the deserter
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The Deserter Full Episode – Bonanza, Season #04, Episode #05

Colonel Edward J. Dunwoody, an officer with a strong disdain for Native Americans, arrives at the Ponderosa in search of army deserter Bill Winters. Unbeknownst to Dunwoody, Bill is a close friend of the Cartwrights and also happens to be his son, who is married to a Native American woman. Bill deserted the army after being ordered to participate in the genocide of the Shoshone people by poisoning their food and water. When the Shoshone discover the plan, they retaliate by abducting Bill’s father.

Explore the plot details and captivating trivia, or watch the full episode below.

Table of Contents

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Main Cast

The Deserter, the fifth episode of Bonanza’s fourth season, featured some of the program’s recurring and supporting cast members. The cast of the episode includes the following:

  • Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright
  • Pernell Roberts as Adam Cartwright
  • Dan Blocker as Eric ‘Hoss’ Cartwright
  • Michael Landon as Joseph ‘Little Joe’ Cartwright (credit only)
  • Claude Akins as Col. Edward J. Dunwoody
  • Robert Sampson as Bill Winters
  • Gale Garnett as Maria Winters
  • Anthony Caruso as Chief Keokuk
  • Robert Carricart as Myoka
  • George Keymas as Running Wolf
  • Hal Jon Norman as Medicine Man
  • Andrea Darvi as Little Maria Winters
  • Ricky Branson as Little Edward Winters
  • Bill Clark as Shoshone Indian (uncredited)
  • Bob Miles as Shoshone Indian (uncredited)

Full Story Line for The Deserter

Colonel Edward J. Dunwoody, a military officer with a substantial prejudice against Native Americans, arrives at the Ponderosa in search of army deserter Bill Winters, who happens to be a close friend of the Cartwrights. Bill is also Dunwoody’s son, married to a Native American woman.

Bill deserted the army after being ordered to participate in the massacre of the Shoshone people by poisoning their food and water, an act tantamount to genocide. Refusing to carry out these orders, Bill left the army. However, the Shoshone discovers the truth and retaliates by abducting Bill’s father.

Full Script and Dialogue of The Deserter



Boy, is this the home
of Benjamin Cartwright?

Yes, sir.

Tend to my horse.

Now, this man
you're looking for,

you, uh, you say you lost
track of him ten years ago?

That's correct... His
sister recently received

the first letter from him
postmarked Virginia City,


in which he stated that he
sometimes does odd jobs

at the largest
ranch in the vicinity.

I've ascertained that your
Ponderosa fits that description.

Yeah... Oh.

This is one of my sons, Hoss.

Hoss, I'd like you to
meet Colonel Dunwoody.

We've already met.

Uh, if I may ask...

why do you want this man?

He's wanted for desertion
by the United States Army,

ten years ago at Snake River.

My orders are to return
him to Washington

for a military court-martial.

After ten years?


There's no statute of
limitations on desertion.

Well, you, uh, you haven't
told us the man's name, sir.

Well, I consider it
extremely unlikely

that he would
use his right name.

But fortunately, I
have a daguerreotype.

You recognize him?

Well, it's hard to tell.

Picture's pretty faded.

The man is at least ten
years older; people change.

He can't have changed that much.

We hire a lot of extra
help at the Ponderosa.

They come and go.

With your permission,
Colonel, I'd like to keep this

and do some checking.

May I remind you, gentlemen,
that withholding information

from the Federal Government
on a case of this kind

is subject to rather
severe penalties.

If you have any information,

I will be at the
Virginia City Hotel.

Good day, gentlemen.

That's Bill Winters, Pa.

I'm gonna go warn him.

You'll do no such thing, Hoss.

But-but, Pa, we've
known Bill ten years.

We're not gonna let
the colonel take him.

Colonel says he's a deserter.

Yeah, but why did he desert?

Hey, Pa, Hoss,
get out here quick!

I just rode in and found
him hanging over the rail.

Let's get him into the house.

Hang on to the
bottom of that, Hoss.

It's been a long time since
we had any trouble with Indians.


All I can say is, he
was mighty lucky.

Thing had gone
in two inches lower,

it would've gone all
the way through him.

Yeah, but we got a problem.

What do you mean?

Well, do we tell the colonel
about Bill Winters, or don't we?

'Course we don't.

That means that we're
withholding information

from the government.

I'm not sure we should
get mixed up in this.

Pa, the way we know
Bill, we ain't got no choice.

Who on earth could
possibly gain anything

by bringing to trial a man
who refused to massacre

innocent women and children?

- I - could, Mr. Cartwright.

Colonel, you shouldn't
be out of bed yet.

Evidently not.

Did that statement surprise you?

Frankly, yes.

It shouldn't.

You see, I was the
commanding officer

who ordered that so-called
"massacre" at Snake River.

Ah, got you! Now it's your turn.

Can't catch me!

Yes, I can!

Good morning, Ben.

Morning, Maria.

Hey! Stop making so much noise.

Can't you see your father
is talking to Mr. Cartwright?

Oh, we were just playing, Ma.

Yeah, well, you just play
somewhere else, huh?

Go on. You, too.

- Can't catch me!
- I can, too!

Will you stay for
a cup of coffee?

Oh, thank you kindly, Maria.

Had breakfast just
before I came over.

Well, then you can use
a cup of good coffee.

Hop Sing is a pretty fair cook,

but coffee is not
one of his specialties.

Well, if it isn't
too much trouble.

No trouble at all.

Long about now, Bill's
about due for his 14th cup.

Well, don't just stand
there talking, woman.

How am I going to teach
the children any manners

when their father
just hasn't got any?

Good morning, Father.

I've got some
breakfast for you inside.

Good morning, Wyoka.

Does he know?

All Shoshones know.

They knew five minutes after
the colonel arrived in town.

Yeah. Figured it'd probably
be a waste of time, but...

had to come over
and tell you anyway.

What do you aim to do?

I don't know, Ben.

He's bound to find
out where you are.

I realize that.

I want to thank you for
going to all this trouble.


You never asked to
hear my side of it, yet.

That's up to you, Bill.

I was his lieutenant.

I was second in command.

When he told me

that he planned on
making a surprise attack

against the Shoshone
village on the Snake River...

I told him, I said
I was, I was...

I was ready to fight Indians,

but not to make war
against women and children.

He told me I was sentimental.

He said that the only thing he
wanted to do was to make sure

that no white settler was ever
molested by an Indian again.

Now, this he proposed to do

by setting an example,
one example...

a horrible example that
all Indians would remember.

Then it's true.

He deliberately set out
to destroy the village.


He also informed me that as a...

a soldier under his
command, I had no right

to question his orders.

Now, Bill, you don't
have to say anything...

No, no. No, no. I
want to tell you, Ben.

That night, I sneaked
out of the camp

and I went down toward
the Shoshone village.

The first one I
ran into was Maria.

She was washing some
clothes down by the river.

I put my hand over her mouth,

and I told her to run
and tell the people

what was going to happen.

As a result, some of the
people escaped with their lives.

Including Maria and her father.


the majority of them had no
reason to trust a white man.

They stayed on.

I can still hear the sounds.

The Shoshone
have never forgotten.

I'm afraid your... guest...

is in very dangerous territory.


Bill, please come here!


What's the matter, honey?

Ben! Get your
horse, come with me!


Brung you something to eat.

Colonel, I'm-I'm sorry, I...

I just don't understand you.

How can you... how can
you dog a man for ten years?

Time has nothing
to do with his crime.

He should have been
punished long ago.

And his desertion was a blot
on my record as a commander.

A humiliation I have
endured for ten years.

Well, I intend that
humiliation to end.

You're perfectly willing
to sacrifice this man

to justify your slaughtering
an entire Indian tribe?

I understand... From
my inquiries in town...

That your own mother was
killed with an Indian arrow.

You go warn the colonel.

I'm gonna circle the house.

Colonel, you all right?

That man just saved your life.

That's also the man who
deserted me at Snake River.

How can you be sure
after all these years?

Mr. Cartwright, I can
recognize my own son.

Your son?


Is that so strange?

Yes. It seems strange
when a man is so intent

on destroying his
own flesh and blood.

Then I suggest that you
read your bible, Mr. Cartwright.

The story of Abraham.

It is now apparent to
me that you were familiar

with the object of my
search all the time.

You men now have a choice.

You can leave
me to my objective,

or you can suffer
the consequences

of your own
obstructionist tactics.

I will give you
one hour to decide.

Bill, do you want me to pack
our things into the wagon?

And run?

Where would we go to, huh?

We could go up... No, no, no.

For ten years now,

I've been afraid of this,

every street I
walked down, every...

every morning when I get up.

No, if it's come,

I want to get it over with.

No, Bill, no.

We can go away.

We can go up into the mountains.

We can go so high,
they'll never find us.

Members of my
tribe would take us in.

They'll protect you
and the children.

Maria, there's something
I haven't told you yet.


What is the meaning of this?

Why do you break into
my house like animals?

Let him deny what he has done.

You... come with us.

By whose order?

By order of Keokuk,
Chief of Shoshones.


For what reason?

What for?

Tell her.

Tell her how you saved the
life of the killer of our people.

Tell her!

I know that.

I sent him.

If you had killed the colonel,

it would only bring further
reprisals against our people.


Tell her the real
reason you saved him.

That is the real reason, Maria,

to prevent further reprisals.

But also because he's my father.

Oh. Oh!




The hour's almost up.


I just can't understand a man

feeling that way
about his own son.

Well, he gave you the answer.

Abraham was willing to
sacrifice his son to God.

The colonel's God is duty.

I can respect a
man's sense of duty,

but I always figured
that any good soldier

was tempered with some
kind of understanding.

Well, I would say the
colonel's qualifications

as a good soldier leaves
a great deal to be desired.

That won't stop me from
trying to reason with him.

You'll be wasting your breath.


Mr. Cartwright, let me in!

Help me.

Maria, come in.

Ben, help me.

They took Bill.

They came and took him away.

Who took him?



Maria, they-they probably
took him away to protect him.

To kill him.

I would doubt that.


they'll kill him because
he's got your blood in him.

That may be, but
they won't kill him.

They won't risk another
lesson like Snake River.

Why did you come here?

Haven't you done enough to us?

I've no interest in your people.

I came to take my
son back to Washington

to face up to his crime.


You talk about crime?

You murderer.

Now you go back to your people

and you tell them that
if they harm my son,

they'll face a worse punishment

than they knew ten years ago.

I wish you were dead.

I wish Running Wolf
had killed you last night.


She's like all Indians.

All emotion, no intelligence.

That girl... is your son's wife.

You confess you are the son

of the blood enemy
of our people.

He was your enemy,

but that was ten
years ago, Chief.

Now, that was the time of war

between the Shoshone
and the white man.

This is a time of peace.

He talks of peace

while the bones of our women
and children rot on the plains,

and their murderer dares
come back to mock us.

You are quick to forget
what your father has done.

I think it is you who forget,

oh, wise shaman,
you forget it was I

who deserted the white
man's camp to warn you.

You forget to whom
you owe your life.

Did you forget, too, Chief?

Whatever you have done,

you remain a white man
and the son of your father.

I am more Shoshone
than I am white man.

Am I not married
into your tribe?


Wyoka, am I not a good
husband to your daughter?

A good father to
your grandchildren?

And what of my grandchildren,

those whose cries
I can still hear?

Chief Keokuk,
you're a great warrior.

Now, you are wise
in the ways of war.

What my father did,
he did as a soldier,

as a way of war.

Massacre is the
way of a soldier?

You know, terrible as it was,

I have come to understand

that my father wished
to set an example

to end this conflict with
the Indians once and for all.

Kill him.

Kill him now!


It is the way of the
white man's government

to end war by killing
women and children.

It also will be Keokuk's way,

by killing the son
of the white warrior

who killed our sons.

You, who have such
great understanding,

will know that Keokuk
bears you no ill will.

And is grateful for past favors.

By the time the sun rises
once more in the east,

you will die.

Keokuk has spoken.

Keokuk has spoken.

He knows, he knows,
but he will not speak.

Will you tell me where they
have taken my husband?

He is not your husband.

He... He's not my husband?

Then those are not my children.

They have never been
born; they do not exist, huh?

Better for them if that were so.

Hear me, old man.

This is no time for
games and secrets.

You tell me where
you've taken him.

He will die before
another sun has risen.

They cannot kill their friend.

Shame and disgrace.

It was not your
fault, my daughter.

You did not know.


I only know that I love him.

Don't say that.

I don't care who he is.

I just know what
he has been to me,

to the children, and to you

and all the Shoshone.

Better to have died

than to owe my
life to such a man.

I love him more

because he had the
strength to do what he did.

Tell where they've taken him.

I cannot say.

You will tell me!

I cannot say!

Then get out of my house!

He is still my husband, but
you are no longer my father.

I order you to go.

Maria, you know
he can't tell you.

Wyoka, I want you
to arrange a parlay

between Chief Keokuk and me.

It will serve no purpose.

Let me be the judge of that.

The Shoshone
know me as a friend.

I ask as a favor.

I will try.

That's all I can ask.

I make no promises.

I cannot speak for Keokuk.

Then how am I to know?

Return to your home, and wait.

I will deliver your message.

Certainly taking their
time sending an answer.

I'm afraid you're
wasting yours, Pa.

Soon as they find out Bill's
his son, they're gonna be up...

They're gonna be right here.

Yeah? What makes you so sure?

The colonel's the man they want.

And the colonel is here.

If Keokuk agrees to see me,

he won't do anything until
after we've talked... I know him.

Well, I hope you're right.

Put the gun away, Adam.

Yes, I quite agree.

Firearms will not be necessary.

I'm a little surprised
in you, Colonel.

I figured with your son being
held prisoner by the Shoshone,

you'd get a troop
of cavalry together

and storm 'em like you
did at Snake River that time,

and finish up the job!

That'll do, Hoss.

Have you thought what
you're going to say to Keokuk?

I'm going to plead
for your son's life.

I'm going to remind them
that Bill is their friend,

that we're all their friends.

Won't work.

It's worth a try.

Bad strategy!

You'll gain nothing
by telling Chief Keokuk

Bill's his friend...
He knows that.

He's not going to kill him
because he hates him,

but because he's my son.

It's his way of answering
my attack on his village.

There is only one thing

that can influence a
mind like Keokuk's...

my life in exchange
for my son's.

Well, that's very
interesting, Colonel.

I didn't think you had a
father's feeling for his son.

I'm sorry to disappoint you.

The move is not
an emotional one.

It's based on strategy.

Well, it's ridiculous!!

We're certainly not going to
exchange one life for another!

Then I'm afraid, sir,

you do not understand the
Indian mind as well as I do.

But I think I understand
it well enough

to know that I have a
chance to plead for Bill's life,

but if I had to plead for
yours, it would be hopeless.

Looks like you're gonna
get your answer, Pa.

I'm going outside, Colonel.

I think you'd
better stay in here.

You're wasting your time.

You sent a message you
wished to speak with me.

I had intended to
go to see Keokuk.

I am honored that he
has come to see me.

And about what did
you wish to parlay?

Well, you know that.

About my friend Bill Winters.

You surprise me, Ben Cartwright.

You have always been a friend
to Keokuk and to the Shoshones.

But you already
know I will not parlay

about the son of the man
who murdered my people.

One moment!


I told you he
wouldn't listen to you.

But I have a bargain that
will appeal even to your kind...

if you will hear me.

I will hear you.

My life in exchange
for my son's.

It is a trick.

I said you can't do this...

I am going to do it.


It's a simple enough bargain.

And one that you
should like very much.

It is well.

Tomorrow at the
setting of the sun

the soldier with the pale eyes

will present himself
at the Shoshone camp,

and the other will be released.

No, first you release my son...

then I will surrender
myself to you.

You wish us to release the cub

so that we might
capture the lion.

Why should we believe you?

Why should I believe you?
You can kill two as easily as one.

Enough of this.

Tomorrow at the
setting of the sun,

the prisoner will be taken
to the front gate of his home.

You, Ben Cartwright,
Keokuk trusts.

You will bring the
murderer of my people,

and there the
bargain will be made.

Otherwise your
son will die there.

That was a devil's
bargain you made, Colonel.

What do you mean,
"a devil's bargain"?

If somebody's got to
die, it's a heap side better

it be the colonel
as, as Bill Winters.

I don't think that's
what he meant.

What did you mean, Pa? You mean,

you think the colonel's
got some sort of a scheme?

No, I think he's
perfectly willing to...

give up his own
life for his son.

And if he dies, what do you
think's gonna happen to Keokuk

and the rest of his people?


I reckon the army'd wipe
'em out, wouldn't they?

But won't they do the
same thing if they kill Bill?

Well, Bill is a deserter
from the Army,

it would probably go unnoticed.

But if the colonel dies

there would be a
pretty big to-do about it.

And he knows it.

You mean he's willing to die
just so more Indians will die?

I think the colonel
intends to do exactly

what he came out here to do.

No matter what it
takes, he'll see to it

that his son is returned to
Washington for court-martial.

And that includes
sacrificing his own life

if need be to keep Bill
alive to face court-martial.

Well, we are on time.

I hope they are as prompt.

Keokuk keeps his word.

I keep my word, too, sir.

It's not just a man's
word that's important.

It's what motivates him.

And this need of yours

to avenge yourself on your son,

it's not human.

If you have been analyzing
my motives, Mr. Cartwright,

you are a more subtle
man than I thought.

But your opinion is of
no consequence to me.


Hello, Bill.


What are you doing down here?

Did you have anything to do
with the Shoshone freeing me?

Well, the important thing
is that you are free, Bill.

You've filled out some.

You're looking well.

I haven't many vices.

How's, uh... how is Mary?

Your sister's well.

I asked her to write me,

care of general delivery.

Yes, I know.

She didn't answer my letter.

I advised her not to.

I see.

I suppose, I, uh...

I should thank you
for saving my life.

No need.

Evidently your
friends didn't approve.


Oh, Bill!


Oh, my darling...

This is, uh, this
is my wife, Maria.

Yes, I know.

We met before.


- Daddy!
- Oh!

Pa, you all right?

I knew you'd come back, Daddy.

Yeah, we're so glad to see you.

Daddy, they didn't
hurt you, did they?

No, sweetheart.

Hey, I want you
to meet somebody.

Come on, Eddie, you, too.



I named him for you.

I didn't know you had children.

Well, I guess there's no way
I could've told you, is there?

Then I assume we
are as far apart as ever.

You're still my father.

I named my first born after you.

Pa, is he really your pa?


He's your grandpa, too.

No, he isn't.

Wyoka's our grandfather.

Well, he's your
grandpa, too, honey.

This is my youngest.

Her name's Maria.

Little Maria.


My grandchildren.

Also, the children
of a Shoshone.

Get the kids into
the house. Come on.

Go with your mom. Go on.

Mr. Cartwright...

would you ride with me, please?

Hey, wait a minute,
wait a minute.

You can't do that!

You can't give up
your life for mine!

That is not precisely
my intention.

You don't understand
how they-they...

they feel about you...
They're gonna kill you!

they'll torture you.

Neither prospect
frightens me very much.

Some ten years ago, I gave
you an order which you disobeyed.

I'm giving you
another order now.

Go to your house...

with your wife and children.

It's not an order,
it... it's my request.

Now, what are you gonna do?

I'm going with him.

And risk two lives
instead of one?

Your father is right...
Your place is right here

- with your wife and your children.
- But he's...

Bill, you'll just
make things worse.

I'll go with him.

I'll... I'll do what I can.

If you're not back
here by dawn...

I'm coming up.

Why did you want
me to go with you?

'Cause I need your help.


I think you're beyond
help now, Colonel.

And don't forget,

when the soldiers come
to avenge your death...

your grandchildren
are half Shoshone.

I know. That's
why I must not die.

How do you intend
to prevent that?

By pleading for my life.

They won't listen
to you, not one word.

They will listen to you.

A little late for that kind of
thinking, isn't it, Colonel?

Perhaps, but... will you try?

Well, you know
I'd have to do that.

Thank you.

I'll explain what I have
in mind on the way.

The sun has gone from the
sky, O Great Chief Keokuk.

Where is your warrior
with the pale eyes?

He will appear.

It was the price of
the life of his son.

You take care of my part of
the bargain first, Mr. Cartwright.


Great Keokuk.

You have the power
of life and death

over the prisoner,
but before you decide

there is something he
wishes to say to you.

There is nothing
he can say to me.

Then if you will
not listen to him,

listen to me.

There is nothing
you can say for him.

I gave my word that I
would speak for him.


We will listen.


I would like to remind you...

that the colonel did
what he did in time of war.

And in war, just as your
braves must follow your orders,

so the colonel must
follow the orders

of the great Nantan
in Washington.

And he was ordered to
punish the Shoshones,

to bring peace to the territory.

But the massacre of
women and children

was not the way to bring peace!

That is true.

The colonel realizes
now that he was wrong.

He wishes to amend that wrong,

but if you kill him...

there will be reprisals...

and more Shoshone
will be killed,

among them, more
women and children.

And how does the pale
eyes hope to make amends

for the wrongs he
has done to my tribe?

He will go to Washington...

he will return to
Washington, and he will admit,

so that everyone can hear,

that he was wrong in
attacking your village.

He will say that such attacks
can only bring more hatred,

they can never
lead to lasting peace.

And he will apologize

- to your people.
- Apologize?!

Will that bring back
our wives, our children?


But it may save the lives of
other Indian women and children.

Words! Words!

They spill from his
mouth like poison!


How can I be sure the pale
eyes will keep his promises?

If I were not a man of my
word, would I be here now?

White man lies to
save his own skin!

And if you were chief,
what would you do?

I would kill him.

You would kill him?

Knowing that many of our
people would be killed in return?

Even so!

Do you feel no
love for your people?

I feel only hatred
for their murderers.

Look at him.

This man one day
will take my place?

He cannot rule himself,
and he wishes to rule others?

Hear me, pale eyes...

I hate you more than any man,

more than Running
Wolf hates you,

for he does not understand as
I do how great was your crime.

But Ben Cartwright
speaks good words,

honest words.

If I kill you,

many more of my
people will be killed in turn.

And more of yours...
and again, mine.

Let history record it was Keokuk

who put an end to this
senseless chain of killing!

And let history
record it was Keokuk...

who brought peace
to the Shoshone.

Pale eyes...

you will promise to
tell the whole truth

to the great Nantan
in Washington?

I swear it.

Then you may go.

None of my people will harm you.

I have said none of
my people will harm you.


Ah, good morning,
gentlemen, good morning.

- Morning!
- Anybody see those parcels

I brought back
from Virginia City?

Now, would, uh... one
of you be kind enough

to deliver these
to my son's house?

Well, Colonel, of course,
we'd be very happy to,

but, uh...

Well, what are you
doing in that uniform?

I'm going back with you, Dad.

I'm gonna face my court-martial.

There's no need.

We're tired of living in fear

that somebody might
discover his real name, Sam.

If it weren't for his love of us
and his concern for my people,

he would have gone
back a long time ago.

I'm proud of you.

I'm proud of you both.

And I think I can promise
your husband back

within... six months.

Six months? For desertion?

Well, since I am the
chief and only witness

for the prosecution,

by the time I get through
explaining the circumstances,

they may very well present
you with the Medal of Honor.

Now, I... have something for...

- you, Edward.
- Thank you.

And for Maria.

Thank you.

Open them.

Oh, boy!

- Oh, boy!
- Thank you!

Thank you!

Something to remember
your grandfather by.

Thank you, Mr. Cartwright...

and your sons for...

helping me see the truth.

Are you ready, Lieutenant?

Yes, sir.



Looking for More Bonanza Episodes?

Bonanza provides family-friendly entertainment that is ideal for watching alone or with loved ones. The Deserter stands as the 105th episode out of 430. Produced by NBC, Bonanza graced their network from September 1959 to January 1973, encompassing an impressive 14-season run.

You can find more about any of the 430 Bonanza episodes here>>

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