“First Scalp for Custer” now back in print

Paul Hedren’s book First Scalp for Custer: The Skirmish at Warbonnet Creek, Nebraska, July 17, 1876 is now back in print through Nebraska State Historical Society Books. The 62-page paperback tells of a skirmish in which William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody killed and scalped a Cheyenne man named Yellow Hair while serving as a scout for the Fifth Cavalry.

Coming as it did shortly after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the national media interpreted the incident (with Cody’s encouragement) as vengeance for the death of George Armstrong Custer. It became part of the growing Buffalo Bill legend, and Cody exploited the story on stage and in his Wild West show for years afterward. However, years later, after a long association with Indians, and especially after hearing of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre, Cody was no longer proud of what he had done.

As with anything involving Buffalo Bill, it can be difficult to distinguish fact from legend. Hedren carefully examines the event and explains what happened and why. First published in 1980 and revised in 2005, this volume remains the standard work on the subject. It is available from the NSHS Landmark Stores for$9.95 ($8.96 for NSHS members) plus tax and shipping.

— David Bristow, Associate Director / Publications

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