Adventures of Buffalo Bill - William Cody

Bill Cody, the Scout

With his entrance into the United States army "Bill Cody," as he had come to be known, arrived at man's estate, although he was scarcely eighteen years of age. He was known not only all over the West, but every army headquarters knew of the skillful frontiersman, and even at that early date most boys of the United States had read some part of his life in the newspapers. Now his work became that of a man, and he had plenty of narrow escapes during the war, which in their way were as remarkable as his experiences on the plains. For example, once General Smith, who was in charge of headquarters at Memphis, got hold of him and told him that he wished to get some information and have some maps drawn of the position of the Confederate troops; and that it was impossible to secure this unless he could find a man who would go into the Confederate camp in disguise. Cody immediately consented to go. It did not seem any more dangerous or any less honorable than carrying out the regular life of a scout and Indian hunter of the plains.

Just before the trip he had captured a man whom he knew, but who sided with the Southerners—a man named Nat Golden, who had been one of Russell, Majors & Waddeirs freightmen. On this man he found some dispatches, which he promptly read. Golden was such an old friend that Cody took the papers from him, and when the man was arrested, nothing being found on him to make him a spy, he was simply imprisoned. Bill never told. With these papers in his possession and dressed in the Confederate uniform, the spy entered the Confederate lines, after telling General Smith what was in the dispatches.

He was, of course, immediately halted by the pickets, to whom he stated that he was a Confederate soldier with information for the general. After being disarmed he was taken to General Forrest, and a conversation then took place in which Cody told Forest that Golden had been captured, and that as he was being taken prisoner he had handed Cody the dispatches, asking him to take them to General Forrest. The story seemed so plausible that the General allowed him to stay in camp. And for two days he kept his eyes open, drew plans, and was ready to leave, when he came near losing his presence of mind, as well as his life, by discovering General Forrest talking with Golden himself, who had escaped from the Union lines. He knew that there was no time for delay. Golden, having no idea that Cody was in the Confederate lines, would tell Forrest the whole story as it actually happened, and the General would at once have him arrested. He went, therefore, apparently in great calmness, to his tent, got his horse saddled, and rode quietly toward the picket line. No one suspected that anything was the matter. No one paid any attention to him. As he got to the picket the sergeant spoke to him, recognized him, and allowed him to pass.

He was outside the lines—in fact, he was between the Union and the Confederate lines—when he heard the sound of a squad of cavalry approaching. Then he put his horse to the run and in a moment discovered that a troop of Confederate cavalry was approaching from behind to meet a troop of Union cavalry approaching from the front. The one thought a spy was escaping; the other thought that a deserter or a spy was approaching. It was a hard situation. Fortunately, he got into some timber, and as he came out on the other side he discovered the Union lines. But it was not safe for him to approach in Confederate uniform, and so, with the knowledge that the Confederate cavalry was looking for him in the woods, Cody calmly dismounted at the spot where he had left his uniform, changed his clothes, and was able to lay his maps and report before General Smith within forty-eight hours from the time he had left.

After some further experiences with the force at the front, Cody was assigned to duty at St. Louis. Office work palled on him, however, and he soon procured his release, as the war was practically over. He then returned to Fort Leavenworth and looked again for a job. This time it turned out to be the work of driving the famous overland stage which ran from St. Joseph to Sacramento, doing the two thousand miles in nineteen days on the average. This stage was another of the enterprises of the great firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell. It was a difficult enterprise, too. The stage frequently carried large sums of money, and was therefore frequently field up by desperadoes or Indians.

No one seemed very anxious to undertake the work of driver, although it was well paid. And the now famous Indian scout saw his opportunity again of making relatively large sums of money by taking risks that few others would take. He was at once offered the opportunity on his application, and started driving the coach for what was called a division—that is, two hundred and fifty miles.

Those were strange old coaches. One of them may be seen to-day by any boy who will go to Buffalo Bill's famous Wild West Show and watch the old Deadwood coach drive around the ring. They were large-wheeled wagons swung on braces. They had to be strong, for they went over the most frightful roads one can imagine. Passengers could ride inside or on top, and everyone who traveled went as fully armed as he could. There never was a time in the night or day when the coach was not apt to be attacked. And if it were attacked, the man on the box was the first one shot. Cody's run was from Fort Kearny to Plum Creek, and he drove six horses. When he took hold of the job he was warned that Indians were all about, and rumors came thicker and thicker in the first month of his driving.

Nothing happened, however, with the exception of one trip, where he saved the coach and the lives of all in it by a daring rush through a stream in the face of a party of Indians. But shortly after this he was told by the division superintendent, as he left Fort Kearny, that in the coach was a very large amount of money being sent in a box to Plum Creek. It was a question whether the existence of this treasure had become known or not. At any rate, Cody said he would be on the watch. First, before mounting on the box, he looked over the passengers—and here again was the same habit of looking at everything and everybody that might have any relation to the situation. He did not like the looks of two of the passengers, and as the conductor, who always traveled with the driver on the trip, was suddenly prevented from going, his suspicions became keener.

Again the keen boy decided that the thing to do was to take time by the forelock. He had proceeded only a part of the distance after all but the two passengers had left when he pulled up the coach and got down as if to examine the running gear. Then he asked the two men to help him. As they started to come out of the coach Cody pointed two revolvers at them and held them up in the most approved fashion. He made them throw out their revolvers, then bound them and put them back in the coach.

Something that one of the men had said made him think that they were part of a gang, the other members of which were somewhere in ambush along the trail. On reaching the first relay station he deposited his prisoners with the agent and then started on.

There were no other passengers. He had no sooner gotten away from the station than, stopping again, he cut open one of the cushions of the coach, and taking the money from the box, put it inside the cushions and then patched up the opening. After that he remounted the box and rode on.

Within an hour, while driving through a bit of timber, the expected happened. The coach was held up by half a dozen men. They started to look for the treasure. Cody told them a long story of two men who had been riding as passengers, who had held him up in a lonely spot, taken the treasure, and disappeared into the timber. The gang immediately recognized their confederates, and in a fury at being thus deceived, they waited only long enough to ask him if they were mounted. On receiving an answer that they were not and also a description of the direction they had taken, the highwaymen left him in peace and rode in hot haste after their confederates.

And the driver of the overland stage finished his journey and deposited the treasure into the hands that it was intended for.