William Averill Comstock was a military scout who could, “easily read all the signs Indians left for the information of other Indians, could interpret their smoke columns used in telegraphing, and after a party had passed, could tell with remarkable accuracy from its trail how many were in the party.”
 
Comstock was the prototypical military scout. He earned the name “Medicine Bill,” because he bit off the finger of a young Sioux woman who had received a rattlesnake bite.
 
But William Comstock had a secret past. Not that he was some bad criminal on the run, but the opposite. He was the grandnephew of James Fenimore Cooper. You see, Cooper wrote about the “noble savage”, and the whites on the western frontier hated Cooper’s romantic tales about the savage Indian.
In August of 1868 a band of Indians attacked a village near Hays, Kansas.
  
Comstock and another scout named Abner Grover were sent to the camp of Cheyenne chief Turkey Leg to see if the rampaging braves could be brought under control. While in negotiations, Turkey Leg received word that the military had killed several Indians in retaliation. The negotiations were over, and on August 16, 1868, while traveling home Comstock was killed.
 
Now, the interesting thing is that William Comstock was George Armstrong Custer’s favorite scout. One of the few people Custer would listen to. The question is, would the Little Big Horn have taken place if Comstock had been riding alongside of Custer instead of dying eight years earlier?

Filed under: Old West History

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!