Buffalo Bill Cody: The Man behind the Legend

By Robert A. Carter | Go to book overview

6
Cody Takes a Shot
at Domestic Life

While on duty as a hospital orderly in St. Louis in the winter of 1864– 1865, Cody met an attractive young woman named Louisa Frederici. There are several versions of their meeting. In her book Memories of Buffalo Bill, Louisa says that the fateful encounter took place on May 1, 1865. Accord/ ing to her story, Will was brought to her home on Chateau Avenue in Old Frenchtown by her cousin William McDonald. Finding her dozing over The Family Fireside magazine, the two young men pulled the chair out from under her as a joke. Louisa slapped Cody, under the impression that he was her cousin, the guilty party. Together the three young people con/ cocted a practical joke. She and Will would pretend to be engaged, to dis/ courage an admirer with whom she had a date that night. After this first meeting, Will became a regular visitor; her other admirer dropped out of the picture.

Helen Cody Wetmore tells the most romantic and unlikely story of all. She claims that her brother saw Louisa while out horseback riding, and he was impressed by her graceful bearing on her mount; he always appreciated fine horsemanship. How could he meet her? None of his friends knew her. His lucky break came when “her bridle-rein broke one morning; there was a runaway, a rescue, and then acquaintance was easy.”

Another version of the meeting, told by Cody's press agent, Major John M. Burke, has it that some drunken soldiers in the streets of St. Louis were making loud comments about a group of schoolgirls, teasing them and making advances. When Cody saw what was going on, he ordered them to stop. While the men argued with him, all the girls ran away except one—Louisa. Will escorted her home and they promptly fell in love. While the chivalrous action described here is certainly in keeping with what we know of Cody's character and his courage, it is hard to

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