In the footsteps of the history of the American West
This book, written by Colonel Henry Inman in collaboration with William F. Cody, the famous ‘Buffalo Bill,’ will be a treat for all those interested in the history of the ‘Wild West.’ The Great Salt Lake Trail was one of the principal highways across the Great Plains at the time of the westward migration that was ‘Manifest destiny.’ Its path was one which encapsulates the history of the West. It guided the early trappers and saw men like Beckwourth and Sublette. It was the road travelled by the Mormons as they journeyed to find their own promised land. It resounded to the galloping hoof-beats of the young daredevil riders of the Pony Express, as they carried communication across the vast interior, and to the rolling wheels of the overland stage as it opened up travel from the eastern states to the Pacific Ocean. Along its path lived the great horse borne warriors of the American Indian tribes—the Crows, the Blackfeet and the Sioux. It was the bloody ground of the Plains Indian Wars where Buffalo Bill made his name and George Armstrong Custer entered history as the principal figure in the massacre of the 7th U. S Cavalry at the Little Big Horn. As the dust trail gave way to civilization there came the laying of sleepers and tracks as the Union Pacific Railroad brought the wild prairie towards the 20th century. This is an exciting and fascinating history entertainingly told by an expert and is recommended.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Notwithstanding the instructions to proceed immediately to join General Crook by the way of Fort Fetterman, General Merritt took the responsibility of endeavouring to intercept the Cheyennes, and as the sequel shows he performed a very important service.<br>
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 17, 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.<br>
The cavalrymen quietly mounted their horses, and were ordered to remain out of sight, while General Merritt, accompanied by two or three aids and myself, went out on a tour of observation to a neighbouring hill, from the summit of which we saw that the Indians were approaching almost directly toward 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 despatches for us, pushing forward on our trail.<br>
The Indians were evidently endeavouring 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 they 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 make a charge, to let me take the scouts and cut them off from the main body of the Cheyennes, who were coming over the divide.<br>
“All right, Cody,” said the general, “if you can do that, go ahead.”<br>
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:—<br>
“Go in now, Cody, and be quick about it. They are going to charge on the couriers.”<br>
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 toward them. 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 toward 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.”<br>
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 toward him for fifty yards and he advanced toward 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 gopher-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.<br>
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 if it had been 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:—<br>
“The first scalp for Custer!”<br>
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 no use for any eight hundred, or even sixteen hundred, Indians to try to check a charge of the gallant old Fifth Cavalry. They soon came to that conclusion and began a running retreat toward 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.<br>
While at the agency I learned the name of the Indian chief whom I had killed that 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.