Title: Buffalo Bill's Long Ride | How the Old Veteran Became Chief of Scouts

Periodical: Omaha Daily Bee

Date: July 24, 1887

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How the Old Veteran Became Chief of Scouts.


Making 295 miles in Short Time—Cody as a Dispatch Carrier—Chased by Red Skins—Sheridan's Compliment.

London Globe: On returning from a long ride, in which I had been much harassed by the Indians, I was one night accosted by Curtis, [1] the chief of the scouts, who was in a difficulty. The general was anxious to send some dispatches to General Sheridan at Fort Hays, some eighty miles off. The scouts available did not freeze on to the job. They urged that they were not sufficiently well acquainted with the country to go by night. The dispatch was important, and so Curtis came to me and asked me, if I was not too tired, to volunteer. It was a rather ticklish piece of work. The whole country was lined by Indians. It was a dark night and a storm was threatening. However, the dispatches had to be sent off, and so I assented, bargaining only that I should be provided with the best mount in the fort. This was readily assented to, the scouts took a fond farewell of me, and with their wishes for success ringing in my ears, I set out on my long ride.

The night was dark as pitch, but this gave me all the better chance of escaping the Indians. My greatest danger was lest my horse should stumble in a hole, and run away, leaving me on the prairie. To prevent such a catastrophe I tied one end of my rawhide lariat to the bridle, and the other to my belt, a wise precaution, for within a few miles my horse fell twice in prairie dogs' holes, and got away before I could get hold of the bridle, but when he got to the length of the lariat he discovered that he was picketed to Bison Bill, which considerably abated his playfulness. In this way I proceeded through the night, and reached Walnut creek, twenty-five miles out, in good time. It was here that I met with my first adventure. Going slowly through the darkness, I suddenly found myself in the midst of a number of horses, which, becoming frightened, speedily moved off in all directions. I knew at once that I was near Indians, so without waiting to apologize, cleared out as quickly as possible. Just as I thought myself clear, a dog barked a few yards away, and then I heard some redskins talking. They did more than talk, too. They mounted their mustangs and gave chase. I urged my horse to full speed and succeeded in getting away without loss of life.

I continued my way for several miles in a straight course, and I pushed on toward Smoky Hill river. I reached this point soon after 3 o'clock in the morning, and then pushing northward I struck the old Santa Fe trail ten miles from Fort Hays just as day was breaking. Arrived at the post soon after revielle. I made straight for General Sheridan's headquarters and presented my dispatches in person. I was most cordially received by the general, and, having taken food, and seen that my horse was well cared for, thought I would proceed to take a little rest. It was, however, not to be, for I was suddenly sent for by the general, who wished to see me. As I approached headquarters I noticed a number of scouts grouped together and evidently engaged in discussing something important, and soon learned what this was. General Sheridan wanted to send an important dispatch to Fort Dodge, a distance of ninety-five miles. Volunteers were requested but none responded. The general told me this, and what could I do?

"General," I said, "if there is no one ready to volunteer, I'll carry your dispatch myself."

The general expressed himself greatly pleased at my offer, but at the same time said that he had not thought of asking me to undertake the duty, as I had been fully hardworked already. But it was very important that the dispatch should go.

"If you don't get a courier by 4 o'clock this afternoon, I'll do the business," I responded, "but I must have a fresh horse, and meantime will take a little rest." It was not much rest that I got, but punctually at 4 o'clock I announced myself ready, and mounting a fresh horse, started on the road. I crossed Smoky Hill river at dark, and it was just daylight as I rode up to Sam Log Crossing, [2] on the Pawnee fork, where a company of colored cavalry were posted, under Major Cox. [3] Here I got a fresh horse, and continuing my lonely ride, covering the remaining twenty-five miles to Fort Dodge, and arrived soon after 9 o'clock, without having seen a single Indian.


Having delivered my dispatches and rested an hour I was informed that the commander wished to send some dispatches to Fort Larned, my own post. I, of course, readily undertook to carry these, and my offer was gladly accepted by the general, "provided I thought I could stand the trip after my recent fatigue."

"All I want is a fresh horse, sir," I said.

Here was the difficulty. There was not such thing as a decent horse available, the only animals to be had being government mules, of which there was a large choice. I made no difficulty about this. "Trot out your mule," I said, "and I am ready now."

The mule was rapidly forthcoming, and at dark I started once more on the road for Fort Larned, and proceeded without interruption to Coon creek, thirty miles from Fort Dodge.

Here I dismounted and led my mule to a pool to give him some water. I also stood myself a drink, using my hat for a dipper, and, while engaged in procuring this refreshment, my mule suddenly jerked off and ambled away down to the creek. Then it flashed across my mind that in the hurry of departure I had omitted to make my lariat fast to him and that he was at large.

I followed him gently, in the hopes of getting hold of his bridle, and that he would perchance stop. He did not. He made straight for the wagon road, but instead of making for Fort Dodge, as I expected he would, he turned toward Fort Larned, and jogged merrily along with a most happy and unconcerned air. Several times I succeeded in getting just up to him, when he would put on a spurt and go ahead easy, slacking down as soon as I gave up chase. I was sorely tempted to shoot him with my gun, which I fortunately held in my hand, but the report would have probably brought the Indians down on me, and as he was, besides, company for me, I retained. And thus the mule marched along, and I followed on foot—cursing.

From Coon Creek to Fort Larned is thirty-five miles and we—that is, the mule and myself—made pretty good time. There was nothing to hold the mule, and I was striving hard to catch him—which urged him on. In addition to the excitement of this pedestrian competition, I had the knowledge that I might any moment be pounced upon by Indians, and have my hair lifted.

The mule stuck to the road, and I stuck to the mule. Just as day began to break we found ourselves still in the same order of procession on a hill looking down on the valley of Pawnee Fort, [4] with Fort Larned looming in the distance, and as I surveyed the scene, and the mule surveyed me, the morning gun belched forth half a mile away.

We took stock of each other with expressions of mutual distrust. Then, addressing my opposite neighbor, I spoke:

"Time's up," I said, "and its my turn. I am deeply indebted to you for your company, but we part." Then I raised my gun to my shoulder and blazed away, hitting the beast on the hip. Inserting a second cartridge, I fired into him again, and twice more, until at last he lay stretched out nice and comfortable. Like all government mules, he was a tough one, and died hard.

My shots brought out the troops, and when they learned what had happened, they all said it served him right. I then walked into headquarters and delivered my dispatches, and received the compliments of the general. I proceeded to put in some hours of solid sleep, and then left that same night for Fort Hays with more dispatches, which I delivered early the next morning to General Sheridan. My record of these rides is as follows: Fort Larned to Fort Hays, sixty-five miles in twelve hours; Fort Hays to Fort Dodge, ninety-five miles in the succeeding twenty-four hours; Fort Dodge to Fort Larned, thirty-five miles on mule, thirty-five miles off mule, the same night; and back to Fort Hays, sixty-five miles, the next—total, 295 miles, over a rough country, infested by hostile Indians, without any definite interval of rest.

On arriving at Fort Hays I was highly complimented by General Sheridan on my achievement. "Cody," he said, "I have decided to appoint you chief of scouts, with the command."

And thus it was I came to be chief of scouts United States army.

Note 1: Curtis may have been Richard Theodore "Dick" Curtis, Chief of Scouts under General Sherman. [back]

Note 2: Sam Log Crossing was actually named Saw Log Crossing. [back]

Note 3: Major Cox is unidentified. [back]

Note 4: Misspelling of Pawnee Fork. [back]

Title: Buffalo Bill's Long Ride | How the Old Veteran Became Chief of Scouts

Periodical: Omaha Daily Bee

Date: July 24, 1887

Topic: Buffalo Bill Himself

Keywords: American Indians Horses Military maneuvers Mules Santa Fe National Historic Trail Scouting (Reconnaissance) Scouts

Places: Fort Dodge (Fort Dodge, Kan.) Fort Hays (Kan.) Fort Larned (Larned, Kan.) Smoky Hill River (Colo. and Kan.)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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