We learned afterward that the stampede had been caused by a returning party of California gold-seekers, whose shots into the herd had been our first warning of what was coming. Twice before we neared the Mormon country we were attacked by Indians. The army was so far ahead that they had become bold. We beat off the attacks, but lost two men. It was white men, however, not Indians, who were to prove our most dangerous enemies.
Arriving near Green River we were nooning on a ridge about a mile and a half from a little creek, Halm's Fork, where the stock were driven to water.
Buffalo Bill Remembers: Truth And Courage by William W. Quinn
This was a hundred and fifteen miles east of Salt Lake City, and well within the limits of the Mormon country. Most of the outfit had driven the cattle to the creek, a mile and a half distant, and were returning slowly, while the animals grazed along the way back to camp.
I was with them. We were out of sight of the wagons. As we rose the hill a big bearded man, mounted and surrounded by a party of armed followers, rode up to our wagon-master. Simpson was a brave man, but the strangers had the drop and up went his hands. At the same time we saw that the wagons were surrounded by several hundred men, all mounted and armed, and the teamsters all rounded up in a bunch.
Prince of the Pistoleers
We knew that we had fallen into the hands of the Mormon Danites, or Destroying Angels, the ruffians who perpetrated the dreadful Mountain Meadows Massacre of the same year. The leader was Lot Smith, one of the bravest and most determined of the whole crowd. You can have one wagon with the cattle to draw it.
Get into it all the provisions and blankets you can carry, and turn right round and go back to the Missouri River. You're headed in the wrong direction. All Simpson's protests were in vain. There were thirty of us against several hundred of them. Mormons stood over us while we loaded a wagon till it sagged with provisions, clothing and blankets. They had taken away every rifle and every pistol we possessed.
Ordering us to hike for the East, and informing us that we would be shot down if we attempted to turn back, they watched us depart.
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When we had moved a little way off we saw a blaze against the sky behind us, and knew that our wagon-train had been fired. The greasy bacon made thick black smoke and a bright-red flame, and for a long time the fire burned, till nothing was left but the iron bolts and axles and tires.
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Smith's party, which had been sent out to keep all supplies from reaching Johnston's army, had burned two other wagon-trains that same day, as we afterward learned. The wagons were all completely consumed, and for the next few years the Mormons would ride out to the scenes to get the iron that was left in the ashes.
Turned adrift on the desert with not a weapon to defend ourselves was hardly a pleasant prospect. It meant a walk of a thousand miles home to Leavenworth. The wagon was loaded to its full capacity. There was nothing to do but walk. I was not yet twelve years old, but I had to walk with the rest the full thousand miles, and we made nearly thirty miles a day.
Buffalo Bill Remembers: Truth And Courage
Fortunately we were not molested by Indians. From passing wagon-trains we got a few rifles, all they could spare, and with these we were able to kill game for fresh meat. I wore out three pairs of moccasins on that journey, and learned then that the thicker are the soles of your shoes, the easier are your feet on a long walk over rough ground. After a month of hard travel we reached Leavenworth. I set out at once for the log-cabin home, whistling as I walked, and the first to welcome me was my old dog Turk, who came tearing toward me and almost knocked me down in his eagerness. I am sure my mother and sisters were mighty glad to see me.
They had feared that I might never return. My next journey over the Plains was begun under what, to me, were very exciting circumstances. I spent the winter of ''58 at school. My mother was anxious about my education. But the master of the frontier school wore out several armfuls of hazel switches in a vain effort to interest me in the "three R's.
I kept thinking of my short but adventurous past. And as soon as another opportunity offered to return to it I seized it eagerly.
Albert Sidney Johnston's soldiers, then moving West, needed supplies, and needed them in a hurry. Thus far the mule was the reindeer of draft animals, and mule trains were forming to hurry the needful supplies to the soldiers. But Simpson had great faith in the bull. A picked bull train, he allowed, could beat a mule train all hollow on a long haul. All he wanted was a chance to prove it. His employers gave him the chance. For several weeks he had been picking his animals for the outfit. And now he was to begin what is perhaps the most remarkable race ever made across the Plains.
A mule train was to start a week after Simpson's lightning bulls began their westward course.
Whichever outfit got to Fort Laramie first would be the winner. No more excitement could have been occasioned had the contestants been a reindeer and a jack-rabbit. To my infinite delight Simpson let me join his party. My thousand-mile tramp over the Plains had cured me of the walking habit and I was glad to find that this time I was to have a horse to ride—part of the way, anyhow.
I was to be an extra hand—which meant that by turns I was to be a bull-whacker, driver and general-utility man. I remember that our start was a big event. Men, women and children watched our chosen animals amble out of Salt Creek.
The "mule skinners," busy with preparations for their own departure, stopped work to jeer us. But Simpson only grinned. Jeers couldn't shake his confidence either in himself or his long-horned motive power. We made the first hundred and fifty miles easily. I was glad to be a plainsman once more, and took a lively interest in everything that went forward.
We were really making speed, too, which added to the excitement. The ordinary bull team could do about fifteen miles a day. Under Simpson's command his specially selected bulls were doing twenty-five, and doing it right along. But one day, while we were nooning about one hundred and fifty miles on the way, one of the boys shouted: "Here come the mules!
Presently Stewart's train came shambling up, and a joyful lot the "mule skinners" were at what they believed their victory.