The foregoing is a verbatim transcript of an article which appeared in the Northern Scot and Moray & Nairn Express, 27th August 1904, a few days in advance of the visit of Buffalo Bill’s entourage to Elgin on 1st September. It is based on one of ‘Major’ John M. Burke’s legendary press releases and its studied inaccuracies faithfully illustrate the highly partisan manner in which the Battle of the Little Bighorn specifically and the character of the Native American generally were presented to the general public by Colonel Cody’s propaganda machine.
The second part of the article sets out a fair description of this ‘forthcoming attraction’, which was predominantly equestrian in its composition.
Buffalo Bill’s Show
Next Week’s Visit to Elgin
Battle of the Little Bighorn - Dramatic and Sensational Scenes.Next week’s visit of Colonel W. F. Cody’s (Buffalo Bill) Wild West show to Elgin is already an absorbing topic. One of the many new features which has this year been introduced into the exhibition is a vivid and correct representation of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in Yyoming (sic) in which the gallant General George A. Custer, and his entire command of 365 men, were annihilated and massacred to a man by the Indians under Sitting Bull, a noted Sioux chieftain. This engagement was one of the most dramatic and terrible in American history. It was warfare with savages where capture meant torture added to death. In case of defeat there was no quarter and no prisoners. A reverse meant only silence and a lonely grave.
It was a Sunday morning, June 25th, 1876, when the sunshine glinted on the sabres of the 7th Cavalry drawn up in marching formation among the foothills of the Little Big Horn River. For weeks detachments of the army had been moving northward against the Indians, who during the spring and early summer had been in revolt. The commands had effected a junction and footmarks indicated the near vicinity of an Indian encampment. It was decided that General Custer should take his immediate command and move forward against the savages. The scouts said that the indications pointed to a force of 1200 hostiles. This was enough for Custer and his brave regiment. The bugles echoed “boots and saddles,” and the ill-fated soldiers started gaily.
Crossing the river, the leader divided his command, hoping to surprise and surround the village. He did not know that within a few days large reinforcements had come undetected from an opposite direction, and that now, crouching in exultant fury, over 5000 instead of one-fifth that number of red and painted warriors were concealed in the sage bush. Gathering his reins, the General rose in his stirrups, his eyes flashing at the thought of approaching battle, and spurring his horse he led the charge.
Through a fringe of cactus and the outlying wigwams of the village, carbines in hand, the men dashed impetuously to glory or death, and the echoes of their first volley presaged a requiem. Round the village itself in one howling demoniac circle rose 5000 savages. They were armed with superior weapons and, conscious of their overwhelming numbers, were utterly devoid of fear. The men of Custer’s skirmishing flanks began to fall from their saddles, singly, by twos, in groups, in detachments. Closing up and desperately spurring their animals, the decimated force followed their commander, who was making for a small knoll but a short distance away. They reached it, and at the same moment entered the “Valley of the Shadow.”
The Indians closed around them rapidly, each contraction of their circle brought them nearer the devoted band, and at length the struggle became a hand to hand one. The afternoon shadows fell upon the banks of the little river, and all around was a great silence. The field of battle showed but an alignment of mangled corpses with their stark and rigid faces turned upward to the sky.
Other Features.The roster of the “Wild West” is led by Col. Cody in person, and includes American Indians, Japanese, Russian Cossacks, English Lancers, United States Cavalry and Artillery, Mexican Lassoers, American Cowboys, United States coloured troupers, Bedouin Arabs, American Western Girls, South American Guachos (sic), Cubans, Roosevelt Rough-Riders, American scouts, hunters, and guides - the most interesting ehtonological (sic) concourse ever brought together. Many of the horses and men are of the class sent from Canada to South Africa by Lord Strathcona, and which rendered themselves famous by such brilliant services in the Boer War.
Some wonderful exhibitions of fine horseman-ship are presented by the “rough-riders.” The Bedouin Arabs show a wild barbaric dash in their style; the Caucasian Cossacks execute such surprising feats as never have been seen in any exhibition heretofore; the American cowboys fully sustain their world-wide reputation for skill and reckless daring; the British and United (sic) cavalrymen display the acme of military equestrianism; but away and beyond them all in ability to do amazing riding on bare-back steads (sic) are the Sioux, Oglalla, Brule, and other Indian tribes. Not even the famous “bareback” circus riders are “in it” with them.
The show, which is not a circus but a representation of genuine representatives of different races and nations associated with perfection of horsemanship and military skill, includes 16,000 seats covered from rain or sun, so that everyone is assured of a good view. The exhibition coming to Elgin on Thursday first will include no fewer than 49 cars. It travels in its own trains, with 800 men, 500 horses, and necessary paraphernalia. The length of the cars will extend approximately three-quarters of a mile, and the weight is 1184 tons. Besides the grand exhibition itself there is an interesting annexe or sideshow.