Spooked by the threat of an indian attack, a cavalry commander leads an ill-advised retreat across the desert.

Episode Notes

  • Michael Landon makes an uncredited appearance as a young soldier in this episode. He will guest star again in the season three episode White Warrior.
  • This is James Garner second of three guest-starring roles in the first season of Cheyenne. His first was in the pilot episode Mountain Fortress and his third was in the final episode of the season, The Last Train West.
  • Battle scenes from this episode were reused as opening scenes in the season 3 episode The Conspirators, including showing the cavalry soldiers dressed as women.
  • According to script notes this episode has a parenthetical title, The Black Hawk War. 1

Real World References

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Continuity Nitpicks

  • In the last scene of this episode, an untethered, unattended horse wanders through the last shot in front of the star.



Quinlan fights off an attacking indian.

A horse and rider speed their way to Fort Wilderness in the dark of night. Soldiers let Cheyenne Bodie into the fort. He's just ridden through enemy territory to report that the entire post at Big Rock has been wiped out and that the Arapaho and Comanche are joining forces under Black Hawk. Before Bodie can give that report, he's chided by Captain Quinlan on his less-than-military decorum.

While the two argue, Major Heffler stomps out of his office, enraged that he's been disturbed. Cheyenne tells Heffler the bad news and the major announces that they're going to abandon the fort. Heffler outlines his plan to his officers who are less than enthusiastic about retreating. The entire population of the fort, soldiers and civilians, head out toward the protection of Fort McKay.


Heffler isn't willing to acknowledge his mistake of taking the settlers and soldiers into the desert.

Quinlan and Bodie lead a scouting party ahead and run into a party of indians. While fighting for their lives, Bodie gains a new respect for the captain. Meantime, Heffler has the rest of the wagon train circle for fear of an attack. That evening, Heffler tells his men he's decided to take a southern route through desert to avoid attack. Cheyenne protests, but Heffler dismisses him. After the others leave, Quinlan and Heffler get into an argument while Heffler drinks heavily. The major accuses Quinlan of insubordination and has him arrested. Cheyenne and Lieutenant Lee Rogers suggest to Quinlan that Heffler should be removed from command but the captain angrily dismisses the idea.


The settlers pray for safe passage to the fort.

The column reaches the Big Sandy River, their only source of water, but it is dry as a bone. Heffler orders the wagon train continue through the desert -- a six-day march with no water. The officers recognize the plan as suicide and Rogers suggests to the major that he select a different route. Heffler orders Rogers arrested for insubordination, but none of the men will obey him. Instead, Heffler is removed and the column is rerouted under the young Rogers' command.

No sooner are they on a different path than they are confronted by a party of Arapaho who charge and then retreat seeing the wagons have been circled. Rogers and Bodie come up with a plan to use sharpshooters and cannons to fight the indians, but keep the civilians safe in a different location. To lure the indians in and make them believe nothing is amiss, some of the soldiers will have to wear ladies clothes -- an idea that they're not very fond of.


The soldiers use a mobile cannon against the Arapaho.

The attack begins and things go as planned. The column takes off with wagons rolling and the indians not far behind. The cannon and sharpshooters keep the indians at bay. During their flight, Heffler is killed. In some close hand-to-hand fighting Cheyenne kills Chief Black Hawk and the indians retreat.

The threat of attack over, Rogers hands command back to Quinlan. He threatens all of the officers with courtmartial as soon as they return to civilization. Cheyenne asks Quinlan to consider the bravery of the men, the lives of the families in their care and his own conscience. As they all roll in to Fort McKay, Quinlan looks over the weary survivors and has a change of heart. In the hearing of the men, he reports the loss of Major Heffler to the fort commander but leaves out the mutiny. 


"Bodie, you're scouting in advance of the column..."
  "Yes, sir."
  "...and I'm riding with you."
  "That'd be right case we have to court-martial some Arapaho."

- Captain Quinlan and Cheyenne aren't very excited to work together.

"More foolish thing I ever heard of, heading south. The Big Sandy will be bone dry, or I don't know johnny cake from buffalo chips."
- Sergeant Beaugard doesn't think much of Major Heffler's route.

"This is a military unit, not a debating society...The discipline and regulations of the United States Army are more important than this column and a hundred others like it."
- Quinlan states his regard for military discipline.

"Eighteen years in the cavalry and I gotta die in a petticoat. It ain't military!"
- Beaugard also doesn't think much of Rogers' and Cheyenne's plan to fool Black Hawk's raiders.

"Any one of us could've killed you during the fight and we'd all be in the clear. You hit a pretty big four-to-one shot."

"You had your chance. Why didn't you take it?"
"If you don't know, I can't tell you."

- Cheyenne tries to communicate the character of Quinlan's fellow officers to him.

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