Famous Men of the Santa Fe Trail

“Get into that ravine !” shouted Hobbs to his companion. “Throw away that meat, and run for your life!”

It was too late; just as they arrived at the brink of the hollow, they looked back, and close behind them were a dozen Comanche.

The Indians rode up, and one of the party said in very good English, “How d’ do?”

Comanche Painting

Comanche Painting

“How d’ do?” Hobbs replied, thinking it would be better to be as polite as the Indian, though the state of the latter’s health just then was a matter of small concern.

“Texas?” inquired the Indian. The Comanche had good reasons to hate the citizens of that country, and it was a lucky thing for Hobbs that he had heard of their prejudice from the trappers, and possessed the presence of mind to remember it. He replied promptly: “No, friendly; going to establish a trading-post for the Comanche.”

“Friendly? Better go with us, though. Got any tobacco?”

Hobbs had some of the desired articles, and he was not long in handing it over to his newly found friend.

Both of the boys were escorted to the temporary camp of the Indians, but the original number of their captors was increased to over a thousand before they arrived there. They were supplied with some dried buffalo-meat and then taken to the lodge of Old Wolf, the head chief of the tribe.

A council was called immediately to consider what disposition should be made of them, but nothing was decided upon, and the assembly of warriors adjourned until morning. Hobbs told me that it was because Old Wolf had imbibed too much brandy, a bottle of which Baptiste had brought with him from the train, and which the thirsty warrior saw suspended from his saddle-bow as they rode up to the chief’s lodge; the aged rascal got beastly drunk.

About noon of the next day, after the dispersion of the council, the boys were informed that if they were not Texans, would behave themselves, and not attempt to run away, they might stay with the Indians, who would not kill them; but a string of dried scalps was pointed out, hanging on a lodgepole, of some Mexicans whom they had captured and put to herding their ponies, and who had tried to get away. They succeeded in making a few miles; the Indians chased them, after deciding in council, that, if caught, only their scalps were to be brought back. The moral of this was that the same fate awaited the boys if they followed the example of the foolish Mexicans.

Hobbs had excellent sense and judgment, and he knew that it would be the height of folly for him and Baptiste, mere boys, to try and reach either Bent’s Fort, Colorado or the Missouri River, not having the slightest knowledge of where they were situated.

Hobbs grew to be a great favorite with the Comanche; was given the daughter of Old Wolf in marriage, became a great chief, fought many hard battles with his savage companions, and at last, four years after, was redeemed by Charles Bent, who paid Old Wolf a small ransom for him at the Fort, where the Indians had come to trade. Baptiste, whom the Indians never took a great fancy to, because he did not develop into a great warrior, was also ransomed by Bent, his price being only an antiquated mule.

At Bent’s Fort, Hobbs went out trapping under the leadership of Kit Carson, and they became lifelong friends. In a short time Hobbs earned the reputation of being an excellent mountaineer, trapper, and as an Indian fighter, he was second to none, his education among the Comanche having trained him in all the strategy of the Indians.

After going through the Mexican War with an excellent record, Hobbs wandered about the country, now engaged in mining in old Mexico, then fighting the Apache under the orders of the governor of Chihuahua, and at the end of the campaign going back to the Pacific coast, where he entered into new pursuits. Sometimes he was rich, then as poor as one can imagine. He returned to old Mexico in time to become an active partisan in the revolt which overthrew the short-lived dynasty of Maximilian, and was present at the execution of that unfortunate prince. Finally, he retired to the home of his childhood in the States, where he died a few months ago, full of years and honors.

William F. Cody

Buffalo Bill Cody, 1872

Buffalo Bill Cody, 1872

William F. Cody, “Buffalo Bill“, is one of the famous plainsmen, of later days, after Carson, Bridger, John Smith, Maxwell, and others. The mantle of Kit Carson, perhaps, fits more perfectly the shoulders of Cody than those of any other of the great frontiersman’s successors, and he has had some experiences that surpassed anything which fell to their lot.

He was born in Iowa, in 1845, and when barely seven years old his father emigrated to Kansas, then far remote from civilization. When he grew old enough, he went to work as a guide and scout in an expedition against the Kiowa and Comanche, and his line of duty took him along the Santa Fe Trail. When not working as a scout, he carried dispatches between Fort Lyon, Colorado and Fort Larned, Kansas, the most important military posts on the great highway, as well as to far-off Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on the Missouri River, was the headquarters of the department. Fort Larned was the general rendezvous of all the scouts on the Kansas and Colorado plains, the chief of whom was a veteran interpreter and guide, named Dick Curtis.

When Cody first reported there for his responsible duty, a large camp of the Kiowa and Comanche was established within sight of the fort, whose warriors had not as yet put on their war-paint, but were evidently restless and discontented under the restraint of their chiefs. Soon those leading men, Satanta, Lone Wolf, Satank, and others of lesser note, grew rather impudent and haughty in their department, and they were watched with much concern. The post was garrisoned by only two companies of infantry and one of cavalry.

General Hazen, afterward chief of the signal service in Washington, was at Fort Larned at the time, endeavoring to patch up a peace with the Indians, who seemed determined to break out. Cody was special scout to the general, and one morning he was ordered to accompany him as far as Fort Zarah, Kansas on the Arkansas River, near the mouth of Walnut Creek, in what is now Barton County, Kansas, the general intending to go on to Fort Harker, on the Smoky Hill River in Kansas. In making these trips of inspection, with incidental collateral duties, the general usually traveled in an ambulance, but on this journey, he rode in a six-mule army-wagon, escorted by a detachment of a score of infantry. It was a warm August day, and an early start was made, which enabled them to reach Fort Zarah, over thirty miles distant, by noon. After dinner, the general proposed to go on to Fort Harker, Kansas 41 miles away, without any escort, leaving orders for Cody to return to Fort Larned the next day, with the soldiers. But Cody, ever impatient of delay when there was work to do, notified the sergeant in charge of the men that he was going back that very afternoon. I tell the story of his trip as he has often told it to me, and as he has written it in his autobiography.

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