Beginning in 1868, Cody returned to his work for the Army. He was chief of scouts for the Fifth Cavalry and took part in 16 battles, including the Cheyenne defeat at Summit Springs, Colorado, in 1869. For his service over these years, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1872, although this award was revoked in 1916 on the grounds that Cody was not a regular member of the armed forces at the time. (The award was restored posthumously in 1989).
All the while Cody was earning a reputation for skill and bravery in real life, he was also becoming a national folk hero, thanks to the exploits of his alter ego, "Buffalo Bill," in the dime novels of Ned Buntline (pen name of the writer E. Z. C. Judson). Beginning in 1869, Buntline created a Buffalo Bill who ranked with Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone and Kit Carson in the popular imagination, and who was, like them, a mixture of incredible fact and romantic fiction.