, which, led down into the valley of the Medicine. There was no brake on the wagon, and the horses were not much on the hold-back. I saw that it would be impossible to stop them. All I could do was to keep them straight in the track and let them go it down the hill, for three miles; which distance, I believe, was made in about six minutes. Every once in a while the hind wheels would strike a rut and take a bound, and not touch the ground again for fifteen or twenty feet. The Duke and the General were kept rather busy in holding their positions on the seats, and when they saw that I was keeping the horses straight in the road, they seemed to enjoy the dash which we were making. I was unable to stop the team until they ran into the camp where we were to obtain a fresh relay, and there I succeeded in checking them. The Grand Duke said he didn't want any more of that kind of driving, as he preferred to go a little slower.
On arriving at the railroad, the Duke invited me into his car, and made me some valuable presents, at the same time giving me a cordial invitation to visit him, if ever I should come to his country.
General Sheridan took occasion to remind me of an invitation to visit New York which I had received from some of the gentlemen who accompanied the General on the hunt from Fort McPherson to Hays City, in September of the previous year. Said he:
"You will never have a better opportunity to accept that invitation than now. I have had a talk with General Ord concerning you, and he will give you a leave of absence whenever you are ready to start. Write a letter to General Stager, of Chicago, that you are now prepared to accept the invitation, and he will send you a pass."
Thanking the General for his kindness, I then bade him and the Grand Duke good-bye, and soon their train was out of sight.
General Ord, commanding the Department of the Platte at the time, and who had been out on the Alexis hunt, had some business to attend to at Fort McPherson, and I accepted his invitation to ride over to the post with him in an ambulance. On the way thither he asked me how I would like to have an officer's commission in the regular army. He said that General Sheridan and himself had had some conversation about the matter, and if I wanted a commission, one could easily be procured for me. I thanked General Ord for his kindness, and said that although an officer's commission in the regular army was a tempting prize, yet I preferred to remain in the position I was then holding. He concluded by stating that if at any time I should wish a commission, all that I would have to do to secure it would be to inform him of my desire.
Having determined to visit New York, I acted upon General Sheridan's suggestion and wrote to General Stager, from whom in a few days I received my railroad passes. Obtaining thirty days' leave of absence from the department, I struck out for the East. On arriving in Chicago, in February, 1872, I was met at the depot by Colonel M.V. Sheridan, who said that his brother, the General, had not yet returned, but had sent word that I was to be his and the Colonel's guest, at their house, while I remained in Chicago.
I spent two or three days very pleasantly in the great city of the West, meeting several of the gentlemen who had been out on the Sheridan hunt in September—General Stager, Colonel Wilson, editor of the Journal; Mr. Sam Johnson, General Rucker and others—by all of whom I was most cordially received and well entertained. I was introduced to quite a number of the best people of the city, and was invited to several "swell" dinners. I also accompanied General Sheridan—who meantime had returned to the city—to a ball at Riverside—an aristocratic suburb.
On this occasion I became so embarrassed that it was more difficult for me to face the throng of beautiful ladies, than it would have been to confront a hundred hostile Indians. This was my first trip to the East, and I had not yet become accustomed to being stared at. And besides this, the hundreds of questions which I was called upon to answer further embarrassed and perplexed me.
According to the route laid out for me by General Stager, I was to stop at Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Rochester on my way to New York, and he provided me with all the necessary railroad passes. Just as I was about to leave Chicago I met Professor Henry A. Ward, of Rochester, for whom during the previous year or two I had collected a large number of specimens of wild animals. He was on his way to Rochester, and kindly volunteered to act as my guide until we reached that point. We spent one day in viewing the wonders of Niagara, and I stopped one day at Rochester and was shown the beauties of that handsome city by Professor Ward, and I had the honor of receiving an invitation to dine with the Mayor.
On arriving at New York I was met at the depot by Mr. J.G. Hecksher, who had been appointed as "a committee of one" to escort me to the Union Club, where James Gordon Bennett, Leonard W. Jerome and others were to give me an informal reception, and where I was to make my headquarters during my visit in the great metropolis. I had an elegant dinner at the club rooms, with the gentlemen who had been out on the September hunt, and other members of the club.
After dinner, in company with Mr. Hecksher—who acted as my guide—I started out on the trail of my friend, Ned Buntline, whom we found at the Brevoort Place Hotel. He was delighted to see me, and insisted on my becoming his guest. He would listen to no excuses, and on introducing me to Messrs. Overton & Blair, proprietors of the Brevoort, they also gave me a pressing invitation to make my home at their house. I finally compromised the matter by agreeing to divide my time between the Union Club, the Brevoort House, and Ned Buntline's quarters.
The next few days I spent in viewing the sights of New York, everything being new and startling, convincing me that as yet I had seen but a small portion of the world. I received numerous dinner invitations, as well as invitations to visit different places of amusement and interest; but as they came in so thick and fast, I soon became badly demoralized and confused. I found I had accepted invitations to dine at half a dozen or more houses on the same day and at the same hour. James Gordon Bennett had prepared a dinner for me, at which quite a large number of his friends were to be present, but owing to my confusion, arising from the many other invitations I had received, I forgot all about it, and dined elsewhere. This was "a bad break," but I did not learn of my mistake until next day, when at the Union Club House several gentlemen, among them Lawrence Jerome, inquired "where in the world I had been," and why I had not put in an appearance at Bennett's dinner. They said that Bennett had taken great pains to give me a splendid reception, that the party had waited till nine o'clock for me, and that my non-arrival caused considerable disappointment. I apologized as well as I could, by saying that I had been out on a scout and had got lost, and had forgotten all about the dinner; and expressed my regret for the disappointment I had created by my forgetfulness. August Belmont, the banker, being near said:
"Never mind, gentlemen, I'll give Cody a dinner at my house."
"Thank you, sir," said I; "I see you are determined that I shall not run short of rations while I am in the city. I'll be there, sure."
Both Mr. Jerome and Mr. Hecksher told me that I must not disappoint Mr. Belmont, for his dinners were splendid affairs. I made a note of the date, and at the appointed time I was promptly at Mr. Belmont's mansion, where I spent a very enjoyable evening.
Mr. Bennett, who was among the guests, having forgiven my carelessness, invited me to accompany him to the Liederkranz masked ball, which was to take place in a few evenings, and would be a grand spectacle. Together we attended the ball, and during the evening I was well entertained. The dancers kept on their masks until midnight, and the merry and motley throng presented a brilliant scene, moving gracefully beneath the bright gas-light to the inspiriting music. To me it was a novel and entertaining sight, and in many respects reminded me greatly of an Indian war-dance.
Acting upon the suggestion of Mr. Bennett, I had dressed myself in my buckskin suit, and I naturally attracted considerable attention; especially when I took part in the dancing and exhibited some of my backwoods steps, which, although not as graceful as some, were a great deal more emphatic. But when I undertook to do artistic dancing, I found I was decidedly out of place in that crowd, and I accordingly withdrew from the floor.
I occasionally passed an evening at Niblo's Garden, viewing the many beauties of "The Black Crook," which was then having its long run, under the management of Jarrett & Palmer, whose acquaintance I had made, and who extended to me the freedom of the theater.
Ned Buntline and Fred Maeder had dramatized one of the stories which the former had written about me for the New York Weekly. The drama was called "Buffalo Bill, the King of Border Men." While I was in New York it was produced at the Bowery Theater; J.B. Studley, an excellent actor, appearing in the character of "Buffalo Bill," and Mrs. W.G. Jones, a fine actress, taking the part of my sister, a leading role. I was curious to see how I would look when represented by some one else, and of course I was present on the opening night, a private box having been reserved for me. The theater was packed, every seat being occupied as well as the standing-room. The drama was played smoothly, and created a great deal of enthusiasm.
The audience, upon learning that the real "Buffalo Bill" was present, gave several cheers between the acts, and I was called on to come out on the stage and make a speech. Mr. Freleigh, the manager, insisted that I should comply with the request, and that I should be introduced to Mr. Studley. I finally consented, and the next moment I found myself standing behind the footlights and in front of an audience for the first time in my life. I looked up, then down, then on each side, and everywhere I saw a sea of human faces, and thousands of eyes all staring at me. I confess that I felt very much embarrassed—never more so in my life—and I knew not what to say. I made a desperate effort, and a few words escaped me, but what they were I could not for the life of me tell, nor could any one else in the house. My utterances were inaudible even to the leader of the orchestra, Mr. Dean, who was sitting only a few feet in front of me. Bowing to the audience, I beat a hasty retreat into one of the canons of the stage. I never felt more relieved in my life than when I got out of the view of that immense crowd. That evening Mr. Freleigh offered to give me five hundred dollars a week to play the part of "Buffalo Bill" myself. I thought that he was certainly joking, especially as he had witnessed my awkward performance; but when he assured me that he was in earnest, I told him that it would be useless for me to attempt anything of the kind, for I never could talk to a crowd of people like that, even if it was to save my neck, and that he might as well try to make an actor out of a government mule. I thanked him for the generous offer, which I had to decline owing to a lack of confidence in myself; or as some people might express it, I didn't have the requisite cheek to undertake a thing of that sort. The play of "Buffalo Bill" had a very successful run of six or eight weeks, and was afterwards produced in all the principal cities of the country, everywhere being received with genuine enthusiasm.
I had been in New York about twenty days when General Sheridan arrived in the city. I met him soon after he got into town. In answer to a question how I was enjoying myself, I replied that I had struck the best camp I had ever seen, and if he didn't have any objections I would like to have my leave of absence extended about ten days. This he willingly did, and then informed me that my services would soon be required at Fort McPherson, as there was to be an expedition sent out from that point.
At Westchester, Pennsylvania, I had some relatives living whom I had never seen, and now being so near, I determined to make them a visit. Upon mentioning the matter to Buntline, he suggested that we should together take a trip to Philadelphia, and thence run out to Westchester. Accordingly the next day found us in the "City of Brotherly Love," and in a few hours we arrived at the home of my uncle, General Henry R. Guss, the proprietor of the Green Tree Hotel, who gave us a cordial reception.
Inviting us into the parlor, my uncle brought in the members of his family, among them an elderly lady, who was my grandmother, as he informed me. He told me that my Aunt Eliza, his first wife, was dead, and that he had married a second time; Lizzie Guss, my cousin, I thought was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. They were all very anxious to have us remain several days, but as I had some business to attend to in New York, I was obliged to return that day. Assuring them, however, that I would visit them again soon, I bade them adieu, and with Buntline took the train for New York.
The time soon arrived for my departure for the West; so packing up my traps I started for home, and on the way thither I spent a day with my Westchester relatives, who did everything in their power to entertain me during my brief stay with them.
Upon reaching Fort McPherson, I found that the Third Cavalry, commanded by General Reynolds, had arrived from Arizona, in which Territory they had been on duty for some time, and where they had acquired quite a reputation on account of their Indian fighting qualities.
Shortly after my return, a small party of Indians made a dash on McPherson Station, about five miles from the fort, killing two or three men and running off quite a large number of horses. Captain Meinhold and Lieutenant Lawson with their company were ordered out to pursue and punish the Indians if possible. I was the guide of the expedition and had as an assistant T.B. Omohundro, better known as "Texas Jack" and who was a scout at the post.
Finding the trail, I followed it for two days, although it was difficult trailing because the red-skins had taken every possible precaution to conceal their tracks. On the second day Captain Meinhold went into camp on the South Fork of the Loupe, at a point where the trail was badly scattered. Six men were detailed to accompany me on a scout in search of the camp of the fugitives. We had gone but a short distance when we discovered Indians camped, not more than a mile away, with horses grazing near by. They were only a small party, and I determined to charge upon them with my six men, rather than return to the command, because I feared they would see us as we went back and then they would get away from us entirely. I asked the men if they were willing to attempt it, and they replied that they would follow me wherever I would lead them. That was the kind of spirit that pleased me, and we immediately moved forward on the enemy, getting as close to them as possible without being seen.
I finally gave the signal to charge, and we dashed into the little camp with a yell. Five Indians sprang out of a willow tepee, and greeted us with a volley, and we returned the fire. I was riding Buckskin Joe, who with a few jumps brought me up to the tepee, followed by my men. We nearly ran over the Indians who were endeavoring to reach their horses on the opposite side of the creek. Just as one was jumping the narrow stream a bullet from my old "Lucretia" overtook him. He never reached the other bank, but dropped dead in the water. Those of the Indians who were guarding the horses, seeing what was going on at the camp, came rushing to the rescue of their friends. I now counted thirteen braves, but as we had already disposed of two, we had only eleven to take care of. The odds were nearly two to one against us.
While the Indian reinforcements were approaching the camp I jumped the creek with Buckskin Joe to meet them, expecting our party would follow me; but as they could not induce their horses to make the leap, I was the only one who got over. I ordered the sergeant to dismount his men, and leaving one to hold the horses, to come over with the rest and help me drive the Indians off. Before they could do this, two mounted warriors closed in on me and were shooting at short range. I returned their fire and had the satisfaction of seeing one of them fall from his horse. At this moment I felt blood trickling down my forehead, and hastily running my hand through my hair I discovered that I had received a scalp wound. The Indian, who had shot me, was not more than ten yards away, and when he saw his partner tumble from his saddle, he turned to run.
By this time the soldiers had crossed the creek to assist me, and were blazing away at the other Indians. Urging Buckskin Joe forward, I was soon alongside of the chap who had wounded me, when raising myself in the stirrups I shot him through the head.
The reports of our guns had been heard by Captain Meinhold, who at once started with his company up the creek to our aid, and when the remaining Indians, whom we were still fighting, saw these reinforcements coming they whirled their horses and fled; as their steeds were quite fresh they made their escape. However, we killed six out of the thirteen Indians, and captured most of their stolen stock. Our loss was one man killed, and one man—myself—slightly wounded. One of our horses was killed, and Buckskin Joe was wounded, but I didn't discover the fact until some time afterwards as he had been shot in the breast and showed no signs of having received a scratch of any kind. Securing the scalps of the dead Indians and other trophies we returned to the fort.
I made several other scouts during the summer with different officers of the Third Cavalry, one being with Major Alick Moore, a good officer, with whom I was out for thirty days. Another long one was with Major Curtis, with whom I followed some Indians from the South Platte river to Fort Randall on the Missouri river in Dakota, on which trip the command ran out of rations and for fifteen days subsisted entirely upon the game we killed.
In the fall of 1872 the Earl of Dunraven and Dr. Kingsley with several friends came to Fort McPherson with a letter from General Sheridan, asking me to accompany them on an elk hunt. I did so, and I afterwards spent several weeks in hunting with the Earl of Dunraven, who was a thorough sportsman and an excellent hunter. It was while I was out with the Earl, that a Chicago party—friends of General Sheridan—arrived at Fort McPherson for the purpose of going out on a hunt. They, too, had a letter from, the General requesting me to go with them. The Earl had not yet finished his hunt, but as I had been out with him for several weeks, and he had by this time learned where to find plenty of elks and other game, I concluded to leave him and accompany the Chicago party. I informed him of my intention and gave him my reasons for going, at the same time telling him that I would send him one of my scouts, Texas Jack, who was a good hunter, and would be glad to accompany him. The Earl seemed to be somewhat offended at this, and I don't think he has ever forgiven me for "going back on him." Let that be as it may, he found Texas Jack a splendid hunter and guide, and Jack has been his guide on several hunts since.
Among the gentlemen who composed the Chicago party were E.P. Green,—son-in-law of Remington, the rifle manufacturer,—Alexander Sample, Mr. Milligan, of the firm of Heath & Milligan, of Chicago, and several others, whose names I do not now remember. Mr. Milligan was a man full of life, and was continually "boiling over with fun." He was a regular velocipede, so to speak, and was here, there, and everywhere. He was exceedingly desirous of having an Indian fight on the trip, not that he was naturally a blood-thirsty man but just for variety he wanted a little "Indian pie." He was in every respect the life of the party, during the entire time that we were out. One day while he was hunting with Sample and myself we came in sight of a band of thirty mounted Indians.
"Milligan, here's what you've been wanting for some time," said I, "for yonder is a war party of Indians and no mistake; and they'll come for us, you bet."
"I don't believe this is one of my fighting days," replied Milligan, "and it occurs to me that I have urgent business at the camp."
Our camp was five or six miles distant on the Dismal river, and our escort consisted of a company of cavalry commanded by Captain Russell. The soldiers were in camp, and Milligan thought that Captain Russell ought to be at once notified of the appearance of these Indians. Knowing that we could reach the camp in safety, for we were well mounted, I continued to have considerable amusement at Milligan's expense, who finally said:
"Cody, what's making my hat raise up so. I can hardly keep it on my head."
Sample, who was as cool as a cucumber, said to Milligan: "There must be something wrong with your hair. It must be trying to get on end."
"It's all very fine for you fellows to stand here and talk," replied Milligan, "but I am not doing justice to my family by remaining. Sample, I think we are a couple of old fools to have come out here, and I never would have done so if it had not been for you."
By this time the Indians had discovered us and were holding a consultation, and Milligan turned his horse in the direction of the camp. I never believed that he was half as scared as he seemed to be, but that he was merely pretending so that we could enjoy our joke. However, we did not wait any longer but rode into camp and notified Captain Russell, who immediately started with his company to pursue the band.
While we were riding along with the company Milligan said to Sample: "Now, Alick, let them come on. We may yet go back to Chicago covered with glory."
We struck the trail going north, but as we had not come out on a scout for Indians, we concluded not to follow them; although Milligan was now very anxious to proceed and clean them out.
The hunt came to an end in a day or two, and we escorted the visiting hunters to North Platte, where they took the train for Chicago. Before their departure they extended to me a very cordial invitation to come to their city on a visit, promising that I should be well taken care of.
Soon after this I had the pleasure of guiding a party of gentlemen from Omaha on a buffalo hunt. Among the number were Judge Dundy, Colonel Watson B. Smith, and U.S. District Attorney Neville. We left Fort McPherson in good trim. I was greatly amused at the "style" of Mr. Neville, who wore a stove-pipe hat and a swallow-tail coat, which made up a very comical rig for a buffalo hunter. As we galloped over the prairie, he jammed his hat down over his ears to keep it from being shaken off his head, and in order to stick to his horse, he clung to the pommel of his saddle. He was not much of a rider, and he went bouncing up and down, with his swallow-tails flopping in the air. The sight I shall never forget, for it was enough to make a "horse laugh," and I actually believe old Buckskin Joe did laugh.
However, we had a splendid hunt, and on the second day I lariated, or roped, a big buffalo bull and tied him to a tree,—a feat which I had often performed, and which the gentlemen requested me to do on this occasion for their benefit, as they had heard of my skill with the lariat. I captured several other buffaloes in the same way. The gentlemen returned to Omaha well pleased with their hunt.
In the fall of the year, 1872, a convention was held at Grand Island, when some of my friends made me their candidate to represent the Twenty-sixth District in the legislature of Nebraska; but as I had always been a Democrat and the State was largely Republican, I had no idea of being elected. In fact I cared very little about it, and therefore made no effort whatever to secure an election. However, I was elected and that is the way in which I acquired my title of Honorable.
During the summer and fall of 1872, I received numerous letters from Ned Buntline, urging me to come East and go upon the stage to represent my own character. "There's money in it," he wrote, "and you will prove a big card, as your character is a novelty on the stage."
At times I almost determined to make the venture; but the recollection of that night when I stood on the stage of the Bowery Theatre and was unable to utter a word above a whisper, would cause me to stop and think and become irresolute. I feared that I would be a total failure, and wrote Buntline to that effect. But he insisted that I would soon get over all that embarrassment, and become accustomed to the stage, so that I would think no more of appearing before five thousand people than I would before half a dozen. He proposed to organize a good company, and wished me to meet him in Chicago, where the opening performance would be given.
I remained undecided as to what I ought to do. The officers at the fort as well as my family and friends to whom I had mentioned the matter, laughed at the idea of my ever becoming an actor. That I, an old scout who had never seen more than twenty or thirty theatrical performances in my life, should think of going upon the stage, was ridiculous in the extreme—so they all said.
A few days after my election to the legislature a happy event occurred in my family circle, in the birth of a daughter whom we named Ora; about the same time I received another letter from Buntline, in which he requested me to appear on the stage for a few months as an experiment; and he said that if I made a failure or did not like the business, I could easily return to my old life.
My two sisters who had been living with us had married,—Nellie, to A. C. Jester, a cattle man, and May, to Ed. Bradford, a railroad engineer—and consequently left us; and my wife had been wishing for a long time to visit her parents in St. Louis. Taking these and other things into consideration I finally resolved to resign my seat in the legislature and try my luck behind the footlights. I informed General Reynolds of my determination, telling him at the same time that at the end of the month, November, I would resign my position under him. The General regretted to hear this, and advised me not to take the step, for I was leaving a comfortable little home, where I was sure of making a good living for my family; while, on the other hand, I was embarking upon a sea of uncertainty. Having once made up my mind, however, nothing could change it.
While I was selling my horses and other effects, preparatory to leaving the fort, one of my brother scouts, Texas Jack, said that he would like to accompany me. Now as Jack had also appeared as the hero in one of Ned Buntline's stories, I thought that he would make as good a "star" as myself, and it was accordingly arranged that Jack should go with me. On our way East we stopped in Omaha a day or two to visit General Augur and other officers, and also the gentlemen who were out on the Judge Dundy hunt. Judge Dundy and his friends gave a dinner party in my honor at the leading restaurant and entertained me very handsomely during my stay in the city.
At Omaha I parted with my family, who went to St. Louis, while Jack and myself proceeded to Chicago. Ned Buntline and Mr. Milligan, having been apprised of our coming by a telegram, met us at the depot. Mr. Milligan accompanied us to the Sherman House, where he had made arrangements for us to be his guests while we remained in the city. I didn't see much of Buntline that evening, as he hurried off to deliver a temperance lecture in one of the public halls. The next day we met him by appointment, and the first thing he said, was:
"Boys, are you ready for business?"
"I can't answer that," replied I, "for we don't know what we are going to do."
"It's all arranged," said he, "and you'll have no trouble whatever. Come with me. We'll go and see Nixon, manager of the Amphitheatre. That's the place where we are to play. We'll open there next Monday night." Jack and myself accordingly accompanied him to manager Nixon's office without saying a word, as we didn't know what to say.
"Here we are, Mr. Nixon," said Buntline; "here are the stars for you. Here are the boys; and they are a fine pair to draw too. Now, Nixon, I am prepared for business."
Nixon and Buntline had evidently had a talk about the terms of our engagement. Buntline, it seems, was to furnish the company, the drama, and the pictorial printing, and was to receive sixty per cent. of the gross receipts for his share; while Nixon was to furnish the theater, the attaches, the orchestra, and the local printing; and receive forty per cent. of the gross receipts.
"I am ready for you, Buntline. Have you got your company yet?" asked Nixon.
"No, sir; but there are plenty of idle theatrical people in town, and I can raise a company in two hours," was his reply.
"You haven't much time to spare, if you open on Monday night," said Nixon. "If you will allow me to look at your drama, to see what kind of people you want, I'll assist you in organizing your company."
"I have not yet written the drama," said Buntline.
"What the deuce do you mean? This is Wednesday, and you propose to open on next Monday night. The idea is ridiculous. Here you are at this late hour without a company and without a drama. This will never do, Buntline. I shall have to break my contract with you, for you can't possibly write a drama, cast it, and rehearse it properly for Monday night. Furthermore, you have no pictorial printing as yet. These two gentlemen, whom you have with you, have never been on the stage, and they certainly must have time to study their parts. It is preposterous to think of opening on Monday night, and I'll cancel the engagement."
This little speech was delivered in rather an excited manner by Mr. Nixon. Buntline said that he would write the drama that day and also select his company and have them at the theater for rehearsal next morning. Nixon laughed at him, and said that there was no use of trying to undertake anything of the kind in so short a time—it was utterly impossible to do it. Buntline, whose ire was rising, said to Nixon:
"What rent will you ask for your theater for next week?"
"Six hundred dollars," was the reply.
"Well, sir, I'll take your theater for next week at that price, and here is half of the amount in advance," said Buntline, as he threw down three hundred dollars on the stand.
Nixon took the money, gave a receipt for it, and had nothing more to say.
"Now, come with me boys," said Buntline; and away we went to the hotel. Buntline immediately obtained a supply of pens, ink and paper, and then engaged all the hotel clerks as penmen. In less than an hour after he had rented the theater, he was dashing off page after page of his proposed drama—the work being done in his room at the hotel. He then set his clerks at copying for him, and at the end of four hours, he jumped up from the table, and enthusiastically shouted:
"Hurrah for 'The Scouts of the Plains!' That's the name of the play. The work is done. Hurrah!"
The parts were then all copied off separately by the clerks, and handing us our respective portions Buntline said:
"Now, boys, go to work, and do your level best to have this dead-letter perfect for the rehearsal, which takes place to-morrow morning at ten o'clock, prompt. I want to show Nixon that we'll be ready on time."
I looked at my part and then at Jack; and Jack looked at his part and then at me. Then we looked at each other, and then at Buntline. We did not know what to make of the man.
"How long will it take you to commit your part to memory, Bill?" asked Jack.
"About six months, as near as I can calculate. How long will it take you?" answered I.
"It will take me about that length of time to learn the first line," said Jack. Nevertheless we went to our room and commenced studying. I thought it was the hardest work I had ever done.
"This is dry business," finally remarked Jack.
"That's just what it is," I answered; "jerk the bell, Jack." The bell-boy soon appeared. We ordered refreshments; after partaking thereof we resumed our task. We studied hard for an hour or two, but finally gave it up as a bad job, although we had succeeded in committing a small portion to memory. Buntline now came into the room and said:
"Boys, how are you getting along?"
"I guess we'll have to go back on this studying business as it isn't our forte" said I.
"Don't weaken now, Bill; you'll come out on the top of the heap yet. Let me hear you recite your part," said Buntline. I began "spouting" what I had learned, but was interrupted by Buntline:
"Tut! tut! you're not saying it right. You must stop at the cue."
"Cue! What the mischief do you mean by the cue? I never saw any cue except in a billiard room," said I. Buntline thereupon explained it to me, as well as to Jack, who was ignorant as myself concerning the "cue" business.
"Jack, I think we had better back out and go to hunting again," said I.
"See here, boys; it won't do to go back on me at this stage of the game. Stick to it, and it may be the turning point in your lives and lead you on to fortune and to fame."
"A fortune is what we are after, and we'll at least give the wheel a turn or two and see what luck we have," said I. This satisfied Buntline, but we didn't study any more after he left us. The next morning we appeared at rehearsal and were introduced to the company. The first rehearsal was hardly a success; and the succeeding ones were not much better. The stage manager did his best to teach Jack and myself what to do, but when Monday night came we didn't know much more about it than when we began.
The clock struck seven, and then we put on our buckskin suits, which were the costumes we were to appear in. The theater was being rapidly filled, and it was evident that we were going to make our debut before a packed house. As the minutes passed by, Jack and I became more and more nervous. We occasionally looked through the holes in the curtain, and saw that the people were continuing to crowd into the theatre; our nervousness increased to an uncomfortable degree.
When, at length the curtain arose, our courage had returned, so that we thought we could face the immense crowd; yet when the time came for us to go on, we were rather slow in making our appearance. As we stepped forth we were received with a storm of applause, which we acknowledged with a bow.
Buntline, who was taking the part of "Cale Durg," appeared, and gave me the "cue" to speak "my little piece," but for the life of me I could not remember a single word. Buntline saw I was "stuck," and a happy thought occurred to him. He said—as if it were in the play:
"Where have you been, Bill? What has kept you so long?"
Just then my eye happened to fall on Mr. Milligan, who was surrounded by his friends, the newspaper reporters, and several military officers, all of whom had heard of his hunt and "Indian fight"—he being a very popular man, and widely known in Chicago. So I said:
"I have been out on a hunt with Milligan."
This proved to be a big hit. The audience cheered and applauded; which gave me greater confidence in my ability to get through the performance all right. Buntline, who is a very versatile man, saw that it would be a good plan to follow this up, and he said:
"Well, Bill, tell us all about the hunt."
I thereupon proceeded to relate in detail the particulars of the affair. I succeeded in making it rather funny, and I was frequently interrupted by rounds of applause. Whenever I began to "weaken," Buntline would give me a fresh start, by asking some question. In this way I took up fifteen minutes, without once speaking a word of my part; nor did I speak a word of it during the whole evening. The prompter, who was standing between the wings, attempted to prompt me, but it did no good; for while I was on the stage I "chipped in" anything I thought of.
"The Scouts of the Plains" was an Indian drama, of course; and there were between forty and fifty "supers" dressed as Indians. In the fight with them, Jack and I were at home. We blazed away at each other with blank cartridges; and when the scene ended in a hand-to-hand encounter—a general knock-down and drag-out—the way Jack and I killed Indians was "a caution." We would kill them all off in one act, but they would come up again ready for business in the next. Finally the curtain dropped; the play was ended; and I congratulated Jack and myself on having made such a brilliant and-successful debut. There was no backing out after that.
The next morning there appeared in the Chicago papers some very funny criticisms on our first performance. The papers gave us a better send-off than I expected, for they did not criticise us as actors. The Chicago Times said that if Buntline had actually spent four hours in writing that play, it was difficult for any one to see what he had been doing all the time. Buntline, as "Cale Durg," was killed in the second act, after a long temperance speech; and the Inter-Ocean said that it was to be regretted that he had not been killed in the first act. The company, however, was very good, and Mdlle. Morlacchi, as "Pale Dove," particularly fine; while Miss Cafarno "spouted" a poem of some seven hundred and three verses, more or less, of which the reader will be glad to know that I only recall the words "I was born in March."
Our engagement proved a decided success financially, if not artistically. Nixon was greatly surprised at the result, and at the end of the week he induced Buntline to take him in as a partner in the company.
The next week we played at DeBar's Opera House, in St. Louis, doing an immense business. The following week we were at Cincinnati, where the theater was so crowded every night that hundreds were unable to obtain admission. We met with equal success all over the country. Theatrical managers, upon hearing of this new and novel combination; which was drawing such tremendous houses, were all anxious to secure us; and we received offers of engagements at all the leading theaters. We played one week at the Boston Theater, and the gross receipts amounted to $16,200. We also appeared at Niblo's Garden, New York, the theater being crowded to its utmost capacity every night of the engagement. At the Arch Street Theater, Philadelphia, it was the same way. There was not a single city where we did not have crowded houses.
We closed our tour on the 16th of June, 1873, at Port Jervis, New York, and when I counted up my share of the profits I found that I was only about $6,000 ahead. I was somewhat disappointed, for, judging from our large business, I certainly had expected a greater sum.
Texas Jack and myself longed for a hunt on the Western prairies once more; and on meeting in New York a party of gentlemen who were desirous of going with us, we all started Westward, and after a pleasant trip arrived at Fort McPherson.
Texas Jack and I spent several weeks in hunting in the western part of Nebraska, and at the end of our vacation we felt greatly re-invigorated and ready for another theatrical campaign. We accordingly proceeded to New York and organized a company for the season of 1873-74. Thinking that Wild Bill would be quite an acquisition to the troupe, we wrote to him at Springfield, Missouri, offering him a large salary if he would play with us that winter. He was doing nothing at the time, and we thought that he would like to take a trip through the States, as he had never been East.
Wild Bill accepted our offer, and came on to New York; though he told us from the start that we could never make an actor out of him. Although he had a fine stage appearance and was a handsome fellow, and possessed a good strong voice, yet when he went upon the stage before an audience, it was almost impossible for him to utter a word. He insisted that we were making a set of fools of ourselves, and that we were the laughing-stock of the people. I replied that I did not care for that, as long as they came and bought tickets to see us.
Wild Bill was continually playing tricks upon the members of the company, and it was his especial delight to torment the "supers." Quite frequently in our sham Indian battles he would run up to the "Indians" (the supers), and putting his pistol close to their legs, would fire at them and burn them with the powder, instead of shooting over their heads. This would make them dance and jump, so that it was difficult to make them fall and die—although they were paid twenty-five cents each for performing the "dying business." The poor "supers" often complained to me about this, and threatened not to go on the stage and be killed again if that man Wild Bill did not stop shooting and burning their legs. I would order Wild Bill to stop his mischief; he would laugh and then promise not to do it any more. But it would not be long before he was at his old tricks again.
My company, known as the "Buffalo Bill Combination," did a fine business, all through the East. Wild Bill continued his pranks, which caused us considerable annoyance, but at the same time greatly amused us.
One day at Titusville, Pennsylvania, while Burke, the business agent, was registering our names and making arrangements for our accommodation, several of us started for the billiard room; but were met by the landlord, who stopped me and said that there was a party of roughs from the lower oil region who were spreeing, and had boasted that they were staying in town to meet the Buffalo Bill gang and clean them out. The landlord begged of me not to allow the members of the troupe to enter the billiard room, as he did not wish any fight in his house. To please the landlord, and at his suggestion, I called the boys up into the parlor and explained to them the situation. Wild Bill wanted to go at once and fight the whole mob, but I persuaded him to keep away from them during the day.
In order to entirely avoid the roughs, the members of the company entered the theater through a private door from the hotel, as the two buildings joined each other. While I was standing at the door of the theater taking the tickets, the landlord of the hotel came rushing up and said that Wild Bill was having a fight with the roughs in the bar-room. It seemed that Bill had not been able to resist the temptation of going to see what kind of a mob it was that wanted to test the pluck of the Buffalo Bill party; and just as he stepped into the room, one of the bruisers put his hand on his shoulder and said:
"Hello, Buffalo Bill! we have been looking for you all day."
"My name is not Buffalo Bill; you are mistaken in the man," was the reply.
"You are a liar!" said the bruiser.
Bill instantly knocked him down, and then seizing a chair he laid out four or five of the crowd on the floor, and drove the rest out of the room. All this was done in a minute or two, and by the time I got down stairs, Bill was coming out of the bar-room, whistling a lively tune.
"Well!" said he, "I have been interviewing that party who wanted to clean us out."
"I thought you promised to come into the Opera House by the private entrance?"
"I did try to follow that trail, but I got lost among the canons, and then I ran in among the hostiles," said he; "but it is all right now. They won't bother us any more. I guess those fellows have found us." And sure enough they had. We heard no more of them after that.
Another incident occurred, one night, at Portland, Maine. Bill found it impossible to go to sleep at the hotel on account of the continued talking of some parties who were engaged in a game of cards in an adjoining room. He called to them several times to make less noise, but they paid little or no attention to him. He finally got up and went to the room with the intention of cleaning out the whole crowd. He knocked and was admitted; greatly to his surprise, he found the party to be some merchants of the city, whom he had met the previous day. They were playing poker, and invited him to take a hand. Bill sat down at the table, and said that, inasmuch as they would not let him sleep, he wouldn't mind playing for a while, provided they would post him a little in the game, for he didn't know much about it. At first he didn't play very well, intentionally making many blunders and asking numerous questions; but when morning came, he was about seven hundred dollars ahead. Bill put the money in his pocket, and just as he was leaving the room he advised them never to wake a man up and invite him to play poker.
Wild Bill remained with me until we reached Rochester. I met my family there, and having bought some property in that city, with the intention of making the place my home, I asked Bill not to cut up any of his capers, for I wanted the performance to go off smoothly, as I expected a large audience that evening. He, of course, promised to behave himself. When the curtain rose the house was crowded. The play proceeded finely until the Indian fight in the second act, when Bill amused himself by his old trick of singeing the legs of the "supers."
After the curtain dropped, the "supers" complained to me about it. Bill's conduct made me angry, and I told him that he must either stop shooting the "supers," or leave the company. He made no reply, but went to the dressing-room and changed his buckskin suit for his citizen's dress, and during one of my scenes I looked down in front and saw him elbowing his way through the audience and out of the theater. When I had finished the scene, and had retired from the stage, the stage-carpenter came up and said:
"That long-haired gentleman, who passed out a few minutes ago, requested me to tell you that you could go to thunder with your old show."
That was the last time that Wild Bill and I ever performed together on the stage. After the evening's entertainment I met him at the Osborn House. By this time he had recovered from his mad fit and was in as good humor as ever. He had made up his mind to leave for the West the next day. I endeavored to persuade him to remain with me till spring, and then we would go together; but it was of no use. I then paid him the money due him, and Jack and myself made him a present of $1,000 besides.
Bill went to New York the next day, intending to start west from there. Several days afterwards I learned that he had lost all his money in New York by playing faro; also that a theatrical manager had engaged him to play. A company was organized and started out, but as a "star" Wild Bill was not a success; the further he went the poorer he got. This didn't suit Bill by any means, and he accordingly retired from the stage. The company, however, kept on the road, using Bill's name, and employing an actor to represent him not only on the stage but on the street and elsewhere. Bill heard of this deception and sent word to the manager to stop it, but no attention was paid to his message.
Finally, Bill resolved to have satisfaction and he proceeded to a town where the company was to play; he entered the theater and took a seat near the stage, and watched the performance until the bogus Wild Bill appeared. He then sprang upon the stage, knocked the actor clear through one of the scenes, and grabbing the manager by the shoulders he threw him over the foot-lights into the orchestra.
The other actors screamed and yelled "Police!" The audience could not at first understand what it all meant, some of them supposing the affair to be a part of the play.
Wild Bill retired from the stage in good order, resumed his seat, and told them to go on with their show. A policeman now appearing, Bill was pointed out as the disturber of the peace; the officer tapping him on the shoulder, said:
"I'll have to arrest you, sir."
"How many of you are there?" asked Bill.
"Only myself," said the policeman.
"You had better get some help," said Bill. The officer then called up another policeman, and Bill again asked:
"How many of you are there now?"
"Two," was the reply.
"Then I advise you to go out and get some more reinforcements," said Bill, very coolly.
The policemen thereupon spoke to the sheriff, who was dressed in citizen's clothes. The sheriff came up and said he would have to take him into custody.
"All right, sir," replied Bill, "I have no objections to walking out with you, but I won't go with any two policemen." At the court next morning Bill stated his reasons for having acted as he had done, and the judge fined him only three dollars and costs.
This was the last time that Wild Bill appeared on the stage. He shortly afterwards returned to the West, and on arriving at Cheyenne, he visited Boulder's gambling room and sat down at a faro table. No one in the room recognized him, as he had not been in Cheyenne for several years. After losing two or three bets he threw down a fifty dollar bill and lost that also. Boulder quietly raked in the money. Bill placed a second fifty dollar note on another card, when Boulder informed him that the limit was twenty-five dollars.
"You have just taken in a fifty dollar bill which I lost," said Bill.
"Well you needn't make any more such bets, as I will not go above my limit," replied Boulder.
"I'll just play that fifty dollar bill as it lays. If it loses, it's yours; if it wins, you'll pay me fifty dollars, or I'll know the reason why."
"I am running this game, and I want no talk from you, sir," said Boulder.
One word brought on another, until Boulder threatened to have Bill put out of the house. Bill was carrying the butt end of a billiard cue for a cane, and bending over the table, he said: "You'd rob a blind man." Then he suddenly tapped Boulder on the head with the cane, with such force as to knock him over. With another sweep of the cane he tumbled the "look-out" from his chair, and then reaching over into the money drawer he grabbed a handful of greenbacks and stuck them in his pocket.
At this stage of the game four or five men—who were employed as "bouncers" for the establishment to throw out the noisy persons—rushed up to capture Bill, but he knocked them right and left with his cane, and seeing the whole crowd was now closing in on him, he jumped into a corner, and with each hand drew a revolver and faced the enemy. At this moment the bar-keeper recognized him, and sang out in a loud voice:
"Look out boys—that's Wild Bill you've run against."
That settled the matter; for when they heard the name of Wild Bill they turned and beat a hasty retreat out of the doors and windows, and in less time than it takes to tell it, Wild Bill was the only man in the room. He coolly walked over to Dyer's hotel, and retired for the night. Boulder claimed that he had taken $500, but he really got only $200. Boulder, upon learning that it was Wild Bill who had cleaned him out, said nothing more about the money. The next day the two men met over a bottle of wine, and settled their differences in an amicable manner.
Poor Bill was afterwards killed at Deadwood, in the Black Hills, in a cowardly manner, by a desperado who sneaked up behind him while he was playing a game of cards in a saloon, and shot him through the back of the head, without the least provocation. The murderer, Jack McCall, was tried and hung at Yankton, Dakotah, for the crime. Thus ended the career of a life-long friend of mine who, in spite of his many faults, was a noble man, ever brave and generous hearted.
Jack and myself continued playing through the country after Wild Bill left us, and we finally closed our season in Boston on the 13th of May, 1874.
Business called me from Boston to New York, and after I had been there a few days, I met an English gentleman, Thomas P. Medley, of London, who had come to America for a hunt on the Plains. He had often heard of me, and was anxious to engage me as his guide and companion, and he offered to pay the liberal salary of one thousand dollars a month while I was with him. He was a very wealthy man, as I learned upon inquiry, and was a relative of Mr. Lord, of the firm of Lord & Taylor, of New York. Of course I accepted his offer.
When we reached the hunting ground in Nebraska, he informed me, somewhat to my surprise, that he did not want to go out as Alexis did, with carriages, servants, and other luxuries, but that he wished to rough it just as I would do—to sleep on the ground in the open air, and kill and cook his own meat. We started out from North Platte, and spent several weeks in hunting all over the county. Dr. W. F. Carver, who then resided at North Platte, and who has recently acquired considerable notoriety as a rifle-shot, hunted with us for a few days.
Mr. Medley proved to be a very agreeable gentleman and an excellent hunter. While in camp he busied himself in carrying wood and water, attending to the fire, and preparing and cooking the meals, never asking me to do a thing. He did not do this to save expenses, but because he wanted to do as the other hunters in the party were doing. After spending as much time as he wished, we returned to the railroad, and he took the train for the East. Everything that was required on this hunt was paid for in the most liberal manner by Mr. Medley, who also gave the members of the party several handsome presents.
About this time an expedition consisting of seven companies of cavalry and two companies of infantry—to be commanded by Colonel Mills of the Third Cavalry, was being organized to scout the Powder River and Big Horn country, and I was employed as guide for the command. Proceeding to Rawlins, Wyoming, we "outfitted," and other guides were engaged—among them Tom Sun and Bony Ernest, two noted Rocky Mountain scouts. We there left the railroad, and passing through the Seminole range of the Rocky Mountains we established our supply camp at the foot of Independence Rock on the Sweetwater. I was now on my old familiar stamping ground, and it seemed like home to me. Fifteen years before, I had ridden the pony express and driven the overland stages through this region, and the command was going into the same section of country where Wild Bill's expedition of stage-drivers and express-riders had recaptured from the Indians a large number of stolen stage-horses.
Leaving the infantry to guard the supply camp, Colonel Mills struck out for the north with the seven companies of cavalry. One day while we were resting on a prairie near the head of Powder river, a horseman was seen in the distance approaching us. At first it was thought he was an Indian, but as he came near we saw that he was a white man, and finally when he rode up to us, I recognized him as "California Joe," a noted scout and frontiersman who had spent many years in California, on the plains and in the mountains. He was armed with a heavy old Sharpe's rifle, a revolver and a knife. I introduced him to Colonel Mills and the other officers and asked him where he was going. He replied that he was out for a morning ride only; but the fact was that he had been out prospecting alone for weeks along the foot of the Big Horn mountains.
Having no permanent occupation just at that time, Joe accompanied us for two or three days, when Colonel Mills suggested that I had better employ him as a scout, so that he could make a little money for himself. Joe didn't seem to care whether I hired him or not; but I put him on the pay-roll, and while he was with us he drew his five dollars a day. It was worth the money to have him along for company's sake, for he was a droll character in his way, and afforded us considerable amusement. We finally surprised Little Wolf's band of Arapahoes and drove them into the agencies. We then scouted the Powder river, Crazy Woman's Fork, and Clear Fork, and then pushed westward through the mountains to the Wind river. After having been out for a month or two we were ordered to return.
I immediately went East and organized another Dramatic company for the season of 1874-75, Texas Jack being absent in the Yellowstone country hunting with the Earl of Dunraven. I played my company in all the principal cities of the country, doing a good business wherever I went. The summer of 1875 I spent at Rochester with my family.
For the season of 1875-6, Texas Jack and I reorganized our old Combination, and made a very successful tour. While we were playing at Springfield, Massachusetts, April 20th and 21st 1876, a telegram was handed me just as I was going on the stage. I opened it and found it to be from Colonel G.W. Torrence, of Rochester, an intimate friend of the family, who stated that my little boy Kit was dangerously ill with the scarlet fever. This was indeed sad news, for little Kit had always been my greatest pride. I sent for John Burke, our business manager, and showing him the telegram, told him that I would play the first act, and making a proper excuse to the audience, I would then take the nine o'clock train that same evening for Rochester, leaving him to play out my part. This I did, and at ten o'clock the next morning I arrived in Rochester, and was met at the depot by my intimate friend Moses Kerngood who at once drove me to my home. I found my little boy unable to speak but he seemed to recognize me and putting his little arms around my neck he tried to kiss me. We did everything in our power to save him, but it was of no avail. The Lord claimed his own, and that evening at six o'clock my beloved little Kit died in my arms. We laid him away to rest in the beautiful cemetery of Mount Hope amid sorrow and tears.
I RETURN TO THE PLAINS.
We closed our theatrical season earlier than usual in the spring of 1876, because I was anxious to take part in the Sioux war which was then breaking out. Colonel Hills had written me several letters saying that General Crook was anxious to have me accompany his command, and I promised to do so, intending to overtake him in the Powder river country. But when I arrived at Chicago, on my way West, I learned that my old regiment, the gallant Fifth Cavalry, was on its way back from Arizona to join General Crook, and that my old commander, General Carr, was in command. He had written to military headquarters at Chicago to learn my whereabouts, as he wished to secure me as his guide and chief of scouts. I then gave up the idea of overtaking General Crook, and hastening on to Cheyenne, where the Fifth Cavalry had already arrived, I was met at the depot by Lieutenant King, adjutant of the regiment, he having been sent down from Fort D. A. Russell for that purpose by General Carr, who had learned by a telegram from military headquarters at Chicago that I was on the way. I accompanied the Lieutenant on horseback to the camp, and as we rode up, one of the boys shouted, "Here's Buffalo Bill!" Soon after there came three hearty cheers from the regiment. Officers and men all were glad to see me, and I was equally delighted to meet them once more. The General at once appointed me his guide and chief of scouts.
The next morning the command pulled out for Fort Laramie, and on reaching that post we found General Sheridan there, accompanied by General Frye and General Forsyth, en route to Red Cloud agency. As the command was to remain here a few days, I accompanied General Sheridan to Red Cloud and back, taking a company of cavalry as escort.
The Indians having recently committed a great many depredations on the Black Hills road, the Fifth Cavalry was sent out to scout the country between the Indian agencies and the hills. The command operated on the South Fork of the Cheyenne and at the foot of the Black Hills for about two weeks, having several small engagements with roving bands of Indians during the time. General Wesley Merritt—who had lately received his promotion to the Colonelcy of the Fifth Cavalry—now came out and took control of the regiment. I was sorry that the command was taken from General Carr, because under him it had made its fighting reputation. However, upon becoming acquainted with General Merritt, I found him to be an excellent officer.
The regiment, by continued scouting, soon drove the Indians out of that section of the country, as we supposed, and we had started on our way back to Fort Laramie, when a scout arrived at the camp and reported the massacre of General Custer and his band of heroes on the Little Big Horn, on the 25th of June, 1876; and he also brought orders to General Merritt to proceed at once to Fort Fetterman and join General Crook in the Big Horn country.
Colonel Stanton, who was with the Fifth Cavalry on this scout, had been sent to Red Cloud agency two days before, and that same evening a scout arrived bringing a message from him that eight hundred Cheyenne warriors had that day left the Red Cloud agency to join Sitting Bull's hostile forces in the Big Horn region. Notwithstanding the instructions to proceed immediately to join General Crook by the Way of Fort Fetterman, Colonel Merritt took the responsibility of endeavoring to intercept the Cheyennes, and as the sequel shows he performed a very important service.
He selected five hundred men and horses, and in two hours we were making a forced march back to Hat, or War-Bonnet Creek—the intention being to reach the main Indian trail running to the north across that creek before the Cheyennes could get there. We arrived there the next night, and at daylight the following morning, July 17th, 1876, I went out on a scout, and found that the Indians had not yet crossed the creek. On my way back to the command I discovered a large party of Indians, which proved to be the Cheyennes, coming up from the south, and I hurried to the camp with this important information.
The cavalrymen quietly mounted their horses, and were ordered to remain out of sight, while General Merritt, accompanied by two or three aides and myself, went out on a little tour of observation to a neighboring hill, from the summit of which we saw that the Indians were approaching almost directly towards us. Presently fifteen or twenty of them dashed off to the west in the direction from which we had come the night before; and upon closer observation with our field glasses, we discovered two mounted soldiers, evidently carrying dispatches for us, pushing forward on our trail.
The Indians were evidently endeavoring to intercept these two men, and General Merritt feared that they would accomplish their object. He did not think it advisable to send out any soldiers to the assistance of the couriers, for fear that would show to the Indians that there were troops in the vicinity who were waiting for them. I finally suggested that the best plan was to wait until the couriers came closer to the command, and then, just as the Indians were about to charge, to let me take the scouts and cut them off from the main body of the Cheyennes, who were coming over the divide.
"All right, Cody," said the General, "if you can do that, go ahead."
I rushed back to the command, jumped on my horse, picked out fifteen men, and returned with them to the point of observation. I told General Merritt to give us the word to start out at the proper time, and presently he sang out:
"Go in now, Cody, and be quick about it. They are going to charge on the couriers."
The two messengers were not over four hundred yards from us, and the Indians were only about two hundred yards behind them. We instantly dashed over the bluffs, and advanced on a gallop towards the Indians. A running fight lasted several minutes, during which we drove the enemy some little distance and killed three of their number. The rest of them rode off towards the main body, which had come into plain sight, and halted, upon seeing the skirmish that was going on. We were about half a mile from General Merritt, and the Indians whom we were chasing suddenly turned upon us, and another lively skirmish took place. One of the Indians, who was handsomely decorated with all the ornaments usually worn by a war chief when engaged in a fight, sang out to me, in his own tongue:
"I know you, Pa-he-haska; if you want to fight, come ahead and fight me."
The chief was riding his horse back and forth in front of his men, as if to banter me, and I concluded to accept the challenge. I galloped towards him for fifty yards and he advanced towards me about the same distance, both of us riding at full speed, and then, when we were only about thirty yards apart, I raised my rifle and fired; his horse fell to the ground, having been killed by my bullet.
Almost at the same instant my own horse went down, he having stepped into a hole. The fall did not hurt me much, and I instantly sprang to my feet. The Indian had also recovered himself, and we were now both on foot, and not more than twenty paces apart. We fired at each other simultaneously. My usual luck did not desert me on this occasion, for his bullet missed me, while mine struck him in the breast. He reeled and fell, but before he had fairly touched the ground I was upon him, knife in hand, and had driven the keen-edged weapon to its hilt in his heart. Jerking his war-bonnet off, I scientifically scalped him in about five seconds.
The whole affair from beginning to end occupied but little time, and the Indians, seeing that I was some little distance from my company, now came charging down upon me from a hill, in hopes of cutting me off. General Merritt had witnessed the duel, and realizing the danger I was in, ordered Colonel Mason with Company K to hurry to my rescue. The order came none too soon, for had it been given one minute later I would have had not less than two hundred Indians upon me. As the soldiers came up I swung the Indian chieftain's top-knot and bonnet in the air, and shouted: "The first scalp for Custer."
General Merritt, seeing that he could not now ambush the Indians, ordered the whole regiment to charge upon them. They made a stubborn resistance for a little while, but it was of no use for any eight hundred, or even sixteen hundred Indians to try and check a charge of the gallant old Fifth Cavalry, and they soon came to that conclusion and began a running retreat towards Red Cloud Agency. For thirty-five miles we drove them; pushing them so hard that they were obliged to abandon their loose horses, their camp equipage and everything else. We drove them into the agency, and followed in ourselves, notwithstanding the possibility of our having to encounter the thousands of Indians at that point. We were uncertain whether or not the other agency Indians had determined to follow the example of the Cheyennes and strike out upon the war-path; but that made no difference with the Fifth Cavalry, for they would have fought them all if necessary. It was dark when we rode into the agency, where we found thousands of Indians collected together; but they manifested no disposition to fight.
While at the agency I learned the name of the Indian Chief whom I had killed in the morning; it was Yellow Hand; a son of old Cut-nose—a leading chief of the Cheyennes. Cut-nose, having learned that I had killed his son sent a white interpreter to me with a message to the effect that he would give me four mules if I would turn over to him Yellow Hand's war-bonnet, guns, pistols, ornaments, and other paraphernalia which I had captured. I sent back word to the old gentleman that it would give me pleasure to accommodate him, but I could not do it this time.
The next morning we started to join General Crook, who was camped near the foot of Cloud Peak in the Big Horn mountains; awaiting the arrival of the Fifth Cavalry, before proceeding against the Sioux, who were somewhere near the head of the Little Big Horn,—as his scouts informed him. We made rapid marches and reached General Crook's camp on Goose Creek about the 3d of August.
At this camp I met many old friends, among whom was Colonel Royal, who had received his promotion to the Lieutenant Colonelcy of the Third Cavalry. He introduced me to General Crook, whom I had never met before, but of whom I had often heard. He also introduced me to the General's chief guide, Frank Grouard, a half breed, who had lived six years with Sitting Bull, and knew the country thoroughly.
We remained in this camp only one day, and then the whole troop pulled out for the Tongue river, leaving our wagons behind, but taking with us a large pack train. We marched down the Tongue river for two days, thence in a westerly direction over to the Rosebud, where we struck the main Indian trail, leading down this stream. From the size of the trail, which appeared to be about four days old, we estimated that there must have been in the neighborhood of seven thousand Indians who had made the broad trail.
At this point we were overtaken by Jack Crawford, familiarly known as "Captain Jack, the Poet Scout of the Black Hills," and right here I will insert the following lines, written by him, just after the "Custer Massacre," upon receiving from me the following dispatch:
"Jack, old boy, have you heard of the death of Custer?"
Did I hear the news from Custer? Well, I reckon I did, old pard; It came like a streak of lightnin', And, you bet, it hit me hard. I ain't no hand to blubber, And the briny ain't run for years; But chalk me down for a lubber, If I didn't shed regular tears.
What for? Now look you here, Bill, You're a bully boy, that's true; As good as e'er wore buckskin, Or fought with the boys in blue; But I'll bet my bottom dollar Ye had no trouble to muster A tear, or perhaps a hundred, At the news of the death of Custer.
He always thought well of you, pard, And had it been heaven's will, In a few more days you'd met him, And he'd welcome his old scout Bill. For if ye remember at Hat Creek, I met ye with General Carr; We talked of the brave young Custer, And recounted his deeds of war.
But little we knew even then, pard, (And that's just two weeks ago), How little we dreamed of disaster, Or that he had met the foe— That the fearless, reckless hero, So loved by the whole frontier, Had died on the field of battle In this, our centennial year.
I served with him in the army, In the darkest days of the war: And I reckon ye know his record, For he was our guiding star; And the boys who gathered round him To charge in the early morn, War just like the brave who perished With him on the Little Horn.
And where is the satisfaction, And how will the boys get square? By giving the reds more rifles? Invite them to take more hair? We want no scouts, no trappers, Nor men who know the frontier; Phil, old boy, you're mistaken, We must have the volunteer.
Never mind that two hundred thousand But give us a hundred instead; Send five thousand men towards Reno, And soon we won't leave a red. It will save Uncle Sam lots of money, In fortress we need not invest, Jest wollup the devils this summer, And the miners will do all the rest.
The Black Hills are filled with miners, The Big Horn will soon be as full, And which will show the most danger To Crazy Horse and old Sitting Bull A band of ten thousand frontier men, Or a couple of forts with a few Of the boys in the East now enlisting— Friend Cody, I leave it with you.
They talk of peace with these demons By feeding and clothing them well: I'd as soon think an angel from Heaven Would reign with contentment in H—l
And one day the Quakers will answer Before the great Judge of us all, For the death of daring young Custer And the boys who round him did fall.
Perhaps I am judging them harshly, But I mean what I'm telling ye, pard; I'm letting them down mighty easy, Perhaps they may think it is hard. But I tell you the day is approaching— The boys are beginning to muster— That day of the great retribution, The day of revenge for our Custer.
And I will be with you, friend Cody, My weight will go in with the boys; I shared all their hardships last winter, I shared all their sorrows and joys; Tell them I'm coming, friend William, I trust I will meet you ere long; Regards to the boys in the mountains; Yours, ever; in friendship still strong.
Jack was a new man in the country, but evidently had plenty of nerve and pluck, as he had brought dispatches from Fort Fetterman, a distance of 300 miles through a dangerous Indian country. The dispatches were for General Crook, and notified him that General Terry was to operate with a large command south of the Yellowstone, and that the two commands would probably consolidate somewhere on the Rosebud.
Jack at once hunted me up and gave me a letter from General Sheridan, informing me that he had appointed him (Jack) as one of the scouts.
While we were conversing, Jack informed me that he had brought me a present from Colonel Jones of Cheyenne, and that he had it in his saddle-pockets. Asking the nature of the gift, he replied that it was only a bottle of good whiskey.
I placed my hand over his mouth and told him to keep still, and not to whisper it even to the winds, for there were too many dry men around us; and only when alone with him did I dare to have him take the treasure from his saddle-pockets.
In this connection I may remark that Jack Crawford is the only man I have ever known that could have brought that bottle of whiskey through without accident befalling it, for he is one of the very few teetotal scouts I ever met.
Not wishing to have a game of "whiskey solitaire," I invited General Carr to sample the bottle with me. We soon found a secluded spot, and dismounting, we thought we were going to have a nice little drink all by ourselves, when who should ride up but Mr. Lathrop, the Reporter of the Associated Press of the Pacific slope—to whom we had given the name of the "Death Rattler,"—and who was also known in San Francisco as "the man with the iron jaw," he having, with the true nose of a Reporter, smelt the whiskey from afar off, and had come to "interview" it. He was a good fellow withal, and we were glad to have him join us.
Now to resume: For two or three days we pushed on, but we did not seem to gain much on the Indians, as they were evidently making about the same marches that we were. On the fourth or fifth morning of our pursuit, I rode ahead of the command about ten miles, and mounting a hill I scanned the country far and wide with my field glass, and discovered an immense column of dust rising about ten miles further down the creek, and soon I noticed a body of men marching towards me, that at first I believed to be the Indians of whom we were in pursuit; but subsequently they proved to be General Terry's command. I sent back word to that effect to General Crook, by a scout who had accompanied me, but after he had departed I observed a band of Indians on the opposite side of the creek, and also another party directly in front of me. This led me to believe that I had made a mistake.
But shortly afterwards my attention was attracted by the appearance of a body of soldiers, who were forming into a skirmish line, and then I became convinced that it was General Terry's command after all, and that the red-skins whom I had seen were some of his friendly Indian scouts, who had mistaken me for a Sioux, and fled back to their command terribly excited, shouting, "The Sioux are coming!"
General Terry at once came to the post, and ordered the Seventh Cavalry to form line of battle across the Rosebud; he also ordered up his artillery and had them prepare for action, doubtless dreading another "Custer massacre." I afterwards learned the Indians had seen the dust raised by General Crook's forces, and had reported that the Sioux were coming.
These manoeuvres I witnessed from my position with considerable amusement, thinking the command must be badly demoralized, when one man could cause a whole army to form line of battle and prepare for action. Having enjoyed the situation to my heart's content, I galloped down towards the skirmish line, waving my hat and when within about one hundred yards of the troops, Colonel Weir, of the Seventh Cavalry, galloped out and met me. He recognized me at once, and accompanied me inside the line; then he sang out, "Boys, here's Buffalo Bill. Some of you old soldiers know him; give him a cheer!" Thereupon the regiment gave three rousing cheers, and it was followed up all along the line.
Colonel Weir presented me to General Terry, and in answer to his questions I informed him that the alarm of Indians which had been given was a false one, as the dust seen by his scouts was caused by General Crook's troops. General Terry thereupon rode forward to meet General Crook, and I accompanied him at his request. That night both commands went into camp on the Rosebud. General Terry had his wagon train with him, and everything to make life comfortable on an Indian campaign. He had large wall tents and portable beds to sleep in, and large hospital tents for dining-rooms. His camp looked very comfortable and attractive, and presented a great contrast to that of General Crook, who had for his headquarters only one small fly tent; and whose cooking utensils consisted of a quart cup—in which he made his coffee himself—and a stick, upon which he broiled his bacon. When I compared the two camps, I came to the conclusion that General Crook was an Indian fighter; for it was evident that he had learned that, to follow and fight Indians, a body of men must travel lightly and not be detained by a wagon train or heavy luggage of any kind.
That evening General Terry ordered General Miles to take his regiment, the Fifth Infantry, and return by a forced march to the Yellowstone, and proceed down that river by steamboat to the mouth of Powder river, to intercept the Indians, in case they attempted to cross the Yellowstone. General Mills made a forced march that night of thirty-five miles, which was splendid traveling for an infantry regiment through a mountainous country.
Generals Crook and Terry spent that evening and the next day in council, and on the following morning both commands moved out on the Indian trail. Although General Terry was the senior officer, he did not assume command of both expeditions, but left General Crook in command of his own troops, although they operated together. We crossed the Tongue river to Powder river, and proceeded down the latter stream to a point twenty miles from its junction with the Yellowstone, where the Indian trail turned to the southeast in the direction of the Black Hills. The two commands now being nearly out of supplies, the trail was abandoned, and the troops kept on down Powder river to its confluence with the Yellowstone, and remained there several days. Here we met General Mills, who reported that no Indians had as yet crossed the Yellowstone. Several steamboats soon arrived with a large quantity of supplies, and once more the "Boys in Blue" were made happy.
One evening while we were in camp on the Yellowstone at the mouth of Powder river, I was informed that the commanding officers had selected Louis Richard, a half breed, and myself to accompany General Mills on a scouting expedition on the steamer Far West, down the Yellowstone as far as Glendive Creek. We were to ride on the pilot house and keep a sharp lookout on both sides of the river for Indian trails that might have crossed the stream. The idea of scouting on a steamboat was indeed a novel one to me, and I anticipated a pleasant trip.
At daylight next morning we reported on board the steamer to General Mills, who had with him four or five companies of his regiment. We were somewhat surprised when he asked us where our horses were, as we had not supposed that horses would be needed if the scouting was to be done on the steamer. He said we might need them before we got back, and thereupon we had the animals brought on board. In a few minutes we were booming down the river, at the rate of about twenty miles an hour.
The steamer Far West was commanded by Captain Grant Marsh, whom I found to be a "brick." I had often heard of him, for he was and is yet one of the best known river captains in the country. He it was who, with his steamer the Far West, transported the wounded men from the battle of the Little Big Horn to Fort Abraham Lincoln on the Missouri river, and on that trip he made the fastest steamboat time on record. He was a skillful and experienced pilot, handling his boat with remarkable dexterity.
While Richard and myself were at our stations on the pilot house, the steamer with a full head of steam went flying past islands, around bends, over sand bars, at a rate that was exhilarating. Presently I thought I could see horses grazing in a distant bend of the river and I reported the fact to General Mills, who asked Captain Marsh if he could land the boat near a large tree which he pointed out to him.
"Yes, sir; I can land her there, and make her climb the tree if necessary," said he.
On reaching the spot designated, General Mills ordered two companies ashore, while Richard and myself were ordered to take our horses off the boat and push out as rapidly as possible to see if there were Indians in the vicinity. While we were getting ashore, Captain Marsh remarked that if there was only a good heavy dew on the grass he would shoot the steamer ashore and take us on the scout without the trouble of leaving the boat.
It was a false alarm, however, as the objects we had seen proved to be Indian graves. Quite a large number of braves who had probably been killed in some battle, had been buried on scaffolds, according to the Indian custom, and some of their clothing had been torn loose from the bodies by the wolves and was waving in the air.
On arriving at Glendive Creek we found that Colonel Rice and his company of the Fifth Infantry, who had been sent there by General Mills, had built quite a good little fort with their trowel-bayonets—a weapon which Colonel Rice was the inventor of, and which is, by the way, a very useful implement of war, as it can be used for a shovel in throwing up intrenchments and can be profitably utilized in several other ways. On the day previous to our arrival, Colonel Rice had a fight with a party of Indians, and had killed two or three of them at long range with his Rodman cannon.
The Far West was to remain at Glendive over night, and General Mills wished to send dispatches back to General Terry at once. At his request I took the dispatches and rode seventy-five miles that night through the bad lands of the Yellowstone, and reached General Terry's camp next morning, after having nearly broken my neck a dozen times or more.
There being but little prospect of any more fighting, I determined to go East as soon as possible to organize a new "Dramatic Combination," and have a new drama written for me, based upon the Sioux war. This I knew would be a paying investment as the Sioux campaign had excited considerable interest. So I started down the river on the steamer Yellowstone en route to Fort Beauford. On the same morning Generals Terry and Crook pulled out for Powder river, to take up the old Indian trail which we had recently left.
The steamer had proceeded down the stream about twenty miles when it was met by another boat on its way up the river, having on board General Whistler and some fresh troops for General Terry's command. Both boats landed, and almost the first person I met was my old friend and partner, Texas Jack, who had been sent out as a dispatch carrier for the New York Herald.
General Whistler, upon learning that General Terry had left the Yellowstone, asked me to carry to him some important dispatches from General Sheridan, and although I objected, he insisted upon my performing this duty, saying that it would only detain me a few hours longer; as an extra inducement he offered me the use of his own thorough-bred horse, which was on the boat. I finally consented to go, and was soon speeding over the rough and hilly country towards Powder river; and I delivered the dispatches to General Terry that same evening. General Whistler's horse, although a good animal, was not used to such hard riding, and was far more exhausted by the journey than I was.
After I had taken a lunch, General Terry asked me if I would carry some dispatches back to General Whistler, and I replied that I would. Captain Smith, General Terry's aid-de-camp, offered me his horse for the trip, and it proved to be an excellent animal; for I rode him that same night forty miles over the bad lands in four hours, and reached General Whistler's steamboat at one o'clock. During my absence the Indians had made their appearance on the different hills in the vicinity, and the troops from the boat had had several skirmishes with them. When General Whistler had finished reading the dispatches, he said:
"Cody, I want to send information to General Terry concerning the Indians who have been skirmishing around here all day. I have been trying all the evening long to induce some one to carry my dispatches to him, but no one seems willing to undertake the trip, and I have got to fall back on you. It is asking a great deal, I know, as you have just ridden eighty miles; but it is a case of necessity, and if you'll go, Cody, I'll see that you are well paid for it."
"Never mind about the pay," said I, "but get your dispatches ready, and I'll start at once."
In a few minutes he handed me the package, and mounting the same horse which I had ridden from General Terry's camp, I struck out for my destination. It was two o'clock in the morning when I left the boat, and at eight o'clock I rode into General Terry's camp, just as he was about to march—having made one hundred and twenty miles in twenty-two hours.
General Terry, after reading the dispatches, halted his command, and then rode on and overtook General Crook, with whom he held a council; the result was that Crook's command moved on in the direction which they had been pursuing, while Terry's forces marched back to the Yellowstone and crossed the river on steamboats. At the urgent request of General Terry I accompanied the command on a scout in the direction of the Dry Fork of the Missouri, where it was expected we would strike some Indians.
The first march out from the Yellowstone was made in the night, as we wished to get into the hills without being discovered by the Sioux scouts. After marching three days, a little to the east of north, we reached the buffalo range, and discovered fresh signs of Indians, who had evidently been killing buffaloes. General Terry now called on me to carry dispatches to Colonel Rice, who was still camped at the mouth of Glendive Creek, on the Yellowstone—distant about eighty miles from us.
Night had set in with a storm, and a drizzling rain was falling when, at ten o'clock, I started on this ride through a section of country with which I was entirely unacquainted. I traveled through the darkness a distance of about thirty-five miles, and at daylight I rode into a secluded spot at the head of a ravine where stood a bunch of ash trees, and there I concluded to remain till night; for I considered it a dangerous undertaking to cross the wide prairies in broad daylight—especially as my horse was a poor one.
I accordingly unsaddled my animal, and ate a hearty breakfast of bacon and hard tack which I had stored in the saddle-pockets; then, after taking a smoke, I lay down to sleep, with my saddle for a pillow. In a few minutes I was in the land of dreams.
After sleeping some time—I can't tell how long—I was suddenly awakened by a roaring, rumbling sound. I instantly seized my gun, sprang to my horse, and hurriedly secreted him in the brush. Then I climbed up the steep side of the bank and cautiously looked over the summit; in the distance I saw a large herd of buffaloes which were being chased and fired at by twenty or thirty Indians. Occasionally a buffalo would drop out of the herd, but the Indians kept on until they had killed ten or fifteen. They then turned back, and began to cut up their game.
I saddled my horse and tied him to a small tree where I could reach him conveniently in case the Indians should discover me by finding my trail and following it. I then crawled carefully back to the summit of the bluff, and in a concealed position watched the Indians for two hours, during which time they were occupied in cutting up the buffaloes and packing the meat on their ponies. When they had finished this work they rode off in the direction whence they had come and on the line which I had proposed to travel. It appeared evident to me that their camp was located somewhere between me and Glendive Creek, but I had no idea of abandoning the trip on that account.
I waited till nightfall before resuming my journey, and then I bore off to the east for several miles, and by making a semi-circle to avoid the Indians, I got back on my original course, and then pushed on rapidly to Colonel Rice's camp, which I reached just at daylight.
Colonel Rice had been fighting Indians almost every day since he had been encamped at this point, and he was very anxious to notify General Terry of the fact. Of course I was requested to carry his dispatches. After remaining at Glendive a single day I started back to find General Terry, and on the third day out I overhauled him at the head of Deer Creek while on his way to Colonel Rice's camp. He was not, however, going in the right direction, but bearing too far to the east, and I so informed him. He then asked me to guide the command and I did so.
On arriving at Glendive I bade good-bye to the General and his officers and took passage on the steamer Far West, which was on her way down the Missouri. At Bismarck I left the steamer, and proceeded by rail to Rochester, New York, where I met my family.
Mr. J. Clinton Hall, manager of the Rochester Opera House, was very anxious to have me play an engagement at his theatre. I agreed to open the season with him as soon as I had got my drama written; and I did so, meeting with an enthusiastic reception.
My new drama was arranged for the stage by J.V. Arlington, the actor. It was a five-act play, without head or tail, and it made no difference at which act we commenced the performance. Before we had finished the season several newspaper critics, I have been told, went crazy in trying to follow the plot. It afforded us, however, ample opportunity to give a noisy, rattling, gunpowder entertainment, and to present a succession of scenes in the late Indian war, all of which seemed to give general satisfaction.
From Rochester I went to New York and played a very successful engagement at the Grand Opera House under the management of Messrs. Poole and Donnelly. Thence my route took me to all the principal cities in the Eastern, Western and Middle States, and I everywhere met with crowded houses. I then went to the Pacific Coast, against the advice of friends who gave it as their opinion that my style of plays would not take very well in California. I opened for an engagement of two weeks at the Bush Street Theatre, in San Francisco, at a season when the theatrical business was dull, and Ben DeBar and the Lingards were playing there to empty seats. I expected to play to a slim audience on the opening night, but instead of that I had a fourteen hundred dollar house. Such was my success that I continued my engagement for five weeks, and the theatre was crowded at every performance. Upon leaving San Francisco I made a circuit of the interior towns and closed the season at Virginia City, Nevada.
On my way East, I met my family at Denver, where they were visiting my sisters Nellie and May who were then residing there.
Some time previously I had made arrangements to go into the cattle business in company with my old friend, Major Frank North, and while I was in California he had built our ranches on the South Fork of the Dismal river, sixty-five miles north of North Platte, in Nebraska. Proceeding to Ogalalla, the headquarters of the Texas cattle drovers, I found Major North there awaiting me, and together we bought, branded and drove to our ranches, our first installment of cattle. This occupied us during the remainder of the summer.