My life on the plains (2024)

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Title: My life on the plains

Personal experiences with Indians

Author: George A. Custer

Release date: April 30, 2024 [eBook #73498]

Language: English

Original publication: New York: Sheldon and Company, 1874

Credits: Emmanuel Ackerman and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


Transcriber’s Note

Larger versions of most illustrations may be seen by right-clicking themand selecting an option to view them separately, or by double-tapping and/orstretching them.

The Transcriber added the Table of Contents directly below.

Additional notes will be found near the end of this ebook.


I. 5
II. 13
III. 20
IV. 31
V. 40
VI. 48
VII. 55
VIII. 69
IX. 79
X. 86
XI. 99
XII. 113
XIII. 124
XIV. 139
XV. 154
XVI. 170
XVII. 184
XVIII. 193
XIX. 202
XX. 215
My life on the plains (1)





My life on the plains (2)

Under Grand Central Hotel.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

Electrotyped by Smith & McDougal, 82 Beekman St., N.Y.




As a fitting introduction to some of the personal incidents and sketcheswhich I shall hereafter present to the readers of “The Galaxy,” abrief description of the country in which these events transpired may not bedeemed inappropriate.

It is but a few years ago that every schoolboy, supposed to possess the rudimentsof a knowledge of the geography of the United States, could give theboundaries and a general description of the “Great American Desert.” As tothe boundary the knowledge seemed to be quite explicit: on the north boundedby the Upper Missouri, on the east by the Lower Missouri and Mississippi, onthe south by Texas, and on the west by the Rocky Mountains. The boundarieson the northwest and south remained undisturbed, while on the east civilization,propelled and directed by Yankee enterprise, adopted the motto, “Westwardthe star of empire takes its way.” Countless throngs of emigrantscrossed the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, selecting homes in the rich andfertile territories lying beyond. Each year this tide of emigration, strengthenedand increased by the flow from foreign shores, advanced toward the settingsun, slowly but surely narrowing the preconceived limits of the “GreatAmerican Desert,” and correspondingly enlarging the limits of civilization.At last the geographical myth was dispelled. It was gradually discerned thatthe Great American Desert did not exist, that it had no abiding place, but thatwithin its supposed limits, and instead of what had been regarded as a sterileand unfruitful tract of land, incapable of sustaining either man or beast, thereexisted the fairest and richest portion of the national domain, blessed with aclimate pure, bracing, and healthful, while its undeveloped soil rivalled if itdid not surpass the most productive portions of the Eastern, Middle, or SouthernStates.

Discarding the name “Great American Desert,” this immense tract of country,with its eastern boundary moved back by civilization to a distance of nearlythree hundred miles west of the Missouri river, is now known as “The Plains,”and by this more appropriate title it shall be called when reference to it isnecessary. The Indian tribes which have caused the Government most anxietyand whose depredations have been most serious against our frontier settlementsand prominent lines of travel across the Plains, infest that portion of thePlains bounded on the north by the valley of the Platte river and its tributaries,on the east by a line running north and south between the 97th and 98thmeridians, on the south by the valley of the Arkansas river, and west bythe Rocky Mountains—although by treaty stipulations almost every tribe withwhich the Government has recently been at war is particularly debarred fromentering or occupying any portion of this tract of country.

Of the many persons whom I have met on the Plains as transient visitors fromthe States or from Europe, there are few who have not expressed surprise thattheir original ideas concerning the appearance and characteristics of the countrywere so far from correct, or that the Plains in imagination, as described inbooks, tourists’ letters, or reports of isolated scientific parties, differed so widelyfrom the Plains as they actually exist and appear to the eye. Travellers,writers of fiction, and journalists have spoken and written a great deal concerning6this immense territory, so unlike in all its qualities and characteristicsto the settled and cultivated portion of the United States; but to a person familiarwith the country the conclusion is forced, upon reading these published descriptions,either that the writers never visited but a limited portion of the countrythey aim to describe, or, as is most commonly the case at the present day, that thejourney was made in a stage-coach or Pullman car, half of the distance travelledin the night time, and but occasional glimpses taken during the day. Ajourney by rail across the Plains is at best but ill adapted to a thorough or satisfactoryexamination of the general character of the country, for the reasonthat in selecting the route for railroads the valley of some stream is, if practicable,usually chosen to contain the road-bed. The valley being considerablylower than the adjacent country, the view of the tourist is correspondingly limited.Moreover, the vastness and varied character of this immense tract couldnot fairly be determined or judged of by a flying trip across one portion of it.One would scarcely expect an accurate opinion to be formed of the swamps ofFlorida from a railroad journey from New York to Niagara.

After indulging in criticisms on the written descriptions of the Plains, Imight reasonably be expected to enter into what I conceive a correct description,but I forbear. Beyond a general outline embracing some of the peculiaritiesof this slightly known portion of our country, the limits and character ofthese sketches of Western life will not permit me to go.

The idea entertained by the greater number of people regarding the appearanceof the Plains, while it is very incorrect so far as the latter are concerned,is quite accurate and truthful if applied to the prairies of the WesternStates. It is probable, too, that romance writers, and even tourists at an earlierday, mistook the prairies for the Plains, and in describing one imaginedthey were describing the other; whereas the two have little in common to theeye of the beholder, save the general absence of trees.

In proceeding from the Missouri river to the base of the Rocky Mountains, theascent, although gradual, is quite rapid. For example, at Fort Riley, Kansas,the bed of the Kansas river is upward of 1,000 feet above the level of the sea,while Fort Hays, at a distance of nearly 150 miles further west, is about 1,500feet above the level of the sea. Starting from almost any point near the centralportion of the Plains, and moving in any direction, one seems to encountera series of undulations at a more or less remote distance from each other, butconstantly in view. Comparing the surface of the country to that of the ocean,a comparison often indulged in by those who have seen both, it does not requirea very great stretch of the imagination, when viewing this boundlessocean of beautiful living verdure, to picture these successive undulations as giganticwaves, not wildly chasing each other to or from the shore, but standingsilent and immovable, and by their silent immobility adding to the impressivegrandeur of the scene. These undulations, varying in height from fifty tofive hundred feet, are sometimes formed of a light sandy soil, but often of differentvarieties of rock, producing at a distance the most picturesque effect.The constant recurrence of these waves, if they may be so termed, is quite puzzlingto the inexperienced plainsman. He imagines, and very naturally too,judging from appearances, that when he ascends to the crest he can overlookall the surrounding country. After a weary walk or ride of perhaps severalmiles, which appeared at starting not more than one or two, he finds himselfat the desired point, but discovers that directly beyond, in the directionhe desires to go, rises a second wave, but slightly higher than the first, and7from the crest of which he must certainly be able to scan the country as far asthe eye can reach. Thither he pursues his course, and after a ride of from fiveto ten miles, although the distance did not seem half so great before starting,he finds himself on the crest, or, as it is invariably termed, the “divide,” butagain only to discover that another and apparently a higher divide rises in hisfront, and at about the same distance. Hundreds, yes, thousands of miles maybe journeyed over, and this same effect witnessed every few hours.

As you proceed toward the west from the Missouri, the size of the trees diminishesas well as the number of kinds. As you penetrate the borders ofthe Indian country, leaving civilization behind you, the sight of forests is nolonger enjoyed, the only trees to be seen being scattered along the banks of thestreams, these becoming smaller and more rare, finally disappearing altogetherand giving place to a few scattering willows and osiers. The greater portion ofthe Plains may be said to be without timber of any kind. As to the cause ofthis absence scientific men disagree, some claiming that the high winds whichprevail in unobstructed force prevent the growth and existence of not onlytrees but even the taller grasses. This theory is well supported by facts, as,unlike the Western prairies, where the grass often attains a height sufficient toconceal a man on horseback, the Plains are covered by a grass which rarely,and only under favorable circ*mstances, exceeds three inches in height. Anothertheory, also somewhat plausible, is that the entire Plains were at onetime covered with timber more or less dense, but this timber, owing to variouscauses, was destroyed, and has since been prevented from growing or spreadingover the Plains by the annual fires which the Indians regularly create, andwhich sweep over the entire country. These fires are built by the Indians inthe fall to burn the dried grass and hasten the growth of the pasturage in theearly spring. Favoring the theory that the Plains were at one time coveredwith forests, is the fact that entire trunks of large trees have been found in astate of petrifaction on elevated portions of the country, and far removed fromstreams of water.

While dwarfed specimens of almost all varieties of trees are found fringingthe banks of some of the streams, the prevailing species are cottonwood andpoplar trees (Populus monilifera and Populus angulosa). Intermingled withthese are found clumps of osiers (Salix longifolia). In almost any other portionof the country the cottonwood would be the least desirable of trees; but tothe Indian, and, in many instances which have fallen under my observation,to our troops, the cottonwood has performed a service for which no other treehas been found its equal, and that is as forage for horses and mules during thewinter season, when the snow prevents even dried grass from being obtainable.During the winter campaign of 1868–’69 against the hostile tribes south of theArkansas, it not unfrequently happened that my command while in pursuit ofIndians exhausted its supply of forage, and the horses and mules were subsistedupon the young bark of the cottonwood tree. In routing the Indiansfrom their winter villages, we invariably discovered them located upon thatpoint of the stream promising the greatest supply of cottonwood bark, whilethe stream in the vicinity of the village was completely shorn of its supply oftimber, and the village itself was strewn with the white branches of the cottonwoodentirely stripped of their bark. It was somewhat amusing to observe anIndian pony feeding on cottonwood bark. The limb being usually cut intopieces about four feet in length and thrown upon the ground, the pony, accustomedto this kind of “long forage,” would place one fore foot on the limb in8the same manner as a dog secures a bone, and gnaw the bark from it. Althoughnot affording anything like the amount of nutriment which either hayor grain does, yet our horses invariably preferred the bark to either, probablyon account of its freshness.

The herbage to be found on the principal portion of the Plains is usuallysparse and stunted in its growth. Along the banks of the streams and in thebottom lands there grows generally in rich abundance a species of grass oftenfound in the States east of the Mississippi; but on the uplands is produced whatis there known as the “buffalo grass,” indigenous and peculiar in its character,differing in form and substance from all other grasses. The blade underfavorable circ*mstances reaches a growth usually of from three to five inches,but instead of being straight, or approximately so, it assumes a curled or wavingshape, the grass itself becoming densely matted, and giving to the foot, whenwalking upon it, a sensation similar to that produced by stepping upon moss orthe most costly of velvet carpets.

Nearly all graminivorous animals inhabiting the Plains, except the elk andsome species of the deer, prefer the buffalo grass to that of the lowland; and itis probable that even these exceptions would not prove good if it were not forthe timber on the bottom land, which affords good cover to both the elk andthe deer. Both are often found in large herds grazing upon the uplands, althoughthe grass is far more luxuriant and plentiful on the lowlands. Ourdomestic animals invariably choose the buffalo grass, and experience demonstratesbeyond question that it is the most nutritious of all varieties of wildgrass.

The favorite range of the buffalo is contained in a belt of country runningnorth and south, about two hundred miles wide, and extending from the Platteriver on the north to the valley of the Upper Canadian on the south. In migrating,if not grazing or alarmed, the buffalo invariably moves in single file,the column generally being headed by a patriarch of the herd, who is not onlyfamiliar with the topography of the country, but whose prowess “in the field”entitles him to become the leader of his herd. He maintains this leadershiponly so long as his strength and courage enable him to remain the successfulchampion in the innumerable contests which he is called upon to maintain.The buffalo trails are always objects of interest and inquiry to the sight-seer onthe Plains. These trails made by the herds in their migrating movements areso regular in their construction and course as to well excite curiosity. Theyvary but little from eight to ten inches in width, and are usually from two tofour inches in depth; their course is almost as unvarying as that of the needle,running north and south. Of the thousands of buffalo trails which I have seen,I recollect none of which the general direction was not north and south. Thismay seem somewhat surprising at first thought, but it admits of a simple andsatisfactory explanation.

The general direction of all streams, large and small, on the Plains, is fromthe west to the east, seeking as they do an entrance to the Mississippi. Thehabits of the buffalo incline him to graze and migrate from one stream to another,moving northward and crossing each in succession as he follows theyoung grass in the spring, and moving southward seeking the milder climateand open grazing in the fall and winter. Throughout the buffalo country areto be seen what are termed “buffalo wallows.” The number of those is sogreat as to excite surprise; a moderate estimate would give from one to threeto each acre of ground throughout this vast tract of country. These wallows9are about eight feet in diameter and from six to eighteen inches in depth, andare made by the buffalo bulls in the spring when challenging a rival to combatfor the favor of the opposite sex. The ground is broken by pawing—if ananimal with a hoof can be said to paw—and if the challenge is accepted, as itusually is, the combat takes place; after which the one who comes off victoriousremains in possession of the battle-field, and, occupying the “wallow” offresh upturned earth, finds it produces a cooling sensation to his hot and gorysides. Sometimes the victory which gives possession of the battle-field anddrives a hated antagonist away is purchased at a dear price. The carcass of thevictor is often found in the wallow, where his brief triumph has soon terminatedfrom the effects of his wounds. In the early spring, during the shedding season,the buffalo resorts to his “wallow” to aid in removing the old coat. These“wallows” have proven of no little benefit to man, as well as to animals otherthan the buffalo. After a heavy rain they become filled with water, the soilbeing of such a compact character as to retain it. It has not unfrequently beenthe case when making long marches that the streams would be found dry,while water in abundance could be obtained from the “wallows.” True, it wasnot of the best quality, particularly if it had been standing long and the buffalohad patronized the wallows as “summer resorts”; but on the Plains athirsty man or beast, far from any streams of water, does not parley long withthese considerations.

Wherever water is found on the Plains, particularly if it is standing, innumerablegadflies and mosquitoes generally abound. To such an extent dothese pests to the animal kingdom exist, that to our thinly-coated animals, suchas the horse and mule, grazing is almost an impossibility, while the buffalo withhis huge shaggy coat can browse undisturbed. The most sanguinary and determinedof these troublesome insects are the “buffalo flies”; they move in myriads,and so violent and painful are their assaults upon horses that a herd ofthe latter has been known to stampede as the result of an attack from a swarmof these flies.

But here again is furnished what some reasoners would affirm is evidenceof the “eternal fitness of things.” In most localities where these flies arefound in troublesome numbers, there are also found flocks of starlings, a speciesof blackbird; these, more, I presume, to obtain a livelihood than to becomethe defender of the helpless, perch themselves upon the backs of the animalswhen woe betide the hapless gadfly who ventures near, only to become a choicemorsel for the starling. In this way I have seen our herds of cavalry horsesgrazing undisturbed, each horse of the many hundreds having perched uponhis back from one to dozens of starlings, standing guard over him while hegrazed.

One of the first subjects which addresses itself to the mind of the strangeron the Plains, particularly if he be of a philosophical or scientific turn of mind,is the mirage, which is here observed in all its perfection. Many a weary mileof the traveller has been whiled away in endeavors to account for the fitful andbeautifully changing visions presented by the mirage. Sometimes the distortionsare wonderful, and so natural as to deceive the most experienced eye.Upon one occasion I met a young officer who had spent several years on thePlains and in the Indian country. He was, on the occasion alluded to, in commandof a detachment of cavalry in pursuit of a party of Indians who had beencommitting depredations on our frontier. While riding at the head of his commandhe suddenly discovered, as he thought, a party of Indians not more than10a mile distant. The latter seemed to be galloping toward him. The attentionof his men was called to them, and they pronounced them Indians onhorseback. The “trot” was sounded, and the column moved forward to theattack. The distance between the attacking party and the supposed foe was rapidlydiminishing, the Indians appearing plainer to view each moment. Thecharge was about to be sounded, when it was discovered that the supposedparty of Indians consisted of the decayed carcasses of half a dozen slain buffaloes,which number had been magnified by the mirage, while the peculiar motionimparted by the latter had given the appearance of Indians on horseback.

I have seen a train of government wagons with white canvas covers movingthrough a mirage which, by elevating the wagons to treble their heightand magnifying the size of the covers, presented the appearance of a line oflarge sailing vessels under full sail, while the usual appearance of the miragegave a correct likeness of an immense lake or sea. Sometimes the miragehas been the cause of frightful suffering and death by its deceptive appearance.

Trains of emigrants making their way to California and Oregon have, whileseeking water to quench their thirst and that of their animals, been induced todepart from their course in the endeavor to reach the inviting lake of waterwhich the mirage displayed before their longing eyes. It is usually representedat a distance of from five to ten miles. Sometimes, if the nature of theground is favorable, it is dispelled by advancing toward it; at others it is likean ignis fatuus, hovering in sight, but keeping beyond reach. Here and therethroughout this region are pointed out the graves of those who are said to havebeen led astray by the mirage until their bodies were famished and they succumbedto thirst.

The routes usually chosen for travel across the Plains may be said to furnish,upon an average, water every fifteen miles. In some instances, however, andduring the hot season of the year, it is necessary in places to go into what istermed “a dry camp,” that is, to encamp where there is no water. In suchemergencies, with a previous knowledge of the route, it is practicable to transportfrom the last camp a sufficient quantity to satisfy the demands of the peoplecomposing the train, but the dumb brutes must trust to the little moistureobtained from the night grazing to quench their thirst.

The animals inhabiting the Plains resemble in some respects the fashionablesociety of some of our larger cities. During the extreme heat of the summerthey forsake their accustomed haunts and seek a more delightful retreat. For,although the Plains are drained by streams of all sizes, from the navigableriver to the humblest of brooks, yet at certain seasons the supply of water inmany of them is of the most uncertain character. The pasturage, from theexcessive heat, the lack of sufficient moisture, and the withering hot windswhich sweep across from the south, becomes dried, withered, and burnt, and isrendered incapable of sustaining life. Then it is that the animals usuallyfound on the Plains disappear for a short time, and await the return of amilder season.

Having briefly grouped the prominent features of the central Plains, and assome of the incidents connected with my service among the Indian tribes occurredfar to the south of the localities already referred to, a hurried referenceto the country north of Texas, and in which the Wichita mountains are located,a favorite resort of some of the tribes, is here made. To describe as onewould view it in journeying upon horseback over this beautiful and romanticcountry, to picture with the pen those boundless solitude—so silent that their11silence alone increases their grandeur—to gather inspiration from nature andto attempt to paint the scene as my eye beheld it, is a task before which a muchreadier pen than mine might well hesitate.

It was a beautiful and ever-changing panorama which at one moment excitedthe beholder’s highest admiration, at the next impressed him with speechlessveneration. Approaching the Wichita mountains from the north, and afterthe eye has perhaps been wearied by the tameness and monotony of the unbrokenPlains, one is gladdened by the relief which the sight of these picturesqueand peculiarly beautiful mountains affords.

Here are to be seen all the varied colors which Bierstadt and Church endeavorto represent in their mountain scenery. A journey across and aroundthem on foot and upon horseback will well repay either the tourist or artist.The air is pure and fragrant, and as exhilarating as the purest of wine; theclimate entrancingly mild; the sky clear, and blue as the most beautiful sapphire,with here and there clouds of rarest loveliness, presenting to the eyethe richest commingling of bright and varied colors; delightful odors are constantlybeing wafted by; while the forests, filled with the mocking bird, thecolibri, the humming bird, and the thrush, constantly put forth a joyful chorus,and all combine to fill the soul with visions of delight and enhance the perfectionand glory of the creation. Strong indeed must be that unbelief which canhere contemplate nature in all her purity and glory, and, unawed by the sublimityof this closely-connected testimony, question either the Divine origin orpurpose of the beautiful firmament.

Unlike most mountains, the Wichita cannot properly be termed a range orchain, but more correctly a collection or group, as many of the highest andmost beautiful are detached, and stand on a level plain “solitary and alone.”They are mainly composed of granite, the huge blocks of which exhibit numerousshades of beautiful colors, crimson, purple, yellow, and green predominating.They are conical in shape, and seem to have but little resemblance tothe soil upon which they are founded. They rise abruptly from a level surface—solevel and unobstructed that it would be an easy matter to drive a carriageto any point of the circumference at the base; and yet so steep and brokenare the sides that it is only here and there that it is possible to ascend them.From the foot of almost every mountain pours a stream of limpid water, ofalmost icy coldness.

If the character given to the Indian by Cooper and other novelists, as wellas by well-meaning but mistaken philanthropists of a later day, were the trueone; if the Indian were the innocent, simple-minded being he is represented,more the creature of romance than reality, imbued only with a deep venerationfor the works of nature, freed from the passions and vices which must accompanya savage nature; if, in other words, he possessed all the virtues which hisadmirers and works of fiction ascribe to him, and were free from all the viceswhich those best qualified to judge assign to him, he would be just the characterto complete the picture which is presented by the country embracing the Wichitamountains. Cooper, to whose writings more than to those of any otherauthor are the people speaking the English language indebted for a false andill-judged estimate of the Indian character, might well have laid the scenes ofhis fictitious stories in this beautiful and romantic country.

It is to be regretted that the character of the Indian as described in Cooper’sinteresting novels is not the true one. But as, in emerging from childhoodinto the years of a maturer age, we are often compelled to cast aside many ofour earlier illusions and replace them by beliefs less inviting but more real,12so we, as a people, with opportunities enlarged and facilities for obtainingknowledge increased, have been forced by a multiplicity of causes to study andendeavor to comprehend thoroughly the character of the red man. So intimatelyhas he become associated with the Government as ward of the nation,and so prominent a place among the questions of national policy does the muchmooted “Indian question” occupy, that it behooves us no longer to study thisproblem from works of fiction, but to deal with it as it exists in reality.Stripped of the beautiful romance with which we have been so long willingto envelop him, transferred from the inviting pages of the novelist to the localitieswhere we are compelled to meet with him, in his native village, on thewar path, and when raiding upon our frontier settlements and lines of travel,the Indian forfeits his claim to the appellation of the “noble red man.” Wesee him as he is, and, so far as all knowledge goes, as he ever has been, asavage in every sense of the word; not worse, perhaps, than his white brotherwould be similarly born and bred, but one whose cruel and ferocious naturefar exceeds that of any wild beast of the desert. That this is true no one whohas been brought into intimate contact with the wild tribes will deny. Perhapsthere are some who, as members of peace commissions or as wandering agentsof some benevolent society, may have visited these tribes or attended with themat councils held for some pacific purpose, and who, by passing through the villagesof the Indian while at peace, may imagine their opportunities for judgingof the Indian nature all that could be desired. But the Indian, while he canseldom be accused of indulging in a great variety of wardrobe, can be said tohave a character capable of adapting itself to almost every occasion. He hasone character, perhaps his most serviceable one, which he preserves carefully,and only airs it when making his appeal to the Government or its agents forarms, ammunition, and license to employ them. This character is invariablyparaded, and often with telling effect, when the motive is a peaceful one.Prominent chiefs invited to visit Washington invariably don this character, andin their “talks” with the “Great Father” and other less prominent personagesthey successfully contrive to exhibit but this one phase. Seeing them underthese or similar circ*mstances only, it is not surprising that by many the Indianis looked upon as a simple-minded “son of nature,” desiring nothing beyondthe privilege of roaming and hunting over the vast unsettled wilds of the West,inheriting and asserting but few native rights, and never trespassing upon therights of others. This view is equally erroneous with that which regards theIndian as a creature possessing the human form but divested of all other attributesof humanity, and whose traits of character, habits, modes of life, disposition,and savage customs disqualify him from the exercise of all rightsand privileges, even those pertaining to life itself. Taking him as we find him,at peace or at war, at home or abroad, waiving all prejudices, and layingaside all partiality, we will discover in the Indian a subject for thoughtfulstudy and investigation. In him we will find the representative of a racewhose origin is, and promises to be, a subject forever wrapped in mystery; arace incapable of being judged by the rules or laws applicable to any otherknown race of men; one between which and civilization there seems to haveexisted from time immemorial a determined and unceasing warfare—a hostilityso deep-seated and inbred with the Indian character, that in the exceptionalinstances where the modes and habits of civilization have been reluctantlyadopted, it has been at the sacrifice of power and influence as a tribe, and themore serious loss of health, vigor, and courage as individuals.



If the character of the Indian is enveloped in mystery, how much more so ishis origin. From his earliest history to the present time learned menhave striven to unravel this mystery, and to trace the genealogy of the red manto its original source. But in spite of all study and the deepest research capableof being brought to bear on this subject, it is to-day surrounded by a darknessalmost as deep and impenetrable as that which enfolded it centuries ago. Variouswriters of ability have attempted to prove that the Indians came fromeastern Asia; others trace them to Africa, others to Phœnicia, while anotherclass believes them to be autochthones. In favor of each of these beliefs strongcirc*mstantial evidence can be produced. By closely studying the customs,costumes, faith, and religious traditions of the various tribes, a striking hom*ogeneityis seen to exist. At the same time and from the same sources we areenabled to discover satisfactory resemblances between certain superstitions andreligious rites practised among the Indian tribes and those which prevailed atone time among the ancient Persians, the Hebrews, and the Chaldeans. Theywho adhere to the belief of disparity of origin may readily adduce arguments inrefutation of an opposite theory. The apparent similarity found to exist in thecustoms, dress, and religious rites of different tribes may be partially accountedfor by their long intercourse under like circ*mstances, the effect of which wouldnecessarily be an assimilation in beliefs and usages to a greater or less degree.The preponderance of facts inclines strongly in favor of that theorywhich does not ascribe unity of origin to the Indian tribes. Passing downthe Mississippi to Mexico, and from Mexico to Peru, there once existed an unbrokenchain of tribes, which, either in a peaceful or warlike manner, maintaineda connection and kept up an intercourse with each other. In variousways proofs have been discovered that at one time the most northern tribesmust have held intercourse with the civilized nations of Peru and Mexico. Theseevidences have been seized upon by certain savants to support the theory thatthe Indian tribes of North America are descendants of the Aztecs and other kindrednations of the south—arriving at this conclusion from the fact of an apparentsimilarity in history, psychology, traditions, and customs. But by studyingthe migrations and tendencies of ancient nations, and making allowance for suchmodifications as climatic influences, intermarriage, contact with civilization,and an altered mode of living would necessarily produce upon any branch ofthe human race—remembering, too, that in the vast majority of cases relatingto our subject we must be guided by tradition rather than history—it is not difficultto establish a strong typical likeness between the tribes of American Indiansand some of the nations of most remote antiquity. When or in what exactmanner they first reached this continent is a problem difficult of solution.This theory necessarily involves the admission of emigration to this continentcenturies before the landing of Columbus. Upon this point there is muchthat may be inferred, and not a little susceptible of strong proof.

When civilization made its first inroads within the borders of this continent,numerous tribes, each powerful in numbers, were found inhabiting it. Eachtribe had its peculiar customs, whether of war, the chase, or religion. They14exhibited some close resemblances as well as widely different traits of character.That they sprang from different nations rather than from a single sourceseems highly probable. It is said that when the Spaniards conquered Yucatana number of intelligent Indians declared that by traditions from their ancestorsthey had learned that their country had been peopled by nations coming fromthe east, whom God had delivered from their enemies by opening a road forthem across the sea.

Few persons will deny that the existence of America was believed in if notpositively known centuries before its discovery by Columbus. Even so farback as the time of Alexander the Great, a historian named Theopompus, ingiving a dialogue that took place between Midas and Silenus, credits the latterwith saying that Europe, Asia, and Africa were only islands, but that a vast fertilecontinent existed beyond the sea. This continent was peopled by a race ofpowerful men, and gold and silver were abundant on its surface. Hanno, eighthundred years before Christ, made a voyage along the coast of Africa, andsailed due west for thirty days. From the account which he afterward wroteof his voyage, it is probable that he saw portions of America or some of theWest India islands. Reference is also made by Homer and Horace to the existenceof islands at a long distance west of Europe and Africa. Diodorusspeaks of an immense island many days’ sail to the west of Africa; immenserivers flowed from its shores; its inhabitants resided in beautiful mansions;its soil was fruitful and highly cultivated. The description correspondswith that given of Mexico by the Spaniards who first discovered it. Aristotlemakes mention of it in the following terms: “It is said that the Carthaginianshave discovered beyond the Pillars of Hercules a very fertile island, but whichis without inhabitants, yet full of forests, of navigable rivers, and abounding infruit. It is situated many days’ journey from the mainland.” After the discoveryof America Europeans were surprised to find in villages in Guatemalainhabitants wearing the Arabian masculine costume and the Jewish femininecostume. Travellers in South America have discovered Israelites amongthe Indians. This discovery strengthens the theory given by Garcia, a Spanishwriter, that the Indians are the descendants of the tribes of Israel that were ledcaptive into Assyria. Many of the Indian customs and religious rites closelyresemble those of the Israelites. In many tribes the Indians offer the firstfruits of the earth and of the chase to the Great Spirit. They have also certainceremonies at stated periods. Their division of the year corresponds with theJewish festivals. In some tribes the brother of a deceased husband receivesthe widow into his lodge as his legitimate wife. Some travellers claim to haveseen circumcision practised among certain tribes. Another analogy betweenthe Jews and the Indians is seen in their purifications, baths, anointings, fasts,manner of praying, and abstaining from certain quadrupeds, birds, and reptilesconsidered impure. In general Indians are only permitted to marry in theirown tribe. Some tribes are said to carry with them an ark similar to the onementioned in Holy Writ. I know that all tribes with which I have been broughtin contact carry with them a mysterious something which is regarded with theutmost sacredness and veneration, and upon which the eye of no white man atleast is ever permitted to rest. Then again the “medicine man” of the tribe,who is not, as his name implies, the physician, but stands in the character of highpriest, assumes a dress and manner corresponding to those of the Jewish highpriest. Mr. Adair, who spent forty years among the various northern tribes,and who holds to the idea that the Indian is descended from the Hebrew, asserts15that he discovered an unmistakable resemblance between various Indianwords and the Hebrew intended to express the same idea. He further assertsthat he once heard an Indian apply the following expression to a culprit:“Tschi kaksit canaha”—Thou art like unto a Canaanite sinner.

Numerous evidences and various authorities go to prove that prior to thediscovery of America by Columbus a series of voyages had been made fromthe old to the new continent. The historical records of the Scandinavians, describingtheir migratory expeditions, fix not only the dates of such excursions,but also the exact points on the American coast at which landings were madeand colonies established. In 1002, Thorwald Ericsson, following the exampleof his countrymen, began a voyage, during which he landed near Cape Cod.He was afterward slain in an encounter with the natives. Other expeditionswere undertaken by the Scandinavians at subsequent periods down to the earlypart of the fifteenth century, when, owing to various causes of decline, includingsavage wars and disease, these early explorers lost their foothold onthe American continent and disappeared from its limits. But from the ninthto the fifteenth century it is easily proved by their historical records and traditionsthat the American continent had been visited and occupied by pioneersfrom the Scandinavians. From the great number of inscriptions, antique utensils,arms, bones, and monuments discovered in the New England States, it isfair to presume that these adventurers had occupied a larger portion of thenew continent than their manuscripts would lead us to suppose. At the sametime the discoveries in the Western States and territories of mounds containinghuman bones, earthen vessels, and weapons whose form and structure provethat their original owners belonged to a different people from any with whichwe are acquainted at the present day, should be received as evidence stronglyconfirmatory of the early migrations claimed to have been made by the Scandinaviansand other nations. Admitting that there are certain physiological attributescommon to nearly all the Indian tribes, sufficiently decided and clearto enable them to be classed together as one branch of the human family, yetan intimate study of all the tribes of North America will develop physical diversitiessufficiently ample to justify the belief that the various tribes may havesprung from different nationalities. We find them, although generally of acopper color, presenting all shades of complexion from a deep black to a shadeof white. Some tribes are of powerful stature, others are dwarfed. So markedare these differences that a person accustomed to meeting the various tribes canat a glance distinguish the individuals of one from the other. Almost everytribe possesses a language peculiarly its own, and what seems remarkable isthe fact that no matter how long or how intimately two tribes may be associatedwith each other, they each preserve and employ their own language, andindividuals of the one tribe rarely become versed in the spoken language ofthe other, all intercommunication being carried on either by interpreters or inthe universal sign language. This is noticeably true of Cheyennes and Arrapahoes,two tribes which for years have lived in close proximity to each other,and who are so strongly bound together, offensively and defensively, as tomake common cause against the enemies of either, particularly against thewhite man. These tribes encamp together, hunt together, and make war together,yet but a comparatively small number of either can speak fluently thelanguage of the other. I remember to have had an interview at one time witha number of prominent chiefs belonging to five different tribes, the Cheyennes,Kiowas, Osages, Kaws, and Apaches. In communicating with them it was16necessary for my language to be interpreted into each of the five Indiantongues, no representatives of any two of the tribes being able to understand thelanguage of each other; yet all of these tribes were accustomed to more or lessintimate association. Between the tribes which inhabited the Eastern Statesand those originally found on the Plains a marked difference is seen to exist.They have but little in common, while a difference equally marked is discoveredbetween the Indians of the Plains and those of the mountain regions furtherwest, as well as the tribes of both Old and New Mexico.

Inseparable from the Indian character, wherever he is to be met with, ishis remarkable taciturnity, his deep dissimulation, the perseverance with whichhe follows his plans of revenge or conquest, his concealment and apparent lackof curiosity, his stoical courage when in the power of his enemies, his cunning,his caution, and last, but not least, the wonderful power and subtlety of his senses.Of this last I have had most interesting proof, one instance of which will benoted when describing the Wash*ta campaign. In studying the Indian character,while shocked and disgusted by many of his traits and customs, I findmuch to be admired, and still more of deep and unvarying interest. To me Indianlife, with its attendant ceremonies, mysteries, and forms, is a book of unceasinginterest. Grant that some of its pages are frightful, and, if possible, tobe avoided, yet the attraction is none the weaker. Study him, fight him, civilizehim if you can, he remains still the object of your curiosity, a type of manpeculiar and undefined, subjecting himself to no known law of civilization, contendingdeterminedly against all efforts to win him from his chosen mode oflife. He stands in the group of nations solitary and reserved, seeking alliancewith none, mistrusting and opposing the advances of all. Civilization mayand should do much for him, but it can never civilize him. A few instances tothe contrary may be quoted, but these are susceptible of explanation. No tribeenjoying its accustomed freedom has ever been induced to adopt a civilizedmode of life, or, as they express it, to follow the white man’s road. At varioustimes certain tribes have forsaken the pleasures of the chase and the excitementof the war-path for the more quiet life to be found on the “reservation.” Wasthis course adopted voluntarily and from preference? Was it because the Indianchose the ways of his white brother rather than those in which he had beenborn and bred?

In no single instance has this been true. What then, it may be asked, havebeen the reasons which influenced certain tribes to abandon their predatory,nomadic life, and to-day to influence others to pursue a similar course? Theanswer is clear, and as undeniable as it is clear. The gradual and steady decreasein numbers, strength, and influence, occasioned by wars both with othertribes and with the white man, as well as losses brought about by diseasespartly attributable to contact with civilization, have so lowered the standingand diminished the available fighting force of the tribe as to render it unableto cope with more powerful neighboring tribes with any prospect of success.The stronger tribes always assume an overbearing and dominant manner towardtheir weaker neighbors, forcing them to join in costly and bloody wars orthemselves to be considered enemies. When a tribe falls from the position ofa leading one, it is at the mercy of every tribe that chooses to make war, beingforced to take sides, and at the termination of the war is generally sacrificed tothe interests of the more powerful. To avoid these sacrifices, to avail itself ofthe protection of civilization and its armed forces, to escape from the ruininginfluences of its more warlike and powerful neighbors, it reluctantly accepts17the situation, gives up its accustomed haunts, its wild mode of life, andnestles down under the protecting arm of its former enemy, the white man,and tries, however feebly, to adopt his manner of life. In making this changethe Indian has to sacrifice all that is dear to his heart; he abandons the onlymode of life in which he can be a warrior and win triumphs and honors worthyto be sought after; and in taking up the pursuits of the white man he does thatwhich he has always been taught from his earliest infancy to regard as degradingto his manhood—to labor, to work for his daily bread, an avocation suitableonly for squaws.

To those who advocate the application of the laws of civilization to theIndian, it might be a profitable study to investigate the effect which such applicationproduces upon the strength of the tribe as expressed in numbers. Lookingat him as the fearless hunter, the matchless horseman and warrior of thePlains, where Nature placed him, and contrasting him with the reservationIndian, who is supposed to be revelling in the delightful comforts and luxuriesof an enlightened condition, but who in reality is grovelling in beggary, bereftof many of the qualities which in his wild state tended to render him noble,and heir to a combination of vices partly his own, partly bequeathed to himfrom the pale-face, one is forced, even against desire, to conclude that there isunending antagonism between the Indian nature and that with which his well-meaningwhite brother would endow him. Nature intended him for a savagestate; every instinct, every impulse of his soul inclines him to it. The whiterace might fall into a barbarous state, and afterwards, subjected to the influenceof civilization, be reclaimed and prosper. Not so the Indian. He cannot behimself and be civilized; he fades away and dies. Cultivation such as thewhite man would give him deprives him of his identity. Education, strangeas it may appear, seems to weaken rather than strengthen his intellect.Where do we find any specimens of educated Indian eloquence comparing withthat of such native, untutored orators as Tec*mseh, Osceola, Red Jacket, andLogan; or, to select from those of more recent fame, Red Cloud of the Sioux,or Sa-tan-ta of the Kiowas? Unfortunately for the last-named chief, whosename has been such a terror to our frontier settlements, he will have to be judgedfor other qualities than that of eloquence. Attention has more recently beendirected to him by his arrest by the military authorities near Fort Sill, IndianTerritory, and his transportation to Texas for trial by civil court for variousmurders and depredations, alleged to have been committed by him near theTexas frontier. He has since had his trial, and, if public rumor is to be credited,has been sentenced to death. Reference will be made to this noted chiefin succeeding pages. His eloquence and able arguments upon the Indianquestion in various councils to which he was called won for him the deservedtitle of “Orator of the Plains.” In his boasting harangue before the Generalof the Army, which furnished the evidence of his connection with the murdersfor which he has been tried and sentenced, he stated as a justification forsuch outrages, or rather as the occasion of them, that they were in retaliation forhis arrest and imprisonment by me some three years ago. As there are twosides to most questions, even if one be wrong, when the proper time arrivesa brief account of Sa-tan-ta’s arrest and imprisonment, with the causes leadingthereto, will be given in these sketches. One of the favorite remarks ofSa-tan-ta in his orations, and one too which other chiefs often indulge in, beingthrown out as a “glittering generality,” meaning much or little as they maydesire, but most often the latter, was that he was tired of making war and desirednow “to follow the white man’s road.” It is scarcely to be presumed that18he found the gratification of this oft-expressed desire in recently following the“white man’s road” to Texas, under strong guard and heavily manacled, withhanging, to the Indian the most dreaded of all deaths, plainly in the perspective.Aside, however, from his character for restless barbarity, and activity inconducting merciless forays against our exposed frontiers, Sa-tan-ta is a remarkableman—remarkable for his powers of oratory, his determined warfareagainst the advances of civilization, and his opposition to the abandonment ofhis accustomed mode of life, and its exchange for the quiet, unexciting, uneventfullife of a reservation Indian. If I were an Indian, I often think that I wouldgreatly prefer to cast my lot among those of my people who adhered to the freeopen plains, rather than submit to the confined limits of a reservation, there to bethe recipient of the blessed benefits of civilization, with its vices thrown inwithout stint or measure. The Indian can never be permitted to view the questionin this deliberate way. He is neither a luxury nor necessary of life. Hecan hunt, roam, and camp when and wheresoever he pleases, provided alwaysthat in so doing he does not run contrary to the requirements of civilizationin its advancing tread. When the soil which he has claimed and huntedover for so long a time is demanded by this to him insatiable monster, thereis no appeal; he must yield, or, like the car of Juggernaut, it will roll mercilesslyover him, destroying as it advances. Destiny seems to have so willedit, and the world looks on and nods its approval. At best the history of ourIndian tribes, no matter from what standpoint it is regarded, affords a melancholypicture of loss of life. Two hundred years ago it required millionsto express in numbers the Indian population, while at the present time lessthan half the number of thousands will suffice for the purpose. Where andwhy have they gone? Ask the Saxon race, since whose introduction into andoccupation of the country these vast changes have been effected.

But little idea can be formed of the terrible inroads which diseases beforeunknown to them have made upon their numbers. War has contributed itsshare, it is true, but disease alone has done much to depopulate many of the Indiantribes. It is stated that the small-pox was first introduced among them bythe white man in 1837, and that in the short space of one month six tribes lostby this disease alone twelve thousand persons.

Confusion sometimes arises from the division of the Indians into nations,tribes, and bands. A nation is generally a confederation of tribes which havesprung from a common stock or origin. The tribe is intended to embrace allbands and villages claiming a common name, and is presided over by a head chief,while each band or village is presided over by one or more subordinate chiefs,but all acknowledging a certain allegiance to the head or main village. Thisdivision cannot always be accounted for. It arises sometimes from necessity,where the entire tribe is a large one, and it is difficult to procure game andgrazing in one locality sufficient for all. In such cases the various bands arenot usually separated by any great distance, but regulate their movements soas to be able to act in each other’s behalf. Sometimes a chief more warlikethan the others, who favors war and conquest at all times, and refuses tomake peace even when his tribe assents to it, will separate himself, with thosewho choose to unite their fortunes with his, from the remainder of the tribe,and act for the time independently. Such a character produces endless trouble;his village becomes a shelter and rendezvous for all the restless spirits ofthe tribe. While the latter is or pretends to be at peace, this band continuesto make war, yet when pressed or pursued avails itself of the protection ofthose who are supposed to be peaceable.


Having hurriedly sketched the country in which we shall find it necessary togo, and glanced at certain theories calculated to shed some light on the originand destiny of the Indian tribes, the succeeding pages will be devoted to mypersonal experience on the Plains, commencing with the expedition of Major-GeneralHanco*ck in the spring of 1867.



“There are two classes of people who are always eager to get up anIndian war—the army and our frontiersmen.”

I quote from an editorial on the Indian question, which not long since appearedin the columns of one of the leading New York daily newspapers.That this statement was honestly made I do not doubt, but that instead of beingtrue it could not have been further from the truth I will attempt to show.I assert, and all candid persons familiar with the subject will sustain the assertion,that of all classes of our population the army and the people living on thefrontier entertain the greatest dread of an Indian war, and are willing to makethe greatest sacrifices to avoid its horrors. This is a proposition, the assertionof which almost carries its proof with it.

Under the most auspicious circ*mstances, and in time of peace with the Indians,the life of an army officer on the Plains or along our frontier is at bestone involving no little personal discomfort, and demanding the sacrifice ofmany of the luxuries and benefits which he could obtain were he located withinthe limits of civilization. To many officers, service in the West amountsalmost to social exile. Some can have their families with or near them.There is a limited opportunity for social intercourse; travel from the States, toand across the Plains, either for business or pleasure, is uninterrupted, and mailfacilities with friends and relations in the States are maintained. An Indian warchanges all this. The troops must prepare to take the field. Provided withbut few comforts, necessarily limited in this respect by the amount of transportation,which on the Plains is narrowed down to the smallest practicable,the soldier bids adieu—often a final one—to the dear ones of home, and with hiscomrades in arms sets out, no matter how inclement the season, to seek what?fame and glory? How many military men have reaped laurels from their Indiancampaigns? Does he strive to win the approving smile of his countrymen?That is indeed, in this particular instance, a difficult task. For let himact as he may in conducting or assisting in a campaign against the Indians, ifhe survives the campaign he can feel assured of this fact, that one-half of hisfellow-citizens at home will revile him for his zeal and pronounce his success,if he achieves any, a massacre of poor, defenceless, harmless Indians; whilethe other half, if his efforts to chastise the common enemy are not crowned withsatisfactory results, will cry “Down with him. Down with the regular army,and give us brave volunteers who can serve the Government in other ways besideseating rations and drawing pay.”

An unsuccessful campaign, under which head nineteen out of twenty mayreasonably be classed, satisfies no portion of the public, and greatly dissatisfiesthat portion of the Western population whose knowledge of the murders anddepredations committed by the Indians is, unlike that of the people of the Statesfurther east, of too recent origin to be swept away by false notions of clemency.During the continuance of the campaign both officers and soldiers aregenerally cut off from all communication with the friends left behind. Couriers,sent as bearers of a few despatches and letters, are sometimes under cover ofthe night enabled to make their way back to the forts; but even these failsometimes. I now recollect the circ*mstance of two trusty scouts being sentwith despatches and a small mail, to make their way from the southern portion21of Kansas to Fort Dodge on the Arkansas. When we saw them again webeheld their lifeless, mangled remains, their bodies pierced with numerous arrows,and mutilated almost beyond recognition—our letters scattered here andthere by the savages, who had torn open the little canvas mail-bag in searchof plunder. The Indians had surrounded these faithful fellows when withinabout ten miles of the end of their perilous journey. The numerous emptycartridge shells which lay around and near the bodies of the two men, provedhow persistently and bravely they had struggled for their lives.

The opening of an Indian campaign is also the signal for the withdrawal ofall privileges and enjoyments, such as leaves of absence, visits from Easternfriends, hunting and pleasure parties of all kinds. The reception from theEast of all luxuries and delicacies for the table and of all current literature,such as the numerous railroads being constructed in the West, particularly thetwo Pacifics, render easy of procurement, ceases; and not only the private soldierbut the officer is limited in his mess fare to an indifferent portion of theordinary ration. Is it probable or reasonable that these objects and results,the principal ones generally, so far as the army as individuals is concerned,would be considered sufficient to render either officers or soldiers “eager toget up an Indian war”? I have yet to make the acquaintance of that officerof the army who, in time of undisturbed peace, desired a war with the Indians.On the contrary, the army is the Indian’s best friend, so long as the latter desiresto maintain friendship. It is pleasant at all times, and always interesting,to have a village of peaceable Indians locate their lodges near our frontierposts or camps. The daily visits of the Indians, from the most venerable chiefto the strapped pappoose, their rude interchange of civilities, their barterings,races, dances, legends, strange customs, and fantastic ceremonies, all combineto render them far more agreeable as friendly neighbors than as crafty, bloodthirstyenemies.

As to the frontiersman, he has everything to lose, even to life, and nothing togain by an Indian war. “His object is to procure a fat contract or a marketfor his produce,” adds the journal from which the opening lines of this chapterare quoted. This seems plausible and likely enough. But does that journal, anddo the people who believe on this question as it does, know that there are tworeasons—more are not required—why its statement is a very great error? First,our frontier farmers, busily employed as they are in opening up their farms, neverhave any produce to dispose of, but consider themselves fortunate if they have sufficientfor their personal wants. They are never brought in contact with the Indianexcept when the latter makes a raid or incursion of at least hundreds ofmiles, and attacks the settlements. It is another case of Mohammed and themountain. The frontiersman never goes beyond the settlements. The Indianforsakes his accustomed hunting-grounds when ambitious of obtaining scalps orplunder, and visits the settlements. The only ground upon which the frontiersmancan be accused of inspiring or inciting a war with the Indian is, that whenapplied to by the latter to surrender his life, family, and property, scalp thrownin, he stoutly refuses, and sometimes employs force to maintain this refusal. Ihave shown that this abused class of the pioneers of civilization have no hand inthe fat contracts. Who are the fortunate parties? With but rare exceptionsour most expensive expeditions against the Indians on the Plains have beensupplied by contracts made with parties far inside the limits of civilization,who probably never saw a hostile Indian, and who never even visited the Indiancountry. The supplies are purchased far from the frontiers, in therich and thickly settled portions of the States, then shipped by rail and boat to22the most available military post, from which point they are generally drawnby huge trains of army wagons, or carried on pack animals.

Of the many important expeditions organized to operate in the Indiancountry, none, perhaps, of late years has excited more general and unfriendlycomment, considering the slight loss of life inflicted upon the Indians, than theexpedition organized and led in person by Major-General Hanco*ck in the springof 1867. The clique generally known as the “Indian ring” were particularlymalevolent and bitter in their denunciations of General Hanco*ck for precipitating,as they expressed it, an Indian war. This expedition was quite formidablein appearance, being made up of eight troops of cavalry, seven companiesof infantry, and one battery of light artillery, numbering altogether about 1,400men. As General Hanco*ck at the time and since has been so often accused ofcauselessly bringing on an Indian war, a word in explanation may not beamiss.

Being in command of the cavalry connected with the expedition, I had ampleand frequent opportunities for learning the true purposes and objects ofthe march into the heart of the Indian country. I know no better mode ofexplaining these than by quoting the following extract from letters written byGeneral Hanco*ck to the agents of the various tribes with which we expectedto be brought in contact: “I have the honor to state for your information thatI am at present preparing an expedition to the Plains, which will soon be readyto move. My object in doing so at this time is, to convince the Indians withinthe limits of this department that we are able to punish any of them who maymolest travellers across the Plains, or who may commit other hostilitiesagainst the whites. We desire to avoid if possible any troubles with the Indians,and to treat them with justice, and according to the requirements of ourtreaties with them; and I wish especially in my dealings with them to actthrough the agents of the Indian Department as far as it is possible so to do....If you as their agent can arrange these matters satisfactorilywith them, we will be pleased to defer the whole subject to you. In case ofyour inability to do so, I would be pleased to have you accompany me whenI visit the country of your tribes, to show that the officers of the Governmentare acting in harmony. I will be pleased to talk with any of the chiefs whomwe may meet.”

Surely there was no hostile intent here expressed. In another communicationto the agents of different tribes, General Hanco*ck, in referring to certainmurders which had been recently committed, and which had been traced tothe tribes in question, said: “These cases will now be left entirely in the handsof the Indian Department, and I do not expect to make war against any of theIndians of your agency unless they commence war against us.”

It may be asked, What had the Indians done to make this incursion necessary?They had been guilty of numerous thefts and murders during the precedingsummer and fall, for none of which had they been called to account. Theyhad attacked the stations of the overland mail route, killed the employees,burned the station, and captured the stock. Citizens had been murdered intheir homes on the frontier of Kansas; murders had been committed on theArkansas route. The principal perpetrators of these acts were the Cheyennesand Sioux. The agent of the former, if not a party to the murder on the Arkansas,knew who the guilty persons were, yet took no steps to bring the murderersto punishment. Such a course would have interfered with his trade andprofits. It was not to punish for these sins of the past that the expedition wasset on foot, but rather by its imposing appearance and its early presence in the23Indian country to check or intimidate the Indians from a repetition of theirlate conduct. This was deemed particularly necessary from the fact that thevarious tribes from which we had greatest cause to anticipate trouble had duringthe winter, through their leading chiefs and warriors, threatened that assoon as the grass was up in spring a combined outbreak would take place alongour entire frontier, and especially against the main routes of travel. To assemblethe tribes for the desired council, word was sent early in March to theagents of those tribes whom it was desirable to meet. The agents sent runnersto the villages inviting them to meet us at some point near the Arkansasriver.

General Hanco*ck, with the artillery and six companies of infantry, reachedFort Riley, Kansas, from Fort Leavenworth by rail the last week in March;here he was joined by four companies of the Seventh Cavalry and an additionalcompany of the Thirty-seventh Infantry. It was at this point that I joinedthe expedition. And as a very fair sample of the laurels which military menmay win in an Indian campaign by a zealous discharge of what they deem theirduty, I will here state, in parenthesis, that after engaging in the expedition,some of the events of which I am about to relate, and undergoing fatigue,privations, and dangers equal to those of a campaign during the Rebellion, Ifound myself at the termination of the campaign again at Fort Riley in arrest.This is not mentioned in a fault-finding spirit. I have no fault to find. It issaid that blessings sometimes come in disguise. Such proved to be true inthis instance, although I must say the disguise for some little time was mostperfect.

From Fort Riley we marched to Fort Harker, a distance of ninety miles,where our force was strengthened by the addition of two more troops of cavalry.Halting only long enough to replenish our supplies, we next directed ourmarch toward Fort Larned, near the Arkansas, about seventy miles to thesoutheast. A march from the 3d to the 7th of April brought us to Fort Larned.The agent for the Comanches and Kiowas accompanied us. At Fort Larnedwe found the agent of the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and Apaches; from the latterwe learned that he had, as requested, sent runners to the chiefs of hisagency inviting them to the council, and that they had agreed to assemble nearFort Larned on the 10th of the month, requesting that the expedition wouldremain there until that date. To this request General Hanco*ck acceded.

On the 9th of April, while encamped awaiting the council, which was to beheld the following day, a terrible snow-storm occurred, lasting all day untillate in the evening. It was our good fortune to be in camp rather than on themarch; had it been otherwise, we could not well have escaped without loss oflife from the severe cold and blinding snow. The cavalry horses suffered seriously,and were only preserved by doubling their ration of oats, while to preventtheir being frozen during the intensely cold night which followed, theguards were instructed to keep passing along the picket lines with a whip, andto keep the horses moving constantly. The snow was eight inches in depth.The council, which was to take place the next day, had to be postponed until,the return of good weather. Now began the display of a kind of diplomacyfor which the Indian is peculiar. The Cheyennes and a band of the Siouxwere encamped on Pawnee Fork, about thirty miles above Fort Larned. Theyneither desired to move nearer to us nor have us approach nearer to them. Onthe morning of the 11th they sent us word that they had started to visit us, butdiscovering a large herd of buffalo near their camp, they had stopped to procurea supply of meat. This message was not received with much confidence, nor24was a buffalo hunt deemed of sufficient importance to justify the Indians inbreaking their engagement. General Hanco*ck decided, however, to delay anotherday, when, if the Indians still failed to come in, he would move his commandto the vicinity of their village and hold the conference there.

Orders were issued on the evening of the 12th for the march to be resumedon the following day. Later in the evening two chiefs of the “Dog Soldiers,”a band composed of the most warlike and troublesome Indians on the Plains,chiefly made up of Cheyennes, visited our camp. They were accompaniedby a dozen warriors, and expressed a desire to hold a conference with GeneralHanco*ck, to which he assented. A large council fire was built in front ofthe General’s tent, and all the officers of his command assembled there. Atent had been erected for the accommodation of the chiefs a short distance fromthe General’s. Before they could feel equal to the occasion, and in order toobtain time to collect their thoughts, they desired that supper might be preparedfor them, which was done. When finally ready they advanced fromtheir tent to the council fire in single file, accompanied by their agent andan interpreter. Arrived at the fire, another brief delay ensued. No matterhow pressing or momentous the occasion, an Indian invariably declines to engagein a council until he has filled his pipe and gone through with the importantceremony of a smoke. This attended to, the chiefs announced thatthey were ready “to talk.” They were then introduced to the principal officersof the group, and seemed much struck with the flashy uniforms of the fewartillery officers who were present in all the glory of red horsehair plumes,aigulets, etc. The chiefs seemed puzzled to determine whether these insigniadesignated chieftains or medicine men. General Hanco*ck began the conferenceby a speech, in which he explained to the Indians his purpose in comingto see them, and what he expected of them in the future. He particularlyinformed them that he was not there to make war, but to promote peace. Thenexpressing his regret that more of the chiefs had not visited him, he announcedhis intention of proceeding on the morrow with his command to the vicinityof their village and there holding a council with all of the chiefs. Tall Bull,a fine, warlike-looking chieftain, replied to General Hanco*ck, but his speechcontained nothing important, being made up of allusions to the growingscarcity of the buffalo, his love for the white man, and the usual hint that adonation in the way of refreshments would be highly acceptable; he addedthat he would have nothing new to say at the village.

Several years prior to the events referred to, our people had captured fromthe Indians two children. I believe they were survivors of the Chivingtonmassacre at Sand Creek, Colorado. These children had been kindly cared for,and were being taught to lead a civilized mode of life. Their relatives, however,made demands for them, and we by treaty stipulation agreed to deliverthem up. One of them, a little girl, had been cared for kindly in a familyliving near Denver, Colorado; the other, a boy, had been carried East to theStates, and it was with great difficulty that the Government was able to learnhis whereabouts and obtain possession of him. He was finally discovered, however,and sent to General Hanco*ck, to be by him delivered up to his tribe. Heaccompanied the expedition, and was quite a curiosity for the time being. Hewas dressed comfortably, in accordance with civilized custom; and, having beentaken from his people at so early an age, was apparently satisfied with the lifehe led. The Indians who came to our camp expressed a great desire to seehim, and when he was brought into their presence they exhibited no emotionsuch as white men under similar circ*mstances might be expected to show.25They evidently were not pleased to see him clothed in the white man’s dress.The little fellow, then some eight or ten years of age, seemed little disposed togo back to his people. I saw him the following year in the village of histribe; he then had lost all trace of civilization, had forgotten his knowledge ofthe English language, and was as shy and suspicious of the white men as anyof his dusky comrades. From older persons of the tribe we learned that theirfirst act after obtaining possession of him was to deprive him of his “storeclothes,” and in their stead substitute the blanket and leggings.

Rightly concluding that the Indians did not intend to come to our camp asthey had at first agreed to, it was decided to move nearer to their village. Onthe morning following the conference held with the two chiefs of the “DogSoldiers,” our entire force therefore marched from Fort Larned up PawneeFork in the direction of the main village, encamping the first night abouttwenty-one miles from the fort. Several parties of Indians were seen in ouradvance during the day, evidently watching our movements; while a heavysmoke, seen to rise in the direction of the Indian village, indicated that somethingmore than usual was going on. This smoke we afterwards learnedarose from the burning grass. The Indians, thinking to prevent us from encampingin their vicinity, had set fire to and burned all the grass for miles inthe direction from which they expected us. Before we arrived at our camping-groundwe were met by several chiefs and warriors belonging to the Cheyennesand Sioux. Among the chiefs were Pawnee Killer of the Sioux, and WhiteHorse of the Cheyennes. It was arranged that these chiefs should accept ourhospitality and remain with us during the night, and in the morning all thechiefs of the two tribes then in the village were to come to General Hanco*ck’sheadquarters and hold a council. On the morning of the 14th Pawnee Killerleft our camp at an early hour, for the purpose, as he said, of going to the villageto bring in the other chiefs to the council. Nine o’clock had been agreedupon as the hour at which the council should assemble. The hour came, butthe chiefs did not. Now an Indian council is not only often an important butalways an interesting occasion. And, somewhat like a famous recipe for makinga certain dish, the first thing necessary in holding an Indian council is toget the Indian. Half-past nine o’clock came, and still we were lacking thisone important part of the council. At this juncture Bull Bear, an influentialchief among the Cheyennes, came in and reported that the chiefs were on theirway to our camp, but would not be able to reach it for some time. This wasa mere artifice to secure delay. General Hanco*ck informed Bull Bear that asthe chiefs could not arrive for some time, he would move his forces up thestream nearer to the village, and the council could be held at our camp thatnight. To this proposition Bull Bear gave his assent.

At 11 A.M. we resumed the march, and had proceeded but a few mileswhen we witnessed one of the finest and most imposing military displays, preparedaccording to the Indian art of war, which it has ever been my lot to behold.It was nothing more nor less than an Indian line of battle drawn directlyacross our line of march; as if to say, Thus far and no further. Most ofthe Indians were mounted; all were bedecked in their brightest colors, theirheads crowned with the brilliant war-bonnet, their lances bearing the crimsonpennant, bows strung, and quivers full of barbed arrows. In addition to theseweapons, which with the hunting-knife and tomahawk are considered asforming the armament of the warrior, each one was supplied with either abreech-loading rifle or revolver, sometimes with both—the latter obtainedthrough the wise foresight and strong love of fair play which prevails in the26Indian Department, which, seeing that its wards are determined to fight, isequally determined that there shall be no advantage taken, but that the two sidesshall be armed alike; proving, too, in this manner the wonderful liberality ofour Government, which not only is able to furnish its soldiers with the latestimproved style of breech-loaders to defend it and themselves, but is equallyable and willing to give the same pattern of arms to their common foe. Theonly difference is, that the soldier, if he loses his weapon, is charged double pricefor it; while to avoid making any such charge against the Indian, his weaponsare given him without conditions attached. In the line of battle before us therewere several hundred Indians, while further to the rear and at different distanceswere other organized bodies acting apparently as reserves. Still furtherwere small detachments who seemed to perform the duty of couriers, andwere held in readiness to convey messages to the village. The ground beyondwas favorable for an extended view, allowing the eye to sweep the plain forseveral miles. As far as the eye could reach small groups or individualscould be seen in the direction of the village; these were evidently parties ofobservation, whose sole object was to learn the result of our meeting with themain body and hasten with the news to the village.

For a few moments appearances seemed to foreshadow anything but a peacefulissue. The infantry was in the advance, followed closely by the artillery,while my command, the cavalry, was marching on the flank. General Hanco*ck,who was riding with his staff at the head of the column, coming suddenlyin view of the wild fantastic battle array, which extended far to our right andleft and not more than half a mile in our front, hastily sent orders to the infantry,artillery, and cavalry to form line of battle, evidently determined that ifwar was intended we should be prepared. The cavalry, being the last to formon the right, came into line on a gallop, and, without waiting to align the rankscarefully, the command was given to “draw sabre.” As the bright bladesflashed from their scabbards into the morning sunlight, and the infantry broughttheir muskets to a carry, a most beautiful and wonderfully interesting sight wasspread out before and around us, presenting a contrast which, to a military eye,could but be striking. Here in battle array, facing each other, were the representativesof civilized and barbarous warfare. The one, with but few modifications,stood clothed in the same rude style of dress, bearing the same patternedshield and weapon that his ancestors had borne centuries before; the otherconfronted him in the dress and supplied with the implements of war whichthe most advanced stage of civilization had pronounced the most perfect.Was the comparative superiority of these two classes to be subjected to themere test of war here? Such seemed the prevailing impression on both sides.All was eager anxiety and expectation. Neither side seemed to comprehend theobject or intentions of the other; each was waiting for the other to deliver thefirst blow. A more beautiful battle-ground could not have been chosen. Nota bush or even the slightest irregularity of ground intervened between the twolines which now stood frowning and facing each other. Chiefs could be seenriding along the line as if directing and exhorting their braves to deeds ofheroism.

After a few moments of painful suspense, General Hanco*ck, accompaniedby General A.J. Smith and other officers, rode forward, and through an interpreterinvited the chiefs to meet us midway, for the purpose of an interview.In response to this invitation Roman Nose, bearing a white flag, accompaniedby Bull Bear, White Horse, Gray Beard, and Medicine Wolf on the part of theCheyennes, and Pawnee Killer, Bad Wound, Tall Bear that Walks under the27Ground, Left Hand, Little Bear, and Little Bull on the part of the Sioux, rodeforward to the middle of the open space between the two lines. Here we shookhands with all of the chiefs, most of them exhibiting unmistakable signs ofgratification at this apparently peaceful termination of our rencounter. GeneralHanco*ck very naturally inquired the object of the hostile attitude displayedbefore us, saying to the chiefs that if war was their object we were ready thenand there to participate. Their immediate answer was that they did not desirewar, but were peacefully disposed. They were then told that we would continueour march toward the village, and encamp near it, but would establishsuch regulations that none of the soldiers would be permitted to approach ordisturb them. An arrangement was then effected by which the chiefs were toassemble at General Hanco*ck’s headquarters as soon as our camp was pitched.The interview then terminated, and the Indians moved off in the direction oftheir village, we following leisurely in rear.

A march of a few miles brought us in sight of the village, which was situatedin a beautiful grove on the banks of the stream up which we had beenmarching. The village consisted of upwards of three hundred lodges, a smallfraction over half belonging to the Cheyennes, the remainder to the Sioux.Like all Indian encampments, the ground chosen was a most romantic spot,and at the same time fulfilled in every respect the requirements of a goodcamping-ground; wood, water, and grass were abundant. The village wasplaced on a wide, level plateau, while on the north and west, at a short distanceoff, rose high bluffs, which admirably served as a shelter against the cold windswhich at that season of the year prevail from these directions. Our tents werepitched within half a mile of the village. Guards were placed between to preventintrusion upon our part. A few of the Indian ponies found grazing nearour camp were caught and returned to them, to show that our intentions wereat least neighborly. We had scarcely pitched our tents when Roman Nose,Bull Bear, Gray Beard, and Medicine Wolf, all prominent chiefs of the Cheyennes,came into camp, with the information that upon our approach theirwomen and children had all fled from the village, alarmed by the presence ofso many soldiers, and imagining a second Chivington massacre to be intended.General Hanco*ck insisted that they should all return, promising protection andgood treatment to all; that if the camp was abandoned he would hold it responsible.The chiefs then stated their belief in their ability to recall the fugitives,could they be furnished with horses to overtake them. This was accordinglydone, and two of them set out mounted on two of our horses. An agreementwas also entered into at the same time that one of our interpreters, Ed. Gurrier,a half-breed Cheyenne who was in the employ of the Government, shouldremain in the village and report every two hours as to whether any Indians wereleaving the village. This was about seven o’clock in the evening. At halfpast nine the half-breed returned to headquarters, with the intelligence that allthe chiefs and warriors were saddling up to leave, under circ*mstances showingthat they had no intention of returning, such as packing up such articles ascould be carried with them, and cutting and destroying their lodges, this lastbeing done to obtain small pieces for temporary shelter.

I had retired to my tent, which was located some few hundred yards fromthat of General Hanco*ck, when a messenger from the latter awakened me withthe information that General Hanco*ck desired my presence at his tent. Imagininga movement on the part of the Indians, I made no delay in respondingto the summons. General Hanco*ck briefly stated the situation of affairs, anddirected me to mount my command as quickly and as silently as possible, surround28the Indian village, and prevent the departure of its inhabitants. Easilysaid, but not so easily done. Under ordinary circ*mstances, silence not beingnecessary, I could have returned to my camp, and by a few blasts from thetrumpet placed every soldier in his saddle almost as quickly as it has takentime to write this sentence. No bugle calls must be sounded; we were toadopt some of the stealth of the Indian—how successfully remains to be seen.By this time every soldier, officers as well as men, was in his tent sound asleep.How to awaken them and impart to each the necessary order? First going tothe tent of the adjutant and arousing him, I procured an experienced assistantin my labors. Next the captains of companies were awakened and orders impartedto them. They in turn transmitted the order to the first sergeant, whosimilarly aroused the men. It has often surprised me to observe the alacritywith which disciplined soldiers, experienced in campaigning, will hasten toprepare themselves for the march in an emergency like this. No questions areasked, no time is wasted. A soldier’s toilet, on an Indian campaign, is a simpleaffair, and requires little time for arranging. His clothes are gatheredup hurriedly, no matter how, so long as he retains possession of them. Thefirst object is to get his horse saddled and bridled, and until this is done his owntoilet is a matter of secondary importance, and one button or hook must dothe duty of half a dozen. When his horse is ready for the mount the riderwill be seen completing his own equipment; stray buttons will receive attention,arms be overhauled, spurs restrapped; then, if there still remain a fewspare moments, the homely black pipe is filled and lighted, and the soldier’spreparation is completed.

The night was all that could be desired for the success of our enterprise.The air was mild and pleasant; the moon, although nearly full, kept almostconstantly behind the clouds, as if to screen us in our hazardous undertaking.I say hazardous, because there were none of us who imagined for one momentthat if the Indians discovered us in our attempt to surround them and their village,we would escape without a fight—a fight, too, in which the Indians, shelteredbehind the trunks of the stately forest trees under which their lodgeswere pitched, would possess all the advantage. General Hanco*ck, anticipatingthat the Indians would discover our approach, and that a fight would ensue, orderedthe artillery and infantry under arms, to await the result of our moonlightventure. My command was soon in the saddle, and silently making itsway toward the village. Instructions had been given forbidding all conversationexcept in a whisper. Sabres were so disposed of as to prevent clanging.Taking a camp-fire which we could see in the village as our guiding point, wemade a detour so as to place the village between ourselves and the infantry.Occasionally the moon would peep out from behind the clouds and enable us tocatch a hasty glance at the village. Here and there under the thick foliage wecould see the white, conical-shaped lodges. Were their inmates slumbering,unaware of our close proximity, or were their dusky defenders concealed, aswell they might have been, along the banks of the Pawnee, quietly awaitingour approach, and prepared to greet us with their well-known war-whoop?These were questions that were probably suggested to the mind of each individualof my command. If we were discovered approaching in the stealthy,suspicious manner which characterized our movements, the hour being midnight,it would require a more confiding nature than that of the Indianto assign a friendly or peaceful motive to our conduct. The same flashesof moonlight which gave us hurried glimpses of the village enabled us tosee our own column of horsem*n stretching its silent length far into the dim29darkness, and winding its course, like some huge anaconda about to envelopits victim.

The method by which it was determined to establish a cordon of armedtroopers about the fated village, was to direct the march in a circle, with thevillage in the centre, the commanding officer of each rear troop halting hiscommand at the proper point, and deploying his men similarly to a line ofskirmishers—the entire circle, when thus formed, facing toward the village,and distant from it perhaps a few hundred yards. No sooner was our linecompletely formed than the moon, as if deeming darkness no longer essentialto our success, appeared from behind her screen and lighted up the entirescene. And a beautiful scene it was. The great circle of troops, each individualof which sat on his steed silent as a statue, the beautiful and in someplaces dense foliage of the cotton trees sheltering and shading the bleached,skin-clad lodges of the red man, while in the midst of all murmured undisturbedlyin its channel the little stream on whose banks the village was located,all combined to produce an artistic effect, as beautiful as it was interesting.But we were not there to study artistic effects. The next step was to determinewhether we had captured an inhabited village, involving almost necessarily afierce conflict with its savage occupants, or whether the red man had againproven too wily and crafty for his more civilized brothers.

Directing the entire line of troopers to remain mounted with carbines heldat the “advance,” I dismounted, and taking with me Gurrier, the half-breed,Dr. Coates, one of our medical staff, and Lieutenant Moylan, the adjutant, proceededon our hands and knees toward the village. The prevailing opinionwas that the Indians were still asleep. I desired to approach near enough to thelodges to enable the half-breed to hail the village in the Indian tongue, and ifpossible establish friendly relations at once. It became a question of prudencewith us, which we discussed in whispers as we proceeded on our “Tramp,tramp, tramp, the boys are creeping,” how far from our horses and how nearto the village we dared to go. If so few of us were discovered entering thevillage in this questionable manner, it was more than probable that, like thereturners of stolen property, we should be suitably rewarded and no questionsasked. The opinions of Gurrier, the half-breed, were eagerly soughtfor and generally deferred to. His wife, a full-blooded Cheyenne, was a residentof the village. This with him was an additional reason for wishing apeaceful termination to our efforts. When we had passed over two-thirds ofthe distance between our horses and the village, it was deemed best to makeour presence known. Thus far not a sound had been heard to disturb thestillness of the night. Gurrier called out at the top of his voice in the Cheyennetongue. The only response came from the throats of a score or more ofIndian dogs which set up a fierce barking. At the same time one or two ofour party asserted that they saw figures moving beneath the trees. Gurrierrepeated his summons, but with no better result than before.

A hurried consultation ensued. The presence of so many dogs in the villagewas regarded by the half-breed as almost positive assurance that the Indianswere still there. Yet it was difficult to account for their silence. Gurrier in aloud tone repeated who he was, and that our mission was a friendly one. Stillno answer. He then gave it as his opinion that the Indians were on the alert,and were probably waiting in the shadow of the trees for us to approach nearer,when they would pounce upon us. This comforting opinion induced anotherconference. We must ascertain the truth of the matter; our party could30do this as well as a larger number, and to go back and send another party inour stead could not be thought of.

Forward was the verdict. Each one grasped his revolver, resolved to dohis best, whether it was in running or fighting. I think most of us would havepreferred to take our own chances at running. We had approached nearenough to see that some of the lodges were detached some distance from themain encampment. Selecting the nearest of these, we directed our advanceon it. While all of us were full of the spirit of adventure, and were furtherencouraged with the idea that we were in the discharge of our duty, there wasscarcely one of us who would not have felt more comfortable if we could havegot back to our horses without loss of pride. Yet nothing, under the circ*mstances,but a positive order would have induced any one to withdraw. Thedoctor, who was a great wag, even in moments of greatest danger, could notrestrain his propensities in this direction. When everything before us was beingweighed and discussed in the most serious manner, he remarked: “General,this recalls to my mind those beautiful lines:

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in thy flight,

Make me a child again just for one night—

this night of all others.”

We shall meet the doctor again before daylight, but under differentcirc*mstances.



Cautiously approaching, on all fours, to within a few yards of the nearestlodge, occasionally halting and listening to discover evidence as towhether the village was deserted or not, we finally decided that the Indians hadfled before the arrival of the cavalry, and that none but empty lodges were beforeus. This conclusion somewhat emboldened as well as accelerated ourprogress. Arriving at the first lodge, one of our party raised the curtain ormat which served as a door, and the doctor and myself entered. The interiorof the lodge was dimly lighted by the decaying embers of a small fire built inthe centre. All around us were to be seen the usual adornments and articleswhich constitute the household effects of an Indian family. Buffalo robes werespread like carpets over the floor; head-mats, used to recline upon, were arrangedas if for the comfort of their owners; parfleches, a sort of Indian band-box,with their contents apparently undisturbed, were to be found carefullystowed away under the edges or borders of the lodge. These, with the door-mats,paint-bags, rawhide ropes, and other articles of Indian equipment, wereleft as if the owners had only absented themselves for a brief period. To completethe picture of an Indian lodge, over the fire hung a camp-kettle, in which,by means of the dim light of the fire, we could see what had been intendedfor the supper of the late occupants of the lodge. The doctor, ever on thealert to discover additional items of knowledge, whether pertaining to historyor science, snuffed the savory odors which arose from the dark recessesof the mysterious kettle. Casting about the lodge for some instrument to aidhim in his pursuit of knowledge, he found a horn spoon, with which he beganhis investigation of the contents, finally succeeding in getting possession of afragment which might have been the half of a duck or rabbit, judging merelyfrom its size. “Ah!” said the doctor, in his most complacent manner, “hereis the opportunity I have long been waiting for. I have often desired to testand taste of the Indian mode of cooking. What do you suppose this is?” holdingup the dripping morsel. Unable to obtain the desired information, theDoctor, whose naturally good appetite had been sensibly sharpened by his recentexercise à la quadrupède, set to with a will and ate heartily of the mysteriouscontents of the kettle. “What can this be?” again inquired the doctor.He was only satisfied on one point, that it was delicious—a dish fit for a king.Just then Guerrier, the half-breed, entered the lodge. He could solve the mystery,having spent years among the Indians. To him the doctor appealed forinformation. Fishing out a huge piece, and attacking it with the voracity of ahungry wolf, he was not long in determining what the doctor had supped soheartily upon. His first words settled the mystery: “Why, this is dog.” Iwill not attempt to repeat the few but emphatic words uttered by the heartilydisgusted member of the medical fraternity as he rushed from the lodge.

Other members of our small party had entered other lodges, only to findthem, like the first, deserted. But little of the furniture belonging to the lodgeshad been taken, showing how urgent and hasty had been the flight of the owners.To aid in the examination of the village, reinforcements were added toour party, and an exploration of each lodge was determined upon. At thesame time a messenger was despatched to General Hanco*ck, informing him ofthe flight of the Indians. Some of the lodges were closed by having brush or32timber piled up against the entrance, as if to preserve the contents. Othershad huge pieces cut from their sides, these pieces evidently being carried awayto furnish temporary shelter to the fugitives. In most of the lodges the fireswere still burning. I had entered several without discovering anything important.Finally, in company with the doctor, I arrived at one, the interiorof which was quite dark, the fire having almost died out. Procuring a lightedfa*got, I prepared to explore it, as I had done the others; but no sooner had I enteredthe lodge than my fa*got failed me, leaving me in total darkness. Handingit out to the doctor to be relighted, I began feeling my way about the interiorof the lodge. I had almost made the circuit when my hand came in contactwith a human foot; at the same time a voice unmistakably Indian, andwhich evidently came from the owner of the foot, convinced me that I was notalone. My first impression was that in their hasty flight the Indians had goneoff leaving this one asleep. My next, very naturally, related to myself. Iwould have gladly placed myself on the outside of the lodge, and there maturedplans for interviewing its occupant; but unfortunately to reach the entrance ofthe lodge I must either pass over or around the owner of the before-mentionedfoot and voice. Could I have been convinced that among its other possessionsthere was neither tomahawk nor scalping-knife, pistol nor war-club, or any similararticle of the noble red man’s toilet, I would have risked an attempt to escapethrough the low narrow opening of the lodge; but who ever saw an Indianwithout one or all of these interesting trinkets? Had I made the attempt,I should have expected to encounter either the keen edge of the scalping-knifeor the blow of the tomahawk, and to have engaged in a questionable strugglefor life. This would not do. I crouched in silence for a few moments, hopingthe doctor would return with the lighted fa*got. I need not say that each succeedingmoment spent in the darkness of that lodge seemed like an age. Icould hear a slight movement on the part of my unknown neighbor, which didnot add to my comfort. Why does not the doctor return? At last I discoveredthe approach of a light on the outside. When it neared the entrance I calledto the doctor and informed him that an Indian was in the lodge, and that hehad better have his weapons ready for a conflict. I had, upon discovering thefoot, drawn my hunting-knife from its scabbard, and now stood waiting thedénouement. With his lighted fa*got in one hand and co*cked revolver in theother, the doctor cautiously entered the lodge. And there, directly betweenus, wrapped in a buffalo robe, lay the cause of my anxiety—a little Indiangirl, probably ten years old; not a full-blood, but a half-breed. She was terriblyfrightened at finding herself in our hands, with none of her people near.Why was she left behind in this manner? Guerrier, our half-breed interpreter,was called in. His inquiries were soon answered. The little girl, who atfirst was an object of our curiosity, became at once an object of pity. The Indians,an unusual thing for them to do toward their own blood, had wilfullydeserted her; but this, alas! was the least of their injuries to her. After beingshamefully abandoned by the entire village, a few of the young men of thetribe returned to the deserted lodge, and upon the person of this little girlcommitted outrages, the details of which are too sickening for these pages.She was carried to the fort and placed under the care of kind hands and warmhearts, where everything was done for her comfort that was possible. Otherparties in exploring the deserted village found an old, decrepit Indian of theSioux tribe, who also had been deserted, owing to his infirmities and inabilityto travel with the tribe. He also was kindly cared for by the authorities of the33fort. Nothing was gleaned from our search of the village which might indicatethe direction of the flight. General Hanco*ck, on learning the situation ofaffairs, despatched some companies of infantry to the deserted village, with ordersto replace the cavalry and protect the village and its contents from disturbanceuntil its final disposition could be determined upon. Starting mycommand back to our camp near General Hanco*ck’s headquarters, I gallopedon in advance to report the particulars to the General. It was then decidedthat with eight troops of cavalry I should start in pursuit of the Indians at earlydawn on the following morning (April 15). There was no sleep for my commandthe remainder of the night, the time being fully occupied in preparationfor the march, neither the extent nor direction of which was known.

Mess kits were overhauled, and fresh supplies of coffee, sugar, flour, and theother articles which go to supply the soldier’s larder, were laid in. Blanketswere carefully rolled so as to occupy as little space as possible; every uselesspound of luggage was discarded, for in making a rapid pursuit after Indians,much of the success depends upon the lightness of the order of march.Saratoga trunks and their accompaniments are at a discount. Never was theold saying that in Rome one must do as Romans do more aptly illustrated thanon an Indian campaign. The Indian, knowing that his safety either on offensiveor defensive movements depends in a great measure upon the speed and enduranceof his horse, takes advantage of every circ*mstance which will favoreither the one or the other. To this end he divests himself of all superfluous dressand ornament when preparing for rapid movements. The white man, if he hopesfor success, must adopt the same rule of action, and encumber his horse as littleas possible. Something besides well-filled mess chests and carefully rolled blanketsis necessary in preparing for an Indian campaign. Arms must be reëxamined,cartridge-boxes refilled, so that each man should carry about one hundredrounds of ammunition “on his person,” while each troop commander mustsee that in the company wagon there are placed a few boxes of reserve ammunition.Then, when the equipment of the soldier has been attended to, hishorse, without whose assistance he is helpless, must be looked after; looseshoes are tightened by the driving of an additional nail, and to accomplishthis one may see the company blacksmith, a soldier, with the few simpletools of his kit on the ground beside him, hurriedly fastening the last shoeby the uncertain light of a candle held in the hands of the rider of the horse,their mutual labor being varied at times by queries as to “How long shall webe gone?” “I wonder if we will catch Mr. Lo?” “If we do, we’ll makeit lively for him.” So energetic had everybody been that before daylighteverything was in readiness for the start. In addition to the regularly organizedcompanies of soldiers which made up the pursuing column, I had withme a detachment of white scouts or Plainsmen, and one of friendly Indians,the latter belonging to the tribe of Delawares, once so famous in Indian wars.Of the Indians one only could speak English; he acted as interpreter for theparty. Among the white scouts were numbered some of the most noted oftheir class. The most prominent man among them was “Wild Bill,” whosehighly varied career was made the subject of an illustrated sketch in one ofthe popular monthly periodicals a few years ago. “Wild Bill” was a strangecharacter, just the one which a novelist might gloat over. He was a Plainsmanin every sense of the word, yet unlike any other of his class. In personhe was about six feet one in height, straight as the straightest of the warriorswhose implacable foe he was; broad shoulders, well-formed chest and limbs,34and a face strikingly handsome; a sharp, clear, blue eye, which stared youstraight in the face when in conversation; a finely-shaped nose, inclined to beaquiline; a well-turned mouth, with lips only partially concealed by a handsomemoustache. His hair and complexion were those of the perfect blond. Theformer was worn in uncut ringlets falling carelessly over his powerfully formedshoulders. Add to this figure a costume blending the immaculate neatnessof the dandy with the extravagant taste and style of the frontiersman, andyou have Wild Bill, then as now the most famous scout on the Plains. Whetheron foot or on horseback, he was one of the most perfect types of physical manhoodI ever saw. Of his courage there could be no question; it had beenbrought to the test on too many occasions to admit of a doubt. His skill in theuse of the rifle and pistol was unerring; while his deportment was exactly theopposite of what might be expected from a man of his surroundings. Itwas entirely free from all bluster or bravado. He seldom spoke of himselfunless requested to do so. His conversation, strange to say, never borderedeither on the vulgar or blasphemous. His influence among the frontiersmenwas unbounded, his word was law; and many are the personal quarrels anddisturbances which he has checked among his comrades by his simple announcementthat “this has gone far enough,” if need be followed by the ominouswarning that when persisted in or renewed the quarreller “must settle it withme.” “Wild Bill” is anything but a quarrelsome man; yet no one but himselfcan enumerate the many conflicts in which he has been engaged, and whichhave almost invariably resulted in the death of his adversary. I have a personalknowledge of at least half a dozen men whom he has at various timeskilled, one of these being at the time a member of my command. Others havebeen severely wounded, yet he always escapes unhurt. On the Plains everyman openly carries his belt with its invariable appendages, knife and revolver,often two of the latter. Wild Bill always carried two handsome ivory-handledrevolvers of the large size; he was never seen without them. Where this isthe common custom, brawls or personal difficulties are seldom if ever settledby blows. The quarrel is not from a word to a blow, but from a word to therevolver, and he who can draw and fire first is the best man. No civil law reacheshim; none is applied for. In fact there is no law recognized beyond the frontierbut that of “might makes right.” Should death result from the quarrel,as it usually does, no coroner’s jury is impanelled to learn the cause of death,and the survivor is not arrested. But instead of these old-fashioned proceedings,a meeting of citizens takes place, the survivor is requested to be presentwhen the circ*mstances of the homicide are inquired into, and the unfailingverdict of “justifiable,” “self-defence,” etc., is pronounced, and the lawstands vindicated. That justice is often deprived of a victim there is nota doubt. Yet in all of the many affairs of this kind in which “Wild Bill” hasperformed a part, and which have come to my knowledge, there is not asingle instance in which the verdict of twelve fair-minded men would notbe pronounced in his favor. That the even tenor of his way continues tobe disturbed by little events of this description may be inferred from an itemwhich has been floating lately through the columns of the press, and whichstates that “the funeral of ‘Jim Bludso,’ who was killed the other day by‘Wild Bill,’ took place to-day.” It then adds: “The funeral expenses wereborne by ‘Wild Bill.’” What could be more thoughtful than this? Not onlyto send a fellow mortal out of the world, but to pay the expenses of thetransit. Guerrier, the half-breed, also accompanied the expedition as guideand interpreter.


Everything being in readiness to move, the column began its march, andreached the vicinity of the village before day had fully dawned. Here abrief halt was necessary, until the light was sufficient to enable our scouts todiscover the trail of the Indians. When they finally set to discover this, theirmethod was highly interesting, and resembled not a little the course of athorough sportsman, who, with a well-trained pointer or setter, thoroughly“ranges” and “beats” the ground in search of his coveted game. The Indians hadset out on their flight soon after dark the preceding night; a heavy frost coveredthe ground and rendered it difficult to detect the trail from the many ponytracks which are always found in the vicinity of a village. We began to growimpatient at the delay, when one of the Indians gave the “halloo” as the signalthat the trail was discovered, and again the column marched forward. Ourorder of march was for the Indian and white scouts to keep a few hundredpaces in advance of the troops, so that momentary delays upon the part ofthose watching and following the trail should not extend to the troops. TheIndians on leaving the village had anticipated pursuit and had adopted measuresto mislead us. In order to prevent their trail from being easily recognizable,they had departed in as many detachments or parties almost as therewere families or lodges in the village, each party taking a different directionfrom the others, having personally agreed, of course, upon the general directionand place of reuniting. Once being satisfied that we were on the right trail,no difficulty was found in following it as rapidly as our horses could walk.The Indians had nearly twelve hours the start of us, but being encumbered bytheir families, we hoped to overhaul them before many days. Our first obstaclewas encountered when we struck Walnut creek, a small stream runningeast and west some thirty miles north of the Arkansas at that point. Thebanks were so high and abrupt that it was impossible to reach the water’s edge,let alone clamber up the opposite bank. A few of the Indians had been able toaccomplish this feat, as was shown by the tracks on the opposite side; but themain band had moved up stream in search of a favorable crossing, and we werecompelled to do likewise. Here we found that the Indians had called a halt,built fires, and cooked their breakfast. So rapidly had we gained upon themthat the fires were burning freshly, and the departure of the Indians had beenso abrupt that they left several ponies with their packs tied to trees. One ofthe packs belonged to a famous chief, “Roman Nose,” who was one of thosewho met us at the grand gathering just before we reached their village a fewdays before. One of our Delawares who made the capture was very proudof the success, and was soon seen ornamenting his head-dress with the brightcrimson feathers taken from the wardrobe of “Roman Nose.” Encouragedby our progress, we continued the pursuit as rapidly as a due regard for ourhorses would permit. Thus far, neither myself nor any of the soldiers hadcaught sight of any Indians; but our Delaware scouts, who were constantlyin the advance and on our flanks, taking advantage of the bluffs to reconnoitre,frequently reported that they saw small parties of Indians observing our movementsfrom a distance. From positive evidences, familiar to those accustomedto the Plains, we were convinced that we were rapidly gaining upon the Indians.The earth upturned by the feet of their ponies and by the ends of thetrailing lodge-poles, was almost as damp and fresh as that disturbed by thehorses of the command. Soon we discovered additional signs of encouragement.The route now became strewn with various lodge-poles and other obstaclespeculiar to an Indian’s outfit, showing that they were “lightening up”36so as to facilitate their escape. So certain did we feel of our ability to out-trailthem, that the only question now was one which has often determined the successof military operations. Would darkness intervene to disappoint us? Wemust imitate the example of the Indians, and disembarrass ourselves of everythingtending to retard our speed. The troops would march much faster, ifpermitted to do so, than the rate at which our wagons had forced themselvesalong. It was determined to leave the wagons, under escort of one squadron,to follow our trail as rapidly as they could, while the other three squadronspushed on in pursuit. Should darkness settle down before overtaking the Indians,the advantage was altogether against us, as we would be compelled toawait daylight to enable us to follow the trail, while the Indians were free tocontinue their flight, sheltered and aided by the darkness. By three o’clockP.M. we felt that we were almost certain to accomplish our purpose. No obstacleseemed to stand in our way; the trail was broad and plain, and apparentlyas fresh as our own. A half hour, or an hour at furthest, seemed onlynecessary to enable us to dash in upon our wily enemy. Alas for human calculations!The Indians, by means of the small reconnoitring parties observedby our scouts, had kept themselves constantly informed regarding ourmovements and progress. They had first risked their safety upon the superiorspeed and endurance of their ponies—a safe reliance when favored by thegrass season, but in winter this advantage was on our side. Failing in theirfirst resource, they had a second and better method of eluding us. So long asthey kept united and moved in one body, their trail was as plainly to be seenand as easily followed as if made by a heavily-laden wagon train. We werenot called upon to employ time and great watchfulness on the part of ourscouts to follow it. But when it was finally clear to be seen that, in the raceas it was then being run, the white man was sure to win, the proverbialcunning of the red man came to his rescue and thwarted the plans of his pursuers.Again dividing his tribe, as when first setting out from the village, intonumerous small parties, we were discouraged by seeing the broad well-beatentrail suddenly separate into hundreds of indistinct routes, leading fan-shape inas many different directions. What was to be done?

The general direction of the main trail, before dissolving into so many smallones, had been nearly north, showing that if undisturbed in their flight the Indianswould strike the Smoky Hill overland route, cross it, then pursue theirway northward to the headwaters of the Solomon or Republican river, or furtherstill, to the Platte river. Selecting a central trail, we continued our pursuit,now being compelled often to halt and verify our course. The trail graduallygrew smaller and smaller, until by five o’clock it had become so faint asto be followed with the greatest difficulty. We had been marching exactlytwelve hours without halting, except to water our horses. Reluctantly wewere forced to go into camp and await the assistance of daylight. The Delawarescouts continued the pursuit six miles further, but returned without accomplishinganything. The Indians, after dividing up into small parties, keptup communication with each other by means of columns of signal smoke.These signal smokes were to be seen to the west, north, and east of us, butnone nearer than ten miles. They only proved to us that we were probablyon the trail of the main body, as the fires were in front and on both sides of us.We had marched over thirty-five miles without a halt. The Delawares havingdetermined the direction of the trail for six miles, we would be able nextmorning to continue that far at least unaided by daylight. Our wagons over37took us a few hours after we reached camp. Reveille was sounded at twoo’clock the next morning, and four o’clock found us again in the saddle, andfollowing the guidance of our friendly Delawares. The direction of our marchtook us up the valley and almost dry bed of a small stream. The Delawaresthought we might find where the Indians had encamped during the night, byfollowing the upward course of the stream, but in this we were disappointed.The trail became more and more indistinct, until it was lost in the barrenwaste over which we were then moving. To add to our annoyance, the water-coursehad become entirely dry, and our guides were uncertain as to whetherwater could be procured in one day’s march in any direction except that fromwhich we had come. We were, therefore, forced to countermarch after reachinga point thirteen miles from our starting-place in the morning, and retraceour steps until the uncertain stream in whose valley we then were would giveus water enough for our wants.

Here I will refer to an incident entirely personal, which came very nearcosting me my life. When leaving our camp that morning I felt satisfied thatthe Indians, having travelled at least a portion of the night, were then manymiles in advance of us, and there was neither danger nor probability of encounteringany of them near the column. We were then in a magnificentgame country, buffalo, antelope, and smaller game being in abundance on allsides of us. Although an ardent sportsman, I had never hunted the buffalo upto this time, consequently was exceedingly desirous of tasting of its excitement.I had several fine English greyhounds, whose speed I was anxious totest with that of the antelope, said to be—which I believe—the fleetest of animals.I was mounted on a fine large thoroughbred horse. Taking with mebut one man, the chief bugler, and calling my dogs around me, I gallopedahead of the column as soon as it was daylight, for the purpose of having achase after some antelope which could be seen grazing nearly two miles distant.That such a course was rashly imprudent I am ready to admit. A stirringgallop of a few minutes brought me near enough to the antelope, of whichthere were a dozen or more, to enable the dogs to catch sight of them. Thenthe chase began, the antelope running in a direction which took us away fromthe command. By availing myself of the turns in the course, I was able tokeep well in view of the exciting chase, until it was evident that the antelopewere in no danger of being caught by the dogs, which latter had become blownfrom want of proper exercise. I succeeded in calling them off, and was about toset out on my return to the column. The horse of the chief bugler, being acommon-bred animal, failed early in the race, and his rider wisely concluded toregain the command, so that I was alone. How far I had travelled from thetroops I was trying to determine, when I discovered a large, dark-looking animalgrazing nearly a mile distant. As yet I had never seen a wild buffalo, butI at once recognized this as not only a buffalo, but a very large one. Here wasmy opportunity. A ravine near by would enable me to approach unseen untilalmost within pistol range of my game. Calling my dogs to follow me, Islowly pursued the course of the ravine, giving my horse opportunity to gatherhimself for the second run. When I emerged from the ravine I was still severalhundred yards from the buffalo, which almost instantly discovered me, andset off as fast as his legs could carry him. Had my horse been fresh the racewould have been a short one, but the preceding long run had not been withouteffect. How long or how fast we flew in pursuit, the intense excitementof the chase prevented me from knowing. I only knew that even the greyhounds38were left behind, until finally my good steed placed himself and meclose alongside the game. It may be because this was the first I had seen, butsurely of the hundreds of thousands of buffaloes which I have since seen, nonehave corresponded with him in size and lofty grandeur. My horse was abovethe average size, yet the buffalo towered even above him. I had carried myrevolver in my hand from the moment the race began. Repeatedly could Ihave placed the muzzle against the shaggy body of the huge beast, by whoseside I fairly yelled with wild excitement and delight, yet each time would Iwithdrawn the weapon, as if to prolong the enjoyment of the race. It was arace for life or death, yet how different the award from what could be imagined.Still we sped over the springy turf, the high breeding and mettle of my horsebeing plainly visible over that of the huge beast that struggled by his side.Mile after mile was traversed in this way, until the rate and distance began totell perceptibly on the bison, whose protruding tongue and labored breathingplainly betrayed his distress. Determined to end the chase and bring downmy game, I again placed the muzzle of the revolver close to the body of thebuffalo, when, as if divining my intention, and feeling his inability to escape byflight, he suddenly determined to fight, and at once wheeled, as only a buffalocan, to gore my horse. So sudden was this movement, and so sudden was thecorresponding veering of my horse to avoid the attack, that to retain my controlover him I hastily brought up my pistol hand to the assistance of the other.Unfortunately as I did so my finger, in the excitement of the occasion, pressedthe trigger, discharged the pistol, and sent the fatal ball into the very brain ofthe noble animal I rode. Running at full speed he fell dead in the course ofhis leap. Quick as thought I disengaged myself from the stirrups and foundmyself whirling through the air over and beyond the head of my horse. Myonly thought, as I was describing this trajectory, and my first thought on reachingterra firma, was, “What will the buffalo do with me?” Although atfirst inclined to rush upon me, my strange procedure seemed to astonish him.Either that, or pity for the utter helplessness of my condition, inclined him toalter his course and leave me alone to my own bitter reflections.

In a moment the danger into which I had unluckily brought myself stoodout in bold relief before me. Under ordinary circ*mstances the death of myhorse would have been serious enough. I was strongly attached to him; hadridden him in battle during a portion of the late war; yet now his death, exceptin its consequences, was scarcely thought of. Here I was, alone in the heartof the Indian country, with warlike Indians known to be in the vicinity. I wasnot familiar with the country. How far I had travelled, or in what directionfrom the column, I was at a loss to know. In the excitement of the chase Ihad lost all reckoning. Indians were liable to pounce upon me at any moment.My command would not note my absence probably for hours. Two ofmy dogs overtook me, and with mute glances first at the dead steed, then at me,seemed to inquire the cause of this strange condition of affairs. Their instinctappeared to tell them that we were in misfortune. While I was deliberatingwhat to do, the dogs became uneasy, whined piteously, and seemed eager toleave the spot. In this desire I sympathized with them, but whither should Igo? I observed that their eyes were generally turned in one particular direction;this I accepted as my cue, and with one parting look at my horse, andgrasping a revolver in each hand, I set out on my uncertain journey. As longas the body of my horse was visible above the horizon, I kept referring to it asmy guiding point, and in this way contrived to preserve my direction. This resource39soon failed me, and I then had recourse to weeds, buffalo skulls, or anytwo objects I could find on my line of march. Constantly my eyes kept scanningthe horizon, each moment expecting, and with reason too, to find myselfdiscovered by Indians.

I had travelled in this manner what seemed to me about three or four miles,when far ahead in the distance I saw a column of dust rising. A hasty examinationsoon convinced me that the dust was produced by one of three causes:white men, Indians, or buffalo. Two to one in my favor at any rate. Selectinga ravine where I could crawl away undiscovered should the approachingbody prove to be Indians, I called my dogs to my side and concealed myself aswell as I could to await developments. The object of my anxious solicitudewas still several miles distant. Whatever it was, it was approaching in my direction,as was plainly discernible from the increasing columns of dust. FortunatelyI had my field-glass slung across my shoulder, and if Indians I coulddiscover them before they could possibly discover me. Soon I was able to seethe heads of mounted men running in irregular order. This discovery shutout the probability of their being buffaloes, and simplified the question to whitemen or Indians. Never during the war did I scan an enemy’s battery or approachingcolumn with half the anxious care with which I watched the partythen approaching me. For a long time nothing satisfactory could be determined,until my eye caught sight of an object which, high above the heads ofthe approaching riders, told me in unmistakable terms that friends were approaching.It was the cavalry guidon, and never was the sight of stars andstripes more welcome. My comrades were greatly surprised to find me seatedon the ground alone and without my horse. A few words explained all. Adetachment of my men, following my direction, found my horse and returnedwith the saddle and other equipments. Another horse, and Richard was himselfa*gain, plus a little valuable experience, and minus a valuable horse.

In retracing our steps later in the day, in search of water sufficient forcamping purposes, we marched over nine miles of our morning route, and attwo P.M. of April 16 we went into camp. From this point I wrote a despatchto General Hanco*ck and sent it back by two of my scouts, who set out on theirjourney as soon as it was dark. It was determined to push on and reach theSmoky Hill route as soon as possible, and give the numerous stage stationsalong that route notice of the presence of warlike Indians. This was beforethe Pacific Railroad or its branches had crossed the Plains. Resting our animalsfrom two until seven P.M., we were again in the saddle and setting outfor a night march, our only guide being the north star. We hoped to strikethe stage route near a point called Downie’s Station. After riding all nightwe reached and crossed about daylight the Smoky Hill river, along whosevalley the stage route runs. The stations were then from ten to fifteen milesapart; if Indians had crossed this line at any point the station men would beinformed of it. To get information as to this, as well as to determinewhere we were, an officer with one company was at once despatched on thismission. This party had scarcely taken its departure and our picketsbeen posted, before the entire command of tired, sleepy cavalrymen, scouts,and Delawares had thrown themselves on the ground and were wrapped inthe deepest slumber. We had slept perhaps an hour or more, yet it seemedbut a few moments, when an alarm shot from the lookout and the startlingcry of “Indians!” brought the entire command under arms.



Although in search of Indians and supposed to be always prepared toencounter them, yet the warning shot of the sentry, followed as it wasby his cry of “Indians!” could not but produce the greatest excitement incamp. Where all had been quiet before—men sleeping and resting after theirlong night march, animals grazing unsuspectingly in the midst of the wagonsand tents which thickly dotted the Plain here and there—all was now bustleif not confusion. Herders and teamsters ran to their animals to conduct theminside the limits of camp. The troopers of one platoon of each company hastenedto secure the cavalry horses and provide against a stampede, whilethose of the remaining platoons were rapidly marshalled under arms by theirtroop officers, and advanced in the direction from which the lookout reportedthe enemy to be approaching.

All this required but a few moments of time. Recovering from the firstshock of surprise, we endeavored, one and all, to discover the number and purposeof the foes who had in so unceremonious a manner disturbed our much-neededslumbers.

Daylight had just dawned, but the sun was not yet high enough to render asatisfactory view of the country possible. This difficulty was aggravated, too,by a dull heavy mist, which hung like a curtain near the horizon. Yet in spiteof all these obstructions we could clearly perceive, at a distance of perhaps amile, the dim outlines of numerous figures—horsem*n evidently—approachingour camp, not as if simply on the march, but in battle array. First came a deployedline of horsem*n, followed in rear, as we could plainly see, by a reserve,also mounted and moving in compact order.

It required no practised eye to comprehend that be they who or what theymight, the parties advancing in this precise and determined manner upon uswere doing so with hostile purpose, and evidently intended to charge into ourcamp unless defeated in their purpose. No time was to be lost. Dispositions tomeet the coming attack were rapidly made. To better observe the movementsand determine the strength of the approaching parties, an officerascended the knoll occupied by the lookout.

We had often heard of the high perfection of some of the Indian tribes inmilitary evolutions and discipline, but here we saw evidences which went farto convince us that the red man was not far behind his more civilized brotherin the art of war. Certainly no troops of my command could have advanced askirmish line or moved a reserve more accurately than was done in our presencethat morning.

As yet we had no means of determining to what tribe the attacking partybelonged. We were satisfied they must be either Sioux or Cheyennes, or both;in either case we should encounter troublesome foes. But for the heavy mistwe could have comprehended everything. Soon we began receiving reportsfrom the officer who had ascended the lookout. First, there were not morethan eighty horsem*n to be seen. This number we could easily dispose of.Next, the attacking parties seemed to have changed their plan; a halt wasordered, and two or three horsem*n seemed to be advancing to the front as ifto parley, or reconnoitre our position. Then the skirmishers were suddenly41withdrawn and united with the reserve, when the entire party wheeled aboutand began to move off. This was mystifying in the extreme, but a couple ofyoung cavalry officers leaped into their saddles and taking a few mountedtroopers with them dashed after our late enemies, determined to learn moreabout them than they seemed willing we should.

A brisk gallop soon cleared away the mystery, and furnished another proof ofthe deceptive effects produced by the atmosphere on the Plains. Those who haveread the preceding article will remember that at the termination of the nightmarch which brought us to our present camp, an officer was despatched with onetroop of cavalry to find the nearest stage station on the overland route, near whichwe knew we must then be. Our camp lay on the Smoky Hill river. The stageroute, better known as the “Smoky Hill route,” was known to be but a few milesnorth of us. To determine our exact locality, as we had been marching by compassover a wild country and in the night-time, and to learn something regardingthe Indians, this officer was sent out. He was selected for this service becauseof his professed experience on and knowledge of the Plains. He had set outfrom our camp an hour or more before daylight, but losing his bearings hadmarched his command in a semicircle until daylight found him on the side ofour camp opposite that from which he had departed. The conical Sibley tentused in my command, resembling the Indian lodge from which it was taken,seen through the peculiar and uncertain morning atmosphere of that region,had presented to his eyes and to those of his men the appearance of an Indianvillage. The animals grazing about our camp might well have been taken forthe ponies of the Indians. Besides, it was well known that large encampmentsof Indians were in the part of the country over which we were marching.The bewilderment of this detachment, then, was not surprising considering theattending circ*mstances. Had the officer in command been young and inexperienced,his mishap might have been credited to these causes; but here wasan officer who had grown gray in the service, familiar with the Plains and withIndians, yet so completely misled by appearances as to mistake his camp,which he had left but an hour before, for an Indian village.

Few officers laboring under the same impression would have acted so creditably.He and his men imagined they had discovered the camp of the Indianswhom we had been pursuing, and although believing their enemies outnumberedthem ten to one, yet their zeal and earnestness prompted them, insteadof sending to their main camp for reinforcements, thereby losing valuable timeand probable opportunities to effect a surprise, to make a dash at once into thevillage. And it was only the increasing light of day that enabled them to discovertheir mistake and saved us from a charge from our own troopers. Thislittle incident will show how necessary experienced professional guides are inconnection with all military movements on the Plains. It was a long time beforethe officer who had been so unlucky as to lose his way heard the last ofit from his brother officers.

The remainder of his mission was completed more successfully. Aided bydaylight, and moving nearly due north, he soon struck the well-travelled overlandroute, and from the frightened employés at the nearest station he obtainedintelligence which confirmed our worst fears as to the extent of the Indianoutbreak. Stage stations at various points along the route had been attackedand burned, and the inmates driven off or murdered. All travel acrossthe Plains was suspended, and an Indian war with all its barbarities had beenforced upon the people of the frontier.


As soon as the officer ascertaining these facts had returned to camp andmade his report, the entire command was again put in motion and started inthe direction of the stage route, with the intention of clearing it of stragglingbands of Indians, reopening the main line of travel across the Plains, and establishingif possible upon the proper tribes the responsibility for the numerousoutrages recently committed. The stage stations were erected at points alongthe route distant from each other from ten to fifteen miles, and were used solelyfor the shelter and accommodation of the relays of drivers and horses employedon the stage route. We found, in passing over the route on our eastwardmarch, that only about every fourth station was occupied, the occupantsof the other three having congregated there for mutual defence against the Indians,the latter having burned the deserted stations.

From the employés of the company at various points we learned that forthe few preceding days the Indians had been crossing the line, going towardthe north in large bodies. In some places we saw the ruins of the burnedstations, but it was not until we reached Lookout Station, a point about fifteenmiles west of Fort Hays, that we came upon the first real evidences of an Indianoutbreak. Riding some distance in advance of the command, I reachedthe station only to find it and the adjacent buildings in ashes, the ruins stillsmoking. Near by I discovered the bodies of the three station-keepers, somangled and burned as to be scarcely recognizable as human beings. The Indianshad evidently tortured them before putting an end to their sufferings.They were scalped and horribly disfigured. Their bodies were badly burned,but whether before or after death could not be determined. No arrow, orother article of Indian manufacture, could be found to positively determine whatparticular tribe was the guilty one. The men at other stations had recognizedsome of the Indians passing as belonging to the Sioux and Cheyennes, thesame we had passed from the village on Pawnee Fork.

Continuing our march, we reached Fort Hays, from which point I despatcheda report to General Hanco*ck, on the Arkansas, furnishing him all theinformation I had gained concerning the outrages and movements of the Indians.As it has been a question of considerable dispute between the respectiveadvocates of the Indian peace and war policy, as to which party committed thefirst overt act of war, the Indians or General Hanco*ck’s command, I quote froma letter on the subject written by Major-General Hanco*ck to General Grant, inreply to a letter of inquiry from the latter when commanding the armies of theUnited States. General Hanco*ck says:

“When I learned from General Custer, who investigated these matters onthe spot, that directly after they had abandoned the villages they attacked andburned a mail station on the Smoky Hill, killed the white men at it, disembowelledand burned them, fired into another station, endeavored to gain admittanceto a third, fired on my expressmen both on the Smoky Hill and ontheir way to Larned, I concluded that this must be war, and therefore deemedit my duty to take the first opportunity which presented to resent these hostilitiesand outrages, and did so by destroying their villages.”

The first paragraph of General Hanco*ck’s special field order directing thedestruction of the Indian village read as follows:

“II. As a punishment for the bad faith practised by the Cheyennes andSioux who occupied the Indian village at this place, and as a chastisem*nt formurders and depredations committed since the arrival of the command at thispoint, by the people of these tribes, the village recently occupied by them,which is now in our hands, will be utterly destroyed.”

My life on the plains (3)


From these extracts the question raised can be readily settled. This act ofretribution on the part of General Hanco*ck was the signal for an extensive penand ink war, directed against him and his forces. This was to be expected.The pecuniary loss and deprivation of opportunities to speculate in Indiancommodities, as practised by most Indian agents, were too great to be submittedto without a murmur. The Cheyennes, Arrapahoes, and Apaches hadbeen united under one agency; the Kiowas and Comanches under another.As General Hanco*ck’s expedition had reference to all of these tribes, he hadextended invitations to each of the two agents to accompany him into the Indiancountry, and be present at all interviews with the representatives of theserespective tribes, for the purpose, as the invitation states, of showing the Indians“that the officers of the Government are acting in harmony.”

These agents were both present at General Hanco*ck’s headquarters. Bothadmitted to General Hanco*ck in conversation that Indians had been guilty ofall the outrages charged against them, but each asserted the innocence of theparticular tribes under his charge, and endeavored to lay their crimes at thedoor of their neighbors. The agent of the Kiowas and Comanches declared tothe department commander that “the tribes of his agency had been grosslywronged by having been charged with various offences which had undoubtedlybeen committed by the Cheyennes, Arrapahoes, and Apaches, and that thesetribes deserved severe and summary chastisem*nt for their numerous misdeeds,very many of which had been laid at the doors of his innocent tribes.”

Not to be outdone in the profuse use of fair words, however, the agent ofthe three tribes thus assailed informed General Hanco*ck that his three tribes“were peacefully inclined, and rarely committed offences against the laws, butthat most unfortunately they were charged in many instances with crimeswhich had been perpetrated by other tribes, and that in this respect they hadsuffered heavily from the Kiowas, who were the most turbulent Indians of thePlains, and deserved punishment more than any others.”

Here was positive evidence from the agents themselves that the Indiansagainst whom we were operating were guilty, and deserving of severe punishment.The only conflicting portion of the testimony was as to which tribewas most guilty. Subsequent events proved, however, that all of the fivetribes named, as well as the Sioux, had combined for a general war throughoutthe Plains and along our frontier. Such a war had been threatened to ourpost commanders along the Arkansas on many occasions during the winter.The movement of the Sioux and Cheyennes toward the north indicated that theprincipal theatre of military operations during the summer would be betweenthe Smoky Hill and Platte rivers. General Hanco*ck accordingly assembledthe principal chiefs of the Kiowas and Arrapahoes in council at Fort Dodge,hoping to induce them to remain at peace and observe their treaty obligations.

The most prominent chiefs in council were Satanta, Lone Wolf, and KickingBird of the Kiowas, and Little Raven and Yellow Bear of the Arrapahoes.During the council extravagant promises of future good conduct were made bythese chiefs. So effective and convincing was the oratorical effort of Satanta,that at the termination of his address the department commander and staffpresented him with the uniform coat, sash, and hat of a major-general. In returnfor this compliment Satanta, within a few weeks after, attacked the post atwhich the council was held, arrayed in his new uniform. This said chief hadbut recently headed an expedition to the frontier of Texas, where, among othermurders committed by him and his band, was that known as the “Box massacre.”44The Box family consisted of the father, mother, and five children, theeldest a girl about eighteen, the youngest a babe. The entire family had beenvisiting at a neighbor’s house, and were returning home in the evening, littledreaming of the terrible fate impending, when Satanta and his warriors dashedupon them, surrounded the wagon in which they were driving, and at the firstfire killed the father and one of the children. The horses were hastily takenfrom the wagon, while the mother was informed by signs that she and her foursurviving children must accompany their captors. Mounting their prisonersupon led horses, of which they had a great number stolen from the settlers,the Indians prepared to set out on their return to the village, then located hundredsof miles north. Before departing from the scene of the massacre, thesavages scalped the father and child, who had fallen as their first victims. Farbetter would it have been had the remaining members of the family met theirdeath in the first attack. From the mother, whom I met when released fromher captivity, after living as a prisoner in the hands of the Indians for morethan a year, I gathered the details of the sufferings of herself and children.

Fearing pursuit by the Texans, and desiring to place as long a distance aspossible between themselves and their pursuers, they prepared for a nightmarch. Mrs. Box and each of the three elder children were placed on separatehorses and securely bound. This was to prevent escape in the darkness.The mother was at first permitted to carry the youngest child, a babe of a fewmonths, in her arms, but the latter, becoming fretful during the tiresome nightride, began to cry. The Indians, fearing the sound of its voice might be heardby pursuers, snatched it from its mother’s arms and dashed its brains outagainst a tree, then threw the lifeless remains to the ground and continuedtheir flight. No halt was made for twenty-four hours, after which the marchwas conducted more deliberately. Each night the mother and three childrenwere permitted to occupy one shelter, closely guarded by their watchful enemies.

After travelling for several days this war party arrived at the point wherethey rejoined their lodges. They were still a long distance from the main village,which was near the Arkansas. Each night the scalp of the father washung up in the lodge occupied by the mother and children. A long and wearymarch over a wild and desolate country brought them to the main village.Here the captives found that their most serious troubles were to commence.In accordance with Indian custom, upon the return of a successful war party, agrand assembly of the tribe took place. The prisoners, captured horses, andscalps were brought forth, and the usual ceremonies, terminating in a scalpdance, followed. Then the division of the spoils was made. The captiveswere apportioned among the various bands composing the tribe, so that whenthe division was completed the mother fell to the possession of one chief, theeldest daughter to that of another, the second, a little girl of probably tenyears, to another, and the youngest, a child of three years, to a fourth. No twomembers of the family were permitted to remain in the same band, but wereeach carried to separate villages, distant from each other several days’ march.This was done partly to prevent escape.

No pen can describe the painful tortures of mind and body endured by thisunfortunate family. They remained as captives in the hands of the Indiansfor more than a year, during which time the eldest daughter, a beautiful girljust ripening into womanhood, was exposed to a fate infinitely more dreadfulthan death itself. She first fell to one of the principal chiefs, who, after robbingher of that which was more precious than life, and forcing her to become45the victim of his brutal lust, bartered her in return for two horses to anotherchief; he again, after wearying of her, traded her to a chief of a neighboringband; and in that way this unfortunate girl was passed from one to another ofher savage captors, undergoing a life so horribly brutal that, when meeting herupon her release from captivity, one could only wonder how a young girl, nurturedin civilization and possessed of the natural refinement and delicacy ofthought which she exhibited, could have survived such degrading treatment.

The mother and second daughter fared somewhat better. The youngest,however, separated from mother and sisters, and thrown among people totallydevoid of all kind feeling, spent the time in shedding bitter tears. This so enragedthe Indians that, as a punishment as well as preventive, the child wasseized and the soles of its naked feet exposed to the flames of the lodge fireuntil every portion of the cuticle was burned therefrom. When I saw this littlegirl a year afterward, her feet were from this cause still in a painful andunhealed condition. These poor captives were reclaimed from their bondagethrough the efforts of officers of the army, and by the payment of a ransomamounting to many hundreds of dollars.

The facts relating to their cruel treatment were obtained by me directlyfrom the mother and eldest daughter immediately after their release, whichoccurred a few months prior to the council held with Satanta and other chiefs.To prove something of the character of the Cheyennes, one of the principaltribes with which we were at war, I will give the following extract from anofficial communication addressed by me to General Hanco*ck prior to the surrenderof the little Indian boy of whom mention was made in a former article.My recommendation was not deemed practicable, as it had been promised byus in treaty stipulation to return the boy unconditionally.

“Having learned that a boy belonging to the Cheyenne tribe of Indians isin the possession of the military authorities, and that it is the intention of theMajor-General commanding the department to deliver him up to the above-namedtribe, I would respectfully state that a little white girl aged from fourto seven years is held captive by the Cheyenne Indians, and is now in the possessionof ‘Cut Nose,’ a chief of said tribe.

“The child referred to has been in the hands of the Indians a year or more.She was captured somewhere in the vicinity of Cache la Poudre, Colorado. Theparents’ name is Fletcher. The father escaped with a severe wound, themother and two younger children being taken prisoners. The Indians killedone of the children outright, and the mother, after subjecting her to tortures toohorrible to name.

“The child now held by the Indians was kept captive. An elder daughtermade her escape and now resides in Iowa. The father resides in Salt LakeCity. I have received several letters from the father and eldest daughter andfrom friends of both, requesting me to obtain the release of the little girl, if possible.I would therefore request that it be made a condition of the return of theIndian boy now in our possession, that the Cheyennes give up the white childreferred to above.”

This proposition failing in its object, and the war destroying all means ofcommunication with the Indians and scattering the latter over the Plains,all trace of the little white girl was lost, and to this day nothing is known ofher fate. At the breaking out of the Indian difficulty “Cut Nose” with his bandwas located along the Smoky Hill route in the vicinity of Monument Station.He frequently visited the stage stations for purposes of trade, and was invariablyaccompanied by his little captive. I never saw her, but those who did46represented her as strikingly beautiful; her complexion being fair, her eyesblue, and her hair of a bright golden hue, she presented a marked contrast tothe Indian children who accompanied her. “Cut Nose,” from the delicatelight color of her hair, gave her an Indian name signifying “Little SilverHair.” He appeared to treat her with great affection, and always kept herclothed in the handsomest of Indian garments. All offers from individuals toransom her proved unavailing. Although she had been with the Indians buta year, she spoke the Cheyenne language fluently, and seemed to have noknowledge of her mother tongue.

The treatment of the Box and Fletcher families is not given as isolated instances,but is referred to principally to show the character of the enemy withwhom we were at war. Volume after volume might be filled in recountingthe unprovoked and merciless atrocities committed upon the people of thefrontier by their implacable foe, the red man. It will become necessary, however,in making a truthful record of the principal events which transpiredunder my personal observation, to make mention of Indian outrages surpassingif possible in savage cruelty any yet referred to.

As soon as General Hanco*ck had terminated his council with the Kiowasand Arrapahoes, he marched with the remaining portion of the expedition acrossfrom the Arkansas to Fort Hays, where my command was then encamped, arrivingthere on the third of May. Here, owing to the neglect or delay of theofficers of the Quartermaster’s Department in forwarding the necessary stores,the cavalry was prevented from undertaking any extensive movement, buthad to content itself for the time being in scouting the adjacent country.

The time, however, was well employed in the preparation of men and animalsfor the work which was to be assigned them. Unfortunately, desertionsfrom the ranks became so frequent and extensive as to cause no little anxiety.

To produce these, several causes combined. Prominent among them wasthe insufficiency and inferior quality of the rations furnished the men. Attimes the latter were made the victims of fraud, and it was only by the zealouscare and watchfulness of the officers immediately over them, that their wantswere properly attended to.

Dishonest contractors at the receiving depots further east had been permittedto perpetrate gross frauds upon the Government, the result of whichwas to produce want and suffering among the men. For example, unbrokenpackages of provisions shipped from the main depot of supplies, and which itwas impracticable to replace without loss of time, were when opened discoveredto contain huge stones for which the Government had paid so much per poundaccording to contract price. Boxes of bread were shipped and issued to thesoldiers of my command, the contents of which had been baked in 1861, yet thiswas in 1867. It is unnecessary to state that but little of this bread was eaten,yet there was none at hand of better quality to replace it. Bad provisions werea fruitful cause of bad health. Inactivity led to restlessness and dissatisfaction.Scurvy made its appearance, and cholera attacked neighboring stations. Forall these evils desertion became the most popular antidote. To such an extentwas this the case, that in one year one regiment lost by desertion alonemore than half of its effective force.

General Hanco*ck remained with us only a few days before setting out withthe battery for his headquarters at Fort Leavenworth. Supplies were pushedout and every preparation made for resuming offensive movements against theIndians. To find employment for the few weeks which must ensue before47breaking up camp was sometimes a difficult task. To break the monotony andgive horses and men exercise, buffalo hunts were organized, in which officersand men joined heartily. I know of no better drill for perfecting men in theuse of firearms on horseback, and thoroughly accustoming them to the saddle,than buffalo-hunting over a moderately rough country. No amount of ridingunder the best of drill-masters will give that confidence and security in thesaddle, which will result from a few spirited charges into a buffalo herd.

The command, consisting of cavalry alone, was at last in readiness to move.Wagons had been loaded with reserve supplies, and we were only waiting thegrowth of the spring grass to set out on the long march which had previouslybeen arranged. On the first of June, with about three hundred and fifty menand a train of twenty wagons, I left Fort Hays and directed our line of marchtoward Fort McPherson, on the Platte river, distant by the proposed route twohundred and twenty-five miles. The friendly Delawares accompanied us asscouts and trailers, but our guide was a young white man known on thePlains as “Will Comstock.” No Indian knew the country more thoroughlythan did Comstock. He was perfectly familiar with every divide, water-course,and strip of timber for hundreds of miles in either direction. He knew thedress and peculiarities of every Indian tribe, and spoke the languages of manyof them. Perfect in horsemanship, fearless in manner, a splendid hunter, anda gentleman by instinct, as modest and unassuming as he was brave, he wasan interesting as well as valuable companion on a march such as was then beforeus. Many were the adventures and incidents of frontier life with whichhe was accustomed to entertain us when around the camp-fire or on the march.Little did he then imagine that his own life would soon be given as a sacrificeto his daring, and that he, with all his experience among the savages, wouldfall a victim of Indian treachery.



It had been decided that my command should thoroughly scout the countryfrom Fort Hays near the Smoky Hill river, to Fort McPherson, on thePlatte; thence describe a semicircle to the southward, touching the headwaters of the Republican, and again reach the Platte at or near Fort Sedgwick,at which post we would replenish our supplies; then move directly south toFort Wallace, on the Smoky Hill, and from there march down the overlandroute to our starting-point at Fort Hays. This would involve a ride of upwardsof one thousand miles.

As is usually the case, the first day’s march was not to be a long one. Thetroops, under charge of the officer second in command, Colonel WickliffeCooper, left camp and marched up the valley of Big Creek a distance of eighteenmiles, and there encamped. Two companies of cavalry and a small forceof infantry were to constitute the garrison to remain behind. When the troopscomposing my command left, it became necessary to rearrange the camp andprovide new dispositions for defence. My wife, who always accompanied mewhen in camp or on the march except when I was engaged in active pursuit ofIndians, had rejoined me soon after my arrival at Fort Hays. She was accompaniedby a young lady friend from the East, a schoolmate, who had beentempted by the novelties of wild Western life to make her a visit in camp. Asthere were other ladies in camp, wives of officers who were to remain with thegarrison, my wife and friend decided to remain and await our return, ratherthan go back to the protection and luxuries of civilization. To arrange fortheir comfort and superintend the locating of their tents, I remained behind mycommand, intending to wait until after midnight, and then, guided by the moonlight,ride on and overtake my command before it should commence its secondday’s march. I retained with me two soldiers, one scout, and four of the Delawares.

As soon as the command moved, the portion to remain at Fort Hays wasdrawn in near the few buildings which constituted the fort. All of the cavalryand a portion of the infantry were to encamp in the valley and not far fromthe stream. For three-quarters of a mile on either side the valley consisted ofa level unbroken plain; then a low bluff was encountered, succeeded by a secondplain of less extent. This was bordered by a higher and more brokenbluff than the first. Fortunately, in selecting the ground on which the tentsintended for the ladies were to stand, I had chosen a little knoll, so small asto be scarcely perceptible, yet the only elevated ground to be found. It waswithin a few steps of the bank of the stream, while the main camp was locatedbelow and nearer the bluff. For safety a few soldiers were placed in campa short distance above. In ordinary times the banks of Big Creek are at thispoint from twenty-five to forty feet above the water, and a person accustomedto the slow and gradual rise and fall which prevails along the beds of streamsin the Eastern States, can with difficulty realize the suddenness with which thedeep and narrow channels of watercourses on the Plains become filled to overflowing.In proportion to the surface of the country or the watersheds, thewatercourses or channels are few, too few to accommodate the drainage necessitiesduring the wet season. The bank on which the little knoll stood was, by49actual measurement, thirty-six feet above ordinary water mark. The knollwas probably three or four feet above the level of the valley. Surely thislocation might be considered well enough protected naturally against therainy season. So I thought, as I saw the working party putting the finishingtouches to the bright white canvas house, which to all intents and purposeswas to be to me, even in absence, my army home.

I confidently expected to return to this camp at the termination of mymarch. I will be pardoned if I anticipate events and terminate its historynow. A few days after my command had marched, a heavy storm set in, therain pouring down in a manner resembling a waterspout. The immediateeffect of the heavy shower was not at once noticeable near the camp at FortHays, as the heaviest rainfall had occurred far above that point. But in thenight-time, after the entire camp except the guards had long since retired andfallen asleep, the stream, overcharged by the rushing volumes from above,soon became transformed from a mild and murmuring brook into an irresistible,turbulent torrent. So sudden and unexpected had been the rise, that beforethe alarm could be given the thirty-six feet which had separated the surface ofthe water from the top of the banks had been overcome, and in addition thewater began now sweeping over the entire plain. After overflowing the naturalbanks of the creek, the first new channel ran in such a manner as to surroundthe tents occupied by the ladies as well as that occupied by the fewsoldiers stationed up the stream, but still leaving communication open betweenthe main camp and the bluff toward the mainland. The soldiers, aswell as the officers and their families in the main camp, hastened to the bluffto escape being swept down before the huge torrent which each instant becamemore fearful.

To add to the embarrassment of the situation, the blackest darkness prevailed,only relieved at times by vivid gleams of lightning, while the deep sullen roarof the torrent, increasing each moment in depth and volume, was only drownedat intervals by the fierce and more deafening uproar of the thunder, whichsounded like the applause of some huge fury watching this struggle betweenthe elements.

When Mrs. Custer and her young lady companion were awakened by thestorm, they discovered that their tents were surrounded by the new channel,and that all efforts to reach the main camp would prove unavailing. They hadwith them at this time only a colored female servant. They did not even knowthe fate of the other portion of the camp. In the midst of this fearful scene,they heard the cries of men in despair near their tent. The cries came from thesoldiers who had been in camp above them, but were now being carried off inthe darkness by the rising current. No assistance could reach them. It is doubtfulif they could have been saved even had they been found by daylight. Therewere seven in all. One of them, as he was being swept by the tent, contrived,through accident no doubt, to grasp the branch of a small bush which grew onthe bank. It was from him that the cries of distress principally proceeded.Aided by the dim light of a camp lantern, the ladies were enabled to see thisunfortunate man clinging, as it were, between life and death. With commendablepresence of mind, considering the fate staring them in the face, a rope wasprocured, and after a few failures one end was thrown to the unfortunate man,and by the united strength of the two ladies and their servant he was pulled toshore and, for the time being at least, his life was saved. His six less fortunatecompanions were drowned.


Two of the officers, Brevet Major-General A.J. Smith, and his Adjutant-General,Colonel Weir, with a view to rescuing the ladies, had succeeded inmaking their way across the new channel made by the torrent to the knoll;but when attempting to return on horseback to the mainland, they found thecurrent too deep and swift for them to succeed. They were compelled thento await their fate. The water continued to rise until the entire valley fromthe natural channel to the first bluff, a distance of a quarter of a mile, wascovered by an unfordable river. The only point still free from water wasthe little knoll which I had been so fortunate as to select for the tents. Butthe rise in the water continued until it finally reached the edge of the tent. Atthis rate the tents themselves must soon be swept away. As a last resort, aGatling gun which stood near the entrance of the tent, and which from its greatweight would probably withstand the force of the current, was hauled closer tothe tent and ropes securely attached to the wheels; by these ropes it was proposedto fasten the ladies and the servant to the gun, and in this way, shouldthe streams not rise too high above the knoll, their lives might be saved.

The colored girl, Eliza, who was devoted to her mistress, and who had beenamid scenes of great danger, was on this occasion invaluable. Eliza hadquite a history before she visited the Plains. Formerly a slave, but set free bythe war, she had accompanied me as cook during the last three years of thewar. Twice taken prisoner by the Confederates, she each time made her escapeand refound me. She was present at almost every prominent battle ofthe Army of the Potomac, accompanied my command on all the raids and wintermarches, and upon more than one occasion during the progress of a battleEliza might be seen near the front earnestly engaged in preparing a cup of coffeefor the officers at headquarters, who but for her would have gone throughthe day dinnerless. I have seen her remain by her camp cook fire when theenemy’s shells were bursting overhead, to such an extent that men who weresimilarly employed deserted their station and sought shelter in the rear. Therewere few officers or soldiers in the cavalry corps, from General Sheridan down,with whom Eliza was not a great favorite. All had a pleasant word for her,and few had not at some time or other cause to remember her kindness.

When the water finally approached close to the tent, Eliza marked its progressfrom time to time by placing small stakes at the water line. How anxiouslythe gradual rise of the torrent must have been watched. At last, whenall hope seemed almost exhausted, the waters were stayed in their progress,and soon, to the great joy of the little party besieged, began to recede. It wasstill dark, but so rapidly did the volume of water diminish—as rapidly as it hadaccumulated—that a few hours after daylight a safe passage was effectedto the mainland. With the exception of those of the six soldiers, no lives werelost, although many narrow escapes were made.

In the morning, daylight showed the post hospital, a stone building, surroundedby an unfordable stream, the water rushing through the doors andwindows. The patients had managed to climb upon the roof, and could beseen by the officers and men on the mainland. No boats were to be had, butno class of men are so full of expedients as soldiers. The beds of some governmentwagons were hastily removed, the canvas covers were stretchedunder the bottoms, and in this way a temporary kind of pontoon was constructedwhich answered the desired purpose, and by means of which the beleagueredpatients were soon released.

The officer in command of the infantry, Major Merriam, was occupying a51tent with his wife near the main camp. Finding himself cut off from the mainland,but before the water had attained its greatest depth, he took his wife inhis arms and forded the stream which ran between his tent and the bluff, andin this manner reached a point of safety. It is remarkable, however, thatwithin two years from the date of this occurrence, this same officer with hiswife and child encountered a similar freshet in Texas, hundreds of milesfrom this locality, and that the watery grave which was so narrowly avoidedin Kansas awaited the mother and child in Texas. Of the circ*mstancesof the storm at Fort Hays I was necessarily ignorant until weeks later.

* * * * *

Soon after midnight, everything being in readiness, and my little party havingbeen refreshed by a cup of good army coffee, it only remained to say adieuto those who were to remain behind, and we were ready for our moonlightgallop.

But little was said as we made our way rapidly over the plain in the directiontaken by the command. Occasionally, as we dashed across a ravine, wewould suddenly come upon a herd of antelopes or a few scattering buffaloes,startling them from their repose and causing them to wonder what was the occasionand who the strange parties disturbing the peaceful quiet of the nightin this unusual manner. On we sped, our good steeds snuffing the early morningair and pressing forward as eagerly as if they knew their companions wereawaiting them in the advance.

Daylight had given us no evidence of its coming, when, after a ride of nearlytwenty miles, we found ourselves descending into a valley in which we knewthe command must be encamped. The moon had disappeared below the horizon,and we were left to make our way aided by such light as the stars twinklingin a clear sky afforded us. Our horses gave us unmistakable evidencethat camp was near. To convince us beyond all doubt, the clear ringing notesof the bugle sounding the reveille greeted our ears, and directed by the soundwe soon found ourselves in camp.

A cavalry camp immediately after reveille always presents an animatedand most interesting scene. As soon as the rolls are called and the reports ofabsentees made to headquarters, the men of the companies, with the exceptionof the cooks, are employed in the care of the horses. The latter are fed, andwhile eating are thoroughly groomed by the men, under the superintendenceof their officers. Nearly an hour is devoted to this important duty. In themeanwhile the company cooks, ten to each company, and the officers’ servants,are busily engaged preparing breakfast, so that within a few minutes after thehorses have received proper attention breakfast is ready, and being very simpleit requires but little time to dispose of it. Immediately after breakfast thefirst bugle call indicative of the march is the “General,” and is the signal fortents to be taken down and everything packed in readiness for moving. Afew minutes later this is followed by the bugler at headquarters sounding“Boots and saddles,” when horses are saddled up and the wagon train put inreadiness for “pulling out.” Five minutes later “To horse” is sounded, andthe men of each company lead their horses into line, each trooper standing atthe head of his horse. At the words “Prepare to mount,” from the commandingofficer, each trooper places his left foot in the stirrup; and at the command“Mount,” every man rises on his stirrup and places himself in his saddle, thewhole command presenting the appearance to the eye of a huge machine propelledby one power. Woe betide the unfortunate trooper who through carelessness52or inattention fails to place himself in his saddle simultaneously withhis companions. If he is not for this offence against military rule deprivedof the services of his horse during the succeeding half day’s march, he escapesluckily.

As soon as the command is mounted the “Advance” is sounded, and thetroops, usually in “column of fours,” move out. The company leading the advanceone day march in rear the following day. This successive changinggives each company an opportunity to march by regular turn in advance.Our average daily march, when not in immediate pursuit of the enemy, wasabout twenty-five miles. Upon reaching camp in the evening the horses werecared for as in the morning, opportunities being given them to graze beforedark. Pickets were posted and every precaution adopted to guard against surprise.

Our second day’s march brought us to the Saline river, where we encampedfor the night. From our camp ground we could see on a knoll some two milesdistant a platform or scaffold erected, which resembled somewhat one of ourwar signal stations. Curious to discover its purpose, I determined to visit it.

Taking with me Comstock and a few soldiers, I soon reached the point, anddiscovered that the object of my curiosity and surprise was an Indian grave.The body, instead of being consigned to mother earth, was placed on top of theplatform. The latter was constructed of saplings, and was about twenty feetin height. From Comstock I learned that with some of the tribes this is theusual mode of disposing of the body after death. The prevailing belief of theIndian is that when done with this world the spirit of the deceased is transferredto the “happy hunting-ground,” where he is permitted to engage in thesame pleasures and pursuits which he preferred while on earth. To this end itis deemed essential that after death the departed must be supplied with thesame equipment and ornaments considered necessary while in the flesh. Inaccordance with this belief a complete Indian outfit, depending in extent uponthe rank and importance of the deceased, is prepared, and consigned with thebody to the final resting-place.

The body found on this occasion must have been that of a son of some importantchief; it was not full grown, but accompanied with all the arms andadornments usually owned by a warrior. There was the bow and quiver fullof steel-pointed arrows, the tomahawk and scalping-knife, and a red clay pipewith a small bag full of tobacco. In order that the departed spirit shouldnot be wholly dependent upon friends after his arrival at the happy hunting-ground,he had been supplied with provisions, consisting of small parcels containingcoffee, sugar, and bread. Weapons of modern structure had also beenfurnished him, a revolver and rifle with powder and ball ammunition for each,and a saddle, bridle, and lariat for his pony. Added to these was a supply ofwearing apparel, embracing every article known in an Indian’s toilet, not exceptingthe various colored paints to be used in decorating himself for war.A handsome buckskin scalping-pocket, profusely ornamented with beads, completedthe outfit. But for fear that white women’s scalps might not be readilyobtainable, and desiring no doubt to be received at once as a warrior, who inhis own country at least was not without renown, a white woman’s scalp wasalso considered as a necessary accompaniment, a letter of introduction to thedusky warriors and chieftains who had gone before. As the Indian of thePlains is himself only when on horseback, provision must be made for mountinghim properly in the Indian heaven. To accomplish this, the favorite war53pony is led beneath the platform on which the body of the warrior is placed atrest, and there strangled to death.

No signs indicating the recent presence of Indians were discovered by ourscouts until we neared the Republican river, where the trail of a small warparty was discovered running down one of the tributaries of the Republican.After following it far enough to determine the futility of pursuit, the attemptwas relinquished. Upon crossing the Republican we suddenly came in fullview of about a hundred mounted warriors, who, without waiting for a parleyof any kind, set off as fast as their horses could carry them. One squadron wassent in pursuit, but was unable to overhaul the Indians. From the trackswe learned that the Indians were mounted on horses stolen from the stagecompany. These horses were of a superior quality, and purchased by the companyat a price about double that paid by the Government. This was theonly occasion on which we saw Indians before reaching the Platte river.

One of our camps was pitched on the banks of a small stream which hadbeen named Beaver Creek. Comstock informed us that here an opportunitycould be had of killing a few beavers, as they were very numerous all alongthis stream, which had derived its name from that fact. We had gone intocamp about 3 P.M. The numerous stumps and fallen trees, as well as thebeaver dams, attested the accuracy of Comstock’s statement. By his advicewe waited until sundown before taking our stations on the bank, not far abovethe site of our camp, as at that time the beaver would be out and on shore.

Placing ourselves under Comstock’s guidance, a small party proceeded tothe ground selected, where we were distributed singly at stations along thestream and quietly awaited the appearance of the beaver. Whether the noisefrom the camp below or the passing of hunting parties of soldiers in the afternoonhad frightened them, I know not. I remained at my station with myrifle in hand ready to fire at the first beaver which should offer itself as a sacrifice,until the sun had disappeared and darkness had begun to spread its heavymantle over everything around me. No living thing had thus far disturbed myreveries. My station was on the immediate bank of the stream, on a pathwhich had evidently been made by wild animals of some kind. The bankrose above me to a distance of nearly twenty feet. I was just on the point ofleaving my station and giving up all hope of getting a shot, when I heard therustling of the long dry grass a few yards lower down the stream. co*ckingmy rifle, I stood ready to deliver its contents into the approaching animal,which I presumed would be seen to be a beaver as soon as it should emergefrom the tall grass. It did not make its appearance in the path in which Istood until within a few feet of me, when to my great surprise I beheld insteadof a beaver an immense wildcat. It was difficult to say which of us was mostsurprised. Without delaying long to think, I took a hasty aim and fired. Thenext moment I heard a splash which relieved my mind as to which of usshould retain the right of way on shore, the path being too narrow to admitof our passing each other. I had either wounded or killed the wildcat, andits body in the darkness had been carried down with the current, as the dogswhich were soon attracted from the camp by my shot were unable to find thetrail on either bank.

Nothing occurred to break the monotony of our march until we reachedFort McPherson, on the Platte river. The country over which we had marchedhad been quite varied in its character, and as we neared the Platte it becamevery broken and abrupt. It was only by availing ourselves of Comstock’s superior54knowledge of the country that we found an easy exit from the deepcañons and rough defiles which were encountered.

At Fort McPherson we refilled our wagons with supplies of rations and forage.At the same time, in accordance with my instructions, I reported by telegraphmy arrival to General Sherman, who was then further west on the lineof the Union Pacific road. He did not materially change my instructions,further than to direct me to remain near Fort McPherson until his arrival,which would be in the course of a few days.

Moving my command about twelve miles from the fort, I arranged for acouncil with Pawnee Killer and a few other Sioux chiefs, who had arrived atthe Platte about the same time my command had. My object was, if possible,to induce Pawnee Killer and his band, with such other Indians as might chooseto join them, to bring their lodges into the vicinity of the fort, and remain atpeace with the whites. Pawnee Killer and his chiefs met me in council andthe subject was discussed, but with no positive conclusions. While protestingstrongly in favor of preserving peaceful relations with us, the subsequent conductof the chiefs only confirmed the suspicion that they had arranged thecouncil not to perfect a friendly agreement with us, but to spy out and discover,if possible, our future plans and movements. In this they were disappointed.Their numerous inquiries as to where we intended proceeding when we resumedthe march were unavailing. Desiring to leave nothing undone to encouragea friendly attitude on their part, I gave the chiefs on parting withthem liberal presents of coffee, sugar, and other articles gratifying to the tasteof an Indian. They departed after giving utterance to the strongest expressionsof their desire to live at peace with their “white brothers,” and promisedto collect their families and bring them in under protection of the fort, andthus avoid becoming entangled in the ravages of an Indian war which nowpromised to become general throughout the Plains. Pawnee Killer and hischiefs never attempted to keep their promises.

General Sherman arrived at my camp next day. He had no confidence inthe faith of Pawnee Killer and his band, and desired that a party be sent inpursuit at once, and bring the chiefs back and retain a few of the prominentones as hostages for the fulfilment of their agreement. This was decided to beimpracticable. It was then judged best for me to move my command in asouthwesterly direction to the forks of the Republican, a section of country usuallyinfested by Indians, and there endeavor to find the village of Pawnee Killer, andcompel him, if necessary, to move nearer to the fort, so that we might distinguishbetween those who were friendly and those who were not. Besides, itwas known that the Cheyennes and Sioux, whom we had pursued from theArkansas across the Smoky Hill river, had not crossed north of the Platte, andthey were rightly supposed to be located somewhere near the forks of the Republican.I could reach this point in three days’ marching after leaving thePlatte river, on whose banks we were then encamped.

Owing to the rough and broken character of the bluffs which bound thevalley of the Platte on the south side, it was determined to march up the menabout fifteen miles from the fort and strike south through an opening in thebluffs known as Jack Morrow’s cañon. General Sherman rode with us as faras this point, where, after commending the Cheyennes and Sioux to us in hisexpressive manner, he bade us good-by, and crossed the river to the railroadstation on the north side. Thus far we had had no real Indian warfare. Wewere soon to experience it, attended by all its frightful barbarities.



Before leaving the Platte I employed two additional interpreters whowere familiar with the Sioux language. Both were white men, but,following the example of many frontiersmen, they had taken unto themselvesIndian wives, and each had become the head of a considerable family of half-breeds.

Starting nearly due south from the Platte, and marching up the cañon, whichforms a natural gateway through the otherwise almost impassable barrier ofbluffs and deep ravines bordering the valley of the Platte river, we again setout in search of Indians. The latter are sought after so frequently and foundso seldom, except when not wanted, that scouting parties, as a general thing, arenot overburdened with confidence on beginning an expedition. Most of us, however,felt that we were destined to see Indians—an impression probably due tothe fact that we had determined to accomplish our purpose, if hard riding andwatchfulness could attain this result.

Our first day’s march brought us to a small stream, a tributary of the Republicanriver, on whose banks we encamped for the night. Daylight the followingmorning found us in the saddle and ascending from the valley to thetable-lands; we were still in the broken country. On reaching the plateauoverlooking the valley we found ourselves enveloped in a dense fog, so densethat the sky was not visible, nor was an extended view of the country possible.Had the surface of the plain been, as usual, level and unbroken, we could havepursued our march guided by the unerring compass. But deep and impassablecañons divided the country in all directions and rendered our further progressimpracticable. The sun, however, soon rose high enough to drive awaythe mist, and permitted us to proceed on what might be truly termed our windingway.

The afternoon of the fourth day we reached the forks of the Republican,and there went into camp. We were then located about seventy-five milessoutheast of Fort Sedgwick, and about the same distance northeast of FortWallace. Intending to scout the surrounding country thoroughly in search ofIndians, we selected our camp with reference to a sojourn of several days,combining among its essentials wood, water, good grazing, and last, but notleast, facilities for defence.

When I parted from General Sherman the understanding was, that afterbeating up the country thoroughly about the forks of the Republican river, Ishould march my command to Fort Sedgwick, and there I would either seeGeneral Sherman again or receive further instructions from him. Circ*mstancesseemed to favor a modification of this plan, at least as to marchingthe entire command to Fort Sedgwick. It was therefore decided to send atrusty officer with a sufficient escort to Fort Sedgwick with my despatch, andto receive the despatches which might be intended for me. My proposed,change of programme contemplated a continuous march, which might be prolongedtwenty days or more. To this end additional supplies were necessary.The guides all agreed in the statement that we were then about equidistantfrom Fort Wallace on the south and Fort Sedgwick on the north, at either ofwhich the required supplies could be obtained; but that while the country between56our camp and the former was generally level and unbroken—favorableto the movement of our wagon train—that between us and Fort Sedgwickwas almost impassable for heavily-laden wagons. The train then was to go toFort Wallace under sufficient escort, be loaded with fresh supplies, and rejoinus in camp. At the same time the officer selected for that mission could proceedto Fort Sedgwick, obtain his despatch, and return.

Major Joel A. Elliot, a young officer of great courage and enterprise, wasselected as bearer of despatches to Fort Sedgwick. As the errand was oneinvolving considerable danger, requiring for the round trip a ride of almosttwo hundred miles, through a country which was not only almost unknown butinfested by large numbers of hostile Indians, the Major was authorized toarrange the details in accordance with his own judgment.

Knowing that small detachments can move more rapidly than large ones,and that he was to depend upon celerity of movement rather than strength ofnumbers to evade the numerous war parties prowling in that vicinity, theMajor limited the size of his escort to ten picked men and one of the guides,all mounted on fleet horses. To elude the watchful eyes of any parties thatmight be noting our movements, it was deemed advisable to set out fromcamp as soon as it was dark, and by making a rapid night ride get beyond thecircle of danger. In this way the little party took its departure on the nightof the 23d of June.

On the same day our train of wagons set out for Fort Wallace to obtainsupplies. Colonel West with one full squadron of cavalry was ordered toescort the train to Beaver Creek, about midway, and there halt with one of hiscompanies, while the train, under escort of one company commanded by LieutenantRobbins, should proceed to the fort and return—Colonel West to employthe interval in scouting up and down Beaver Creek. The train wasunder the special management of Colonel Cook, who on this occasion wasacting in the capacity of a staff officer.

While at Fort McPherson, and when under the impression that my commandupon arriving at Fort Wallace, after terminating the scouting expeditionwe were then engaged upon, would remain in camp for several weeks, Iwrote to my wife at Fort Hays, advising her to meet me at Fort Wallace, providedthat travel between the two posts was considered safe. I expected herto reach Fort Wallace before the arrival of the train and escort from mycamp, and under this impression I sent a letter to her by Colonel Cook, askingher to come to our camp on the Republican under escort of the Colonel, whowas an intimate friend of the family. I am thus minute in giving these details,in order that the events of the succeeding few days may appear in theirproper light.

After the departure of the two detachments, which left us in almost oppositedirections, our camp settled down to the dull and unexciting monotony ofwaiting patiently for the time when we should welcome our comrades backagain, and listen to such items of news as they might bring to us.

Little did we imagine that the monotony of idleness was so soon and soabruptly to be broken. That night our pickets were posted as usual; thehorses and mules, after being allowed to graze in the evening, were broughtin and securely tethered close to our tents, and the “stable guards” of thedifferent troops had been assigned to their stations for the night. At half-pasteight the bugler at headquarters sounded the signal for “taps,” and beforethe last note had died away every light, in obedience to this command, disappeared,57and nothing remained to the eye, except here and there a faint glimpseof a white tent, to indicate the presence of our camp.

It was just that uncertain period between darkness and daylight on the followingmorning, and I was lying in my tent deep in the enjoyment of that perfectrepose which only camp life offers, when the sharp, clear crack of a carbinenear by brought me to my feet. I knew in an instant that the shot camefrom the picket posted not far from the rear of my camp. At the same momentmy brother, Colonel Custer, who on that occasion was officer of the day,and whose duties required him to be particularly on the alert, rushed past mytent, halting only long enough to show his face through the opening and shout,“They are here!”

Now I did not inquire who were referred to, or how many were includedin the word “they,” nor did my informant seem to think it necessary to explain.“They” referred to Indians, I knew full well. Had I doubted, the briskfusillade which opened the next moment, and the wild war-whoop, were convincingevidences that in truth “they were here!”

Ordinarily, I must confess to having sufficient regard for the customs andcourtesies of life to endeavor to appear in society suitably and appropriatelydressed. But when the alarm of “Indians” was given, and in such a startlingmanner as to show they were almost in our midst, the question was not “Whatshall I wear?” but “What shall I do?” It has become so common—in fact, almosta law—to describe the costumes worn upon memorable occasions, that Imay be pardoned if I indulge in a description which I will endeavor to make asbrief as the costume itself. A modern Jenkins, if desiring to tell the truth, wouldprobably express himself as follows: “General Custer on this occasion appearedin a beautiful crimson robe (red flannel robe de nuit), very becoming to hiscomplexion. His hair was worn au naturel, and permitted to fall carelesslyover his shoulders. In his hand he carried gracefully a handsome Spencerrifle. It is unnecessary to add that he became the observed of all observers.”

My orderly, as was his custom, on my retiring had securely tied all thefastenings to my tent, and it was usually the work of several minutes to undothis unnecessary labor. I had no time to throw away in this manner. Leapingfrom my bed, I grasped my trusty Spencer, which was always at my sidewhether waking or sleeping, and with a single dash burst open the tent, and,hatless as well as shoeless, ran to the point where the attack seemed to be concentrated.

It was sufficiently light to see our enemies and be seen. The first shot hadbrought every man of my command from his tent, armed and equipped forbattle. The Indians, numbering hundreds, were all around the camp, evidentlyintending to surround us, while a party of about fifty of their best mountedwarriors had, by taking advantage of a ravine, contrived to approach quiteclose before being discovered. It was the intention of this party to dashthrough our camp, stampede all our horses, which were to be caught up by theparties surrounding us, and then finish us at their leisure.

The picket, however, discovered the approach of this party, and by firinggave timely warning, thus frustrating the plan of the Indians, who almost invariablybase their hopes of success upon effecting a surprise.

My men opened on them such a brisk fire from their carbines that theywere glad to withdraw beyond range. The picket who gave the alarm wasshot down at his post by the Indians, the entire party galloping over his body,and being prevented from scalping him only by the fire from his comrades, who58dashed out and recovered him. He was found to be badly though not mortallywounded by a rifle ball through the body.

The Indians, seeing that their attempt to surprise us and to stampede ourhorses had failed, then withdrew to a point but little over a mile from us, wherethey congregated, and seemed to hold a conference with each other. We didnot fear any further attack at this time. They were satisfied with this attempt,and would await another opportunity.

It was desirable, however, that we should learn if possible to what tribe ourenemies belonged. I directed one of our interpreters to advance midway betweenour camp and the Indians, and make the signal for holding a parley, andin this way ascertain who were the principal chiefs.

The ordinary manner of opening communication with parties known orsupposed to be hostile, is to ride toward them in a zigzag manner or to ride ina circle. The interpreter gave the proper signal, and was soon answered by asmall party advancing from the main body of the Indians to within hailing distance.It was then agreed that I, with six of the officers, should come to thebank of the river, which was about equidistant from my camp and from thepoint where the Indians had congregated, and there be met by an equal numberof the leading chiefs. To guard against treachery, I placed most of mycommand under arms and arranged with the officer left in command that ablast from the bugle should bring assistance to me if required.

Six of the officers and myself, taking with us a bugler and an interpreter,proceeded on horseback to the designated point. Dismounting, we left ourhorses in charge of the bugler, who was instructed to watch every movementof the Indians, and upon the first appearance of violence or treachery to soundthe “advance.” Each of us took our revolvers from their leather cases andstuck them loosely in our belts.

Descending to the river bank, we awaited the arrival of the seven chiefs.On one side of the river the bank was level and covered with a beautiful greensward, while on the opposite side it was broken and thickly covered by willowsand tall grass. The river itself was at this season of the year, and at thisdistance from its mouth, scarcely deserving of the name. The seven chiefssoon made their appearance on its opposite bank, and, after removing theirleggings, waded across to where we stood. Imagine our surprise at recognizingas the head chief Pawnee Killer, our friend of the conference of thePlatte, who on that occasion had overwhelmed us with the earnestness of hisprofessions of peace, and who, after partaking of our hospitality under the guiseof friendship, and leaving our camp laden with provisions and presents, returnedto attack and murder us within a fortnight. This, too, without the slightestprovocation, for surely we had not trespassed against any right of theirs sincethe exchange of friendly greetings near Fort McPherson.

Pawnee Killer and his chiefs met us as if they were quite willing to forgiveus for interfering with the success of their intended surprise of our camp inthe morning. I avoided all reference to what had occurred, desiring if possibleto learn the locality of their village and their future movements. All attempts,however, to elicit information on these points were skilfully parried.The chiefs in turn were anxious to know our plans, but we declined to gratifythem. Upon crossing to our side of the river, Pawnee Killer and his companionsat once extended their hands, and saluted us with the familiar “How.”Suspicious of their intentions, I kept one hand on my revolver during the continuanceof our interview.


When we had about concluded our conference a young brave, completelyarmed, as were all the chiefs, emerged from the willows and tall grass on theopposite bank and waded across to where we were, greeting us as the othershad done. Nothing was thought of this act until a few moments after anotherbrave did the same, and so on until four had crossed over and joined ourgroup. I then called Pawnee Killer’s attention to the conditions under whichwe met, and told him he was violating his part of the contract. He endeavoredto turn it off by saying that his young men felt well disposed towardus, and came over only to shake hands and say “How.” He was told, however,that no more of his men must come. The conversation was then resumedand continued until another party of the warriors was seen preparing to crossfrom the other side. The conduct of these Indians in the morning, added toour opinions in general as regards treachery, convinced us that it would be inthe highest degree imprudent to trust ourselves in their power. They alreadyoutnumbered us, eleven to seven, which were as heavy odds as we felt disposedto give. We all felt convinced that the coming over of these warriors,one by one, was but the execution of a preconceived plan whereof we were tobecome the victims as soon as their advantage in numbers should justify themin attacking us.

Again reminding Pawnee Killer of the stipulations of our agreement, andthat while we had observed ours faithfully, he had disregarded his, I toldhim that not another warrior of his should cross the river to our side. Andcalling his attention to the bugler, who stood at a safe distance from us, I toldhim that I would then instruct the bugler to watch the Indians who were uponthe opposite bank, and, upon any of them making a movement as if to cross, tosound the signal which would bring my entire command to my side in a fewmoments. This satisfied Pawnee Killer that any further attempt to play usfalse would only end in his own discomfiture. He at once signalled to theIndians on the other side to remain where they were.

Nothing definite could be gleaned from the replies of Pawnee Killer. Iwas satisfied that he and his tribe were contemplating mischief. Their previousdeclarations of peaceful intent went for naught. Their attack on ourcamp in the morning proved what they would do if able to accomplish theirpurpose. I was extremely anxious, however, to detain the chiefs near mycamp, or induce them to locate their village near us, and keep up the semblanceat least of friendship. I was particularly prompted to this desireby the fact that the two detachments which had left my command the previousday would necessarily continue absent several days, and I feared that theymight become the victims of an attack from this band if steps were not takento prevent it. Our anxiety was greatest regarding Major Elliot and his littleparty of eleven. Our only hope was that the Indians had not become awareof their departure. It was fortunate that the Major had chosen night as themost favorable time for setting out. As to the detachment that had gonewith the train to Fort Wallace we felt less anxious, it being sufficiently powerfulin numbers to defend itself, unless attacked after the detachment becamedivided at Beaver Creek.

Finding all efforts to induce Pawnee Killer to remain with us unavailing, Itold him that we would march to his village with him. This did not seem satisfactory.

Before terminating our interview, the chiefs requested me to make thempresents of some sugar, coffee, and ammunition. Remembering the use they60had made of the latter article in the morning, it will not appear strange ifI declined to gratify them. Seeing that nothing was to be gained by prolongingthe interview, we separated, the officers returning to our camp, and theIndians recrossing the river, mounting their ponies, and galloping off to themain body, which was then nearly two miles distant.

My command was in readiness to leap into their saddles, and I determinedto attempt to follow the Indians, and, if possible, get near their village. Theywere prepared for this move on our part, and the moment we advanced towardthem set off at the top of their speed. We followed as rapidly as our heavierhorses could travel, but the speed of the Indian pony on this occasion, as onmany others, was too great for that of our horses. A pursuit of a few hoursproved our inability to overtake them, and we returned to camp.

Soon after arriving at camp a small party of Indians was reported in sightin a different direction. Captain Louis Hamilton, a lineal descendant of AlexanderHamilton, was immediately ordered to take his troop and learn somethingof their intentions. The Indians resorted to their usual tactics. Therewere not more than half a dozen to be seen—not enough to appear formidable.These were there as a decoy. Captain Hamilton marched his troop toward thehill on which the Indians had made their appearance, but on arriving at itscrest found that they had retired to the next ridge beyond. This manœuvrewas repeated several times, until the cavalry found itself several miles fromcamp. The Indians then appeared to separate into two parties, each going indifferent directions. Captain Hamilton divided his troop into two detachments,sending one detachment, under command of my brother, after one of the parties,while he with twenty-five men continued to follow the other.

When the two detachments had become so far separated as to be of no assistanceto each other, the Indians developed their scheme. Suddenly dashingfrom a ravine, as if springing from the earth, forty-three Indian warriors burstout upon the cavalry, letting fly their arrows and filling the air with their wildwar-whoops. Fortunately Captain Hamilton was an officer of great presenceof mind as well as undaunted courage. The Indians began circling about thetroops, throwing themselves upon the sides of their ponies and aiming theircarbines and arrows over the necks of their well-trained war-steeds. CaptainHamilton formed his men in order to defend themselves against the assaults oftheir active enemies. The Indians displayed unusual boldness, sometimesdashing close up to the cavalry and sending in a perfect shower of bullets andarrows. Fortunately their aim, riding as they did at full speed, was necessarilyinaccurate.

All this time we who had remained in camp were in ignorance of what wastranspiring. Dr. Coates, whose acquaintance has been made before, had accompaniedCaptain Hamilton’s command, but when the latter was divided thedoctor joined the detachment of my brother. In some unexplained manner thedoctor became separated from both parties, and remained so until the soundof the firing attracted him toward Captain Hamilton’s party. When withinhalf a mile of the latter, he saw what was transpiring; saw our men in thecentre and the Indians charging and firing from the outside. His first impulsewas to push on and endeavor to break through the line of savages, casting hislot with his struggling comrades. This impulse was suddenly nipped in thebud. The Indians, with their quick, watchful eyes, had discovered his presence,and half a dozen of them best mounted warriors at once galloped towardhim.


Happily the doctor was in the direction of camp from Captain Hamilton’sparty, and, comprehending the peril of his situation at a glance, turned hishorse’s head toward camp, and applying the spur freely set out on a ride forlife. The Indians saw this move, but were not disposed to be deprived of theirvictim in this way. They were better mounted than the doctor, his only advantagebeing in the start and the greater object to be attained. When the racebegan he was fully four miles from camp, the day was hot and sultry, the countryrough and broken, and his horse somewhat jaded from the effects of theride in the morning. These must have seemed immense obstacles in the eyesof a man who was riding for dear life. A false step, a broken girth, or almostany trifle, might decide his fate.

How often, if ever, the doctor looked back, I know not; his eyes more probablywere strained to catch a glimpse of camp or of assistance accidentallycoming to his relief. Neither the one nor the other appeared. His pursuers,knowing that their success must be gained soon if at all, pressed their fleet poniesforward until they seemed to skim over the surface of the green plain, andtheir shouts of exultation falling clearer and louder upon his ear told the doctorthat they were surely gaining upon him. Fortunately our domestic horses,until accustomed to their presence, are as terrified by Indians as by a hugewild beast, and will fly from them if not restrained. The yells of the approachingIndians served no doubt to quicken the energies of the doctor’s horse,and impelled him to greater efforts to escape.

So close had the Indians succeeded in approaching that they were almostwithin arrow range, and would soon have sent one flying through the doctor’sbody, when, to the great joy of the pursued and the corresponding grief of hispursuers, camp suddenly appeared in full view scarcely a mile distant. Theponies of the Indians had been ridden too hard to justify their riders in venturingnear enough to provoke pursuit upon fresh animals. Sending a partingvolley of bullets after the flying doctor, they turned about and disappeared.The doctor did not slacken his pace on this account, however; he knew thatCaptain Hamilton’s party was in peril, and that assistance should reach him assoon as possible. Without tightening rein or sparing spur, he came dashinginto camp, and the first we knew of his presence he had thrown himself fromhis almost breathless horse, and was lying on the ground unable, from sheer exhaustionand excitement, to utter a word.

The officers and men gathered about him in astonishment, eager and anxiousto hear his story, for all knew that something far from any ordinary eventhad transpired to place the doctor in such a condition of mind and body. Assoon as he had recovered sufficiently to speak, he told us that he had left CaptainHamilton surrounded by a superior force of Indians, and that he himselfhad been pursued almost to the borders of camp.

This was enough. The next moment the bugle rang out the signal “Tohorse,” and in less time than would be required to describe it, horses were saddledand arms ready. Then “there was mounting in hot haste.” A momentlater the command set off at a brisk trot to attempt the rescue of their beleagueredcomrades.

Persons unfamiliar with the cavalry service may mentally inquire why, insuch an emergency as this, the intended reinforcements were not pushed forwardat a rapid gallop? But in answer to this it need only be said that we hada ride of at least five miles before us in order to arrive at the point where CaptainHamilton and his command had last been seen, and it was absolutely necessary62to so husband the powers of our horses as to save them for the realwork of conflict.

We had advanced in this manner probably two miles, when, we discernedin the distance the approach of Captain Hamilton’s party. They were returningleisurely to camp, after having succeeded in driving off their assailants andinflicting upon them a loss of two warriors killed and several wounded. TheIndians could only boast of having wounded a horse belonging to CaptainHamilton’s party.

This encounter with the Indians occurred in the direction taken by MajorElliot’s detachment on leaving camp, and the Indians, after this repulse byCaptain Hamilton, withdrew in that direction. This added to our anxiety concerningthe safety of Major Elliot and his men. There was no doubt now thatall Indians infesting the broad belt of country between the Arkansas and Platterivers were on the war path, and would seek revenge from any party so unfortunateas to fall in their way. The loss of the two warriors slain in the fight,and their wounded comrades, would be additional incentives to acts of hostility.If there had been any possible means of communicating with Major Elliot,and either strengthening or warning him, it would have been done. Heleft us by no travelled or defined route, and it was by no means probable thathe would pass over the same trail in coming from Fort Sedgwick as in goingto that point; otherwise reinforcements could have been sent out over his trailto meet him.

On the 27th our fears for the safety of the Major and his escort were dispelledby their safe return to camp, having accomplished a ride of nearly twohundred miles through an enemy’s country. They had concealed themselvesin ravines during the daytime and travelled at night, trusting to the faithfulcompass and their guide to bring them safely back.

Now that the Major and his party had returned to us, our anxiety becamecentred in the fate of the larger party which had proceeded with the train toFort Wallace for supplies. The fact that Major Elliot had made his trip unmolestedby Indians, proved that the latter were most likely assembled southof us, that is, between us and Fort Wallace. Wherever they were, their numberswere known to be large. It would be impossible for a considerable force,let alone a wagon train, to pass from our camp to Fort Wallace and not beseen by the Indian scouting parties. They had probably observed the departureof the train and escort at the time, and, divining the object which occasionedthe sending of the wagons, would permit them to go to the fort unmolested, butwould waylay them on their return, in the hope of obtaining the supplies theycontained. Under this supposition the Indians had probably watched the trainand escort during every mile of their progress; if so, they would not fail to discoverthat the larger portion of the escort halted at Beaver Creek, while thewagons proceeded to the fort guarded by only forty-eight men; in which casethe Indians would combine their forces and attack the train at some point betweenFort Wallace and Beaver Creek.

Looking at these probable events, I not only felt impelled to act promptlyto secure the safety of the train and its escort, but a deeper and stronger motivestirred me to leave nothing undone to circumvent the Indians. My wife,who, in answer to my letter, I believed was then at Fort Wallace, would placeherself under the protection of the escort of the train and attempt to rejoin mein camp. The mere thought of the danger to which she might be exposedspurred me to decisive action. One full squadron, well mounted and armed,63under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Myers, an officer of great experiencein Indian affairs, left our camp at dark on the evening of the day that CaptainHamilton had had his engagement with the Indians, and set out in the directionof Fort Wallace. His orders were to press forward as rapidly as practicable,following the trail made by the train. Written orders were sent in hiscare to Colonel West, who was in command of that portion of the escort whichhad halted at Beaver Creek, to join Colonel Myers’s command with his own, andthen to continue the march toward Fort Wallace until he should meet the returningtrain and escort. The Indians, however, were not to be deprived ofthis opportunity to secure scalps and plunder.

From our camp to Beaver Creek was nearly fifty miles. Colonel Myersmarched his command without halting until he joined Colonel West at BeaverCreek. Here the two commands united, and under the direction of ColonelWest, the senior officer of the party, proceeded toward Fort Wallace, followingthe trail left by the wagon train and escort. If the escort and ColonelWest’s forces could be united, they might confidently hope to repel any attackmade upon them by Indians. Colonel West was an old Indian fighter, and toothoroughly accustomed to Indian tactics to permit his command to be surprisedor defeated in any manner other than by a fair contest.

Let us leave them for a time and join the wagon train and its escort—thelatter numbering, all told, as before stated, forty-eight men under the immediatecommand of Lieutenant Robbins. Colonel Cook, whose special duty connectedhim with the train and its supplies, could also be relied upon for materialassistance with the troops, in case of actual conflict with the enemy.Comstock, the favorite scout, a host in himself, was sent to guide the party toand from Fort Wallace. In addition to these were the teamsters, who couldnot be expected to do more than control their teams should the train be attacked.

The march from camp to Beaver Creek was made without incident. Herethe combined forces of Colonel West and Lieutenant Robbins encamped togetherduring the night. Next morning at early dawn Lieutenant Robbins’sparty, having the train in charge, continued the march toward Fort Wallace,while Colonel West sent out scouting parties up and down the stream to searchfor Indians.

As yet none of their party were aware of the hostile attitude assumed bythe Indians within the past few hours, and Colonel West’s instructions contemplateda friendly meeting between his forces and the Indians should thelatter be discovered. The march of the train and escort was made to FortWallace without interruption. The only incident worthy of remark was anobservation of Comstock’s, which proved how thoroughly he was familiarwith the Indian and his customs.

The escort was moving over a beautifully level plateau. Not a mound orhillock disturbed the evenness of the surface for miles in either direction. Toan unpractised eye there seemed no recess or obstruction in or behind whichan enemy might be concealed, but everything appeared open to the view formiles and miles, look in what direction one might. Yet such was not the case.Ravines of greater or less extent, though not perceptible at a glance, might havebeen discovered if searched for, extending almost to the trail over which theparty was moving. These ravines, if followed, would be found to grow deeperand deeper, until, after running their course for an indefinite extent, they wouldterminate in the valley of some running stream. These were the natural hiding-places64of Indian war parties, waiting their opportunities to dash upon unsuspectingvictims. These ravines serve the same purpose to the Indians ofthe timberless plains that the ambush did to those Indians of the Eastern Statesaccustomed to fighting in the forests and everglades. Comstock’s keen eyestook in all at a glance, and he remarked to Colonel Cook and Lieutenant Robbins,as the three rode together at the head of the column, that “If the Injunsstrike us at all, it will be just about the time we are comin’ along back over thisvery spot. Now mind what I tell ye all.” We shall see how correct Comstock’sprophecy was.

Arriving at the fort, no time was lost in loading up the wagons with freshsupplies, obtaining the mail intended for the command, and preparing to setout on the return to camp the following day. No late news regarding Indianmovements was obtained. Fortunately, my letter from Fort McPherson toMrs. Custer, asking her to come to Fort Wallace, miscarried, and she did notundertake a journey which in all probability would have imperilled her life,if not terminated it in a most tragic manner.

On the following morning Colonel Cook and Lieutenant Robbins begantheir return march. They had advanced one half the distance which separatedthem from Colonel West’s camp without the slightest occurrence to disturbthe monotony of their march, and had reached the point where, on passingbefore, Comstock had indulged in his prognostication regarding Indians;yet nothing had been seen to excite suspicion or alarm.

Comstock, always on the alert and with eyes as quick as those of an Indian,had been scanning the horizon in all directions. Suddenly he perceived, orthought he perceived, strange figures, resembling human heads, peering over thecrest of a hill far away to the right. Hastily levelling his field-glass, he pronouncedthe strange figures, which were scarcely perceptible, to be neithermore nor less than Indians. The officers brought into requisition their glasses,and were soon convinced of the correctness of Comstock’s report. It wassome time before the Indians perceived that they were discovered. Concealmentthen being no longer possible, they boldly rode to the crest and exposedthemselves to full view. At first but twenty or thirty made their appearance;gradually their number became augmented, until about a hundred warriorscould be seen.

It may readily be imagined that the appearance of so considerable a body ofIndians produced no little excitement and speculation in the minds of the peoplewith the train. The speculation was as to the intentions of the Indians,whether hostile or friendly. Upon this subject all doubts were soon dispelled.The Indians continued to receive accessions to their numbers, the reinforcementscoming from beyond the crest of the hill on which their presencewas first discovered. Finally, seeming confident in their superior numbers,the warriors, all of whom were mounted, advanced leisurely down the slopeleading in the direction of the train and its escort. By the aid of field-glasses,Comstock and the two officers were able to determine fully thecharacter of the party now approaching them. The last doubt was thus removed.It was clearly to be seen that the Indians were arrayed in full warcostume, their heads adorned by the brilliantly colored war bonnets, their faces,arms, and bodies painted in various colors, rendering their naturally repulsiveappearance even more hideous. As they approached nearer they assumed acertain order in the manner of their advance. Some were to be seen carryingthe long glistening lance with its pennant of bright colors; while upon the65left arm hung the round shield, almost bullet-proof, and ornamented withpaint and feathers according to the taste of the wearer. Nearly all were armedwith carbines and one or two revolvers, while many in addition to these weaponscarried the bow and arrow.

My life on the plains (4)

When the entire band had defiled down the inclined slope, Comstock andthe officers were able to estimate roughly the full strength of the party. Theywere astonished to perceive that between six and seven hundred warriors werebearing down upon them, and in a few minutes would undoubtedly commencethe attack. Against such odds, and upon ground so favorable for the Indianmode of warfare, it seemed unreasonable to hope for a favorable result. Yetthe entire escort, officers and men, entered upon their defence with the determinationto sell their lives as dearly as possible.

As the coming engagement, so far as the cavalry was concerned, was to bepurely a defensive one, Lieutenant Robbins at once set about preparing to receivehis unwelcome visitors. Colonel Cook formed the train in two parallelcolumns, leaving ample space between for the horses of the cavalry. LieutenantRobbins then dismounted his men and prepared to fight on foot. Theled horses, under charge of the fourth trooper, were placed between thetwo columns of wagons, and were thus in a measure protected from the assaultswhich the officers had every reason to believe would be made for theircapture. The dismounted cavalrymen were thus formed in a regular circleenclosing the train and horses. Colonel Cook took command of one flank,Lieutenant Robbins of the other, while Comstock, who as well as the two officersremained mounted, galloped from point to point wherever his presencewas most valuable. These dispositions being perfected, the march was resumedin this order, and the attack of the savages calmly awaited.

The Indians, who were interested spectators of these preparations for theirreception, continued to approach, but seemed willing to delay their attack untilthe plain became a little more favorable for their operations. Finally, thedesired moment seemed to have arrived. The Indians had approached to withineasy range, yet not a shot had been fired, the cavalrymen having been instructedby their officers to reserve their fire for close quarters. Suddenly,with a wild ringing war-whoop, the entire band of warriors bore down uponthe train and its little party of defenders.

On came the savages, filling the air with their terrible yells. Their firstobject, evidently, was to stampede the horses and draught animals of the train;then, in the excitement and consternation which would follow, to massacre theescort and drivers. The wagon-master in immediate charge of the train hadbeen ordered to keep his two columns of wagons constantly moving forwardand well closed up. This last injunction was hardly necessary, as the frightenedteamsters, glancing at the approaching warriors and hearing their savageshouts, were sufficiently anxious to keep well closed upon their leaders.

The first onslaught of the Indians was made on the flank which was superintendedby Colonel Cook. They rode boldly forward as if to dash over themere handful of cavalrymen, who stood in skirmishing order in a circle aboutthe train. Not a soldier faltered as the enemy came thundering upon them,but waiting until the Indians were within short rifle range of the train, thecavalrymen dropped upon their knees, and taking deliberate aim poured a volleyfrom their Spencer carbines into the ranks of the savages, which seemed toput a sudden check upon the ardor of their movements and forced them towheel off to the right. Several of the warriors were seen to reel in their saddles,66while the ponies of others were brought down or wounded by theeffectual fire of the cavalrymen.

Those of the savages who were shot from their saddles were scarcely permittedto fall to the ground before a score or more of their comrades dashedto their rescue and bore their bodies beyond the possible reach of our men.This is in accordance with the Indian custom in battle. They will risk thelives of a dozen of their best warriors to prevent the body of any one of theirnumber from falling into the white man’s possession. The reason for this isthe belief, which generally prevails among all the tribes, that if a warriorloses his scalp he forfeits his hope of ever reaching the happy hunting-ground.

As the Indians were being driven back by the well-directed volley of thecavalrymen, the latter, overjoyed at their first success, became reassured, andsent up a cheer of exultation, while Comstock, who had not been idle in thefight, called out to the retreating Indians in their native tongue, taunting themwith their unsuccessful assault.

The Indians withdrew to a point beyond the range of our carbines, andthere seemed to engage in a parley. Comstock, who had closely watched everymovement, remarked that “There’s no sich good luck for us as to think themInjuns mean to give it up so. Six hundred red devils ain’t agoin’ to let fiftymen stop them from gettin’ at the coffee and sugar that is in these wagons.And they ain’t agoin’ to be satisfied until they get some of our scalps to payfor the bucks we popped out of their saddles a bit ago.”

It was probable that the Indians were satisfied that they could not dashthrough the train and stampede the animals. Their recent attempt had convincedthem that some other method of attack must be resorted to. Nothingbut their greater superiority in numbers had induced them to risk so much ina charge.

The officers passed along the line of skirmishers—for this in reality was alltheir line consisted of—and cautioned the men against wasting their ammunition.It was yet early in the afternoon, and should the conflict be prolongeduntil night, there was great danger of exhausting the supply of ammunition.The Indians seemed to have thought of this, and the change in their method ofattack encouraged such a result.

But little time was spent at the parley. Again the entire band of warriors,except those already disabled, prepared to renew the attack, and advanced asbefore—this time, however, with greater caution, evidently desiring to avoida reception similar to the first. When sufficiently near to the troops the Indiansdeveloped their new plan of attack. It was not to advance en masse, asbefore, but fight as individuals, each warrior selecting his own time and methodof attack. This is the habitual manner of fighting among all Indians of thePlains, and is termed “circling.” First the chiefs led off, followed at regularintervals by the warriors, until the entire six or seven hundred were to be seenriding in single file as rapidly as their fleet-footed ponies could carry them.Preserving this order, and keeping up their savage chorus of yells, war-whoops,and taunting epithets, this long line of mounted barbarians was guided in suchmanner as to envelop the train and escort, and make the latter appear like asmall circle within a larger one.

The Indians gradually contracted their circle, although maintaining the fullspeed of their ponies, until sufficiently close to open fire upon the soldiers. Atfirst the shots were scattering and wide of their mark; but, emboldened by thesilence of their few but determined opponents, they rode nearer and fought67with greater impetuosity. Forced now to defend themselves to the uttermost,the cavalrymen opened fire from their carbines, with most gratifying results.The Indians, however, moving at such a rapid gait and in single file, presenteda most uncertain target. To add to this uncertainty, the savages availed themselvesof their superior—almost marvellous—powers of horsemanship. Throwingthemselves upon the sides of their well-trained ponies, they left no part oftheir persons exposed to the aim of the troopers except the head and one foot,and in this posture they were able to aim the weapons either over or underthe necks of their ponies, thus using the bodies of the latter as an effectiveshield against the bullets of their adversaries.

At no time were the Indians able to force the train and its escort to come toa halt. The march was continued at an uninterrupted gait. This successfuldefence against the Indians was in a great measure due to the presence of thewagons, which, arranged in the order described, formed a complete barrier tothe charges and assaults of the savages; and, as a last resort, the wagons couldhave been halted and used as a breastwork, behind which the cavalry, dismounted,would have been almost invincible against their more numerous enemies.There is nothing an Indian dislikes more in warfare than to attack afoe, however weak, behind breastworks of any kind. Any contrivance whichis an obstacle to his pony is a most serious obstacle to the warrior.

The attack of the Indians, aggravated by their losses in warriors and ponies,as many of the latter had been shot down, was continued without cessationfor three hours. The supply of ammunition of the cavalry was runninglow. The “fourth troopers,” who had remained in charge of the led horsesbetween the two columns of wagons, were now replaced from the skirmishers,and the former were added to the list of active combatants. If the Indiansshould maintain the fight much longer, there was serious ground for apprehensionregarding the limited supply of ammunition.

If only night or reinforcements would come! was the prayerful hope ofthose who contended so gallantly against such heavy odds. Night was still toofar off to promise much encouragement; while as to reinforcements, their comingwould be purely accidental—at least so argued those most interested in theirarrival. Yet reinforcements were at that moment striving to reach them.Comrades were in the saddle and spurring forward to their relief. The Indians,although apparently turning all their attention to the little band inside,had omitted no precaution to guard against interference from outside parties.In this instance, perhaps, they were more than ordinarily watchful, and hadposted some of their keen-eyed warriors on the high line of bluffs which ran almostparallel to the trail over which the combatants moved. From these bluffsnot only a good view of the fight could be obtained, but the country for milesin either direction was spread out beneath them, and enabled the scouts to discernthe approach of any hostile party which might be advancing. Fortunatefor the savages that this precaution had not been neglected, or the contestin which they were engaged might have become one of more equal numbers.To the careless eye nothing could have been seen to excite suspicion. But thewarriors on the lookout were not long in discovering something which occasionedthem no little anxiety. Dismounting from their ponies and concealingthe latter in a ravine, they prepared to investigate more fully the cause of theiralarm.

That which they saw was as yet but a faint dark line on the surface of theplain, almost against the horizon. So faint was it that no one but an Indian or68practised frontiersman would have observed it. It was fully ten miles fromthem and directly in their line of march. The ordinary observer would havepronounced it a break or irregularity in the ground, or perhaps the shadow ofa cloud, and its apparent permanency of location would have dispelled any fearas to its dangerous character. But was it stationary? Apparently, yes. TheIndians discovered otherwise. By close watching, the long faint line could beseen moving along, as if creeping stealthily upon an unconscious foe. Slowlyit assumed a more definite shape, until what appeared to be a mere stationarydark line drawn upon the green surface of the plain, developed itself to thesearching eyes of the red man into a column of cavalry moving at a rapid gaittoward the very point they were then occupying.

Convinced of this fact, one of the scouts leaped upon his pony and flewwith almost the speed of the wind to impart this knowledge to the chiefs incommand on the plain below. True, the approaching cavalry, being still severalmiles distant, could not arrive for nearly two hours; but the question to beconsidered by the Indians was, whether it would be prudent for them to continuetheir attack on the train—their ponies already becoming exhausted by thethree hours’ hard riding given them—until the arrival of the fresh detachmentof the enemy, whose horses might be in condition favorable to a rapid pursuit,and thereby enable them to overtake those of the Indians whose ponies wereexhausted. Unwilling to incur this new risk, and seeing no prospect of overcomingtheir present adversaries by a sudden or combined dash, the chiefs decidedto withdraw from the attack, and make their escape while the advantagewas yet in their favor.

The surprise of the cavalrymen may be imagined at seeing the Indians, afterpouring a shower of bullets and arrows into the train, withdraw to the bluffs,and immediately after continue their retreat until lost to view.

This victory for the troopers, although so unexpected, was none the lesswelcome. The Indians contrived to carry away with them their killed andwounded. Five of their bravest warriors were known to have been sent to thehappy hunting-ground, while the list of their wounded was much larger.

After the Indians had withdrawn and left the cavalrymen masters of thefield, our wounded, of whom there were comparatively few, received everypossible care and attention. Those of the detachment who had escaped unharmedwere busily engaged in exchanging congratulations and relating incidentsof the fight.

In this manner nearly an hour had been whiled away, when far in the distance,in their immediate front, fresh cause for anxiety was discovered. At firstthe general opinion was that it was the Indians again, determined to contesttheir progress. Field-glasses were again called into requisition, and revealed,not Indians, but the familiar blue blouses of the cavalry. Never was the sightmore welcome. The next moment Colonel Cook, with Comstock and a fewtroopers, applied spurs to their horses and were soon dashing forward to meettheir comrades.

The approaching party was none other than Colonel West’s detachment,hastening to the relief of the train and its gallant little escort. A few wordsexplained all, and told the heroes of the recent fight how it happened that reinforcementswere sent to their assistance; and then was explained why theIndians had so suddenly concluded to abandon their attack and seek safety inquietly withdrawing from the field.



On the morning of the 28th the train, with its escort, returned to the maincamp on the Republican. All were proud of the conduct of those detachmentsof the command which had been brought into actual conflict with theIndians. The heroes of the late fights were congratulated heartily upon theirgood luck, while their comrades who had unavoidably remained in camp consoledthemselves with the hope that the next opportunity might be theirs.

The despatches brought by Major Elliott from General Sherman directedme to continue my march, as had been suggested, up the North Republican,then strike northward and reach the Platte again at some point west of FortSedgwick, near Riverside Station. This programme was carried out. Leavingour camp on the Republican, we marched up the north fork of that riverabout sixty miles, then turned nearly due north, and marched for the valley ofthe Platte.

The only incident connected with this march was the painful journey undera burning July sun, of sixty-five miles, without a drop of water for our horsesor draught animals. This march was necessarily effected in one day, and produceduntold suffering among the poor dumb brutes. Many of the dogs accompanyingthe command died from thirst and exhaustion. When the sunwent down we were still many miles from the Platte. The moon, which wasnearly full at the time, lighted us on our weary way for some time; but eventhis was only an aggravation, as it enabled us from the high bluffs borderingthe Platte valley to see the river flowing beneath us, yet many miles beyondour reach.

Taking Lieutenant Moylan, Dr. Coates, and one attendant with me, andleaving the command under temporary charge of Major Elliott, I pushed on,intending after arriving at the river to select as good camping ground as thedarkness and circ*mstances would permit. We then imagined ourselves withinfour or five miles of the river, so near did it appear to us. Mile after milewas traversed by our tired horses, yet we apparently arrived no nearer ourjourney’s end. At last, at about eleven o’clock, and after having ridden at abrisk rate for nearly fifteen miles, we reached the river bank. Our first actwas to improve the opportunity to quench our thirst and that of our horses.Considering the lateness of the hour, and the distance we had ridden since leavingthe command, it was idle to expect the latter to reach the river before daylight.Nothing was left to us but to bivouac for the night. This we did by selectinga beautiful piece of sward on the river bank for our couch, and takingour saddle blankets for covering and our saddles for pillows. Each of us attachedhis horse by the halter-strap to the hilt of his sabre, then forced thesabre firmly into the ground. Both horses and riders were weary as well ashungry. At first the horses grazed upon the fresh green pasture which grewluxuriantly on the river bank, but fatigue, more powerful than hunger, soonclaimed the mastery, and in a few minutes our little group, horses and men,were wrapped in the sweetest of slumber.

Had we known that the Indians were then engaged in murdering menwithin a few minutes’ ride of where we slept, and that when we awakened inthe morning it would be to still find ourselves away from the command, oursleep would not have been so undisturbed.


Daylight was beginning to make its appearance in the east when our littleparty of slumbering troopers began to arouse themselves. Those unfortunatepersons who have always been accustomed to the easy comforts of civilization,and who have never known what real fatigue or hunger is, cannot realize orappreciate the blissful luxury of a sleep which follows a day’s ride in the saddleof half a hundred miles or more.

Being the first to awake, I rose to a sitting posture and took a hasty surveyof our situation. Within a few feet of us flowed the Platte river. Our group,horses and men, presented an interesting subject for a painter. To my surpriseI discovered that a heavy shower of rain had fallen during the night, butso deep had been our slumber that even the rain had failed to disturb us. Eachone of the party had spread his saddle blanket on the ground to serve as hiscouch, while for covering we had called into requisition the india-rubberponcho or rubber blanket which invariably forms an important part of theplainsman’s outfit. The rain, without awakening any of the party, had arousedthem sufficiently to cause each one to pull his rubber blanket over his face, and,thus protected, he continued his repose. The appearance presented by thissombre-looking group of sleepers strongly reminded me of scenes during thewar when, after a battle, the bodies of the slain had been collected for burial.

But this was no time to indulge in idle reveries. Arousing my comrades,we set about discovering the circ*mstances of our situation. First, the duties ofa hasty toilet were attended to. Nothing, however, could be more simple. Aswe had slept in our clothes, top boots and all, we had so much less to attendto. The river flowing at our feet afforded a lavatory which, if not completein its appointments, was sufficiently grand in its extent to satisfy every want.

It was now becoming sufficiently light to enable us to see indistinctly foralmost a mile in either direction, yet our eyes failed to reveal to us any evidenceof the presence of the command. Here was fresh cause for anxiety, notonly as to our own situation, but as to the whereabouts of the troops. Saddlingup our horses, each person acting as his own groom, we awaited theclearing away of the morning mist to seek the main body. We had not longto wait. The light was soon sufficient to enable us to scan the country withour field-glasses in all directions. Much to our joy we discovered the bivouacof the troops about three miles down the river. A brisk gallop soon placed uswhere we desired to be, and a few words explained how, in the darkness, thecolumn had failed to follow us, but instead had headed for the river at a pointbelow us, a portion not reaching the bank until near morning.

Breakfast disposed of, the next question was to ascertain our exact locationand distance from the nearest telegraph station. Fortunately RiversideStation was near our camp, and from there we ascertained that we were thenabout fifty miles west of Fort Sedgwick. The party obtaining this informationalso learned that the Indians had attacked the nearest stage station westof camp the preceding evening, and killed three men. This station was onlya few minutes’ ride from the point on the river bank where myself and comradeshad passed the night in such fancied security.

Believing that General Sherman must have sent later instructions for me toFort Sedgwick than those last received from him, I sent a telegram to theofficer in command at the fort, making inquiry to that effect. To my surpriseI received a despatch saying that, the day after the departure of Major Elliottand his detachment from Fort Sedgwick with despatches, of which mentionhas been previously made, a second detachment of equal strength, viz., ten71troopers of the Second United States Cavalry, under command of Lieutenant Kidderand guided by a famous Sioux chief Red Bead, had left Fort Sedgwickwith important despatches for me from General Sherman, and that LieutenantKidder had been directed to proceed to my camp near the forks of theRepublican, and failing to find me there he was to follow rapidly on my trailuntil he should overtake my command. I immediately telegraphed to FortSedgwick that nothing had been seen or heard of Lieutenant Kidder’s detachment,and requested a copy of the despatches borne by him to be sent me bytelegraph. This was done; the instructions of General Sherman were for meto march my command, as was at first contemplated, across the country fromthe Platte to the Smoky Hill river, striking the latter at Fort Wallace.Owing to the low state of my supplies, I determined to set out for Fort Wallaceat daylight next morning.

Great anxiety prevailed throughout the command concerning LieutenantKidder and his party. True, he had precisely the same number of men thatcomposed Major Elliott’s detachment when the latter went upon a likemission, but the circ*mstances which would govern in the one case hadchanged when applied to the other. Major Elliott, an officer of experienceand good judgment, had fixed the strength of his escort and performed thejourney before it was positively known that the Indians in that section had enteredupon the war path. Had the attack on the commands of Hamilton,Robbins, and Cook been made prior to Elliott’s departure, the latter wouldhave taken not less than fifty troopers as escort. After an informal interchangeof opinions between the officers of my command regarding the whereaboutsof Lieutenant Kidder and party, we endeavored to satisfy ourselveswith the following explanation. Using the capital letter Y for illustration, letus locate Fort Sedgwick, from which post Lieutenant Kidder was sent withdespatches, at the right upper point of the letter. The camp of my command atthe forks of the Republican would be at the junction of the three branches ofthe letter. Fort Wallace relatively would be at the lower termination, andthe point on the Platte at which my command was located the morning referredto would be at the upper termination of the left branch of the letter.Robbins and Cook, in going with the train to Wallace for supplies, had passedand returned over the lower branch. After their return and that of MajorElliott and his party, my entire command resumed the march for the Platte.We moved for two or three miles out on the heavy wagon trail of Robbins andCook, then suddenly changed our direction to the right. It was supposed thatKidder and his party arrived at our deserted camp at the forks of the Republicanabout nightfall, but finding us gone had determined to avail themselvesof the moonlit night and overtake us before we should break camp next morning.Riding rapidly in the dim light of evening, they had failed to observethe point at which we had diverged from the plainer trail of Robbins and Cook,and instead of following our trail had continued on the former in the directionof Fort Wallace. Such seemed to be a plausible if not the only solution capableof being given.

Anxiety for the fate of Kidder and his party was one of the reasons impellingme to set out promptly on my return. From our camp at the forks of theRepublican to Fort Wallace was about eighty miles—but eighty miles of themost dangerous country infested by Indians. Remembering the terrible contestin which the command of Robbins and Cook had been engaged on thisvery route within a few days, and knowing that the Indians would in all probability72maintain a strict watch over the trail to surprise any small partywhich might venture over it, I felt in the highest degree solicitous for thesafety of Lieutenant Kidder and party. Even if he succeeded in reaching FortWallace unmolested, there was reason to apprehend that, impressed with theimportance of delivering his despatches promptly, he would set out on his returnat once and endeavor to find my command.

Let us leave him and his detachment for a brief interval, and return toevents which were more immediately connected with my command, and whichbear a somewhat tragic as well as personal interest.

In a previous chapter reference has been made to the state of dissatisfactionwhich had made its appearance among the enlisted men. This state offeeling had been principally superinduced by inferior and insufficient rations,a fault for which no one connected with the troops in the field was responsible,but which was chargeable to persons far removed from the theatre of ourmovements, persons connected with the supply departments of the army.Added to this internal source of disquiet, we were then on the main line ofoverland travel to some of our most valuable and lately discovered miningregions. The opportunity to obtain marvellous wages as miners and the prospectof amassing sudden wealth proved a temptation sufficiently strong tomake many of the men forget their sworn obligations to their government andtheir duties as soldiers. Forgetting for the moment that the command towhich they belonged was actually engaged in war, and was in a country infestedwith armed bodies of the enemy, and that the legal penalty of desertionunder such circ*mstances was death, many of the men formed a combinationto desert their colors and escape to the mines.

The first intimation received by any person in authority of the existence ofthis plot, was on the morning fixed for our departure from the Platte. Ordershad been issued the previous evening for the command to march at daylight.Upwards of forty men were reported as having deserted during the night.There was no time to send parties in pursuit, or the capture and return of aportion of them might have been effected.

The command marched southward at daylight. At noon, having marchedfifteen miles, we halted to rest and graze the horses for one hour. The menbelieved that the halt was made for the remainder of the day, and here a planwas perfected among the disaffected by which upwards of one third of the effectivestrength of the command was to seize their horses and arms during thenight and escape to the mountains. Had the conspirators succeeded in puttingthis plan into execution, it would have been difficult to say how seriousthe consequences might be, or whether enough true men would remainto render the march to Fort Wallace practicable. Fortunately it was decidedto continue the march some fifteen miles further before night. The necessaryorders were given and everything was being repacked for the march,when attention was called to thirteen soldiers who were then to be seen rapidlyleaving camp in the direction from which we had marched. Seven ofthese were mounted and were moving off at a rapid gallop; the remaining sixwere dismounted, not having been so fortunate as their fellows in procuringhorses. The entire party were still within sound of the bugle, but no orders bybugle note or otherwise served to check or diminish their flight. The boldnessof this attempt at desertion took every one by surprise. Such an occurrence asunlisted men deserting in broad daylight and under the immediate eyes of theirofficers had never been heard of. With the exception of the horses of the guard73and a few belonging to the officers, all others were still grazing and unsaddled.The officer of the guard was directed to mount his command promptly, and ifpossible overtake the deserters. At the same time those of the officers whosehorses were in readiness were also directed to join in the pursuit and leave noeffort untried to prevent the escape of a single malcontent. In giving eachparty sent in pursuit instructions, there was no limit fixed to the measureswhich they were authorized to adopt in executing their orders. This, unfortunately,was an emergency which involved the safety of the entire command,and required treatment of the most summary character.

It was found impossible to overtake that portion of the party which wasmounted, as it was afterwards learned that they had selected seven of the fleetesthorses in the command. Those on foot, when discovering themselves pursued,increased their speed, but a chase of a couple of miles brought the pursuerswithin hailing distance.

Major Elliott, the senior officer participating in the pursuit, called out tothe deserters to halt and surrender. This command was several times repeated,but without effect. Finally, seeing the hopelessness of further flight, the deserterscame to bay, and to Major Elliott’s renewed demand to throw downtheir arms and surrender, the ringleader drew up his carbine to fire upon hispursuers. This was the signal for the latter to open fire, which they did successfully,bringing down three of the deserters, although two of them wereworse frightened than hurt.

Rejoining the command with their six captive deserters, the pursuing partyreported their inability to overtake those who had deserted on horseback.The march was resumed and continued until near nightfall, by which time wehad placed thirty miles between us and our last camp on the Platte. Whileon the march during the day, a trusty sergeant, one who had served as asoldier long and faithfully, imparted the first information which could be reliedupon as to the plot which had been formed by the malcontents to desertin a body. The following night had been selected as the time for making theattempt. The best horses and arms in the command were to be seized andtaken away. I believed that the summary action adopted during the daywould intimidate any who might still be contemplating desertion, and wasconfident that another day’s march would place us so far in a hostile and dangerouscountry, that the risk of encountering war parties of Indians wouldof itself serve to deter any but large numbers from attempting to make theirway back to the settlements. To bridge the following night in safety was thenext problem. While there was undoubtedly a large proportion of the menwho could be fully relied upon to remain true to their obligations and to renderany support to their officers which might be demanded, yet the great difficultyat this time, owing to the sudden development of the plot, was to determinewho could be trusted.

This difficulty was solved by placing every officer in the command onguard during the entire night. The men were assembled as usual for roll-callat tattoo, and then notified that every man must be in his tent at the signal“taps,” which would be sounded half an hour later; that their company officers,fully armed, would walk the company streets during the entire night, andany man appearing outside the limits of his tent between the hours of “taps”and reveille would do so at the risk of being fired upon after being once hailed.

The night passed without disturbance, and daylight found us in the saddleand pursuing our line of march toward Fort Wallace. It is proper to here74record the fact that from that date onward desertion from that commandduring the continuance of the expedition was never attempted. It may becomenecessary in order “to perfect the record,” borrowing a term from theWar Department, to refer in a subsequent chapter to certain personal and officialevents which resulted partially from the foregoing occurrences.

Let us now turn our attention to Lieutenant Kidder and his detachment.The third night after leaving the Platte my command encamped in the vicinityof our former camp near the forks of the Republican. So far, nothing hadbeen learned which would enable us to form any conclusion regarding theroute taken by Kidder. Comstock, the guide, was frequently appealed to foran opinion which, from his great experience on the Plains, might give ussome encouragement regarding Kidder’s safety. But he was too cautious andcareful a man, both in word and deed, to excite hopes which his reasoningcould not justify. When thus appealed to he would usually give an ominousshake of the head and avoid a direct answer.

On the evening just referred to the officers and Comstock were groupednear headquarters discussing the subject which was then uppermost in themind of every one in camp. Comstock had been quietly listening to thevarious theories and surmises advanced by different members of the group,but was finally pressed to state his ideas as to Kidder’s chances of escapingharm.

“Well, gentlemen,” emphasizing the last syllable as was his manner, “beforea man kin form any ijee as to how this thing is likely to end, thar are severalthings he ort to be acquainted with. For instance, now, no man need tellme any p’ints about Injuns. Ef I know anything, it’s Injuns. I know jest howthey’ll do anything and when they’ll take to do it; but that don’t settle thequestion, and I’ll tell you why. Ef I knowed this young lootenint—I mean LootenintKidder—ef I knowed what for sort of a man he is, I could tell youmighty near to a sartainty all you want to know; for you see Injun huntin’and Injun fightin’ is a trade all by itself, and like any other bizness a man hasto know what he’s about, or ef he don’t he can’t make a livin’ at it. I havelots uv confidence in the fightin’ sense of Red Bead the Sioux chief, who is guidin’the lootenint and his men, and ef that Injun kin have his own way thar is afair show for his guidin’ ’em through all right; but as I sed before, there laysthe difficulty. Is this lootenint the kind of a man who is willin’ to take advice,even ef it does cum from an Injun? My experience with you army folks hasallus bin that the youngsters among ye think they know the most, and this isparticularly true ef they hev just cum from West P’int. Ef some of themyoung fellars knowed half as much as they b’lieve they do, you couldn’t tellthem nothin’. As to rale book-larnin’, why I ’spose they’ve got it all; but thefact uv the matter is, they couldn’t tell the difference twixt the trail of a warparty and one made by a huntin’ party to save their necks. Half uv ’em whenthey first cum here can’t tell a squaw from a buck, just because both ride straddle;but they soon larn. But that’s neither here nor thar. I’m told that thelootenint we’re talkin’ about is a new-comer, and that this is his first scout.Ef that be the case, it puts a mighty onsartain look on the whole thing, andtwixt you and me, gentlemen, he’ll be mighty lucky ef he gits through all right.To-morrow we’ll strike the Wallace trail, and I kin mighty soon tell ef he hasgone that way.”

But little encouragement was to be derived from these expressions. Themorrow would undoubtedly enable us, as Comstock had predicted, to determine75whether or not the lieutenant and his party had missed our trail and taken thatleading to Fort Wallace.

At daylight our column could have been seen stretching out in the directionof the Wallace trail. A march of a few miles brought us to the point of intersection.Comstock and the Delawares had galloped in advance, and wereabout concluding a thorough examination of the various tracks to be seen inthe trail, when the head of the column overtook them. “Well, what do youfind, Comstock?” was my first inquiry. “They’ve gone toward Fort Wallace,sure,” was the reply; and in support of this opinion he added, “The trailshows that twelve American horses, shod all round, have passed at a walk,goin’ in the direction of the fort; and when they went by this p’int they wereall right, because their horses were movin’ along easy, and there are no ponytracks behind ’em, as wouldn’t be the case ef the Injuns had got an eye on’em.” He then remarked, as if in parenthesis, “It would be astonishin’ efthat lootenint and his lay-out gits into the fort without a scrimmage. He may;but ef he does, it will be a scratch ef ever there was one, and I’ll lose my confidencein Injuns.”

The opinion expressed by Comstock as to the chances of Lieutenant Kidderand party making their way to the fort across eighty miles of danger unmolested,was the concurrent opinion of all the officers. And now that we haddiscovered their trail, our interest and anxiety became immeasurably increasedas to their fate. The latter could not remain in doubt much longer, as twodays’ marching would take us to the fort. Alas! we were to solve the mysterywithout waiting so long.

Pursuing our way along the plain, heavy trail made by Robbins and Cook,and directing Comstock and the Delawares to watch closely that we did notlose that of Kidder and his party, we patiently but hopefully awaited furtherdevelopments. How many miles we had thus passed over without incidentworthy of mention, I do not now recall. The sun was high in the heavens,showing that our day’s march was about half completed, when those of us whowere riding at the head of the column discovered a strange-looking object lyingdirectly in our path, and more than a mile distant. It was too large for ahuman being, yet in color and appearance, at that distance, resembled no animalfrequenting the Plains with which any of us were familiar. Eager to determineits character, a dozen or more of our party, including Comstock andsome of the Delawares, galloped in front.

Before riding the full distance the question was determined. The objectseen was the body of a white horse. A closer examination showed that it hadbeen shot within the past few days, while the brand, U.S., proved that it wasa government animal. Major Elliott then remembered that while at FortSedgwick he had seen one company of cavalry mounted upon white horses.These and other circ*mstances went far to convince us that this was one of thehorses belonging to Lieutenant Kidder’s party. In fact there was no room todoubt that this was the case.

Almost the unanimous opinion of the command was that there had been acontest with Indians, and this only the first evidence we should have provingit. When the column reached the point where the slain horse lay, a halt wasordered, to enable Comstock and the Indian scouts to thoroughly examine thesurrounding ground to discover, if possible, any additional evidence, such asempty cartridge shells, arrows, or articles of Indian equipment, showing that afight had taken place. All the horse equipments, saddle, bridle, etc., had been76carried away, but whether by friend or foe could not then be determined.While the preponderance of circ*mstances favored the belief that the horsehad been killed by Indians, there was still room to hope that he had beenkilled by Kidder’s party and the equipments taken away by them; for it frequentlyhappens on a march that a horse will be suddenly taken ill and be unablefor the time being to proceed further. In such a case, rather than abandonhim alive, with a prospect of his recovering and falling into the hands of theIndians to be employed against us, orders are given to kill him, and this mightbe the true way of accounting for the one referred to.

The scouts being unable to throw any additional light upon the question,we continued our march, closely observing the ground as we passed along.Comstock noticed that instead of the trail showing that Kidder’s party wasmoving in regular order, as when at first discovered, there were but two orthree tracks to be seen in the beaten trail, the rest being found on the grass oneither side.

We had marched two miles perhaps from the point where the body of theslain horse had been discovered, when we came upon a second, this one, likethe first, having been killed by a bullet, and all of his equipments taken away.Comstock’s quick eyes were not long in detecting pony tracks in the vicinity,and we had no longer any but the one frightful solution to offer: Kidder andhis party had been discovered by the Indians, probably the same powerful andbloodthirsty band which had been resisted so gallantly by the men under Robbinsand Cook; and against such overwhelming odds the issue could not bedoubtful.

We were then moving over a high and level plateau, unbroken either byravines or divides, and just such a locality as would be usually chosen by theIndians for attacking a party of the strength of Kidder’s. The Indians couldhere ride unobstructed and encircle their victims with a continuous line ofarmed and painted warriors, while the beleaguered party, from the even characterof the surface of the plain, would be unable to find any break or depressionfrom behind which they might make a successful defence. It was probablythis relative condition of affairs which had induced Kidder and his doomedcomrades to endeavor to push on in the hope of finding ground favorable totheir making a stand against their barbarous foes.

The main trail no longer showed the footprints of Kidder’s party, but insteadComstock discovered the tracks of shod horses on the grass, with hereand there numerous tracks of ponies, all by their appearance proving thatboth horses and ponies had been moving at full speed. Kidder’s party musthave trusted their lives temporarily to the speed of their horses—a dangerousventure when contending with Indians. However, this fearful race for lifemust have been most gallantly contested, because we continued our march severalmiles further without discovering any evidence of the savages havinggained any advantage.

How painfully, almost despairingly exciting must have been this ride forlife! A mere handful of brave men struggling to escape the bloody clutchesof the hundreds of red-visaged demons, who, mounted on their well-trainedwar ponies, were straining every nerve and muscle to reek their hands in thelife-blood of their victims. It was not death alone that threatened this littleband. They were not riding simply to preserve life. They rode, and doubtlessprayed as they rode, that they might escape the savage tortures, the worsethan death which threatened them. Would that their prayer had been granted!

My life on the plains (5)


We began leaving the high plateau and to descend into a valley, throughwhich, at the distance of nearly two miles, meandered a small prairie streamknown as Beaver Creek. The valley near the banks of this stream was coveredwith a dense growth of tall wild grass intermingled with clumps of osiers.At the point where the trail crossed the stream, we hoped to obtain more definiteinformation regarding Kidder’s party and their pursuers, but we were notrequired to wait so long. When within a mile of the stream I observed severallarge buzzards floating lazily in circles through the air, and but a short distanceto the left of our trail. This, of itself, might not have attracted my attentionseriously but for the rank stench which pervaded the atmosphere, remindingone of the horrible sensations experienced upon a battle-field whenpassing among the decaying bodies of the dead.

As if impelled by one thought, Comstock, the Delawares, and half-a-dozenofficers, detached themselves from the column and, separating into squads ofone or two, instituted a search for the cause of our horrible suspicions. After ridingin all directions through the rushes and willows, and when about to relinquishthe search as fruitless, one of the Delawares uttered a shout which attractedthe attention of the entire command; at the same time he was seen to leap fromhis horse and assume a stooping posture, as if critically examining some objectof interest. Hastening, in common with many others of the party, to hisside, a sight met our gaze which even at this remote day makes my very bloodcurdle. Lying in irregular order, and within a very limited circle, were themangled bodies of poor Kidder and his party, yet so brutally hacked and disfiguredas to be beyond recognition save as human beings.

Every individual of the party had been scalped and his skull broken—the latterdone by some weapon, probably a tomahawk—except the Sioux chief RedBead, whose scalp had simply been removed from his head and then throwndown by his side. This, Comstock informed us, was in accordance with acustom which prohibits an Indian from bearing off the scalp of one of his owntribe. This circ*mstance, then, told us who the perpetrators of this deed were.They could be none other than the Sioux, led in all probability by PawneeKiller.

Red Bead, being less disfigured and mutilated than the others, was theonly individual capable of being recognized. Even the clothes of all the partyhad been carried away; some of the bodies were lying in beds of ashes, withpartly burned fragments of wood near them, showing that the savages had putsome of them to death by the terrible tortures of fire. The sinews of the armsand legs had been cut away, the nose of every man hacked off, and the featuresotherwise defaced so that it would have been scarcely possible for even a relativeto recognize a single one of the unfortunate victims. We could noteven distinguish the officer from his men. Each body was pierced by fromtwenty to fifty arrows, and the arrows were found as the savage demons hadleft them, bristling in the bodies. While the details of that fearful strugglewill probably never be known, telling how long and gallantly this ill-fatedlittle band contended for their lives, yet the surrounding circ*mstances ofground, empty cartridge shells, and distance from where the attack began,satisfied us that Kidder and his men fought as only brave men fight when thewatchword is victory or death.

As the officer, his men, and his no less faithful Indian guide, had sharedtheir final dangers together and had met the same dreadful fate at the handsof the same merciless foe, it was but fitting that their remains should be consigned78to one common grave. This was accordingly done. A single trenchwas dug near the spot where they had rendered up their lives upon the altarof duty. Silently, mournfully, their comrades of a brother regiment consignedtheir mangled remains to mother earth, there to rest undisturbed, aswe supposed, until the great day of final review. But this was not to be so;while the closest scrutiny on our part had been insufficient to enable us to detectthe slightest evidence which would aid us or others in identifying the bodyof Lieutenant Kidder or any of his men, it will be seen hereafter how themarks of a mother’s thoughtful affection were to be the means of identifyingthe remains of her murdered son, even though months had elapsed after hisuntimely death.



On the evening of the day following that upon which we had consignedthe remains of Lieutenant Kidder and his party to their humble resting-place,the command reached Fort Wallace on the Smoky Hill route. Fromthe occupants of the fort we learned much that was interesting regardingevents which had transpired during our isolation from all points of communication.The Indians had attacked the fort twice within the past few days, inboth of which engagements men were killed on each side. The fighting onour side was principally under the command of Colonel Barnitz, whose forceswere composed of detachments of the Seventh Cavalry. The fighting occurredon the level plain near the fort, where, owing to the favorable character of theground, the Indians had ample opportunity to display their powers both aswarriors and horsem*n. One incident of the fight was related, which, its correctnessbeing vouched for, is worthy of being here repeated. Both partieswere mounted, and the fighting consisted principally of charges and counter-charges,the combatants of both sides becoming at times mingled with eachother. During one of these attacks a bugler boy belonging to the cavalrywas shot from his horse; before any of his comrades could reach him, a powerfullybuilt warrior, superbly mounted on a war pony, was seen to dash at fullspeed toward the spot where the dying bugler lay. Scarcely checking thespeed of his pony, who seemed to divine his rider’s wishes, the warrior graspedthe pony’s mane with one hand and, stooping low as he neared the bugler,seized the latter with the other hand and lifted him from the earth, placinghim across his pony in front of him. Still maintaining the full speed of hispony, he was seen to retain the body of the bugler but a moment, then cast it tothe earth. The Indians being routed soon after and driven from the field,our troops, many of whom had witnessed the strange and daring action ofthe warrior, recovered possession of the dead, when the mystery becamesolved. The bugler had been scalped.

Our arrival at Fort Wallace was most welcome as well as opportune. TheIndians had become so active and numerous that all travel over the SmokyHill route had ceased; stages had been taken off the route, and many of thestage stations had been abandoned by the employees, the latter fearing a repetitionof the Lookout Station massacre. No despatches or mail had been receivedat the fort for a considerable period, so that the occupants might wellhave been considered as undergoing a state of siege. Added to these embarrassments,which were partly unavoidable, an additional and under the circ*mstancesa more frightful danger stared the troops in the face. We were overtwo hundred miles from the terminus of the railroad over which our supplieswere drawn, and a still greater distance from the main dépôts of supplies. Itwas found that the reserve of stores at the post was well-nigh exhausted, andthe commanding officer reported that he knew of no fresh supplies being onthe way. It is difficult to account for such a condition of affairs. Some onemust surely have been at fault; but it is not important here to determine whoor where the parties were. The officer commanding the troops in my absencereported officially to headquarters that the bulk of the provisions issued to hismen consisted of “rotten bacon” and “hard bread” that was “no better.”80Cholera made its appearance among the men, and deaths occurred daily. Thesame officer, in officially commenting upon the character of the provisionsissued to the troops, added: “The low state of vitality in the men, resultingfrom the long confinement to this scanty and unwholesome food, will, I think,account for the great mortality among the cholera cases; ... and I believethat unless we can obtain a more abundant and better supply of rationsthan we have had, it will be impossible to check this fearful epidemic.”

I decided to select upward of a hundred of the best mounted men in mycommand, and with this force open a way through to Fort Harker, a distanceof two hundred miles, where I expected to obtain abundant supplies; fromwhich point the latter could be conducted, well protected against Indians bymy detachment, back to Fort Wallace. Owing to the severe marching of thepast few weeks, the horses of the command were generally in an unfit conditionfor further service without rest. So that after selecting upward of ahundred of the best, the remainder might for the time be regarded as unserviceable;such they were in fact. There was no idea or probability that theportion of the command to remain in camp near Fort Wallace would be calledupon to do anything but rest and recuperate from their late marches. It wascertainly not expected that they would be molested or called out by Indians;nor were they. Regarding the duties to be performed by the picked detachmentas being by far the most important, I chose to accompany it.

The immediate command of the detachment was given to Captain Hamilton,of whom mention has been previously made. He was assisted by two otherofficers. My intention was to push through from Fort Wallace to Fort Hays,a distance of about one hundred and fifty miles, as rapidly as was practicable;then, being beyond the most dangerous portion of the route, to make the remainderof the march to Fort Harker with half a dozen troopers, while CaptainHamilton with his command should follow leisurely. Under this arrangementI hoped to have a train loaded with supplies at Harker, and in readinessto start for Fort Wallace, by the time Captain Hamilton should arrive.

Leaving Fort Wallace about sunset on the evening of the 15th of July, webegan our ride eastward, following the line of the overland stage route. Atthat date the Kansas Pacific Railway was only completed as far westward asFort Harker. Between Forts Wallace and Harker we expected to find thestations of the overland stage company, at intervals of from ten to fifteenmiles. In time of peace these stations are generally occupied by half a dozenemployees of the route, embracing the stablemen and relays of drivers. Theywere well supplied with firearms and ammunition, and every facility for defendingthemselves against Indians. The stables were also the quarters forthe men. They were usually built of stone, and one would naturally thinkthat against Indians no better defensive work would be required. Yet suchwas not the case. The hay and other combustible material usually containedin them enabled the savages, by shooting prepared arrows, to easily set themon fire, and thus drive the occupants out to the open plain, where their fatewould soon be settled. To guard against such an emergency, each stationwas ordinarily provided with what on the Plains is termed a “dug-out.”The name implies the character and description of the work. The “dug-out”was commonly located but a few yards from one of the corners of thestable, and was prepared by excavating the earth so as to form an openingnot unlike a cellar, which was usually about four feet in depth, and sufficientlyroomy to accommodate at close quarters half a dozen persons. This opening81was then covered with earth and loopholed on all sides at a height of a fewinches above the original level of the ground. The earth was thrown on topuntil the “dug-out” resembled an ordinary mound of earth, some four or fivefeet in height. To the outside observer, no means apparently were providedfor egress or ingress; yet such was not the case. If the entrance had beenmade above ground, rendering it necessary for the defenders to pass fromthe stable unprotected to their citadel, the Indians would have posted themselvesaccordingly, and picked them off one by one as they should emergefrom the stable. To provide against this danger, an underground passage wasconstructed in each case, leading from the “dug-out” to the interior of thestable. With these arrangements for defence a few determined men couldwithstand the attacks of an entire tribe of savages. The recent depredationsof the Indians had so demoralized the men at the various stations that manyof the latter were found deserted, their former occupants having joined theirforces with those of other stations. The Indians generally burned the desertedstations.

Marching by night was found to be attended with some disadvantages.The men located at the stations which were still occupied, having no notice ofour coming, and having seen no human beings for several days except the warparties of savages who had attacked them from time to time, were in a chronicstate of alarm, and held themselves in readiness for defence at a moment’snotice. The consequence was, that as we pursued our way in the stillnessof the night, and were not familiar with the location of the various stations,we generally rode into close proximity before discovering them. The stationmen, however, were generally on the alert, and, as they did not wait to challengeus or be challenged, but took it for granted that we were Indians, our firstgreeting would be a bullet whistling over our heads, sometimes followedby a perfect volley from the “dug-out.” In such a case nothing was left forus to do but to withdraw the column to a place of security, and then for oneof our number to creep up stealthily in the darkness to a point within hailingdistance. Even this was an undertaking attended by no little danger, as bythis time the little garrison of the “dug-out” would be thoroughly awake andevery man at his post, his finger on the trigger of his trusty rifle, and strainingboth eye and ear to discover the approach of the hateful redskins, whoalone were believed to be the cause of all this ill-timed disturbance of theirslumbers. Huddled together, as they necessarily would be, in the contractedlimits of their subterranean citadel, and all sounds from without being deadenedand rendered indistinct by the heavy roof of earth and the few aperturesleading to the inside, it is not strange that under the circ*mstances it would bedifficult for the occupants to distinguish between the voice of an Indian andthat of a white man. Such was in fact the case, and no sooner would theofficer sent forward for that purpose hail the little garrison and endeavor toexplain who we were, than, guided by the first sound of his voice, they wouldrespond promptly with their rifles. In some instances we were in this mannerput to considerable delay, and although this was at times most provoking,it was not a little amusing to hear the description given by the partysent forward of how closely he hugged the ground when endeavoring to establishfriendly relations with the stage people. Finally, when successful, andin conversation with the latter, we inquired why they did not recognize usfrom the fact that we hailed them in unbroken English. They replied that theIndians resorted to so many tricks that they had determined not to be caught82even by that one. They were somewhat justified in this idea, as we knewthat among the Indians who were then on the war-path there was at least onefull blood who had been educated within the limits of civilization, graduatedat a popular institution of learning, and only exchanged his civilized mode ofdress for the paint, blanket, and feathers of savage life after he had reachedthe years of manhood. Almost at every station we received intelligence of Indianshaving been seen in the vicinity within a few days of our arrival.

We felt satisfied they were watching our movements, although we saw nofresh signs of Indians until we arrived near Downer’s station. Here, whilestopping to rest our horses for a few minutes, a small party of our men, whohad without authority halted some distance behind, came dashing into ourmidst and reported that twenty-five or thirty Indians had attacked them somefive or six miles in rear, and had killed two of their number. As there was adetachment of infantry guarding the station, and time being important, wepushed on toward our destination. The two men reported killed were left to beburied by the troops on duty at the station. Frequent halts and brief restswere made along our line of march; occasionally we would halt long enoughto indulge in a few hour’s sleep. About three o’clock on the morning of the18th we reached Fort Hays, having marched about one hundred and fiftymiles in fifty-five hours, including all halts. Some may regard this as a rapidrate of marching; in fact, a few officers of the army who themselves havemade many and long marches (principally in ambulances and railroad cars)are of the same opinion. It was far above the usual rate of a leisurely mademarch, but during the same season and with a larger command I marchedsixty miles in fifteen hours. This was officially reported, but occasioned no remark.During the war, and at the time the enemy’s cavalry under GeneralJ.E.B. Stuart made its famous raid around the Army of the Potomac inMaryland, a portion of our cavalry, accompanied by horse artillery, in attemptingto overtake them, marched over ninety miles in twenty-four hours. Ayear subsequent to the events narrated in this chapter I marched a small detachmenteighty miles in seventeen hours, every horse accompanying the detachmentcompleting the march in as fresh condition apparently as when themarch began.

Leaving Hamilton and his command to rest one day at Hays and thento follow on leisurely to Fort Harker, I continued my ride to the latter post,accompanied by Colonels Cook and Custer and two troopers. We reachedFort Harker at two o’clock that night, having made the ride of sixty mileswithout change of animals in less than twelve hours. As this was the first telegraphstation, I immediately sent telegrams to headquarters and to Fort Sedgwick,announcing the fate of Kidder and his party. General A.J. Smith, whowas in command of this military district, had his headquarters at Harker. I atonce reported to him in person, and acquainted him with every incident worthyof mention which had occurred in connection with my command since leavinghim weeks before. Arrangements were made for the arrival of Hamilton’sparty and for a train containing supplies to be sent back under their escort.Having made my report to General Smith as my next superior officer, andthere being no occasion for my presence until the train and escort should be inreadiness to return, I applied for and received authority to visit Fort Riley,about ninety miles east of Harker by rail, where my family was then located.

No movements against Indians of any marked importance occurred in GeneralHanco*ck’s department during the remainder of this year. Extensive preparationshad been made to chastise the Indians, both in this department and in83that of General Augur’s on the north; but about the date at which this narrativehas arrived, a determined struggle between the adherents of the Indian ringand those advocating stringent measures against the hostile tribes, resulted inthe temporary ascendancy of the former. Owing to this ascendancy, the militaryauthorities were so hampered and restricted by instructions from Washingtonas to be practically powerless to inaugurate or execute any decisivemeasures against the Indians. Their orders required them to simply act onthe defensive. It may not be uninteresting to go back to the closing monthof the preceding year. The great event in Indian affairs of that month andyear was the Fort Phil Kearny massacre, which took place within a few milesof the fort bearing that name, and in which a detachment of troops, numberingin all ninety-four persons, were slain, and not one escaped or was spared to tellthe tale. The alleged grievance of the Indians prompting them to this outbreakwas the establishment by the Government of a new road of travelto Montana, and the locating of military posts along this line. Theyclaimed that the building and use of this road would drive all the game out oftheir best hunting-grounds. When once war was determined upon by them,it was conducted with astonishing energy and marked success. Betweenthe 26th of July and the 21st of December of the same year, the Indiansopposing the establishment of this new road were known to have killed ninety-oneenlisted men, five officers, and fifty-eight citizens, besides wounding twentymore and capturing and driving off several hundred head of valuable stock.And during this period of less than six months, they appeared before Fort PhilKearny in hostile array on fifty-one separate occasions, and attacked everytrain and individual attempting to pass over the Montana road. It has beenstated officially that at the three posts established for the defence of the Montanaroad, there were the following reduced amounts of ammunition: Fort C.F. Smith, ten rounds per man; Fort Phil Kearny, forty-five rounds per man,and Fort Reno, thirty rounds per man; and that there were but twelve officerson duty at the three posts, many of the enlisted men of which were raw recruits.The force being small, and the amount of labor necessary in buildingnew posts being very great, but little opportunity could be had for drill or targetpractice. The consequence was, the troops were totally lacking in thenecessary preparation to make a successful fight. As the massacre at FortPhil Kearny was one of the most complete as well as terrible butcheries connectedwith our entire Indian history, some of the details, as subsequently madeevident, are here given.

On the 6th of December the wood train was attacked by Indians about twomiles from the fort. Colonel Fetterman, with about fifty mounted men, wassent to rescue the train. He succeeded in this, but only after a severe fightwith the Indians and after suffering a loss of one officer (Lieutenant Binghamof the cavalry) and one sergeant, who were decoyed from the main body intoan ambuscade. This affair seems to have given the Indians great encouragement,and induced them to form their plans for the extensive massacre whichwas to follow.

On the 21st the wood train was again assailed, and, as before, a party wassent out from the fort to its relief. The relieving party consisted of infantryand cavalry, principally the former, numbering in all ninety-one men withthree officers—Captain Brown of the infantry, Lieutenant Grummond of thecavalry, and Colonel Fetterman of the infantry in command.

Colonel Fetterman sallied forth promptly with his command to the rescueof the train. He moved out rapidly, keeping to the right of the wood road, for84the purpose, as is supposed, of getting in rear of the attacking party. As he advancedacross the Piney a few Indians appeared on his front and flanks, andkept showing themselves just beyond rifle range until they finally disappearedbeyond Lodge Trail ridge. When Colonel Fetterman reached Lodge Trailridge the picket signalled the fort that the Indians had retreated, and that thetrain had moved toward the timber. About noon Colonel Fetterman’s command,having thrown out skirmishers, disappeared over the crest of LodgeTrail ridge; firing at once commenced and was heard distinctly at the fort.From a few scattering shots it increased in rapidity until it became a continuousand rapid fire of musketry. A medical officer was sent from the post tojoin the detachment, but was unable to do so, Indians being encountered onthe way. After the firing had become quite heavy, showing that a severe engagementwas taking place, Colonel Carrington, the commander of the post,sent an officer and about seventy-five men to reinforce Colonel Fetterman’sparty. These reinforcements moved rapidly toward the point from which thesound of firing proceeded. The firing continued to be heard during their advance,diminishing in rapidity and number of shots until they had reached ahigh summit overlooking the battle-field, when one or two shots closed allsound of conflict. From this summit a full view could be obtained of the Penovalley beyond, in which Fetterman’s command was known to be, but not asingle individual of this ill-fated band could be seen. Instead, however, thevalley was seen to be overrun by Indians, estimated to number fully threethousand warriors. Discovering the approach of the reinforcements, the Indiansbeckoned them to come on, but without awaiting their arrival commencedretreating. The troops then advanced to a point where the savages had beenseen collected in a circle, and there found the dead naked bodies of ColonelFetterman, Captain Brown, and about sixty-five of their men. All the bodieslay in a space not exceeding thirty-five feet in diameter. A few Americanhorses lay dead near by, all with their heads toward the fort. This spot was bythe roadside and beyond the summit of a hill rising to the east of Peno creek.The road after ascending this hill follows the ridge for nearly three-quarters of amile, and then descends abruptly to Peno valley. About midway between thepoint where these bodies lay and that where the road begins to descend was thedead body of Lieutenant Grummond; and at the point where the road leaves theridge to descend to the Peno valley were the dead bodies of three citizens and afew of the old, long-tried, and experienced soldiers. Around this little groupwere found a great number of empty cartridge shells; more than fifty were foundnear the body of a citizen who had used a Henry rifle; all going to showhow stubbornly these men had fought, and that they had fought with tellingeffect on their enemies was evidenced by the fact that within a few hundredyards in front of their position ten Indian ponies lay dead, and near by themwere sixty-five pools of dark and clotted blood. Among the records of theIndian Department in Washington there is on file a report of one of the PeaceCommissioners sent to investigate the circ*mstances of this frightful slaughter.Among the conclusions given in this report, it is stated that the Indians weremassed to resist Colonel Fetterman’s advance along Peno creek on both sidesof the road; that Colonel Fetterman formed his advanced lines on the summitof the hill overlooking the creek and valley, with a reserve near where thelarge number of dead bodies lay; that the Indians in large force attacked himvigorously in this position, and were successfully resisted for half an hour ormore; that the command then being short of ammunition and seized with a85panic at this event and the great numerical superiority of the Indians, attemptedto retreat toward the fort; that the mountaineers and old soldiers,who had learned that a movement from Indians in an engagement was equivalentto death, remained in their first position and were killed there; that immediatelyupon the commencement of the retreat the Indians charged uponand surrounded the party, who could not now be formed by their officers andwere immediately killed. Only six men of the whole command were killedby balls, and two of these, Colonel Fetterman and Captain Brown, no doubt inflictedthis death upon themselves, or each other, by their own hands, for bothwere shot through the left temple, and powder was burnt into the skin andflesh about the wound. These officers had often asserted that they would neverbe taken alive by Indians.

The difficulty, as further explained by this commissioner, was that theofficer commanding the Phil Kearny district was furnished no more troops fora state of war than had been provided for a state of profound peace. “In regionswhere all was peace, as at Laramie in November, twelve companies werestationed; while in regions where all was war, as at Phil Kearny, there wereonly five companies allowed.” The same criticism regarding the distributionof troops would be just if applied to a much later date.

The Indians invariably endeavored to conceal their exact losses, but theyacknowledged afterwards to have suffered a loss of twelve killed on the field,sixty severely wounded, several of whom afterwards died, and many otherspermanently maimed. They also lost twelve horses killed outright, and fifty-sixso badly wounded that they died within twenty-four hours.

The intelligence of this massacre was received throughout the country withuniversal horror, and awakened a bitter feeling toward the savage perpetrators.The Government was implored to inaugurate measures looking to theirprompt punishment. This feeling seemed to be shared by all classes. Thefollowing despatch, sent by General Sherman to General Grant, immediatelyupon receipt of the news of the massacre, briefly but characteristically expressesthe views of the Lieutenant-General of the Army.

St. Louis, Dec. 28, 1866.

General: Just arrived in time to attend the funeral of my Adjutant-General, Sawyer. Ihave given general instructions to General Cooke about the Sioux. I do not yet understandhow the massacre of Colonel Fetterman’s party could have been so complete. We mustact with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women,and children. Nothing less will reach the root of the case.

(Signed) W.T. Sherman, Lieutenant-General.

The old trouble between the War and Interior Departments, as to whichshould retain control of the Indian question, was renewed with increased vigor.The Army accused the Indian Department, and justly too, of furnishing theIndians arms and ammunition. Prominent exponents of either side of thequestion were not slow in taking up their pens in advocacy of their respectiveviews. In the succeeding chapter testimony will be offered from those highin authority, now the highest, showing that among those who had given thesubject the most thoughtful attention the opinion was unanimous in favor of the“abolition of the civil Indian agents and licensed traders,” and of the transferof the Indian Bureau from the Interior Department back to the War Department,where it originally belonged.



The winter of 1867–’68 was a period of comparative idleness and quiet, sofar as the troops guarding the military posts on the Plains and frontierwere concerned. The Indians began their periodical depredations against thefrontier settlers and overland emigrants and travellers early in the spring of1868, and continued them with but little interruption or hindrance from anyquarter until late in the summer and fall of that year.

General Sully, an officer of considerable reputation as an Indian fighter,was placed in command of the district of the Upper Arkansas, which embracedthe Kansas frontier and those military posts on the central plains most intimatelyconnected with the hostile tribes. General Sully concentrated a portion of thetroops of his command, consisting of detachments of the Seventh and TenthCavalry and Third Infantry, at points on the Arkansas river, and set on footvarious scouting expeditions, but all to no purpose. The Indians continued asusual not only to elude the military forces directed against them, but to keepup their depredations upon the settlers of the frontier.

Great excitement existed along the border settlements of Kansas and Colorado.The frequent massacres of the frontiersmen and utter destruction oftheir homes created a very bitter feeling on the part of the citizens of Kansastoward the savages, and from the Governor of the State down to its humblestcitizen appeals were made to the authorities of the general government togive protection against the Indians, or else allow the people to take the matterinto their own hands and pursue retaliatory measures against their hereditaryenemies. General Sheridan, then in command of that military department,with headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, was fully alive to the responsibilitiesof his position, and in his usual effective manner set about organizingvictory.

As pretended but not disinterested friends of the Indians frequently acquit thelatter of committing unprovoked attacks on helpless settlers and others, whohave never in the slightest degree injured them, and often deny even thatthe Indians have been guilty of any hostile acts which justify the adoption ofmilitary measures to insure the protection and safety of our frontier settlements,the following tabular statement is here given. This statement is takenfrom official records on file at the headquarters Military Division of the Missouri,and, as it states, gives only those murders and other depredations whichwere officially reported, and the white people mentioned as killed are exclusiveof those slain in warfare. I am particular in giving time, place, etc., ofeach occurrence, so that those who hitherto have believed the Indian to be acreature who could do no wrong may have ample opportunity to judge of thecorrectness of my statements. Many other murders by the Indians duringthis period no doubt occurred, but, occurring as they did over a wide andsparsely settled tract of country, were never reported to the military authorities.



Key to Column Headings:

  • AMurdered.
  • BWounded.
  • CScalped.
  • DScouts Murdered.
  • EWomen outraged.
  • FMen.
  • GWomen.
  • HChildren.
  • IHorses and Mules.
  • JStock Cattle.
  • KHouses attacked, burned, and plundered.
  • LStage Coaches attacked and impeded.
  • MWagon trains attacked and destroyed.
  • NIndians k’d and w’d in these attacks.
F G H I J K. W.
August 10. Saline Valley 4 6
August 12. Settlements on Solomon River 15 2 5 10 5
August 12. On Republican River 2
August 12. Wright’s Camp, near Dodge 2
August 12. Pawnee Forks 132
August 14. Granny Creek, on Republican 1 1 1 1 1
August 22. Sheridan City 12
August 23. Northern Texas 8 300
August 23. Cheyenne Wells 1
August 23. Two Butte Creek 3 25
August 23. Pond Creek and Lake Station 2 1 1
August 23. Bent’s Fort 15 4
August 24. Bent’s Fort 3 1
August 27. Fort Lyon 1
August 27. Cheyenne Wells 1
August 27. Big Spring Station 1a
August 28. Kiowa Station 3 50 1
August 31. Kiowa Creek (near) 200 40 2
September 1. West of Lake Station 2 2 30
September 1. Reed’s Springs 3 3
September 1. Spanish Fort, Texas 4 8 3b 15
September 2. Little Coon Creek 3
September 3. Colorado City 4
September 5. Hugo’s Springs 5 1
Sept. 6 and 7. Colorado Territory 25 20
September 8. Turkey Creek, near Sheridan 2 2 76
September 8. Cimmaron Crossing 17c 12 75 1
September 9. Between Sheridan and Wallace 6 1
September 10. Near Fort Wallace 1
September 11. Lake Creek 81
September 12. Bent’s Old Fort 85 1
September 17. Ella Station 1 1
September 17. Fort Bascom 1 1 30
September 19. Big Timber’s Station 1
September 29. Sharp’s Creek 1 1 1d 1d 1d 1
October 2. Fort Zarah 1 160 1
October 2. Between Larned and Dodge 3 3 50
October 4. Near Fort Dodge 2 1 68
October 4. Asher Creek Settlement 7
October 7. Purgatory Creek 1 38
October 10. Fort Zarah 8
October 13. Brown’s Creek 1
October 6. Sand Creek 1e 1e 1
October 14. Prairie Dog Creek 1 1 26
October 15. Fisher and Yocucy Creeks 4 1 1 1
October 23. Fort Zarah 2 2
October 30. Grinnell Station 1
November 7. Coon Creek 1 1
November 19. Little Coon Creek 1 5
November 19. Fort Dodge 1 2
November 20. Mulberry Creek 2f
November 25. Indian Territory 20 2
JanuaryA Northern TexasC 25 9 14g
FebruaryA Northern TexasC 7 5h 50
MayB Northern TexasC 3
JuneB Northern TexasC 1 3i
JulyB Brazos River, TexasC 4
Total 154 16 41 3 14 1 4 24 669 958 24 11 4 11 1

a This scout was William Comstock.

b One of these three women was outraged by thirteen Indians, who afterward killed andscalped her, leaving a hatchet stuck in her head. They then killed her four little children.

c Fifteen of these persons were burned to death by the Indians, who attacked the train towhich they belonged.

d These persons were Mr. Bassett, his wife, and child. The Indians having plundered andburned Bassett’s house, took the inmates captive; but Mrs. Bassett, being weak and unable totravel, was stripped, and, together with her child (two days old), left on the prairie. Mr. Bassettis supposed to have been murdered.

e Mrs. Blinn and child, afterward murdered by the Indians during Custer’s attack on BlackKettle’s camp.

f These scouts were Marshall and Davis.

g These fourteen children were afterward frozen to death while in captivity.

h Two of these children were given up to Colonel Leavenworth; the remaining three weretaken to Kansas.

i These children belonged to Mr. McIlroy.

A Committed by Kiowa Indians.

B Committed by Comanche Indians.

C Additional murders and outrages committed by Indians, not heretofore enumerated, reportedby P. McCusker, U.S. Interpreter, and S.T. Walkley, Acting Indian Agent.


The mass of the troops being concentrated and employed along the branchesof the Upper Arkansas under General Sully, thus leaving the valleys of theRepublican, Solomon, and Smoky Hill rivers comparatively without troops, andthe valleys of the Upper Republican being, as we have in previous chapterslearned, a favorite resort and camping-ground for the hostile tribes of the upperplains, General Sheridan determined that, while devoting full attention tothe Kiowas, Comanches, Apaches, Arapahoes, and Southern Cheyennes, tobe found south of the Arkansas, he would also keep an eye out for the Sioux,Upper Cheyennes, and Arapahoes, and the “Dog Soldiers,” usually infestingthe valleys of the Upper Republican and Solomon rivers. The “Dog Soldiers”were a band of warriors principally composed of Cheyennes, but made up of theturbulent and uncontrollable spirits of all the tribes. Neither they nor theirleaders had ever consented to the ratification of any of the treaties to which theirbrothers of the other tribes had agreed. Never satisfied except when at warwith the white man, they were by far the most troublesome, daring, and warlikeband to be found on the Plains. Their warriors were all fine-lookingbraves of magnificent physique, and in appearance and demeanor more nearlyconformed to the ideal warrior than those of any other tribe. How theycame by their name, the “Dog Soldiers,” I never was able to learn satisfactorily.One explanation is, that they are principally members of the Cheyenne tribe,and were at first known as the Cheyenne soldiers. The name of the tribe“Cheyenne” was originally Chien, the French word for dog; hence the term“Dog Soldiers.”

To operate effectually against these bands General Sheridan was withoutthe necessary troops. Congress, however, had authorized the employment ofdetachments of frontier scouts to be recruited from among the daring spiritsalways to be met with on the border. It was upon a force raised from thisclass of our western population that General Sheridan relied for material assistance.

Having decided to employ frontiersmen to assist in punishing the Indians,the next question was the selection of a suitable leader. The choice, mostfortunately, fell upon General George A. Forsyth (“Sandy”), then Acting Inspector-Generalof the Department of Missouri, who, eager to render his countryan important service and not loath to share in the danger and excitementattendant upon such an enterprise, set himself energetically to work to raiseand equip his command for the field. But little time was required, underForsyth’s stirring zeal, to raise the required number of men. It was wisely decidedto limit the number of frontiersmen to fifty. This enabled Forsyth tochoose only good men, and the size of the detachment, considering that they wereto move without ordinary transportation—in fact were to almost adopt theIndian style of warfare—was as large as could be without being cumbersome.Last but not least, it was to be composed of men who, from their leaderdown, were intent on accomplishing an important purpose; they were notout on any holiday tour or pleasure excursion. Their object was to find Indians;a difficult matter for a large force to accomplish, because the Indians89are the first to discover their presence and take themselves out of the way;whereas with a small or moderate-sized detachment there is some chance, asForsyth afterwards learned, of finding Indians.

Among all the officers of the army, old or young, no one could have beenfound better adapted to become the leader of an independent expedition, suchas this was proposed to be, than General Forsyth. This is more particularlytrue considering the experiences which awaited this detachment. I had learnedto know him well when we rode together in the Shenandoah valley, sometimesin one direction and sometimes, but rarely, in the other; and afterwards,in the closing struggle around Petersburg and Richmond, when his chief hadbeen told to “press things,” General Forsyth, “Sandy” as his comrades familiarlytermed him, was an important member of the “press.” In fact, one ofthe best terms to describe him by is irrepressible; for, no matter how defeat ordisaster might stare us in the face, and, as I have intimated, cause us to ride“the other” way, “Sandy” always contrived to be of good cheer and to beable to see the coming of a better day. This quality came in good play in theterrible encounter which I am about to describe.

The frontiersmen of the Kansas border, stirred up by numerous massacrescommitted in their midst by the savages, were only too eager and willing tojoin in an enterprise which promised to afford them an opportunity to visitjust punishment upon their enemies.

Thirty selected men were procured at Fort Harker, Kansas, and twentymore at Fort Hays, sixty miles further west. In four days the command wasarmed, mounted, and equipped, and at once took the field. Lieutenant F.H.Beecher, of the Third Regular Infantry, a nephew of the distinguished divineof the same name, and one of the ablest and best young officers on the frontier,was second in command; and a surgeon was found in the person of Dr. JohnS. Movers, of Hays City, Kansas, a most competent man in his profession,and one who had had a large experience during the war of the rebellion assurgeon of one of the volunteer regiments from the State of New York.Sharpe Grover, one of the best guides and scouts the Plains afforded, was theguide of the expedition, while many of the men had at different times servedin the regular and volunteer forces; for example, the man selected to performthe duties of First Sergeant of the detachment was Brevet Brigadier-GeneralW.H.H. McCall, United States Volunteers, who commanded a brigade at thetime the Confederate forces attempted to break the Federal lines at Fort Hell,in front of Petersburg, in the early spring of 1865, and was breveted for gallantryon that occasion. As a general thing the men composing the partywere just the class eminently qualified to encounter the dangers which weresoon to confront them. They were brave, active, hardy, and energetic, and,while they required a tight rein held over them, were when properly handledcapable of accomplishing about all that any equal number of men could dounder the same circ*mstances.

The party left Fort Hayes on the 29th day of August, 1868, and, under specialinstructions from Major-General Sheridan, commanding the department,took a north-westerly course, scouting the country to the north of the Salineriver, crossed the south fork of the Solomon, Bow creek, north fork of theSolomon, Prairie Dog creek, and then well out toward the Republican river,and, swinging around in the direction of Fort Wallace, made that post on theeighth day from their departure. Nothing was met worthy of notice, but therewere frequent indications of large camps of Indians which had evidently beenabandoned only a few days or weeks before the arrival of the command.


Upon arriving at Fort Wallace, General Forsyth communicated with GeneralSheridan and proceeded to refit his command.

On the morning of September 10, a small war party of Indians attacked atrain near Sheridan, a small railroad town some eighty miles beyond Fort Wallace,killed two teamsters and ran off a few cattle. As soon as informationof this reached Fort Wallace, Forsyth started with his command for thetown of Sheridan, where he took the trail of the Indians and followed it untildark. The next morning it was resumed, until the Indians finding themselvesclosely pursued, scattered in many directions and the trail became so obscureas to be lost. Determined, however, to find the Indians this time, if they werein the country, he pushed on to Short Nose creek, hoping to find them in thatvicinity. Carefully scouting in every direction for the trail and still headingnorth as far as the Republican river, the command finally struck the trail ofa small war party on the south bank of that stream, and followed it up to theforks of that river. This is familiar ground perhaps to some of my readers, asit was here Pawnee Killer and his band attacked our camp early one morningin the summer of ’67, and hurried me from my tent without allowing me timeto attend to my toilet. Continuing on the trail and crossing to the north bank,Forsyth found the trail growing constantly larger, as various smaller ones enteredit from the south and north, and finally it developed into a broad andwell-beaten road, along which large droves of cattle and horses had beendriven. This trail led up the Arickaree fork of the Republican river, and constantindications of Indians, in the way of moccasins, jerked buffalo meat, andother articles, were found every few miles, but no Indians were seen. On theevening of the eighth day from Fort Wallace, the command halted about fiveo’clock in the afternoon and went into camp at or near a little island in theriver, a mere sand-spit of earth formed by the stream dividing at a little rift ofearth that was rather more gravelly than the sand in its immediate vicinity,and coming together again about a hundred yards further down the stream,which just here was about eight feet wide and two or three inches deep.

The watercourses in this part of the country in the dry season are merethreads of water meandering along the broad sandy bed of the river, whichduring the months of May and June is generally full to its banks, and at thattime capable of floating an ordinary ship, while later in the season there is notenough water to float the smallest row-boat. In fact, in many places the streamsinks into the sand and disappears for a considerable distance, finally makingits way up to the surface and flowing on until it again disappears and reappearsmany times in the course of a long day’s journey.

Encamping upon the bank of the stream at this point—which at that timewas supposed by the party to be Delaware creek, but which was afterwardsdiscovered to be Arickaree fork of the Republican river—the command madethe usual preparations for passing the night. This point was but a few marchesfrom the scene of Kidder’s massacre. Having already been out from FortWallace eight days, and not taking wagons with them, their supplies began torun low, although they had been husbanded with great care. During the lastthree days game had been very scarce, which fact convinced Forsyth and hisparty that the Indians whose trail they were following had scoured the countryand driven off every kind of game by their hunting parties. The followingday would see the command out of supplies of all kinds; but feeling assured thathe was within striking distance of the Indians, Forsyth determined to push onuntil he found them, and fight them even if he could not whip them, in order91that they might realize that their rendezvous was discovered, and that theGovernment was at last in earnest when it said that they were to be punishedfor their depredations on the settlements.

After posting their pickets and partaking of the plainest of suppers, Forsyth’slittle party disposed of themselves on the ground to sleep, little dreamingwho was to sound their reveille in so unceremonious a manner.

At dawn on the following day, September 17, 1868, the guard gave thealarm “Indians.” Instantly every man sprang to his feet and, with the trueinstinct of the frontiersman, grasped his rifle with one hand while with theother he seized his lariat, that the Indians might not stampede the horses.Six Indians dashed up toward the party, rattling bells, shaking buffalo robes,and firing their guns. The four pack mules belonging to the party broke awayand were last seen galloping over the hills. Three other animals made theirescape, as they had only been hobbled, in direct violation of the orders whichdirected that all the animals of the command should be regularly picketed toa stake or picket-pin, firmly driven into the ground. A few shots caused theIndians to sheer off and disappear in a gallop over the hills. Several of themen started in pursuit, but were instantly ordered to rejoin the command,which was ordered to saddle up with all possible haste, Forsyth feeling satisfiedthat the attempt to stampede the stock was but the prelude to a generaland more determined attack. Scarcely were the saddles thrown on thehorses and the girths tightened, when Grover, the guide, placing his hand onForsyth’s shoulder, gave vent to his astonishment as follows: “O heavens,General, look at the Indians!” Well might he be excited. From every directionthey dashed toward the band. Over the hills, from the west and north,along the river, on the opposite bank, everywhere and in every direction theymade their appearance. Finely mounted, in full war paint, their long scalplocks braided with eagles’ feathers, and with all the paraphernalia of a barbarouswar party—with wild whoops and exultant shouts, on they came.

There was but one thing to do. Realizing that they had fallen into a trap,Forsyth, who had faced danger too often to hesitate in an emergency, determinedthat if it came to a Fort Fetterman affair, described in a preceding chapter,he should at least make the enemy bear their share of the loss. He orderedhis men to lead their horses to the island, tie them to the few bushes thatwere growing there in a circle, throw themselves upon the ground in the sameform, and make the best fight they could for their lives. In less time than ittakes to pen these words, the order was put into execution. Three of the bestshots in the party took position in the grass under the bank of the river whichcovered the north end of the island; the others formed a circle inside of theline of animals, and throwing themselves upon the ground began to reply tothe fire of the Indians, which soon became hot and galling in the extreme.Throwing themselves from their horses, the Indians crawled up to within ashort distance of the island, and opened a steady and well-directed fire uponthe party. Armed with the best quality of guns, many of them having thelatest pattern breech-loaders with fixed ammunition (as proof of this manythousand empty shells of Spencer and Henry rifle ammunition were found onthe ground occupied by the Indians after the fight), they soon made sad havocamong the men and horses. As it grew lighter, and the Indians could bedistinguished, Grover expressed the greatest astonishment at the number ofwarriors, which he placed at nearly one thousand. Other members of the partyestimated them at even a greater number. Forsyth expressed the opinion that92there could not be more than four or five hundred, but in this it seems he wasmistaken, as some of the Brulés, Sioux, and Cheyennes have since told him thattheir war party was nearly nine hundred strong, and was composed of Brulés,Sioux, Cheyennes, and Dog Soldiers; furthermore, that they had been watchinghim for five days previous to their attack, and had called in all the warriorsthey could get to their assistance. The men of Forsyth’s party began coveringthemselves at once, by using case and pocket knives in the gravelly sand, andsoon had thrown up quite a little earthwork consisting of detached moundsin the form of a circle. About this time Forsyth was wounded by a Miniéball, which, striking him in the right thigh, ranged upward, inflicting an exceedinglypainful wound. Two of his men had been killed, and a number ofothers wounded. Leaning over to give directions to some of his men, whowere firing too rapidly, and in fact becoming a little too nervous for their owngood, Forsyth was again wounded, this time in the left leg, the ball breakingand badly shattering the bone midway between the knee and ankle. Aboutthe same time Dr. Movers, the surgeon of the party, who, owing to the hot fireof the Indians, was unable to render surgical aid to his wounded comrades,had seized his trusty rifle and was doing capital service, was hit in the templeby a bullet, and never spoke but one intelligible word again.

Matters were now becoming desperate, and nothing but cool, steady fightingwould avail to mend them. The hills surrounding the immediate vicinityof the fight were filled with women and children, who were chanting war songsand filling the air with whoops and yells. The medicine men, a sort of highpriests, and older warriors rode around outside of the combatants, being carefulto keep out of range, and encouraged their young braves by beating adrum, shouting Indian chants, and using derisive words toward their adversaries,whom they cursed roundly for skulking like wolves, and dared to come outand fight like men.

Meantime the scouts were slowly but surely “counting game,” and morethan one Indian fell to the rear badly wounded by the rifles of the frontiersmen.Within an hour after the opening of the fight, the Indians were fairly frothingat the mouth with rage at the unexpected resistance they met, while the scoutshad now settled down to earnest work, and obeyed to the letter the orders ofForsyth, whose oft reiterated command was, “Fire slowly, aim well, keepyourselves covered, and, above all, don’t throw away a single cartridge.”

Taken all in all, with a very few exceptions, the men behaved superbly.Obedient to every word of command, cool, plucky, determined, and fully realizingthe character of their foes, they were a match for their enemies thus farat every point. About nine o’clock in the morning the last horse belonging tothe scouts was killed, and one of the red skins was heard to exclaim in tolerablygood English, “There goes the last damned horse anyhow;” a proof thatsome of the savages had at some time been intimate with the whites.

Shortly after nine o’clock a portion of the Indians began to form in a ravinejust below the foot of the island, and soon about one hundred and twentyDog Soldiers, the “banditti of the Plains,” supported by some three hundredor more other mounted men, made their appearance, drawn up just beyondrifle shot below the island, and headed by the famous chief “Roman Nose,”prepared to charge the scouts. Superbly mounted, almost naked, although infull war dress, and painted in the most hideous manner, with their rifles intheir hands, and formed with a front of about sixty men, they awaited the signalof their chief to charge, with apparently the greatest confidence. Roman93Nose addressed a few words to the mounted warriors, and almost immediatelyafterward the dismounted Indians surrounding the island poured a perfectshower of bullets into the midst of Forsyth’s little party. Realizing that a crisiswas at hand, and hot work was before him, Forsyth told his men to reloadevery rifle and to take and load the rifles of the killed and wounded of the party,and not to fire a shot until ordered to do so.

For a few moments the galling fire of the Indians rendered it impossible forany of the scouts to raise or expose any part of their persons. This was preciselythe effect which the Indians desired to produce by the fire of their riflemen.It was this that the mounted warriors, under the leadership of RomanNose, were waiting for. The Indians had planned their assault in a mannervery similar to that usually adopted by civilized troops in assailing a fortifiedplace. The fire of the Indian riflemen performed the part of the artillery onsuch occasions, in silencing the fire of the besieged and preparing the way forthe assaulting column.

Seeing that the little garrison was stunned by the heavy fire of the dismountedIndians, and rightly judging that now, if ever, was the proper timeto charge them, Roman Nose and his band of mounted warriors, with a wild,ringing war-whoop, echoed by the women and children on the hills, startedforward. On they came, presenting even to the brave men awaiting thecharge a most superb sight. Brandishing their guns, echoing back the criesof encouragement of their women and children on the surrounding hills, andconfident of victory, they rode bravely and recklessly to the assault. Soonthey were within the range of the rifles of their friends, and of course thedismounted Indians had to slacken their fire for fear of hitting their own warriors.This was the opportunity for the scouts, and they were not slow toseize it. “Now,” shouted Forsyth. “Now,” echoed Beecher, McCall, andGrover; and the scouts, springing to their knees, and casting their eyes coollyalong the barrels of their rifles, opened on the advancing savages as deadly afire as the same number of men ever yet sent forth from an equal number ofrifles. Unchecked, undaunted, on dashed the warriors; steadily rang the clear,sharp reports of the rifles of the frontiersmen. Roman Nose, the chief, is seen tofall dead from his horse, then Medicine Man is killed, and for an instant thecolumn of braves, now within ten feet of the scouts, hesitates—falters. Aringing cheer from the scouts, who perceive the effect of their well-directedfire, and the Indians begin to break and scatter in every direction, unwilling torush to a hand-to-hand struggle with the men who, although outnumbered, yetknew how to make such effective use of their rifles. A few more shots fromthe frontiersmen and the Indians are forced back beyond range, and their firstattack ends in defeat. Forsyth turns to Grover anxiously and inquires, “Canthey do better than that, Grover?” “I have been on the Plains, General,since a boy, and never saw such a charge as that before. I think they havedone their level best,” was the reply. “All right,” responds “Sandy”; “thenwe are good for them.”

So close did the advance warriors of the attacking column come in thecharge, that several of their dead bodies now lay within a few feet of the intrenchments.The scouts had also suffered a heavy loss in this attack. Thegreatest and most irreparable was that of Lieutenant Beecher, who was mortallywounded, and died at sunset of that day. He was one of the most reliableand efficient officers doing duty on the Plains. Modest, energetic, andambitious in his profession, had he lived he undoubtedly would have had a brilliantfuture before him, and had opportunity such as is offered by a great94war ever have occurred, Lieutenant Beecher would have without doubt achievedgreat distinction.

The Indians still kept up a continuous fire from their dismounted warriors;but as the scouts by this time were well covered by their miniature earthworks,it did little execution. At two o’clock in the afternoon the savagesagain attempted to carry the island by a mounted charge, and again at sunset;but having been deprived of their best and most fearless leader by thefall of Roman Nose, they were not so daring or impulsive as in the first charge,and were both times repulsed with heavy losses. At dark they ceased firing,and withdrew their forces for the night. This gave the little garrison on theisland an opportunity to take a breathing spell, and Forsyth to review the situationand sum up how he had fared. The result was not consoling. His trustedLieutenant Beecher was lying dead by his side; his surgeon, Movers, was mortallywounded; two of his men killed, four mortally wounded, four severely,and ten slightly. Here, out of a total of fifty-one were twenty-three killed andwounded. His own condition, his right thigh fearfully lacerated, and his leftleg badly broken, only rendered the other discouraging circ*mstances doublyso. As before stated, the Indians had killed all of his horses early in thefight. His supplies were exhausted, and there was no way of dressing thewounds of himself or comrades, as the medical stores had been captured bythe Indians. He was about one hundred and ten miles from the nearest post,and savages were all around him. The outlook could scarcely have been lesscheering. But Forsyth’s disposition and pluck incline him to speculate moreupon that which is, or may be gained, than to repine at that which is irrevocablylost. This predominant trait in his character now came in good play. Insteadof wasting time in vain regrets over the advantages gained by his enemies,he quietly set about looking up the chances in his favor. And, let thesubject be what it may, I will match “Sandy” “against an equal number” formaking a favorable showing of the side which he espouses or advocates. Tohis credit account he congratulated himself and comrades, first upon the factthat they had beaten off their foes; second, water could be had inside theirintrenchments by digging a few feet below the surface; then for food “horseand mule meat,” to use Sandy’s expression, “was lying around loose in anyquantity;” and last, but most important of all, he had plenty of ammunition.Upon these circ*mstances and facts Forsyth built high hopes of successfullycontending against any renewed assaults of the savages.

Two men, Trudeau and Stillwell, both good scouts, and familiar with thePlains, were selected to endeavor to make their way through the cordon of Indiansand proceed to Fort Wallace, one hundred and ten miles distant, and reportthe condition of Forsyth and party, and act as guides to the troops whichwould be at once sent to the relief of the besieged scouts. It was a perilousmission, and called for the display of intrepid daring, cool judgment, and unflinchingresolution, besides a thorough knowledge of the country, as much oftheir journey would necessarily be made during the darkness of night, toavoid discovery by wandering bands of Indians, who, no doubt, would be onthe alert to intercept just such parties going for relief. Forsyth’s selection ofthe two men named was a judicious one. Stillwell I afterwards knew well,having employed him as scout with my command for a long period. At thetime referred to, however, he was a mere beardless boy of perhaps nineteenyears, possessing a trim, lithe figure, which was set off to great advantage bythe jaunty suit of buckskin which he wore, cut and fringed according to the95true style of the frontiersman. In his waist-belt he carried a large-sized revolverand a hunting knife. These, with his rifle, constituted his equipment. Acapital shot whether afoot or on horseback, and a perfect horseman, this beardlessboy on more than one occasion proved himself a dangerous foe to the wilyred man. We shall not take final leave of Stillwell in this chapter.

These two men, Trudeau and Stillwell, after receiving Forsyth’s instructionsin regard to their dangerous errand, and being provided with his compassand map, started as soon as it was sufficiently dark on their long, wearytramp over a wild, desert country, thickly infested with deadly enemies. Aftertheir departure the wounded were brought in, the dead animals unsaddled, andthe horse blankets used to make the wounded as comfortable as possible. Theearthworks were strengthened by using the dead animals and saddles. A wellwas dug inside the intrenchments, and large quantities of horse and mule meatwere cut off and buried in the sand to prevent it from putrefying. It began torain, and the wounded were rendered less feverish by their involuntary butwelcome bath.

As was expected, the night passed without incident or disturbance from thesavages; but early the next morning the fight was renewed by the Indiansagain surrounding the island as before, and opening fire from the rifles of theirdismounted warriors. They did not attempt to charge the island as they haddone the previous day, when their attempts in this direction had cost them toodearly; but they were none the less determined and eager to overpower thelittle band which had been the cause of such heavy loss to them already. Thescouts, thanks to their efforts during the night, were now well protected, andsuffered but little from the fire of the Indians, while the latter, being more exposed,paid the penalty whenever affording the scouts a chance with theirrifles. The day was spent without any decided demonstration on the part ofthe red men, except to keep up as constant a fire as possible on the scouts, andto endeavor to provoke the latter to reply as often as possible, the object, nodoubt, being to induce the frontiersmen to exhaust their supply of ammunition.But they were not to be led into this trap; each cartridge they estimated asworth to them one Indian, and nothing less would satisfy them.

On the night of the 18th two more men were selected to proceed to FortWallace, as it was not known whether Trudeau and Stillwell had made theirway safely through the Indian lines or not. The last two selected, however,failed to elude the watchful eyes of the Indians, and were driven back to theisland. This placed a gloomy look upon the probable fate of Trudeau andStillwell, and left the little garrison in anxious doubt not only as to the safetyof the two daring messengers, but as to their own final relief. On the morningof the 19th the Indians promptly renewed the conflict, but with less energythan before. They evidently did not desire or intend to come to close quartersagain with their less numerous but more determined antagonists, but aimed ason the previous day to provoke a harmless fire from the scouts, and then, afterexhausting their ammunition in this manner, overwhelm them by mass ofnumbers, and finish them with tomahawk and scalping knife. This style oftactics did not operate as desired. There is but little doubt that some ofthe Indians who had participated in the massacre of Fetterman and his partya few months before, when three officers and ninety-one men were killed outright,were also present and took part in the attack upon Forsyth and hisparty; and they must have been not a little surprised to witness the stubborndefence offered by this little party, which, even at the beginning, numbered butlittle over fifty men.


About noon the women and children, who had been constant and excitedspectators of the fight from the neighboring hilltops, began to withdraw. It israre indeed that in an attack by Indians their women and children are seen.They are usually sent to a place of safety until the result of the contest isknown, but in this instance, with the overwhelming numbers of the savages andthe recollection of the massacre of Fetterman and his party, there seemed tothe Indians to be but one result to be expected, and that a complete, perhapsbloodless victory for them; and the women and children were permitted togather as witnesses of their triumph, and perhaps at the close would be allowedto take part by torturing those of the white men who should be taken alive.The withdrawal of the women and children was regarded as a favorable signby the scouts.

Soon after and as a last resort the Indians endeavored to hold a parley withForsyth, by means of a white flag; but this device was too shallow and of toocommon adoption to entrap the frontiersman, the object simply being to accomplishby stratagem and perfidy what they had failed in by superior numbersand open warfare. Everything now seemed to indicate that the Indians hadhad enough of the fight, and during the night of the third day it was plainlyevident that they had about decided to withdraw from the contest.

Forsyth now wrote the following despatch, and after nightfall confided it totwo of his best men, Donovan and Plyley; and they, notwithstanding the discouragingresult of the last attempt, set out to try and get through to Fort Wallacewith it, which they successfully accomplished:

On Delaware Creek, Republican River, Sept. 19, 1868.

To Colonel Bankhead, or Commanding Officer, Fort Wallace.

I sent you two messengers on the night of the 17th instant, informing you of my critical condition.I tried to send two more last night, but they did not succeed in passing the Indian pickets,and returned. If the others have not arrived, then hasten at once to my assistance. I have eightbadly wounded and ten slightly wounded men to take in, and every animal I had was killed saveseven which the Indians stampeded. Lieutenant Beecher is dead, and Acting Assistant SurgeonMovers probably cannot live the night out. He was hit in the head Thursday, and has spoken butone rational word since. I am wounded in two places, in the right thigh and my left leg brokenbelow the knee. The Cheyennes numbered 450 or more. Mr. Grover says they never fought so before.They were splendidly armed with Spencer and Henry rifles. We killed at least thirty-five ofthem and wounded many more, besides killing and wounding a quantity of their stock. They carriedoff most of their killed during the night, but three of their men fell into our hands. I am on alittle island and have still plenty of ammunition left. We are living on mule and horse meat, andare entirely out of rations. If it was not for so many wounded, I would come in and take thechances of whipping them if attacked. They are evidently sick of their bargain.

I had two of the members of my company killed on the 17th, namely, William Wilson andGeorge W. Calner. You had better start with not less than seventy-five men and bring all thewagons and ambulances you can spare. Bring a six-pound howitzer with you. I can hold outhere for six days longer, if absolutely necessary, but please lose no time.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
(Signed) George A. Forsyth,
U.S. Army. Commanding Co. Scouts

P.S. My surgeon having been mortally wounded, none of my wounded have had their woundsdressed yet, so please bring out a surgeon with you.

A small party of warriors remained in the vicinity watching the movementsof the scouts; the main body, however, had departed.

The well men, relieved of the constant watching and fighting, were now ableto give some attention to the wounded. Their injuries, which had grown verypainful, were rudely dressed. Soup was made out of horse-flesh, and shelterswere constructed protecting them from the heat, damp, and wind. On thesixth day the wounds of the men began to exhibit more decided and alarmingsigns of neglect. Maggots infested them and the first traces of gangrene97had set in. To multiply the discomforts of their situation, the entire partywas almost overpowered by the intolerable stench created by the decomposingbodies of the dead horses. Their supply was nearly exhausted. Under thesetrying circ*mstances Forsyth assembled his men. He told them “they knewtheir situation as well as he. There were those who were helpless, but aidmust not be expected too soon. It might be difficult for the messengers toreach the fort, or there might be some delay by their losing their way. Thosewho wished to go should do so and leave the rest to take their chances.” Withone voice they resolved to stay, and, if all hope vanished, to die together.

At last the supply of jerked horse meat was exhausted, and the chances ofgetting more were gone. By this time the carcasses of the animals were amass of corruption. There was no alternative—strips of putrid flesh were cutand eaten. The effect of this offensive diet was nauseating in the extreme.An experiment was made, with a view to improving the unpalatable flesh, ofusing gunpowder as salt, but to no purpose. The men allayed only their extremecravings of hunger, trusting that succor might reach them before allwas over.

On the morning of September 25, the sun rose upon Forsyth and his famishedparty with unusual splendor, and the bright colors of the morning horizonseemed like a rainbow of promise to their weary, longing spirits. Hope,grown faint with long waiting, gathered renewed strength from the brightnessof nature. The solitary plain receding in all directions possessed a deeperinterest than ever before, though it still showed no signs of life and presentedthe same monotonous expanse upon which the heroic band had gazed for somany trying days. Across the dim and indefinable distance which swept inall directions, the eye often wandered and wondered what might be the revelationsof the next moment. Suddenly several dark figures appeared faintly onthe horizon. The objects were moving. The question uppermost in the mindsof all was, Are they savages or messengers of relief? As on such occasionsof anxiety and suspense, time wore heavily, minutes seemed like hours, yeteach moment brought the sufferers nearer the realization whether this wastheir doom or their escape therefrom. Over an hour had elapsed since the objectsfirst came in sight, and yet the mystery remained unsolved. Slowly butsurely they developed themselves, until finally they had approached sufficientlynear for their character as friends or foes to be unmistakably established. Tothe joy of the weary watchers, the parties approaching proved to be troops;relief was at hand, the dangers and anxieties of the past few days were ended,and death either by starvation or torture at the hands of the savages no longerstared them in the face. The strong set up a shout such as men seldom utter.It was the unburdening of the heart of the weight of despair. The woundedlifted their fevered forms and fixed their glaring eyes upon the now rapidlyapproaching succor, and in their delirium involuntarily but feebly reiteratedthe acclamations of their comrades.

The troops arriving for their relief were a detachment from Fort Wallaceunder command of Colonel Carpenter of the regular cavalry, and had startedfrom the fort promptly upon the arrival of Trudeau and Stillwell with intelligenceof the condition and peril in which Forsyth and his party were.

When Colonel Carpenter and his men reached the island they found its defendersin a most pitiable condition, yet the survivors were determined to beplucky to the last. Forsyth himself, with rather indifferent success, affected tobe reading an old novel that he had discovered in a saddlebag; but Colonel98Carpenter said his voice was a little unsteady and his eyes somewhat dimwhen he held out his hand to Carpenter and bade him welcome to “Beecher’sIsland,” a name that has since been given to the battle-ground.

During the fight Forsyth counted thirty-two dead Indians within rifle rangeof the island. Twelve Indian bodies were subsequently discovered in one pit,and five in another. The Indians themselves confessed to a loss of seventy-fivekilled in action, and when their proclivity for concealing or diminishing thenumber of their slain in battle is considered, we can readily believe that theiractual loss in this fight must have been much greater than they would have usbelieve.

Of the scouts, Lieutenant Beecher, Surgeon Movers, and six of the menwere either killed outright or died of their wounds; eight more were disabledfor life; of the remaining twelve who were wounded, nearly all recoveredcompletely. During the fight innumerable interesting incidents occurred,some laughable and some serious. On the first day of the conflict a numberof young Indian boys from fifteen to eighteen years of age crawled up and shotabout fifty arrows into the circle in which the scouts lay. One of these arrowsstruck one of the men, Frank Herrington, full in the forehead. Not beingable to pull it out, one of his companions, lying in the same hole with him, cutoff the arrow with his knife, leaving the iron arrowhead sticking in his frontalbone; in a moment a bullet struck him in the side of the head, glanced acrosshis forehead, impinged upon the arrowhead, and the two fastened together fellto the ground—a queer but successful piece of amateur surgery. Herringtonwrapped a cloth around his head, which bled profusely, and continued fightingas if nothing had happened.

Howard Morton, another of the scouts, was struck in the head by a bullet,which finally lodged in the rear of one of his eyes, completely destroying itssight forever; but Morton never faltered, but fought bravely until the savagesfinally withdrew. Hudson Farley, a young stripling of only eighteen, whosefather was mortally wounded in the first day’s fight, was shot through theshoulder, yet never mentioned the fact until dark, when the list of wounded wascalled for. McCall, the First Sergeant, Vilott, Clark, Farley the elder, andothers who were wounded, continued to bear their full share of the fight, notwithstandingtheir great sufferings, until the Indians finally gave up and withdrew.These incidents, of which many similar ones might be told, only go toshow the remarkable character of the men who composed Forsyth’s party.

Considering this engagement in all its details and with all its attendant circ*mstances,remembering that Forsyth’s party, including himself, numbered alltold but fifty-one men, and that the Indians numbered about seventeen to one, thisfight was one of the most remarkable and at the same time successful contests inwhich our forces on the Plains have ever been engaged; and the whole affair,from the moment the first shot was fired until the beleaguered party was finallyrelieved by Colonel Carpenter’s command, was a wonderful exhibition of daringcourage, stubborn bravery, and heroic endurance, under circ*mstances ofgreatest peril and exposure. In all probability there will never occur, in ourfuture hostilities with the savage tribes of the West, a struggle the equal ofthat in which were engaged the heroic men who defended so bravely “Beecher’sisland.” Forsyth, the gallant leader, after a long period of suffering andleading the life of an invalid for nearly two years, finally recovered from theeffects of his severe wounds, and is now, I am happy to say, as good as new,contentedly awaiting the next war to give him renewed excitement.



The winter of 1867–68 found me comfortably quartered at Fort Leavenworth,Kansas, on the banks of the Missouri. A considerable portionof my regiment had been ordered to locate at that post in the fall, and makethat their winter quarters. General Sheridan, then commanding that militarydepartment, had also established his headquarters there, so that the post becamemore than ever the favorite military station in the West. I had not beenon duty with my regiment since my rapid ride from Fort Wallace to Fort Harkerin July, nor was I destined to serve with it in the field for some time tocome. This, at the time, seemed a great deprivation to me, but subsequentevents proved most conclusively that it was all for the best, and the resultcould not have been to me more satisfactory than it was, showing as it did thatthe best laid plans of mice and men, etc. But I am anticipating.

Those who have read the tabulated list of depredations committed by theIndians, as given in the article describing General Forsyth’s desperate fight onArickaree Fork, may have noticed the name of William Comstock in the columnof killed. Comstock was the favorite and best known scout on the centralplains. Frequent reference has been made to him in preceding numbers,particularly in the description of the attack of the Indians on the detachmentcommanded by Robbins and Cook. Strange as it may seem, when his thoroughknowledge of the Indian character is considered, he fell a victim to theirtreachery and barbarity. The Indians were encamped with their village notfar from Big Spring station, in western Kansas, and were professedly at peace.Still, no one familiar with the deceit and bad faith invariably practised by theIndians when free to follow the bent of their inclinations, ought to havethought of trusting themselves in their power. Yet Comstock, with all hisprevious knowledge and experience, did that which he would certainly havedisapproved in others. He left the camp of the troops, which was but a fewmiles from the Indian village, and with but a single companion rode to thelatter, and spent several hours in friendly conversation with the chiefs. Nothingoccurred during their visit to excite suspicion. The Indians assumed a mostpeaceable bearing toward them, and were profuse in their demonstrations offriendship. When the time came for Comstock and his comrade to take theirdeparture, they were urged by the Indians to remain and spend the night inthe village.

The invitation was declined, and after the usual salutations the two whitemen mounted their horses and set out to return to their camp. Comstock alwayscarried in his belt a beautiful white-handled revolver, and wore it on thisoccasion. This had often attracted the covetous eyes of the savages, and whilein the village propositions to barter for it had been made by more than one ofthe warriors. Comstock invariably refused all offers to exchange it, no matterhow tempting. Months before, when riding together at the head of thecolumn, in pursuit of Indians, Comstock, who had observed that I carried arevolver closely resembling his, remarked that I ought to have the pair, andthen laughingly added that he would carry his until we found the Indians, andafter giving them a sound whipping he would present me the revolver. Frequentlyduring the campaign, when on the march and while sitting around theevening camp fire, Comstock would refer to his promise concerning the revolver.100After hunting Indians all summer, but never finding them just when wedesired them, Comstock was not unfrequently joked upon the conditions underwhich he was to part with his revolver, and fears were expressed that if hecarried it until we caught and whipped the Indians, he might be forced to goarmed for a long time. None of us imagined then that the revolver which wasso often the subject of jest, and of which Comstock was so proud, would bethe pretext for his massacre.

Comstock and his companion rode out of the village in the direction of theirown camp, totally unconscious of coming danger, and least of all from thosewhose guests they had just been. They had proceeded about a mile from thevillage when they observed about a dozen of the young warriors galloping afterthem. Still suspecting no unfriendly design, they continued their ride untiljoined by the young warriors. The entire party then rode in company until,as was afterward apparent, the Indians succeeded in separating the two whitemen, the one riding in front, the other, Comstock, following in rear, each withIndians riding on either side of them. At a preconcerted signal a combinedattack was made by the savages upon the two white men. Both the latter attemptedto defend themselves, but the odds and the suddenness of the attackdeprived them of all hope of saving their lives. Comstock was fatally woundedat the first onslaught, and soon after was shot from his horse. His companion,being finely mounted, wisely intrusted his life to the speed of his horse, andsoon outstripped his pursuers, and reached camp with but a few slight wounds.The Indians did not seem disposed to press him as closely as is their usual custom,but seemed only anxious to secure Comstock. He, after falling to theground severely wounded, was completely riddled by steel-pointed arrows, andhis scalp taken. The principal trophy, however, in the opinion of the savages,was the beautifully finished revolver with its white ivory handle, and, as theyafterward confessed when peace was proclaimed with their tribe, it was to obtainthis revolver that the party of young warriors left the village and followedComstock to his death. Thoroughly reliable in his reports, brave, modest, andpersevering in character, with a remarkable knowledge of the country and thesavage tribes infesting it, he was the superior of all men who were scouts byprofession with whom I have had any experience.

While sitting in my quarters one day at Fort Leavenworth, late in the fallof 1867, a gentleman was announced whose name recalled a sad and harrowingsight. It proved to be the father of Lieutenant Kidder, whose massacre, withthat of his entire party of eleven men, was described in preceding pages. Itwill be remembered that the savages had hacked, mangled, and burned thebodies of Kidder and his men to such an extent that it was impossible to recognizethe body of a single one of the party; even the clothing had been removed,so that we could not distinguish the officer from his men, or the men fromeach other, by any fragment of their uniform or insignia of their grade. Mr.Kidder, after introducing himself, announced the object of his visit; it was toascertain the spot where the remains of his son lay buried, and, after procuringsuitable military escort to proceed to the grave and disinter his son’s remainspreparatory to transferring them to a resting place in Dakota, of which territoryhe was at that time one of the judiciary. It was a painful task I had toperform when I communicated to the father the details of the killing of hisson and followers. And equally harassing to the feelings was it to have toinform him that there was no possible chance of his being able to recognizehis son’s remains. “Was there not the faintest mark or fragment of his uniform101by which he might be known?” inquired the anxious parent. “Notone,” was the reluctant reply. “And yet, since I now recall the appearanceof the mangled and disfigured remains, there was a mere trifle which attractedmy attention, but it could not have been your son who wore it.” “What wasit?” eagerly inquired the father. “It was simply the collar-band of one ofthose ordinary check overshirts so commonly worn on the plains, the colorbeing black and white; the remainder of the garment, as well as all otherarticles of dress, having been torn or burned from the body.” Mr. Kidder thenrequested me to repeat the description of the collar and material of which itwas made; happily I had some cloth of very similar appearance, and upon exhibitingthis to Mr. Kidder, to show the kind I meant, he declared that the bodyI referred to could be no other than that of his murdered son. He went on totell how his son had received his appointment in the army but a few weeksbefore his lamentable death, he only having reported for duty with his companya few days before being sent on the scout which terminated his life; and how,before leaving his home to engage in the military service, his mother, with thatthoughtful care and tenderness which only a mother can feel, prepared somearticles of wearing apparel, among others a few shirts made from the checkedmaterial already described. Mr. Kidder had been to Fort Sedgwick on thePlatte, from which post his son had last departed, and there learned that onleaving the post he wore one of the checked shirts and put an extra one in hissaddle pockets. Upon this trifling link of evidence Mr. Kidder proceeded fourhundred miles west to Fort Wallace, and there being furnished with militaryescort visited the grave containing the bodies of the twelve massacred men.Upon disinterring the remains a body was found as I had described it, bearingthe simple checked collar-band; the father recognized the remains of his son,and thus, as was stated at the close of a preceding chapter, was the evidenceof a mother’s love made the means by which her son’s body was recognizedand reclaimed, when all other had failed.

The winter and spring of 1868 were uneventful, so far as Indian hostilities orthe movements of troops were concerned. To be on the ground when its servicescould be made available in case the Indians became troublesome, theSeventh Cavalry left its winter quarters at Fort Leavenworth in April, andmarched two hundred and ninety miles west to a point near the present site ofFort Hays, where the troops established their summer rendezvous in camp. Itnot being my privilege to serve with the regiment at that time, I remained atFort Leavenworth some time longer, and later in the summer repaired to myhome in Michigan, there amid the society of friends to enjoy the cool breezesof Erie until the time came which would require me to go west.

In the mean time, until I can relate some of the scenes which were enactedunder my own eye, and which were afterwards the subject of excited and angrycomment, as well as of emphatic and authoritative approval, it will not be uninterestingto examine into some of the causes which led to the memorablewinter campaign of 1868–’69, including the battle of the Wash*ta; and thereader may also be enabled to judge as to what causes the people of the frontierare most indebted for the comparatively peaceable condition of the savagetribes of the plains during the past three years. The question may also ariseas to what influence the wild nomadic tribes of the West are most likely to yieldand become peaceably inclined toward their white neighbors, willing to foregotheir accustomed raids and attacks upon the frontier settlements, and content tono longer oppose the advance of civilization. Whether this desirable condition102of affairs can be permanently and best secured by the display and exercise ofa strong but just military power, or by the extension of the olive-branch onone hand and government annuities on the other, or by a happy combinationof both, has long been one of the difficult problems whose solution has baffledthe judgment of our legislators from the formation of the government to thepresent time. My firm conviction, based upon an intimate and thorough analysisof the habits, traits of character, and natural instinct of the Indian, andstrengthened and supported by the almost unanimous opinion of all personswho have made the Indian problem a study, and have studied it, not from adistance, but in immediate contact with all the facts bearing thereupon, is thatthe Indian cannot be elevated to that great level where he can be induced toadopt any policy or mode of life varying from those to which he has ever beenaccustomed by any method of teaching, argument, reasoning, or coaxingwhich is not preceded and followed closely in reserve by a superior physicalforce. In other words, the Indian is capable of recognizing no controllinginfluence but that of stern arbitrary power. To assume that he can be guidedby appeals to his ideas of moral right and wrong, independent of threatening orfinal compulsion, is to place him far above his more civilized brothers of thewhite race, who, in the most advanced stage of refinement and morality, stillfind it necessary to employ force, sometimes resort to war, to exact justice froma neighboring nation. And yet there are those who argue that the Indianwith all his lack of moral privileges, is so superior to the white race as to becapable of being controlled in his savage traits and customs, and induced tolead a proper life, simply by being politely requested to do so. The campaignof 1868–’69, under the direction of General Sheridan, who had entire commandof the country infested by the five troublesome and warlike tribes, the Cheyennes,Arapahoes, Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches, was fruitful in valuable results.At the same time the opponents of a war policy raised the cry that the militarywere making war on friendly Indians; one writer, an Indian agent, even assertingthat the troops had attacked and killed Indians half civilized, who hadfought on the side of the Government during the war with the ConfederateStates. It was claimed by the adherents of the peace party that the Indiansabove named had been guilty of no depredations against the whites, and haddone nothing deserving of the exercise of military power. I believe it is arule in evidence that a party coming into court is not expected to impeachhis own witnesses. I propose to show by the official statements of the officersof the Indian Department, including some of those who were loudest andmost determined in their assertions of the innocence of the Indians afterprompt punishment had been administered by the military, that the Indiantribes whose names have been given were individually and collectively guiltyof unprovoked and barbarous assaults on the settlers of the frontier; that theycommitted these depredations at the very time they were receiving arms andother presents from the Government; and that no provocation had been offeredeither by the Government or the defenceless citizens of the border. In otherwords, by those advocating the Indian side of the dispute it will be clearlyestablished that a solemn treaty had been reluctantly entered into between theIndians and the Government, by which the demands of the Indians were compliedwith, and the conditions embraced in the treaty afterwards faithfully carriedout on the part of the Government; and at the very time that the leadingchiefs and old men of the tribes were pledging themselves and their peoplethat “they will not attack any persons at home or travelling, or disturb any103property belonging to the people of the United States, or to persons friendlytherewith,” and that “they will never capture or carry off from the settlementswomen or children, and they will never kill or scalp white men or attemptto do them harm,” the young men and warriors of these same tribes, embracingthe sons of the most prominent chiefs and signers of the treaty, wereactually engaged in devastating the settlements on the Kansas frontier, murderingmen, women, and children, and driving off the stock. Now to theevidence. First glance at the following brief summary of the terms of thetreaty which was ratified between the Government and the Cheyennes andArapahoes on the 19th of August, 1868, and signed and agreed to by all thechiefs of these two tribes known or claiming to be prominent, and men ofinfluence among their own people. As the terms of the treaty are almostidentical with those contained in most of the treaties made with other tribes,excepting the limits and location of reservations, it will be interesting for purposesof reference.

First. Peace and friendship shall forever continue.

Second. Whites or Indians committing wrongs to be punished accordingto law.

Third. The following district of country, to wit, “commencing at the pointwhere the Arkansas river crosses the 37th parallel of north latitude; thencewest on said parallel—the said line being the southern boundary of the Stateof Kansas—to the Cimarron river (sometimes called the Red fork of the Arkansasriver); thence down said Cimarron river, in the middle of the mainchannel thereof, to the Arkansas river; thence up the Arkansas river in themiddle of the main channel thereof to the place of beginning, is set apart forthe Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians.”

Fourth. The said Indians shall have the right to hunt on the unoccupiedlands of the United States so long as game may be found thereon, and so longas peace subsists among the whites and Indians on the border of the huntingdistricts.

Fifth. Is a provision for the selection and occupation of lands for those ofsaid Indians who desire to commence farming on said reserve, and for expendituresfor their benefit.

Sixth. The United States further provides for an annual distribution ofclothing for a term of years.

The treaty with the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache tribes, ratified August25, 1868, embraced substantially the same provisions as those just quoted, exceptingthat relating to their reservation, which was as follows: “Commencingat a point where the Wash*ta river crosses the 98th meridian west fromGreenwich, thence up the Wash*ta river, in the middle of the main channelthereof, to a point thirty miles west of Fort Cobb, as now established; thencedue west to the north fork of Red river, provided said line strikes said rivereast of the 100th meridian of west longitude; if not, then only to said meridianline, and thence south on said meridian line to the said north fork of Red river;thence down said north fork, in the middle of the main channel thereof, fromthe point where it may be first intersected by the lines above described, to themain Red river; thence down said river, in the main channel thereof, to itsintersection with the 98th meridian of longitude west from Greenwich; thencenorth on said meridian line to the place of beginning.”

To those who propose to follow the movements of the troops during thewinter campaign of 1868–’69, it will be well to bear in mind the limits of the104last named reservation, as the charge was made by the Indian agents that themilitary had attacked the Indians when the latter were peacefully located withinthe limits of their reservation.

To show that the Government through its civil agents was doing everythingrequired of it to satisfy the Indians, and that the agent of the Cheyennesand Arapahoes was firmly of the opinion that every promise of the Governmenthad not only been faithfully carried out, but that the Indians themselves hadno complaint to make, the following letter from the agent to the Superintendentof Indian Affairs is submitted:

Fort Larned, Kansas, August 10, 1868.

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I yesterday made the whole issue of annuity goods,arms, and ammunition to the Cheyenne chiefs [the Arapahoes and Apaches had received their portionin July. G.A.C.] and people of their nation; they were delighted at receiving the goods,particularly the arms and ammunition, and never before have I known them to be better satisfiedand express themselves as being so well contented previous to the issue. I made them a longspeech, following your late instructions with reference to what I said to them. They have nowleft for their hunting-grounds, and I am perfectly satisfied that there will be no trouble with themthis season, and consequently with no Indians of my agency.

I have the honor to be, with much respect, your obedient servant,

E.W. Wynkoop, United States Indian Agent.

Hon. Thomas Murphy, Superintendent Indian Affairs.

The italics are mine, but I desire to invite attention to the confidence andstrong reliance placed in these Indians by a man who was intimately associatedwith them, interested in their welfare, and supposed to be able to speak authoritativelyas to their character and intentions. If they could deceive him, itis not surprising that other equally well-meaning persons further east shouldbe equally misled. The above letter is dated August 10, 1868. The followingextract is from a letter written by the same party and to the Superintendentof Indian Affairs, dated at same place on the 10th of September, 1868, exactlyone month after his positive declaration that the Cheyennes “were perfectlysatisfied, and there will be no trouble with them this season.”

Here is the extract referred to: “Subsequently I received permission fromthe Department to issue to them their arms and ammunition, which I accordinglydid. But a short time before the issue was made a war party had startednorth from the Cheyenne village, on the war path against the Pawnees; and they,not knowing of the issue and smarting under their supposed wrongs, committedthe outrages on the Saline river which have led to the present unfortunateaspect of affairs. The United States troops are now south of the Arkansasriver in hot pursuit of the Cheyennes, the effect of which I think will be toplunge other tribes into difficulty and finally culminate in a general Indianwar.” It will be observed that no justification is offered for the guilty Indiansexcept that had they been aware of the wise and beneficent intention of theGovernment to issue them a fresh supply of arms, they might have delayedtheir murderous raid against the defenceless settlers until after the issue.Fears are also expressed that other tribes may be plunged into difficulty, butby the same witness and others it is easily established that the other tribes referredto were represented prominently in the war party which had devastatedthe settlements on the Saline. First I will submit an extract of a letter datedFort Larned, August 1, 1868, from Thomas Murphy, Superintendent of IndianAffairs, to the Hon. N.G. Taylor, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington,D.C.:

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I held a council to-day with the Arapahoes andApache Indians, at which I explained to them why their arms and ammunition had been withheld;105that the white settlers were now well armed and determined that no more raids should bemade through their country by large bodies of Indians; and that while the whites were friendlyand well disposed toward the Indians, yet if the Indians attempted another raid such as they recentlymade on the Kaw reservation, I feared themselves and the whites would have a fight, andthat it would bring on war.

The head chief of the Arapahoes, Little Raven, replied “that no more trips would be made byhis people into the settlements: that their hearts were good toward the whites, and they wishedto remain at peace with them.” I told him I would now give them their arms and ammunition;that I hoped they would use them for the sole purpose of securing food for themselves and families,and that in no case would I ever hear of their using these arms against their white brethren.Little Raven and the other chiefs then promised that these arms should never be used against thewhites, and Agent Wynkoop then delivered to the Arapahoes one hundred pistols, eighty Lancasterrifles, twelve kegs of powder, one and one-half kegs of lead, and fifteen thousand caps; and tothe Apaches he gave forty pistols, twenty Lancaster rifles, three kegs of powder, one-half keg oflead, and five thousand caps, for which they seemed much pleased.... I would have remainedhere to see the Cheyennes did I deem it important to do so. From what I can learn therewill be no trouble whatever with them. They will come here, get their ammunition and leave immediatelyto hunt buffalo. They are well and peacefully disposed toward the whites, and, unlesssome unlooked-for event should transpire to change their present feelings, they will keep theirtreaty pledges.

This certainly reads well, and at Washington or further east would be regardedas a favorable indication of the desire for peace on the part of the Indians.The reader is asked to remember that the foregoing letters and extractsare from professed friends of the Indian and advocates of what is known as thepeace policy. The letter of Superintendent Murphy was written the day ofcouncil, August 1. Mark his words of advice to Little Raven as to how the armswere to be used, and note Little Raven’s reply containing his strong promises ofmaintaining friendly relations with the whites. Yet the second night followingthe issue of arms, a combined war party of Cheyennes and Arapahoes, numberingover two hundred warriors, almost the exact number of pistols issued at thecouncil, left the Indian village to inaugurate a bloody raid in the Kansas settlements;and among the Arapahoes was the son of Little Raven. By reading thespeech made by this chief in the council referred to by Mr. Murphy, a marked resemblancewill be detected to the stereotyped responses delivered by Indian chiefsvisiting the authorities at Washington, or when imposing upon the credulousand kind-hearted people who assemble at Cooper Institute periodically to listento these untutored orators of the plains. The statements and promises utteredin the one instance are fully as reliable as those listened to so breathlesslyin the others. Regarding the raid made by the Cheyennes and Arapahoes,it will be considered sufficient perhaps when I base my statements uponthe following “Report of an interview between Colonel E.W. Wynkoop,United States Indian Agent, and Little Rock, a Cheyenne chief, held at FortLarned, Kansas, August 19, 1868, in the presence of Lieutenant S.M. Robbins,Seventh United States Cavalry, John S. Smith, United States interpreter, andJames Morrison, scout for Indian agency.”

Question by Colonel Wynkoop: “Six nights ago I spoke to you in regardto depredations committed on the Saline. I told you to go and find outby whom these depredations were committed and to bring me straight news.What news do you bring?”

Little Rock: “I took your advice and went there. I am now here to tellyou all I know. This war party of Cheyennes which left the camp of thesetribes above the forks of Walnut creek about the 2d or 3d of August, went outagainst the Pawnees, crossed the Smoky Hill about Fort Hays, and thence proceededto the Saline, where there were ten lodges of Sioux in the Cheyennecamp when this war party left, and about twenty men of them and four Arapahoes106accompanied the party. The Cheyennes numbered about two hundred;nearly all the young men in the village went; Little Raven’s son wasone of the four Arapahoes. When the party reached the Saline they turneddown the stream, with the exception of twenty, who, being fearful of depredationsbeing committed against the whites by the party going in thedirection of the settlements, kept on north toward the Pawnees. The mainparty continued down the Saline until they came in sight of the settlement;they then camped there. A Cheyenne named Oh-e-ah-mo-he-a, a brotherof White Antelope, who was killed at Sand Creek, and another named RedNose, proceeded to the first house; they afterwards returned to the campand with them a woman captive. The main party was surprised at this action,and forcibly took possession of her, and returned her to her house. Thetwo Indians had outraged the woman before they brought her to the camp.After the outrage had been committed, the parties left the Saline and wentnorth toward the settlement of the south fork of the Solomon, where they werekindly received and fed by the white people. They left the settlements on thesouth fork and proceeded toward the settlements on the north fork. Whenin sight of these settlements, they came upon a body of armed settlers, whofired upon them; they avoided the party, went around them, and approacheda house some distance off. In the vicinity of the house they came upon awhite man alone upon the prairie. Big Head’s sonD rode at him and knockedhim down with a club. The Indian who had committed the outrage upon thewhite woman, known as White Antelope’s brother, then fired upon the whiteman without effect, while the third Indian rode up and killed him. Soon afterthey killed a white man, and, close by, a woman—all in the same settlement.At the time these people were killed, the party was divided in feeling, the majoritybeing opposed to any outrages being committed; but finding it uselessto contend against these outrages being committed without bringing on a strifeamong themselves, they gave way and all went in together. They then wentto another house in the same settlement, and there killed two men and tooktwo little girls prisoners; this on the same day. After committing this lastoutrage the party turned south toward the Saline, where they came upon abody of mounted troops; the troops immediately charged the Indians, andthe pursuit was continued a long time. The Indians having the two children,their horses becoming fatigued, dropped the children without hurtingthem. Soon after the children were dropped the pursuit ceased; but the Indianscontinued on up the Saline. A portion of the Indians afterward returnedto look for the children, but they were unable to find them. After theyhad proceeded some distance up the Saline, the party divided, the majoritygoing north toward the settlements on the Solomon, but thirty of them startedtoward their village, supposed to be some distance northwest of Fort Larned.Another small party returned to Black Kettle’s village, from which party I gotthis information.E I am fearful that before this time the party that startednorth had committed a great many depredations.”

D Afterward captured by my command and killed in a difficulty with the guard at Fort Hays,Kansas, in the summer of 1869.

E Little Rock was a chief of Black Kettle’s band of Cheyennes, and second in rank to BlackKettle.

Question by Colonel Wynkoop: “Do you know the names of the principalmen of this party that committed the depredations, besides White Antelope’sbrother?”


Answer by Little Rock: “There were Medicine Arrow’s oldest son, namedTall Wolf; Red Nose, who was one of the men who outraged the woman,Big Head’s son named Porcupine Bear; and Sand Hill’s brother, known as theBear that Goes Ahead.”

Question by Colonel Wynkoop: “You told me your nation wants peace;will you, in accordance with your treaty stipulations, deliver up the men whomyou have named as being the leaders of the party who committed the outragesnamed?”

Answer by Little Rock: “I think that the only men who ought to sufferand be responsible for these outrages are White Antelope’s brother and RedNose, the men who ravished the woman; and when I return to the Cheyennecamp and assemble the chiefs and head men, I think those two men will bedelivered up to you.”

Question by Colonel Wynkoop: “I consider the whole party guilty; butit being impossible to punish all of them, I hold the principal men, whom youmentioned, responsible for all. They had no right to be led and governed bytwo men. If no depredations had been committed after the outrage on thewoman, the two men whom you have mentioned alone would have beenguilty.”

Answer by Little Rock: “After your explanation I think your demand forthe men is right. I am willing to deliver them up, and will go back to thetribe and use my best endeavors to have them surrendered. I am but oneman, and cannot answer for the entire nation.”

Other questions and answers of similar import followed.

The terms of the interview between Colonel Wynkoop and Little Rockwere carefully noted down and transmitted regularly to his next superior officer,Superintendent Murphy, who but a few days previous, and within thesame month, had officially reported to the Indian Commissioner at Washingtonthat peace and good will reigned undisturbed between the Indians underhis charge and the whites. Even he, with his strong leaning toward the adoptionof morbid measures of a peaceful character, and his disinclination to believethe Indians could meditate evil toward their white neighbors, was forced,as his next letter shows, to alter his views.

Office Superintendent Indian Affairs, Atchison, Kansas, August 22, 1868.

Sir: I have the honor herewith to transmit a letter of the 19th inst. from Agent Wynkoop, enclosingreport of a talk which he had with Little Rock, a Cheyenne chief, whom he had sent to ascertainthe facts relative to the recent troubles on the Solomon and Saline rivers, in this State.The agent’s letter and report are full, and explain themselves. I fully concur in the views expressedby the agent that the innocent Indians, who are trying to keep, in good faith, their treatypledges, be protected in the manner indicated by him, while I earnestly recommend that the Indianswho have committed these gross outrages be turned over to the military, and that they be severelypunished. When I reflect that at the very time these Indians were making such loud professionsof friendship at Larned, receiving their annuities, etc., they were then contemplating andplanning this campaign, I can no longer have confidence in what they say or promise. War issurely upon us, and in view of the importance of the case, I earnestly recommend that AgentWynkoop be furnished promptly with the views of the Department, and that full instructions begiven him for his future action.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
(Signed) Thomas Murphy, Superintendent Indian Affairs.

Hon. C.E. Mix, Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington, D.C.

What were the recommendations of Agent Wynkoop referred to in Mr.Murphy’s letter? They were as follows: “Let me take those Indians whomI know to be guiltless and desirous of remaining at peace, and locate them108with their lodges and families at some good place that I may select in the vicinityof this post (Larned); and let those Indians be entirely subsisted by the Governmentuntil this trouble is over, and be kept within certain bounds; and letme be furnished with a small battalion of United States troops, for the purposeof protecting them from their own people, and from being forced by them intowar; let those who refuse to respond to my call and come within the boundsprescribed, be considered at war, and let them be properly punished. By thismeans, if war takes place—which I consider inevitable—we can be able to discriminatebetween those who deserve punishment and those who do not; otherwiseit will be a matter of impossibility.”

This proposition seems, from its wording, to be not only a feasible one, butbased on principles of justice to all concerned, and no doubt would beso interpreted by the theorizers on the Indian question who study its meritsfrom afar. Before acting upon Colonel Wynkoop’s plan, it was in the regularorder referred to General Sherman, at that time commanding the Military Divisionof the Missouri, in which the Indians referred to were located. His indorsem*ntin reply briefly disposed of the proposition by exposing its absurdity:

Headquarters Military Division of the Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri,
September 19, 1868.

I now regard the Cheyennes and Arapahoes at war, and that it will be impossible for ourtroops to discriminate between the well-disposed and the warlike parts of these bands, unless anabsolute separation be made. I prefer that the agents collect all of the former and conduct themto their reservation within the Indian territory south of Kansas, there to be provided for undertheir supervision, say about old Fort Cobb. I cannot consent to their being collected and heldnear Fort Larned. So long as Agent Wynkoop remains at Fort Larned the vagabond part of theIndians will cluster about him for support, and to beg of the military. The vital part of thesetribes are committing murders and robberies from Kansas to Colorado, and it is an excess of generosityon our part to be feeding and supplying the old, young, and feeble, while their young menare at war.

I do not pretend to say what should be done with these, but it will simplify our game of war,already complicated enough, by removing them well away from our field of operations.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
(Signed) W.T. Sherman, Lieutenant-General, commanding.

Again, on the 26th of the same month, General Sherman, in a letter to GeneralSchofield, then Secretary of War, writes: “The annuity goods for theseIndians, Kiowas and Comanches, should be sent to Fort Cobb, and the Indianagent for these Indians should go there at once. And if the Secretary of theInterior has any contingent fund out of which he could provide food, or if hecould use a part of the regular appropriation for food instead of clothing, itmay keep these Indians from joining the hostile Cheyennes and Arapahoes.The latter should receive nothing, and now that they are at war, I propose togive them enough of it to satisfy them to their hearts’ content, and GeneralSheridan will not relax his efforts till the winter will put them at our mercy.He reports that he can already account for about seventy dead Indians, and hisforces are right in among these hostile Indians on the Upper Republican, andon the head of the Canadian south of Fort Dodge.”

Still another letter from General Sherman to the Secretary of War arguesthe case as follows: “All the Cheyennes and Arapahoes are now at war. Admittingthat some of them have not done acts of murder, rape, etc., still theyhave not restrained those who have, nor have they on demand given up thecriminals as they agreed to do. The treaty made at Medicine Lodge is, therefore,already broken by them, and the War Department should ask the concurrenceof the Indian Department, or invoke the superior orders of the President109against any goods whatever, even clothing, going to any part of the tribesnamed, until this matter is settled. As military commander I have the right,unless restrained by superior orders, to prevent the issue of any goods whateverto Indians outside of these reservations; and if the agency for the Cheyennesand Arapahoes be established at or near old Fort Cobb, the agent shouldif possible be able to provide for and feed such as may go there of their ownvolition, or who may be driven there by our military movements.... Ihave despatched General Hazen to the frontier, with a limited amount of moneywherewith to aid the said agents to provide for the peaceful parts of thosetribes this winter, while en route to and after their arrival at their new homes.No better time could be possibly chosen than the present for destroying or humiliatingthose bands that have so outrageously violated their treaties and beguna devastating war without one particle of provocation; and after a reasonabletime given for the innocent to withdraw, I will solicit an order from thePresident declaring all Indians who remain outside of their lawful reservationsto be outlaws, and commanding all people, soldiers and citizens, to proceedagainst them as such. We have never heretofore been in a condition toadopt this course, because until now we could not clearly point out to theseIndians where they may rightfully go to escape the consequences of the hostileacts of their fellows. The right to hunt buffaloes, secured by the treaties,could also be regulated so as to require all parties desiring to hunt to procurefrom the agent a permit, which permit should be indorsed by the commandingofficer of the nearest military post; but I think, the treaty having been clearlyviolated by the Indians themselves, this hunting right is entirely lost to them,if we so declare it.”

The foregoing extracts from letters and official correspondence whichpassed between high dignitaries of the Government, who were supposed notonly to be thoroughly conversant with Indian affairs, but to represent the civiland military phase of the question, will, when read in connection with thestatements of the superintendent and agent of the Indians, and that of the chief,Little Rock, give the reader some idea of the origin and character of the difficultiesbetween the whites and Indians in the summer and fall of 1868. Thetabulated list of depredations by Indians, accompanying the chapter descriptiveof General Forsyth’s campaign, will give more extended information in acondensed form.

While Forsyth was moving his detachment of scouts through the valleys ofthe Republican, in the northwestern portion of Kansas, General Sheridan hadalso arranged to have a well-equipped force operating south of the Arkansasriver, and in this way to cause the two favorite haunts of the Indians to beoverrun simultaneously, and thus prevent them when driven from one hauntfrom fleeing in safety and unmolested to another. The expedition intended tooperate south of the Arkansas was composed of the principal portion of theSeventh Cavalry and a few companies of the Third Regular Infantry, the entireforce under command of Brigadier-General Alfred Sully, an officer of long experienceamong the Indians, and one who had in times gone by achieved nolittle distinction as an Indian fighter, and at a later date became a partial advocateof the adoption of the peace policy. General Sully’s expedition, afterbeing thoroughly equipped and supplied, under his personal supervision, witheverything needful in a campaign such as was about to be undertaken, crossedthe Arkansas river about the 1st of September, at Fort Dodge, and marchinga little west of south struck the Cimarron river, where they first encountered110Indians. From the Cimarron the troops moved in a southeasterly direction,one day’s march to Beaver creek, the savages opposing and fighting themduring the entire day. That night the Indians came close enough to fire intothe camp, an unusual proceeding in Indian warfare, as they rarely molesttroops during the hours of night. The next day General Sully directed hismarch down the valley of the Beaver; but just as his troops were breakingcamp, the long wagon train having already “pulled out,” and the rear guardof the troops having barely got into their saddles, a party of between two andthree hundred warriors, who had evidently in some inexplicable manner contrivedto conceal their approach until the proper moment, dashed into the desertedcamp within a few yards of the rear of the troops, and succeeded in cuttingoff a few led horses and two of the cavalrymen who, as is so often thecase, had lingered a moment behind the column. General Sully and staffwere at that moment near the head of the column, a mile or more from camp.The General, as was his custom on the march, being comfortably stowed awayin his ambulance, of course it was impossible that he or his staff, from theirgreat distance from the scene of actual attack, could give the necessary ordersin the case.

Fortunately, the acting adjutant of the cavalry, Brevet Captain A.E.Smith, was riding at the rear of the column and witnessed the attack of theIndians. Captain Hamilton of the cavalry was also present in command ofthe rear guard. Wheeling his guard to the right about, he at once preparedto charge the Indians and to attempt the rescue of the two troopers who werebeing carried off as prisoners before his very eyes. At the same time CaptainSmith, as representative of the commanding officer of the cavalry, promptly tookthe responsibility of directing a squadron of cavalry to wheel out of column andadvance in support of Captain Hamilton’s guard. With this hastily formeddetachment, the Indians, still within pistol range, but moving off with theirprisoners, were gallantly charged and so closely pressed that they were forcedto relinquish possession of one of their prisoners, but not before shooting himthrough the body and leaving him on the ground, as they supposed, mortallywounded. The troops continued to charge the retreating Indians, upon whomthey were gaining, determined if possible to effect the rescue of their remainingcomrade. They were advancing down one slope while the Indians just acrossa ravine were endeavoring to escape with their prisoner up the opposite ascent,when a peremptory order reached the officers commanding the pursuing force towithdraw their men and reform the column at once. Delaying only long enoughfor an ambulance to arrive from the train in which to transport their woundedcomrade, the order was obeyed. Upon rejoining the column the two officersnamed were summoned before the officer commanding their regiment, and,after a second-hand reprimand, were ordered in arrest and their sabres takenfrom them, for leaving the column without orders—the attempted and halfsuccessful rescue of their comrades and the repulse of the Indians to the contrarynotwithstanding. Fortunately wiser and better-natured counsels prevailedin a few hours, and their regimental commander was authorized to releasethese two officers from their brief durance, their sabres were restored tothem, and they became, as they deserved, the recipients of numerous complimentaryexpressions from their brother officers. The terrible fate awaitingthe unfortunate trooper carried off by the Indians spread a deep gloom throughoutthe command. All were too familiar with the horrid customs of the savagesto hope for a moment that the captive would be reserved for aught but a111slow lingering death, from torture the most horrible and painful which savage,bloodthirsty minds could suggest. Such was in truth his sad fate, as we learnedafterwards when peace (?) was established with the tribes then engaged inwar. Never shall I forget the consummate coolness and particularity of detailwith which some of the Indians engaged in the affair related to myself andparty the exact process by which the captured trooper was tortured to death;how he was tied to a stake, strips of flesh cut from his body, arms, and legs,burning brands thrust into the bleeding wounds, the nose, lips, and ears cut off,and finally, when from loss of blood, excessive pain, and anguish, the poor,bleeding, almost senseless mortal fell to the ground exhausted, the youngerIndians were permitted to rush in and despatch him with their knives.

The expedition proceeded on down the valley of Beaver creek, the Indianscontesting every step of the way. In the afternoon, about three o’clock, thetroops arrived at a ridge of sand-hills, a few miles southeast of the present siteof “Camp Supply,” where quite a determined engagement took place with thesavages, the three tribes, Cheyennes, Arapahoes and Kiowas, being the assailants.The Indians seemed to have reserved their strongest efforts until thetroops and train had advanced well into the sand-hills, when a most obstinateand well-conducted resistance was offered to the further advance of the troops.It was evident to many of the officers, and no doubt to the men, that the troopswere probably nearing the location of the Indian villages, and that this lastdisplay of opposition to their further advance was to save the villages. Thecharacter of the country immediately about the troops was not favorable to theoperations of cavalry; the surface of the rolling plain was cut up by irregularand closely located sand-hills, too steep and sandy to allow cavalry to movewith freedom, yet capable of being easily cleared of savages by troops fightingon foot. The Indians took post on the hilltops and began a harassing fireon the troops and train. Had the infantry been unloaded from the wagonspromptly, instead of adding to the great weight, sinking the wheels sometimesalmost in to the axles, and had they, with the assistance of a few of the dismountedcavalry, been deployed on both sides of the train, the latter couldhave been safely conducted through what was then decided to be impassablesand-hills, but which were a short time afterward proved to be perfectly practicable.And once beyond the range of sand-hills but a short distance, thevillages of the attacking warriors would have been found exposed to an easyand important capture, probably terminating the campaign by compelling a satisfactorypeace. Captain Yates, with his single troop of cavalry, was orderedforward to drive the Indians away. This was a proceeding which did not seemto meet with favor from the savages. Captain Yates could drive them whereverhe encountered them, but it was only to cause the redskins to appear in increasednumbers at some other threatened point. After contending in thisnon-effective manner for a couple of hours, the impression arose in the mindsof some that the train could not be conducted through the sand-hills in the faceof the strong opposition offered by the Indians. The order was issued to turnabout and withdraw. This order was executed, and the troop and train, followedby the exultant Indians, retired a few miles to the Beaver, and encampedfor the night on the ground now known as “Camp Supply.”

Captain Yates had caused to be brought off the field, when his troop wasordered to retire, the body of one of his men who had been slain in the fightby the Indians. As the troops were to continue their backward movementnext day, and it was impossible to transport the dead body further, Captain112Yates ordered preparations made for interring it in camp that night; but knowingthat the Indians would thoroughly search the deserted camp-ground almostbefore the troops should get out of sight, and would be quick with their watchfuleyes to detect a grave, and if successful in discovering it would unearththe body in order to obtain the scalp, directions were given to prepare thegrave after nightfall, and the spot selected would have baffled the eye of anyone but that of an Indian. The grave was dug under the picket line to whichthe seventy or eighty horses of the troops would be tethered during the night,so that their constant tramping and pawing should completely cover up andobliterate all traces of the grave containing the body of the dead trooper.The following morning even those who had performed the sad rites of burialto their fallen comrade could scarcely have been able to indicate the exactlocation of the grave. Yet when we returned to that point a few weeks afterwardit was discovered that the wily savages had found the grave, unearthedthe body, and removed the scalp of their victim, on the day following theinterment.

Early on the morning succeeding the fight in the sand-hills General Sullyresumed his march toward Fort Dodge, the Indians following and harassingthe movements of the troops until about two o’clock in the afternoon, when,apparently satisfied with their success in forcing the expedition back, thus relievingtheir villages and themselves from the danger which had threatenedthem, they fired their parting shots and rode off in triumph. That night thetroops camped on Bluff creek, from which point General Sully proceeded toFort Dodge, on the Arkansas, leaving the main portion of the command incamp on Bluff creek, where we shall see them again.



In a late chapter I promised to submit testimony from those high in authority,now the highest, showing that among those who had given the subjectthe most thoughtful attention, the opinion was unanimous in favor of the“abolition of the civil Indian agents and licensed traders,” and the transfer ofthe Indian Bureau back to the War Department, where it originally belonged.The question as to which cabinet minister, the Secretary of War or theSecretary of the Interior, should retain control of the bureau regulating Indianaffairs, has long been and still is one of unending discussion, and is of farmore importance to the country than the casual observer might imagine. Thearmy as a unit, and from motives of peace and justice, favors giving this controlto the Secretary of War. Opposed to this view is a large, powerful, andat times unscrupulous party, many of whose strongest adherents are dependentupon the fraudulent practices and profits of which the Indian is the victimfor the acquirement of dishonest wealth—practices and profits which only existso long as the Indian Bureau is under the supervision of the Interior Department.The reasons in favor of the War Department having the control of thegovernment of the Indians exist at all times. But the struggle for this controlseems to make its appearance, like an epidemic, at certain periods, and fora brief time will attract considerable comment and discussion both in and outof Congress, then disappear from public view. To a candid, impartial mind Ibelieve the reasons why the Indians should be controlled by the Departmentof War, the department which must assume the reins of power when any realcontrol is exercised, are convincing. It may be asked, Then why, if the reasonsare so convincing, are not proper representations made to the authoritiesat Washington and the transfer secured? This inquiry seems natural enough.But the explanation is sufficiently simple. The army officers, particularlythose stationed on the frontier, have but little opportunity, even had they thedesire, to submit their views or recommendations to Congress as a body or tomembers individually. When impressed with ideas whose adoption is deemedessential to the Government, the usual and recognized mode of presentingthem for consideration is by written communications forwarded through theintermediate and superior commanders until laid before the Secretary of War,by whom, if considered sufficiently important, they are submitted to the President,and by him to Congress. Having made this recommendation and furnishedthe Department with his reasons therefor, an officer considers that hehas discharged his duty in the premises, and the responsibility of the adoptionor rejection of his ideas then rests with a superior power. Beyond the conscientiousdischarge of his duty he has no interest, certainly none of a pecuniarynature, to serve. In the periodical contests which prevail betweenthe military and civil aspirants for the control of the Indian Bureau, the militarycontent themselves as above stated with a brief and unbiassed presentationof their views, and having submitted their argument to the proper tribunal,no further steps are taken to influence the decision. Not so with thoseadvocating the claims of the civil agents and traders to public recognition.The preponderance of testimony and the best of the argument rest with themilitary. But there are many ways of illustrating that the battle is not always114to the strong nor the race to the swift. The ways of Congress are sometimespeculiar—not to employ a more expressive term.

Under the Constitution of the United States there are but two houses ofCongress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, and most people residingwithin the jurisdiction of its laws suppose this to be the extent of thelegislative body; but to those acquainted with the internal working of that importantbranch of the Government, there is still a third house of Congress, betterknown as the lobby. True, its existence is neither provided for nor recognizedby law; yet it exists nevertheless, and so powerful, although somewhathidden, is its influence upon the other branches of Congress, that almost anymeasure it is interested in becomes a law. It is somewhat remarkable thatthose measures which are plainly intended to promote the public interests areseldom agitated or advocated in the third house, while those measures ofdoubtful propriety or honesty usually secure the almost undivided support ofthe lobby. There are few prominent questions connected with the feeble policyof the Government which can and do assemble so powerful and determineda lobby as a proposed interference with the system of civilian superintendents,agents, and traders for the Indians. Let but some member of Congresspropose to inquire into the workings of the management of the Indians,or propose a transfer of the bureau to the War Department, and the leadersof the combination opposed raise a cry which is as effective in rallying theirsupporters as was the signal of Roderick Dhu. From almost every State andterritory the retainers of the bureau flock to the national capital. Why thisrallying of the clans? Is there any principle involved? With the few, yes;with the many, no. Then what is the mighty influence which brings togetherthis hungry host? Why this determined opposition to any interference withthe management of the Indians? I remember making this inquiry years ago,and the answer then, which is equally applicable now, was: “There is toomuch money in the Indian question to allow it to pass into other hands.” ThisI believe to be the true solution of our difficulties with the Indians at the presentday. It seems almost incredible that a policy which is claimed and representedto be based on sympathy for the red man and a desire to secure tohim his rights, is shaped in reality and manipulated behind the scenes with thedistinct and sole object of reaping a rich harvest by plundering both the Governmentand the Indians. To do away with the vast army of agents, traders,and civilian employees which is a necessary appendage of the civilianpolicy, would be to deprive many members of Congress of a vast deal ofpatronage which they now enjoy. There are few, if any, more comfortableor desirable places of disposing of a friend who has rendered valuable politicalservice or electioneering aid, than to secure for him the appointment ofIndian agent. The salary of an agent is comparatively small. Men withoutmeans, however, eagerly accept the position; and in a few years, at furthest,they almost invariably retire in wealth. Who ever heard of a retired Indianagent or trader in limited circ*mstances? How do they realize fortunes uponso small a salary? In the disposition of the annuities provided for the Indiansby the Government, the agent is usually the distributing medium. Betweenhimself and the Indian there is no system of accountability, no vouchers givenor received, no books kept, in fact no record except the statement which theagent chooses to forward to his superintendent.

The Indian has no means of knowing how much in value or how manypresents of any particular kind the Government, the “Great Father” as he115terms it, has sent him. For knowledge on this point he must accept the statementof the agent. The goods sent by the Government are generally thosewhich would most please an Indian’s fancy. The Indian trader usually keepsgoods of a similar character. The trader is most frequently a particular friendof the agent, often associated with him in business, and in many instances holdshis position of trader at the instance of the agent. They are always locatednear each other. The trader is usually present at the distribution of annuities.If the agent, instead of distributing to the Indians all of the goods intendedfor them by the Government, only distributes one half and retains theother half, who is to be the wiser? Not the Indian, defrauded though he maybe, for he is ignorant of how much is coming to him. The word of the agentis his only guide. He may complain a little, express some disappointment atthe limited amount of presents, and intimate that the “Great Father” hasdealt out the annuities with a sparing hand; but the agent explains it byreferring to some depredations which he knows the tribe to have been guiltyof in times past; or if he is not aware of any particular instance of guilt, hecharges them generally with having committed such acts, knowing one canscarcely go amiss in accusing a tribe of occasionally slaying a white man,and ends up his charge by informing them that the “Great Father,” learningof these little irregularities in their conduct and being pained greatly thereat,felt compelled to reduce their allowance of blankets, sugar, coffee, etc., whenat the same time the missing portion of said allowance is safely secured in thestorehouse of the agent near by. Well, but how can he enrich himself in thismanner? it may be asked. By simply, and unseen by the Indians, transferringthe unissued portion of the annuities from his government storehouse to thetrading establishment of his friend the trader. There the boxes are unpackedand their contents spread out for barter with the Indians. The latter, in gratifyingtheir wants, are forced to purchase from the trader at prices which arescores of times the value of the article offered. I have seen Indians disposeof buffalo robes to traders, which were worth from fifteen to twenty dollarseach, and get in return only ten to twenty cups of brown sugar, the entirevalue of which did not exceed two or three dollars. This is one of themany ways agents and traders have of amassing sudden wealth. I haveknown the head chiefs of a tribe to rise in a council in the presence of otherchiefs and of officers of the army, and accuse his agent, then present, of theseor similar dishonest practices. Is it to be wondered at that the position ofa*gent or trader among the Indians is greatly sought after by men determinedto become rich, but not particular as to the manner of doing so? Oris it to be wondered at that army officers, who are often made aware of the injusticedone the Indian yet are powerless to prevent it, and who trace many ofour difficulties with the Indians to these causes, should urge the abolishmentof a system which has proven itself so fruitful in fraud and dishonest dealingtoward those whose interests it should be their duty to protect?

In offering the testimony which follows, and which to those at all interestedin the subject of our dealings with the Indian must have no little weight, Ihave given that of men whose interest in the matter could only spring fromexperience and a supposed thorough knowledge of the Indian character, anda desire to do justice to him as well as to the Government. At the presentwriting a heavy cloud portending a general Indian war along our entirefrontier, from the British possessions on the north to the Mexican border onthe south, hangs threateningly over us. Whether it will really result in war116or in isolated acts of barbarity remains to be seen. But enough is known toprove that the day has not yet arrived when the lawless savage of the plainsis prepared or willing to abandon his favorite pastime of war and depredationupon the defenceless frontier, and instead to settle quietly down and study thearts and callings of a quiet and peaceful life. It is impossible for the Indianto comprehend the force of any law or regulation which is not backed up bya power sufficiently strong to compel its observance. This is not surprising,as a large proportion of their white brethren are equally obtuse. Lieutenant-GeneralSheridan showed his thorough appreciation of the Indian character,in an endorsem*nt recently written by him upon a complaint relating toIndian depredations, forwarded from one of his subordinates to the War Department.General Sheridan writes, “We can never stop the wild Indians frommurdering and stealing until we punish them. If a white man in this countrycommits a murder, we hang him; if he steals a horse, we put him in the penitentiary.If an Indian commits these crimes, we give him better fare andmore blankets. I think I may say with reason, that under this policy thecivilization of the wild red man will progress slowly.”

As might naturally be expected, a massacre like that at Fort Phil Kearny,in which ninety-one enlisted men and three officers were slain outright, and noone left to tell the tale, excited discussion and comment throughout the land,and raised inquiry as to who was responsible for this lamentable affair. Themilitary laid the blame at the door of the Indian Bureau with its host ofcivil agents and traders, and accused the latter of supplying the Indians withthe arms and ammunition which were afterward turned against the whites.The supporters of the Indian Bureau not only did not deny the accusation,but went so far as to claim that all our difficulties with the Indians couldbe traced to the fact that the military commanders, particularly Generals Hanco*ckand Cooke, had forbidden the traders from furnishing the Indians witharms and ammunition. This was the official statement of the Commissionerof Indian Affairs in the spring of 1867. It was rather a queer complaint uponwhich to justify a war that, because the Government would not furnish the savageswith implements for murdering its subjects in approved modern method,these same savages would therefore be reluctantly forced to murder and scalpsuch settlers and travellers as fell in their paths, in the old-fashioned tomahawk,bow and arrow style. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in his reportto the Secretary of the Interior in the spring of 1867, labored hard to finda justification for the Indians in their recent outbreak at Fort Phil Kearny.The withholding of arms and ammunition from the Indians seemed to be theprincipal grievance. As the views of the Commissioner find many supportersin quarters remote from the scene of Indian depredations, and among personswho still cling to the traditionary Indian, as wrought by the pen of Cooper, astheir ideal red man, I quote the Commissioner’s words: “An order issued byGeneral Cooke at Omaha on the 31st of July last, in relation to arms and ammunition,has had a very bad effect. I am satisfied that such orders are notonly unwise but really cruel, and therefore calculated to produce the veryworst effect. Indians are men, and when hungry will like others resort toany means to obtain food; and as the chase is their only means of subsistence,if you deprive them of the power of procuring it, you certainly produce greatdissatisfaction. If it were true that arms and ammunition could be accumulatedby them to war against us, it would certainly be unwise to give it tothem, but this is not the fact. No Indian will buy two guns. One he absolutely117needs; and as he has no means of taking care of powder, he necessarilywill take, when offered to him, but a very limited quantity. It is true thatformerly they hunted with bows and arrows, killing buffalo, antelope, anddeer with the same; but to hunt successfully with bow and arrows requireshorses, and as the valleys of that country are now more or less filled withwhite men prospecting for gold and silver, their means of subsisting theirhorses have passed away, and they now have but few horses. I mention thesefacts so as to place before the country, as briefly as possible, the condition aswell as the wants of the Indians.”

Unfortunately for the Commissioner, his premises were entirely wrong, andhis conclusions necessarily so. It is a difficult task to prove that men whosehabits, instincts, and training incline them to deeds of murder, will be less aptto commit those deeds, provided we place in their hands every implement andfacility for their commission; yet such in effect was the reasoning of the Commissioner.Where or from whom he could have obtained the opinions he expressed,it is difficult to understand. He certainly derived no such ideas froma personal knowledge of the Indians themselves. How well his statementsbear examination: “If it were true that arms and ammunition could be accumulatedby them to war against us, it would certainly be worse to give it tothem, but this is not the fact. No Indian will buy two guns.”

On the contrary, every person at all familiar with the conduct of the Indiansknows that there is no plan or idea which they study more persistentlythan that of accumulating arms and ammunition, and in the successful executionof this plan they have collected, and are to-day collecting arms and ammunitionof the latest and most approved pattern. This supply of arms and ammunitionis not obtained for purposes of hunting, for no matter how bountifullythe Indian may be supplied with firearms, his favorite and most successful modeof killing the buffalo, his principal article of food, is with the bow and arrow.It is, at the same time, the most economical mode, as the arrows, after beinglodged in the bodies of the buffalo, may be recovered unimpaired, and be usedrepeatedly. “No Indian will buy two guns!” If the honorable Commissionerhad added the words, provided he can steal them, his statement would be heartilyconcurred in. From a knowledge of the facts, I venture the assertion thatthere is scarcely an Indian on the plains, no matter how fully armed andequipped, but will gladly barter almost anything he owns, of proper value, inexchange for good arms and ammunition. Even if his personal wants in thisrespect are satisfied, the Indian is too shrewd at driving a bargain to throwaway any opportunity of possessing himself of arms or ammunition, as amonghis comrades he is aware that no other articles of trade command the pricesthat are paid for implements of war. An Indian may not desire two guns forhis own use, but he will buy or procure one gun and one or more revolversas a part of his equipment for war, and there are few of the chiefs and warriorsof the plains who to-day are not the possessors of at least one breech-loadingrifle or carbine, and from one to two revolvers. This can be vouched forby any officer who has been brought in contact with the hostile Indians of lateyears. As to the Indian not having proper means to take care of his ammunition,experience has shown that when he goes into action he carries a greaternumber of rounds of ammunition than do our soldiers, and in time of peace heexercises far better care of his supply than do our men. The army declareditself almost unanimously against the issue of arms to the Indians, while thetraders, who were looking to the profits, and others of the Indian Bureau,118proclaimed loudly in favor of the issue, unlimited and unrestrained. GeneralHanco*ck, commanding at that time one of the most important and extensiveof the Indian departments, issued orders to his subordinates throughout theIndian country, similar to the order referred to of General Cooke. The ordersimply required post commanders and other officers to prevent the issue orsale of arms and ammunition to any Indians of the plains. As we were thenengaged in hostilities with nearly all the tribes, it would have been simply assistingour enemies not to adopt this course. A spontaneous outcry came fromthe traders who were to be affected by this order—an outcry that did notcease until it resounded in Washington. General Hanco*ck reported his actionin the matter to his next superior officer, at that time Lieutenant-General Sherman.General Sherman at once sent the following letter to General Hanco*ck,emphatically approving the course of the latter, and reiterating the order:

Headquarters Military Division of the Missouri,
St. Louis, Missouri, January 26, 1867.

General: I have this moment received your letter of January 22, about the sale of arms andammunition to Indians by traders and agents. We, the military, are held responsible for thepeace of the frontier, and it is an absurdity to attempt it if Indian agents and traders can legalizeand encourage so dangerous a traffic. I regard the paper enclosed, addressed to Mr. D.A. Butterfield,and signed by Charles Bogy, W.R. Irwin, J.H. Leavenworth, and others, as an outrageupon our rights and supervision of the matter, and I now authorize you to disregard that paper,and at once stop the practice, keeping the issues and sales of arms and ammunition under the rigidcontrol and supervision of the commanding officers of the posts and districts near which the Indiansare.

If the Indian agents may, without limit, supply the Indians with arms, I would not expose ourtroops and trains to them at all, but would withdraw our soldiers, who already have a herculeantask on their hands.

This order is made for this immediate time, but I will, with all expedition, send these paperswith a copy of this, to General Grant, in the hope that he will lay it before the President, whoalone can control both War and Indian Departments, under whom, at present, this mixed controlof the Indian question now rests in law and practice.

Your obedient servant,
W.T. Sherman, Lieutenant-General Commanding.

General W.S. Hanco*ck, commanding Department of the Missouri.

This was before the peace policy had become supreme, or the appointmentof agents from the Society of Friends had been discovered as a supposed panaceafor all our Indian difficulties.

General Sherman, as stated in his letter, forwarded all the papers relatingto the arms question to the headquarters of the army. General Grant, thenin command of the army, forwarded them to the Secretary of War, accompaniedby the following letter, which clearly expresses the views he then held:

Headquarters Armies of The United States,
Washington, D.C., February 1, 1867.

Sir: The enclosed papers, just received from General Sherman, are respectfully forwarded,and your special attention invited. They show the urgent necessity for an immediate transfer ofthe Indian Bureau to the War Department, and the abolition of the civil agents and licensed traders.If the present practice is to be continued, I do not see that any course is left open to us but to withdrawour troops to the settlements and call upon Congress to provide means and troops to carryon formidable hostilities against the Indians, until all the Indians or all the whites on the greatplains, and between the settlements on the Missouri and the Pacific slope, are exterminated. Thecourse General Sherman has pursued in this matter, in disregarding the permits of Mr. Bogy andothers, is just right. I will instruct him to enforce his order until it is countermanded by thePresident or yourself. I would also respectfully ask that this matter be placed before the President,and his disapproval of licensing the sale of arms to Indians asked. We have treaties withall tribes of Indians from time to time. If the rule is to be followed that all tribes with which wehave treaties, and pay annuities, can procure such articles without stint or limit, it will not be longbefore the matter becomes perfectly understood by the Indians, and they avail themselves of it to119equip themselves for war. They will get the arms either by making treaties themselves or throughtribes who have such treaties.

I would respectfully recommend that copies of the enclosed communications be furnished tothe Military Committee of each house of Congress.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U.S. Grant, General.

Hon. E.M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

In response to a request from General Grant to furnish the Departmentwith a statement of his views on the question of a transfer of the Indian Bureaufrom the Interior to the War Department, General John Pope, whosegreat experience among and knowledge of the Indians of the plains eminentlyqualified him to judge of the real merits of the question, wrote an able letter,briefly stating the prominent reasons favoring the proposed change. As thequestion of the transfer of the Indian Bureau from the control of the Interior tothat of the War Department is constantly being brought up, and after the failureof the present policy is most likely to be raised again, the arguments advancedby General Pope, being those generally maintained by the army, andstill having full force, are here given:

Washington, D.C., January 25, 1867.

General: In compliance with your suggestions, I have the honor to submit the followingleading reasons why the Indian Bureau should be retransferred to the War Department. Theviews which I shall submit are by no means original, but are well-settled opinions of every officerof the army who has had experience on the subject, and are and have been entertained for yearsby nearly every citizen of the territories not directly or indirectly connected with the present systemof Indian management.

Under present circ*mstances there is a divided jurisdiction over Indian affairs. While the Indiansare officially at peace, according to treaties negotiated with them by the civil officers of theIndian Bureau, the military forces stationed in the Indian country have no jurisdiction over theIndians, and of consequence no certain knowledge of their feelings or purposes, and no power totake any action, either of a precautionary or aggressive character. The first that is known of Indianhostilities is a sudden report that the Indians have commenced a war, and have devastatedmany miles of settlements or massacred parties of emigrants or travellers. By the time such informationreaches the military commander, the worst has been accomplished, and the Indianshave escaped from the scene of outrage. Nothing is left to the military except pursuit, and generallyunavailing pursuit. The Indian agents are careful never to locate their agencies at the militaryposts, for reasons very well understood. It is not in human nature that two sets of officials,responsible to different heads, and not in accord either in opinion or purpose, should act togetherharmoniously; and instead of combined, there is very certain to be conflicting action. The resultsare what might be expected. It would be far better to devolve the whole management of Indianaffairs upon one or the other department, so as to secure at least consistent and uniform policy.At war the Indians are under the control of the military, at peace under the control of thecivil officers. Exactly what constitutes Indian hostilities is not agreed on; and, besides this, assoon as the military forces, after a hard campaign, conducted with great hardship and at large expense,have succeeded in forcing the Indians into such a position that punishment is possible, theIndian, seeing the result and the impossibility of avoiding it, immediately proclaims his wish tomake peace. The Indian agent, anxious, for manifest reasons, to negotiate a treaty, at once interferes“to protect” (as he expresses it) the Indians from the troops, and arrests the further prosecutionof the military expedition just at the moment when results are to be obtained by it, and thewhole labor and cost of the campaign are lost. The Indian makes a treaty to avoid immediatedanger by the troops, without the slightest purpose of keeping it, and the agent knows very wellthat the Indian does not intend to observe it. While the army is fighting the Indians at one end ofthe line, Indian agents are making treaties and furnishing supplies at the other end, which suppliesare at once used to keep up the conflict. With this divided jurisdiction and responsibility itis impossible to avoid these unfortunate transactions. If the Indian department, as at presentconstituted, were given sole jurisdiction of the Indians, and the troops removed, it is certain that abetter condition of things would be obtained than now exists, since the whole responsibility of Indianwars, and their results to unprotected citizens, would belong to the Indian Bureau alone,without the power of shifting the responsibility of consequences upon others. The military officeris the representative of force, a logic which the Indian understands, and with which he does notinvest the Indian agent. It is a fact which can be easily authenticated, that the Indians, in mass,prefer to deal entirely with military commanders, and would unanimously vote for the transfer of120the Indian department to the War Department. In this they are mainly influenced by the knowledgethat they can rely upon what the military commander tells or promises them, as they see hehas power to fulfil his promise.

The first and great interest of the army officer is to preserve peace with the Indians. Hishome during his life is to be at some military post in the Indian country, and aside from the obligationsof duty, his own comfort and quiet, and the possibility of escaping arduous and harassingfield service against Indians at all seasons of the year, accompanied by frequent changes of station,which render it impossible for him to have his family with him, render a state of peace with Indiansthe most desirable of all things to him. He therefore omits no proper precautions, and does notfail to use all proper means, by just treatment, honest distribution of annuities, and fair dealing,to secure quiet and friendly relations with the Indian tribes in his neighborhood. His honest distributionof the annuities appropriated to the Indians is further secured by his life commission inthe army, and the odium which would blast his life and character by any dishonest act. If dismissedfrom the service for such malfeasance, he would be publicly branded by his own profession,and would be powerless to attribute his removal from office to any but the true cause. TheIndian agent, on the other hand, accepts his office for a limited time and for a specific purpose,and he finds it easy when he has secured his ends (the rapid acquisition of money) to account forhis removal from office on political grounds or the personal enmity of some other official of hisdepartment superior in rank to himself. The eagerness to secure an appointment as Indian agent,on a small salary, manifested by many persons of superior ability, ought of itself to be a warningto Congress as to the objects sought by it. It is a common saying in the West that next to, if notindeed before, the consulship to Liverpool, an Indian agency is the most desirable office in the giftof the Government. Of course the more treaties an Indian agent can negotiate, the larger the appropriationof money and goods which passes through his hands, and the more valuable his office.An Indian war on every other day, with treaty-making on intermediate days, would be thereforethe condition of affairs most satisfactory to such Indian agents. I by no means say that all Indianagents are dishonest. In truth I know some who are very sincere and honorable men, whotry to administer their offices with fidelity to the Government; but that the mass of Indian agentson the frontier are true only to their personal and pecuniary interests, I am very sure no onefamiliar with the subject will dispute. I repeat, then, that a condition of peace with the Indiansis above all things desirable to the military officer stationed in their country: something very likethe reverse to the Indian agent.

The transfer of the Indian Bureau to the War Department would at once eliminate from ourIndian system the formidable army of Indian superintendents, agents, sub-agents, special agents,jobbers, contractors, and hangers-on, who now infest the frontier States and territories, and saveto the Government annually a sum of money which I will not venture to estimate. The army officersdetailed to perform duty in their places would receive no compensation in addition to theirarmy pay. Previous to the creation of the Interior Department and the transfer of the IndianBureau to that department, army officers performed well and honestly the duties of Indianagents, and it is only necessary to refer to our past history to demonstrate that our relations atthat time with the Indians were far more friendly and satisfactory than they have been since....The military are absolutely necessary in the Indian country to protect the lives and property ofour citizens. Indian agents and superintendents are not necessary, since their duties have beenand can still be faithfully and efficiently performed by the army officers stationed with the troops.Harmonious and concerted action can never be secured while both parties are retained. Themilitary are necessary—the civil officers are not; and as it is essential that the one or the other bedisplaced, I cannot see what doubt exists as to which party must give way. These are only thegeneral reasons for the retransfer of the Indian Bureau to the War Department—reasons whichare well understood by every one familiar with the subject.... In order that any policywhatever may be consistently and efficiently pursued, a change in our present administration ofIndian affairs is absolutely essential. The retransfer of the Indian Bureau to the War Departmentis believed to be the first step toward a reformation, and until that step is taken it is uselessto expect any improvement in the present condition of our Indian relations.

I am, General, respectfully your obedient servant,
John Pope, Brevet Major-General U.S. Army.

General U.S. Grant, General-in-Chief, Washington, D.C.

General Grant was at that time so impressed with the importance of GeneralPope’s letter that he forwarded it to the Secretary of War, with the requestthat it might be laid before both branches of Congress.

It might be urged that the above letters and statements are furnished byofficers of the army, who are exponents of but one side of the question. Fortunatelyit is possible to go outside the military circle and introduce testimonywhich should be considered impartial and free from bias. At this particular121period in the discussion of the Indian question, Colonel E.S. Parker, a highlyeducated and thoroughly cultivated gentleman, was asked to submit a planfor the establishment of a permanent and perpetual peace, and for settlingall matters of difference between the United States and the various Indiantribes.

Colonel Parker is well known as a distinguished chief of the once powerfulSix Nations, and since the time referred to has been better known as Commissionerof Indian Affairs during the early part of the present administration.Being an Indian, his sympathies must be supposed to have been on the side ofhis own people, and in his endeavor to establish a permanent peace he wouldrecommend no conditions prejudicial or unjust to their interests. He recommended:“First, the transfer of the Indian Bureau from the Interior Departmentback to the War Department, or military branch of the Government,where it originally belonged, until within the last few years. The conditionand disposition of all the Indians west of the Mississippi river, as developed inconsequence of the great and rapid influx of immigration by reason of the discoveryof the precious metals throughout the entire West, renders it of the utmostimportance that military supervision should be extended over the Indians.Treaties have been made with a very large number of the tribes, and generallyreservations have been provided as homes for them. Agents, appointedfrom civil life, have generally been provided to protect their lives and property,and to attend to the prompt and faithful observance of treaty stipulations.But as the hardy pioneer and adventurous miner advanced into the inhospitableregions occupied by the Indians, in search of the precious metals, theyfound no rights possessed by the Indians that they were bound to respect.The faith of treaties solemnly entered into was totally disregarded, and Indianterritory wantonly violated. If any tribe remonstrated against the violationof their natural and treaty rights, members of the tribe were inhumanly shotdown, and the whole treated as mere dogs. Retaliation generally followed,and bloody Indian wars have been the consequence, costing many lives andmuch treasure. In all troubles arising in this manner, the civil agents havebeen totally powerless to avert the consequences, and when too late the militaryhave been called in to protect the whites and punish the Indians, when if,in the beginning, the military had had the supervision of the Indians, theirrights would not have been improperly molested, or if disturbed in their quietudeby any lawless whites, a prompt and summary check to any further aggressioncould have been given. In cases where the Government promisesthe Indians the quiet and peaceable possession of a reservation, and preciousmetals are discovered or found to exist upon it, the military alone can give theIndians the needed protection, and keep the adventurous miner from encroachingupon the Indians until the Government has come to some understandingwith them. In such cases the civil agent is absolutely powerless.

“Most of the Indian treaties contain stipulations for the payment to Indiansof annuities, either in money or goods, or both, and agents are appointed tomake these payments whenever Government furnishes them the means. Iknow of no reason why officers of the army could not make all these paymentsas well as civilians. The expense of agencies would be saved, and I thinkthe Indians would be more honestly dealt by. An officer’s honor and interestare at stake, which impels him to discharge his duty honestly and faithfully,while civil agents have none of these incentives, the ruling passion with thembeing generally to avoid all trouble and responsibility and to make as much122money as possible out of their offices. In the retransfer of this bureau, I wouldprovide for the complete abolishment of the system of Indian traders, which inmy opinion, is a great evil to Indian communities. I would make Governmentthe purchaser of all articles usually brought in by Indians, giving thema fair equivalent for the same in money, or goods at cost prices. In this wayit would be an easy matter to regulate the sale or issue of arms and ammunitionto Indians, a question which of late has agitated the minds of the civil andmilitary authorities. If the entry of large numbers of Indians to any militarypost is objectionable, it can easily be arranged that only limited numbers shallbe admitted daily.”

Colonel Parker next quotes from messages of Washington and Jefferson,showing that they had favored the exclusion of civil agents and traders. Hisrecommendation then proceeds: “It is greatly to be regretted that this beneficentand humane policy had not been adhered to, for it is a fact not to be denied,that at this day Indian trading licenses are very much sought after, andwhen once obtained, although it may be for a limited period, the lucky possessoris considered as having already made his fortune. The eagerness alsowith which Indian agencies are sought after, and large fortunes made by theagents in a few years, notwithstanding the inadequate salary given, is presumptiveevidence of frauds against the Indians and the Government. Manyother reasons might be suggested why the Indian department should altogetherbe under military control, but a familiar knowledge of the practical workingof the present system would seem to be the most convincing proof of the proprietyof the measure. It is pretty generally advocated by those most familiarwith our Indian relations, and, so far as I know, the Indians themselvesdesire it. Civil officers are not usually respected by the tribes, but they fearand regard the military, and will submit to their counsels, advice, and dictation,when they would not listen to a civil agent.”

In discussing the establishment of reservations, and the locating of the Indiansupon them, Colonel Parker says: “It may be imagined that a seriousobstacle would be presented to the removal of the Indians from theirhomes on account of the love they bear for the graves of their ancestors.This, indeed, would be the least and last objection that would be raised by anytribe. Much is said in the books about the reverence paid by Indians to thedead, and their antipathy to deserting their ancestral graves. Whatever mayhave been the customs for the dead in ages gone by, and whatever pilgrimagesmay have been made to the graves of their loved and distinguished dead,none of any consequence exist at the present day. They leave their deadwithout any painful regrets, or the shedding of tears. And how could it beotherwise with a people who have such indefinite and vague ideas of a futurestate of existence? And to my mind it is unnatural to assume or suppose thatthe wild or untutored Indian can have more attachment for his home, or lovefor the graves of his ancestors, than the civilized and enlightened Christian.”

I regret that I cannot, in this brief space, give all the suggestions and recommendationssubmitted by this eminent representative of the red man, displayingas they do sound judgment and thorough mastery of his subject. Inregard to the expense of his plan he says: “I believe it to be more economicalthan any other plan that could be suggested. A whole army of Indianagents, traders, contractors, jobbers, and hangers-on would be dispensed with,and from them would come the strongest opposition to the adoption of thisplan, as it would effectually close to them the corrupt sources of their wealth.”


General Grant, then commanding the army, must have approved at thattime of the views of the distinguished Indian; for a few years later, onentering upon the duties of President of the United States, he appointed himCommissioner of Indian Affairs, thus giving Colonel Parker an opportunity toinaugurate the system which he had urged as being most conducive to thewelfare of his people and tending to restrain them from acts of war. The influencesbrought to bear by the exponents of the peace policy, as it was termed,were too powerful to be successfully resisted, and Colonel Parker felt himselfforced to resign his position, for the reason, as stated by him, that the influencesoperating against him were so great that he was unable to give effect tothe principles which he believed should prevail in administering the affairs ofhis important bureau.

The latter part of the summer and fall of 1867 was not characterized byactive operations either upon the part of the troops or that of the Indians. Ageneral council of all the tribes infesting the southern plains was called to assembleon “Medicine Lodge creek.” This council was called in furtheranceof a plan of pacification proposed by Congress with a view to uniting and locatingall the tribes referred to on a reservation to be agreed upon. Congress providedthat the tribes invited to the council should be met by a peace commissionon the part of the Government, composed of members of each house ofCongress, distinguished civilians, and officers of the army of high rank. Atthis council all the southern tribes assembled; presents in profusion were distributedamong the Indians, the rule of distribution, I believe, being as usualthat the worst Indians received the greatest number of valuable presents; anagreement was entered into between the Indians and the representatives ofthe Government; reservations embracing a large extent of the finest portionsof the public lands were fixed upon, to the apparent satisfaction of all concerned,and the promise of the Indians to occupy them and to keep away fromthe settlements and lines of travel was made without hesitation. This was thebeginning of the promised era of peace. The lion and the lamb had agreed tolie down together, but the sequel proved that when they got up again “thelamb was missing.”



Comrades, leave me here a little, while as yet ’tis early morn;

Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle horn.

In this instance, however, the bugle whose summoning notes I was supposedto be listening for was one of peculiar structure, and its tones couldonly be rendered effective when prompted by the will of the director at Washington.In other words, I was living in involuntary but unregretful retirementfrom active service. I had spent the winter of 1867–’68 most agreeablywith many of my comrades at Fort Leavenworth, but in the spring was forcedto see them set out for their summer rendezvous for operations against the Indians,and myself compelled by superior authority, or rather by “circ*mstancesover which I had no control,” to remain in the rear, a non-combatant inevery sense of the word; so much so that I might have been eligible to electionas honorary member of some one of those preponderous departments referredto by General Hazen in “The School and the Army,” as “holding militaryrank, wearing the uniform,” but living in complete “official separation from theline,” except that I was not “divided from it in heart and sympathy.” It is ahappy disposition that can content itself in all phases of fortune by the sayingthat “that which cannot be cured must be endured.” I had frequent recourseto this and similar consoling expressions, in the endeavor to reconcile myselfto the separation from my command. For fear some of my readers may notcomprehend my situation at the time, I will briefly remark in parenthesis, andby way of note of explanation, that for precisely what I have described insome of the preceding chapters, the exact details of which would be out ofplace here, it had apparently been deemed necessary that my connection withcertain events and transactions, every one of which has been fully referredto heretofore, should be submitted to an official examination in order to determineif each and every one of my acts had been performed with a due regardto the customs of war in like cases. To enter into a review of the proceedingswhich followed, would be to introduce into these pages matters of too personala character to interest the general reader. It will suffice to say that Iwas placed in temporary retirement from active duty, and this result seemedsatisfactory to those parties most intimately concerned in the matter. When,in the spring of 1868, the time arrived for the troops to leave their winterquarters, and march westward to the Plains, the command with which Ihad been associated during the preceding year left its station at Fort Leavenworth,Kansas, and marched westward about three hundred miles, there to engagein operations against the Indians. While they, under command of GeneralSully, were attempting to kill Indians, I was studying the problem of howto kill time in the most agreeable manner. My campaign was a decided success.I established my base of operations in a most beautiful little town onthe western shores of Lake Erie, from which I projected various hunting, fishing,and boating expeditions. With abundance of friends and companions,and ample success, time passed pleasantly enough; yet withal there was a constantlonging to be with my comrades in arms in the far West, even whileaware of the fact that their campaign was not resulting in any material advantage125I had no reason to believe that I would be permitted to rejoin them untilthe following winter. It was on the evening of the 24th of September, andwhen about to “break bread” at the house of a friend in the little town referredto that I received the following telegram:

Headquarters Department of the Missouri,
In the Field, Fort Hays, Kansas, September 24, 1868.

General G.A. Custer, Monroe, Michigan:

Generals Sherman, Sully, and myself, and nearly all the officers of your regiment, have askedfor you, and I hope the application will be successful. Can you come at once? Eleven companiesof your regiment will move about the 1st of October against the hostile Indians, from MedicineLodge creek toward the Wichita mountains.

(Signed) P.H. Sheridan, Major General Commanding.

The reception of this despatch was a source of unbounded gratification tome, not only because I saw the opportunity of being actively and usefully employedopened before me, but there were personal considerations inseparablefrom the proposed manner of my return, which in themselves were in thehighest degree agreeable; so much so that I felt quite forbearing toward eachand every one who, whether intentionally or not, had been a party to my retirement,and was almost disposed to favor them with a copy of the precedingdespatch, accompanied by an expression of my hearty thanks for the unintentionalfavor they had thrown in my way.

Knowing that the application of Generals Sherman and Sheridan and theother officers referred to would meet with a favorable reply from the authoritiesat Washington, I at once telegraphed to General Sheridan that I wouldstart to join him by the next train, not intending to wait the official order whichI knew would be issued by the War Department. The following day foundme on a railway train hastening to the plains as fast as the iron horse couldcarry me. The expected order from Washington overtook me that day in theshape of an official telegram from the Adjutant General of the Army, directingme to proceed at once and report for duty to General Sheridan.

At Fort Leavenworth I halted in my journey long enough to cause myhorses to be shipped by rail to Fort Hays. Nor must I omit two other faithfulcompanions of my subsequent marches and campaigns, named Blucher andMaida, two splendid specimens of the Scotch staghound, who were destined toshare the dangers of an Indian campaign and finally meet death in a tragicmanner—the one by the hand of the savage, the other by an ill-directed bulletfrom a friendly carbine. Arriving at Fort Hays on the morning of the 30th,I found General Sheridan, who had transferred his headquarters temporarilyfrom Fort Leavenworth to that point in order to be nearer the field of operations,and better able to give his personal attention to the conduct of the comingcampaign. My regiment was at that time on or near the Arkansas riverin the vicinity of Fort Dodge, and about three easy marches from Fort Hays.After remaining at General Sheridan’s headquarters one day and receiving hisinstructions, I set out with a small escort across the country to Fort Dodge toresume command of my regiment. Arriving at Fort Dodge without incident,I found General Sully, who at that time was in command of the district inwhich my regiment was serving. With the exception of a few detachments,the main body of the regiment was encamped on Bluff creek, a small tributaryof the Arkansas, the camp being some thirty miles southeast from FortDodge. Taking with me the detachment at the fort, I proceeded to the maincamp, arriving there in the afternoon. I had scarcely assumed command when126a band of Indians dashed close up to our camp and fired upon us. This was gettinginto active service quite rapidly. I was in the act of taking my seat for dinner,my ride having given me a splendid relish for the repast, when the shouts andfiring of the savages informed me that more serious duties were at hand.Every man flew to arms and almost without command rushed to oppose theenemy. Officers and men provided themselves with rifles or carbines, andsoon began delivering a deliberate but ineffective fire against the Indians.The latter, as usual, were merely practising their ordinary ruse de guerre,which was to display a very small venturesome force in the expectation oftempting pursuit by an equal or slightly superior force, and, after having ledthe pursuing force well away from the main body, to surround and destroy itby the aid of overwhelming numbers, previously concealed in a ravine or ambushuntil the proper moment. On this occasion the stratagem did not succeed.The Indians, being mounted on their fleetest ponies, would charge insingle file past our camp, often riding within easy carbine range of our men,displaying great boldness and unsurpassable horsemanship. The soldiers, unaccustomedto firing at such rapidly moving objects, were rarely able toinflict serious damage upon their enemies. Occasionally a pony would bestruck and brought to the ground, but the rider always succeeded in being carriedaway upon the pony of a comrade. It was interesting to witness theirmarvellous abilities as horsem*n; at the same time one could not but admirethe courage they displayed. The ground was level, open, and unobstructed;the troops were formed in an irregular line of skirmishers dismounted, the lineextending a distance of perhaps two hundred yards. The Indians had a rendezvousbehind a hillock on the right, which prevented them from being seenor disturbed by the soldiers. Starting out singly, or by twos and threes, thewarriors would suddenly leave the cover of the hillock, and with war whoopsand taunts dash over the plain in a line parallel to that occupied by the soldiers,and within easy carbine range of the latter. The pony seemed possessedof the designs and wishes of his dusky rider, as he seemed to fly unguided bybridle, rein, or spur. The warrior would fire and load and fire again as oftenas he was able to do, while dashing along through the shower of leaden bulletsfired above, beneath, in front, and behind him by the excited troopers, until finally,when the aim of the latter improved and the leaden messengers whistleduncomfortably close, the warrior would be seen to cast himself over on the oppositeside of his pony, until his foot on the back and his face under the neckof the pony were all that could be seen, the rest of his person being completelycovered by the body of the pony. This manœuvre would frequently deceivethe recruits among the soldiers; having fired probably about the time the warriorwas seen to disappear, the recruit would shout exultingly and call the attentionof his comrades to his lucky shot. The old soldiers, however, werenot so easily deceived, and often afterwards would remind their less experiencedcompanion of the terrible fatality of his shots.

After finding that their plan to induce a small party to pursue them did notsucceed, the Indians withdrew their forces, and, concealment being no longernecessary, we were enabled to see their full numbers as that portion of themwhich had hitherto remained hidden behind a bluff rode boldly out on the openplain. Being beyond rifle range, they contented themselves with taunts andgestures of defiance, then rode away. From the officers of the camp I learnedthat the performance of the Indians which had occupied our attention on thisafternoon was of almost daily occurrence, and that the savages, from having127been allowed to continue in their course unmolested, had almost reduced thecamp to a state of siege; so true had this become that at no hour of the day wasit safe for individuals to pass beyond the chain of sentinels which envelopedthe immediate limits of the camp. Before it became known that the Indianswere so watchful and daring, many narrow escapes were made, and manylaughable although serious incidents occurred—laughable, however, only tothose who were not the parties most interested. Two of these serio-comic affairsnow recur to me. There was a beautiful clear stream of water, namedBluff creek, running through camp, which supplied bathing facilities to theofficers and men, a privilege which but few allowed to pass unimproved.Whether to avoid the publicity attending localities near camp, or to seek apoint in the bed of the stream where the water was fresh and undisturbed, orfrom a motive different from either of these, two of our young officers mountedtheir horses one day without saddles and rode down the valley of the streamperhaps a mile or more in search of a bathing place. Discovering one to theirtaste, they dismounted, secured their horses, and, after disposing of their apparelon the greensward covering the banks, were soon floating and flounderingin the water like a pair of young porpoises. How long they had beenenjoying this healthful recreation, or how much longer they might have remained,is not necessary to the story. One of them happening to glance towardtheir horses observed the latter in a state of great trepidation. Hasteningfrom the water to the bank, he discovered the cause of the strange conducton the part of the horses, which was nothing more nor less than a party of aboutthirty Indian warriors, mounted, and stealthily making their way toward thebathing party, evidently having their eyes on the latter, and intent upon theircapture. Here was a condition of affairs that was at least as unexpected as itwas unwelcome. Quickly calling out to his companion, who was still in thewater unconscious of approaching danger, the one on shore made haste to unfastentheir horses and prepare for flight. Fortunately the Indians, who werenow within a few hundred yards of the two officers, were coming from the directionopposite camp, leaving the line of retreat of the officers open. No soonerdid the warriors find that their approach was discovered than they put theirponies to their best speed, hoping to capture the officers before the latter couldhave time to mount and get their horses under headway. The two officers inthe meanwhile were far from idle; no flesh brushes or bathing towels were requiredto restore a healthy circulation, nor was time wasted in an idle attemptto make a toilet. If they had sought their bathing ground from motives ofretirement or delicacy, no such sentiments were exhibited now, for, catching uptheir wardrobe from the ground in one hand and seizing the bridle rein withthe other, one leap and they were on their horses’ backs and riding towardcamp for dear life. They were not exactly in the condition of Flora McFlimsywith nothing to wear, but to all intents and purposes might as well havebeen so. Then followed a race which, but for the risk incurred by two of theriders, might well be compared to that of John Gilpin. Both of the officerswere experienced horsem*n; but what experienced horseman would willinglycare to be thrust upon the bare back of a flying steed, minus all apparel,neither boots, breeches, nor saddle, not even the spurs and shirt collar whichare said to constitute the full uniform of a Georgian colonel, and when sodisposed of, to have three or four score of hideously painted and feathered savages,well mounted and near at hand, straining every nerve and urging theirfleet-footed war ponies to their highest speed in order that the scalps of the experienced128horsem*n might be added to the other human trophies whichgrace their lodges? Truly this was one of the occasions when personal appearanceis nothing, and “a man’s a man for a’ that,” so at least thought ouramateur Mazeppas as they came dashing toward camp, ever and anon castinganxious glances over their shoulders at their pursuers, who, despite every exertionof the former, were surely overhauling their pale-faced brothers. To thepursued, camp seemed a long way in the distance, while the shouts of the warriors,each time seeming nearer than before, warned them to urge their steedsto their fastest pace. In a few moments the occupants of camp discovered theapproach of this strangely appearing party. It was an easy matter to recognizethe warriors, but who could name the two who rode at the front? Thepursuing warriors, seeing that they were not likely to overtake and capturethe two knights of the bath, slackened their pace and sent a volley of arrowsafter them. A few moments later and the two officers were safe insidethe lines, where they lost no time in making their way to their tents to attendto certain matters relating to their toilet which the sudden appearanceof their dusky visitors had prevented. It was a long time before they ceasedto hear allusions made by their comrades to the cut and style of their ridingsuit.

The other affair to which I have alluded occurred about the same time, butin a different direction from camp. One of the officers, who was commandinga troop, concluded one day that it would be safe to grant permission to a partof his command to leave camp for the purpose of hunting buffalo and obtainingfresh meat for the men. The hunting party, being strong enough to protectit*elf against almost any ordinary war party of Indians that might presentit*elf, left camp at an early hour in the morning and set out in the direction inwhich the buffalo were reported to be. The forenoon passed away, nooncame, and still no signs of the return of the hunters. The small hours of theafternoon began to come and go, and still no tidings from the hunters, whowere expected to return to camp after an absence of two or three hours. Theofficer to whose troop they belonged, and who was of an exceedingly nervoustemperament, began to regret having accorded them permission to leavecamp, knowing that Indians had been seen in the vicinity. The hunting partyhad gone by a route across the open country which carried them up a longbut very gradual ascent of perhaps two miles, beyond which, on the levelplain, the buffalo were supposed to be herding in large numbers. Anxious tolearn something concerning the whereabouts of his men, and believing hecould obtain a view of the country beyond which might prove satisfactory, theofficer, whose suspense was constantly increasing, determined to mount hishorse and ride to the summit of the ridge beyond which his men had disappearedin the morning. Taking no escort with him, he leisurely rode off,guided by the trail made by the hunters. The distance to the crest provedmuch further than it had seemed to the eye before starting. A ride of overtwo miles had to be made before the highest point was reached, but once therethe officer felt well repaid for his exertion, for in the dim deceptions of a beautifulmirage he saw what to him was his hunting party leisurely returning towardcamp. Thinking they were still a long distance from him and wouldnot reach him for a considerable time, he did what every prudent cavalrymanwould have done under similar circ*mstances—dismounted to allow his horsean opportunity to rest. At the same time he began studying the extendedscenery, which from his exalted position lay spread in all directions beneath129him. The camp, seen nestling along the banks of the creek at the base of theridge, appeared as a pleasant relief to the monotony of the view, which otherwisewas undisturbed. Having scanned the horizon in all directions, heturned to watch the approach of his men; when, behold! instead of his owntrusty troopers returning laden with the fruits of the chase, the mirage haddisappeared, and he saw a dozen well-mounted warriors riding directly towardhim at full speed. They were still far enough away to enable him tomount his horse and have more than an even chance to outstrip them in therace to camp. But no time was to be thrown away; the beauties of naturalscenery had, for the time at least, lost their attraction. Camp never seemedso inviting before. Heading his horse toward camp and gathering the reinsin one hand and holding his revolver in the other, the officer set out to makehis escape. Judgment had to be employed in riding this race, for the distancebeing fully two miles before a place of safety could be reached, hishorse, not being high-bred and accustomed to going such a distance at fullspeed, might, if forced too rapidly at first, fail before reaching camp. Actingupon this idea, a tight rein was held and as much speed kept in reserve assafety would permit. This enabled the Indians to gain on the officer, but atno time did he feel that he could not elude his pursuers. His principal anxietywas confined to the character of the ground, care being taken to avoid therough and broken places. A single misstep or a stumble on the part of hishorse, and his pursuers would be upon him before he could rise. The sensationshe experienced during that flying ride could not have been enviable.Soon the men in camp discerned his situation, and seizing their carbineshastened out to his assistance. The Indians were soon driven away and theofficer again found himself among his friends. The hunters also made theirappearance shortly after, well supplied with game. They had not found thebuffalo as near camp as they had expected, and after finding them were carriedby a long pursuit in a different direction from that taken by them in themorning. Hence their delay in returning to camp.

These and similar occurrences, added to the attack made by the Indians on thecamp the afternoon I joined, proved that unless we were to consider ourselvesas actually besieged and were willing to accept the situation, some decisivecourse must be adopted to punish the Indians for their temerity. No offensivemeasures had been attempted since the infantry and cavalry forces ofGeneral Sully had marched up the hill and then, like the forces of the king ofFrance, had marched down again. The effect of this movement, in which theIndians gained a decided advantage, was to encourage them in their attemptsto annoy and disturb the troops, not only by prowling about camp in considerablenumbers and rendering it unsafe, as has been seen, to venture beyondthe chain of sentinels, but by waylaying and intercepting all parties passing betweencamp and the base of supplies at Fort Dodge. Knowing, from my recentinterview with General Sheridan, that activity was to characterize the futureoperations of the troops, particularly those of the cavalry, and that the sooner alittle activity was exhibited on our part the sooner perhaps might we be freedfrom the aggressions of the Indians, I returned from the afternoon skirmishto my tent and decided to begin offensive movements that same night, as soonas darkness should conceal the march of the troops. It was reasonable to inferthat the war parties which had become so troublesome in the vicinity of camp,and made their appearance almost daily, had a hiding place or rendezvous onsome of the many small streams which flowed within a distance of twenty130miles of the point occupied by the troops; and it was barely possible that if asimultaneous movement was made by several well-conducted parties with aview of scouting up and down the various streams referred to, the hidingplace of the Indians might be discovered and their forays in the future brokenup. It was deemed most prudent, and to promise greatest chance of success, tomake these movements at night, as during the hours of daylight the Indiansno doubt kept close watch over everything transpiring in the vicinity of camp,and no scouting party could have taken its departure in daylight unobservedby the watchful eyes of the savages. Four separate detachments were at onceordered to be in readiness to move immediately after dark. Each detachmentnumbered about one hundred cavalry well mounted and well armed. Guideswho knew the country well were assigned to each, and each party was commandedand accompanied by zealous and efficient officers. The country wasdivided into four sections, and to each detachment was assigned one of the sections,with orders to thoroughly scout the streams running through it. It washoped that some one of these parties might, if in no other way, stumble upon acamp-fire or other indication of the rendezvous of the Indians; but subsequentexperience only confirmed me in the opinion that Indians seldom, if ever, permithostile parties to stumble upon them unless the stumblers are the weaker party.Before proceeding further in my narrative I will introduce to the reader apersonage who is destined to appear at different intervals, and upon interestingoccasions, as the campaign proceeds. It is usual on the plains, and particularlyduring time of active hostilities, for every detachment of troops to beaccompanied by one or more professional scouts or guides. These guidesare employed by the government at a rate of compensation far in excess ofthat paid to the soldiers, some of the most experienced receiving pay aboutequal to that of a subaltern in the line. They constitute a most interesting aswell as useful and necessary portion of our frontier population. Who theyare, whence they come or whither they go, their names even, except such asthey choose to adopt or which may be given them, are all questions whichnone but themselves can answer. As their usefulness to the service dependsnot upon the unravelling of either of these mysteries but little thought is bestowedupon them. Do you know the country thoroughly? and can you speakany of the Indian languages? constitute the only examination which civil oruncivil service reform demands on the plains. If the evidence on these two importantpoints is satisfactory, the applicant for a vacancy in the corps of scoutsmay consider his position as secured, and the door to congenial employment,most often leading to a terrible death, opens before him. They are almost invariablymen of very superior judgment or common sense, with educationgenerally better than that of the average frontiersman. Their most strikingcharacteristics are love of adventure, a natural and cultivated knowledge ofthe country without recourse to maps, deep hatred of the Indian, and an intimateacquaintance with all the habits and customs of the latter, whether pertainingto peace or war, and last but most necessary to their calling, skill inthe use of firearms and in the management of a horse. The possessor ofthese qualifications, and more than the ordinary amount of courage, may feelequal to discharge the dangerous and trying duties of a scout. In concentratingthe cavalry which had hitherto been operating in small bodies, it was foundthat each detachment brought with it the scouts who had been serving withthem. When I joined the command I found quite a number of these scoutsattached to various portions of the cavalry, but each acting separately. For131the purposes of organization it was deemed best to unite them into a separatedetachment under command of one of their own number. Being unacquaintedpersonally with the merits or demerits of any of them, the selection of a chiefhad necessarily to be made somewhat at random. There was one amongtheir number whose appearance would have attracted the notice of any casualobserver. He was a man about forty years of age, perhaps older, over six feet inheight, and possessing a well-proportioned frame. His head was covered witha luxuriant crop of long, almost black hair, strongly inclined to curl, and solong as to fall carelessly over his shoulders. His face, at least so much of itas was not concealed by the long, waving brown beard and moustache, wasfull of intelligence and pleasant to look upon. His eye was undoubtedly handsome,black and lustrous, with an expression of kindness and mildness combined.On his head was generally to be seen, whether asleep or awake, a hugesombrero or black slouch hat. A soldier’s overcoat with its large circularcape, a pair of trousers with the legs tucked in the top of his long boots,usually constituted the outside make-up of the man whom I selected aschief scout. He was known by the euphonious title of “California Joe”;no other name seemed ever to have been given him, and no other nameever seemed necessary. His military armament consisted of a long breech-loadingSpringfield musket, from which he was inseparable, and a revolverand hunting-knife, both the latter being carried in his waist-belt. His mountcompleted his equipment for the field, being instead of a horse a finely-formedmule, in whose speed and endurance he had every confidence. Scouts usuallyprefer a good mule to a horse, and wisely too, for the reason that in makingtheir perilous journeys, either singly or by twos or threes, celerity is one principalcondition to success. The object with the scout is not to outrun or overwhelmthe Indians, but to avoid both by secrecy and caution in his movements.On the plains at most seasons of the year the horse is incapable ofperforming long or rapid journeys without being supplied with forage on theroute. This must be transported, and in the case of scouts would necessarilybe transported on the back of the horse, thereby adding materially to the weightwhich must be carried. The mule will perform a rapid and continuous marchwithout forage, being able to subsist on the grazing to be obtained in nearlyall the valleys on the plains during the greater portion of the year. CaliforniaJoe was an inveterate smoker, and was rarely seen without his stubby,dingy-looking brierwood pipe in full blast. The endurance of his smokingpowers was only surpassed by his loquacity. His pipe frequently became exhaustedand required refilling, but California Joe seemed never to lack for materialor disposition to carry on a conversation, principally composed of personaladventures among the Indians, episodes in mining life, or experience inoverland journeying before the days of steam engines and palace cars rendereda trip across the plains a comparatively uneventful one. It was evidentfrom the scraps of information volunteered from time to time, that there wasbut little of the Western country from the Pacific to the Missouri river withwhich California Joe was not intimately acquainted. He had lived in Oregonyears before, and had become acquainted from time to time with most of theofficers who had served on the plains or on the Pacific coast. I once inquiredof him if he had ever seen General Sheridan? “What, Gineral Shuridun?Why, bless my soul, I knowed Shuridun way up in Oregon more’n fifteenyears ago, an’ he wuz only a second lootenant uv infantry. He wuz quartermasterof the foot or something uv that sort, an’ I hed the contract uv furnishin’132wood to the post, and, would ye b’leve it? I hed a kind of a sneakin’notion then that he’d hurt somebody ef they’d ever turn him loose. Lord, butain’t he old lightnin’?” This was the man whom upon a short acquaintance Idecided to appoint as chief of the scouts. This thrust of professional greatness,as the sequel will prove, was more than California Joe aspired to, or, consideringsome of his undeveloped traits, was equal to; but I am anticipating.

As the four detachments already referred to were to move as soon as it wasdark, it was desirable that the scouts should be at once organized and assigned.So, sending for California Joe, I informed him of his promotion and whatwas expected of him and his men. After this official portion of the interviewhad been completed, it seemed proper to Joe’s mind that a more intimate acquaintancebetween us should be cultivated, as we had never met before. Hisfirst interrogatory, addressed to me in furtherance of this idea, was frankly putas follows: “See hyar, Gineral, in order that we hev no misonderstandin’, I’djest like to ask ye a few questions.” Seeing that I had somewhat of a characterto deal with, I signified my perfect willingness to be interviewed byhim. “Are you an ambulance man ur a hoss man?” Pretending not to discoverhis meaning, I requested him to explain. “I mean do you b’leve incatchin’ Injuns in ambulances or on hossback?” Still assuming ignorance, Ireplied, “Well, Joe, I believe in catching Indians wherever we can find them,whether they are found in ambulances or on horseback.” This did not satisfyhim. “That ain’t what I’m drivin’ at. S’pose you’re after Injuns and reallywant to hev a tussle with ’em, would ye start after ’em on hossback, or wouldye climb into an ambulance and be haulded after ’em? That’s the pint I’mheadin’ fur.” I answered that “I would prefer the method on horsebackprovided I really desired to catch the Indians; but if I wished them to catchme, I would adopt the ambulance system of attack.” This reply seemed togive him complete satisfaction. “You’ve hit the nail squar on the hed. I’vebin with ’em on the plains whar they started out after the Injuns on wheels,jist as ef they war goin’ to a town funeral in the States, an’ they stood ’boutas many chances uv catchin’ Injuns az a six-mule team wud uv catchin’ a packof thievin’ Ki-o-tees, jist as much. Why that sort uv work is only fun fur theInjuns; they don’t want anything better. Ye ort to’ve seen how they pepperedit to us, an’ we a doin’ nuthin’ a’ the time. Sum uv ’em wuz ’fraid the muleswar goin’ to stampede and run off with the train an’ all our forage and grub,but that wuz impossible; fur besides the big loads uv corn an’ bacon an’ baggagethe wagons hed in them, thar war from eight to a dozen infantry menpiled into them besides. Ye ort to hev heard the quartermaster in charge uvthe train tryin’ to drive the infantry men out of the wagons and git them intothe fight. I ’spect he wuz an Irishman by his talk, fur he sed to them, ‘Gitout uv thim wagons, git out uv thim wagons; yez’ll hev me tried fur disobadienceuv ordhers fur marchin’ tin min in a wagon whin I’ve ordhers butfur ait!’”

How long I might have been detained listening to California Joe’s recitalof incidents of first campaigns, sandwiched here and there by his peculiarbut generally correct ideas of how to conduct an Indian campaign properly,I do not know; time was limited, and I had to remind him of the fact toinduce him to shorten the conversation. It was only deferred, however, ason every occasion thereafter California Joe would take his place at thehead of the column on the march, and his nearest companion was made thereceptacle of a fresh instalment of Joe’s facts and opinions. His career as“chief scout” was of the briefest nature. Everything being in readiness, the133four scouting columns, the men having removed their sabres to prevent clangingand detection, quietly moved out of camp as soon as it was sufficiently dark,and set out in different directions. California Joe accompanied that detachmentwhose prospects seemed best of encountering the Indians. The restof the camp soon afterward returned to their canvas shelter, indulging in allmanner of surmises and conjectures as to the likelihood of either or all of thescouting parties meeting with success. As no tidings would probably be receivedin camp until a late hour of the following day, taps, the usual signalfrom the bugle for “lights out,” found the main camp in almost completedarkness, with only here and there a stray glimmering of light from the candleof some officer’s tent, who was probably reckoning in his own mind howmuch he was losing or perhaps gaining by not accompanying one of the scoutingparties. What were the chances of success to the four detachments whichhad departed on this all night’s ride? Next to nothing. Still, even if no Indianscould be found, the expeditions would accomplish this much: they wouldleave their fresh trails all over the country within a circuit of twenty miles ofour camp, trails which the practised eyes of the Indians would be certain tofall upon in daylight, and inform them for the first time that an effort was beingmade to disturb them if nothing more.

Three of the scouting columns can be disposed of now by the simple statementthat they discovered no Indians, nor the remains of any camps or lodgingplaces indicating the recent presence of a war party on any of the streams visitedby them. The fourth detachment was that one which California Joe hadaccompanied as scout. What a feather it would be in his cap if, after the failureof the scouts accompanying the other columns to discover Indians, theparty guided by him should pounce upon the savages, and by a handsome fightsettle a few of the old scores charged against them!

The night was passing away uninterrupted by any such event, and but afew hours more intervened before daylight would make its appearance. Thetroops had been marching constantly since leaving camp; some were almostasleep in their saddles when the column was halted, and word was passedalong from man to man that the advance guard had discovered signs indicatingthe existence of Indians near at hand. Nothing more was necessary todispel all sensations of sleep, and to place every member of the command onthe alert. It was difficult to ascertain from the advance guard, consisting of anon-commissioned officer and a few privates, precisely what they had seen.It seemed that in the valley beyond, into which the command was about to descend,and which could be overlooked from the position the troops then held,something unusual had been seen by the leading troopers just as they hadreached the crest. What this mysterious something was, or how produced, noone could tell; it appeared simply for a moment, and then only as a bright flashof light of varied colors; how far away it was impossible to determine in theheavy darkness of the night. A hasty consultation of the officers took place atthe head of the column, when it was decided that in the darkness which thenreigned it would be unwise to move to the attack of an enemy until somethingmore was known of the numbers and position of the foe. As the moon wouldsoon rise and dispel one of the obstacles to conducting a careful attack, it wasdetermined to hold the troops in readiness to act upon a moment’s notice, andat the same time send a picked party of men, under guidance of CaliforniaJoe, to crawl as close to the supposed position of the Indians as possible, andgather all the information available. But where was California Joe all thistime? Why was he not at the front where his services would be most likely134to be in demand? Search was quietly made for him all along both flanks ofthe column, but on careful inquiry it seemed that he had not been seen forsome hours, and then at a point many miles from that at which the halt hadbeen ordered. This was somewhat remarkable, and admitted of no explanation—unless,perhaps, California Joe had fallen asleep during the marchand been carried away from the column; but this theory gained no supporters.His absence at this particular time, when his advice and services might proveso invaluable, was regarded as most unfortunate. However, the party to approachthe Indian camp was being selected when a rifle shot broke upon thestillness of the scene, sounding in the direction of the mysterious appearancewhich had first attracted the attention of the advanced troopers. Anothermoment, and the most powerful yells and screams rose in the same direction,as if a terrible conflict was taking place. Every carbine was advanced readyfor action, each trigger was carefully sought, no one as yet being able to divinethe cause of this sudden outcry, when in a moment who should come chargingwildly up to the column, now dimly visible by the first rays of the moon, butCalifornia Joe, shouting and striking wildly to the right and left as if besetby a whole tribe of warriors. Here, then, was the solution of the mystery.Not then, but in a few hours, everything was rendered clear. Among theother traits or peculiarities of his character, California Joe numbered anuncontrollable fondness for strong drink; it was his one great weakness—aweakness to which he could only be kept from yielding by keeping all intoxicatingdrink beyond his reach. It seemed, from an after development of theaffair, that the sudden elevation of California Joe, unsought and unexpectedas it was, to the position of chief scout, was rather too much good fortune to beborne by him in a quiet or undemonstrative manner. Such a profusion ofgreatness had not been thrust upon him so often as to render him secure frombeing affected by his preferment. At any rate he deemed the event deservingof celebration—professional duties to the contrary notwithstanding—and beforeproceeding on the night expedition had filled his canteen with a bountiful supplyof the worst brand of whiskey, such as is only attainable on the frontier.He, perhaps, did not intend to indulge to that extent which might disable himfrom properly performing his duties; but in this, like many other good menwhose appetites are stronger than their resolutions, he failed in his reckoning.As the liquor which he imbibed from time to time after leaving camp beganto produce the natural or unnatural effect, Joe’s independence greatly increaseduntil the only part of the expedition which he recognized as at all importantwas California Joe. His mule, no longer restrained by his hand, graduallycarried him away from the troops, until the latter were left far in the rear.This was the relative position when the halt was ordered. California Joe,having indulged in drink sufficiently for the time being, concluded that thenext best thing would be a smoke; nothing would be better to cheer him onhis lonely night ride. Filling his ever present brierwood with tobacco, he nextproceeded to strike a light, employing for this purpose a storm or tempestmatch; it was the bright and flashing colors of this which had so suddenly attractedthe attention of the advance guard. No sooner was his pipe lightedthan the measure of his happiness was complete, his imagination picturing himto himself, perhaps, as leading in a grand Indian fight. His mule by thistime had turned toward the troops, and when California Joe set up his unearthlyhowls, and began his imaginary charge into an Indian village, he wascarried at full speed straight to the column, where his good fortune alone preventedhim from receiving a volley before he was recognized as not an Indian.135His blood was up, and all efforts to quiet or suppress him proved unavailing,until finally the officer in command was forced to bind him hand and foot, andin this condition secured him on the back of his faithful mule. In this sorryplight the chief scout continued until the return of the troops to camp, whenhe was transferred to the tender mercies of the guard as a prisoner for misconduct.Thus ended California Joe’s career as chief scout. Another wasappointed in his stead, but we must not banish him from our good opinionyet. As a scout, responsible only for himself, he will reappear in thesepages with a record which redounds to his credit.

Nothing was accomplished by the four scouting parties except, perhaps,to inspire the troops with the idea that they were no longer to be keptacting merely on the defensive, while the Indians, no doubt, learned thesame fact, and at the same time. The cavalry had been lying idle, exceptwhen attacked by the Indians, for upward of a mouth. It was reported thatthe war parties, which had been so troublesome for some time, came from thedirection of Medicine Lodge creek, a stream running in the same general directionas Bluff creek, and about two marches from the latter in a northeasterlydirection. It was on this stream—Medicine Lodge creek—that the greatpeace council had been held with all the southern tribes with whom we hadbeen and were then at war, the Government being represented at the councilby Senators and other members of Congress, officers high in rank in thearmy, and prominent gentlemen selected from the walks of civil life. Thenext move, after the unsuccessful attempt in which California Joe createdthe leading sensation, was to transfer the troops across from Bluff creek toMedicine Lodge creek, and to send scouting parties up and down the latter insearch of our enemies. This movement was made soon after the return of thefour scouting expeditions sent out from Bluff creek. As our first day’s marchwas to be a short one, we did not break camp on Bluff creek until a late hourin the morning. Soon everything was in readiness for the march, and like atravelling village of Bedouins, the troopers and their train of supplies stretchedout into column. First came the cavalry, moving in column of fours; nextcame the immense wagon train, containing the tents, forage, rations, and extraammunition of the command, a very necessary but unwieldy portion of amounted military force. Last of all came the rear guard, usually consistingof about one company. On this occasion it was the company commanded bythe officer whose narrow escape from the Indians while in search of a partyof his men who had gone buffalo hunting, has been already described in thischapter. The conduct of the Indians on this occasion proved that they hadbeen keeping an unseen but constant watch on everything transpiring in orabout camp. The column had scarcely straightened itself out in commencingthe march, and the rear guard had barely crossed the limits of the desertedcamp, when out from a ravine near by dashed a war party of fully fifty well-mounted,well-armed warriors. Their first onslaught was directed against therear guard, and a determined effort was made to drive them from the train,and thus place the latter at their mercy, to be plundered of its contents. Afterdisposing of flankers, for the purpose of resisting any efforts which might bemade to attack the train from either flank, I rode back to where the rearguard were engaged, to ascertain if they required reinforcements. At thesame time orders were given for the column of troops and train to continuethe march, as it was not intended that so small a party as that attacking usshould delay our march by any vain effort on our part to ride them down, or136overhaul them, when we knew they could outstrip us if the contest was to bedecided by a race. Joining the rear guard, I had an opportunity to witnessthe Indian mode of fighting in all its perfection. Surely no race of men,not even the famous Cossacks, could display more wonderful skill in featsof horsemanship than the Indian warrior on his native plains, mounted onhis well-trained war pony, voluntarily running the gauntlet of his foes, drawingand receiving the fire of hundreds of rifles, and in return sending back aperfect shower of arrows, or, more likely still, well-directed shots from somesouvenir of a peace commission, in the shape of an improved breech-loader.The Indian warrior is capable of assuming positions on his pony, the latter atfull speed, which no one but an Indian could maintain for a single momentwithout being thrown to the ground. The pony, of course, is perfectly trained,and seems possessed of the spirit of his rider. An Indian’s wealth is mostgenerally expressed by the number of his ponies. No warrior or chief is of anyimportance or distinction who is not the owner of a herd of ponies numberingfrom twenty to many hundreds. He has for each special purpose a certainnumber of ponies, those that are kept as pack animals being the most inferiorin quality and value; then the ordinary riding ponies used on the march orabout camp, or when visiting neighboring villages; next in consideration is the“buffalo pony,” trained to the hunt, and only employed when dashing into themidst of the huge buffalo herds, when the object is either food from the fleshor clothing and shelter for the lodges, to be made from the buffalo hide; last,or rather first, considering its value and importance, is the “war pony,” thefavorite of the herd, fleet of foot, quick in intelligence, and full of courage. Itmay be safely asserted that the first place in the heart of the warrior is heldby his faithful and obedient war pony.

Indians are extremely fond of bartering, and are not behindhand in catchingthe points of a good bargain. They will sign treaties relinquishing theirlands, and agree to forsake the burial ground of their forefathers; they willpart, for due consideration, with their bow and arrows, and their accompanyingquiver, handsomely wrought in dressed furs; their lodges even may bepurchased at not an unfair valuation, and it is not an unusual thing for a chiefor warrior to offer to exchange his wife or daughter for some article whichmay have taken his fancy. This is no exaggeration; but no Indian of theplains has ever been known to trade, sell, or barter away his favorite “warpony.” To the warrior his battle horse is as the apple of his eye. Neither lovenor money can induce him to part with it. To see them in battle, and to witnesshow the one almost becomes a part of the other, one might well apply tothe warrior the lines—

But this gallant

Had witchcraft in ’t; he grew into his seat,

And to such wondrous doing brought his horse,

As he had been encorps’d and demi-natur’d

With the brave beast; so far he passed my thought

That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks,

Come short of what he did.

The officer in command of the rear guard expressed the opinion that hecould resist successfully the attacks of the savages until a little later, when itwas seen that the latter were receiving accessions to their strength and werebecoming correspondingly bolder and more difficult to repulse, when a secondtroop of cavalry was brought from the column, as a support to the rear guard.These last were ordered to fight on foot, their horses, in charge of every fourthtrooper, being led near the train. The men being able to fire so much more137accurately when on foot, compelled the Indians to observe greater caution intheir manner of attack. Once a warrior was seen to dash out from the rest inthe peculiar act of “circling,” which was simply to dash along in front of theline of troopers, receiving their fire and firing in return. Suddenly his pony,while at full speed, was seen to fall to the ground, showing that the aim of atleast one of the soldiers had been effective. The warrior was thrown over andbeyond the pony’s head, and his capture by the cavalry seemed a sure and easymatter to be accomplished. I saw him fall, and called to the officer commandingthe troop which had remained mounted to gallop forward and secure theIndian. The troop advanced rapidly, but the comrades of the fallen Indianhad also witnessed his mishap, and were rushing to his rescue. He was on hisfeet in a moment, and the next moment another warrior, mounted on the fleetestof ponies, was at his side, and with one leap the dismounted warrior placedhimself astride the pony of his companion; and thus doubly burdened, the gallantlittle steed, with his no less gallant riders, galloped lightly away, withabout eighty cavalrymen, mounted on strong domestic horses, in full cry afterthem. There is no doubt but that by all the laws of chance the cavalry shouldhave been able to soon overhaul and capture the Indians in so unequal a race;but whether from lack of zeal on the part of the officer commanding the pursuit,or from the confusion created by the diversion attempted by the remainingIndians, the pony, doubly weighted as he was, distanced his pursuers and landedhis burden in a place of safety. Although chagrined at the failure of the pursuingparty to accomplish the capture of the Indians, I could not wholly suppressa feeling of satisfaction, if not gladness, that for once the Indian hadeluded the white man. I need not add that any temporary tenderness of feelingtoward the two Indians was prompted by their individual daring and theheroic display of comradeship in the successful attempt to render assistanceto a friend in need.

Without being able to delay our march, yet it required the combinedstrength and resistance of two full troops of cavalry to defend the train fromthe vigorous and dashing attacks of the Indians. At last, finding that the commandwas not to be diverted from its purpose, or hindered in completing itsregular march, the Indians withdrew, leaving us to proceed unmolested.These contests with the Indians, while apparently yielding the troops no decidedadvantage, were of the greatest value in view of future and more extensiveoperations against the savages. Many of the men and horses were farfrom being familiar with actual warfare, particularly of this irregular character.Some of the troopers were quite inexperienced as horsem*n, and stillmore inexpert in the use of their weapons, as their inaccuracy of fire when attemptingto bring down an Indian within easy range clearly proved. Theirexperience, resulting from these daily contests with the red men, was to proveof incalculable benefit, and fit them for the duties of the coming campaign.Our march was completed to Medicine Lodge creek, where a temporary campwas established, while scouting parties were sent both up and down thestream as far as there was the least probability of finding Indians. The party,consisting of three troops, which scouted down the valley of Medicine Lodgecreek, proceeded down to the point where was located and then standing thefamous “medicine lodge,” an immense structure erected by the Indians, andused by them as a council house, where once in each year the various tribes ofthe southern plains were wont to assemble in mysterious conclave to consultthe Great Spirit as to the future, and to offer up rude sacrifices and engage inimposing ceremonies, such as were believed to be appeasing and satisfactory138to the Indian Deity. In the conduct of these strange and interesting incantations,the presiding or directing personages are known among the Indians as“medicine men.” They are the high priests of the red man’s religion, and intheir peculiar sphere are superior in influence and authority to all others in thetribe, not excepting the head chief. No important step is proposed or put inexecution, whether relating to war or peace, even the probable success of acontemplated hunt, but is first submitted to the powers of divination confidentlybelieved to be possessed by the medicine man of the tribe. He, after aseries of enchantments, returns the answer supposed to be prompted by theGreat Spirit, as to whether the proposed step is well advised and promisessuccess or not. The decisions given by the medicine men are supreme, andadmit of no appeal. The medicine lodge just referred to had been used asthe place of assembly of the grand council held between the warlike tribes andthe representatives of the Government, referred to in preceding pages. Themedicine lodge was found in a deserted but well-preserved condition. Hereand there, hanging overhead, were collected various kinds of herbs and plants,vegetable offerings no doubt to the Great Spirit; while, in strange contrastto these peaceful specimens of the fruits of the earth, were trophies of the warpath and the chase, the latter being represented by the horns and dressed skinsof animals killed in the hunt, some of the skins being beautifully ornamentedin the most fantastic of styles peculiar to the Indian idea of art. Of the trophiesrelating to war, the most prominent were human scalps, representing allages and sexes of the white race. These scalps, according to the barbarouscustom, were not composed of the entire covering of the head, but of a smallsurface surrounding the crown, and usually from three to four inches in diameter,constituting what is termed the scalp lock. To preserve the scalp fromdecay, a small hoop of about double the diameter of the scalp is preparedfrom a small withe, which grows on the banks of some of the streams in theWest. The scalp is placed inside the hoop, and properly stretched by a networkof thread connecting the edges of the scalp with the circumference of thehoop. After being properly cured, the dried fleshy portion of the scalp is ornamentedin bright colors, according to the taste of the captor, sometimes theaddition of beads of bright and varied colors being made to heighten the effect.In other instances the hair is dyed, either to a beautiful yellow or golden, or tocrimson. Several of these horrible evidences of past depredations upon the defencelessinhabitants of the frontier, or overland emigrants, were brought backby the troopers on their return from their scout. Old trails of small parties ofIndians were discovered, but none indicating the recent presence of war partiesin that valley were observable. The command was then marched back tonear its former camp on Bluff creek, from whence, after a sojourn of three orfour days, it marched to a point on the north bank of the Arkansas river,about ten miles below Fort Dodge, there to engage in earnest preparation andreorganization for the winter campaign, which was soon to be inaugurated, andin which the Seventh Cavalry was to bear so prominent a part. We pitchedour tents on the banks of the Arkansas on the 21st of October, 1868, there toremain usefully employed until the 12th of the following month, when wemounted our horses, bade adieu to the luxuries of civilization, and turned ourfaces toward the Wichita mountains in the endeavor to drive from their winterhiding places the savages who had during the past summer waged suchruthless and cruel war upon our exposed settlers on the border. How far andin what way we were successful in this effort, will be learned in the followingchapter.



In concluding to go into camp for a brief period on the banks of the Arkansas,two important objects were in view: first, to devote the time to refitting,reorganizing, and renovating generally that portion of the commandwhich was destined to continue active operations during the inclement winterseason; second, to defer our movement against the hostile tribes until the lasttraces of the fall season had disappeared, and winter in all its bitter forceshould be upon us. We had crossed weapons with the Indians time and againduring the mild summer months, when the rich verdure of the valleys servedas bountiful and inexhaustible granaries in supplying forage to their ponies, andthe immense herds of buffalo and other varieties of game roaming undisturbedover the Plains supplied all the food that was necessary to subsist the warparties, and at the same time allow their villages to move freely from point topoint; and the experience of both officers and men went to prove that in attemptingto fight Indians in the summer season we were yielding to them theadvantages of climate and supplies—we were meeting them on ground of theirown selection, and at a time when every natural circ*mstance controlling theresult of a campaign was wholly in their favor; and as a just consequence thetroops, in nearly all these contests with the red men, had come off second best.During the grass season nearly all Indian villages are migratory, seldom remaininglonger than a few weeks at most in any one locality, depending entirelyupon the supply of grass; when this becomes exhausted the lodges aretaken down, and the entire tribe or band moves to some other point, chosenwith reference to the supply of grass, water, wood, and game. The distanceto the new location is usually but a few miles. During the fall, when the buffaloesare in the best condition to furnish food, and the hides are suitable to bedressed as robes, or to furnish covering for the lodges, the grand annual huntsof the tribes take place, by which the supply of meat for the winter is procured.This being done, the chiefs determine upon the points at which thevillage shall be located; if the tribe is a large one, the village is often subdivided,one portion or band remaining at one point, other portions choosing localitieswithin a circuit of thirty or forty miles. Except during seasons of themost perfect peace, and when it is the firm intention of the chiefs to remain onfriendly terms with the whites at least during the winter and early springmonths, the localities selected for their winter resorts are remote from the militaryposts and frontier settlements, and the knowledge which might lead tothem carefully withheld from every white man. Even during a moderatewinter season, it is barely possible for the Indians to obtain sufficient food fortheir ponies to keep the latter in anything above a starving condition. Manyof the ponies actually die from want of forage, while the remaining ones becomeso weak and attenuated that it requires several weeks of good grazing inthe spring to fit them for service—particularly such service as is required fromthe war ponies. Guided by these facts, it was evident that if we chose toavail ourselves of the assistance of so exacting and terrible an ally as the frostsof winter—an ally who would be almost as uninviting to friends as to foes—wemight deprive our enemy of his points of advantage, and force him to engagein a combat in which we should do for him what he had hitherto done for us;140compel him to fight upon ground and under circ*mstances of our own selection.To decide upon making a winter campaign against the Indians was certainlyin accordance with that maxim in the art of war which directs one to dothat which the enemy neither expects nor desires to be done. At the same timeit would dispel the old-fogy idea, which was not without supporters in thearmy, and which was confidently relied on by the Indians themselves, that thewinter season was an insurmountable barrier to the prosecution of a successfulcampaign. But aside from the delay which was necessary to be submittedto before the forces of winter should produce their natural but desired effectupon our enemies, there was much to be done on our part before we could beready to coöperate in an offensive movement.

The Seventh Cavalry, which was to operate in one body during the comingcampaign, was a comparatively new regiment, dating its existence as an organizationfrom July, 1866. The officers and companies had not served togetherbefore with much over half their full force. A large number of fresh horseswere required and obtained; these had to be drilled. All the horses in thecommand were to be newly shod, and an extra fore and hind shoe fitted to eachhorse; these, with the necessary nails, were to be carried by each trooper inthe saddle pocket. It has been seen that the men lacked accuracy in the useof their carbines. To correct this, two drills in target practice were orderedeach day. The companies were marched separately to the ground where thetargets had been erected, and, under the supervision of the troop officers, werepractised daily in firing at targets placed one hundred, two hundred, and threehundred yards distant. The men had been previously informed that out of theeight hundred men composing the command, a picked corps of sharpshooterswould be selected, numbering forty men, and made up of the forty best marksmenin the regiment. As an incentive to induce every enlisted man, whethernon-commissioned officer or private, to strive for appointment in the sharpshooters,it was given out from headquarters that the men so chosen would be regarded,as they really would deserve to be, as the elite of the command; notonly regarded as such, but treated with corresponding consideration. For example,they were to be marched as a separate organization, independently ofthe column, a matter which in itself is not so trifling as it may seem to thosewho have never participated in a long and wearisome march. Then again noguard or picket duty was to be required of the sharpshooters, which alone wasenough to encourage every trooper to excel as a marksman. Besides theseconsiderations, it was known that, should we encounter the enemy, the sharpshooterswould be most likely to be assigned a post of honor, and would havesuperior opportunities for acquiring distinction and rendering good service.The most generous as well as earnest rivalry at once sprung up, not only betweenthe various companies, as to which should secure the largest representationamong the sharpshooters, but the rivalry extended to individuals of thesame company, each of whom seemed desirous of the honor of being consideredas “one of the best shots.”

To be able to determine the matter correctly, a record of every shot firedby each man of the command, throughout a period of upwards of one month,was carefully kept. It was surprising to observe the marked and rapid improvementin the accuracy of aim attained by the men generally during thisperiod. Two drills at target practice each day, and allowing each man an opportunityat every drill to become familiar with the handling of his carbine,and in judging of the distances of the different targets, worked a most satisfactory141improvement in the average accuracy of fire; so that at the end of theperiod named, by taking the record of each trooper’s target practice, I was enabledto select forty marksmen in whose ability to bring down any warrior,whether mounted or not, who might challenge us, as we had often been challengedbefore, I felt every confidence. They were a superb body of men, andfelt the greatest pride in their distinction. A sufficient number of non-commissionedofficers, who had proven their skill as marksmen, were included inthe organization—among them, fortunately, a first sergeant, whose expertnessin the use of any firearm was well established throughout the command. I rememberhaving seen him, while riding at full speed, bring down four buffaloesby four consecutive shots from his revolver. When it is remembered thateven experienced hunters are usually compelled to fire half a dozen shots ormore to secure a single buffalo, this statement will appear the more remarkable.The forty sharpshooters being supplied with their complement of sergeantand corporals, and thus constituting an organization by themselves, onlylacked one important element, a suitable commander—a leader who, asidefrom being a thorough soldier, should possess traits of character which wouldnot only enable him to employ skilfully the superior abilities of those whowere to constitute his command, but at the same time feel that esprit de corpswhich is so necessary to both officers and soldiers when success is to beachieved. Fortunately, in my command were a considerable number of youngofficers, nearly all of whom were full of soldierly ambition, and eager to graspany opportunity which opened the way to honorable preferment. The difficultywas not in finding an officer properly qualified in every way to commandthe sharpshooters, but, among so many who I felt confident would render agood account of themselves if assigned to that position, to designate a leaderpar excellence. The choice fell upon Colonel Cook, a young officer whose acquaintancethe reader will remember to have made in connection with theplucky fight he had with the Indians near Fort Wallace the preceding summer.Colonel Cook, at the breaking out of the rebellion, although then but a lad ofsixteen years, entered one of the New York cavalry regiments, commencingat the foot of the ladder. He served in the cavalry arm of the service throughoutthe war, participating in Sheridan’s closing battles near Richmond, his servicesand gallantry resulting in his promotion to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.While there were many of the young officers who would have beenpleased if they instead of another had been chosen, there was no one in thecommand, perhaps, who did not regard the selection as a most judicious one.Future events only confirmed this judgment.

After everything in the way of reorganization and refitting which might beconsidered as actually necessary had been ordered, another step, bordering onthe ornamental perhaps, although in itself useful, was taken. This was whatis termed in the cavalry “coloring the horses,” which does not imply, as mightbe inferred from the expression, that we actually changed the color of ourhorses, but merely classified or arranged them throughout the different squadronsand troops according to the color. Hitherto the horses had been distributedto the various companies of the regiment indiscriminately, regardless ofcolor, so that in each company and squadron horses were found of every color.For uniformity of appearance it was decided to devote one afternoon to a generalexchange of horses. The troop commanders were assembled at headquartersand allowed, in the order of their rank, to select the color they preferred.This being done, every public horse in the command was led out and142placed in line: the grays collected at one point, the bays—of which there wasa great preponderance in numbers—at another, the blacks at another, the sorrelsby themselves; then the chestnuts, the blacks, the browns; and last of allcame what were jocularly designated the “brindles,” being the odds andends so far as colors were concerned—roans and other mixed colors—the juniortroop commander of course becoming the reluctant recipient of these last, valuableenough except as to color. The exchanges having been completed, themen of each troop led away to their respective picket or stable lines theirnewly-acquired chargers. Arriving upon their company grounds, another assignmentin detail was made by the troop commanders. First, the non-commissionedofficers were permitted to select their horses in the order of theirrank; then the remaining horses were distributed among the troopers generally,giving to the best soldiers the best horses. It was surprising to witnesswhat a great improvement in the handsome appearance of the command waseffected by this measure. The change when first proposed had not beengreeted with much favor by many of the troopers who by long service andassociation in times of danger had become warmly attached to their horses;but the same reasons which had endeared the steed to the soldier in the oneinstance, soon operate in the same manner to render the new acquaintancesfast friends.

Among the other measures adopted for carrying the war to our enemy’sdoors, and in a manner “fight the devil with fire,” was the employment of Indianallies. These were to be procured from the “reservation Indians,”tribes who, from engaging in long and devastating wars with the whites andwith other hostile bands, had become so reduced in power as to be glad toavail themselves of the protection and means of subsistence offered by the reservationplan. These tribes were most generally the objects of hatred in theeyes of their more powerful and independent neighbors of the Plains, and thelatter, when making their raids and bloody incursions upon the white settlementsof the frontiers, did not hesitate to visit their wrath equally upon whitesand reservation Indians. To these smaller tribes it was a welcome opportunityto be permitted to ally themselves to the forces of the Government,and endeavor to obtain that satisfaction which acting alone they were powerlessto secure. The tribes against which we proposed to operate during theapproaching campaign had been particularly cruel and relentless in theirwanton attacks upon the Osages and Kaws, two tribes living peaceably andcontentedly on well-chosen reservations in southwestern Kansas and thenorthern portion of the Indian Territory. No assistance in fighting the hostiletribes was desired, but it was believed, and correctly too, that in finding theenemy and in discovering the location of his winter hiding-places, the experienceand natural tact and cunning of the Indians would be a powerful auxiliaryif we could enlist them in our cause. An officer was sent to the villageof the Osages to negotiate with the head chiefs, and was successful in his mission,returning with a delegation consisting of the second chief in rank of theOsage tribe, named “Little Beaver,” “Hard Rope,” the counsellor or wiseman of his people, and eleven warriors, with an interpreter. In addition to themonthly rate of compensation which the Government agreed to give them, theywere also to be armed, clothed, and mounted at Government expense.

Advices from General Sheridan’s headquarters, then at Fort Hays, Kansas,were received early in November, informing us that the time for resumingactive operations was near at hand, and urging the early completion of all143preliminaries looking to that end. Fort Dodge, on the Arkansas river, wasthe extreme post south in the direction proposed to be taken by us, until theRed river should be crossed and the northwestern posts of Texas could bereached, which were further south than our movements would probably carryus. To use Fort Dodge as our base of supplies, and keep open to that pointour long line of communications, would have been, considering the characterof the country and that of the enemy to be encountered, an impracticable matterwith our force. To remedy this a temporary base was decided upon, to beestablished about one hundred miles south of Fort Dodge, at some point yetto be determined, from which we could obtain our supplies during the winter.With this object in view an immense train, consisting of about four hundredarmy wagons, was loaded with forage, rations, and clothing, for the supply ofthe troops composing the expedition. A guard composed of a few companiesof infantry was detailed to accompany the trains and to garrison the pointwhich was to be selected as the new base of supplies. Everything being inreadiness, the cavalry moved from its camp on the north bank of the Arkansason the morning of the 12th of November, and after fording the river began itsmarch toward the Indian Territory. That night we encamped on Mulberrycreek, where we were joined by the infantry and the supply train. GeneralSully, commanding the district, here took active command of the combinedforces. Much anxiety existed in the minds of some of the officers, rememberingno doubt their late experience, lest the Indians should attack us whileon the march, when, hampered as we should be in the protection of so large atrain of wagons, we might fare badly. The country over which we were tomarch was favorable to us, as we were able to move our trains in four parallelcolumns formed close together. This arrangement shortened our flanks andrendered them less exposed to attack. The following morning after reachingMulberry creek the march was resumed soon after daylight, the usual orderbeing: the four hundred wagons of the supply train and those belonging tothe troops formed in four equal columns; in advance of the wagons at aproper distance rode the advance guard of cavalry; a corresponding cavalryforce formed the rear guard. The remainder of the cavalry was divided intotwo equal parts, and these parts again divided into three equal detachments;these six detachments were disposed of along the flanks of the column, threeon a side, maintaining a distance between themselves and the train of from aquarter to half a mile, while each of them had flanking parties thrown out oppositethe train, rendering it impossible for an enemy to appear in any directionwithout timely notice being received. The infantry on beginning themarch in the morning were distributed throughout the train in such mannerthat should the enemy attack, their services could be rendered most effective.Unaccustomed, however, to field service, particularly marching, the infantryapparently were only able to march for a few hours in the early part of the day,when, becoming weary, they would straggle from their companies and climb intothe covered wagons, from which there was no determined effort to rout them.In the afternoon there would be little evidence perceptible to the eye that infantryformed any portion of the expedition, save here and there the butt of amusket or point of a bayonet peeping out from under the canvas wagon-covers,or perhaps an officer of infantry “treading alone his native heath,” or betterstill mounted on an Indian pony, the result of some barter with the Indianswhen times were a little more peaceable, and neither wars nor rumors of warsdisturbed the monotony of garrison life. Nothing occurred giving us any clue144to the whereabouts of Indians until we had been marching several days andwere moving down the valley of Beaver creek, when our Indian guides discoveredthe trail of an Indian war party, numbering, according to their estimate,from one hundred to one hundred and fifty warriors, mounted and movingin a northeasterly direction. The trail was not over twenty-four hoursold, and by following it to the point where it crossed Beaver creek, almost theexact numbers and character of the party could be determined from the freshsigns at the crossing. Everything indicated that it was a war party sent fromthe very tribes we were in search of, and the object, judging from the directionthey had been moving, and other circ*mstances, was to make a raid on thesettlements in Western Kansas. As soon as we had reached camp for thenight, which was but a short distance from the point at which we crossed theIndian trail, I addressed a communication to the senior officer, who was commandingthe expedition, and, after stating the facts learned in connection withthe trail, requested that I might be permitted to take the cavalry belonging tothe expedition, leaving the trains to be guarded by the infantry, whose numberswere ample for this purpose, and with the Indian scouts as trailers setout early the next morning, following the trail of the war party, not in thedirection taken by them, as this would be an idle attempt, but in the directionfrom which they came, expressing the conviction that such a course wouldin all probability lead us direct to the villages of the marauders, which was theultimate object of the movement we were thus engaged in. By so doing wemight be able to strike a prompt blow against our enemies, and visit swiftpunishment upon the war party, whose hostile purposes were but too evident.In these views I was sustained by the opinions of our Indian allies, who expressedconfidence in their ability to take the trail and follow it back to thevillages. The officer to whom my application was submitted, and whose sanctionwas necessary before I could be authorized to execute my proposed plan,returned an elaborate argument attempting to prove that no successful resultscould possibly attend the undertaking I had suggested, and ended with theremark that it was absurd to suppose for one moment that a large militaryforce such as ours was, and accompanied by such an immense train of wagons,could move into the heart of the Indian country and their presence remain undiscoveredby the watchful savages for even a single day. This specious reasoningsounded well—read well—but it gave no satisfaction to the men andofficers of the cavalry, all of whom thought they saw a fine opportunity neglected.However, we shall strike this trail again, but on different ground andunder different circ*mstances. Great as was our temporary disappointmentat being restrained, the result satisfied all of us that, for very different reasonsfrom those adduced to withhold us from making the proposed movement, all,as the sequel proved, was for the best. On the sixth day after leaving ourcamp on the north bank of the Arkansas the expedition arrived at the pointwhich was chosen as our future base, where the infantry were to remain anderect quarters for themselves and storehouses for the military supplies. Thepoint selected—which was then given the name it now bears, Camp Supply—wasin the angle formed by Wolf and Beaver creeks, about one mile above thejunction of these two streams. These streams by their union form the northfork of the Canadian river. The exact geographical location of the point referredto is lat. 36 deg. 30 min., long. 99 deg. 30 min., being in the neighborhoodof one hundred miles in a southerly direction from Fort Dodge on theArkansas. We of the cavalry knew that our detention at this point would145be but brief. Within two or three days of our arrival the hearts of the entirecommand were gladdened by the sudden appearance in our midst of strongreinforcements. These reinforcements consisted of General Sheridan and staff.Hearing of his near approach, I mounted my horse and was soon gallopingbeyond the limits of camp to meet him. If there were any persons in thecommand who hitherto had been in doubt as to whether the proposed wintercampaign was to be a reality or otherwise, such persons soon had cause to dispelall mistrust on this point. Selecting from the train a sufficient number of thebest teams and wagons to transport our supplies of rations and forage, enoughto subsist the command upon for a period of thirty days, our arrangementswere soon completed by which the cavalry, consisting of eleven companies andnumbering between eight and nine hundred men, were ready to resume themarch. In addition we were to be accompanied by a detachment of scouts,among the number being California Joe; also our Indian allies from the Osagetribe, headed by Little Beaver and Hard Rope. As the country in whichwe were to operate was beyond the limits of the district which constituted thecommand of General Sully, that officer was relieved from further duty withthe troops composing the expedition, and in accordance with his instructionswithdrew from Camp Supply and returned to his headquarters at Fort Harker,Kansas, accompanied by Colonel Keogh, Seventh Cavalry, then holding theposition of staff officer at district headquarters.

After remaining at Camp Supply six days, nothing was required but theformal order directing the movement to commence. This came in the shapeof a brief letter of instructions from Department headquarters. Of course, asnothing was known positively as to the exact whereabouts of the Indian villages,the instructions had to be general in terms. In substance, I was to marchmy command in search of the winter hiding-places of the hostile Indians, andwherever found to administer such punishment for past depredations as myforce was able to. On the evening of November 22d, orders were issued to bein readiness to move promptly at daylight the following morning. That night,in the midst of other final preparations for a long separation from all means ofcommunication with absent friends, most of us found time to hastily pen a fewparting lines, informing them of our proposed expedition, and the uncertaintieswith which it was surrounded, as none of us knew when or where we shouldbe heard from again once we bade adieu to the bleak hospitalities of CampSupply. Alas! some of our number were destined never to return. It begansnowing the evening of the 22d, and continued all night, so that when theshrill notes of the bugle broke the stillness of the morning air at reveille onthe 23d, we awoke at four o’clock to find the ground covered with snow to adepth of over one foot, and the storm still raging in full force. Surely thiswas anything but an inviting prospect as we stepped from our frail canvasshelters and found ourselves standing in the constantly and rapidly increasingdepth of snow which appeared in every direction. “How will this do for awinter campaign?” was the half sarcastic query of the adjutant, as he cametrudging back to the tent through a field of snow extending almost to the topof his tall troop boots, after having received the reports of the different companiesat reveille. “Just what we want,” was the reply. Little groomingdid the shivering horses receive from the equally uncomfortable troopers thatmorning. Breakfast was served and disposed of more as a matter of form andregulation than to satisfy the appetite; for who, I might inquire, could rallymuch of an appetite at five o’clock in the morning, and when standing around146a camp fire almost up to the knees in snow? The signal, “The general,” fortents to be taken down and wagons packed for the march, gave every one employment.Upon the principle that a short horse is soon curried, and as wewere going to take but little with us in the way of baggage of any description,the duties of packing up were soon performed. It still lacked some minutesof daylight when the various commanders reported their commands in readinessto move, save the final act of saddling the horses, which only arrested thesignal sounds of the chief bugler at headquarters. “Boots and saddles” rangforth, and each trooper grasped his saddle, and the next moment was busilyengaged arranging and disposing of the few buckles and straps upon which thesafety of his seat and the comfort of his horse depended. While they werethus employed, my horse being already saddled and held near by, by the orderly,I improved the time to gallop through the darkness across the narrowplain to the tents of General Sheridan, and say good-by. I found the headquartertents wrapped in silence, and at first imagined that no one was yetstirring except the sentinel in front of the General’s tent, who kept up his lonelytread, apparently indifferent to the beating storm. But I had no soonergiven the bridle-rein to my orderly than the familiar tones of the Generalcalled out, letting me know that he was awake, and had been an attentive listenerto our notes of preparation. His first greeting was to ask what I thoughtabout the snow and the storm. To which I replied that nothing could be moreto our purpose. We could move and the Indian villages could not. If thesnow only remained on the ground one week, I promised to bring the Generalsatisfactory evidences that my command had met the Indians. With an earnestinjunction from my chief to keep him informed, if possible, should anythingimportant occur, and many hearty wishes for a successful issue to the campaign,I bade him adieu. After I had mounted my horse, and had started torejoin my command, a staff officer of the General, a particular friend, havingjust been awakened by the conversation, called out, while standing in the doorof his tent enveloped in the comfortable folds of a huge buffalo robe, “Good-by,old fellow; take care of yourself!” and in these brief sentences the usualfarewell greetings between brother officers separating for service took place.By the time I rejoined my men they had saddled their horses and were in readinessfor the march. “To horse” was sounded, and each trooper stood at hishorse’s head. Then followed the commands “Prepare to mount” and “Mount,”when nothing but the signal “Advance” was required to put the column inmotion. The band took its place at the head of the column, preceded by theguides and scouts, and when the march began it was to the familiar notes ofthat famous old marching tune, “The girl I left behind me.”

If we had entered into solemn compact with the clerk of the weather—thisbeing before the reign of “Old Probabilities”—to be treated to winter in itsseverest aspect, we could have claimed no forfeiture on account of non-fulfilmentof contract. We could not refer to the oldest inhabitant, that mythicalpersonage in most neighborhoods, to attest to the fact that this was a stormunparalleled in severity in that section of country. The snow continued to descendin almost blinding clouds. Even the appearance of daylight aided usbut little in determining the direction of our march. So dense and heavy werethe falling lines of snow, that all view of the surface of the surrounding country,upon which the guides depended to enable them to run their course, wascut off. To such an extent was this true that it became unsafe for a person towander from the column a distance equal to twice the width of Broadway, as147in that short space all view of the column was prevented by the storm. Noneof the command except the Indian guides had ever visited the route we desiredto follow, and they were forced to confess that until the storm abated sufficientlyto permit them to catch glimpses of the landmarks of the country, theycould not undertake to guide the troops to the point where we desired tocamp that night. Here was a serious obstacle encountered quite early in thecampaign.

The point at which we proposed to encamp for the night was on Wolfcreek, only some twelve or fifteen miles from Camp Supply, it not being intendedthat our first day’s progress should be very great. We had started,however, and notwithstanding the discouraging statements of our guides itwould never do to succumb to opposition so readily. There was but onecourse to pursue now that the guides could no longer conduct us with certainty,and that was to be guided—like the mariner in mid-ocean—by the never-failingcompass. There are few cavalry officers but what carry a compass in somemore or less simple form. Mine was soon in my hand, and having determinedas accurately as practicable, from my knowledge of the map of the country, thedirection in which we ought to move in order to strike Wolf creek at the desiredcamping ground, I became for the time guide to the column, and aftermarching until about two P.M. reached the valley of Wolf creek, where aresting place for the night was soon determined upon. There was still no signof abatement on the part of the weather. Timber was found along the banksof the creek in ample quantity to furnish us with fuel, but so imbedded insnow as to render the prospect of a camp fire very remote and uncertain. Ourmarch of fifteen miles through the deep snow and blinding storm had beenmore fatiguing to our horses than an ordinary march of thirty miles wouldhave been. Our wagons were still far in rear. While they were coming upevery man in the command, officers as well as enlisted men, set briskly to workin gathering a good supply of wood, as our personal comfort in camp in suchweather would be largely dependent on the quality and quantity of our firewood.Fallen and partly seasoned trees were in great demand, and, when discoveredin the huge beds of snow, were soon transformed, under the vigorousblows of a score of axes, into available fuel. It was surprising as well as gratifyingto witness the contentment and general good humor everywhere prevailingthroughout the command. Even the chill of winter and the bitterestof storms were insufficient to produce a feeling of gloom, or to suppress the occasionalebullition of mirthful feeling which ever and anon would break forthfrom some Celtic or Teutonic disciple of Mars. Fires were soon blazing uponthe grounds assigned to the different troops, and upon the arrival of the wagons,which occurred soon after, the company cooks were quickly engaged inpreparing the troopers’ dinner, while the servants of the officers were employedin a similar manner for the benefit of the latter. While the cooks were so engaged,officers and men were busily occupied in pitching the tents, an operationwhich under the circ*mstances was most difficult to perform satisfactorily,for the reason that before erecting the tent it was desirable, almost necessary,to remove the snow from the surface of the ground intended to form the floorof the tent; otherwise the snow, as soon as a fire should be started within thetent, would melt and reduce the ground to a very muddy condition. But so rapidlydid the large flakes continue to fall that the most energetic efforts of twopersons were insufficient to keep the ground properly clear; such at least wasthe experience of Lieutenant Moylan, the adjutant, and myself, in our earnest148endeavors to render our temporary abiding place a fit habitation for the night.Tents up at last, dinner was not long in being prepared, and even less timeemployed in disposing of it. A good cup of strong coffee went far towardreconciling us to everything that had but a few moments before appearedsomewhat uninviting. By this time a cheerful fire was blazing in the centreof our tent; my comfortable bed of buffalo robes was prepared on a frameworkof strong boughs, and with my ever-faithful dogs lying near me, I was soon recliningin a state of comparative comfort, watching the smoke as it ascendedthrough the narrow apex of the tent, there to mingle with the descending flakesof snow. In regard to the storm still prevailing outside, and which in itself orits effects we were to encounter the following morning and for an indefiniteperiod thereafter, I consoled myself with the reflection that to us it was as anunpleasant remedy for the removal of a still more unpleasant disease. If thestorm seemed terrible to us, I believed it would prove to be even more terribleto our enemies, the Indians. Promptly at the appointed hour, four o’clock thefollowing morning, camp was bustling and active in response to the buglenotes of reveille. The storm had abated, the snow had ceased falling, but thatwhich had fallen during the previous twenty-four hours now covered theground to a depth of upward of eighteen inches. The sky was clear, however,or, to adopt the expressive language of California Joe, “the travellin’ wasgood overhead.” It is always a difficult matter, the first few days of a march,to inculcate upon the minds of the necessary hangers-on of a camp, such asteamsters, wagon-masters, etc., the absolute necessity of promptness and strictobedience to orders, particularly orders governing the time and manner ofmarching; and one or two days usually are required to be devoted to discipliningthese unruly characters. When the hour arrived which had been previouslydesignated as the one at which the command would begin the secondday’s march, the military portion were in complete readiness to “move out,”but it was found that several of the teams were still unharnessed and the tentsof the wagon-masters still standing. This was a matter requiring a promptcure. The officer of the day was directed to proceed with his guard, and, afterhastening the unfinished preparations for the march, to arrest the wagon-mastersand most dilatory of the teamsters, and compel them to march on foot asa punishment for their tardiness. This was no slight matter, considering thegreat depth of the snow. So effective was this measure that not many hourshad elapsed before the deposed drivers and their equally unfortunate superiorssent through the officer of the guard a humble request that they be permittedto resume their places in the train, promising at the same time never to giverenewed cause for complaints of tardiness to be made against them. Their requestwas granted, and their promise most faithfully observed during the remainderof the campaign.

All of the second day we continued to march up the valley of the streamwe had chosen as our first camping ground. The second night we encampedunder circ*mstances very similar to those which attended us the first night,except that the storm no longer disturbed us. The snow did not add to ourdiscomfort particularly, save by increasing the difficulty of obtaining good andsufficient fuel. Our purpose was to strike the Canadian river in the vicinity of“Antelope Hills,” which are famous and prominent landmarks in that region,and then be governed in our future course by circ*mstances. Resumingthe march at daylight on the morning of the third day, our route still keptus in the valley of Wolf creek, on whose banks we were to encamp for the149third time. Nothing was particularly worthy of notice during our third day’smarch, except the immense quantities of game to be seen seeking the weakshelter from the storm offered by the little strips of timber extending along thevalleys of Wolf creek and its tributaries. Even the buffalo, with their huge,shaggy coats—sufficient, one would imagine, to render the wearer indifferentto the blasts of winter—were frequently found huddled together in the timber,and so drowsy or benumbed from the effects of the cold as to not discover ourapproach until we were within easy pistol range, when the Indian guides andour white scouts who rode in advance would single out those appearing inbest condition, and by deliberate aim bring them down. Details of a fewtroopers from each company were left at these points to cut up the butcheredgame and see to its being loaded in the company wagons as the trains camealong. In this way a bountiful supply of good fresh meat was laid in, the weatherfavoring the keeping of the meat for an indefinite period. Occasionally wewould discover a herd of buffaloes on the bluffs overlooking the stream. Thenwould occur some rare scenes of winter sport: a few of the officers and menwould obtain permission to lead the column and join in the chase—an indulgencethat could be safely granted, as no fears were entertained that hostile Indianswere in our immediate vicinity. The deep snow was a serious obstacleto exhibiting speed either in the buffalo or his pursuers. It was most laughableto witness the desperate and awkward efforts of buffalo, horse, and rider,in the frantic endeavor to make rapid headway through the immense fields ofsnow. Occasionally an unseen hole or ditch or ravine covered up by the snowwould be encountered, when the buffalo or his pursuer, or perhaps all three—horse,rider, and buffalo—would disappear in one grand tumble in the depthsof the snowdrifts, and when seen to emerge therefrom it was difficult to determinewhich of the three was most badly frightened. Fortunately no accidentsoccurred to mar the pleasure of the excitement. Seeing a fine herd ofyoung buffaloes a short distance in the advance, I determined to test the courageof my stag-hounds “Blucher” and “Maida.” Approaching as near theherd as possible before giving them the alarm, I managed to single out andcut off from the main herd a fine yearling bull. My horse, a trained hunter,was soon alongside, but I was unable to use my pistol to bring the young buffalodown, as both the dogs were running close to either side, and by resolutelyattacking him endeavoring to pull him down. It was a new experience tothem; a stag they could easily have mastered, but a lusty young buffalo bullwas an antagonist of different calibre. So determined had the dogs become,their determination strengthened no doubt by the occasional vigorous blowsreceived from the ready hoofs of the buffalo, that I could not call them off;neither could I render them assistance from my pistol, for fear of injuringthem. There was nothing left for me to do but to become a silent althoughfar from disinterested participant in the chase. The immense drifts of snowthrough which we were struggling at our best pace would soon vanquish oneor the other of the party; it became a question of endurance simply, and thebuffalo was the first to come to grief. Finding escape by running impossible,he boldly came to bay and faced his pursuers; in a moment both dogs hadgrappled with him as if he had been a deer. Blucher seized him by thethroat, Maida endeavored to secure a firm hold on the shoulders. The resultwas that Blucher found himself well trampled in snow, and but for the latterwould have been crushed to death. Fearing for the safety of my dogs, I leapedfrom my horse, who I knew would not leave me, and ran to the assistance of150the stag-hounds. Drawing my hunting-knife and watching a favorable opportunity,I succeeded in cutting the hamstrings of the buffalo, which had the effectto tumble him over in the snow, when I was enabled to despatch himwith my pistol.

On that afternoon we again encamped in the same valley up which we had beenmoving during the past three days. The next morning, following the lead ofour Indian guides, who had been directed to conduct us to a point on the Canadianriver near the Antelope Hills, our course, which so far had been westerly,now bore off almost due south. After ascending gradually for some hours to thecrest or divide which sloped on the north down to the valley of the stream we hadjust left, we reached the highest line and soon began to gradually descend again,indicating that we were approaching a second valley; this the Indians assuredus was the valley of the Canadian. Delayed in our progress by the deep snowand the difficulty from the same cause always experienced by our guides in selectinga practicable route, darkness overtook us before the entire command arrivedat the point chosen for our camp on the north bank of the Canadian.As there is little or no timber found along the immediate banks of that river asfar up as we then were, we pitched our tents about one mile from the river,and near a small fresh-water tributary whose valley was abundantly suppliedwith wood. If any prowling bands or war parties belonging to either of thetribes with which we were at war were moving across the Canadian in eitherdirection, it was more than probable that their crossing would be made atsome point above us, and not more than ten or fifteen miles distant. The seasonwas rather far advanced to expect any of these parties to be absent fromthe village, but the trail of the war party, discovered by our Indian guidesjust before the expedition reached Camp Supply, was not forgotten, and theheavy storm of the past few days would be apt to drive them away from thesettlements and hasten their return to their village. We had every reason tobelieve that the latter was located somewhere south of the Canadian. Afterdiscussing the matter with Little Beaver and Hard Rope, and listening to thesuggestions of California Joe and his confrères, I decided to start a strongforce up the valley of the Canadian at daybreak the following morning, to examinethe banks and discover, if possible, if Indians had been in the vicinitysince the snow had fallen. Three full troops of cavalry under Major Joel H.Elliot, 7th Cavalry, were ordered to move without wagons or otro impedimiento,each trooper to carry one hundred rounds of ammunition, one day’s rations andforage. Their instructions were to proceed up the north bank of the Canadiana distance of fifteen miles. If any trail of Indians was discovered, pursuit was tobe taken up at once, at the same time sending information of the fact backto the main command, indicating the number and character of the Indians asdetermined by their trail, and particularly the direction in which they weremoving, in order that the main body of the troops might endeavor if possible tointercept the Indians, or at least strike the trail by a shorter route than by followingthe first detachment. A few of our Indian trailers were designated to accompanythe party, as well as some of the white scouts. The latter were to be employedin carrying despatches back to the main command, should anything bediscovered of sufficient importance to be reported. In the mean time I informedMajor Elliot that as soon as it was fairly daylight I would commence crossingthe main command over the Canadian—an operation which could not be performedhastily, as the banks were almost overflowing, the current being veryrapid and the water filled with floating snow and ice. After making the crossing151I would, in the absence of any reports from him, march up the bluffs formingAntelope Hills and strike nearly due south, aiming to encamp that night onsome one of the small streams forming the headwaters of the Wash*ta river,where we would again unite the two portions of the command and continueour march to the south.

Major Elliot was a very zealous officer, and daylight found him and hiscommand on the march in the execution of the duty to which they had been assigned.Those of us who remained behind were soon busily occupied in makingpreparations to effect a crossing of the Canadian. California Joe had beenengaged since early dawn searching for a ford which would be practicable forour wagons; the troopers and horses could cross almost anywhere. A safe fordingplace barely practicable was soon reported, and the cavalry and wagontrain began moving over. It was a tedious process; sometimes the treacherousquicksand would yield beneath the heavily laden wagons, and double theusual number of mules would be required to extricate the load. In less thanthree hours the last wagon and the rear guard of the cavalry had made a successfulcrossing. Looming up in our front like towering battlements werethe Antelope Hills. These prominent landmarks, which can be seen froma distance of over twenty miles in all directions, are situated near the southbank of the Canadian, and at 100 deg. W. longitude. The Antelope Hills form agroup of five separate hillocks, and are sometimes called Boundary Mounts.They vary in height above the average level of the plains between one hundredand fifty and three hundred feet. Two of the hills are conical and theothers oblong; they are composed of porous sandstone, and are crowned withwhite and regular terraces about six yards in depth. From the summit ofthese terraces one enjoys a most commanding view. On the left is to be seenthe red bed of the Canadian, whose tortuous windings, coming from the southwest,direct their course for a while northwards, and finally disappear in a distanteasterly direction. The horizon is but an immense circle of snowy whiteness,of which the centre is the point of observation. Here and there a fewacclivities rise above the plains, divided by rows of stunted trees, indicating aravine, or more frequently a humble brook such as that on whose banks wecamped the night previous to crossing the Canadian. It never occurred toany of us, when folding our tents that bleak winter morning on the bank ofthe Canadian, that there were those among our number who had bidden a lastand final adieu to the friendly shelter of their canvas-covered homes; thatfor some of us, some who could but sadly be spared, the last reveille hadsounded, and that when sleep again closed their eyes it would be that sleep fromwhich there is no awakening. But I am anticipating.

One by one the huge army wagons, with their immense white covers, beganthe long ascent which was necessary to be overcome before attaining the levelof the plains. As fast as they reached the high ground the leading wagonswere halted and parked to await the arrival of the last to cross the river. Inthe mean time the cavalry had closed up and dismounted, except the rearguard, which was just then to be seen approaching from the river, indicatingthat “everything was closed up.” I was about to direct the chief bugler tosound “To horse,” when far in the distance, on the white surface of the snow, Idescried a horseman approaching us as rapidly as his tired steed could carryhim. The direction was that in which Elliot’s command was supposed to be,and the horseman approaching could be none other than a messenger fromElliot. What tidings would he bring? was my first thought. Perhaps Elliot152could not find a ford by which to cross the Canadian, and simply desired instructionsas to what his course should be. Perhaps he has discovered an Indiantrail—a fresh one; but it must be fresh if one at all, as the snow isscarcely three days old. If a trail has been discovered, then woe unto the lucklessIndians whose footprints are discoverable in the snow; for so long as thatremains and the endurance of men and horses holds out, just so long willwe follow that trail, until the pursuer and pursued are brought face to face, orthe one or the other succumbs to the fatigues and exhaustion of the race.These and a host of kindred thoughts flashed in rapid succession through mymind as soon as I had discovered the distant approach of the scout, for a scoutI knew it must be. As yet none of the command had observed his coming,not being on as high ground as where I stood. By means of my field glass Iwas able to make out the familiar form of “Corbin,” one of the scouts. Afterdue waiting, when minutes seemed like hours, the scout galloped up towhere I was waiting, and in a few hurried, almost breathless words, informedme that Elliot’s command, after moving up the north bank of theCanadian about twelve miles, had discovered the trail of an Indian warparty numbering upwards of one hundred and fifty strong; that the trail wasnot twenty-four hours old, and the party had crossed the Canadian and taken acourse a little east of south. Elliot had crossed his command, and at oncetoken up the pursuit as rapidly as his horses could travel. Here was news, andof a desirable character. I asked the scout if he could overtake Elliot if furnishedwith a fresh horse. He thought he could. A horse was at once suppliedhim, and he was told to rejoin Elliot as soon as possible, with instructionsto continue the pursuit with all possible vigor, and I would move with the maincommand in such direction as to strike his trail about dark. If the Indianschanged their general direction, he was to inform me of the fact; and if I couldnot overtake him by eight o’clock that night, Elliot was to halt his commandand await my arrival, when the combined force would move as circ*mstancesmight determine. My resolution was formed in a moment, and as quickly putin train of execution. The bugle summoned all the officers to report at once.There was no tardiness on their part, for while they had not heard the reportbrought in by the scout, they had witnessed his unexpected arrival and hisequally sudden departure—circ*mstances which told them plainer than merewords that something unusual was in the air. The moment they were all assembledabout me I acquainted them with the intelligence received from Elliot,and at the same time informed them that we would at once set out tojoin in the pursuit—a pursuit which could and would only end when weovertook our enemies. And in order that we should not be trammelled inour movements, it was my intention then and there to abandon our train ofwagons, taking with us only such supplies as we could carry on our personsand strapped to our saddles. The train would be left under the protection ofabout eighty men detailed from the different troops, and under command ofone officer, to whom orders would be given to follow us with the train asrapidly as the character of our route would permit. Each trooper was tocarry with him one hundred rounds of ammunition, a small amount of coffeeand hard bread, and on his saddle an equally small allowance of forage forhis horse. Tents and extra blankets were to be left with the wagons. Wewere to move in light marching order as far as this was practicable. Thentaking out my watch, the officers were notified that in twenty minutes fromthat time “the advance” would be sounded and the march in pursuit begun—the153intervening time to be devoted to carrying out the instructions just given.In a moment every man and officer in the command was vigorously at workpreparing to set out for a rough ride, the extent or result of which no onecould foresee. Wagons were emptied, mess chests called upon to contributefrom their stores, ammunition chests opened and their contents distributed tothe troopers. The most inferior of the horses were selected to fill up the detailof eighty cavalry which was to remain and escort the train; an extra amountof clothing was donned by some who realized that when the bitter, freezinghours of night came we would not have the comforts of tents and camp-fire tosustain us. If we had looked with proper dread upon the discomforts of thepast three days, the severity of the storm, the deep snow, and our limited facilitiesfor withstanding the inclemencies of midwinter even when providedwith shelter, food, and fire, what was the prospect now opened before us whenwe proposed to relinquish even the few comforts we had at command, andstart out on a mission not only full of danger, but where food would be verylimited, and then only of the plainest kind? Shelterless we should be in themidst of the wide, open plains, where the winds blow with greater force, andowing to our proximity to the Indians even fires would be too costly an aidto our comfort to be allowed. Yet these thoughts scarcely found a place inthe minds of any members of the command. All felt that a great opportunitywas before us, and to improve it only required determination and firmness onour part. How thoroughly and manfully every demand of this kind was respondedto by my command, I will endeavor to relate in the next chapter.



Before proceeding to narrate the incidents of the pursuit which led us tothe battle of the Wash*ta, I will refer to the completion of our hastypreparations to detach ourselves from the encumbrance of our immense wagontrain. In the last chapter it has been seen that the train was to be left behindunder the protection of an officer and eighty cavalrymen, with orders topush after us, following our trail in the snow as rapidly as the teams couldmove. Where or when it would again join us no one could foretell; in allprobability, however, not until the pursuit had terminated and we had metand vanquished our savage foes, or had been defeated by them. Underexisting orders the guard for the protection of our train was each day underthe command of the officer of the day, the tour of duty of the latter continuingtwenty-four hours, beginning in the morning. On that day the duties of officerof the day fell in regular routine upon Captain Louis McLane Hamilton,Seventh Cavalry, a grandson of Alexander Hamilton. Of course this detailwould require him to remain behind with the train while his squadron, one ofthe finest in the command, would move forward to battle under charge of another.To a soldier of Hamilton’s pride and ambition, to be left behind in thisinglorious manner was galling in the extreme. He foresaw the situation atonce, and the moment that intelligence of the proposed movement reachedhim he came galloping up from the rear in search of me. I was busily engagedat the time superintending the hurried arrangements for commencingthe pursuit. Coming up to me, with a countenance depicting the mostearnest anxiety, his first words were to frame an inquiry as to whether I intendedhim to remain behind. Fully appreciating his anxious desire to sharewith his comrades the perils of the approaching conflict, and yet unable tosubstitute, without injustice, another officer for him unless with the consent ofthe former, I could not give him the encouragement he desired. The momentthat the plans for pursuit were being formed, I remembered that theaccidents of service were to deprive the pursuing column of the presence andaid of one whose assistance in such an emergency could always be confidentlyrelied upon. Some of his brother officers had bethought themselves of thesame, and at once came to me with the remark that “we ought to have Hamiltonwith us.” My only reply was that while my desires were all one waymy duty prescribed that Hamilton should remain with the guard and train,it being his detail, and it also being necessary that some officer should remainupon this important duty. I answered his repeated request, that while I desiredhim in command of his squadron, particularly then of all times, I waspowerless to have it so without being unjust to some other officer. Whileforced to admit this to be true, he added, “It seems hard that I must remain.”Finally I said to him that all I could do would be to allow him to getsome other officer to willingly take his place with the train, adding that someofficer might be found in the command who, from indisposition or other causes,did not feel able to undertake a rapid and tiresome pursuit such as we wouldprobably have, and under such circ*mstances I would gladly order the change.He at once departed in search of some one who would assume his duties withthe train and leave him free to resume his post at the head of his splendid155squadron—that squadron in whose organization and equipment he had displayedsuch energy and forethought, and whose superior excellency and efficiencylong bore the impress of his hand. I am thus minute in detailing thesecirc*mstances affecting the transfer of Captain Hamilton from one duty to another,as the sad sequel will show how intimately connected the destiny ofone of the parties was with the slight matter of this change. Hamilton hadbeen absent but a few minutes when he returned overflowing with joy, andremarked that an officer had been found who consented to take his place, endingwith the question, “Shall I join my squadron?” To this I gladly assented,and he galloped to another part of the field, where his men were, to hastenand superintend their preparations for the coming struggle. The officer whohad consented to take Hamilton’s place with the train had that day been affectedwith partial snow-blindness, and felt himself disqualified and unable tojoin in the pursuit, and it was exceedingly proper for him under the circ*mstancesto agree to the proposed change.

During all this time Elliot with his three companies of cavalry was followinghard and fast upon the trail left by the Indians in the deep snow. Bybeing informed, as we were, of the direction in which the trail was leading,and that direction being favorable to our position, the main command by movingdue south would strike the trail of the Indians, and of Elliot also, at somepoint not far in rear perhaps of Elliot’s party. Everything being in readinessto set out at the expiration of the allotted twenty minutes, “the advance” wassounded and the pursuit on our part began. Our route carried us across thebroad, open plains, the snow over a foot in depth, with surface of course unbroken.This rendered it exceedingly fatiguing to the horses moving in theadvance, and changes were frequently rendered necessary. The weather,which during the past few days had been so bitterly cold, moderated on thatday sufficiently to melt the upper surface of the snow. After leaving thewagon train, we continued our march rapidly during the remaining hours ofthe forenoon and until the middle of the afternoon. Still no tidings from Elliot’sparty nor any sign of a trail. No halt was made during the day eitherfor rest or refreshment. Toward evening we began to feel anxious concerningElliot’s detachment. Could it be that the Indians had discovered thatthey were pursued, and had broken up into smaller parties or changed the directionof their trail? If so, could Elliot’s messengers reach us in time to makethe information valuable to us? We had hurried along, our interest increasingwith each mile passed over, until the sun was not more than one hourhigh above the western horizon; and still, strain our eyes as we would, and scanthe white surface of the plains in every direction in our front, the snow seemedunbroken and undisturbed as far as the eye could reach. Our scouts andIndian guides were kept far out in front and on the proper flank, to discover,if possible, the trail. At last one of the scouts gave the signal that the trailhad been discovered, and in a few moments the command had reached it, andwe were now moving with lighter and less anxious hearts. After studyingthe trail our Osage warriors informed us that the Indians whose trail we werepursuing were undoubtedly a war party, and had certainly passed wherewe then were during the forenoon. This was encouraging, and a free reignwas given to our horses as we hastened along through the snow. The objectnow was to overtake as soon as practicable the party of Elliot, which from theheavy trail we could see was in advance of us. The almost level and unbrokencharacter of the country enabled us to see for miles in all directions,156and in this way we knew that Elliot must be many miles ahead of our party.At the same time I could see that we were gradually descending into a valley,probably of some stream, and far in advance appeared the dim outline of timber,such as usually fringes the banks of many of the Western streams. Selectinga few well-mounted troopers and some of the scouts, I directed them toset out at a moderate gallop to overtake Elliot, with orders to the latter to haltat the first favorable point where wood and water could be obtained, and awaitour arrival, informing him at the same time that after allowing the men an hourto prepare a cup of coffee and to feed and rest their horses, it was my intentionto continue the pursuit during the night—a measure to which I felt urged bythe slight thawing of the snow that day, which might result in our failure ifwe permitted the Indians to elude us until the snow had disappeared. Satisfiednow that we were on the right course, our anxiety lessened, but our interestincreased. Soon after dark we reached the valley whose timbered surfacewe had caught faint glimpses of hours before. Down this valley and throughthis sparse timber the trail led us. Hour after hour we struggled on, hopingto overtake the three troops in advance, for hunger, unappeased since beforedaylight, began to assert its demands in the strongest terms. Our faithfulhorses were likewise in great need of both food and water, as well as rest, asneither had been offered them since four o’clock in the morning. So far hadElliot pushed his pursuit that our scouts were a long time in reaching him,and it was nine o’clock at night when the main command arrived at the pointwhere he and his three troops were found halted. A stream of good waterwith comparatively deep banks ran near by, while the valley at this point wasquite heavily timbered.

To enable the men to prepare a cup of coffee, and at the same time give noevidence of our presence to the Indians, who, for all we knew, might be notfar from us, advantage was taken of the deep banks of the creek, and by buildingsmall fires down under the edge of the bank, they were prevented frombeing seen, except at a small distance. At the same time the horses were relievedof their saddles and unbitted, and a good feed of oats distributed toeach. Officers and men were glad to partake of the same quality of simplefare that night, consisting only of a most welcome and refreshing cup of goodstrong coffee and a handful of army crackers—“hard tack.” By waiting anhour we not only gained by rest and refreshment, but the light of the moonwould then probably be sufficient to guide us on our night ride. When thehour had nearly expired, we began our preparations in the most quiet mannerto resume the pursuit. No bugle calls were permitted, as in this peculiar countrysound travels a long distance, and we knew not but that our wily foes werelocated near by. Before starting I conferred with our Indian allies, all ofwhom were firmly convinced that our enemy’s village was probably not faraway, and most likely was in the valley in which we then were, as the trailfor some miles had led us down the stream on whose banks we halted. “LittleBeaver,” who acted as spokesman for the Osages, seemed confident that wecould overtake and surprise the Indians we had been pursuing, and most probablyfollow them direct to their village; but, much to my surprise, Little Beaverstrongly advised that we delay further pursuit until daylight, remainingconcealed in the timber as we were at the time. When asked for his reasonsfor favoring such a course, he could give none of a satisfactory nature. I thenconcluded that his disinclination to continue pursuit that night arose from thenatural reluctance, shared by all Indians, to attack an unseen foe, whether concealed157by darkness or other natural or artificial means of shelter. Indiansrarely attack between the hours of dark and daylight, although their stealthymovements through the country, either in search of an enemy or when attemptingto elude them, are often executed under cover of night.

As soon as each troop was in readiness to resume the pursuit, the troopcommander reported the fact at headquarters. Ten o’clock came and foundus in our saddles. Silently the command stretched out its long length as thetroopers filed off four abreast. First came two of our Osage scouts on foot;these were to follow the trail and lead the command; they were our guides,and the panther, creeping upon its prey, could not have advanced more cautiouslyor quietly than did these friendly Indians, as they seemed to gliderather than walk over the snow-clad surface. To prevent the possibility of thecommand coming precipitately upon our enemies, the two scouts were directedto keep three or four hundred yards in advance of all others; then came, in singlefile, the remainder of our Osage guides and the white scouts—among therest California Joe. With these I rode, that I might be as near the advanceguard as possible. The cavalry followed in rear, at the distance of a quarter orhalf a mile; this precaution was necessary, from the fact that the snow, whichhad thawed slightly during the day, was then freezing, forming a crust which,broken by the tread of so many hundreds of feet, produced a noise capable ofbeing heard at a long distance. Orders were given prohibiting even a wordbeing uttered above a whisper. No one was permitted to strike a match orlight a pipe—the latter a great deprivation to the soldier. In this silent mannerwe rode mile after mile. Occasionally an officer would ride by my side andwhisper some inquiry or suggestion, but aside from this our march was unbrokenby sound or deed. At last we discovered that our two guides in front hadhalted, and were awaiting my arrival. Word was quietly sent to halt the columnuntil inquiry in front could be made. Upon coming up with the twoOsages we were furnished an example of the wonderful and peculiar powersof the Indian. One of them could speak broken English, and in answer to myquestion as to “What is the matter?” he replied, “Me don’t know, but mesmell fire.” By this time several of the officers had quietly ridden up, and uponbeing informed of the Osage’s remark, each endeavored, by sniffing the air, toverify or disprove the report. All united in saying that our guide was mistaken.Some said he was probably frightened, but we were unable to shakethe confidence of the Osage warrior in his first opinion. I then directed himand his companion to advance even more cautiously than before, and the column,keeping up the interval, resumed its march. After proceeding abouthalf a mile, perhaps further, again our guides halted, and upon coming up withthem I was greeted with the remark, uttered in a whisper, “Me told you so;”and sure enough, looking in the direction indicated, were to be seen the embersof a wasted fire, scarcely a handful, yet enough to prove that our guidewas right, and to cause us to feel the greater confidence in him. The discoveryof these few coals of fire produced almost breathless excitement. The distancefrom where we stood was from seventy-five to a hundred yards, not inthe line of our march, but directly to our left, in the edge of the timber. Weknew at once that none but Indians, and they hostile, had built that fire.Where were they at that moment? Perhaps sleeping in the vicinity of the fire.

It was almost certain to our minds that the Indians we had been pursuingwere the builders of the fire. Were they still there and asleep? We were toonear already to attempt to withdraw undiscovered. Our only course was to determine158the facts at once, and be prepared for the worst. I called for a fewvolunteers to quietly approach the fire and discover whether there were Indiansin the vicinity; if not, to gather such information as was obtainable, as to theirnumbers and departure. All the Osages and a few of the scouts quickly dismounted,and with rifles in readiness and fingers on the triggers silently madetheir way to the nearest point of the timber, Little Beaver and Hard Ropeleading the way. After they had disappeared in the timber they still had topass over more than half the distance before reaching the fire. These momentsseemed like hours, and those of us who were left sitting on our horses,in the open moonlight, and within easy range from the spot where the fire waslocated, felt anything but comfortable during this suspense. If Indians, asthen seemed highly probable, were sleeping around the fire, our scouts wouldarouse them and we would be in fair way to be picked off without being in aposition to defend ourselves. The matter was soon determined. Our scoutssoon arrived at the fire, and discovered it to be deserted. Again did the skilland knowledge of our Indian allies come in play. Had they not been with uswe should undoubtedly have assumed that the Indians who had had occasion tobuild the fire and those we were pursuing constituted one party. From examiningthe fire and observing the great number of pony tracks in the snow,the Osages arrived at a different conclusion, and were convinced that we werethen on the ground used by the Indians for grazing their herds of ponies. Thefire had been kindled by the Indian boys, who attend to the herding, to warmthemselves by, and in all probability we were then within two or three milesof the village. I will not endeavor to describe the renewed hope and excitementthat sprung up. Again we set out, this time more cautiously if possiblethan before, the command and scouts moving at a greater distance in rear.

In order to judge of the situation more correctly, I this time accompaniedthe two Osages. Silently we advanced, I mounted, they on foot, keeping atthe head of my horse. Upon nearing the crest of each hill, as is invariablythe Indian custom, one of the guides would hasten a few steps in advance andpeer cautiously over the hill. Accustomed to this, I was not struck by observingit until once, when the same one who discovered the fire advanced cautiouslyto the crest and looked carefully into the valley beyond. I saw him placehis hand above his eyes as if looking intently at some object, then crouchdown and come creeping back to where I waited for him. “What is it?” Iinquired as soon as he reached my horse’s side. “Heaps Injuns down there,”pointing in the direction from which he had just come. Quickly dismountingand giving the reins to the other guide, I accompanied the Osage to the crest,both of us crouching low so as not to be seen in the moonlight against thehorizon. Looking in the direction indicated, I could indistinctly recognize thepresence of a large body of animals of some kind in the valley below, and ata distance which then seemed not more than half a mile. I looked at themlong and anxiously, the guide uttering not a word, but was unable to discoveranything in their appearance different from what might be presented by aherd of buffalo under similar circ*mstances. Turning to the Osage, I inquiredin a low tone why he thought there were Indians there. “Me heard dogbark,” was the satisfactory reply. Indians are noted for the large number ofdogs always found in their villages, but never accompanying their war parties.I waited quietly to be convinced; I was assured, but wanted to be doubly so.I was rewarded in a moment by hearing the barking of a dog in the heavytimber off to the right of the herd, and soon after I heard the tinkling of a159small bell; this convinced me that it was really the Indian herd I then saw,the bell being one worn around the neck of some pony who was probably theleader of the herd. I turned to retrace my steps when another sound wasborne to my ear through the cold, clear atmosphere of the valley—it was thedistant cry of an infant; and savages though they were, and justly outlawedby the number and atrocity of their recent murders and depredations on thehelpless settlers of the frontier, I could not but regret that in a war such aswe were forced to engage in, the mode and circ*mstances of battle wouldpossibly prevent discrimination.

My life on the plains (6)

Leaving the two Osages to keep a careful lookout, I hastened back until Imet the main party of the scouts and Osages. They were halted and a messagesent back to halt the cavalry, enjoining complete silence, and directingevery officer to ride to the point we then occupied. The hour was then pastmidnight. Soon they came, and after dismounting and collecting in a littlecircle, I informed them of what I had seen and heard; and in order that theymight individually learn as much as possible of the character of the groundand the location of the village, I proposed that all should remove their sabres,that their clanking might make no noise, and proceed gently to the crestand there obtain a view of the valley beyond. This was done; not a wordwas spoken until we crouched together and cast our eyes in the direction ofthe herd and village. In whispers I briefly pointed out everything that wasto be seen, then motioned all to return to where we had left our sabres; then,standing in a group upon the ground or crust of snow, the plan of the attackwas explained to all and each assigned his part. The general plan was toemploy the hours between then and daylight to completely surround the village,and, at daybreak, or as soon as it was barely light enough for the purpose,to attack the Indians from all sides. The command, numbering, as has beenstated, about eight hundred mounted men, was divided into four nearly equaldetachments. Two of them set out at once, as they had each to make a circuitousmarch of several miles in order to arrive at the points assigned them fromwhich to make their attack. The third detachment moved to its positionabout an hour before day, and until that time remained with the main or fourthcolumn. This last, whose movements I accompanied, was to make the attackfrom the point from which we had first discovered the herd and village.Major Elliot commanded the column embracing G, H, and M troops, SeventhCavalry, which moved around from our left to a position almost in rear of thevillage; while Colonel Thompson commanded the one consisting of B and Ftroops, which moved in a corresponding manner from our right to a positionwhich was to connect with that of Major Elliot. Colonel Myers commandedthe third column, composed of E and I troops, which was to take position inthe valley and timber a little less than a mile to my right. By this dispositionit was hoped to prevent the escape of every inmate of the village. That portionof the command which I proposed to accompany consisted of A, C, D,and K troops, Seventh Cavalry, the Osages and scouts, and Colonel Cook withhis forty sharpshooters. Captain Hamilton commanded one of the squadrons,Colonel West the other. After the first two columns had departed fortheir posts—it was still four hours before the hour of attack—the men of theother two columns were permitted to dismount, but much intense suffering wasunavoidably sustained. The night grew extremely cold towards morning;no fires of course could be permitted, and the men were even ordered to desistfrom stamping their feet and walking back and forth to keep warm, as the160crushing of the snow beneath produced so much noise that it might give thealarm to our wily enemies.

During all these long weary hours of this terribly cold and comfortlessnight each man sat, stood, or lay on the snow by his horse, holding to therein of the latter. The officers, buttoning their huge overcoats closely aboutthem, collected in knots of four or five, and, seated or reclining upon the snow’shard crust, discussed the probabilities of the coming battle—for battle weknew it would be, and we could not hope to conquer or kill the warriors of anentire village without suffering in return more or less injury. Some, wrappingtheir capes about their heads, spread themselves at full length upon the snowand were apparently soon wrapt in deep slumber. After being satisfied thatall necessary arrangements were made for the attack, I imitated the exampleof some of my comrades, and gathering the cavalry cape of my greatcoatabout my head lay down and slept soundly for perhaps an hour. At the endof that time I awoke, and on consulting my watch found there remainednearly two hours before we would move to the attack. Walking about amongthe horses and troopers, I found the latter generally huddled at the feet of theformer in squads of three and four, in the endeavor to keep warm. OccasionallyI would find a small group engaged in conversation, the muttered tonesand voices strangely reminding me of those heard in the death-chamber. Theofficers had disposed of themselves in similar but various ways; here at oneplace were several stretched out together upon the snow, the body of one beingused by the others as a pillow. Nearly all were silent; conversation hadceased, and those who were prevented by the severe cold from obtaining sleepwere no doubt fully occupied in their minds with thoughts upon the morrowand the fate that might be in store for them. Seeing a small group collectedunder the low branches of a tree which stood a little distance from the groundoccupied by the troops, I made my way there to find the Osage warriors withtheir chiefs Little Beaver and Hard Rope. They were wrapped up in theirblankets sitting in a circle, and had evidently made no effort to sleep duringthe night. It was plain to be seen that they regarded the occasion as a momentousone, and that the coming battle had been the sole subject of their conference.What the views expressed by them were I did not learn until afterthe engagement was fought, when they told me what ideas they had entertainedregarding the manner in which the white men would probably conductand terminate the struggle next day. After the success of the day was decided,the Osages told me that, with the suspicion so natural and peculiar tothe Indian nature, they had, in discussing the proposed attack upon the Indianvillage, concluded that we would be outnumbered by the occupants of the village,who of course would fight with the utmost desperation in defence of theirlives and lodges, and to prevent a complete defeat of our forces or to secure adrawn battle, we might be induced to engage in a parley with the hostiletribe, and on coming to an agreement we would probably, to save ourselves,offer to yield up our Osage allies as a compromise measure between our enemiesand ourselves. They also mistrusted the ability of the whites to make asuccessful attack upon a hostile village, located—as this one was known to be—inheavy timber, and aided by the natural banks of the stream. Disasterseemed certain in the minds of the Osages to follow us, if we attacked a forceof unknown strength and numbers; and the question with them was to securesuch a position in the attack as to be able promptly to detect any move disadvantageousto them. With this purpose they came to the conclusion that the161standard-bearer was a very important personage, and neither he nor hisstandard would be carried into danger or exposed to the bullets of the enemy.They determined therefore to take their station immediately behind my standard-bearerwhen the lines became formed for attack, to follow him during theaction, and thus be able to watch our movements, and if we were successfulover our foes to aid us; if the battle should go against us, then they, being in asafe position, could take advantage of circ*mstances and save themselves asbest they might.

Turning from our Osage friends, who were, unknown to us, entertainingsuch doubtful opinions as to our fidelity to them, I joined another group nearby, consisting of most of the white scouts. Here were California Joe and severalof his companions. One of the latter deserves a passing notice. He was a low,heavy-set Mexican, with features resembling somewhat those of the Ethiopian—thicklips, depressed nose, and low forehead. He was quite a young man,probably not more than twenty-five years of age, but had passed the greaterportion of his life with the Indians, had adopted their habits of life and modesof dress, and had married among them. Familiar with the language of theCheyennes and other neighboring tribes, he was invaluable both as a scoutand interpreter. His real name was Romero, but some of the officers of thecommand, with whom he was a sort of favorite, had dubbed him Romeo, andby this name he was always known, a sobriquet to which he responded asreadily as if he had been christened under it; never protesting, like the originalRomeo,

Tut, I have lost myself; I am not here;

This is not Romeo, he’s some other where.

The scouts, like nearly all the other members of the command, had beeninterchanging opinions as to the result of the movements of the following day.Not sharing the mistrust and suspicion of the Osage guides, yet the presentexperience was in many respects new to them, and to some the issue seemedat least shrouded in uncertainty. Addressing the group, I began the conversationwith the question as to what they thought of the prospect of our havinga fight. “Fight!” responded California Joe; “I havn’t nary doubt concernin’that part uv the business; what I’ve been tryin’ to get through my topknot allnight is whether we’ll run aginst more than we bargain fur.” “Then you donot think the Indians will run away, Joe?” “Run away! How in creationcan Injuns or anybody else run away when we’ll have ’em clean surroundedafore daylight?” “Well, suppose then that we succeed in surrounding thevillage, do you think we can hold our own against the Indians?” “That’sthe very pint that’s been botherin’ me ever since we planted ourselves downhere, and the only conclusion I kin come at is that it’s purty apt to be onething or t’other; if we pump these Injuns at daylight, we’re either goin’ tomake a spoon or spile a horn, an’ that’s my candid judgment, sure. One thing’scertain, ef them Injuns doesn’t bar anything uv us till we open on ’em at daylight,they’ll be the most powerful ’stonished redskins that’s been in these partslately—they will, sure. An’ ef we git the bulge on ’em, and keep puttin’ it to’em sort a lively like, we’ll sweep the platter—thar won’t be nary trick leftfor ’em. As the deal stands now, we hold the keerds and are holdin’ over ’em;they’ve got to straddle our blind or throw up their hands. Howsomever,thar’s a mighty sight in the draw.”

California Joe continued in this strain, and, by a prolific use of terms connectedwith other transactions besides fighting Indians, did not fail to impress162his hearers that his opinion in substance was that our attack in the morningwas to result in overwhelming success to us, or that we would be utterlyrouted and dispersed—that there would be no drawn battle.

The night passed in quiet. I anxiously watched the opening signs ofdawn in order to put the column in motion. We were only a few hundredyards from the point from which we were to attack. The moon disappearedabout two hours before dawn, and left us enshrouded in thick and utter darkness,making the time seem to drag even slower than before.

At last faint signs of approaching day were visible, and I proceeded to collectthe officers, awakening those who slept. We were standing in a groupnear the head of the column, when suddenly our attention was attracted by aremarkable sight, and for a time we felt that the Indians had discovered ourpresence. Directly beyond the crest of the hill which separated us from thevillage, and in a line with the supposed location of the latter, we saw risingslowly but perceptibly, as we thought, up from the village, and appearing inbold relief against the dark sky as a background, something which we couldonly compare to a signal rocket, except that its motion was slow and regular.All eyes were turned to it in blank astonishment, and but one idea seemed tobe entertained, and that was that one or both of the two attacking columnsunder Elliot or Thompson had encountered a portion of the village, and thisthat we saw was the signal to other portions of the band near at hand. Slowlyand majestically it continued to rise above the crest of the hill, first appearingas a small brilliant flaming globe of bright golden hue. As it ascendedstill higher it seemed to increase in size, to move more slowly, while its colorsrapidly changed from one to the other, exhibiting in turn the most beautifulcombinations of prismatic tints. There seemed to be not the shadow of adoubt that we were discovered. The strange apparition in the heavens maintainedits steady course upward. One anxious spectator, observing it apparentlyat a standstill, exclaimed, “How long it hangs fire! why don’t it explode?”still keeping the idea of a signal rocket in mind. It had risen perhapsto the height of half a degree above the horizon as observed from ourposition, when, lo! the mystery was dispelled. Rising above the mystifyinginfluences of the atmosphere, that which had appeared so suddenly beforeus, and excited our greatest apprehensions, developed into the brightest andmost beautiful of morning stars. Often since that memorable morning haveI heard officers remind each other of the strange appearance which had soexcited our anxiety and alarm. In less perilous moments we probably wouldhave regarded it as a beautiful phenomenon of nature, of which so many areto be witnessed through the pure atmosphere of the plains.

All were ordered to get ready to advance; not a word to officer or menwas spoken above undertone. It began growing lighter in the east, and wemoved forward toward the crest of the hill. Up to this time two of the officersand one of the Osages had remained on the hill overlooking the valleybeyond, so as to detect any attempt at a movement on the part of the occupantsof the village below. These now rejoined the troops. Colonel West’ssquadron was formed in line on the right, Captain Hamilton’s squadron inline on the left, while Colonel Cook with his forty sharpshooters was formedin advance of the left, dismounted. Although the early morning air was freezinglycold, the men were directed to remove their overcoats and haversacks,so as to render them free in their movements. Before advancing beyond thecrest of the hill, strict orders were issued prohibiting the firing of a single shot163until the signal to attack should be made. The other three detachments hadbeen informed before setting out that the main column would attack promptlyat daylight, without waiting to ascertain whether they were in position or not.In fact it would be impracticable to communicate with either of the first twountil the attack began. The plan was for each party to approach as closelyto the village as possible without being discovered, and there await the approachof daylight. The regimental band was to move with my detachment,and it was understood that the band should strike up the instant the attackopened. Colonel Myers, commanding the third party, was also directed tomove one-half his detachment dismounted. In this order we began to descendthe slope leading down to the village. The distance to the timber in the valleyproved greater than it had appeared to the eye in the darkness of thenight. We soon reached the outskirts of the herd of ponies. The latterseemed to recognize us as hostile parties and moved quickly away. The lightof day was each minute growing stronger, and we feared discovery before wecould approach near enough to charge the village. The movement of ourhorses over the crusted snow produced considerable noise, and would doubtlesshave led to our detection but for the fact that the Indians, if they heard itat all, presumed it was occasioned by their herd of ponies. I would havegiven much at that moment to know the whereabouts of the first two columnssent out. Had they reached their assigned positions, or had unseen and unknownobstacles delayed or misled them? These were questions which couldnot then be answered. We had now reached the level of the valley, and beganadvancing in line toward the heavy timber in which and close at handwe knew the village was situated.

Immediately in rear of my horse came the band, all mounted, and eachwith his instrument in readiness to begin playing the moment their leader,who rode at their head, and who kept his cornet to his lips, should receive thesignal. I had previously told him to play “Garry Owen” as the openingpiece. We had approached near enough to the village now to plainly catch aview here and there of the tall white lodges as they stood in irregular orderamong the trees. From the openings at the top of some of them we could perceivefaint columns of smoke ascending, the occupants no doubt having keptup their feeble fires during the entire night. We had approached so near thevillage that from the dead silence which reigned I feared the lodges were deserted,the Indians having fled before we advanced. I was about to turn inmy saddle and direct the signal for attack to be given—still anxious as towhere the other detachments were—when a single rifle shot rang sharp andclear on the far side of the village from where we were. Quickly turning tothe band leader, I directed him to give us “Garry Owen.” At once the rollickingnotes of that familiar marching and fighting air sounded forth throughthe valley, and in a moment were reëchoed back from the opposite sides bythe loud and continued cheers of the men of the other detachments, who, trueto their orders, were there and in readiness to pounce upon the Indians the momentthe attack began. In this manner the battle of the Wash*ta commenced.The bugles sounded the charge, and the entire command dashed rapidly intothe village. The Indians were caught napping; but realizing at once the dangersof their situation, they quickly overcame their first surprise and in an instantseized their rifles, bows, and arrows, and sprang behind the nearest trees,while some leaped into the stream, nearly waist deep, and using the bank asa rifle-pit, began a vigorous and determined defence. Mingled with the exultant164cheers of my men could be heard the defiant war-whoop of the warriors,who from the first fought with a desperation and courage which no race ofmen could surpass. Actual possession of the village and its lodges was ourswithin a few moments after the charge was made, but this was an empty victoryunless we could vanquish the late occupants, who were then pouring in arapid and well-directed fire from their stations behind trees and banks. Atthe first onset a considerable number of the Indians rushed from the village inthe direction from which Elliot’s party had attacked. Some broke throughthe lines, while others came in contact with the mounted troopers, and werekilled or captured.

Before engaging in the fight, orders had been given to prevent the killingof any but the fighting strength of the village; but in a struggle of this characterit is impossible at all times to discriminate, particularly when, in a hand-to-handconflict, such as the one the troops were then engaged in, the squaws areas dangerous adversaries as the warriors, while Indian boys between ten andfifteen years of age were found as expert and determined in the use of the pistoland bow and arrow as the older warriors. Of these facts we had numerousillustrations. Major Benteen, in leading the attack of his squadronthrough the timber below the village, encountered an Indian boy, scarcelyfourteen years of age; he was well mounted, and was endeavoring to makehis way through the lines. The object these Indians had in attempting thismovement we were then ignorant of, but soon learned to our sorrow. This boyrode boldly toward the Major, seeming to invite a contest. His youthfulbearing, and not being looked upon as a combatant, induced Major Benteento endeavor to save him by making “peace signs” to him and obtaining hissurrender, when he could be placed in a position of safety until the battle wasterminated; but the young savage desired and would accept no such friendlyconcessions. He regarded himself as a warrior, and the son of a warrior, andas such he purposed to do a warrior’s part. With revolver in hand he dashedat the Major, who still could not regard him as anything but a harmlesslad. Levelling his weapon as he rode, he fired, but either from excitement orthe changing positions of both parties, his aim was defective and the shotwhistled harmlessly by Major Benteen’s head. Another followed in quicksuccession, but with no better effect. All this time the dusky little chieftainboldly advanced, to lessen the distance between himself and his adversary. Athird bullet was sped on its errand, and this time to some purpose, as it passedthrough the neck of the Major’s horse, close to the shoulder. Making a finalbut ineffectual appeal to him to surrender, and seeing him still preparing tofire again, the Major was forced in self-defence to level his revolver, and despatchhim, although as he did so it was with admiration for the plucky spiritexhibited by the lad, and regret often expressed that no other course underthe circ*mstances was left him. Attached to the saddle bow of the young Indianhung a beautifully wrought pair of small moccasins, elaborately ornamentedwith beads. One of the Major’s troopers afterward secured theseand presented them to him. These furnished the link of evidence by whichwe subsequently ascertained who the young chieftain was—a title which wasjustly his, both by blood and bearing.

We had gained the centre of the village, and were in the midst of thelodges, while on all sides could be heard the sharp crack of the Indian riflesand the heavy responses from the carbines of the troopers. After disposingof the smaller and scattering parties of warriors, who had attempted a movement165down the valley, and in which some were successful, there was but littleopportunity left for the successful employment of mounted troops. As the Indiansby this time had taken cover behind logs and trees, and under the banksof the stream which flowed through the centre of the village, from whichstronghold it was impracticable to dislodge them by the use of mounted men,a large portion of the command was at once ordered to fight on foot, and themen were instructed to take advantage of the trees and other natural meansof cover, and fight the Indians in their own style. Cook’s sharpshooters hadadopted this method from the first, and with telling effect. Slowly but steadilythe Indians were driven from behind the trees, and those who escaped thecarbine bullets posted themselves with their companions who were alreadyfiring from the banks. One party of troopers came upon a squaw endeavoringto make her escape, leading by the hand a little white boy, a prisoner in thehands of the Indians, and who doubtless had been captured by some of theirwar parties during a raid upon the settlements. Who or where his parentswere, or whether still alive or murdered by the Indians, will never be known,as the squaw, finding herself and prisoner about to be surrounded by thetroops, and her escape cut off, determined, with savage malignity, that the triumphof the latter should not embrace the rescue of the white boy. Castingher eyes quickly in all directions, to convince herself that escape wasimpossible, she drew from beneath her blanket a huge knife and plunged itinto the almost naked body of her captive. The next moment retributive justicereached her in the shape of a well-directed bullet from one of the troopers’carbines. Before the men could reach them life was extinct in the bodies ofboth the squaw and her unknown captive.

The desperation with which the Indians fought may be inferred from thefollowing: Seventeen warriors had posted themselves in a depression in theground, which enabled them to protect their bodies completely from the fireof our men, and it was only when the Indians raised their heads to fire thatthe troopers could aim with any prospect of success. All efforts to drive thewarriors from this point proved abortive, and resulted in severe loss to ourside. They were only vanquished at last by our men securing positions undercover and picking them off by sharpshooting as they exposed themselves toget a shot at the troopers. Finally the last one was despatched in this manner.In a deep ravine near the suburbs of the village the dead bodies of thirty-eightwarriors were reported after the fight terminated. Many of the squawsand children had very prudently not attempted to leave the village when weattacked it, but remained concealed inside their lodges. All these escaped injury,although when surrounded by the din and wild excitement of the fight,and in close proximity to the contending parties, their fears overcame some ofthem, and they gave vent to their despair by singing the death song, a combinationof weird-like sounds which were suggestive of anything but musicaltones. As soon as we had driven the warriors from the village, and the fightingwas pushed to the country outside, I directed “Romeo,” the interpreter, togo around to all the lodges and assure the squaws and children remaining inthem that they would be unharmed and kindly cared for; at the same time hewas to assemble them in the large lodges designated for that purpose, whichwere standing near the centre of the village. This was quite a delicate mission,as it was difficult to convince the squaws and children that they had anythingbut death to expect at our hands.

It was perhaps ten o’clock in the forenoon, and the fight was still raging,166when to our surprise we saw a small party of Indians collected on a knoll alittle over a mile below the village, and in the direction taken by those Indianswho had effected an escape through our lines at the commencement of theattack. My surprise was not so great at first, as I imagined that the Indianswe saw were those who had contrived to escape, and having procuredtheir ponies from the herd had mounted them and were then anxious spectatorsof the fight, which they felt themselves too weak in numbers to participatein. In the mean time the herds of ponies belonging to the village, on beingalarmed by the firing and shouts of the contestants, had, from a sense of imaginedsecurity or custom, rushed into the village, where details of trooperswere made to receive them. California Joe, who had been moving about in apromiscuous and independent manner, came galloping into the village, andreported that a large herd of ponies was to be seen near by, and requestedauthority and some men to bring them in. The men were otherwise employedjust then, but he was authorized to collect and drive in the herd if practicable.He departed on his errand, and I had forgotten all about him and the ponies,when in the course of half an hour I saw a herd of nearly three hundred poniescoming on the gallop toward the village, driven by a couple of squaws,who were mounted, and had been concealed near by, no doubt; while bringingup the rear was California Joe, riding his favorite mule, and whirling abouthis head a long lariat, using it as a whip in urging the herd forward. He hadcaptured the squaws while endeavoring to secure the ponies, and very wiselyhad employed his captives to assist in driving the herd. By this time thegroup of Indians already discovered outside our lines had increased until itnumbered upwards of a hundred. Examining them through my field glass, Icould plainly perceive that they were all mounted warriors; not only that, butthey were armed and caparisoned in full war costume, nearly all wearing thebright-colored war-bonnets and floating their lance pennants. Constant accessionsto their numbers were to be seen arriving from beyond the hill onwhich they stood. All this seemed inexplicable. A few Indians might haveescaped through our lines when the attack on the village began, but only afew, and even these must have gone with little or nothing in their possessionsave their rifles and perhaps a blanket. Who could these new parties be, andfrom whence came they? To solve these troublesome questions I sent for “Romeo,”and taking him with me to one of the lodges occupied by the squaws, Iinterrogated one of the latter as to who were the Indians to be seen assemblingon the hill below the village. She informed me, to a surprise on my partalmost equal to that of the Indians at our sudden appearance at daylight, thatjust below the village we then occupied, and which was a part of the Cheyennetribe, were located in succession the winter villages of all the hostiletribes of the southern plains with which we were at war, including the Arrapahoes,Kiowas, the remaining band of Cheyennes, the Comanches, and a portionof the Apaches; that the nearest village was about two miles distant, and theothers stretched along through the timbered valley to the one furthest off,which was not over ten miles.

What was to be done?—for I needed no one to tell me that we were certain tobe attacked, and that, too, by greatly superior numbers, just as soon as the Indiansbelow could make their arrangements to do so; and they had probablybeen busily employed at these arrangements ever since the sound of firinghad reached them in the early morning, and been reported from village to village.Fortunately, affairs took a favorable turn in the combat in which we167were then engaged, and the firing had almost died away. Only here and therewhere some warrior still maintained his position was the fight continued.Leaving as few men as possible to look out for these, I hastily collected andreformed my command, and posted them in readiness for the attack which weall felt was soon to be made; for already at different points and in more thanone direction we could see more than enough warriors to outnumber us, andwe knew they were only waiting the arrival of the chiefs and warriors fromthe lower villages before making any move against us. In the meanwhile ourtemporary hospital had been established in the centre of the village, where thewounded were receiving such surgical care as circ*mstances would permit.Our losses had been severe; indeed we were not then aware how great theyhad been. Hamilton, who rode at my side as we entered the village, and whosesoldierly tones I heard for the last time as he calmly cautioned his squadron,“Now, men, keep cool, fire low, and not too rapidly,” was among the firstvictims of the opening charge, having been shot from his saddle by a bulletfrom an Indian rifle. He died instantly. His lifeless remains were tenderlycarried by some of his troopers to the vicinity of the hospital. Soon afterwardsI saw four troopers coming from the front bearing between them, in ablanket, a wounded soldier; galloping to them, I discovered Colonel Barnitz,another troop commander, who was almost in a dying condition, having beenshot by a rifle bullet directly through the body in the vicinity of the heart.Of Major Elliot, the officer second in rank, nothing had been seen since the attackat daylight, when he rode with his detachment into the village. He, too,had evidently been killed, but as yet we knew not where or how he had fallen.Two other officers had received wounds, while the casualties among theenlisted men were also large. The sergeant-major of the regiment, who waswith me when the first shot was heard, had not been seen since that moment.We were not in as effective condition by far as when the attack was made, yetwe were soon to be called upon to contend against a force immensely superiorto the one with which we had been engaged during the early hours of theday. The captured herds of ponies were carefully collected inside our lines,and so guarded as to prevent their stampede or recapture by the Indians.Our wounded, and the immense amount of captured property in the way ofponies, lodges, etc., as well as our prisoners, were obstacles in the way of ourattempting an offensive movement against the lower villages. To have donethis would have compelled us to divide our forces, when it was far from certainthat we could muster strength enough united to repel the attacks of thecombined tribes. On all sides of us the Indians could now be seen in considerablenumbers, so that from being the surrounding party, as we had been in themorning, we now found ourselves surrounded and occupying the position ofdefenders of the village. Fortunately for us, as the men had been expending agreat many rounds, Major Bell, the quartermaster, who with a small escort wasendeavoring to reach us with a fresh supply of ammunition, had by constant exertionand hard marching succeeded in doing so, and now appeared on the groundwith several thousand rounds of carbine ammunition, a reinforcement greatlyneeded. He had no sooner arrived safely than the Indians attacked from thedirection from which he came. How he had managed to elude their watchfuleyes I never could comprehend, unless their attention had been so completelyabsorbed in watching our movements inside as to prevent them from keepingan eye out to discover what might be transpiring elsewhere.

Issuing a fresh supply of ammunition to those most in want of it, the fight168soon began generally at all points of the circle. For such in reality had ourline of battle become—a continuous and unbroken circle of which the villagewas about the centre. Notwithstanding the great superiority in numbers ofthe Indians, they fought with excessive prudence and a lack of that confidentmanner which they usually manifest when encountering greatly inferior numbers—aresult due, no doubt, to the fate which had overwhelmed our first opponents.Besides, the timber and the configuration of the ground enabled usto keep our men concealed until their services were actually required. Itseemed to be the design and wish of our antagonists to draw us away from thevillage; but in this they were foiled. Seeing that they did not intend to pressthe attack just then, about two hundred of my men were ordered to pull downthe lodges in the village and collect the captured property in huge piles preparatoryto burning. This was done in the most effectual manner. Wheneverything had been collected the torch was applied, and all that was left ofthe village were a few heaps of blackened ashes. Whether enraged at thesight of this destruction or from other cause, the attack soon became generalalong our entire line, and pressed with so much vigor and audacity that everyavailable trooper was required to aid in meeting these assaults. The Indianswould push a party of well-mounted warriors close up to our lines in the endeavorto find a weak point through which they might venture, but in everyattempt were driven back. I now concluded, as the village was off our handsand our wounded had been collected, that offensive measures might be adopted.To this end several of the squadrons were mounted and ordered to advanceand attack the enemy wherever force sufficient was exposed to be a properobject of attack, but at the same time to be cautious as to ambuscades. ColonelWeir, who had succeeded to the command of Hamilton’s squadron, ColonelsBenteen and Myers with their respective squadrons, all mounted, advancedand engaged the enemy. The Indians resisted every step taken by the troops,while every charge made by the latter was met or followed by a charge fromthe Indians, who continued to appear in large numbers at unexpected timesand places. The squadrons acting in support of each other, and the men ineach being kept well in hand, were soon able to force the line held by the Indiansto yield at any point assailed. This being followed up promptly, theIndians were driven at every point and forced to abandon the field to us. Yetthey would go no further than they were actually driven. It was now aboutthree o’clock in the afternoon. I knew that the officer left in charge of the trainand eighty men would push after us, follow our trail, and endeavor to reachus at the earliest practicable moment. From the tops of some of the highestpeaks or round hills in the vicinity of the village I knew the Indians couldreconnoitre the country for miles in all directions. I feared if we remainedas we were then until the following day, the Indians might in thismanner discover the approach of our train and detach a sufficient body ofwarriors to attack and capture it; and its loss to us, aside from that of itsguard, would have proven most serious, leaving us in the heart of the enemy’scountry, in midwinter, totally out of supplies for both men and horses.

By actual count we had in our possession eight hundred and seventy-fivecaptured ponies, so wild and unused to white men that it was difficult to herdthem. What we were to do with them was puzzling, as they could not havebeen led had we been possessed of the means of doing this; neither could wedrive them as the Indians were accustomed to do. And even if we couldtake them with us, either the one way or the other, it was anything but wise169or desirable on our part to do so, as such a large herd of ponies, constituting somuch wealth in the eyes of the Indians, would have been too tempting a prize tothe warriors who had been fighting us all the afternoon, and to effect their recapturethey would have followed and waylaid us day and night, with everyprospect of success, until we should have arrived at a place of safety. Besides,we had upwards of sixty prisoners in our hands, to say nothing of our wounded,to embarrass our movements. We had achieved a great and important successover the hostile tribes; the problem now was how to retain our advantageand steer safely through the difficulties which seemed to surround our position.The Indians had suffered a telling defeat, involving great losses in lifeand valuable property. Could they succeed, however, in depriving us of thetrain and supplies, and in doing this accomplish the killing or capture of theescort, it would go far to offset the damage we had been able to inflict uponthem and render our victory an empty one.

As I deliberated on these points in the endeavor to conclude upon thatwhich would be our wisest course, I could look in nearly all directions andsee the warriors at a distance collected in groups on the tops of the highesthills, apparently waiting and watching our next move that they might act accordingly.To guide my command safely out of the difficulties which seemedjust then to beset them, I again had recourse to that maxim in war whichteaches a commander to do that which his enemy neither expects nor desireshim to do.



The close of the last article left my command on the Wash*ta, still surroundedby a superior but badly defeated force of Indians. We wereburdened with a considerable number of prisoners and quite a number of ourown and the enemy’s wounded, and had in our possession nearly nine hundredponies which we had just captured from the enemy. We were far away—justhow far we did not know—from our train of supplies, and the latter with itsescort was in danger of capture and destruction by the savages if we did notact to prevent it. We felt convinced that we could not, in the presence of solarge a body of hostile Indians, hope to make a long march through theircountry, the latter favorable to the Indian mode of attack by surprise andambush, and keep with us the immense herd of captured ponies. Such acourse would only encourage attack under circ*mstances which would almostinsure defeat and unnecessary loss to us. We did not need the ponies, whilethe Indians did. If we retained them they might conclude that one object ofour expedition against them was to secure plunder, an object thoroughly consistentwith the red man’s idea of war. Instead, it was our desire to impressupon his uncultured mind that our every act and purpose had been simply toinflict deserved punishment upon him for the many murders and other depredationscommitted by him in and around the homes of the defenceless settlerson the frontier. Impelled by these motives, I decided neither to attempt totake the ponies with us nor to abandon them to the Indians, but to adopt theonly measure left—to kill them. To accomplish this seemingly—like mostmeasures of war—cruel but necessary act, four companies of cavalrymenwere detailed dismounted, as a firing party. Before they reluctantly engagedin this uninviting work, I took Romeo, the interpreter, and proceeded to thefew lodges near the centre of the village which we had reserved from destruction,and in which were collected the prisoners, consisting of upward of sixtysquaws and children. Romeo was directed to assemble the prisoners inone body, as I desired to assure them of kind treatment at our hands, a subjectabout which they were greatly wrought up; also to tell them what we shouldexpect of them, and to inform them of our intention to march probably all thatnight, directing them at the same time to proceed to the herd and select therefroma suitable number of ponies to carry the prisoners on the march. WhenRomeo had collected them in a single group, he, acting as interpreter, acquaintedthem with my purpose in calling them together, at the same time assuringthem that they could rely confidently upon the fulfilment of any promisesI made them, as I was the “big chief.” The Indians refer to all officersof a command as “chiefs,” while the officer in command is designated as the“big chief.” After I had concluded what I desired to say to them, they signifiedtheir approval and satisfaction by gathering around me and goingthrough an extensive series of hand-shaking. One of the middle-aged squawsthen informed Romeo that she wished to speak on behalf of herself andcompanions. Assent having been given to this, she began the delivery ofan address which for wisdom of sentiment, and easy, natural, but impassioneddelivery, might have been heard with intense interest by an audience of cultivated171refinement. From her remarks, interpreted by Romeo, I gatheredmuch—in fact, the first reliable information as to what band we had attackedat daylight, which chiefs commanded, and many interesting scraps of information.She began by saying that now she and the women and children abouther were in the condition of captivity, which for a long time she hadprophesied would be theirs sooner or later. She claimed to speak not as asquaw, but as the sister of the head chief of her band, Black Kettle, who hadfallen that morning almost the moment the attack was made. He it was whowas the first to hear our advance, and leaping forth from his lodge with riflein hand, uttered the first war-whoop and fired the first shot as a rally signal tohis warriors, and was almost immediately after shot down by the opening volleyof the cavalry. Often had she warned her brother of the danger the village,with its women and children, was exposed to, owing to the frequent raidingand war parties which from time to time had been permitted to go forthand depredate upon the settlements of the white men. In the end it was sureto lead to detection and punishment, and now her words had only proven tootrue. Not a chief or warrior of the village in her belief survived the battle ofthe forenoon. And what was to become of all these women and children, bereftof everything and of every friend? True, it was just. The warriors hadbrought this fate upon themselves and their families by their unprovoked attacksupon the white man. Black Kettle, the head chief and the once trustedfriend of the white man, had fallen. Little Rock, the chief second in rank inthe village, had also met his death while attempting to defend his home againsthis enemies; others were named in the order of their rank or prowess as warriors,but all had gone the same way. Who was left to care for the womenand children who still lived? Only last night, she continued, did the last warparty return from the settlements, and it was to rejoice over their achievementsthat the entire village were engaged until a late hour dancing and singing.This was why their enemies were able to ride almost into their lodges beforethey were aroused by the noise of the attack. For several minutes shecontinued to speak, first upbraiding in the bitterest terms the chiefs and warriorswho had been the cause of their capture, then bewailing in the most plaintivemanner their sad and helpless condition. Turning to me she added, “Youclaim to be a chief. This man” (pointing to Romeo) “says you are the bigchief. If this be true and you are what he claims, show that you can act like agreat chief and secure for us that treatment which the helpless are entitled to.”

After the delivery of this strongly melodramatic harangue there was introduceda little by-play, in which I was unconsciously made to assume a moreprominent part than either my inclinations or the laws of society might approve.Black Kettle’s sister, whose name was Mah-wis-sa, and whose addresshad just received the hearty approval of her companions by their earnest expressionof “Ugh!” the Indian word intended for applause, then stepped intothe group of squaws, and after looking earnestly at the face of each for a moment,approached a young Indian girl—probably seventeen years of age—andtaking her by the hand conducted her to where I was standing. Placing thehand of the young girl in mine, she proceeded in the Indian tongue to the deliveryof what I, in my ignorance of the language, presumed was a form ofadministering a benediction, as her manner and gestures corresponded withthis idea. Never dreaming of her purpose, but remembering how sensitiveand suspicious the Indian nature was, and that any seeming act of inattentionor disrespect on my part might be misunderstood, I stood a passive participant172in the strange ceremony then being enacted. After concluding the main portionof the formalities, she engaged in what seemed an invocation of the GreatSpirit, casting her eyes reverently upward, at the same time moving herhands slowly down over the faces of the young squaw and myself. By thistime my curiosity got the better of my silence, and turning to Romeo, whostood near me, and who I knew was familiar with Indian customs, I quietlyinquired, “What is this woman doing, Romeo?” With a broad grin on hisswarthy face he replied, “Why, she’s marryin’ you to that young squaw!”Although never claimed as an exponent of the peace policy about which somuch has been said and written, yet I entertained the most peaceable sentimentstoward all Indians who were in a condition to do no harm nor violateany law. And while cherishing these friendly feelings and desiring to do allin my power to render our captives comfortable and free from anxiety regardingtheir future treatment at our hands, I think even the most strenuous andardent advocate of that peace policy which teaches that the Indian should beleft free and unmolested in the gratification of his simple tastes and habits,will at least not wholly condemn me when they learn that this last touchingand unmistakable proof of confidence and esteem, offered by Mah-wis-sa andgracefully if not blushingly acquiesced in by the Indian maiden, was firmlybut respectfully declined. The few reasons which forced me to deny myselfthe advantages of this tempting alliance were certain circ*mstances overwhich I then had no control, among which was a previous and already solemnizedceremony of this character, which might have a tendency to render thesecond somewhat invalid. Then, again, I had not been consulted in regard tomy choice in this matter—a trifling consideration, but still having its due influence.I had not had opportunities to become acquainted with the family ofthe young damsel who thus proposed to link her worldly fate with mine. Herfather’s bank account might or might not be in a favorable condition. No opportunityhad been given me to study the tastes, disposition, or character ofthe young lady—whether she was fond of music, literature, or domestic duties.All these were questions with which I was not sufficiently familiar to justifyme in taking the important step before me. I did not, however, like certaincandidates for office, thrice decline by standing up, and with my hand pressedto my heart say, “Your husband I cannot be”; but through the intermediationof Romeo, the interpreter, who from the first had been highly entertainedby what he saw was an excellent joke on the big chief, and wondering inhis own mind how I would extricate myself without giving offence, I explainedto Mah-wis-sa my due appreciation of the kindness intended by herselfand her young friend, but that according to the white man’s laws I wasdebarred from availing myself of the offer, at the same time assuring themof my high consideration, etc. Glad to get away to duties that called me elsewhere,I left with Romeo. As soon as we had turned our backs on the group,I inquired of Romeo what object could have been in view which inducedBlack Kettle’s sister to play the part she did. “That’s easy enough to understand;she knows they are in your power, and her object is to make friendswith you as far as possible. But you don’t believe anything she tells you, doyou? Why, that squaw—give her the chance, and she’d lift your or my scalpfor us and never wink. Lord, I’ve heerd ’em talk fine too often to be catchedso easy. To hear her talk and abuse old Black Kettle and the rest that I hopewe’ve done for, you’d think that squaw never had had a hand in torturin’ todeath many a poor devil who’s been picked up by them. But it’s a fact,173’taint no two ways ’bout it. I’ve lived with them people too long not to know’em—root and branch. When she was talkin’ all that palaver to you ’boutprotectin’ ’em and all that sort of stuff, if she could ’a know’d that minute thatthese outside Injuns was ’bout to gobble us up she’d ’a been the very fust one toram a knife smack into ye. That’s the way they allus talk when they wantanythin’. Do you know her game in wantin’ to marry that young squaw toyou? Well, I’ll tell ye; ef you’d ’a married that squaw, then she’d ’a told yethat all the rest of ’em were her kinfolks, and as a nateral sort of a thingyou’d ’a been expected to kind o’ provide and take keer of your wife’s relations.That’s jist as I tell it to you—fur don’t I know? Didn’t I marry a youngCheyenne squaw and give her old father two of my best ponies for her, and itwasn’t a week till every tarnal Injun in the village, old and young, came to mylodge, and my squaw tried to make me b’lieve they were all relations of hern,and that I ought to give ’em some grub; but I didn’t do nothin’ of the sort.”“Well, how did you get out of it, Romeo?” “Get out of it? Why, I got out byjist takin’ my ponies and traps, and the first good chance I lit out; that’s howI got out. I was satisfied to marry one or two of ’em, but when it come tomarryin’ an intire tribe, ’scuse me.”

At this point Romeo was interrupted by the officer in command of the mendetailed to kill the ponies. The firing party was all ready to proceed withits work, and was only waiting until the squaws should secure a sufficientnumber of ponies to transport all the prisoners on the march. The troopershad endeavored to catch the ponies, but they were too wild and unaccustomedto white men to permit them to approach. When the squaws enteredthe herd they had no difficulty in selecting and bridling the requisite number.These being taken off by themselves, the work of destruction began on the remainder,and was continued until nearly eight hundred ponies were thus disposedof. All this time the Indians who had been fighting us from theoutside covered the hills in the distance, deeply interested spectators ofthis to them strange proceeding. The loss of so many animals of value wasa severe blow to the tribe, as nothing so completely impairs the war-makingfacilities for the Indians of the Plains as the deprivation or disabling of theirponies.

In the description of the opening of the battle in the preceding chapter, Ispoke of the men having removed their overcoats and haversacks whenabout to charge the village. These had been disposed of carefully on theground, and one man from each company left to guard them, this number beingdeemed sufficient, as they would be within rifle-shot of the main command;besides, the enemy as was then supposed would be inside our lines and sufficientlyemployed in taking care of himself to prevent any meddling on his partwith the overcoats and haversacks. This was partly true, but we had notcalculated upon Indians appearing in force and surrounding us. When thisdid occur, however, their first success was in effecting the capture of the overcoatsand rations of the men, the guard barely escaping to the village. Thiswas a most serious loss, as the men were destined to suffer great discomfortfrom the cold; and their rations being in the haversacks, and it being uncertainwhen we should rejoin our train, they were compelled to endure both cold andhunger. It was when the Indians discovered our overcoats and galloped totheir capture, that one of my stag-hounds, Blucher, seeing them riding andyelling as if engaged in the chase, dashed from the village and joined the Indians,who no sooner saw him than they shot him through with an arrow.174Several months afterward I discovered his remains on the ground near wherethe overcoats had been deposited on that eventful morning.

Many noteworthy incidents were observed or reported during the fight.Before the battle began, our Osage allies, in accordance with the Indian custom,dressed in their war costume, painting their faces in all imaginable colors,except one tall, fine-looking warrior, who retained his ordinary dress.Upon inquiring of the chief, Little Beaver, why this one did not array himselfas the others had done, he informed me that it was in obedience to a law amongall the tribes, under which any chief or warrior who has had a near relativekilled by an enemy belonging to another tribe, is not permitted to don the warcostume or put on war paint until he has avenged the murder by taking a scalpfrom some member of the hostile tribe. A war party of the Cheyennes hadvisited the Osage village the preceding summer, under friendly pretences.They had been hospitably entertained at the lodge of the warrior referred toby his squaw, he being absent on a hunt. When ready to depart they killedhis squaw and destroyed his lodge, and until he could secure a scalp he mustgo on the war path unadorned by feathers or paint. After the battle had beenwaged for a couple of hours in the morning, I saw this warrior approaching,his horse urged to his highest speed; in his hand I saw waving wildly overheadsomething I could not distinguish until he halted by my side, when Iperceived that it was an entire scalp, fresh and bleeding. His vengeance hadbeen complete, and he was again restored to the full privileges of a warrior—aright he was not long in exercising, as the next time I saw him on the field hisface was completely hidden under the stripes of yellow, black, and vermilion,the colors being so arranged apparently as to give him the most hideous visageimaginable.

Riding in the vicinity of the hospital, I saw a little bugler boy sitting on abundle of dressed robes, near where the surgeon was dressing and caring forthe wounded. His face was completely covered with blood, which was tricklingdown over his cheek from a wound in his forehead. At first glance Ithought a pistol bullet had entered his skull, but on stopping to inquire of himthe nature of his injury, he informed me that an Indian had shot him in thehead with a steel-pointed arrow. The arrow had struck him just above theeye, and upon encountering the skull had glanced under the covering of thelatter, coming out near the ear, giving the appearance of having passedthrough the head. There the arrow remained until the bugler arrived at thehospital, when he received prompt attention. The arrow being barbed couldnot be withdrawn at once, but by cutting off the steel point the surgeon wasable to withdraw the wooden shaft without difficulty. The little fellow borehis suffering manfully. I asked him if he saw the Indian who wounded him.Without replying at once, he shoved his hand deep down into his capacioustrousers pocket and fished up nothing more nor less than the scalp of an Indian,adding in a nonchalant manner, “If anybody thinks I didn’t see him, Iwant them to take a look at that.” He had killed the Indian with his revolverafter receiving the arrow wound in his head.

After driving off the Indians who had attacked us from the outside, so as toprevent them from interfering with our operations in the vicinity of the village,parties were sent here and there to look up the dead and wounded of both sides.In spite of the most thorough search, there were still undiscovered MajorElliott and nineteen enlisted men, including the sergeant-major, for whoseabsence we were unable to satisfactorily account. Officers and men of the175various commands were examined, but nothing was elicited from them exceptthat Major Elliott had been seen about daylight charging with his command intothe village. I had previously given him up as killed, but was surprised thatso many of the men should be missing, and none of their comrades be able toaccount for them. All the ground inside of the advanced lines held by the Indianswho attacked us after our capture of the village was closely and carefullyexamined, in the hope of finding the bodies of some if not all the absentees,but with no success. It was then evident that when the other bands attemptedto reinforce our opponents of the early morning, they had closed theirlines about us in such manner as to cut off Elliott and nineteen of our men.What had been the fate of this party after leaving the main command? Thiswas a question to be answered only in surmises, and few of these were favorableto the escape of our comrades. At last one of the scouts reported that soonafter the attack on the village began he had seen a few warriors escaping,mounted, from the village, through a gap that existed in our line between thecommands of Elliott and Thompson, and that Elliott and a small party of trooperswere in close pursuit; that a short time after he had heard very sharp firingin the direction taken by the Indians and Elliott’s party, but that as the firinghad continued for only a few minutes, he had thought nothing more of it untilthe prolonged absence of our men recalled it to his mind. Parties were sentin the direction indicated by the scout, he accompanying them; but after asearch extending nearly two miles, all the parties returned, reporting theirefforts to discover some trace of Elliott and his men fruitless. As it was nowlacking but an hour of night, we had to make an effort to get rid of the Indians,who still loitered in strong force on the hills, within plain view of our position.Our main desire was to draw them off from the direction in which our trainmight be approaching, and thus render it secure from attack until under theprotection of the entire command, when we could defy any force our enemiescould muster against us. The last lodge having been destroyed, and all theponies except those required for the pursuit having been killed, the commandwas drawn in and united near the village. Making dispositions to overcomeany resistance which might be offered to our advance, by throwing out astrong force of skirmishers, we set out down the valley in the direction wherethe other villages had been reported, and toward the hills on which were collectedthe greatest number of Indians. The column moved forward in onebody, with colors flying and band playing, while our prisoners, all mounted oncaptured ponies, were under sufficient guard immediately in rear of the advancedtroops. For a few moments after our march began the Indians on thehills remained silent spectators, evidently at a loss at first to comprehend ourintentions in thus setting out at that hour of the evening, and directing ourcourse as if another night march was contemplated; and more than all, in thedirection of their villages, where all that they possessed was supposed to be.This aroused them to action, as we could plainly see considerable commotionamong them—chiefs riding hither and thither, as if in anxious consultationwith each other as to the course to be adopted. Whether the fact that theycould not fire upon our advance without endangering the lives of their ownpeople, who were prisoners in our hands, or some other reason prevailed withthem, they never offered to fire a shot or retard our movements in any manner,but instead assembled their outlying detachments as rapidly as possible,and began a precipitate movement down the valley in advance of us, fully impressedwith the idea no doubt that our purpose was to overtake their flying176people and herds and administer the same treatment to them that the occupantsof the upper village had received. This was exactly the effect I desired,and our march was conducted with such appearance of determination and rapiditythat this conclusion on their part was a most natural one. Leaving afew of their warriors to hover along our flanks and watch our progress, themain body of the Indians, able to travel much faster than the troops, soon disappearedfrom our sight in front. We still pushed on in the same direction,and continued our march in this manner until long after dark, by which timewe reached the deserted villages, the occupants—at least the non-combatantsand herds—having fled in the morning when news of our attack on Black Kettle’svillage reached them. We had now reached a point several miles belowthe site of Black Kettle’s village, and the darkness was sufficient to cover ourmovements from the watchful eyes of the Indian scouts, who had dogged ourmarch as long as the light favored them.

Facing the command about, it was at once put in motion to reach ourtrain, not only as a measure of safety and protection to the latter, but as a necessarymovement to relieve the wants of the command, particularly that portionwhose haversacks and overcoats had fallen into the hands of the Indiansearly in the morning. By ten o’clock we reached the battle ground, but withouthalting pushed on, following the trail we had made in striking the village.The march was continued at a brisk gait until about two o’clock in the morning,when I concluded it would be prudent to allow the main command to haltand bivouac until daylight, sending one squadron forward without delay, to reinforcethe guard with the train. Colonel West’s squadron was detailed uponthis duty. The main body of the troops was halted, and permitted to buildhuge fires, fuel being obtainable in abundance from the timber which lined thevalley of the Wash*ta—our march still leading us up the course of this stream.

At daylight the next morning we were again in our saddles and wendingour way hopefully toward the train. The location of the latter we did notknow, presuming that it had been pushing after us since we had taken ourabrupt departure from it. Great was our joy and satisfaction, about teno’clock, to discover the train safely in camp. The teams were at once harnessedand hitched to the wagons, and without halting even to prepare breakfast,the march was resumed, I being anxious to encamp at a certain pointthat night from where I intended sending scouts through with despatches toGeneral Sheridan. Early in the afternoon this camp was reached; it was nearthe point where we had first struck the timbered valley, at the time not knowingthat it was the valley of the Wash*ta. Here men and horses were giventhe first opportunity to procure a satisfactory meal since the few hasty morselsobtained by them during the brief halt made between nine and ten o’clock thenight we arrived in the vicinity of the village. After posting our pickets andrendering the camp secure from surprise by the enemy, horses were unsaddled,tents pitched, and every means taken to obtain as comfortable a night asthe limited means at our disposal and the severities of the season would permit.After partaking of a satisfactory dinner, I began writing my report toGeneral Sheridan. First I sent for California Joe, and informed him that Idesired to send a despatch to General Sheridan that night, and would have itready by dark, so that the bearer could at once set out as soon as it was sufficientlydark to conceal his movements from the scouts of the enemy, who nodoubt were still following and watching us. I told California Joe that I hadselected him as the bearer of the despatch, and he was at liberty to name the177number of men he desired to accompany him, as it was a most perilous missionon which he was going. The exact distance he would have to ride in orderto reach General Sheridan’s headquarters at Camp Supply could not bedetermined. The command had occupied four days in accomplishing it, butCalifornia Joe, with his thorough knowledge of the country, and the experienceof our march, would be able to follow a much more direct route than alarge command moving with a train.

He did not seem in the least disturbed when told of his selection for this errand,so full of danger. When informed that he might name the number ofmen to accompany him, I supposed he would say about twelve or more, undercommand of a good non-commissioned officer. Very few persons in or out ofthe military service would have cared to undertake the journey with much lessthan ten times that force, but he contented himself by informing me that beforeanswering that question he would walk down to where the scouts were incamp and consult his “pardner.” He soon returned saying, “I’ve just beentalkin’ the matter over with my pardner, and him and me both concludes thatas safe and sure a way as any is for him and me to take a few extra rounds ofammunition and strike out from here together the very minnit it’s dark. As forany more men, we don’t want ’em, because yer see in a case of this ’ere kindthar’s more to be made by dodgin’ an’ runnin’ than thar is by fightin’, an’ twospright men kin do better at that than twenty; they can’t be seen half as fur.Besides, two won’t leave as much of a trail for the Injuns to find. If my pardneran’ me kin git away from here as soon as it is plum dark, we’ll be so furfrom here by daylight to-morrer mornin’ the Injuns never couldn’t tetch hidenor har of us. Besides, I don’t reckon the pesky varmints ’ll be so overly keen inmeddlin’ with our business, seein’ as how they’ve got their han’s tolerable fullsettin’ things to rights at home, owin’ to the little visit we’ve jist made ’em. Irather s’pect, all things considerin’, them Injuns would be powerful glad to callit quits for a spell any way, an’ if I ain’t off the trail mightily, some of them’ere head chiefs as ain’t killed will be headin’ for the nighest Peace Commissionerbefore they git the war paint clean off their faces. This thing of pumpin’’em when the snow’s a foot deep, and no grass for their ponies, puts a newwrinkle in these Injuns’ scalp, an’ they ain’t goin’ to git over it in a minniteither. Wal, I’m goin’ back to the boys to see if I can borrer a little smokin’tobacker. I may want to take a smoke on the way. Whenever you git yerdockiments ready jist send your orderly down thar, and me and my pardnerwill be ready. I’m mighty glad I’m goin’ to-night, for I know Gineral Sheridan’ll be monstrous glad to see me back so soon. Did I tell yer I used toknow the Gineral when he was second or third lootenant and post quartermasterin Oregon? That must ’a been afore your time.”

Leaving California Joe to procure his “tobacker,” I assembled all the officersof the command and informed them that as there was but an hour or twoin which I was to write my report of the battle of the Wash*ta, I would nothave time, as I should have preferred to do, to send to them for regular andformally written reports of their share in the engagement; but in order that Imight have the benefit of their combined knowledge of the battle and its results,each officer in response to my request gave me a brief summary of someof the important points which his report would have contained if submitted inwriting. With this information in my possession, I sat down in my tent andpenned, in as brief manner as possible, a report to General Sheridan detailingour movements from the time Elliott, with his three companies, discovered the178trail, up to the point from which my despatch was written, giving particularlythe main facts of our discovery, attack, and complete destruction of the villageof Black Kettle. It was just about dark when I finished this despatch and wasabout to send for California Joe, when that loquacious personage appeared atthe door of my tent. “I’m not so anxious to leave yer all here, but the factis, the sooner me and pardner are off, I reckon the better it’ll be in the end.I want to put at least fifty miles ’tween me and this place by daylight to-morrermornin’, so if yer’ll jest hurry up yer papers, it’ll be a lift for us.”

On going outside the tent I saw that the “pardner” was the scout JackCorbin, the same who had first brought the intelligence of Elliott’s discoveryof the trail to us at Antelope Hills. He was almost the antipodes of CaliforniaJoe in regard to many points of character, seldom indulging in a remark orsuggestion unless prompted by a question. These two scouts recalled to mymind an amicable arrangement said to exist between a harmonious marriedpair, in which one was willing to do all the talking and the other was perfectlywilling he should. The two scouts, who were about to set out to accomplish along journey through an enemy’s country, with no guides save the stars, neitherever having passed over the route they proposed to take, and much of the rideto be executed during the darkness of night, apparently felt no greater, if asgreat, anxiety as to the result of their hazardous mission than one ordinarilyfeels in contemplating a journey of a few hours by rail or steamboat. CaliforniaJoe was dressed and equipped as usual. About his waist and underneathhis cavalry greatcoat and cape he wore a belt containing a Colt revolverand hunting knife; these, with his inseparable companion, a long Springfieldbreech-loading rifle, composed his defensive armament. His “pardner,”Jack Corbin, was very similarly arrayed except in equipment, his belt containingtwo revolvers instead of one, while a Sharps carbine supplied the placeof a rifle, being more readily carried and handled on horseback. The mountsof the two men were as different as their characters, California Joe confidinghis safety to the transporting powers of his favorite mule, while Corbin wasplacing his reliance upon a fine gray charger. Acquainting the men with theprobable route we should pursue in our onward march toward Camp Supply, sothat, if desirable, they might be able to rejoin us, I delivered my report toGeneral Sheridan into the keeping of California Joe, who, after unbuttoningnumerous coats, blouses, and vests, consigned the package to one of the numerouscapacious inner pockets with which each garment seemed supplied,with the remark, “I reckon it’ll keep dry thar in case of rain or accident.”Both men having mounted, I shook hands with them, wishing them God-speedand a successful journey. As they rode off in the darkness California Joe, irrepressibleto the last, called out, “Wal, I hope an’ trust yer won’t have anyscrimmage while I’m gone, because I’d hate mightily now to miss anything ofthe sort, seein’ I’ve stuck to yer this fur.”

After enjoying a most grateful and comparatively satisfactory night’s rest,the demands of hunger on the part of man and beast having been bountifullysupplied from the stores contained in our train, while a due supply of blanketsand robes, with the assistance of huge camp-fires, enabled the men to protectthemselves against the intense cold of midwinter, our march was resumed atdaylight in the direction of Camp Supply. Our wounded had received everypossible care and attention that a skilful and kind-hearted medical officercould suggest. Strange to add, and greatly to our surprise as well as joy,Colonel Barnitz, who had been carried into the village shot through the body179and, as all supposed, mortally wounded, with apparently but a few minutesto live, had not only survived the rough jostling of the night march madeafter leaving the village, but the surgeon, Dr. Lippincott, who was unceasingin his attentions to the wounded, reported indications favorable to a prolongationof life if not a complete recovery. This was cheering news to all thecomrades of Colonel Barnitz. I well remember how, when the Colonel wasfirst carried by four of his men, in the folds of an army blanket, into the village,his face wore that pale deathly aspect so common and peculiar to thosemortally wounded. He, as well as all who saw him, believed his end nearat hand. But like a brave soldier, as he was and had proven himself tobe, death had no terrors for him. When asked by me, as I knelt at the sideof the litter on which he was gasping for breath, whether he had any messagesto send to absent friends, he realized the perils of his situation, and in half-finishedsentences, mingled with regrets, delivered, as he and all of us supposed,his farewell messages to be transmitted to dear ones at home. And yet, despitethe absence of that care and quiet, not to mention little delicacies andluxuries, regarded as so essential, and which would have been obtainable underalmost any other circ*mstances, Colonel Barnitz continued to improve, andbefore many weeks his attendant medical officer was able to pronounce himout of danger, although to this day he is, and for the remainder of life will be,disabled from further active duty, the ball by which he was wounded havingsevered one of his ribs in such a manner as to render either riding or thewearing of a sabre or revolver too painful to be endured. By easy marcheswe gradually neared Camp Supply, and had begun to descend the long slopeleading down to the valley of Wolf creek, the stream on which we had encampedthree nights when we first set out from Camp Supply in search ofIndians.

With two or three of the Osage guides and as many of the officers, Iwas riding some distance in advance of the column of troops, and could indistinctlysee the timber fringing the valley in the distance, when the attention ofour little party was attracted to three horsem*n who were to be seen ridingslowly along near the edge of the timber. As yet they evidently had not observedus, the troops behind us not having appeared in view. We weregreatly at a loss to determine who the three horsem*n might be; they wereyet too distant to be plainly visible to the eye, and the orderly with my fieldglass was still in rear. While we were halting and watching their movementswe saw that they also had discovered us, one of their number riding upto a small elevation near by from which to get a better view of our group.After studying us for a few moments he returned at a gallop to his two companions,when all three turned their horses toward the timber and movedrapidly in that direction. We were still unable to determine whether theywere Indians or white men, the distance being so great between us, when myorderly arrived with my field glass, by which I was able to catch a glimpse ofthem just as they were disappearing in the timber, when whose familiar formshould be revealed but that of California Joe, urging his mule to its greatestspeed in order to reach the timber before we should discover them. They hadevidently taken us for Indians, and well they might, considering that two ofour party were Osages and the others were dressed in anything but the regulationuniform. To relieve the anxious minds of California Joe and his companions,I put spurs to my horse and was soon bounding down the plains leadinginto the valley to join him. I had not proceeded over half way when the180scouts rode cautiously out from the timber, and California Joe, after shadinghis eyes with his hand and looking for a few moments, raised his huge sombrerofrom his matted head, and waving it above him as a signal of recognition,pressed his great Mexican spurs deep into the sides of his humble-lookingsteed, if a mule may receive such an appellation, and the three scouts weresoon galloping toward us.

The joy at the meeting was great on both sides, only dampened somewhaton the part of California Joe by the fact that he and his comrades had takento the timber so promptly when first they discovered us; but he explained itby saying, “I counted on it bein’ you all the time when I fust got my eye onyer, until I saw two Injuns in the squad, an’ forgettin’ all about them Osageswe had along, I jumped at the conclusion that if thar war any Injuns around,the comfortablest place I knowed for us three was to make fur the timber, andthere make a stand. We war gettin’ ready to give it to yer if it turned out yerwar all Injuns. Wal, I’m powerful glad to see yer agin, an’ that’s sure.”

From his further conversation we were informed that Jack Corbin and himselfhad made their trip to General Sheridan’s headquarters without hindranceor obstacle being encountered on their way, and that after delivering the despatchesand being well entertained in the mean time, they, with one other scout,had been sent by the General to endeavor to meet us, bringing from him apackage of orders and letters.

While the column was overtaking us, and while California Joe, now in hiselement, was entertaining the attentive group of officers, scouts, and Osageswho gathered around him to hear him relate in his quaint manner what hesaw, heard, and told at General Sheridan’s headquarters, I withdrew to oneside and opened the large official envelope in which were contained both officialand personal despatches. These were eagerly read, and while the satisfactionderived from the perusal of some of the letters of a private and congratulatorynature from personal friends at Camp Supply was beyond expression,the climax of satisfaction was reached when my eye came to an official-lookingdocument bearing the date and heading which indicated department headquartersas its source. We had but little further to go before going into campfor that night, and as the command had now overtaken us, we moved down tothe timber and there encamped; and in order that the approving words of ourchief should be transmitted promptly to every individual of the command, theline was formed and the following order announced to the officers and men:

Headquarters Department of the Missouri, in the Field, Depot on the North
Canadian, at the Junction of Beaver Creek, Indian Territory,

November 29, 1868.

General Field Orders No. 6.—The Major General commanding announces to this commandthe defeat, by the Seventh regiment of cavalry, of a large force of Cheyenne Indians, underthe celebrated chief Black Kettle, reënforced by the Arrapahoes under Little Raven, and the Kiowasunder Satanta, on the morning of the 27th instant, on the Wash*ta river, near the AntelopeHills, Indian Territory, resulting in a loss to the savages of one hundred and three warriors killed,including Black Kettle, the capture of fifty-three squaws and children, eight hundred and seventy-fiveponies, eleven hundred and twenty-three buffalo robes and skins, five hundred and thirty-fivepounds of powder, one thousand and fifty pounds of lead, four thousand arrows, seven hundredpounds of tobacco, besides rifles, pistols, saddles, bows, lariats, and immense quantities of driedmeat and other winter provisions, the complete destruction of their village, and almost total annihilationof this Indian band.

The loss to the Seventh Cavalry was two officers killed, Major Joel H. Elliott and CaptainLouis McL. Hamilton, and nineteen enlisted men; three officers wounded, Brevet Lieutenant-ColonelAlbert Barnitz (badly), Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel T.W. Custer, and Second Lieutenant T.Z. March (slightly), and eleven enlisted men.

The energy and rapidity shown during one of the heaviest snow-storms that has visited this181section of the country, with the temperature below freezing point, and the gallantry and braverydisplayed, resulting in such signal success, reflect the highest credit upon both the officers andmen of the Seventh Cavalry; and the Major-General commanding, while regretting the loss of suchgallant officers as Major Elliott and Captain Hamilton, who fell while gallantly leading their men,desires to express his thanks to the officers and men engaged in the battle of the Wash*ta, and hisspecial congratulations are tendered to their distinguished commander, Brevet Major-GeneralGeorge A. Custer, for the efficient and gallant services rendered, which have characterized theopening of the campaign against hostile Indians south of the Arkansas.

By command of
Major-General P.H. Sheridan.
(Signed) J. Schuyler Crosby, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, A.D.C., A.A.A. General.

This order, containing as it did the grateful words of approval from our reveredcommander, went far to drown the remembrance of the hunger, cold,and danger encountered by the command, in the resolute and united effortmade by it to thoroughly discharge its duty.

Words like these, emanating from the source they did, and upon an occasionsuch as this was, were immeasurably more welcome, gratifying, and satisfactoryto the pride of officers and men than would have been the receptionof a budget of brevets, worded in the regular stereotyped form and distributedin a promiscuous manner, having but little regard to whether the recipienthad bravely imperilled his life on the battle-field in behalf of hiscountry, or had taken particular care to preserve that life upon some field farremoved from battle.

The last camp before we reached Camp Supply was on Wolf creek, aboutten miles from General Sheridan’s headquarters. The weather had nowmoderated to the mildest winter temperature, the snow having melted anddisappeared.

From this point I sent a courier to General Sheridan soon after going intocamp, informing him of our whereabouts and the distance from his camp, andthat we would reach the latter at such an hour in the forenoon, when the officersand men of my command would be pleased to march in review before himand his staff as we finished our return march from the opening of the wintercampaign. Officers and men, in view of this, prepared to put on their best appearance.At the appointed hour on the morning of December 2, the commandmoved out of camp and began its last day’s march toward Camp Supply.Considering the hard and trying character of the duty they had been engagedin since leaving Camp Supply, the appearance of officers, men, andhorses was far better than might naturally have been expected of them.When we arrived within a couple of miles of General Sheridan’s headquarters,we were met by one of his staff officers with a message from the General, thatit would give him great pleasure to review the Seventh Cavalry as proposed,and that he and his staff would be mounted, and take up a favorable positionfor the review near headquarters. In approaching Camp Supply by the routewe were marching, a view of the camp and depot is first gained from the pointwhere the high level plain begins to descend gradually, to form the valley inthe middle of which Camp Supply is located; so that by having a man on thelookout, to report when the troops should first make their appearance on theheights overlooking Beaver creek, the General was enabled not only to receivetimely notice of our approach, but to take position with his staff to witness ourmarch down the long gradual slope leading into the valley. The day was allwe could wish—a bright sun overhead, and favorable ground for the manœuvringof troops.

I had taken the precaution to establish the formation of the marchingcolumn before we should appear in view from General Sheridan’s camp, so182that after our march began down the beautifully descending slope to the valley,no change was made. In many respects the column we formed was uniquein appearance. First rode our Osage guides and trailers, dressed and paintedin the extremest fashions of war according to their rude customs and ideas. Aswe advanced these warriors chanted their war songs, fired their guns in triumph,and at intervals gave utterance to their shrill war-whoops. Nextcame the scouts riding abreast, with California Joe astride his faithful mulebringing up the right, but unable, even during this ceremonious and formal occasion,to dispense with his pipe. Immediately in rear of the scouts rode the Indianprisoners under guard, all mounted on Indian ponies, and in their dress,conspicuous by its bright colors, many of them wearing the scarlet blanket sopopular with the wild tribes, presenting quite a contrast to the dull and motleycolors worn by the scouts. Some little distance in rear came the troops formedin column of platoons, the leading platoon, preceded by the band playing “GarryOwen,” being composed of the sharpshooters under Colonel Cook, followed insuccession by the squadrons in the regular order of march. In this order andarrangement we marched proudly in front of our chief, who, as the officersrode by giving him the military salute with the sabre, returned their formalcourtesy by a graceful lifting of his cap and a pleased look of recognition fromhis eye, which spoke his approbation in language far more powerful thanstudied words could have done. In speaking of the review afterwards, GeneralSheridan said the appearance of the troops, with the bright rays of thesun reflected from their burnished arms and equipments, as they advanced inbeautiful order and precision down the slope, the band playing, and the blueof the soldiers’ uniforms slightly relieved by the gaudy colors of the Indians,both captives and Osages, the strangely fantastic part played by the Osageguides, their shouts, chanting their war songs, and firing their guns in air, allcombined to render the scene one of the most beautiful and highly interestinghe remembered ever having witnessed.

After marching in review, the troops were conducted across the plain tothe border of Beaver creek, about a quarter of a mile from General Sheridan’scamp, where we pitched our tents and prepared to enjoy a brief period ofrest.

We had brought with us on our return march from the battle-ground of theWash*ta the remains of our slain comrade, Captain Louis McLane Hamilton.Arrangements were at once made, upon our arrival at Camp Supply, tooffer the last formal tribute of respect and affection which we as his survivingcomrades could pay. As he had died a soldier’s death, so like a soldier heshould be buried. On the evening of the day after our arrival at Camp Supplythe funeral took place. A little knoll not far from camp was chosen as theresting place to which we were to consign the remains of our departed comrade.In the arrangements for the conduct of the funeral ceremonies, no preliminaryor important detail had been omitted to render the occasion not onlyone of imposing solemnity, but deeply expressive of the high esteem in whichthe deceased had been held by every member of the command. In addition tothe eleven companies of the Seventh Cavalry, the regular garrison of CampSupply, numbering several companies of the Third Regular Infantry, the regimentin which Captain Hamilton had first entered the regular service, was alsoin attendance. The body of the deceased was carried in an ambulance as ahearse, and covered with a large American flag. The ambulance was precededby Captain Hamilton’s squadron, commanded by Brevet Lieutenant-ColonelT.B. Weir, and was followed by his horse, covered with a mourning183sheet and bearing on the saddle—the same in which Captain Hamilton wasseated when he received his death wound—the sabre and belt and the reversedtop-boots of the deceased. The pall-bearers were Major-General Sheridan,Brevet Lieutenant-Colonels J. Schuyler Crosby, W.W. Cook, and T.W. Custer,Brevet Major W.W. Beebe, Lieutenant Joseph Hall, and myself.

Our sojourn at Camp Supply was to be brief. We arrived there on the 2dof December, and in less than one week we were to be in the saddle with ournumbers more than doubled by reinforcements, and again wending our waysouthward over the route we had so lately passed over.

Before setting out on the last expedition, I had stated to the officers in acasual manner that all parties engaged in the conduct of the contemplatedcampaign against the Indians must reconcile themselves in advance—no matterhow the expedition might result—to becoming the recipients of censure andunbounded criticism; that if we failed to engage and whip the Indians—laboras we might to accomplish this—the people in the West, particularly alongand near the frontier, those who had been victims of the assaults made byIndians, would denounce us in unmeasured terms as being inefficient or lukewarmin the performance of our duty; whereas if we should find and punishthe Indians as they deserved, a wail would rise up from the horrified humanitariansthroughout the country, and we would be accused of attacking and killingfriendly and defenceless Indians. My predictions proved true; no soonerwas the intelligence of the battle of the Wash*ta flashed over the country than theanticipated cry was raised. In many instances it emanated from a class of personstruly good in themselves and in their intentions, but who were familiar toonly a very limited degree with the dark side of the Indian question, andwhose ideas were of the sentimental order. There was another class, however,equally loud in their utterances of pretended horror, who were actuated bypecuniary motives alone, and who, from their supposed or real intimate knowledgeof Indian character and of the true merits of the contest between the Indiansand the Government, were able to give some weight to their expressedopinions and assertions of alleged facts. Some of these last described actuallywent so far as to assert not only that the village we had attacked and destroyedwas that of Indians who had always been friendly and peaceable toward thewhites, but that many of the warriors and chiefs were partially civilized andhad actually borne arms in the Union army during the war of rebellion. Themost astonishing fact connected with these assertions was not that they wereuttered, but that many well-informed people believed them.

The Government, however, was in earnest in its determination to administerproper and deserved punishment to the guilty; and as a mark of approvalof the opening event of the winter campaign, the following telegramfrom the Secretary of War was transmitted to us at Camp Supply:

Lieutenant-General Sherman, St. Louis, Mo.

War Department, Washington City, December 2, 1868.

I congratulate you, Sheridan, and Custer on the splendid success with which your campaignis begun. Ask Sheridan to send forward the names of officers and men deserving of special mention.

(Signed) J.M. Schofield, Secretary of War.

It was impracticable to comply with the request contained in the closingportion of the despatch from the Secretary of War, for the gratifying reasonthat every officer and man belonging to the expedition had performed his fullpart in rendering the movement against the hostile tribes a complete success.



The close of the last chapter left my command in camp near General Sheridan’sheadquarters, at the point now known as Camp Supply, IndianTerritory. We had returned on the 30th of November from the campaign ofthe Wash*ta, well satisfied with the result of our labors and exposures; but wewere not to sit quietly in our tents or winter quarters, and give way to mutualcongratulations upon the success which had already rewarded our efforts.The same spirit who, in the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864, had so successfullyinaugurated the “whirling” movement, was now present, and it wasdetermined that upon a slightly modified principle, reinforced by the bitingfrosts of winter, we should continue to “press things” until our savage enemiesshould not only be completely humbled, but be forced by the combinedperils of war and winter to beg for peace, and settle quietly down within thelimits of their reservation.

Such was the import of the closing sentences in the “Congratulatory Order”published by General Sheridan to the Seventh Cavalry and quoted in thepreceding chapter. “The opening of the campaign against hostile Indians southof Arkansas,” were the words used. We have seen the “opening;” if thereader will accompany me, I will endeavor to relate that which followed, introducingthe principal events which, in connection with the battle of theWash*ta, resulted in forcing all the “hostile Indians south of the Arkansas” to acondition of comparative peace, and gave peace and protection to that portionof our frontier which had so long suffered from their murderous and thievingraids.

In less than one week from the date of our arrival at Camp Supply, we wereto be again in the saddle and wending our way southward toward the supposedwinter haunts of our enemies—this time, however, with more thandouble our former numbers. So long had the thrifty and enterprising settlersupon the frontier of Kansas, particularly those who had selected homes in thefertile valleys of the Saline, Solomon, and Republican rivers, been subjectedto the depredations of the Cheyennes, Arrapahoes, Apaches, Kiowas, andSioux, and so frequent had the murder and capture of settlers by these Indiansbecome, that the citizens and the officials of the State felt forced to take measuresin their own defence, and for the purpose of uniting with the forces of theGeneral Government, in the attempt to give quiet and protection to life andproperty to the inhabitants of the border settlements. The last needed impulseto this movement on the part of the people of Kansas was given whenthe Indians, late in the preceding summer, made two raids upon the settlementsin the Saline, Solomon, and Republican valleys, and, after murderingmany of the men and children, burning houses, and destroying or capturing avast amount of stock, carried off into captivity two young women or girls, bothbelonging to highly respected families residing on the exposed border of theState. Although one of the captives was married, her marriage to a farmerhaving been celebrated less than one month prior to the day of her unfortunatecapture by the Indians, yet neither of them could scarcely be said tohave passed the line which separates girlhood from womanhood. Mrs. Morgan,the bride, was but nineteen, while her companion in misfortune, Miss185White, was still her junior by a year or more. As they played no unimportantpart in subsequent operations against the Indians, the principal events attendingtheir capture may not be out of place. Neither knew the other, norhad they ever seen each other until they met as captives in an Indian villagehundreds of miles from their frontier homes. One can readily imagine withwhat deep interest and mutual sympathy the acquaintance of these two helplessgirls began. Miss White had been captured and carried to the Indianvillage about one month before the capture of Mrs. Morgan occurred. Thebrief story of the capture of the former is soon told. One day, her father beingat work in the field, she and a younger sister were engaged in the garden, whenshe saw four Indians entering the house where her mother and the youngerchildren of the family were. Her first impulse was to fly, but seeing an Indianon the opposite side of the garden she turned and entered the house. One ortwo of the Indians could speak broken English; all of them assumed a mostfriendly demeanor and requested something to eat. This request was met bya most prompt and willing response upon the part of Mrs. White and her children.With true Western hospitality they prepared for their unbidden guests asbountifully as the condition of the larder would permit. No depredations hadbeen committed in that vicinity for some time, and as it was not an unusualoccurrence for small parties of Indians when engaged on hunting excursionsto visit the settlements, where they invariably met with kind treatment at thehands of the settlers, it was hoped that after obtaining the desired meal theparty would quietly withdraw without committing any depredations. Such,however, was not the intention of the savages. Already on that day their handshad been dipped in the white man’s blood, and the peaceful procurement of somethingto appease their hunger was merely the dropping of the curtain betweentwo acts of a terrible drama. Having satisfied the demands of their appetites,it was then time for them to throw aside the guise of friendship, under which theyhad entered the house and been treated as favored guests, and to reveal the trueobject of their visit. Two stalwart warriors grasped Miss White in their armsand rushed toward the door. Neither her shrieks nor the feeble resistance shewas able to offer retarded their movements. As she found herself being rapidlycarried from the house the last glimpse she obtained of those within revealed hermother engaged in an unequal struggle with a powerful warrior, while anotherof the savages had felled a younger sister to the floor and was then engaged indestroying such articles of furniture or table ware as he could lay hands upon.Her two captors hurried her from the house, hastened to the spot where theyhad left their ponies, and after binding their captive upon the back of one oftheir ponies, and being joined by the others of the party, began their flight fromthe settlements, well knowing that the alarm would soon be given, and pursuitby the enraged settlers would be the result. Amid the terrible surroundingsof her own situation, the anxieties of the fair captive to know the fate ofthe dear ones left behind must have been unspeakable. I can scarcely imaginea more deplorable fate than that to which this defenceless girl had becomethe victim. Torn from her home amid scenes of heartrending atrocities, distractedwith anxious thoughts as to the fate which had befallen her mother andsisters, she now found herself a helpless prisoner in the hands of the mostcruel, heartless, and barbarous of human enemies. Unable to utter or comprehenda word of the Indian language, and her captors only being able toexpress the most ordinary words in broken English, her condition was renderedthe more forlorn, if possible, by her inability to communicate with thosein whose power she found herself.


With war parties returning from a foray upon the settlements, the firstobject is to place as long a distance as possible between themselves andany party which may be in pursuit. To accomplish this, as soon as theyhave completed the destruction and havoc of which the settlers are thevictims, the entire party, usually numbering from fifty to one hundred warriors,collect at a point near the settlements previously agreed upon, andat once begin their flight toward their village, probably located at leasttwo hundred miles from the scene of their attack. Being mounted, as allwar parties are, upon the fleetest of Indian ponies with extra animals drivenalong, little or no rest for either pony or rider is taken during the first twenty-fourhours, by which time it is no unusual feat for a war party to traverse adistance of one hundred miles.

During the early part of the flight every precaution is adopted to preventleaving a heavy trail, or one easily to be followed; to this end, instead of moving,as is customary, in single file, thereby leaving a clearly defined path,each warrior moves independently of his fellows, until all danger from pursuitis safely passed, when the party falls into single file, and, with the chief atthe head, moves along in almost unbroken silence. If during an attack uponthe frontier settlements the Indians should encounter unexpected and successfulresistance, necessitating a premature withdrawal and flight on their part,they still resort to stratagem in order to secure their safety. In accordancewith a plan previously formed and understood by each member of the party,and specially provided for an emergency, the war party finding themselvesabout to encounter successful resistance on the part of the frontiersmen beat ahasty retreat; but instead of hiking their flight in a single direction and in oneparty, thereby leaving an unmistakable clue for their pursuers, the entireparty breaks up into numerous smaller bands, each apparently fleeing in anindependent direction, a few of the best mounted usually falling behind to attractthe attention of the pursuers and give time to those of the party who areburdened with prisoners and captured stock to make good their escape. Insuch an emergency as this, a rendezvous for the entire party has been previouslyfixed upon. Its location is usually upon or near some water-course orprominent landmark, distant perhaps thirty or forty miles; thither all smallerparties direct their course, each by a separate and usually a circuitous course.Should either of these smaller parties find themselves closely pursued, or theirtrail being followed and all efforts to throw the pursuers off prove unavailing,they relinquish the plan of uniting with the others at the established rendezvous,as that would imperil the safety of their comrades, and select a newroute leading neither in the direction of the rendezvous nor of the village, inorder not only to elude but mislead their pursuers. Then ensues a longand tiresome flight, until, having worn out or outwitted their pursuers, of whosemovements they keep themselves thoroughly informed, they make their wayin safety to the village. At the latter, lookouts are constantly kept on someprominent hill to watch the coming of the absent warriors, and give notice oftheir approach. A war party returning from a successful raid into the settlements,and bringing with them prisoners and captured stock, is an event ofthe greatest importance to every occupant of the village. Having arrivedwithin a few miles of the village, and feeling safe from all danger from pursuit,the chief in command of the war party causes a signal smoke to be sentup from some high point along the line of march, well knowing that watchfuleyes near the village are on the alert and will not fail to observe the signal andunderstand its meaning.


It is wonderful to what a state of perfection the Indian has carried this simplemode of telegraphing. Scattered over a great portion of the plains, fromBritish America in the north almost to the Mexican border on the south, areto be found isolated hills, or, as they are usually termed, “buttes,” which canbe seen a distance of from twenty to more than fifty miles. These peaks areselected as the telegraphic stations. By varying the number of the columns ofsmoke different meanings are conveyed by the messages. The most simple aswell as most easily varied mode, and resembling somewhat the ordinary alphabetemployed in the magnetic telegraph, is arranged by building a small firewhich is not allowed to blaze; then, by placing an armful of partially greengrass or weeds over the fire, as if to smother it, a dense white smoke is created,which ordinarily will ascend in a continuous vertical column for hundreds offeet. This column of smoke is to the Indian mode of telegraphing what thecurrent of electricity is to the system employed by the white man; the alphabetso far as it goes is almost identical, consisting as it does of long lines andshort lines or dots. But how formed? is perhaps the query of the reader.By the simplest of methods. Having his current of smoke established, the Indianoperator simply takes his blanket and by spreading it over the small pileof weeds or grass from which the column of smoke takes its source, and properlycontrolling the edges and corners of the blanket, he confines the smoke,and is in this way able to retain it for several moments. By rapidly displacingthe blanket, the operator is enabled to cause a dense volume of smoke torise, the length or shortness of which, as well as the number and frequencyof the columns, he can regulate perfectly, simply by the proper use of theblanket. For the transmission of brief messages, previously determinedupon, no more simple method could easily be adopted. As soon as the lookoutnear the village discerns the approach in the distance of the expectedwar party, the intelligence is at once published to the occupants of the villagethrough the stentorian tones of the village crier, the duties of which office areusually performed by some superannuated or deposed chief. Runners mountedupon fleet ponies are at once despatched to meet the returning warriors andgather the particulars of the expedition—whether successful or otherwise;whether they are returning laden with scalps and plunder or come empty-handed.Have they brought prisoners and captured horses? and are theirown numbers unbroken, or do their losses exceed their gains? Theseand similar questions are speedily solved, when the runners hasten back tothe village and announce the result, whereupon the occupants of the entirevillage, old and young, sally forth to meet the returning warriors. If thelatter have been successful and have suffered no loss, they become the recipientsof all the triumph which a barbarous and excited people are capable ofheaping upon them. They advance toward the village painted and dressed infull war costume, singing their war songs, discharging their firearms, anduttering ever and anon the war-whoop peculiar to their tribe. Added to this,every soul in the village capable of uttering a sound joins in the general rejoicing,and for a time the entire population is wild with excitement. If, however,instead of returning in triumph, the war party has met with disaster andsuffered the loss of one or more warriors, the scene witnessed upon their arrivalat the village is as boisterous as the other, but even more horrible. Theparty is met as before by all the inhabitants of the village, but in a widely differentmanner; instead of the shouts and songs of victory which greet the successfulwarriors, only the screams and wails of an afflicted people are to be heard;188the war paint and bright colors give way to a deep black with which all themourners and friends of the fallen warriors besmear their faces, while themembers of the immediate family begin hacking and scarifying their faces,arms, and bodies with knives, and give way to lamentations the most piercingand horrible in sound. A not infrequent mode of disfiguring themselves, andone which I have often seen, is for the mourner, particularly if the one mournedis a wife or husband, to cut off the first joint of the little finger. This of courseis done without the slightest regard for the rules of surgery, of which the Indiansgenerally are wofully ignorant. The operation is simply performed bytaking a knife, often of questionable sharpness, and cutting through the fleshand first joint of the little finger, leaving no “flap” of flesh to cover the exposedbone. As a result, in healing the flesh withdraws from the mutilated portionof the finger, and usually leaves nearly an inch of bone exposed, presentingof course a most revolting appearance.

The village to which Miss White’s captors belonged was located at thattime south of the Arkansas river, and distant from her home at least threehundred miles. How many girls of eighteen years of age possess the physicalability to survive a journey such as lay before this lonely captive? Unprovidedwith a saddle of any description, she was mounted upon an Indianpony, and probably required to accomplish nearly, if not quite, one hundredmiles within the first twenty-four hours, and thus to continue the tiresomejourney with but little rest or nourishment. Added to the discomforts andgreat fatigue of the journey was something more terrible and exhaustingthan either. The young captive, although a mere girl, was yet sufficientlyversed in the perils attending frontier life to fully comprehend that upon herarrival at the village a fate awaited her more dreadful than death itself. Sherealized that if her life had been spared by her savage captors it was due tono sentiment of mercy or kindness on their part, but simply that she mightbe reserved for a doom far more fearful and more to be dreaded than death.

The capture of Mrs. Morgan occurred about one month later, and in thesame section of country, and the story of her capture is in its incidentsalmost a repetition of that of Miss White. Her young husband was engagedat work in a field, not far from the house, when the crack of a rifle from thewoods near by summoned her to the door. She barely had time to see herhusband fall to the ground when she discovered several Indians rushingtoward the house. Her first impulse was to seek safety in flight, but alreadythe Indians had surrounded the house, and upon her attempting to escape oneof the savages felled her to the ground by a blow from his war club, and shelost all consciousness. When she recovered her senses it was only to find herselfbound upon the back of a pony which was being led by a mounted warrior,while another warrior rode behind and urged the pony she was mounted uponto keep up the trot. There were about fifty warriors in the party, nearly allbelonging to the Cheyenne tribe, the others belonging to the Sioux and Arrapahoes.As in the case of the capture of Miss White, a rapid flight immediatelyfollowed the capture.

It was the story oft repeated of outrages like these, but particularly of thesetwo, that finally forced the people of Kansas to take up arms in their own defence.Authority was obtained from the General Government to raise a regimentof cavalry, whose services were to be accepted for a period of sixmonths. So earnest and enthusiastic had the people of the frontier becomein their determination to reclaim the two captives, as well as administer justly-merited189punishment, that people of all classes and callings were eager toabandon their professions and take up arms against the traditional enemy ofthe frontier. The Governor of the State, Hon. S.J. Crawford, resigned theduties of the Executive of the State into the hands of the Lieutenant-Governor,and placed himself at the head of the regiment, which was then being organizedand equipped for service during the winter campaign. After the returnof the Seventh Cavalry from the Wash*ta campaign, we were simply waitingthe arrival at Camp Supply of the Kansas volunteers before again setting outto continue the campaign, whose opening had begun so auspiciously. Severestorms delayed the arrival of the Kansas troops beyond the expectedtime. They reached Camp Supply, however, in time for the 7th of Decemberto be fixed upon as the date of our departure. My command, asthus increased, consisted of eleven companies of the Seventh United StatesCavalry; ten companies of the Nineteenth Kansas volunteer Cavalry, ColonelS.J. Crawford commanding; a detachment of scouts under Lieutenant SilasPepoon, Tenth Cavalry; and between twenty and thirty whites, Osage andKaw Indians, as guides and trailers. As our ultimate destination was FortCobb, Indian Territory, where we would obtain a renewal of our supplies afterthe termination of our proposed march, and as General Sheridan desired totransfer his headquarters “in the field” to that point, he decided to accompanymy command, but generously declined to exercise any command of theexpedition, merely desiring to avail himself of this opportunity of an escortwithout rendering a detachment for that purpose necessary; and, as he remarkedwhen announcing his intention to accompany us, he simply wished tobe regarded as a “passenger.”

The day prior to our departure I was standing in front of my tent, when ayoung man, probably twenty-one or two years of age, accosted me and begana conversation by inquiring when I expected the expedition would move. Anyperson who has had much to do with expeditions in the Indian country knowshow many and how frequent are the applications made to the commandingofficer to obtain employment as scouts or guides. Probably one in fifty ofthe applicants is deserving of attention, and if employed would prove“worthy of his hire.” Taking but a glance at the young man who addressedme, and believing him to be one of the numerous applicants for employment,my attention being at the time absorbed with other matters, I was in no moodto carry on a conversation which I believed would terminate in an offer of servicesnot desired. I was disposed to be somewhat abrupt in my answers, butthere was something in the young man’s earnest manner, the eagerness withwhich he seemed to await my answers, that attracted and interested me. Aftera few questions on his part as to what portion of the country I expected tomarch through, what tribes I might encounter, and others of a similar nature,he suddenly said, “General, I want to go along with you.” This only confirmedmy first impression, although from his conversation I soon discoveredthat he was not one of the professional applicants for employment as a scoutor guide, but more likely had been seized with a spirit of wild romance, andimagined the proper field for its display would be discovered by accompanyingan expedition against the Indians. Many instances of this kind had previouslyfallen under my observation, and I classed this as one of them; so I simplyinformed him that I had already employed as many scouts and guides as wererequired, and that no position of that character, or any other in fact, was opento him. Not in the least discouraged by this decided refusal, he replied: “But190you do not understand me; I do not desire employment in your command, norany position requiring pay. I only ask permission to accompany your expedition.I have neither arms nor horse; if you will furnish me these, and permitme to go with you, I will serve you in any capacity I can, and will expectno pay.”

My curiosity was now excited; I therefore pressed him to explain his motivein desiring to accompany the expedition.

“Well, I’ll tell you; it’s a sad story. About four months ago the Indians attackedmy home, and carried off my only sister, a girl nineteen years of age.Since that day I have heard not a word as to what has become of her. I knownot whether she is among the living or dead; but when I think of what mustbe her fate if among the living, I am almost tempted to wish she was quietlyresting among the dead. I do not even know what tribe was engaged in hercapture, but hearing of your expedition I thought it might afford me the meansof getting some clue to my sister’s fate. You may have a council with someof the chiefs, or some of the prisoners you captured at the battle of the Wash*tamay tell me something of her; or if I can only learn where she is, perhapsyou can exchange some of your prisoners for her; at any rate, the only chanceI have to learn anything concerning her is by being permitted to accompanyyour expedition.”

Of course he was permitted to accompany the expedition; not only that,but he was provided with a horse and arms, and appointed to a remunerativeposition. I asked him why he had not informed me at first as to his object indesiring to go with us. He replied that he feared that if it was known thathe was in search of a lost sister, and we should afterward have interviewswith the Indians, as we certainly would at Fort Cobb, he might not be as successfulin obtaining information as if the object of his mission was unknown.

The name of this young man was Brewster, and the lost sister in whosesearch he was so earnestly engaged was Mrs. Morgan, whose capture has alreadybeen described. From him I learned that Mrs. Morgan’s husband,although shot down at the first fire of the Indians, was in a fair way to recover,although crippled probably for life. But for his wounds, he too wouldhave joined the brother in a search for the sister and for his bride, whose honeymoonhad met with such a tragic interruption. Young Brewster remainedwith my command during the entire winter, accompanying it, and every detachmentmade from it, in the eager hope to learn something of the fate of hissister. In his continued efforts to discover some clue leading to her he displayedmore genuine courage, perseverance, and physical endurance, and agreater degree of true brotherly love and devotion, than I have ever seen combinedin one person. We will hear from him as the story progresses.

It was decided to send the captives taken at the Wash*ta to Fort Hays,Kansas, where they could not only be safely guarded, but be made far morecomfortable than at Camp Supply. Before the expedition moved I suggestedto General Sheridan that I should take with the expedition three of thesquaws who were prisoners in our hands, with a view to rendering their servicesavailable in establishing communication with the hostile villages, if atany time this should become a desirable object. General Sheridan approvedof the suggestion, and I selected three of the captives who were to accompanyus. The first was Mah-wis-sa, the sister of Black Kettle, whose acquaintancethe reader may have formed in the preceding chapter; the second was aSioux squaw, probably fifty years of age, whom Mah-wis-sa expressed a desire191to have accompany her, and who at times was disposed to be extremely communicativein regard to the winter resorts of the various tribes, and other mattersconnected with the purposes of the expedition. The third was thedaughter of Little Rock, the chief second in rank to Black Kettle, who hadbeen killed at the battle of the Wash*ta. Little Rock’s daughter was an exceedinglycomely squaw, possessing a bright, cheery face, a countenance beamingwith intelligence, and a disposition more inclined to be merry than oneusually finds among the Indians. She was probably rather under than overtwenty years of age. Added to bright, laughing eyes, a set of pearly teeth,and a rich complexion, her well-shaped head was crowned with a luxuriantgrowth of the most beautiful silken tresses, rivalling in color the blackness ofthe raven, and extending, when allowed to fall loosely over her shoulders,to below her waist. Her name was Mo-nah-se-tah, which, anglicized, means“The young grass that shoots in the spring.” Mo-nah-se-tah, although yet amaiden in years and appearance, had been given in marriage, or, more properlyspeaking, she had been traded in marriage, as an Indian maiden whoshould be so unfortunate as to be “given” away would not be looked upon asa very desirable match. In addition to her handsome appearance, both inform and feature, and to any other personal attraction which might be consideredpeculiarly her own, Mo-nah-se-tah, being the daughter of a chief highin rank, was justly considered as belonging to the cream of the aristocracy,if not to royalty itself; consequently the suitors who hoped to gain her handmust be prepared, according to the Indian custom, to pay handsomely for analliance so noble. Little Rock, while represented as having been a kind andaffectionate father, yet did not propose that the hand of his favorite daughtershould be disposed of without the return of a due equivalent.

Among the young warriors of the tribe there were many who wouldhave been proud to call Mo-nah-se-tah to preside over the domestic destiniesof their lodge, but the price to be paid for so distinguished an alliance wasbeyond the means of most of them. Among the number of young braves whoaspired to the honor of her hand was one who, so far as worldly wealth wasconcerned, was eligible. Unfortunately, however, he had placed too muchreliance upon this fact, and had not thought that while obtaining the consentof paterfamilias it would be well also to win the heart of the maiden; or perhapshe had, in seeking her hand, also attempted to gain her heart, but notmeeting with the desired encouragement from the maiden of his choice, waswilling to trust to time to accomplish the latter, provided only he could securethe first. According to Indian customs the consent of the bride to a proposedmarriage, while it may be ever so desirable, is not deemed essential. Allthat is considered absolutely essential is, that the bridegroom shall be acceptableto the father of the bride, and shall transfer to the possession of the latterponies or other articles of barter, in sufficient number and value to be considereda fair equivalent for the hand of the daughter. When it is stated thatfrom two to four ponies are considered as the price of the average squaw, andthat the price for the hand of Mo-nah-se-tah, as finally arranged, was elevenponies, some idea can be formed of the high opinion entertained of her.

It proved, however, so far as the young warrior was concerned, an unsatisfactoryinvestment. The ponies were transferred to Little Rock, and allthe formalities were duly executed which, by Indian law and custom, werenecessary to constitute Mo-nah-se-tah the wife of the young brave. She wasforced to take up her abode in his lodge, but refused to acknowledge him as192her husband, or to render him that obedience and menial service which theIndian husband exacts from his wife. Time failed to soften her heart, or tocause her to look kindly upon her self-constituted but unrecognized lord andmaster.

Here was a clear case of “incompatibility of disposition”; and within thejurisdiction of some of our State laws a divorce would have been grantedalmost unquestioned. The patience of the young husband having becomeexhausted, and he having unsuccessfully resorted to every measure of kindnessdeemed likely to win the love and obedience of his wife, he determined tohave recourse to harsher measures—if necessary, to employ force. Again hemistook the character of her upon whose apparently obdurate heart neitherthreats nor promises had produced the faintest effect. Mo-nah-se-tah had probablybeen anticipating such a decision, and had prepared herself accordingly.Like most Indian women, she was as skilful in the handling and use of weaponsas most warriors are; and when her husband, or rather the husband who hadbeen assigned to her, attempted to establish by force an authority which shehad persistently refused to recognize, she reminded him that she was thedaughter of a great chief, and rather than submit to the indignities which hewas thus attempting to heap upon her, she would resist even to the taking oflife; and suiting the action to the word, she levelled a small pistol which shehad carried concealed beneath her blanket and fired, wounding him in theknee and disabling him for life.

Little Rock, learning of what had occurred, and finding upon investigationthat his daughter had not been to blame, concluded to cancel the marriage—togrant a divorce—which was accomplished simply by returning to the unfortunatehusband the eleven ponies which had been paid for the hand of Mo-nah-se-tah.What an improvement upon the method prescribed in the civilizedworld! No lawyer’s fees, no publicity nor scandal; all tedious delays are avoided,and the result is as nearly satisfactory to all parties as is possible.

Having sent a messenger to ask the three Indian women referred to tocome to my tent, I acquainted them with my intention of taking them with theexpedition when we moved in search of the hostile villages. To my surprisethey evinced great delight at the idea, and explained it by saying that if theyaccompanied us they might be able to see or communicate with some of theirpeople, while by remaining with the other prisoners, and becoming further separatedfrom their own country and hunting-grounds, they could entertain littleor no hope of learning anything concerning the fate of other portions of theirtribe. They gladly acceded to the proposition to accompany the troops. I theninquired of them in which mode they preferred to travel, mounted upon ponies,as was their custom, or in an ambulance. Much to my surprise, rememberinghow loath the Indian is to adopt any contrivance of the white man, they chosethe ambulance, and wisely too, as the season was that of midwinter, and theinterior of a closely covered ambulance was a much less exposed position thanthat to be found on the back of a pony.

My life on the plains (7)



Forage for the horses and mules, and rations for the men, sufficient ofboth to last thirty days, having been loaded on the wagons, the entirecommand, composed as previously stated, and accompanied by General Sheridanand staff, left Camp Supply early on the morning of December 7, andturning our horses’ heads southward, we marched in the direction of thebattle-ground of the Wash*ta. Our march to the Wash*ta was quiet and uneventful,if we except the loquacity of California Joe, who, now that we wereonce more in the saddle with the prospect of stirring times before us, seemedcompletely in his element, and gave vent to his satisfaction by indulging ina connected series of remarks and queries, always supplying the answer tothe latter himself if none of his listeners evinced a disposition to do so for him.His principal delight seemed to be in speculating audibly as to what would bethe impression produced on the minds of the Indians when they discoveredus returning with increased numbers both of men and wagons.

“I’d jist like to see the streaked count’nances of Satanta, Medicine Arrow,Lone Wolf, and a few others of ’em, when they ketch the fust glimpse of theoutfit. They’ll think we’re comin’ to spend an evenin’ with ’em sure, and hevbrought our knittin’ with us. One look’ll satisfy ’em thar’ll be sum of thedurndest kickin’ out over these plains that ever war heern tell uv. One goodthing, it’s goin’ to cum as nigh killin’ uv ’em to start ’em out this time uv yearas ef we hed an out an’ out scrummage with ’em. The way I looks at it theyhev jist this preference: them as don’t like bein’ shot to deth kin take therchances at freezin’.” In this interminable manner California Joe would pursuehis semi-soliloquies, only too delighted if some one exhibited interest sufficientto propound an occasional question.

As our proposed route bore to the southeast after reaching the battle-field,our course was so chosen as to carry us to the Wash*ta river a fewmiles below, at which point we encamped early in the day. GeneralSheridan desired to ride over the battle-ground, and we hoped by a carefulexamination of the surrounding country to discover the remains of Major Elliottand his little party, of whose fate there could no longer be the faintestdoubt. With one hundred men of the Seventh Cavalry, under command ofCaptain Yates, we proceeded to the scene of the battle, and from there dispersedin small parties in all directions, with orders to make a thorough searchfor our lost comrades. We found the evidences of the late engagement194much as we had left them. Here were the bodies, now frozen, of the sevenhundred ponies which we had slain after the battle; here and there, scatteredin and about the site of the former village of Black Kettle, lay the bodies ofmany of the Indians who fell during the struggle. Many of the bodies, however,particularly those of Black Kettle and Little Rock, had been removedby their friends. Why any had been allowed to remain uncared for, couldonly be explained upon the supposition that the hasty flight of the other villagesprevented the Indians from carrying away any except the bodies of themost prominent chiefs or warriors, although most of those remaining on thebattle-ground were found wrapped in blankets and bound with lariats preparatoryto removal and burial. Even some of the Indian dogs were found loiteringin the vicinity of the places where the lodges of their former masters stood;but, like the Indians themselves, they were suspicious of the white man, andcould hardly be induced to establish friendly relations. Some of the soldiers,however, managed to secure possession of a few young puppies; these werecarefully brought up, and to this day they, or some of their descendants, arein the possession of members of the command.

After riding over the ground in the immediate vicinity of the village, Ijoined one of the parties engaged in the search for the bodies of Major Elliottand his men. In describing the search and its result, I cannot do betterthan transcribe from my official report, made soon after to General Sheridan:

“After marching a distance of two miles in the direction in which MajorElliott and his little party were last seen, we suddenly came upon the stark,stiff, naked, and horribly mutilated bodies of our dead comrades. No wordswere needed to tell how desperate had been the struggle before they werefinally overpowered. At a short distance from where the bodies lay,could be seen the carcasses of some of the horses of the party, whichhad probably been killed early in the fight. Seeing the hopelessness ofbreaking through the line which surrounded them, and which undoubtedlynumbered more than one hundred to one, Elliott dismounted his men, tiedtheir horses together, and prepared to sell their lives as dearly as possible. Itmay not be improper to add that in describing, as far as possible, the detailsof Elliott’s fight I rely not only upon a critical and personal examinationof the ground and attendant circ*mstances, but am sustained by the statementsof Indian chiefs and warriors who witnessed and participated in the fight, andwho have since been forced to enter our lines and surrender themselves up,under circ*mstances which will be made to appear in other portions of thisreport.

“The bodies of Elliott and his little band, with but a single exception, werefound lying within a circle not exceeding twenty yards in diameter. Wefound them exactly as they fell, except that their barbarous foes had strippedand mutilated the bodies in the most savage manner.

“All the bodies were carried to camp. The latter was reached after dark.It being the intention to resume the march before daylight the following day,a grave was hastily prepared on a little knoll near our camp, and, with theexception of that of Major Elliott, whose remains were carried with us for intermentat Fort Arbuckle, the bodies of the entire party, under the dim lightof a few torches held by of sorrowing comrades, were consigned to onecommon resting place. No funeral note sounded to measure their passageto the grave. No volley was fired to tell us a comrade was receiving thelast sad rites of burial, that the fresh earth had closed over some of our truestand most daring soldiers.


“Before interment, I caused a complete examination of each body to bemade by Dr. Lippincott, chief medical officer of the expedition, with directionto report on the character and number of wounds received by each, as well asto mutilations to which they had been subjected. The following extracts aretaken from Dr. Lippincott’s report:

“Major Joel H. Elliott, two bullet holes in head, one in left cheek, righthand cut off, left foot almost cut off, ... deep gash in right groin,deep gashes in calves of both legs, little finger of left hand cut off, and throatcut.

“Sergeant-Major Walter Kennedy, bullet hole in right temple, head partlycut off, seventeen bullet holes in back, and two in legs.

“Corporal Harry Mercer, Troop E, bullet hole in right axilla, one inregion of heart, three in back, eight arrow wounds in back, right ear cut off,head scalped, and skull fractured, deep gashes in both legs, and throat cut.

“Private Thomas Christer, Troop E, bullet hole in head, right foot cut off,bullet hole in abdomen, and throat cut.

“Corporal William Carrick, Troop H, bullet hole in right parietal bone,both feet cut off, throat cut, left arm broken.

“Private Eugene Clover, Troop H, head cut off, arrow wound in right side,both legs terribly mutilated.

“Private William Milligan, Troop H, bullet hole in left side of head, deepgashes in right leg, ... left arm deeply gashed, head scalped, andthroat cut.

“Corporal James F. Williams, Troop I, bullet hole in back; head and botharms cut off, many and deep gashes in back....

“Private Thomas Dooney, Troop I, arrow hole in region of stomach,thorax cut open, head cut off, and right shoulder, cut by a tomahawk.

“Farrier Thomas Fitzpatrick, Troop M, bullet hole in left parietal bone,head scalped, arm broken, ... throat cut.

“Private John Myres, Troop M, several bullet holes in head, scalped,nineteen bullet holes in body, ... throat cut.

“Private Cal. Sharpe, Troop M, two bullet holes in right side, throat cut,one bullet hole in left side of head, one arrow hole in left side, ...left arm broken.

“Unknown, head cut off, body partially destroyed by wolves.

“Unknown, head and right hand cut off, ... three bullet andnine arrow holes in back.

“Unknown, scalped, skull fractured, six bullet and thirteen arrow holes inback, and three bullet holes in chest.”

I have quoted these extracts in order to give the reader an insight of thetreatment invariably meted out to white men who are so unfortunate as to fallwithin the scope of the red man’s bloodthirsty and insatiable vengeance. Thereport to General Sheridan then continues as follows:

“In addition to the wounds and barbarities reported by Dr. Lippincott, Isaw a portion of the stock of a Lancaster rifle protruding from the side of oneof the men; the stock had been broken off near the barrel, and the butt of it,probably twelve inches in length, had been driven into the man’s side a distanceof eight inches. The forest along the banks of the Wash*ta, from thebattle-ground a distance of twelve miles, was found to have been one continuousIndian village. Black Kettle’s band of Cheyennes was above; then cameother hostile tribes camped in the following order: Arrapahoes under Little Raven;196Kiowas under Satanta and Lone Wolf; the remaining bands of Cheyennes,Comanches, and Apaches. Nothing could exceed the disorder and haste withwhich these tribes had fled from their camping grounds. They had abandonedthousands of lodge poles, some of which were still standing, as when lastused. Immense numbers of camp kettles, cooking utensils, coffee-mills, axes,and several hundred buffalo robes were found in the abandoned camps adjacentto Black Kettle’s village, but which had not been visited before byour troops. By actual examination, it was computed that over six hundredlodges had been standing along the Wash*ta during the battle, and within fivemiles of the battle-ground, and it was from these villages, and others stilllower down the stream, that the immense number of warriors came who, afterour rout and destruction of Black Kettle and his band, surrounded mycommand and fought until defeated by the Seventh Cavalry about 3 P.M. onthe 27th ult.... In the deserted camp, lately occupied by Satanta withthe Kiowas, my men discovered the bodies of a young white woman and child,the former apparently about twenty-three years of age, the latter probablyeighteen months old. They were evidently mother and child, and had notlong been in captivity, as the woman still retained several articles of herwardrobe about her person—among others a pair of cloth gaiters but littleworn, everything indicating that she had been but recently captured, and uponour attacking and routing Black Kettle’s camp her captors, fearing she mightbe recaptured by us and her testimony used against them, had deliberatelymurdered her and her child in cold blood. The woman had received a shotin the forehead, her entire scalp had been removed, and her skull horriblycrushed. The child also bore numerous marks of violence.”

At daylight on the following morning the entire command started on thetrail of the Indian villages, nearly all of which had moved down the Wash*tatoward Fort Cobb, where they had good reason to believe they would receiveprotection. The Arrapahoes and remaining band of Cheyennes left the Wash*tavalley and moved across in the direction of Red river. After following thetrail of the Kiowas and other hostile Indians for seven days, over an almostimpassable country, where it was necessary to keep two or three hundred menalmost constantly at work with picks, axes, and spades, before being able toadvance with our immense train, my Osage scouts came galloping back on themorning of the 17th of December, and reported a party of Indians in our frontbearing a flag of truce.

It is to this day such a common occurrence for Indian agents to assert inpositive terms that the particular Indians of their agency have not beenabsent from their reservation, nor engaged in making war upon the whitemen, when the contrary is well known to be true, that I deem it proper to introduceone of the many instances of this kind which have fallen under my observation,as an illustration not only of how the public in distant sections of thecountry may be misled and deceived as to the acts and intentions of the Indians,but also of the extent to which the Indian agents themselves will proceedin attempting to shield and defend the Indians of their particular agency.Sometimes, of course, the agent is the victim of deception, and no doubt conscientiouslyproclaims that which he firmly believes; but I am forced by longexperience to the opinion that instances of this kind are rare, being the exceptionrather than the rule. In the example to which I refer, the high characterand distinction as well as the deservedly national reputation achieved by theofficial then in charge of the Indians against whom we were operating, will at197once absolve me from the imputation of intentionally reflecting upon the integrityof his action in the matter. The only point to occasion surprise is howan officer possessing the knowledge of the Indian character, derived from anextensive experience on the frontier, which General Hazen could justly layclaim to, should be so far misled as to give the certificate of good conductwhich follows. General Hazen had not only had superior opportunities forstudying the Indian character, but had participated in Indian wars, and at thevery time he penned the following note he was partially disabled from the effectsof an Indian wound. The Government had selected him from the largenumber of intelligent officers of high rank whose services were available forthe position, and had assigned him with plenary powers to the superintendencyof the Southern Indian District, a position in which almost the entire controlof all the southern tribes was vested in the occupant. If gentlemen ofthe experience and military education of General Hazen, occupying the intimateand official relation to the Indians which he did, could be so readily andcompletely deceived as to their real character, it is not strange that the massof the people living far from the scene of operations, and only possessingsuch information as reaches them in scraps through the public press, andgenerally colored by interested parties, should at times entertain extremelyerroneous impressions regarding the much-vexed Indian question. Now tothe case in point:

With the Osage scouts who came back from the advance with the intelligencethat a party of Indians were in front, also came a scout who stated thathe was from Fort Cobb, and delivered to me a despatch, which read as follows:

Headquarters Southern Indian District, Fort Cobb, 9 P.M. December 16, 1868.

To the Officer, commanding troops in the Field.

Indians have just brought in word that our troops to-day reached the Wash*ta some twentymiles above here. I send this to say that all the camps this side of the point reported to have beenreached are friendly, and have not been on the war path this season. If this reaches you, it wouldbe well to communicate at once with Satanta or Black Eagle, chiefs of the Kiowas, near whereyou now are, who will readily inform you of the position of the Cheyennes and Arrapahoes, alsoof my camp.

(Signed) W.B. Hazen, Brevet Major-General.

This scout at the same time informed me that a large party of Kiowa warriors,under Lone Wolf, Satanta, and other leading chiefs, were within lessthan a mile of my advance, and notwithstanding the above certificate regardingtheir friendly character, they had seized a scout who accompanied thebearer of the despatch, disarmed him, and held him a prisoner of war. Takinga small party with me, I proceeded beyond our lines to meet the flag oftruce. I was met by several of the leading chiefs of the Kiowas, includingthose above named. Large parties of their warriors could be seen posted inthe neighboring ravines and upon the surrounding hilltops. All were paintedand plumed for war, and nearly all were armed with one rifle, two revolvers,bow and arrow, some of their bows being strung, and their whole appearanceand conduct plainly indicating that they had come for war. Their declarationsto some of my guides and friendly Indians proved the same thing, andthey were only deterred from hostile acts by discovering our strength to be fargreater than they had imagined, and our scouts on the alert. Aside, however,from the question as to what their present or future intentions were at thattime, how deserving were those Indians of the certificate of good behaviorwhich they had been shrewd enough to obtain? The certificate was dated December19816, and stated that the camps had not been on the war path “this season.”

What were the facts? On the 27th of November, only twenty-one daysprior to the date of the certificate, the same Indians, whose peaceable characterwas vouched for so strongly, had engaged in battle with my command byattacking it during the fight with Black Kettle. It was in their camp that thebodies of the murdered mother and child were found, and we had followed dayby day the trail of the Kiowas and other tribes, leading us directly from thedead and mangled bodies of our comrades, slain by them a few days previous,until we were about to overtake and punish the guilty parties, whenthe above communication was received, some forty or fifty miles from FortCobb, in the direction of the Wash*ta battle-ground.

This, of itself, was conclusive evidence of the character of the tribes wewere dealing with; but aside from these incontrovertible facts, had additionalevidence been needed of the openly hostile conduct of the Kiowas and Comanches,and of their active participation in the battle of the Wash*ta, it isonly necessary to refer to the collected testimony of Black Eagle and otherleading chiefs. This testimony was written, and was then in the hands of theagents of the Indian Bureau. It was given voluntarily by the Indian chiefsreferred to, and was taken down at the time by the Indian agents, not for thearmy, or with a view of furnishing it to officers of the army, but simply forthe benefit and information of the Indian Bureau. This testimony, makingdue allowance for the concealment of much that would be prejudicial to theinterests of the Indians, plainly states that the Kiowas and Comanches tookpart in the battle of the Wash*ta: that the former constituted a portion of thewar party whose trail I followed, and which led my command into BlackKettle’s village: and that some of the Kiowas remained in Black Kettle’s villageuntil the morning of the battle.

This evidence is all contained in a report made to the Superintendent ofIndian Affairs, by one Philip McCuskey, United States interpreter for the Kiowaand Comanche tribes. This report was dated Fort Cobb, December 3, whilethe communication from General Hazen, certifying to the friendly dispositionand conduct of these tribes, was dated at the same place thirteen days later.Mah-wis-sa also confirmed these statements, and pointed out to me, when nearthe battle-ground, the location of Satanta’s village. It was from her, too, thatI learned that it was in Satanta’s village that the bodies of the white womanand child were found. As I pen these lines, the daily press contains frequentallusions to the negotiations which are being conducted between the Governorof Texas and the General Government, looking to the release of Satanta fromthe Texas penitentiary, to which institution Satanta, after a trial before thecivil authorities for numerous murders committed on the Texas frontier, wassent three or four years ago to serve out a life sentence.

After meeting the chiefs, who with their bands had approached our advanceunder flag of truce, and compelling the release of the scout whomthey had seized and held prisoner, we continued our march toward Fort Cobb,the chiefs agreeing to ride with us and accompany my command to that place.Every assurance was given me that the villages to which these various chiefsbelonged would at once move to Fort Cobb, and there encamp, thus separatingthemselves from the hostile tribes, or those who preferred to decline thisproposition of peace, and to continue to wage war; and as an evidence of thesincerity of their purpose, some eighteen or twenty of the most prominent199chiefs, generally Kiowas, voluntarily proposed to accompany us during themarch of that day and the next, by which time it was expected that the commandwould reach Fort Cobb. The chiefs only requested that they might sendone of their number, mounted on a fleet pony, to the villages, in order tohasten their movement to Fort Cobb. How eager for peace were these poor,confiding sons of the forest is the mental ejacul*tion of some of my readers,particularly if they are inclined to be converts to the humanitarian doctrinessupposed to be applicable in the government of Indians. If I am addressingany of this class, for whose kindness of heart I have the utmost regard, I regretto be compelled to disturb the illusion.

Peace was not included among the purposes which governed the chiefswho so freely and unhesitatingly proffered their company during our march toFort Cobb. Nor had they the faintest intention of either accompanying us ordirecting their villages to proceed to the fort. The messenger whom theyseemed so anxious to despatch to the village was not sent to hasten the movementof their villages toward Fort Cobb, as claimed by them, but to hastentheir movement in a precisely opposite direction, viz., towards the headwaters of Red river, near the northwestern limits of Texas. This suddeneffusion of friendly sentiments rather excited my suspicions, but I was unableat first to divine the real intents and purposes of the chiefs. Nothing was tobe done but to act so as to avoid exciting their suspicion, and trust to time tounravel the scheme. When we arrived at our camping ground, on the eveningof that day, the chiefs requested permission to despatch another messengerto their people to inform them where we were encamped. To this propositionno objection was made. That evening I caused an abundant supply ofprovisions, consisting principally of beef, bread, coffee, and sugar, to be distributedamong them. In posting my pickets that night for the protection ofthe camp, I arranged to have the reserve stationed within a short distance ofthe spot on which the chiefs were to encamp during the night, which pointwas but a few paces from my headquarters. Before retiring, I took Romeo,the interpreter, and strolled down to pay a visit to the chiefs. The latter, afterthe substantial meal in which they had just indulged, were seated, Indianfashion, around a small fire, enjoying such comfort as was to be derivedfrom the occasional whiffs of smoke which each in proper turn inhaled fromthe long-stemmed pipe of red clay that was kept passing from right to leftaround the circle. Their greeting of me was cordial in the extreme, but, asin the play—of “Richelieu,” I believe—they “bowed too low.” ThroughRomeo I chatted on indifferent subjects with the various chiefs, and from nearlyall of them received assurances of their firmly fixed resolution to abandonforever the dangers and risks of the war path, to live no longer at variancewith their white brothers, to eschew henceforth all such unfriendly customsas scalp-taking, murdering defenceless women and children, and stealing stockfrom the settlers of the frontier. All this was to be changed in the future.It seemed strange, listening to these apparently “artless sons of nature” thatmen entertaining the ardent desire for repose which they professed, had notturned their backs on the war path long ago, and settled down to the quietenjoyment of the blessings of peace. But better that this conclusion shouldbe arrived at late than not at all. The curtain had fallen from their eyes,and they were enabled to see everything in its proper light. To adopt theirown language, “their hearts had become good,” “their tongues had becomestraight,” they had cast aside the bad ways in which they had so long struggled200unsuccessfully, and had now resolved to follow the white man’s road, toadopt his mode of dress, till the soil, and establish schools for the educationof their children, until in time the white man and the red man would notonly be brothers in name, but would be found travelling the same road withinterests in common.

Had I been a latter-day Peace Commissioner, I should have felt in dutybound to send a despatch to the chief of the proper bureau at Washington, interms somewhat as follows:

Hon John Smith, Secretary of the —— Department.

I have just concluded a most satisfactory council with the Kiowa and othertribes, certain members of which have lately been accused of being more orless connected with the troubles lately occurring upon our frontier. All theprominent chiefs met me in council, and after a free interchange and expressionof opinions, I am happy to inform the Department that these chiefs, representingas they do one of the most powerful and important of the southerntribes, have voluntarily and solemnly agreed to cease all hostile acts againstthe white men, to prevent raids or war parties from being organized amongtheir young men, to abandon for all future time the war path, and to comewithin the limits of their reservation, there to engage in the peaceful pursuitsof civilized life. They express a warm desire to have educational facilities extendedthem for the benefit of their children. As the season is far advanced,rendering it too late for them to successfully cultivate a crop the present year,they ask, and I recommend, that provisions sufficient for their subsistence thepresent season be issued them. They also request that, owing to the scarcityof game, a few breech-loading arms be furnished them, say one rifle and onerevolver to each male over fourteen years of age. I am satisfied that this is amost reasonable request, and that the granting of it would go far to restoreconfidence in the good intentions of the Government, as I am forced to remarkthat some of the recent acts of the military, such as the occurrence on theWash*ta, have done much to produce an unsettled feeling on the part of theseuntutored wards of the nation. No further anxiety need be felt as to the completepacification of this tribe. I wish you might have shared with me thepleasure of listening to these untaught chieftains, begging for such assistanceand guidance as would lead them in the paths of peace. I leave here on the—th, to visit the neighboring tribes, provided the military commander at thispoint will furnish me a suitable escort.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
John Jones, Indian Agent.

P.S.—I have thought that if we could confer the ballot upon those of thechiefs and warriors who show the greatest aptitude and desire for peace, itmight be a great step toward completing their civilization. Of course someline of distinction or qualification would have to be drawn; for example,confer the right of ballot upon all those who faithfully accept their rations fromthe Government for a period of six months. I merely throw this out for theconsideration of the Department.


Not being an orthodox Peace Commissioner, in good standing in that fraternity,I did not send a despatch of this character. What I did, however, answeredevery purpose. I went to the station of the guard near by and directedthe non-commissioned officer in charge to have his men keep a watchful201eye upon those same “untutored sons of the forest,” as I felt confident theirplans boded us no good. Romeo was also told to inform the chiefs that afterthe camp had quieted down for the night, it would not be prudent for them towander far from their camp fire, as the sentries might mistake them for enemiesand fire upon them. This I knew would make them hug their fire closelyuntil morning. Before daylight we were again in the saddle and commencingthe last march necessary to take us to Fort Cobb. Again did it becomeimportant, in the opinion of the chiefs, to despatch another of their numberto hurry up the people of their villages, in order, as they said, that the villagesmight arrive at Fort Cobb at the same time we did. As the marchprogressed these applications became more frequent, until most of the chiefshad been sent away as messengers. I noticed, however, that in selectingthose to be sent, the chiefs lowest in rank and importance were first chosen, sothat those who remained were the highest. When their numbers had dwindleddown to less than half the original party, I saw that instead of acting in goodfaith this party of chiefs was solely engaged in the effort to withdraw our attentionfrom the villages, and, by an apparent offer on their part to accompanyus to Fort Cobb, where we were encouraged to believe the villages wouldmeet us, prevent us from watching and following the trail made by the lodges,which had already diverged from the direct route to Fort Cobb, the onethe villages would have pursued had that fort been their destination. Itbecame palpably evident that the Indians were resorting, as usual, to stratagemto accomplish their purpose, which of course involved our deception.Fortunately their purpose was divined in time to thwart it. As no haste wasnecessary, I permitted the remaining chiefs to continue the march with us,without giving them any grounds to suppose that we strongly doubted theiroft-repeated assertions that their hearts were good and their tongues werestraight. Finally, as our march for that day neared its termination and wewere soon to reach our destination, the party of chiefs, which at first embracedupwards of twenty, had become reduced until none remained exceptthe two head chiefs, Lone Wolf and Satanta, and these no doubt were laughingin their sleeves, if an Indian may be supposed to possess that article of apparel,at the happy and highly successful manner in which they had hoodwinkedtheir white brethren. But had they known all that had been transpiringthey would not have felt so self-satisfied. As usual, quite a number ofofficers and orderlies rode at the head of the column, including a few of GeneralSheridan’s staff.

As soon as the scheme of the Indians was discovered, I determined to seizethe most prominent chiefs as hostages for the fulfilment of their promises regardingthe coming on of the villages; but as for this purpose two hostageswere as valuable as twenty, I allowed all but this number to take their departureapparently unnoticed. Finally, when none but Lone Wolf and Satantaremained, and they no doubt were prepared with a plausible excuse to bid usin the most improved Kiowa au revoir, the officers just referred to, at a givensignal, drew their revolvers, and Lone Wolf and Satanta were informed throughRomeo that they were prisoners.



Not even the proverbial stoicism of the red man was sufficient to concealthe chagrin and disappointment recognizable in every lineamentof the countenances of both Satanta and Lone Wolf when they discoveredthat all their efforts at deception had not only failed, but left them prisoners inour hands. Had we been in doubt as to whether their intention had reallybeen to leave us in the lurch or not, all doubt would have been dispelled by aslight circ*mstance which soon after transpired. As I before stated, we hadalmost reached Fort Cobb, which was our destination for the time being.The chiefs who had already made their escape now became anxious in regardto the non-arrival in their midst of Satanta and Lone Wolf. The delay ofthe last two could not be satisfactorily accounted for. Something must havegone amiss.

Again was stratagem resorted to. We were marching along without interruptionor incident to disturb our progress, such of us as were at thehead of the column keeping watchful eyes upon our two swarthy prisoners,who rode sullenly at our sides, and whose past career justified us in attributingto them the nerve and daring necessary to induce an effort to securetheir liberty should there be the slightest probability of success. Suddenlya mounted Indian appeared far away to our right, and approached us at a gallopuntil almost within rifle range, when halting his well-trained pony upon alittle hillock which answered his purpose, he gracefully detached the scarletblanket he wore, and began waving it in a peculiar but regular manner.Both chiefs looked anxiously in the direction of the warrior, then merelyglanced toward me as if to see if I had also observed this last arrival; but tooproud to speak or prefer a request, they rode silently on, apparently indifferentto what might follow. Turning to Romeo, who rode in rear, I directedhim to inquire of the chiefs the meaning of the signals which the warrior wasevidently endeavoring to convey to them. Satanta acted as spokesman, andreplied that the warrior in sight was his son, and that the latter was signallingto him that he had something important to communicate, and desiredSatanta to ride out and join him.

To have seen the innocent and artless expression of countenance withwhich Satanta made this announcement, one would not have imagined thatthe son had been sent as a decoy to cover the escape of the father, and thatthe latter had been aware of this fact from the first. However, I pretended tohumor Satanta. Of course there was no objection to his galloping out towhere his son awaited him, because, as he said, that son was, and for goodreason perhaps, unwilling to gallop in to where his father was. But if Satantawas so eager to see and communicate with his son, there should be noobjection to the presence of a small escort—not that there existed doubts inmy mind as to Satanta’s intention to return to us, because no such doubt existed.I was positively convinced that once safely beyond our reach, theplace at the head of the column, which had known him for a few brief hours,would know him no more forever. I told Romeo to say to Satanta that hemight ride across the plain to where his son was, and not only that, but severalof us would do ourselves the honor to volunteer as his escort.


The most careless observer would have detected the air of vexation withwhich Satanta turned his pony’s head, and taking me at my word started tomeet his son. A brisk gallop soon brought us to the little hillock upon whichSatanta’s son awaited us. He was there, a tall, trimly built, warrior-likeyoung fellow of perhaps twenty, and bore himself while in our presence as ifhe would have us to understand he was not only the son of a mighty chief,but some day would wear that title himself. What was intended to be gainedby the interview did not become evident, as the presence of Romeo preventedany conversation between father and son looking to the formation ofplans for escape. Questions were asked and answered as to where the villagewas, and in regard to its future movements, but nothing satisfactory either toSatanta or his captors was learned from the young warrior. Finally, I suggestedto Satanta that as we only intended to proceed a few miles further,being then in the near vicinity of Fort Cobb, and would there encamp foran indefinite period, his son had better accompany us to camp, where LoneWolf and Satanta would be informed what was to be required of them andtheir people, and then, after conferring with each other, the two chiefs couldsend Satanta’s son to the village with any message which they might desireto transmit to their people. At the same time I promised the young warriorgood treatment, with permission to go and come as he chose, and in no mannerto be regarded or treated as a prisoner.

This proposition seemed to strike the Indians favorably, and much to mysurprise, knowing the natural suspicion of the Indian, the young warriorreadily consented to the plan, and at once placed himself in our power.Turning our horses’ heads, we soon resumed our places at the head of thecolumn, the three Indians riding in silence, brooding, no doubt, over planslooking to their freedom.

By way of a slight digression from the main narrative, I will here remark thatduring the prolonged imprisonment of the two chiefs, Satanta’s son becamea regular visitor to our camp, frequently becoming the bearer of importantmessages from the chiefs to their villages, and in time he and I, apparently,became firm friends. He was an excellent shot with the rifle. Satanta saidhe was the best in the tribe, and frequently, when time hung heavily on myhands, and I felt a desire for recreation, he and I took our rifles, and, after passingbeyond the limits of camp, engaged in a friendly match at target practice,a much more agreeable mode of testing our skill as marksmen than byusing each other as a target.

Satanta had exhibited no little gratification when I first engaged to shootwith his son, and as the lodge in which he was kept a closely guarded prisonerwas on my route in returning from target practice to my tent, I usually stoppeda few moments in his lodge to exchange passing remarks. He was evidentlydisappointed when informed as to the result of the first trial with our rifles,that his son had come off only second best; and numerous were the explanationswhich his fertile mind suggested as the causes leading to this result—aresult which in the eyes of the Indian assumed far greater importance thanwould ordinarily be attached to it by white men. As we had agreed to havefrequent contests of this kind, Satanta assured me that his son would yet provehimself the better man. Each meeting, however, only resulted as the first,although by varying the distance every opportunity was given for a fair test.Finally, when all other explanations had failed, Satanta thought he had discoveredthe real obstacle to the success of his son, by ascribing superior qualities tomy rifle as compared with the one used by him. Fairness on my part then required204that I should offer the young warrior the use of my rifle, and that Ishould use his in the next match; a proposition which was at once accepted,and, as if to be better prepared to make an excellent score, my rifle was soonin his hands and undergoing the critical inspection and manipulation of trigger,sights, etc., which always suggest themselves the moment an experiencedmarksman finds a new rifle in his hands. The following day we engaged asusual in rifle practice, he with my rifle, I with his. I frankly confess thathaving entered into the contest from the first with as much zest and rivalry aseven my dusky competitor could lay claim to, and having come off victor inthe preceding contests, I was not entirely free from anxiety lest the change inrifles might also change the result, and detract, in the eyes of the Indians atleast, from my former successes. On this occasion, as on all previous ones,we were alone, and consequently we were our own judges, umpire, andreferee. Greatly to my satisfaction, my good fortune enabled me to makea better score than did my opponent, and this result seemed to settle hisopinion finally as to our relative merits as marksmen. I attached no littleimportance to these frequent and friendly meetings between Satanta’s son andmyself. Any superiority in the handling or use of weapons, in horseback exercises,or in any of the recognized manly sports, is a sure stepping-stone inobtaining for the possessor the highest regard of the red man.

Upon our arrival at Fort Cobb, the day of the seizure of the two chiefs,Lone Wolf and Satanta, we selected a camp with a view of remaining at thatpoint during the negotiations which were to be conducted with the varioustribes who were still on the war path. So far as some of the tribes were concerned,they were occupying that equivocal position which enabled them toclass themselves as friendly and at the same time engage in hostilities. Thismay sound ambiguous, but is easily explained. The chiefs and old men, withthe women and children of the tribe, were permitted to assemble regularly atthe agency near Fort Cobb, and as regularly were bountifully supplied withfood and clothing sufficient for all their wants; at the same time the youngmen, warriors, and war chiefs of the tribe were almost continually engaged inmaking war upon the frontier of northern Texas and southeastern Kansas.Indeed, we established the fact, while at or near Fort Cobb, that while mycommand was engaged in fighting the warriors and chiefs of certain tribes atthe battle of the Wash*ta, the families of these same warriors and chiefswere being clothed and fed by the agent of the Government then stationed atFort Cobb.

Surprising as this may seem, it is not an unusual occurrence. The samesystem has prevailed during the past year. While my command was resistingthe attacks of a large body of warriors on the Yellowstone river last summer,the families of many of these warriors, the latter representing seventribes or bands, were subsisting upon provisions and clothed in garments issuedto them at the regular Indian agencies by the Government. But of thismore anon.

The three tribes which became at that time the special objects of our attention,and with whom we were particularly anxious to establish such relationsas would prevent in the future a repetition of the murders and outragesof which they had so long been guilty, were the Kiowas, Cheyennes, and Arapahoes;the object being to complete our work by placing these three tribesupon reservations where they might be cared for, and at the same time be keptunder proper surveillance. The Wash*ta campaign had duly impressed themwith the power and purpose of the Government to inflict punishment upon all205who chose to make war; and each tribe, dreading a repetition of the blow uponthemselves, had removed their villages to remote points where they deemedthemselves secure from further chastisem*nt. Having Lone Wolf and Satanta,the two leading chiefs of the Kiowas, in our hands, we thought that throughthem the Kiowas could be forced to a compliance with the just and reasonabledemands of the Government, and with the terms of their treaty providingfor the reservation system.

All demands upon the Kiowas were communicated by me to Lone Wolfand Satanta, under the instructions of General Sheridan, who, although on theground, declined to treat directly with the faithless chiefs. The Kiowas wereinformed that unless the entire tribe repaired to the vicinity of the agency,then located not far from Fort Cobb, the war, which had been inauguratedwith such vigor and effect at the Wash*ta, would be renewed and continueduntil the terms of their treaty had been complied with. This proposition wasimparted to Lone Wolf and Satanta, and by them transmitted to their tribe,through the son of the latter, who acted as a sort of diplomatic courier betweenthe Kiowa village and our camp.

The Kiowas, while sending messages apparently in accord with the proposition,and seeming to manifest a willingness to come in and locate themselvesupon their reservation, continued, after the manner of Indian diplomacy,to defer from time to time the promised movement. There was every reasonto believe that, finding the military disposed to temporarily suspend activeoperations, and resort to negotiation, the Kiowas had located their villagewithin a short distance of our camp, as Satanta’s son, in going and comingwith messages from one to the other, easily made the round journey in asingle day; so that had they been so disposed, the Kiowas could have transferredtheir village to our immediate vicinity, as desired by the military authorities,in one day. The truth was, however, that while manifesting an apparentdesire to conform to this requirement, as a precedent to final peace,they had not intended at any time to keep faith with the Government, but, bya pretended acquiescence in the proposed arrangement, secure the release ofthe two head chiefs, Lone Wolf and Satanta, and then hasten, with the entirevillage, to join forces with the other two tribes, the Cheyennes and Arapahoes,who were then represented as being located somewhere near the source ofRed river, and on the border of the Llano Estacado, or Staked Plain, a regionof country supposed to be impenetrable by civilized man. Every promise ofthe Kiowas to come in was always made conditional upon the prior releaseof Lone Wolf and Satanta.

Their efforts to procrastinate or evade a fulfilment of their part of theagreement finally exhausted the forbearance which thus far had promptednone but the mildest measures on the part of the military authorities, in theefforts of the latter to bring about a peaceful solution of existing difficulties.It had become evident that, instead of intending to establish relations of permanentpeace and friendship with the whites, the majority of the tribe wereonly waiting the release of Lone Wolf and Satanta to resume hostilities, or atleast to more firmly ally themselves with the extremely hostile tribes then occupyingthe head waters of Red river.

Spring was approaching, when the grass would enable the Indians to recuperatetheir ponies, which, after the famished condition to which winterusually reduced them, would soon be fleet and strong, ready to do duty on thewar path. It was therefore indispensable that there should be no further delay inthe negotiations, which had been needlessly prolonged through several weeks.206General Sheridan promptly decided upon the terms of his ultimatum. Likemost of the utterances of that officer, they were brief and to the point. I rememberthe day and the circ*mstances under which they were given. TheGeneral and myself were standing upon opposite sides of a rude enclosurewhich surrounded the space immediately about his tent, composed of a singleline of rough poles, erected by the unskilled labor of some of the soldiers.The day was one of those bright, warm, sunshiny days so frequent in theIndian Territory, even in winter. I had left my tent, which was but a fewpaces from that of General Sheridan, to step over and report, as I did almostdaily, the latest message from the Kiowas as to their intention to makepeace. On this occasion, as on all former ones, there was a palpable purposeto postpone further action until Lone Wolf and Satanta should be released byus. After hearing the oft-repeated excuses of the Kiowas, General Sheridancommunicated his resolve to me in substance as follows: “Well, Custer,these Kiowas are endeavoring to play us false. Their object is to occupy uswith promises until the grass enables them to go where they please andmake war if they choose. We have given them every opportunity to come inand enjoy the protection of the Government, if they so desired. They areamong the worst Indians we have to deal with, and have been guilty ofuntold murders and outrages, at the same time they were being fed andclothed by the Government. These two chiefs, Lone Wolf and Satanta, haveforfeited their lives over and over again. They could now induce their peopleto come in and become friendly if they chose to exert their influence inthat direction. This matter has gone on long enough, and must be stopped,as we have to look after the other tribes before spring overtakes us. Youcan inform Lone Wolf and Satanta that we shall wait until sundown to-morrowfor their tribe to come in; if by that time the village is not here, LoneWolf and Satanta will be hung, and the troops sent in pursuit of the village.”

This might be regarded as bringing matters to a crisis. I proceeded directlyto the lodge in which Lone Wolf and Satanta were prisoners, accompaniedby Romeo as interpreter. I found the two chiefs reclining lazily upontheir comfortable, if not luxurious couches of robes. Satanta’s son was alsopresent. After a few preliminary remarks, I introduced the subject whichwas the occasion of my visit, by informing the chiefs that I had just returnedfrom General Sheridan’s tent, where the question of the failure of the Kiowasto comply with their oft-repeated promises had been discussed, and that I hadbeen directed to acquaint them with the determination which had been formedin regard to them and their people. At this announcement I could see thatboth chiefs became instantly and unmistakably interested in what was beingsaid.

I had so often heard of the proverbial stoicism of the Indian character, thatit occurred to me that this was a favorable moment for judging how far thistrait affects their conduct. For it will be readily acknowledged that the communicationwhich I was about to make to them was one likely, at all events,to overturn any self-imposed stolidity which was not deeply impregnated intheir nature. After going over the subject of the continued absence of the Kiowasfrom their reservation, their oft-made promises, made only to be violated, Itold them that they were regarded, as they had a right to be, as the two leadingand most influential chiefs of the tribe; that although they were prisoners, yet sopowerful were they among the people of their own tribe, that their influence,even while prisoners, was greater than that of all the other chiefs combined;hence all negotiations with the Kiowas had been conducted through them, and207although they had it in their power, by a single command, to cause asatisfactory settlement of existing difficulties to be made, yet so far they hadfailed utterly to exert an influence for peace between their people and theGovernment. The announcement then to be made to them must be regardedas final, and it remained with them alone to decide by their action what theresult should be. In as few words as possible I then communicated to themthe fate which undoubtedly awaited them in the event of the non-appearanceof their tribe. Until sunset of the following day seemed a very briefperiod, yet I failed to detect the slightest change in the countenance of eitherwhen told that that would be the extent of their lives if their tribe failed tocome in. Not a muscle of their warrior-like faces moved. Their eyes neitherbrightened nor quailed; nothing in their actions or appearance gave tokenthat anything unusual had been communicated to them. Satanta’s son aloneof the three seemed to realize that matters were becoming serious, as couldreadily be told by watching his anxious glances, first at his father, then at LoneWolf; but neither spoke.

Realizing the importance of time, and anxious to bring about a peaceful aswell as satisfactory termination of our difficulties with the Kiowas, and at thesame time to afford every facility to the two captive chiefs to save their oft-forfeitedlives—for all familiar with their bloody and cruel career would grantthat they merited death—I urged upon them the necessity of prompt actionin communicating with their tribe, and pointed to Satanta’s son, who could beemployed for this purpose. Quickly springing to his feet, and not waiting tohear the opinions of the two chiefs, the young warrior rushed from the lodge,and was soon busily engaged in tightening the girths of his Indian saddle,preparatory to a rapid gallop on his fleet pony.

In the mean time Lone Wolf and Satanta began exchanging utterances, atfirst slow and measured, in tones scarcely audible. Gradually they seemed torealize how desperate was the situation they were in, and how much dependedupon themselves. Then laying aside the formality which had up to that momentcharacterized their deportment, they no longer appeared as the dignified,reserved, almost sullen chiefs, but acted and spoke as would be expectedof men situated as they were. In less time than I have taken to describethe action, Satanta’s handsome son appeared at the entrance of the lodge,mounted and in readiness for his ride. Although he seemed by his mannerto incline toward his father as the one who should give him his instructions,yet it was soon apparent that a more correct understanding existedbetween the two captives. Lone Wolf was the head chief of their tribe,Satanta the second in rank. The occasion was too important to leave anythingto chance. A message from Satanta might receive prompt attention; acommand from the head chief could not be disregarded; hence it was that Satantastood aside, and Lone Wolf stepped forward and addressed a few hastybut apparently emphatic sentences to the young courier, who was all eagernessto depart on his mission. As Lone Wolf concluded his instructions, andthe young warrior was gathering up his reins and lariat, and turning his ponyfrom the lodge in the direction of the village, Satanta simply added, in an energetictone, “Hoodle-teh, hoodle-teh” (make haste, make haste); an injunctionscarcely needed, as the young Indian and his pony were the next momentflying across the level plain.

I then reëntered the lodge with Lone Wolf and Satanta, accompanied byRomeo. Through the latter Lone Wolf informed me that he had sent ordersto the Kiowa village, which was not a day’s travel from us, to pack up and208come in as soon as the courier should reach them. At the same time he informedthem of what depended upon their coming. He had also sent forBlack Eagle, the third chief in rank, to come in advance of the village, bringingwith him a dozen or more of the prominent chiefs. I inquired if hefelt confident that his people would arrive by the appointed time? He almostsmiled at the question, and assured me that an Indian would risk everythingto save a comrade, leaving me to infer that to save their two highest chiefsnothing would be permitted to stand in the way. Seeing, perhaps, a look ofdoubt on my face, he pointed to that locality in the heavens which the sunwould occupy at two o’clock, and said, “Before that time Black Eagle and theother chiefs accompanying him will be here; and by that time,” indicating ina similar manner sunset, “the village will arrive.”

No general commanding an army, who had transmitted his orders to hiscorps commanders, directing a movement at daylight the following morning,could have exhibited more confidence in the belief that his orders would beexecuted, than did this captive chief in the belief that, although a prisoner inthe hands of his traditional enemies, his lodge closely guarded on all sides bywatchful sentinels, his commands to his people would meet with a prompt andwilling compliance. After a little further conversation with the two chiefs, Iwas preparing to leave the lodge, when Lone Wolf, true to the Indian custom,under which an opportunity to beg for something to eat is never permitted topass unimproved, called me back, and said that the next day his principalchiefs would visit him, and although he was a prisoner, yet he would be gladto be able to entertain them in a manner befitting his rank and importance inthe tribe, and therefore I was appealed to to furnish the provisions necessaryto provide a feast for a dozen or more hungry chiefs and their retainers; inreply to which modest request I made the heart of Lone Wolf glad, and calledforth, in his most emphatic as well as delighted manner, the universal wordof approval, “How,” by informing him that the feast should certainly be preparedif he only would supply the guests.

The next day was one of no little interest, and to none more than to thetwo chiefs, who expected to see the first step taken by their people whichwould terminate in their release from a captivity which had certainly becomeexceedingly irksome, not to mention the new danger which stared them inthe face. Lone Wolf, however, maintained his confidence, and repeatedly assuredme during the forenoon that Black Eagle and the other chiefs, whom hehad sent for by name, would arrive not later than two o’clock that day. Hisconfidence proved not to be misplaced. The sun had hardly marked the hourof one in the heavens, when a small cavalcade was seen approaching in thedistance from the direction of the Kiowa village. The quick eye of Satantawas the first to discover it. A smile of haughty triumph lighted up the countenanceof Lone Wolf when his attention was called to the approaching party,his look indicating that he felt it could not be otherwise: had he not ordered it?

On they came, first about a dozen chiefs, riding at a deliberate and dignifiedpace, they and their ponies richly caparisoned in the most fantastic manner.The chiefs wore blankets of bright colors, scarlet predominating, withhere and there a bright green. Each face was painted in brilliant colors, yellow,blue, green, red, black, and combinations of all of them, no two facesbeing ornamented alike, and each new face seeming more horrible than itspredecessor. The ponies had not been neglected, so far as their outwardmake-up was concerned, eagle feathers and pieces of gaudy cloth being interwovenin their manes and tails. Following the chiefs rode a second line,209only less ornamented than the chiefs themselves. These were warriors andconfidential friends and advisers of the chiefs in whose train they rode. Inrear of all rode a few meek-looking squaws, whose part in this imposingpageant became evident when the chiefs and warriors dismounted, givingthe reins of their ponies to the squaws, who at once busied themselves inpicketing the ponies of their lords, and, in every sense of the word, masters,wherever the grazing seemed freshest and most abundant. This beingdone, their part was performed, and they waited, near the ponies, the returnof the chiefs and warriors. The latter, after forming in one group,and in similar order to that in which they rode, advanced toward the lodgeoutside of which, but within the chain of sentinels, stood Lone Wolf and Satanta.The meeting between the captive chiefs and their more fortunate comradesoccasioned an exhibition of more feeling and sensibility than is generallyaccredited to the Indian. A bevy of school girls could not have embracedeach other, after a twenty-four hours’ separation, with greater enthusiasm anddemonstrations of apparent joy than did these chieftains, whose sole delight issupposed to be connected with scenes of bloodshed and cruelty. I trust nogentle-minded reader, imbued with great kindness of heart, will let this littlescene determine his estimate of the Indian character; for be it understood,not one of the chiefs who formed the group of which I am writing but hadparticipated in acts of the most barbarous and wanton cruelty. It was a portionof these chiefs who had led and encouraged the band that had subjectedthe Box family to such a horrible fate, of which Major-General Hanco*ck madefull report at the time.

Immediately after greetings had been exchanged between the captives andtheir friends, I was requested, by a message from Lone Wolf, to repair to hislodge in order to hear what his friends had to say. As I entered the lodgethe entire party of chiefs advanced to meet me, and began a series of hand-shakingand universal “Hows,” which in outward earnestness made up forany lack of real sincerity, and to an inexperienced observer or a tender-heartedpeace commissioner might well have appeared as an exhibition of indubitablefriendship if not affection. After all were seated, and the ever-present longred clay pipe had passed and repassed around the circle, each chief indulgingin a few silent whiffs, Black Eagle arose, and after shaking hands with me,proceeded, after the manner of an oration, to inform me, what I had had reasonto expect, and what the reader no doubt has also anticipated, that the entireKiowa village was at that moment on the march, and would arrive in the vicinityof our camp before dark. No reference was made to the fact that thisgeneral movement on their part was one of compulsion, but on the contrary,to have heard Black Eagle, who was an impressive orator, one might wellhave believed that, no longer able to endure the separation from their brothers,the white men, who, as Black Eagle said, like themselves were all descendedfrom one father, the Kiowas had voluntarily resolved to pack up their lodges,and when they next should put them down it would be alongside the tents oftheir white friends.

In nothing that was said did it appear that the impending execution ofLone Wolf and Satanta had aught to do with hastening the arrival of theirpeople. At the termination of the conference, however, Black Eagle intimatedthat as the tribe was about to locate near us, it would be highly agreeableto them if their two head chiefs could be granted their liberty and permittedto resume their places among their own people.

That evening the Kiowa village, true to the prediction of Lone Wolf, arrived,210and was located a short distance from our camp. The next morningthe family or families of Satanta appeared in front of headquarters and madeknown their desire to see Satanta, to which, of course, no objection was made,and the guards were instructed to permit them to pass the lines. Satanta’shome circle was organized somewhat on the quadrilateral plan; that is, he hadfour wives. They came together, and, so far as outward appearances enabledone to judge, they constituted a happy family. They were all young and buxom,and each was sufficiently like the others in appearance to have enabledthe lot to pass as sisters; and, by the way, it is quite customary among theIndians for one man to marry an entire family of daughters as rapidlyas they reach the proper age. To those who dread a multiplicity of mothers-in-lawthis custom possesses advantages. To add in a material as wellas maternal way to the striking similarity in appearance presented by Satanta’sdusky spouses, each bore on her back, encased in the capacious foldsof a scarlet blanket, a pledge of affection in the shape of a papoose, the differencein the extreme ages of the four miniature warriors, or warriors’ sisters,being too slight to be perceptible. In single file the four partners of Satanta’sjoys approached his lodge, and in the same order gained admittance. Satantawas seated on a buffalo robe when they entered. He did not rise—perhapsthat would have been deemed unwarriorlike—but each of his wives advancedto him, when, instead of going through the ordinary form of embracing, withits usual accompaniments, on such occasions considered proper, the papoosewas unslung—I know of no better term to describe the dexterous manner inwhich the mother transferred her offspring from its cosey resting-place on herback to her arms—and handed to the outstretched arms of the father, whokissed it repeatedly, with every exhibition of paternal affection, scarcely deigningto bestow a single glance on the mother, who stood by meekly, contentingherself with stroking Satanta’s face and shoulders gently, at the sametime muttering almost inaudible expressions of Indian endearment. Thistouching little scene lasted for a few moments, when Satanta, after bestowinga kiss upon the soft, cherry lips of his child, transferred it back to its mother,who passed on and quietly took a seat by Satanta’s side. The second wifethen approached, when precisely the same exhibition was gone through with,not being varied from the first in the slightest particular. This being ended,the third took the place of the second, the latter passing along with her babeand seating herself next to the first, and so on, until the fourth wife had presentedher babe, received it back, and quietly seated herself by the side of thethird; not a word being spoken to or by Satanta from the beginning to theend of this strange meeting.

The Kiowas were now all located on their reservation except a single bandof the tribe, led by a very wicked and troublesome chief, named WomanHeart, although his conduct and character were anything but in keeping withthe gentleness of his name. He had taken his band and moved in the directionof the Staked Plains, far to the west of the Kiowa reservation.

However, the Indian question, so far as the Kiowas were concerned, wasregarded as settled, at least for the time being, and it became our next studyhow to effect a similar settlement with the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, whohad tied after the battle of the Wash*ta, and were then supposed to be somewherebetween the Witchita mountains and the western border of Texas, northof the head waters of Red river. It was finally decided to send one of thefriendly chiefs of the Apaches, whose village was then near the present siteof Fort Sill, and one of the three captive squaws whom we had brought with us.


All the chiefs of that region who were interested in promoting peace betweenthe whites and Indians were assembled at my headquarters, when I informedthem of the proposed peace embassy, and asked that some chief ofprominence should volunteer as bearer of a friendly message to the Cheyennesand Arapahoes. A well-known chief of the Apaches, named Iron Shirt,promptly offered himself as a messenger in the cause of peace. In reply tomy inquiry, he said he could be ready to depart upon his commendable errandthe following day, and estimated the distance such that it would be necessaryto take provision sufficient to last him and his companion three weeks.Having arranged all the details of the journey, the assemblage of chiefs dispersed,the next step being to decide which of the three squaws should accompanyIron Shirt to her tribe. I concluded to state the case to them, and make the selectiona matter for them to decide. Summoning Mah-wis-sa, Mo-nah-see-tah,and the Sioux squaw, their companion, to my tent, I, through Romeo, acquaintedthem with the desire of the Government to establish peace with their people andwith the Arapahoes, and in order to accomplish this we intended despatching afriendly message to the absent tribes, which must be carried by some of theirown people. After conferring with each other a few minutes, they concludedthat Mah-wis-sa, the sister of Black Kettle, should return to her people. Everyarrangement was provided, looking to the comfort of the two Indians whowere to undertake this long journey. A bountiful supply of provisions wascarefully provided in convenient packages, an extra amount of clothing andblankets being given to Mah-wis-sa in order that she should not return to herpeople empty-handed. To transport their provisions and blankets a mule wasgiven them to be used as a pack-animal. It was quite an event, sufficient todisturb the monotony of camp, when the hour arrived for the departure of thetwo peace commissioners. I had told Iron Shirt what he was to say to the chiefsof the tribes who still remained hostile, which was in effect that we were anxiousfor peace, and to that end invited them to come at once and place themselvesand their people on the reservations, where we would meet and regardthem as friends, and all present hostilities, as well as reckoning for past differences,should cease; but if this friendly proffer was not accepted favorably andat once, we would be forced to regard it as indicating their desire to prolongthe war, in which event the troops would be sent against them as soon aspracticable. I relied not a little on the good influence of Mah-wis-sa, who, asI have before stated, was a woman of superior intelligence, and was stronglyimpressed with a desire to aid in establishing a peace between her people andthe white men. Quite a group, composed of officers, soldiers, teamsters,guards, and scouts, assembled to witness the departure of Iron Shirt and Mah-wis-sa,and to wish them God-speed in their mission.

After Iron Shirt and Mah-wis-sa had seated themselves upon their poniesand were about to set out, Mah-wis-sa, suddenly placing her hand on the neatbelt which secured her blanket about her, indicated that she was unprovidedwith that most essential companion of frontier life, a mutch-ka as she expressedit, meaning a hunting-knife. Only those who have lived on theplains can appreciate the unpurchasable convenience of a hunting-knife.Whether it is to carve a buffalo or a mountain trout, mend horse equipments,or close up a rent in the tent, there is a constant demand for the services of agood hunting-knife. Mah-wis-sa smiled at the forgetfulness which had madeher fail to discern this omission sooner, but I relieved her anxiety by takingfrom my belt the hunting-knife which hung at my side and giving it to her,adding as I did so that I expected her to return it to me before the change in212the moon, that being fixed as the extreme limit of their absence. When allwas ready for the start, Iron Shirt rode first, followed by the pack-mule, whichhe led, while Mah-wis-sa, acting as a driver to the latter and well mounted,brought up the rear.

As they rode away amid the shower of good wishes which was bestowedupon them and their mission, many were the queries as to the probable extentof their journey, their return, and whether they would be successful. Forupon the success or failure of these two Indians depended in a great measurethe question whether or not we were to be forced to continue the war; andamong the hundreds who watched the departing bearers of the olive branch,there was not one but hoped earnestly that the mission would prove successful,and we be spared the barbarities which a further prosecution of the warwould necessarily entail. Yet there are those who would have the public believethat the army is at all times clamorous for an Indian war. I have yetto meet the officer or man belonging to the army, who, when the question ofwar or peace with the Indians was being agitated, did not cast the weight ofhis influence, the prayers of his heart, in behalf of peace. When I next calledMah-wis-sa’s attention to the mutch-ka (knife), it was far from the locality wethen occupied, and under very different circ*mstances.

After the departure of Iron Shirt and Mah-wis-sa, we were forced to settledown to the dullest routine of camp life, as nothing could be done until theirreturn. It was full three weeks before the interest in camp received a freshimpetus, by the tidings, which flew from tent to tent, that Iron Shirt had returned.He did return, but Mah-wis-sa did not return with him. His storywas brief. He and Mah-wis-sa, after leaving us and travelling for several dayswestward, had arrived at the Cheyenne and Arapaho villages. They deliveredtheir messages to the chiefs of the two tribes, who were assembled incouncil to hear them, and after due deliberation thereon, Iron Shirt was informedthat the distance was too great, the ponies in too poor condition, topermit the villages to return. In other words, these two tribes had virtuallydecided that rather than return to their reservation they preferred the chancesof war. When asked to account for Mah-wis-sa’s failure to accompany himback, Iron Shirt stated that she had desired to fulfil her promise and returnwith him, but the chiefs of her tribe would not permit her to do so.

The only encouragement derived from Iron Shirt was in his statementthat Little Robe, a prominent chief of the Cheyennes, and Yellow Bear, thesecond chief of the Arapahoes, were both extremely anxious to effect a permanentpeace between their people and the Government, and both had promisedIron Shirt that they would leave their villages soon after his departureand visit us, with a view to prevent a continuation of the war. Iron Shirtwas rewarded for his journey by bountiful presents of provisions for himselfand his people. True to their promises made to Iron Shirt, it was but a shorttime before Little Robe and Yellow Bear arrived at our camp and were wellreceived.

My life on the plains (8)

They reported that their villages had had under consideration the questionof accepting our invitation to come in and live at peace in the future, and thatmany of their people were strongly in favor of adopting this course, but forthe present it was uncertain whether or not the two tribes would come in.The two tribes would probably act in concert, and if they intended coming,would make their determination known by despatching couriers to us in a fewdays. In spite of the sincerity of the motives of Little Robe and Yellow Bear,213whom I have always regarded as two of the most upright and peaceably inclinedIndians I have ever known, and who have since that time paid avisit to the President at Washington, it was evident that the Cheyennes andArapahoes, while endeavoring to occupy us with promises and pretences, wereonly interested in delaying our movements until the return of spring, whenthe young grass would enable them to recruit the strength of their winter-famishedponies and move when and where they pleased.

After waiting many long weary days for the arrival of the promised couriersfrom the two tribes, until even Little Robe and Yellow Bear were forced toacknowledge that there was no longer any reason to expect their coming, itoccurred to me that there was but one expedient yet untried which furnishedeven a doubtful chance of averting war. This could only be resorted towith the approval of General Sheridan, whose tent had been pitched in ourmidst during the entire winter, and who evidently proposed to remain on theground until the Indian question in that locality should be disposed of. Myplan was as follows:

We had some fifteen hundred troops, a force ample to cope with all theIndians which could then, or since, be combined at any one point on theplains. But in the state of feeling existing among those Indians at that time,consequent upon the punishment which they had received at and since the Wash*tacampaign, it would have been an extremely difficult if not impracticablematter to attempt to move so large a body of troops near their villages,and retain the latter in their places, so fearful were they of receiving punishmentfor their past offences. It would also have been impracticable tomove upon them stealthily, as they were then, for causes already given, morethan ever on the alert, and were no doubt kept thoroughly informed in regardto our every movement.

It was thus considered out of the question to employ my entire commandof fifteen hundred men in what I proposed should be purely a peaceful effortto bring about a termination of the war, as so large a force would surelyintimidate the Indians, and cause them to avoid our presence.

I believed that if I could see the leading chiefs of the two hostile tribes andconvince them of the friendly desire of the Government, they might be inducedto relinquish the war and return to their reservation. I have endeavoredto show that I could not go among them with my entire command,neither was I sufficiently orthodox as a peace commissioner to believe whatso many of that order preach, but fail to practise, that I could take an olivebranch in one hand, the plan of a school-house in the other, and, unaccompaniedby force, visit the Indian villages in safety. My life would certainlyhave been the price of such temerity. Too imposing a force would repel theIndians; too small a force would tempt them to murder us, even though ourmission was a friendly one.

After weighing the matter carefully in my own mind, I decided that withGeneral Sheridan’s approval I would select from my command forty men, twoofficers, and a medical officer, and, accompanied by the two chiefs, Little Robeand Yellow Bear, who regarded my proposition with favor, I would set outin search of the hostile camp, there being but little doubt that with the assistanceof the chiefs I would have little difficulty in discovering the whereaboutsof the villages; while the smallness of my party would prevent unnecessaryalarm or suspicion as to our intentions. From my tent to General Sheridan’swas but a few steps, and I soon submitted my proposition to the General, who214from the first was inclined to lend his approval to my project. After discussingit fully, he gave his assent by saying that the character of the proposedexpedition was such that he would not order me to proceed upon it, but if Ivolunteered to go, he would give me the full sanction of his authority andevery possible assistance to render the mission a successful one; in conclusionurging me to exercise the greatest caution against the stratagems or treacheryof the Indians, who no doubt would be but too glad to massacre my party inrevenge for their recent well-merited chastisem*nt. Returning to my tent, Iat once set about making preparations for my journey, the extent or result ofwhich now became interesting subjects for deliberation. The first thing necessarywas to make up the party which was to accompany me.

As the number of men was to be limited to forty, too much care could notbe exercised in their selection. I chose the great majority of them from thesharpshooters, men who, in addition to being cool and brave, were experiencedand skilful marksmen. My standard-bearer, a well-tried sergeant, wasselected as the senior non-commissioned officer of the party. The officerswho were to accompany me were my brother Colonel Custer, Captain Robbins,and Dr. Renick, Acting Assistant Surgeon U.S. Army. As guide I hadNe-va, a Blackfoot Indian, who had accompanied General Fremont in his explorations,and who could speak a little English. Little Robe and YellowBear were also to be relied upon as guides, while Romeo accompanied us asinterpreter. Young Brewster, determined to miss no opportunity of discoveringhis lost sister, had requested and been granted permission to become oneof the party. This completed the personnel of the expedition. All were wellarmed and well mounted. We were to take no wagons or tents; our extrasupplies were to be transported on pack-mules. We were to start on the eveningof the second day, the intervening time being necessary to complete ourpreparations. It was decided that our first march should be a short one, sufficientmerely to enable us to reach a village of friendly Apaches, located a fewmiles from our camp, where we would spend the first night and be joinedby Little Robe and Yellow Bear, who at that time were guests of the Apaches.I need not say that in the opinion of many of our comrades our mission wasregarded as closely bordering on the imprudent, to qualify it by no strongerterm.

So confident did one of the most prudent officers of my command feel inregard to our annihilation by the Indians, that in bidding me good-by he contrivedto slip into my hand a small pocket Derringer pistol, loaded, with thesimple remark, “You had better take it, General; it may prove useful to you.”As I was amply provided with arms, both revolvers and rifle, and as a pocketDerringer may not impress the reader as being a very formidable weapon touse in Indian warfare, the purpose of my friend in giving me the small pocketweapon may not seem clear. It was given me under the firm conviction thatthe Indians would overwhelm and massacre my entire party; and to preventmy being captured, disarmed, and reserved for torture, that little pistol wasgiven me in order that at the last moment I might become my own executioner—anoffice I was not seeking, nor did I share in my friend’s opinion.

Everything being ready for our departure, we swung into our saddles,waved our adieus to the comrades who were to remain in camp, and the nextmoment we turned our horses’ heads westward and were moving in the directionof the Apache village.



The Apache village had been represented as located only five or six milesfrom our camp, but we found the distance nearly twice as great; and althoughwe rode rapidly, our horses being fresh, yet it was quite dark beforewe reached the first lodge, the location of the rest of the village being tolerablywell defined by the apparently countless dogs, whose barking at our approachcalled forth most of the inhabitants of the village.

As our coming had been previously announced by Little Robe and YellowBear, our arrival occasioned no surprise. Inquiring of the first we sawwhere the stream of water was, as an Indian village is invariably placedin close proximity to water, we were soon on our camp ground, which wasalmost within the limits of the village. Our horses were soon unsaddled andpicketed out to graze, fires were started by the men preparatory to the enjoymentof a cup of coffee, and every preliminary made for a good night’srest and early start in the morning. But here the officers of the party encounteredtheir first drawback. From some unexplained cause the pack-mulewhich carried our blankets had with his attendant failed thus far to put inan appearance. His head leader had probably fallen behind, and in thedarkness lost the party. The bugler was sent to a neighboring eminence tosound signals with his bugle, in the hope that the absent man with his mulemight make his way to us, but all to no purpose. We were soon forced torelinquish all hope of seeing either man, mule, or blankets until daylight,and consequently the prospect of enjoying a comfortable rest was exceedinglylimited. Saddle blankets were in great demand, but I was even morefortunate. A large number of the Apaches had come from their lodges out ofmere curiosity to see us, hoping no doubt too that they might secure somethingto eat. Among them was one with whom I was acquainted, and towhom I made known the temporary loss of my blankets. By promising hima pint of sugar and an equal amount of coffee on my return to my camp, heagreed to loan me a buffalo robe until morning. With this wrapped aroundme and the aid of a bright blazing camp fire, I passed a most comfortablenight among my less fortunate companions, as we all lay stretched out on theground, using our saddles for pillows.

Early next morning (our pack animals having come up in the night) wewere in our saddles, and on our way ready and eager for whatever might bein store for us. The route taken by the guides led us along the northernborder of the Witchita Mountains, our general direction being nearly due west.A brief description of these mountains and of the surrounding scenery is containedin the first chapter of “Life on the Plains.” As soon as it had becomeknown in the main camp that the expedition of which I now write was contemplated,young Brewster, who had never relinquished his efforts or inquiriesto determine the fate of his lost sister, came to me with an earnest requestto be taken as one of the party—a request which I was only too glad tocomply with. No person who has not lived on the frontier and in an Indiancountry, can correctly realize or thoroughly appreciate the extent to which afrontiersman becomes familiar with, and apparently indifferent to the accustomeddangers which surround him on every side. It is but another verificationof the truth of the old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”


After getting well on our way I began, through Romeo, conversing withthe two chiefs Little Robe and Yellow Bear, who rode at my side, upon thetopic which was uppermost in the minds of the entire party: When and whereshould we probably find their people? Before our departure they had givenme to understand that the villages might be found on some one of the smallstreams flowing in a southerly direction past the western span of the Witchitamountains, a distance from our main camp not exceeding sixty or seventymiles; but I could easily perceive that neither of the chiefs spoke with a greatdegree of confidence. They explained this by stating that the villages wouldnot remain long in one place, and it was difficult to say positively in what localityor upon what stream we should find them; but that when we reachedthe last peak of the Witchita mountains, which commanded an unlimited viewof the plains beyond, they would send up signal smoke, and perhaps be able toobtain a reply from the village.

In the evening we reached a beautiful stream of water, with abundanceof wood in the vicinity; here we halted for the night. Our horses were fastenedto the trees, while the officers and men spread their blankets on theground, and in groups of twos and threes prepared for the enjoyment of agood night’s rest. One sentry remained awake during the night, and in orderthat the loss of sleep should be as little as might be consistent with our safety,the relief, instead of being composed of three men, each of whom would haveto remain on duty two hours for every four hours of rest, was increased innumber so that each member thereof was required to remain on post but asingle hour during the night. While I felt confidence in the good intentionsof the two chiefs, I did not neglect to advise the guards to keep a watchfuleye upon them, as we could not afford to run any avoidable risks. Long afterwe had sought the solace of our blankets, and I had dropped into a comfortabledoze, I was awakened by an Indian song. There was, of course, no occasionfor alarm from this incident, yet it was sufficient to induce me to get upand make my way to the small fire, around which I knew the three Indiansand Romeo to be lying, and from the vicinity of which the singing evidentlycame. As I approached the fire I found Neva, the Blackfoot, replenishing thesmall flame with a few dried twigs, while Romeo and Yellow Bear were sittingnear by enjoying some well-broiled beef ribs. Little Robe was reclining,in a half-sitting position, against a tree, and, apparently oblivious to thepresence of his companions, was singing or chanting an Indian melody, thegeneral tenor of which seemed to indicate a lightness of spirits. YoungBrewster—unable, perhaps, to sleep, owing to thoughts of his lost sister—hadjoined the group, and appeared an interested observer of what was going on.I inquired of Romeo why Little Robe had selected such an unreasonable hourto indulge in his wild melodies. Romeo repeated the inquiry to Little Robe,who replied that he had been away from his lodge for a long time, and thethought of soon returning, and of being with his people once more, had filledhis heart with a gladness which could only find utterance in song.

Taking a seat on the ground by the side of young Brewster, I joined thegroup. As neither Little Robe nor Yellow Bear could understand a word ofEnglish, and Neva was busily engaged with his culinary operations, youngBrewster, with unconcealed delight, informed me that from conversations withLittle Robe, who appeared in a more communicative mood than usual, he feltcheered by the belief that at last he was in a fair way to discover the whereaboutsof his captive sister. He then briefly detailed how Little Robe, little217dreaming that his listener was so deeply interested in his words, had admittedthat the Cheyennes had two white girls as prisoners, the date of the captureof one of them and the personal description given by Little Robe closelyanswering to that of Brewster’s sister. In the hope of gleaning other valuableinformation from time to time, I advised the young man not to acquaintthe Indians with the fact that he had lost a sister by capture; else, becomingsuspicious, the supply of information might be cut off.

The tidings in regard to the captured girls were most encouraging, and spurredus to leave no effort untried to release them from the horrors of their situation.Before daylight the following morning we had breakfasted, and assoon as it was sufficiently light to enable us to renew our march we set out,still keeping almost due west. In the afternoon of that day we reached thelast prominent peak of the Witchita mountains, from which point Little Robeand Yellow Bear had said they would send up a signal smoke.

I had often during an Indian campaign seen these signal smokes, on myfront, on my right and left—everywhere, in fact—but could never catch aglimpse of the Indians who were engaged in making them, nor did I comprehendat the time the precise import of the signals. I was glad, therefore, tohave an opportunity to stand behind the scenes, as it were, and not only witnessthe modus operandi, but understand the purpose of the actors.

Arriving at the base of the mountain or peak, the height of which didnot exceed one thousand feet, we dismounted, and leaving our horses on theplain below, owing to the rough and rocky character of the ascent, a smallportion of our party, including of course, the two chiefs, climbed to the summit.After sweeping the broad horizon which spread out before us, and failingto discover any evidence of the presence of an Indian village anywherewithin the scope of our vision, the two chiefs set about to make preparationsnecessary to enable them to “call to the village,” as they expressed it.

I have alluded in a former article to the perfect system of signals in useamong the Indians of the plains. That which I am about to describe brieflywas but one of many employed by them. First gathering an armful of driedgrass and weeds, this was carried and placed upon the highest point of thepeak, where, everything being in readiness, the match was applied close tothe ground; but the blaze was no sooner well lighted and about to envelopthe entire amount of grass collected, than Little Robe began smothering itwith the unlighted portion. This accomplished, a slender column of graysmoke began to ascend in a perpendicular column. This, however, was notenough, as such a signal, or the appearance of such, might be created bywhite men, or might rise from a simple camp fire. Little Robe now took hisscarlet blanket from his shoulders, and with a graceful wave threw it so asto cover the smouldering grass, when, assisted by Yellow Bear, he held thecorners and sides so closely to the ground as to almost completely confine andcut off the column of smoke. Waiting but for a few moments, and until hesaw the smoke beginning to escape from beneath, he suddenly threw theblanket aside, and a beautiful balloon shaped column puffed upward, like thewhite cloud of smoke which attends the discharge of a field piece.

Again casting the blanket on the pile of grass, the column was interruptedas before, and again in due time released, so that a succession of elongated,egg-shaped puffs of smoke kept ascending toward the sky in the most regularmanner. This beadlike column of smoke, considering the height from whichit began to ascend, was visible from points on the level plain fifty miles distant.


The sight of these two Indian chiefs so intently engaged in this simple buteffective mode of telegraphing was to me full of interest, and this incidentwas vividly recalled when I came across Stanley’s painting of “The Signal,”in which two chiefs or warriors are standing upon a large rock, with lightedtorch in hand, while far in the distance is to be seen the answering column,as it ascends above the tops of the trees, from the valley where no doubt thevillage is pleasantly located. In our case, however, the picture was not socomplete in its results. For strain our eager eyes as we might in every direction,no responsive signal could be discovered, and finally the chiefs werereluctantly forced to acknowledge that the villages were not where they expectedto find them, and that to reach them would probably involve a longerjourney than we had anticipated. Descending from the mountain, we continuedour journey, still directing our course nearly due west, as the two chiefs feltconfident the villages were in that direction. That day and the next passedwithout further incident.

After arriving at camp on the second evening, a conversation with thetwo Indian chiefs made it seem probable that our journey would have to beprolonged several days beyond the time which was deemed necessary when weleft the main camp. And as our supply of provisions was limited to our supposedwants during the shorter journey, it was necessary to adopt measuresfor obtaining fresh supplies. This was the more imperative as the countrythrough which we were then passing was almost devoid of game. Our partywas so small in number that our safety would be greatly imperilled by anyserious reduction, yet it was a measure of necessity that a message shouldbe sent back to General Sheridan, informing him of our changed plans andproviding for a renewal of our stores.

I acquainted the men of my command with my desire, and it was not longbefore a soldierly young trooper announced that he would volunteer to carry adespatch safely through. The gallant offer was accepted, and I was soonseated on the ground, pencil in hand, writing to General Sheridan a hurriedaccount of our progress thus far and our plans for the future, with a request toforward to us a supply of provisions; adding that the party escorting themcould follow on our trail, and I would arrange to find them when required. Ialso requested that Colonel Cook, who commanded the sharpshooters, shouldbe detailed to command the escort, and that California Joe might also be sentwith the party.

It was decided that the despatch bearer should remain in camp with us untildark and then set out on his return to the main camp. Being well mounted,well armed, and a cool, daring young fellow, I felt but little anxiety as to hissuccess. Leaving him to make his solitary journey guided by the light of thestars, and concealing himself during the day, we will continue our search afterwhat then seemed to us the two lost tribes.

Daylight as usual found us in our saddles, the country continuing interestingbut less rolling, and (we judge by appearances) less productive. We sawbut little game along our line of march, and the importance of time rendereddelays of all kinds undesirable. The countenances of Little Robe and YellowBear wore an anxious look, and I could see that they began to doubt theirability to determine positively the locality of the villages. Neva, the Blackfoot,was full of stories connected with his experiences under General Fremont, andappeared more hopeful than the two chiefs. He claimed to be a son-in-law ofKit Carson, his wife, a half-breed, being deceased. Carson, it appeared, had219always regarded Neva with favor, and often made him and his family handsomepresents. I afterwards saw a son of Neva, an extremely handsome boyof fourteen, whose comely face and features clearly betrayed the mixture ofblood indicated by Neva.

Yellow Bear finally encouraged us by stating that by noon the followingday we would arrive at a stream, on whose banks he expected to find the Arapahovillage, and perhaps that of the Cheyennes. This gave us renewed hope,and furnished us a topic of conversation after we had reached our camp thatnight. Nothing occurred worthy of note until about noon next day, when YellowBear informed me that we were within a few miles of the stream to whichhe had referred the day before, and added that if the village was there his peoplewould have a lookout posted on a little knoll which we would find about amile from the village in our direction; and as the appearance of our entireforce might give alarm, Yellow Bear suggested that he, with Little Robe, Romeo,Neva, myself, and two or three others, should ride some distance in advance.

Remembering the proneness of the Indians to stratagem, I was yet impressednot only with the apparent sincerity of Yellow Bear thus far, but bythe soundness of the reasons he gave for our moving in advance. I assentedto his proposition, but my confidence was not sufficiently great to prevent mefrom quietly slipping a fresh cartridge in my rifle, as it lay in front of meacross my saddle-bow, nor from unbuttoning the strap which held my revolverin place by my side. Fortunately, however, nothing occurred to make it necessaryto displace either rifle or revolver.

After riding in advance for a couple of miles, Yellow Bear pointed out inthe distance the little mound at which he predicted we would see somethingposted in the way of information concerning his tribe. If the latter was not inthe vicinity a letter would no doubt be found at the mound, which now becamean object of interest to all of us, each striving to be the first to discover theconfirmation of Yellow Bear’s prediction.

In this way we continued to approach the mound until not more than a mileof level plain separated us from it, and still nothing could be seen to encourageus, when, owing to my reason being quickened by the excitement of the occasion,thus giving me an advantage over the chiefs, or from other causes, Icaught sight of what would ordinarily have been taken for two half-roundstones or small bowlders, just visible above the upper circle of the mound, asprojected against the sky beyond. A second glance convinced me that insteadof the stones which they so closely resembled, they were neither more nor lessthan the upper parts of the heads of two Indians, who were no doubt studyingour movements with a view of determining whether we were a friendly orwar party.

Reassuring myself by the aid of my field-glass, I announced my discoveryto the chiefs and the rest of the party. Yellow Bear immediately cantered hispony a few yards to the front, when, freeing his scarlet blanket from hisshoulders, he waved it twice or thrice in a mysterious manner, and waitedanxiously the response. In a moment the two Indians, the tops of whoseheads had alone been visible, rode boldly to the crest of the mound and answeredthe signal of Yellow Bear, who uttered a quick, oft-repeated whoop,and, at my suggestion, galloped in advance, to inform his people who we were,and our object in visiting them. By the time we reached the mound all necessaryexplanations had been made, and the two Indians advanced at Yellow220Bear’s bidding and shook hands with me, afterward going through the sameceremony with the other officers. Yellow Bear then despatched one of theIndians to the village, less than two miles distant, to give news of our approach.

It seemed that they had scarcely had time to reach the village, beforeyoung and old began flocking out to meet us, some on ponies, others onmules, and occasionally two full-grown Indians would be seen mounted on onediminutive pony. If any of our party had feared that our errand was attendedwith risk, their minds probably underwent a change when they looked around,and upon all sides saw armed warriors, whose numbers exceeded ours morethan ten to one, and whose entire bearing and demeanor toward us gavepromise of any but hostile feelings.

Not deeming it best to allow them to encircle us too closely, I requestedYellow Bear, in whose peaceable desires I had confidence, to direct his peopleto remain at some distance from us, so as not to impede our progress; atthe same time to inform them that it was our purpose to pitch our camp immediatelyalongside of theirs, when full opportunity would be given for interchangeof visits. This proposition seemed to meet with favor, and our routewas left unobstructed. A short ride brought us to the village, the lodges composingwhich were dotted in a picturesque manner along the left branch ofMulberry creek, one of the tributaries of Red river.

I decided to cross the creek and bivouac on the right bank, opposite thelower end of the village, and within easy pistol range of the nearest lodge.This location may strike the reader with some surprise, and may suggest theinquiry why we did not locate ourselves at some point further removed fromthe village. It must be remembered that in undertaking to penetrate the Indiancountry with so small a force, I acted throughout upon the belief that ifproper precautions were adopted, the Indians would not molest us. Indianscontemplating a battle, either offensive or defensive, are always anxious tohave their women and children removed from all danger thereof. By ourwatchfulness we intended to let the Indians see that there would be no opportunityfor them to take us by surprise, but that if fighting was intended, itshould not be all on one side. For this reason I decided to locate our camp asclose as convenient to the village, knowing that the close proximity of theirwomen and children, and their necessary exposure in case of conflict, wouldoperate as a powerful argument in favor of peace, when the question of peaceor war came to be discussed.

But right here I will do the Arapahoes justice, by asserting that afterthe first council, which took place in my camp the same evening, and afterthey had had an opportunity to learn the exact character and object of ourmission, as told to them by me, and confirmed by the earnest addresses ofYellow Bear and Little Robe, they evinced toward us nothing but friendlyfeeling, and exhibited a ready willingness to conform to the only demand wemade of them, which was that they should proceed at once, with their entirevillage, to our main camp, within their reservation, and then report to GeneralSheridan.

My life on the plains (9)

Little Raven, the head chief, spoke for his people, and expressed theirgratification at the reports brought to them by Yellow Bear and Little Robe.They accepted with gladness the offer of peace, and promised to set out inthree days to proceed to our main camp, near the site of Fort Sill. As it wasquite late before the council concluded the discussion of questions pertainingto the Arapahoes, no reference was made to the Cheyennes; besides, I knew221that Little Robe would be able to gather all possible information concerningthem.

Little Raven invited me to visit him the following day in his village, an invitationI promised to accept. Before the chiefs separated, I requested LittleRaven to give notice through them to all his people, that after it becamedark it would no longer be safe for any of them to approach our camp, as, accordingto our invariable custom, guards would be posted about camp duringthe entire night; and as we could not distinguish friends from foes in the darkness,the sentries would be ordered to fire on every object seen approachingour camp. To this Little Raven and his chiefs promised assent. I thenfurther informed him that during our stay near them we should always beglad, during the hours of daylight, to receive visits from him or from any ofhis people, but to prevent confusion or misunderstanding, not more than twentyIndians would be permitted to visit our camp at one time. This also wasagreed to, and the chiefs, after shaking hands and uttering the customary“How,” departed to their village. Yellow Bear remained only long enoughto say that, his family being in the village, he preferred, of course, to be withthem, but assured us that his people were sincere in their protestations ofpeace, and that we might sleep as soundly as if we were back among ourcomrades, in the main camp, with no fears of unfriendly interruption.

After tethering our horses and pack mules securely in our midst, and postingthe guards for the night, each one of our little party, first satisfying himselfthat his firearms were in good order and loaded, spread his blanket on theground, and, with his saddle for a pillow, the sky unobscured by tent or roofabove him, was soon reposing comfortably on the broad bosom of motherearth, where, banishing from the mind as quickly as possible all visions of Indians,peace commissioners, etc., sleep soon came to the relief of each, and weall, except the guards, rested as peacefully and comfortably as if at home underour mother’s roof; and yet we all, in seeking our lowly couches thatnight, felt that the chances were about even whether or not we should beawakened by the war whoop of our dusky neighbors. Nothing occurred, however,to disturb our dreams or break our slumber, save, perhaps, in my owncase. From a greater sense of responsibility, perhaps, than rested on my comrades,but not greater danger, I awoke at different hours during the night, andto assure myself that all was well, rose up to a sitting posture on the ground,and, aided by the clear sky and bright starlight, looked about me, only to see,however, the dim outlines of my sleeping comrades as they lay in all mannerof attitudes around me, wrapped in their blankets of gray, while our faithfulhorses, picketed in the midst of their sleeping riders, were variously disposed,some lying down, resting from the fatigues of the march, others nibbling thefew tufts of grass which the shortness of their tether enabled them to reach.That which gave me strongest assurance of safety, however, as I glancedacross the little stream, and beheld the conical forms of the white lodges of theIndians, was the silent picture of the sentry as he paced his lonely post withina few feet of where I lay. And when to my inquiry, in subdued tones, if allhad been quiet during the night, came the prompt, soldierly response, “Allquiet, sir,” I felt renewed confidence, and again sought the solace of my equestrianpillow.

Breakfasting before the stars bade us good night, or rather good morning,daylight found us ready for the duties of the day. As soon as the Indianswere prepared for my visit, Yellow Bear came to inform me of the fact, and to222escort me to Little Raven’s lodge. Romeo and Neva accompanied me, theformer as interpreter. I directed Captain Robbins, the officer next in rank, tocause all men to remain closely in camp during my absence, and to be carefulnot to permit more than the authorized number of Indians to enter; also towatch well the Indian village, not that I believed there would be an attemptat stratagem, but deemed it well to be on guard. To convince the Indians ofmy own sincerity, I left my rifle and revolver with my men, a measure of notsuch great significance as it might at first seem, as the question of arms or noarms would have exercised but little influence in determining my fate had theIndians, as I never for a moment believed, intended treachery.

Arrived at Little Raven’s lodge, I found him surrounded by all his principalchiefs, a place being reserved by his side for me. After the usual smokeand the preliminary moments of silence, which strongly reminded me of thedeep silence which is the prelude to religious services in some of our churches,Little Raven began a speech, which was mainly a review of what had beenagreed upon the evening before, and closed with the statement that his peoplewere highly pleased to see white men among them as friends, and that the ideaof complying with my demand in regard to proceeding to our main camp hadbeen discussed with great favor by all of his people, who were delighted withthis opportunity of terminating the war. All questions affecting the Arapahoesbeing satisfactorily disposed of, I now introduced the subject of the whereaboutsof the Cheyenne village, stating that my purpose was to extend to themthe same terms as had been accepted by the Arapahoes.

To this I could obtain no decisive or satisfactory reply. The Cheyenneswere represented to be moving constantly, hence the difficulty in informing meaccurately as to their location; but all agreed that the Cheyennes were a longdistance west of where we then were. Finally I obtained a promise from LittleRaven that he would select two of his active young warriors, who wouldaccompany me in my search for the Cheyenne village, and whose knowledgeof the country and acquaintance with the Cheyennes would be of incalculableservice to me. As the limited amount of provisions on hand would not justifyus in continuing our search for the Cheyennes, I decided to await the arrivalof Colonel Cook, who, I felt confident, would reach us in a few days.

In the meanwhile the day fixed for the departure of the Arapahoes came,and the village was all commotion and activity, lodges being taken down andpacked on ponies and mules; the activity, I might mention, being confined,however, to the squaws, the noble lords of the forest sitting unconcernedly by,quietly smoking their long red clay pipes. I was sorry to lose the services ofYellow Bear, but it was necessary for him to accompany his people, particularlyas he represented the peace element. I gave him a letter to General Sheridan,in which I informed the latter of our meeting with the Arapahoes, thecouncil, and the final agreement. In view of the further extension of our journey,I requested a second detachment to be sent on our trail, with supplies, tomeet us on our return. Everything being in readiness, the chiefs, commencingwith Little Raven, gathered around me, and bade me good-by, YellowBear being the last to take his leave. This being ended, the entire villagewas put in motion, and soon stretched itself into a long, irregular column.

The chiefs formed the advance; next came the squaws and children andthe old men, followed by the pack animals bearing the lodges and householdgoods; after these came the herd, consisting of hundreds of loose ponies andmules, driven by squaws; while on the outskirts of the entire cavalcade rode223the young men and boys, performing the part of assistants to the herders, butmore important as flankers or videttes in case of danger or attack. Nor mustI omit another important element in estimating the population of an Indianvillage, the dogs. These were without number, and of all colors and sizes.It was difficult to determine which outnumbered the other, the dogs or theirowners. Some of the former were mere puppies, unable to travel; thesewere carefully stowed away in a comfortable sort of basket, made of willows,and securely attached to the back of one of the pack animals, the motherof the interesting family trotting along contentedly by the side of the latter.

After the excitement attending the departure of the Indians had passed,and the last glimpse of the departing village had been had, our little partyseemed lonely enough, as we stood huddled together on the bank of Mulberrycreek. There was nothing to be done until the arrival of our expected supplies.Little Robe, impatient at the proposed delay, concluded to start at oncein quest of his people, and if possible persuade them to meet us instead ofawaiting our arrival. He evidently was anxious to have peace concluded withthe Cheyennes, and thus enable his people to be placed on the same securefooting with the Arapahoes. Instead of opposing, I encouraged him in theexecution of his plan, although loath to part with him. The two young Arapahoeswere to remain with me, however, and by concert of plan betweenthem and Little Robe we would be able to follow the trail.

It was agreed that if Little Robe should come up with his people and be ableto induce them to return, he was to send up smoke signals each morning andevening, in order that we might receive notice of their approach and be ableto regulate our march accordingly. Giving him a sufficient supply of coffee,sugar, and hard bread, we saw Little Robe set out on his solitary journey inthe character of a veritable peace commissioner.

I might fill several pages in describing the various expedients to whichour little party resorted in order to dispose of our time while waiting the arrivalof our supplies. How Romeo, by the promise of a small reward in casehe was successful, was induced to attempt to ride a beautiful Indian pony,which we had caught on the plains, and which was still as wild and unbrokenas if he had never felt the hand of man. The ground selected was a broadborder of deep sand, extending up and down the valley. Two long lariatswere securely fastened to the halter. At the end of one was my brother. Iofficiated at the end of the other, with the pony standing midway between us,some twenty feet from either, and up to his fetlocks in sand, an anxious spectatorof what was going on. Everything being in readiness, Romeo, withnever a fear or doubt as to the result, stepped quietly up to the side of thepony, who, turning his head somewhat inquiringly, uttered a few snorts indicativeof anything but gentleness. Romeo, who was as active as a cat, succeededin placing his hands on the pony’s back, and with an injunction to usto keep firm hold on the lariats, he sprang lightly upon the back of the ponyand seized the mane. I have seen trained mules, the delight of boys who attendthe circus, and sometimes of persons of more advanced age, and havewitnessed the laughable efforts of the youngsters who vainly endeavor to ridethe contumacious quadruped once around the ring; but I remember nothingof this description to equal or resemble the frantic plunges of the Indian ponyin his untrained efforts to free his back from its burden, nor the equally franticand earnest efforts of the rider to maintain his position. Fortunately forthe holders of the lariats, they exceeded the length of the pony’s legs, or his224heels, which were being elevated in all directions, and almost at the sametime, would have compelled us to relinquish our hold, and leave Romeo to hisfate. As both pony and rider seemed to redouble their efforts for the mastery,the scene became more ludicrous, while the hearty and prolonged shouts oflaughter from the bystanders on all sides seemed only to add intensity to thecontest.

This may strike the reader as a not very dignified proceeding, particularlyupon the part of one of the lariat holders; but we were not studying how toappear dignified, but how to amuse ourselves. So exhausted did I becomewith unrestrained laughter, as I beheld Romeo in his lofty gyrations about acentre which belonged to the movable order, that a much further prolongationof the sport would have forced me to relinquish my hold on the lariat. But Iwas spared this result. The pony, as if studying the problem, had indulgedin almost every conceivable form of leaping, and now, rising almost perpendicularlyon his hind legs, stood erect, pawing the air with his fore legs, andcompelling Romeo, in order to prevent himself from sliding off, to clasp himabout the neck with both arms. The pony seemed almost as if waiting thissituation, as with the utmost quickness, and before Romeo could resume hisseat, he descended from his elevated attitude, and the next moment his headwas almost touching the ground, and his heels occupied the space just vacatedby his head in mid air. This sudden change was too much for Romeo, and asif projected from an ancient catapult, he departed from his place on the backof the pony, and landed on the deep, soft sand, many feet in advance of hislate opponent. Three times was this repeated, with almost the same result,until finally Romeo, as he brushed the sand from his matted locks, expressedit as his opinion that no one but an Indian could ride that pony. As Romeowas half Indian, the distinction seemed finely drawn.

Innumerable were the tricks played on each other by one and all; everythingseemed legitimate sport which tended to kill time. Three days afterthe departure of the Arapaho village, the lookout reported that parties werein sight some three or four miles in the direction taken by the village. Thiscreated no little excitement in camp. Field-glasses were brought into immediaterequisition, and after a careful examination of the parties, who could beplainly seen approaching us in the distance, we all came to the conclusionthat what we saw must be the escort with our supplies. A few horses weresoon saddled, and two of the officers, with some of the men, galloped out tomeet the advancing party. It proved to be Colonel Cook, with California Joeand a dozen men, bringing with them several pack animals loaded with freshsupplies.

I need not say how we welcomed their arrival. It was too late in theday to make it desirable for us to set out on the trail of Little Robe, as itwas necessary to unpack and issue rations and repack the remainder; so thatit was concluded to remain until next morning, an additional reason in favorof this resolution being that the horses of Colonel Cook’s party would havethe benefit of rest. The account given by Colonel Cook and California Joeconcerning their march was exceedingly interesting. It will be rememberedthat it was the expectation that we would find the Arapaho village nearerour main camp than we afterward did, and in my letter to General SheridanI had intimated that Colonel Cook would probably overtake us at a point notfar from the termination of the Witchita mountains.

Colonel Cook arrived at the designated point, but we, of course, had gone,225and not finding any letter or signal at our deserted camp, he became, not unnaturally,anxious as to where we had gone. This will not be wondered atwhen it is remembered that he had but thirteen men with him, and was thenin a hostile country, and far from all support. However, he had nothing todo but to continue on our trail. That night will no doubt live long in thememory of Colonel Cook.

After reaching camp with his little party, in a small piece of timber, he,as he afterward related to me, began taking a mental survey of his situation.For fear of misleading the reader, I will here remark, as I have indicatedin previous chapters, that fear, or a lack of the highest order of personalcourage, was not numbered among the traits of character possessed by thisofficer. After seeing that the animals were properly secured for the night,and his men made comfortable, he sat down by the camp fire awaiting the preparationof his evening meal. In the mean time California Joe found him,and entered into a discussion as to the probabilities of overtaking us soon,and in a kind of Jack Bunsby style suggested, if not, why not?

The more Colonel Cook looked at the matter, the more trying seemed hisposition. Had he known, as we then knew, that the Arapahoes had beenfound, and a peaceful agreement entered into, it would have solved all hisdifficulty. Of this he of course was ignorant, and thoughts ran through hismind that perhaps my little party had been led on only to be massacred, andhis would follow blindly to the same fate. This recalled all former Indianatrocities with which he was familiar, while prominent above them all rosebefore him the fate of young Kidder and party, whose fate is recorded in aformer chapter.

In thinking of this, Colonel Cook was struck by a coincidence. Kidder’sparty consisted of almost the identical number which composed his own. Kidderhad a guide, and Cook had California Joe; all of which, without attachingany importance to his words, the latter took pains to remind Colonel Cookof. By the time supper was prepared Colonel Cook felt the responsibilities ofhis position too strongly to have any appetite for food, so that when supper wascommenced he simply declined it, and invited California Joe to help himself—aninvitation the latter was not slow in accepting. Posting his guards for thenight, Colonel Cook felt that to sleep was impossible. He took his seat bythe camp fire, and with his arms by his side impatiently waited the coming ofdawn.

California Joe, who regarded the present as of far more importance than thefuture, and whose slumber would have been little disturbed even had he knownthat hostile Indians were soon to be encountered, disposed of Colonel Cook’ssupper, and then, wrapping himself up in his blanket, stretched himself undera tree near the fire, and was soon sleeping soundly. His brief account of theenjoyment he derived from Colonel Cook’s supper was characteristic: “TharI sot an’ sot a eatin’ uv that young man’s wittles, while he in his cavalry boots,with his pistols in his belt, stood a lookin’ inter the fire.”

Early next morning, as soon as the light was sufficient to enable them tofollow our trail, Colonel Cook and his party were on their way. About noon,as they were passing over a low ridge, yet sufficiently high to enable them tosee for miles beyond, the eyes of one of the party caught a view of a longline of dark-looking objects miles in advance, yet directly in their path. Eachmoment the objects became more distinct, until finally Colonel Cook, who wasstudying them intently through his glass, pronounced the simple word, “Indians.”226“Ef that is so, Colonel, thar’s a many one uv ’em,” was the soberresponse of California Joe, who rode at his side.

By this time the Indians could be plainly seen, although numbers of themcontinued to gallop up from the rear. It was evident from their movementsthat they had discovered Colonel Cook’s party almost as soon as he had seenthem, and that the entire body of Indians was directing its march toward thelittle eminence from which the white men were now watching their movements.“What do yer think about it now, Colonel?” said California Joe, at lastbreaking the silence. “Well, Joe, we must do the best we can; there is nouse in running.” “You’re right,” replied Joe; “an Injun’ll beat a white manrunnin’ every time, so I ’spect our best holt is fitin’, but, Lor’ a’ mercy! lookat ’em; thar ain’t enuff uv us to go half round!”

Getting his little party collected in good order, and speaking words of encouragementto all, Colonel Cook quietly awaited further developments. Histhoughts in the meanwhile must have been such as he probably never wishes toindulge in again. All sorts of terrible visions and ideas flashed through hismind; the most prominent as well as plausible being that the Indians had madeaway with my party, and from Little Robe and Yellow Bear had learned of theexpected supplies, with their small escort, and were now in search of the latter.Whatever varied thoughts of this character chased each other throughhis brain, he at once came to the firm resolve that whatever fate was in storefor him, he would meet it like a soldier, and if the worst came he would fightto the last.

By this time it was seen that a single Indian was galloping in advance ofthe rest, as if hastening to reach the white men. “That’s a queer dodge,” remarkedCalifornia Joe; but the mystery was soon cleared away, as the Indianbegan to draw near to the party without slackening his pace. Colonel Cookand California Joe instinctively advanced to meet him, when to their greatjoy and surprise it proved to be none other than the faithful Yellow Bear, who,realizing the situation, had ridden in advance of his people in order to assurethe whites of their friendly character. His coming no doubt caused the heartsof Colonel Cook and his party to beat lighter. Or, as California Joe expressedit: “When I seed it wuz Yaller Bar I knowed we wuz all right.” From YellowBear Colonel Cook learned where he might expect to find us, and thus anothercause of anxiety was lifted from his mind.

The morning after my party had been reinforced by the arrival just described,we set out under guidance of Neva and the two young Arapaho warriors,and followed the direction in which Little Robe had gone. It being oneof the winter months, the Indian ponies were still in unfit condition to makelong or rapid marches; for this reason the two Arapahoes had left their ponieswith the village, and were accompanying or rather preceding us on foot; anundertaking which they seemed to have no difficulty in accomplishing. Thegrazing became more indifferent each day as we journeyed toward the west,until finally we ceased to rely upon it, but as a substitute fed our horses uponthe bark of the young cottonwood trees which are generally found fringing theborders of the streams. In spite, however, of our utmost care, our horses andpack animals, having exhausted their supply of forage, began to fail in strengthand condition under their cottonwood bark diet.

After reaching and crossing Red river at a point west of that at which thesurvey of Marcy and McClellan crossed it, and failing to discover any indicationof the recent occupation of the ground by Indians, I had fears that if I prolonged227my journey much further our animals would not be able to reach themain camp, so famished had they become in the last few days. I therefore,after consultation with Neva and the two Arapahoes, decided to recross to thenorth bank of Red river, and follow up its course until we should reach a smalltributary coming in from the northwest, and which Neva informed me wouldfurnish a good camp ground. In the meanwhile Neva, who was well mountedon a hardy, active mule, was to take with him the two young Arapahoes, andpush on in advance in search of the Cheyenne village, the understanding beingthat I should follow in his direction until the stream referred to was reached,where I would await his return for three days. Should he fail to rejoin us inthat time, we would commence our return march to the main camp.

When it was known that this plan had been definitely settled upon, youngBrewster, who never for a moment had become discouraged as to his final successin discovering his lost sister, came to me, and in the most earnest mannerasked permission to accompany Neva in his search for the Cheyenne village.I did everything I could to dissuade him from so dangerous a project.

No arguments were of any avail. He felt satisfied that his sister was aprisoner in the Cheyenne village, and this his last and only opportunity to gaina knowledge of the fact; and even with the chances of death or torture staringhim in the face he preferred to risk all, and learn the truth, rather than livelonger in a state of horrible uncertainty. Against my judgment in the matter,I was forced by his importunate manner to grant him permission to accompanyNeva.

Taking a suitable amount of supplies with them, the three Indians and youngBrewster set out, Neva being the only one of the party mounted. After theyhad left us we moved in the same direction, with the intention of halting onthe stream indicated by Neva, there to await their return. While the readeris also waiting their return, I will refer to an incident which should have appearedin an earlier part of this chapter. It was neither more nor less thanwhat might, among fashionable notices in the Indian press—provided they hadone—have been termed an elopement in high life.

One evening after we had gone into camp, many long weary miles fromour point of starting, and when we supposed we had left all the Kiowas safelyin camp awaiting the release of their two chiefs, Lone Wolf and Satanta, wewere all surprised to see a young and handsome Kiowa warrior gallop into ourmidst accompanied by a young squaw, who certainly could not have reachedthe age which distinguishes the woman from the girl. In a few moments ourlittle party gathered about these two wayfarers, eager to learn the cause oftheir sudden and unexpected visit. The girl was possessed of almost marvellousbeauty, a beauty so remarkable that my companions of that march referto her to this day as the most beautiful squaw they have ever seen. Hergraceful and well-rounded form, her clearly-cut features, her dark expressiveeyes, fringed with long silken lashes, cheeks rich with the color of youth, teethof pearly whiteness occasionally peeping from between her full, rosy lips, addedwithal to a most bewitching manner, required not the romance of her story tomake her an object of deep interest in the eyes of the gallants of our party.But to their story.

She was the daughter of Black Eagle, at that time the acting head chief ofthe Kiowas. The young warrior who rode at her side was somewhat of ayoung Lochinvar in disposition. It was the old, old story, only to be repeatedagain by these representatives of the red man—mutual and determined love on228the part of the youngsters, opposition equally determined upon the part ofBlack Eagle; not that the young warrior was objectionable, but unfortunately,as is but too often the case, he was poor, and could not offer in exchangefor the hand of a chief’s daughter the proper number of ponies. Black Eaglewas inexorable—the lovers, constancy itself. There was but one thing forthem to do, and they did it.

Aware of our proposed expedition in search of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes,they timed their affairs accordingly. Giving us time to get two days thestart, they slipped away from their village at dusk the evening of the secondday after our departure, and hastening unperceived to a thicket near by, wherethe lover had taken the precaution to conceal two of the fleetest ponies of thevillage already saddled, they were soon in their saddles and galloping for loveand life away from the Kiowa village. I say galloping for life, for by the Indianlaw, if the father or relatives of the girl could overtake the lovers within twenty-fourhours, the life of the young woman would pay the forfeit.

They followed our trail in order to avail themselves of our protection bytravelling with us as far as our course might lead them in the direction of theStaked Plains, on the borders of which a straggling band of Kiowas, under thechief Woman Heart, was supposed to be, and which the lovers intended tojoin, at least until the rage of paterfamilias should subside and they be invitedto return. This in brief was their story. I need not add that they founda hearty welcome in our midst, and were assured that they need no longerfear pursuit.

That evening, after the camp fires were lighted, the officers of our party,with Romeo as interpreter, gathered about the camp fire of the bridal coupleand passed a pleasant hour in conversation. Their happiness and exultationat their success in escaping from their village were too powerful to be restrained,and in many delicate little ways the bride—for by Indian law twenty-fourhours’ absence from the village with her lover made her a bride—plainly betrayedher exceeding fondness for him who had risked all to claim her as hisown.

After my return to the main camp I met Black Eagle, and informed himthat his daughter and her husband had been companions of our march. “Yes.Why did you not kill him?” was his reply, which upon inquiry he explainedby saying that if some person had kindly put an end to the life of his son-in-law,it would have benefited him to the value of several ponies; his difficultyseeming to be in overcoming the loss of the ponies which should have beenpaid for his daughter’s hand. I afterwards learned, however, that the haughtychief became reconciled to the wilful lovers, and invited them to return tohis lodge, an invitation they were not tardy in accepting.

We pitched our camp at the point agreed upon between Neva and myself,and prepared to await the return of his party. Neva had been informed thatour delay could not extend beyond three days, as our store of provisions andforage was almost exhausted, and this fact alone would force us to retrace oursteps. I had hoped that during the time we were to spend in camp, huntingparties might be able to bring in a sufficient amount of game to satisfy ourwants; but although parties were despatched in all directions, not an animalor bird could be found. So barren was the country as to offer no inducementsthat would attract game of any species.

Our last ounce of meat had been eaten, and the men, after one day’s deprivationof this essential part of their rations, were almost ravenous. Our horses229had several days since eaten their last ration of grain, and the grass was sosparse and indifferent as to furnish insufficient diet to sustain life. Resort washad to cottonwood bark, to obtain which we cut down large numbers of thetrees, and fed our horses upon the young bark of the branches. Knowingthat in answer to my second request supplies of provisions both for men andhorses must be on their way and probably near to us, I determined to beginour return march one day sooner than I had expected when Neva and his companionsleft us, as they would be able on finding our camp to follow our trailand overtake us.

We moved only a few miles, but even this short distance was sufficient todemonstrate how weak and famished our horses had become, one of them dyingfrom starvation before we reached camp, the first day of our return march.This circ*mstance, however, was turned to our advantage. Much has beensaid and written in praise of the savoriness of horseflesh as a diet. Our necessitiescompelled us to put this question to practical test, and the animal hadscarcely fallen, unable to rise again, when it was decided to prepare his carcassfor food. That evening the men treated themselves to a bountiful repastmade up of roasts, steaks, and broils, all from the flesh of the poor animal,whose death was attributable to starvation alone. Judging, however, from thejolly laughter which rang through camp at supper time, the introduction ofthis new article of diet met with a cordial reception.

Soon after finishing our supper, we discovered in the distance and followingin our trail a horseman. We at once concluded that this must be Neva, afact rendered conclusive by the aid of a field-glass. Various were the surmisesindulged in by the different members of our party as to the success of Neva’smission. What had become of his companions, particularly young Brewster?These and many other inquiries suggested themselves as we watchedhis approach. We could almost read the answer on Neva’s face when hereached us as to the success of his search for the Cheyennes. Disappointment,hunger, and fatigue were plainly marked in his features as he dismounted andshook hands with us. Knowing that one of the characteristics of the Indianis to talk but little until the wants of the inner man have been fully attendedto, I at once ordered him a steak. One of the party, however, fearing that ifhe knew the exact character of the diet offered him he might from some superstitiouscause decline it, suggested that Neva be asked if he would like anice buffalo steak, a deception which seemed somewhat justifiable under thecirc*mstances. To this Neva returned a hearty affirmative, when one of themen placed before him a raw steak, whose dimensions would have amply gratifiedthe appetites of an ordinary family of half a dozen. Having held thesteak over the blazing fire until sufficiently done to suit his taste, Neva seatedhimself on the ground near by and began helping himself liberally to thedripping morsel. After he had indulged for some time in this pleasing entertainment,and having made no remark, one of the officers inquired of him if hewas hungry.

“Yes,” was his reply, but added in his very indifferent English, “Poor buffano,poor buffano.” None of us ever informed him of the little deceptionwhich had been practised upon him.

His account of his journey was brief. He had travelled nearly due west,accompanied by Brewster and the two young Arapahoes, and had discovereda trail of the Cheyenne village some two weeks old, leading still further to thewest, and under circ*mstances which induced him to believe the village had230moved far away. Under these circ*mstances there was no course left to himbut to return. The Arapahoes decided to follow on and join the Cheyennevillage. Neva and young Brewster began their return together, but the latter,being unable to travel as fast as Neva, fell behind. Neva, anxious to keephis promise and rejoin us at the time and place indicated, pushed forward asrapidly as possible. Young Brewster, however, manfully struggled along,and reached our camp a few hours after Neva’s arrival.

The next morning we set out on our homeward or return march. Duringthe night one of our horses strayed away from camp, and as one of the menthought he could find it before we made our start in the morning, he left campwith that purpose. Failing to rejoin us at the proper time, I sent parties insearch of him, but they returned unsuccessful. We were compelled by ournecessities to move without further delay. Weeks and months elapsed, andno tidings of the lost trooper reached us, when one day, while encamped nearFort Hays, Kansas, hundreds of miles from the locality of which I am nowwriting, who should step up to my tent but the man who was lost from us innorthwestern Texas. He had become bewildered after losing sight of ourcamp, took the wrong direction, and was never able thereafter during hiswanderings to determine his course. Fortunately he took a southerly route,and after nearly two months of solitary roaming over the plains of northernTexas, he arrived at a military post south of Red river in Texas, and by wayof Galveston, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, rejoinedhis regiment in Kansas.

As we gained the crest of the hill from which we obtained a view of thewhite tents which formed our camp, there was no one of our little party whodid not enjoy a deep feeling of gratitude and thankfulness that our long andtrying journey was about to end under happier auspices than many mighthave supposed when we began it. We had found the Arapahoes, and succeededin placing them on their reservation, where, from that date to the presenttime, they have remained, never engaging as a tribe in making war or committingdepredations on the whites, so far as my knowledge extends.

We did not succeed so well with the Cheyennes, but we established factsregarding their location, disposition, and intentions as to peace, which wereof invaluable service to us in determining future operations looking to the establishmentof peace with them.

Our arrival in camp created a sensation among our comrades, whohad seen us depart upon what they might well have considered an errand ofquestionable prudence. Leaving my companions of the march to answer themany queries of those who had not accompanied us, I galloped across thenarrow plain which separated General Sheridan’s tents from my camp, and wassoon greeted by the General and staff in terms of hearty welcome. Repairingto the General’s tent, I soon recounted the principal incidents of my expedition,with most of which the reader has been already made acquainted. Ifound that the Arapahoes had kept their promise, made to me while Iwas in their village, and that the village was then located near our maincamp. It might be proper here to remark that, although a period of severalyears has elapsed since the Arapahoes were induced to accept the offerof peace made to them, and promised to relinquish in the future their predatorymode of life, yet to this day, so far as I know, they as a tribe have remained atpeace with the white men.

This remark may not, and probably does not, apply to particular individuals231of the tribe, but it is due to the tribe to state that their conduct, sincethe events related in the preceding chapter, has been greatly to their credit, aswell as to the peace and comfort of the settlers of the frontier; results whollydue to the Wash*ta campaign and the subsequent events with which the readerof these articles is familiar.

The conduct of the Cheyennes, however, in declining our proffers ofpeace, left the Indian question in that section of country still unsettled; butthis only rendered new plans necessary, plans which were quickly determinedupon. Other events of great public importance rendered General Sheridan’spresence necessary elsewhere at an early day.

It was therefore decided that he, accompanied by his escort of scouts underLieutenant Pepoon, should proceed northward to Camp Supply, while I,with the Seventh Regulars and the Nineteenth Kansas Cavalry, and my Osagescouts, a force numbering about fifteen hundred men, should move westwardin quest of the recalcitrant Cheyennes, and administer to them such treatmentas their past conduct might merit and existing circ*mstances demanded. Satantaand Lone Wolf were still prisoners in our hands, a portion of their tribehaving failed thus far to comply with the terms of the agreement by whichthey were to settle down peaceably on their reservation. As the greater portionof the tribe, however, was then encamped near us, and as both Satanta andLone Wolf were loud in their protestations of peace, it was decided to releasethem. Accordingly, after conference with General Sheridan, I wentto the lodge in which I kept the two chiefs closely guarded as prisoners,and informed them of the decision which had been arrived at in their behalf,the only response being a most hearty and emphatic “How” from thetwo robust chieftains.

General Sheridan had up to this time declined all their requests for aninterview, but now deemed it best to see them and speak a few words ofwarning and caution as to their future conduct. No peace commissionerswere ever entertained by promises of good behavior, peaceable intentions,and regrets for past offences, which smacked of greater earnestness andsincerity than those volunteered by Lone Wolf and Satanta when informedthat they were free to rejoin their people. According to their voluntaryrepresentations, their love for their white brothers was unbounded; theirdesire for peace, their hatred of war, ungovernable; and nothing would satisfythem in future but to be permitted to lead their people “the white man’sroad,” by cultivating the soil, building schoolhouses and churches, and forevereschewing a predatory or warlike life.

Alas, the instability of human resolutions—particularly of the human inan Indian! and the resolutions are expressed—not formed—simply to obtaina certain advantage, or, as is most usually the case, to tickle the fancifulimagination of some thoroughly well-meaning but utterly impractical peacecommissioner, whose favorable influence is believed by the Indian to be all-potentin securing fresh invoices of new blankets, breech-loading arms,and provisions. Neither blankets, breech-loading arms, nor an unnecessaryamount of provisions were distributed by the military among theadherents of Satanta and Lone Wolf.

Scarcely one year had elapsed, however, before Satanta defiantly informedthe General of the Army, then on a visit to Fort Sill, that he had just returnedfrom an expedition to Texas, during which he and his party hadmurdered and robbed several white men. It was this confession which232led to Satanta’s trial, conviction, and sentence to death by the civil authoritiesof Texas. Through the intercession of the General Government,the Executive of Texas was induced to commute the punishment of Satantafrom hanging to imprisonment for life, a step which all familiar with Indiansand Indian management knew would result sooner or later in his release, andthat of his confederate, Big Tree.

Importuned constantly by the tender-hearted representations of the peacecommissioners, who could not be induced to look upon Satanta and Big Treeas murderers, the Governor of Texas very unwisely yielded to their persistentappeals, and upon the strength of promises solemnly made by the peacecommissioners, according to which not only Satanta and Big Tree were toabstain from acts of bloodshed and murder in the future, but their entiretribe was also to remain at peace and within their reservation limits, the twochiefs who had unfortunately escaped the halter were again turned loose toengage in acts of hostility against the whites; an opportunity they and theirtreacherous people have not been slow to improve from that day to this.

The winter of 1868–’69 was rapidly terminating, acting as a forcible reminderto us that if we hoped to operate in the field with any advantage overthe Cheyennes, the movement must be made before the spring grass shouldmake its appearance for the benefit of the Indian ponies. Accordingly, assoon as our arrangements were perfected, our camp at the present site of FortSill, Indian Territory, was broken up, and General Sheridan, accompanied byhis staff and escort, set out for Camp Supply in the north, while my commandfaced westward and began its search for the Cheyennes, passing alongthe southern base of the Witchita mountains, on the afternoon of inaugurationday, at old Camp Radziminsky, a station which had been occupied by ourtroops prior to the war between the Northern and Southern States, and whosename, no doubt, will recall pleasant reminiscences to many who afterwardswore the blue or the gray.

On the morning of the first day after leaving the Witchita mountains behindus, no little excitement was created throughout the command by thediscovery of a column of smoke directly on our course, and apparently aboutfifteen or twenty miles in front of us. That Indians had originated the firewas beyond a doubt, as we all knew that beyond us, in the direction of thesmoke, the country was inhabited by no human beings save hostile Indians.I at once decided to push on with the command to the point from which thesmoke was ascending, and discover if possible some trace of the Indians. Beit understood that neither I nor any members of my command supposed forone moment that when we arrived at the desired point we would find theIndians there awaiting our arrival, but we did hope to discover their trail.Of the many experienced frontiermen embraced in the command, includingof course California Joe, there were none who judged the distance whichseparated us from the smoke as greater than could be easily passed over by usbefore three or four o’clock that afternoon.

It was evidently not a signal smoke—ascending from a single point andregulated by human control—but appeared from our standpoint more like afire communicated to the prairie grass from an abandoned or neglected campfire. Pushing on as rapidly as our horses could travel, we were again remindedfrom time to time of the deceptive character of the plains as regardsdistances. When three o’clock arrived, and we had been marching steadilyfor nine hours, the dense and changing columns of deep gray smoke, which233had been our guiding point all day, seemed as far distant as when our marchbegan in the morning. Except to water our animals, and once to enable themen to prepare a cup of coffee, no halts were made from six o’clock in themorning until we finally reached the desired locality—not at three or fouro’clock in the afternoon, but at two o’clock that night.

Our surmises proved correct. The fire had evidently been communicatedto the dry winter grass from some Indian camp fire. The Indians of coursehad gone; but where? As this was a question that could not be solved untildaylight, and as all of us were glad enough of an opportunity to get a fewhours’ repose, the troops bivouacked in promiscuous order as they arrived.

Only those who have enjoyed similar experiences know how brief the preparationrequired for sleep. As for myself, as soon as the necessary directionshad been given relating to the command, I unsaddled my horse, arrangedmy saddle for my pillow, tethered my horse within easy reach, and in lesstime than has been required to write these few lines, I was enjoying one ofthose slumbers which only come as the reward of a day of earnest activity inthe saddle.

As soon as it was light enough for our purpose, we were in the saddleand searching in all directions for the trail left by the Indians who had firedthe prairie. Our Osage scouts were not long in making the desired discovery.The trail led westward, following the general course of a small valleyin which it was first discovered. The party was evidently a small one, numberingnot more than fifteen persons, but the direction in which they weremoving led me to hope that by following them carefully and with due cautionto prevent discovery of our pursuit, we might be led to the main village.

All that day our Osage scouts clung to the trail with the pertinacity ofsleuth hounds. The course led us up and across several different streams ofbeautiful, clear water; but to our great disappointment, and to that of ourhorses as well, we discovered, upon attempting to quench our thirst at differenttimes, that every stream was impregnated to the fullest degree with salt.

Later in the day this became a serious matter, and had we not been on anIndian trail, I should have entertained earnest apprehensions as to whether ornot we were destined to find pure water by continuing further in the directionwe were then moving; but I felt confident that the Indians we were pursuingwere familiar with the country, and would no doubt lead us, unintentionallyof course, to streams of fresh water.

One of the streams we crossed was so strongly impregnated with salt thatthe edges near the banks were covered with a border of pure white salt, resemblingthe borders of ice often seen along rivulets in winter. This borderwas from one to three feet in width, and sufficiently thick to support theweight of a horse. Fortunately the Indian trail, as I had anticipated, led usto a refreshing spring of pure, cold water near by. Here we halted to preparea cup of coffee before continuing the pursuit.

While halted at this point I observed a trooper approaching with an armfulof huge cakes of pure white salt, gathered from the salt stream just described,and which flowed at the foot of the hill from which also bubbled forth thespring of fresh water to which we were indebted for the means of preparingour first meal on that day. Salt was not an abundant article with us at thattime, and the trooper referred to, aware of this fact, had, in behalf of himselfand comrades, collected from the literal “salt of the earth” a quantity amplefor all present need. After conveying his valuable load to the vicinity of the234cook fire, he broke the cakes of salt into small particles with an axe, and thenpassing the fragments through a coffee-mill, he was in possession of table saltwhose quality would have satisfied a more exacting epicure than a hungrycavalryman.

Finishing our meal, which not only was our breakfast for that day, but alate dinner as well, we resumed the pursuit, observing before doing so thatthe Indians had also made a brief halt at the same point, and had built a fireand prepared their meal, as we had done after them.

Crossing a high ridge, or divide, the trail led us down into a beautiful openvalley. After following up the course of the latter several miles, the freshnessof the trail indicated that the Indians had passed over it that same day. Asit was not our purpose to overtake them, but to follow as closely as prudencewould allow, I determined to go into camp until the following morning.Soon after resuming the pursuit next day rain began to fall, at first slowly, butlater in the day in copious showers. I knew the Indians would not travel inthe rain if they could avoid it, unless they knew they were pursued, and of thisfact I had reason to believe they were still ignorant, as evidences found allalong the trail indicated that they were moving very leisurely.

To avoid placing ourselves in too close proximity to them, I ordered a haltabout noon, and began preparation for camping for the night. Our wagonswere still in rear. In the mean time the horses were all unsaddled and picketedout in the usual manner to graze. As was my usual custom upon haltingfor the night, I had directed the Osage scouts, instead of halting and unsaddling,to advance in the direction we were to follow next day, and examinethe country for a distance of a few miles. We had barely completed the unsaddlingof our horses and disposed of them over the grazing ground, when Idiscovered the Osage scouts returning over the ridge in front of us as fast astheir ponies could carry them. Their story was soon told. Disliking to travelin the rain, the Indians whom we were pursuing had gone into camp also, andthe Osage scouts had discovered them not more than a mile from us, the ridgereferred to preventing the Indians from seeing us or being seen by us.

Quickly the words “Saddle up” flew from mouth to mouth, and in a marvellouslybrief time officers and men were in the saddle and, under the guidanceof the Osage scouts, were moving stealthily to surprise the Indian camp.Passing around a little spur of the dividing ridge, there before us, at a distanceof but a few hundred yards, stood the half-erected lodges of the Indians,while scattered here and there in the immediate vicinity were to be seen theIndian ponies and pack animals, grazing in apparent unconsciousness of theclose proximity of an enemy. At a given signal the cavalry put spurs to theirsteeds, drew their revolvers, and in a few moments were in possession of theIndian camp, ponies and all—no, not all, for not a single Indian could be discovered.

The troops were deployed at a gallop in all directions, but failed to findthe trace of an Indian. Our capture was apparently an empty one. How theoccupants of the Indian camp had first discovered our presence and afterwardscontrived to elude us was a mystery which even puzzled our Osage scouts.This mystery was afterwards explained, and in order to avoid detaining thereader, I will anticipate sufficiently to state that in the course of subsequentevents we came face to face, under a flag of truce, with the late occupants of theIndian camp, and learned from them that in this instance history had reproduceditself. Rome was saved by the cackling of geese: the Indians owed235their safety to the barking of dogs—not the barking of dogs belonging to theirown camp, but to ours.

It seemed that during the haste and excitement attendant upon the discoveryof the close proximity of the Indian camp to ours, two of our dogs, whetheror not sharing in the bellicose humor of their masters, engaged in a quarrel,the noise of which reached the quick ears of the Indians nearly one miledistant. Comprehending the situation at once, the Indians, realizing the dangerof delay, abandoned their camp and ponies and fled on foot, the better toeffect concealment and elude pursuit.

On the following day we resumed the march. There being no longer anytrail for us to follow, we continued in the same direction, believing that thesmall party we had been pursuing had been directing their course toward thelocation of the main village, which was somewhere to the westward of us.Day after day we travelled in this direction, hoping to discover some sign ortrail which might give us a clue to the whereabouts of the Cheyenne village.We had left the Indian Territory far behind us, and had advanced into Texaswell toward the 102d meridian of longitude. Nearly all hope of discoveringthe Indians had vanished from the minds of the officers and men, whenlate in the afternoon the trail of a single lodge was discovered, leading in asouthwesterly direction. The trail was nearly if not quite one month old;hence it did not give great encouragement. To the surprise of most of thecommand, I changed the direction of our march at once, and put the Osageson the trail, having decided to follow it.

This may seem to the reader an ill-advised move, but the idea under whichthe decision was made was, that the owner of the lodge the trail of which wehad discovered had probably been absent from the main village in search ofgame, as is customary for small parties of Indians at that season of the year.In the spring, however, the entire tribe assembles at one point and determinesits plans and movements for the summer, whether relating to war or hunting.There was a chance—a slight one, it is true—that the trail of the single lodgejust discovered might lead us to the rendezvous of the tribe. I deemed itworthy of our attention, and a pursuit of a few days at furthest would determinethe matter.

Following our faithful Osages, who experienced no difficulty in keepingthe trail, we marched until near sundown, when we arrived at the banks ofa small stream upon which, and near a cool, bubbling spring, we discoveredthe evidences of an Indian camp, which must have not only included thelodge whose trail we had been following, but about a dozen others. Herewas a speedier confirmation of my hopes than I had anticipated. Here I determinedto encamp until morning, and while the cavalry were unsaddlingand pitching their tents, I asked Mo-nah-see-tah to examine the Indian campminutely and to tell me how long a time had elapsed since its occupation bythe Indians, how many constituted the party, and the character and probableindications of the latter.

No detective could have set about the proposed examination with greaterthoroughness than did this Indian girl. The ashes of the camp fires wereraked carefully away and examined with all the scrutiny of a chemical analysis.Bits of cloth or fragments of the skins of animals found within the limitsof the camp were lifted from their resting-places as tenderly as if they werearticles of greatest value. Here and there were to be seen the bones of deeror antelope which had been obtained by the Indians as food. These Mo-nah-see-tah236examined carefully; then, shattering them between two stones, thecondition of the marrow seemed a point of particular importance to her astending to determine the length of time the bones had been lying on thecamp. After many minutes spent in this examination, during which I accompaniedher, a silent but far from disinterested spectator, she, apparentlylike a judge who had been carefully reviewing all the evidence, gave me herconclusions, communicating with me, through the medium of the sign language,with a grace characteristic of the Indian race, and which added to theinterest of her statements.

Briefly summed up her conclusions were as follows: twelve lodges hadencamped at that point, probably constituting the band of some petty chief,the different members of which, like the one whose trail we had that day discovered,had been separated for purposes of hunting, but had been called togetherat that point preparatory to joining the main village. The lodges hadleft this camp not to exceed two weeks previous to that date, and in all probabilityhad moved to the rendezvous appointed for the main tribe, which wouldwithout doubt be found by other small bands from time to time, until the villagewould all be assembled at one point. Moving in this manner and atthis early season of the year, when grass was scarce and no enemy known tobe in the country, the Indians would make very short moves each day, passingmerely from one stream to another, not accomplishing in one day a greaterdistance, probably, than the cavalry would in two or three hours.

This intelligence, of course, was most gratifying, and for encouragementwas soon communicated to the individual members of the command. Thetrail was found to lead almost in a northerly direction, slightly inclining tothe east. Perhaps no one of the command experienced such a feeling of hopeand anxious suspense as the new discoveries gave rise to in the breast ofyoung Brewster, who now more than ever believed, and with reason too, thathe was soon to unravel or forever seal the fate of his lost sister, whose discoveryand release had been the governing impulses of his life for monthspast.

With renewed interest the cavalry resumed the pursuit at daylight thefollowing morning. We had marched but a few miles before we reached asecond camping ground, which had been occupied not only by those whosetrail we were then following, but the number of fires showed that the strengthof the Indians had been increased by about twenty-five lodges, thus verifyingthe correctness of the surmises advanced by Mo-nah-see-tah.

Continuing our progress, we had the satisfaction of seeing still further accessionsto the trail, until it was evident that at least one hundred lodges hadunited and passed in one body on the trail. As we marched in one day overthe distance passed over in three by the Indians, and as the latter were movingunsuspicious of the presence of an enemy in that section of the country,the trail was becoming freshened as we advanced.

That night we encamped with every precaution calculated to conceal ourpresence from the Indians. No fires were permitted until after dark, and thenbut small ones, for fear the quick and watchful eye of the Indian might detectthe ascending columns of smoke. As soon as the men had prepared their suppersthe fires were put out. In the morning breakfast was prepared beforedaylight, and the fires at once smothered by heaping damp earth over them.

Resuming the pursuit as soon as it was sufficiently light to follow the trail,we soon arrived at the camp vacated by the Indians the previous day, the237extent of which showed that from three to four hundred lodges of Indianshad occupied the ground. In many places the decayed embers of the lodgefires were still glowing; while the immense quantity of young cottonwoodtimber found cut and lying throughout the camp stripped of its young bark,showed that the Indian ponies were being mainly subsisted on cottonwoodbark, the spring grass not being sufficiently advanced to answer the purpose.Nothing indicated that the Indians had departed in a precipitate manner, orthat they had discovered our approach. It was reasonable, therefore, to supposethat we would come in contact with them that day, if not actually reachthe village.

All our plans were made accordingly. The Osages, as usual, were keptin the advance, that their quick eyes might the sooner discover the Indiansshould they appear in our front. In order to avail myself of the earliest information,I, with Colonel Cook, accompanied the Osages. Two of the latterkept in advance of all, and as they neared a ridge or commanding piece ofground they would cautiously approach the crest on foot and peer beyond,to ascertain whether an enemy was in sight before exposing our party to discovery.This proceeding, a customary one with Indians, did not excite unusualattention upon the part of Colonel Cook and myself, until once we sawHard Rope, the head warrior, who was in advance, slowly ascend a slight eminencein our front, and, after casting one glimpse beyond, descend the hill andreturn to us as rapidly as his pony could carry him. We almost anticipatedhis report, so confident was everybody in the command that we were goingto overtake the village.

In a few words Hard Rope informed us that less than a mile beyond the hillfrom which he had obtained a view, there was in plain sight a large herd ofIndian ponies grazing, being herded and driven by a few Indian boys. Asyet they had not seen us, but were liable to discover the column of troopsfurther to the rear. To judge of the situation I dismounted, and, conductedby Hard Rope, advanced to the crest of the hill in front and looked beyond;there I saw in plain view the herd of ponies, numbering perhaps two hundred,and being driven in the opposite direction toward what seemed the valleyof a stream, as I could see the tops of the forest trees which usually borderthe water courses.

The ponies and their protectors soon disappeared from view, but whetherthey had discovered us yet or not I was unable to determine. Sending amessenger back as rapidly as his horse could carry him, I directed the troopsto push to the front, and to come prepared for action. I knew the village mustbe near at hand, probably in the vicinity of the trees seen in the distance. Asthe country was perfectly open, free from either ravines or timber capable ofaffording concealment to Indians, I took my orderly with me and galloped inadvance in the direction taken by the Indians, leaving Colonel Cook to hastenand direct the troops as the latter should arrive.

After advancing about half way to the bluff overlooking the valley I sawabout half a dozen Indian heads peering over the crest, evidently watchingmy movements; this number was soon increased to upwards of fifty. I wasextremely anxious to satisfy myself as to the tribe whose village was evidentlynear at hand. There was but little doubt that it was the Cheyennes,for whom we had been searching. If this should prove true, the two whitegirls whose discovery and release from captivity had been one of the objectsof the expedition, must be held prisoners in the village which we were approaching;238and to effect their release unharmed then became my study, for Iremembered the fate of the white woman and child held captive by a bandof this same tribe at the battle of the Wash*ta. I knew that the first shotfired on either side would be the signal for the murder of the two white girls.While knowing the Cheyennes to be deserving of castigation, and feeling assuredthat they were almost in our power, I did not dare to imperil the livesof the two white captives by making an attack on the village, although neverbefore or since have we seen so favorable an opportunity for administeringwell-merited punishment to one of the strongest and most troublesome of thehostile tribes. Desiring to establish a truce with the Indians before the troopsshould arrive, I began making signals inviting a conference. This was doneby simply riding in a circle, and occasionally advancing toward the Indians onthe bluff in a zigzag manner. Immediately there appeared on the bluffs abouttwenty mounted Indians; from this group three advanced toward me at a gallop,soon followed by the others of the party. I cast my eyes behind me tosee if the troops were near, but the head of the column was still a mile or morein rear. My orderly was near me, and I could see Colonel Cook rapidly approachingabout midway between the column and my position.

Directing the orderly to remain stationary, I advanced toward the Indiansa few paces, and as soon as they were sufficiently near made signs to them tohalt, and then for but one of their number to advance midway and meet me.This was assented to, and I advanced with my revolver in my left hand, whilemy right hand was held aloft as a token that I was inclined to be friendly.The Indian met me as agreed upon, and in response to my offer exchangedfriendly greetings, and shook hands. From him I learned that the village ofthe entire Cheyenne tribe was located on the streams in front of us, and thatMedicine Arrow, the head chief of the Cheyennes, was in the group of Indiansthen in view from where we stood. Little Robe, with his band numberingabout forty lodges, was a short distance further down the stream. I askedthe Indian to send for Medicine Arrow, as I desired to talk with the headchief. Calling to one of his companions, who had halted within hailing distance,the latter was directed to convey to Medicine Arrow my message, todo which he set off at a gallop.

At this juncture I perceived that the Indians, to the number of twenty ormore, had approached quite near, while some of the party seemed disposed toadvance to where I was. To this I had decided objections, and so indicated tothe Indian who was with me. He complied with my wishes, and directed hiscompanions to remain where they were. As a precaution of safety, I tookgood care to keep the person of the Indian between me and his friends. MedicineArrow soon came galloping up accompanied by a chief.

While engaged in shaking hands with him and his companions, and exchangingthe usual salutation, “How,” with the new arrivals, I observed thatthe Indians who had been occupying a retired position had joined the group,and I found myself in the midst of about twenty chiefs and warriors. MedicineArrow exhibited the most earnest desire to learn from me the number oftroops following me. Whether this question was prompted by any contemplatedact of treachery, in case my followers were few in number, or not, I donot know. But if treachery was thought of, the idea was abandoned when Iinformed him that my followers numbered fifteen hundred men, the advanceguard being then in sight. Medicine Arrow then informed me that his villagewas near by, and that the women and children would be greatly excited and239alarmed by the approach of so large a body of troops. To give assurance tothem he urged me to accompany him to his village in advance of the troops,and by my presence satisfy his people that no attack upon them would be made.This I consented to do.

By this time Colonel Cook had again joined me, also Dr. Lippincott. Leavingthe doctor with directions for the troops, and taking Colonel Cook with me,I started with Medicine Arrow and a considerable party of his warriors to thevillage, Medicine Arrow urging us to put our horses to the gallop. The readermay regard this movement on my part as having been anything but prudent,and I will admit that viewed in the ordinary light it might seem to partakesomewhat of a foolhardy errand. But I can assure them that no one could bemore thoroughly convinced of the treachery and bloodthirsty disposition of theIndian than I am, nor would I ever trust life in their hands except it was totheir interest to preserve that life; for no class of beings act so much fromself-interest as the Indian, and on this occasion I knew, before accepting theproposal of the chief to enter his village, that he and every member of hisband felt it to be to their interest not only to protect me from harm, but treatme with every consideration, as the near approach of the troops and the formidablenumber of the latter would deter the Indians from any act of hostility,knowing as they did that in case of an outbreak of any kind it would beimpossible for a great portion of the village, particularly the women and children,to escape. I considered all this before proceeding to the village.

As we were turning our horses’ heads in the direction of the village, Icaught sight of a familiar face in the group of Indians about me; it was thatof Mah-wis-sa, the squaw whom I had sent as peace commissioner from ourcamp near Fort Sill, and who had failed to return. She recognized me at once,and laughed when I uttered the word “Mutah-ka,” referring to the hunting-knifeI had loaned her as she was about to depart on her errand of peace. Abrisk gallop soon brought us to the village, which was located beneath the treeson the bank of a beautiful stream of clear running water. The name of thelatter I found to be the Sweetwater; it is one of the tributaries of Red river, andis indicated on the map as crossing the 100th meridian not far south of the Canadianriver.

Medicine Arrow hurried me to his lodge, which was located almost in thecentre of the village, the latter being the most extensive I had ever seen. Assoon as I had entered the lodge I was invited to a seat on one of the manybuffalo robes spread on the ground about the inner circumference of the lodge.By Medicine Arrow’s direction the village crier, in a loud tone of voice, begancalling the chiefs together in council. No delay occurred in their assembling.One by one they approached and entered the lodge, until fifteen of the leadingchiefs had taken their seats in the circle within the lodge in the order of theirrank. I was assigned the post of honor, being seated on the right of MedicineArrow, while on my immediate right sat the medicine man of the tribe,an official scarcely second in influence to the head chief.

The squaw of Medicine Arrow built a huge fire in the centre of the lodge.As soon as all the chiefs had assembled, the ceremonies, which were differentfrom any I ever witnessed before or since, began. The chiefs sat in silencewhile the medicine man drew forth from a capacious buckskin tobacco pouch,profusely ornamented with beads and porcupine quills, a large red clay pipe,with a stem about the size of an ordinary walking-stick. From another buckskinpouch which hung at his girdle he drew forth a handful of kinnikinic, and240placed it on a cloth spread on the ground before him; to this he added, in variousamounts, dried leaves and herbs, with which he seemed well supplied.After thoroughly mixing these ingredients, he proceeded with solemn ceremonyto fill the pipe with the mixture, muttering at times certain incantations,by which no doubt it was intended to neutralize any power or proclivity forharm I may have been supposed to possess.

To all of this I was a silent but far from disinterested spectator. My interestperceptibly increased when the medicine man, who was sitting close tome, extended his left hand and grasped my right, pressing it strongly againsthis body over the region of his heart, at the same time, and with complete devoutnessof manner, engaging in what seemed to me a petition or prayer tothe Great Spirit; the other chiefs from time to time ejacul*ting, in the most earnestmanner, their responses, the latter being made simultaneously. To theIndians it was a most solemn occasion, and scarcely less impressive to me,who could only judge of what was transpiring by catching an occasionalword, and by closely following their signs.

After the conclusion of the address or prayer by the medicine man, thelatter released my hand, which up to this time had been tightly grasped in his,and taking the long clay pipe in both hands, it likewise was apparently placedunder an imaginary potent spell, by a ceremony almost as long as that whichI have just described. This being ended, the medicine man, first pointingslowly with the stem of the pipe to each of the four points of the compass,turned to me, and without even so much as saying, “Smoke, sir?” placed themouthpiece of the long stem in my mouth, still holding the bowl of the pipein his hand.

Again taking my right hand in his left, the favor or protecting influence ofthe Great Spirit was again invoked in the most earnest and solemn manner,the other chiefs joining at regular intervals with their responses. Finally, releasingmy hand, the medicine man lighted a match, and applying it to thepipe made signs to me to smoke. A desire to conform as far as practicable tothe wishes of the Indians, and a curiosity to study a new and interesting phaseof the Indian character, prompted me to obey the direction of the medicineman, and I accordingly began puffing away with as great a degree of nonchalanceas a man unaccustomed to smoking could well assume. Now being, asI have just stated, one of that class which does not number smoking amongits accomplishments, I took the first few whiffs with a degree of confidencewhich I felt justified in assuming, as I imagined the smoking portion of theceremony was to be the same as usually observed among Indians so devoted tothe practice, in which each individual takes the pipe, enjoys half a dozenwhiffs, and passes it to his next neighbor on his left. That much I felt equalto; but when, after blowing away the first half dozen puffs of smoke from myface, the medicine man still retained his hold of the pipe, with an evident desirethat I should continue the enjoyment of this Indian luxury, I proceededmore deliberately, although no such rule of restraint seemed to govern the volubilityof the medicine man, whose invocation and chants continued with unabatedvigor and rapidity.

When the first minute had added to itself four more, and still I was expectedto make a miniature volcano of myself, minus the ashes, I began togrow solicitous as to what might be the effect if I was subjected to thiscourse of treatment. I pictured to myself the commander of an importantexpedition seated in solemn council with a score and a half of dusky chieftains,241the pipe of peace being passed, and before it had left the hands of theaforesaid commander, he becoming deathly sick, owing to lack of familiaritywith the noxious weed or its substitutes. I imagined the sudden terminationof the council, the absurdity of the figure cut, and the contempt of thechiefs for one who must, under the circ*mstances, appear so deficient inmanly accomplishments. These and a hundred similar ideas flashed throughmy mind as I kept pulling vigorously at the pipe, and wondering when thisthing would terminate.

Fortunately for my peace of body as well as of mind, after a periodwhich seemed to me equal to a quarter of an hour at least, I felt relievedby the medicine man taking the pipe from my mouth, and, after refilling it,handing it to the head chief, sitting on my left, who, drawing three or fourlong, silent whiffs, passed it to his next neighbor on his left; and insimilar manner it made the circle of the chiefs, until it finally returned tothe medicine man, who, after taking a few final whiffs, laid it aside, much tomy relief, as I feared the consequences of a repetition of my former effort.

Romeo, the interpreter, having been mounted upon an indifferent animal,had fallen to the rear of the column during the march that day, and I wasdeprived of his services during my interview with the chief. Colonel Cook,during this time, was in an adjoining lodge, each moment naturally becomingmore solicitous lest upon the arrival of the troops there should be acollision between the Indians and the excited volunteers. To the inquiriesof the chiefs I explained the object of our march, without alluding to thetwo captive girls, the time not having arrived for discussing that subject.Having resolved to obtain the release of the captives, all other purposes werenecessarily laid aside; and as I knew that the captives could not be releasedshould hostilities once occur between the troops and Indians, I became forthe time being an ardent advocate of peace measures, and informed thechiefs that such was my purpose at the time. I also requested them to informme where I would find the most suitable camping ground in the vicinityof the village, to which request Medicine Arrow replied that he would accompanyme in person and point out the desired ground.

When this offer was made I accepted it as a kindness, but when the chiefconducted me to a camp ground separated from the village, and from allview of the latter, I had reason to modify my opinion of his pretendedkindness, particularly when coupled with his subsequent conduct. Mycommand soon came up, and was conducted to the camp ground indicatedby Medicine Arrow, the distance between the camp and the village notexceeding three-fourths of a mile. I was still uncertain as to whether therewere any grounds to doubt that the two white girls were captives in MedicineArrow’s village. I anxiously awaited the arrival of Mo-nah-see-tah, whocould and would solve this question. She came with the main body of thetroops, and I at once informed her whose village it was alongside of which wewere located.

To my inquiry as to whether the two white girls were prisoners in MedicineArrow’s village, she promptly replied in the affirmative, and at the sametime exhibited a desire to aid as far as possible in effecting their release.It was still early in the afternoon, and I did not deem it necessary, or evenadvisable, to proceed with undue haste in the negotiations by which I expectedto bring about the release of the two captives. Although our camp, asalready explained, was cut off from a view of the village, yet I had provided242against either surprise or strategem, by posting some of my men on prominentpoints near by, from which they obtained a full view of both our campand the village, and thus rendered it impossible for any important movementto take place in the latter without being seen. I felt confident thatas soon as it was dark the entire village would probably steal away, andleave us in the lurch; but I proposed to make my demand for the surrenderof the captives long before darkness should aid the Indians in eluding us.

From fifty to one hundred chiefs, warriors, and young men were assembledat my headquarters, or about the camp fire built in front of headquarters.Apparently they were there from motives of mere curiosity, butlater developments proved they had another object in view. Finally MedicineArrow came to my camp, accompanied by some of his head men, andafter shaking hands with apparent cordiality, stated that some of his youngmen, desirous of manifesting their friendship for us, would visit our campin a few minutes, and entertain us by a serenade. This idea was a novelone to me, and I awaited the arrival of the serenaders with no little curiosity.

Before their arrival, however, my lookouts reported unusual commotionand activity in the Indian village. The herd of the latter had been called in,and officers sent by me to investigate this matter confirmed the report, andadded that everything indicated a contemplated flight on the part of the Indians.I began then to comprehend the object of the proposed serenade;it was to occupy our attention while the village could pack up and takeflight. Pretending ignorance of what was transpiring in the village, I continuedto converse, through Romeo, with the chiefs, until the arrival of theIndian musicians. These, numbering about a dozen young men, weremounted on ponies which, like themselves, were ornamented in the highestdegree, according to Indian fashion. The musicians were featheredand painted in the most horrible as well as fantastic manner. Their instrumentsconsisted of reeds, the sounds from which more nearly resembledthose of the fife than any other, although there was a total lack of harmonybetween the various pieces. As soon as the musicians arrived they beganriding in a gallop in a small circle, of which circle our little group,composed of a few officers and the chiefs, composed the centre. The displayof horsemanship was superb, and made amends for the discordant soundsgiven forth as music.

During all this time reports continued to come in, leaving no room todoubt that the entire village was preparing to decamp. To have opposedthis movement by a display of force on the part of the troops would haveonly precipitated a terrible conflict, for which I was not yet prepared, keepingin mind the rescue of the white girls. I did not propose, however, to relinquishthe advantage we then had by our close proximity to the village, andpermit the latter to place several miles between us.

Knowing that the musicians would soon depart, and with them perhapsthe chiefs and warriors then grouped about my camp fire, I determined toseize the principal chiefs then present, permit the village to depart if necessary,and hold the captured chiefs as hostages for the surrender of the white girlsand the future good behavior of the tribe. This was a move requiring notonly promptness but most delicate and careful handling, in order to avoidbloodshed. Quietly passing the word to a few of the officers who sat nearme around the camp fire, I directed them to leave the group one by one,243and, in such manner as not to attract the attention of the Indians, proceedto their companies and select quickly some of their most reliable men, instructingthe latter to assemble around and near my camp fire, well armed,as if merely attracted there by the Indian serenade. The men thus selectedwere to come singly, appear as unconcerned as possible, and be in readinessto act promptly, but to do nothing without orders from me.

In this manner about one hundred of my men were, in an inconceivablyshort space of time, mingled with the Indians, who, to the number of fortyor more, sat or stood about my camp fire, laughing in their sleeves (had theynot been minus these appendages), no doubt, at the clever dodge by whichthey were entertaining the white men while their village was hastening preparationsfor a speedy flight. When the musicians had apparently exhaustedtheir programme, they took their departure, informing us that later in theevening they would return and repeat the performance; they might have added,“with an entire change of programme.”

After their departure the conversation continued with the chiefs until, byglancing about me, I saw that a sufficient number of my men had mingledwith the Indians to answer my purpose. Of the forty or more Indians in thegroup, there were but few chiefs, the majority being young men or boys. Myattention was devoted to the chiefs, and acting upon the principle that for thepurposes desired half a dozen would be as valuable as half a hundred, I determinedto seize the principal chiefs then present, and permit the others to depart.To do this without taking or losing life now became the problem. Indicatingin a quiet manner to some of my men who were nearest to me to beready to prevent the escape of three or four of the Indians whom I pointed out,I then directed Romeo to command silence on the part of the Indians, and toinform them that I was about to communicate something of great importanceto them. This was sufficient to attract their undivided attention. I thenrose from my seat near the fire, and unbuckling my revolver from my waistasked the Indians to observe that I threw my weapons upon the ground, as anevidence that in what I was about to do I did not desire or propose to shedblood unless forced to do so. I then asked the chiefs to look about them andcount the armed men whom I had posted among and around them, completelycutting off every avenue of escape. They had attempted, under pretence of afriendly visit to my camp, to deceive me, in order that their village mightelude us, but their designs had been frustrated, and they were now in ourpower. I asked them to quietly submit to what was now inevitable, andpromised them that if they and their people responded in the proper mannerto the reasonable demands which I intended to make, all would be well,and they would be restored to their people.

The reader must not imagine that this was listened to in tame silence bythe thoroughly excited Indians, old and young. Upon the first intimationfrom me regarding the armed men, and before I could explain their purpose,every Indian who was dismounted sprang instantly to his feet, while thosewho were mounted gathered the reins of their ponies; all drew their revolversor strung their bows, and for a few moments it seemed as if nothing couldavert a collision, which could only terminate in the annihilation of the Indians,and an equal or perhaps greater loss on our part. A single shot fired,an indiscreet word uttered, would have been the signal to commence. Mymen behaved admirably, taking their positions in such manner that each Indianwas confronted by at least two men. All this time the Indians were gesticulating244and talking in the most excited manner; the boys and young mencounselling resistance, the older men and chiefs urging prudence until an understandingcould be had.

The powers of Romeo as interpreter were employed without stint, in repeatingto the chiefs my urgent appeals to restrain their young men andavoid bloodshed. Even at this date I recall no more exciting experience withIndians than the occasion of which I now write. Near me stood a tall, gray-hairedchief, who, while entreating his people to be discreet, kept his co*ckedrevolver in his hand ready for use, should the emergency demand it. He wasone of the few whom I had determined to hold. Near him stood another, amost powerful and forbidding-looking warrior, who was without firearms, butwho was armed with a bow, already strung, and a quiver full of iron-pointedarrows. His coolness during this scene of danger and excitement was often thesubject of remark afterward between the officers whose attention had beendrawn to him. He stood apparently unaffected by the excitement abouthim, but not unmindful of the surrounding danger. Holding his bow in onehand, with the other he continued to draw from his quiver arrow after arrow.Each one he would examine as coolly as if he expected to engage intarget practice. First he would cast his eye along the shaft of the arrow,to see if it was perfectly straight and true. Then he would with thumb andfinger gently feel the point and edge of the barbed head, returning to thequiver each one whose condition did not satisfy him.

In this manner he continued until he had selected perhaps half a dozenarrows, with which he seemed satisfied, and which he retained in his hand,while his quick eye did not permit a single incident about him to escapeunnoticed. The noise of voices and the excitement increased until a movementbegan on the part of the Indians who were mounted, principally theyoung men and boys. If the latter could be allowed to escape and the chiefsbe retained, the desired object would be gained. Suddenly a rush was made.But for the fact that my men were ordered not to fire, the attempt of theIndians would not have been successful. I, as well as the other officers nearme, called upon the men not to fire. The result was that all but four brokethrough the lines and made their escape. The four detained, however, werethose desired, being chiefs and warriors of prominence.

Forming my men about them in such impassable ranks that a glance wassufficient to show how futile all further efforts to escape would prove, I thenexplained to the four captive Indians that I knew the design under whichthey had visited our camp; that I also knew that in their village were held ascaptives two white girls, whose release the troops were there to enforce, andto effect their release, as well as to compel the Cheyennes to abandon the warpath and return to their reservation, I had seized the four Indians as hostages.To prove my sincerity and earnest desire to arrange these matters amicably,and without resort to force, the Indians were told they might selectone of their number, whom I would release and send as a messenger of peaceto the village, the latter having left in indiscriminate flight as soon as the seizureof the chiefs was made.

It became a matter of great difficulty, without the employment of forcesto induce the four Indians to give up their arms. I explained to them thatthey were prisoners, and it was one of our customs to disarm all men held asprisoners. Should they be released, however, I assured them their arms wouldbe restored to them. No argument could prevail upon them to relinquish245their arms until I stated to them that a persistence in their refusal wouldcompel me to summon a sufficient number of men to take the arms by force;and it was even necessary to parade the men in front of them before the armswere finally given up. After a lengthy conference with each other, they announcedthat they had agreed upon one of their number who, in accordancewith my promise, should be released and sent to the tribe as bearer of my demands,and of any messages they might desire to send to their people.

I accordingly caused bountiful presents of coffee and sugar to be giventhe one so chosen, returned to him his pony and arms, and intrusted him withverbal messages to his tribe, the substance of which was as follows: First, Idemanded the unconditional surrender of the two white girls held captive inthe village; hitherto surrenders of white captives by Indians had only beenmade on payment of heavy ransom. Second, I required the Cheyenne village,as an evidence of peaceable intentions and good faith on their part, to proceedat once to their reservation, and to locate near Camp Supply, reporting to themilitary commander at that station. Third, I sent a friendly message to LittleRobe, inviting him to visit me with a view to the speedy settlement of thequestions at issue, promising him unmolested transit coming and returningfor him and as many of his people as chose to visit me. In case of failure tocomply with the first two of my demands, hostilities would be continued, andmy command would at once commence the pursuit of the village, which, consideringits size and the poor condition of the ponies at that early season of theyear, would be unable to escape from the cavalry.

The Indian who was to go as bearer of these demands was also invited toreturn, assured that whether the response of his people should prove favorableor not, he should be granted a safe-conduct between the camp and the village.Inwardly congratulating himself, no doubt, upon the good fortunewhich gave him his liberty, the messenger of peace or war, as his tribe mightelect, took his departure for his village. With him went the earnest wishesfor success of every inmate of the camp; but if this was the feeling of the commandgenerally, who can realize the intense interest and anxiety with whichyoung Brewster now awaited the result of this effort to secure the freedom ofhis sister? And if the two forlorn, helpless girls knew of the presence oftroops of their own race, what must have been the bitter despondency, thepainful relinquishment of all hope as they saw the village and its occupantscommencing a hasty flight, and no apparent effort upon the part of the troopsto effect their release?

What comfort it would have been to these ill-fated maidens could they haveknown, before being hurried from the village, of the steps already taken torestore them to home and friends, or better still, if one of them could haveknown that almost within the sound of her voice, a brother was patientlybut determinedly biding the time that should restore his sister to his arms.

Relying upon the influence which I believed Little Robe would exertupon his people, and knowing the pressure we were able to bring to bearthrough the three chiefs we held as hostages, I felt confident that sooner orlater the Cheyennes would be forced to release the two white girls from theircaptivity. Placing a strong guard over the three chiefs, and warning them notto attempt to escape if they valued their lives, I returned to my tent afterhaving ordered every comfort possible to be provided for our prisoners consistentwith their position.

It was perhaps an hour or more after dark when an Indian voice was246heard calling from one of the hillocks overlooking the camp. I proceeded tothe guard fire near which the three chiefs were still seated engaged in conversation,and through Romeo inquired who the parties were whose voices weheard, and their object. They informed me that the voices were those of someof their young men who were anxious to ascertain if their friends the captiveswere still alive. Anxious that they should not only see that their friends werealive, but well treated, I desired to induce them to come within our lines andvisit the captive chiefs. This was communicated to them through the chiefs,who called to them in tones capable of being heard far beyond the point atwhich the young Indians were posted. But this did not satisfy their suspiciousnatures; they imagined some trap, and declined to accept the invitation. Romeo,the only one who could converse freely in the Indian tongue, might havebeen able to persuade them to come in, but it was not safe for him to venturebeyond the line of our pickets and trust himself in the power of the young Indians.

In this emergency I thought of Mo-nah-see-tah, in whom I had every confidence,and who I believed might be successful in inducing her friends to comein. Sending for her, I soon acquainted her with my plan, to which she gaveher ready assent, only expressing an apprehension that in passing our ownchain of sentries in the darkness, they might mistake her for an enemy andfire upon her. This difficulty I removed by offering to escort her safely throughthe line of pickets, and there await her return. Starting at once in the darkness,she clinging to my hand with the natural timidity of a girl, we proceededto the picket station nearest to the point from which the sound of voices hadcome, and after explaining to the sentry our purpose, passed beyond as far asit was prudent to do, and then, bidding Mo-nah-see-tah to proceed on her mission,I halted to await her return. A few moments later I heard her voice inthe darkness calling to her friends beyond; back came the quick response, andsoon after I could distinguish the tones of the assembled group as Mo-nah-see-tahendeavored to convince them of their security in trusting to the promisesmade them.

Her arguments finally prevailed over their suspicions, and in the dim lightof the stars I could see her returning, accompanied by four or five others. Notcaring to tempt them by meeting them alone so far from support, I slowly retireduntil I was near the picket post. Here the Indians found me, and afterthe form of an introduction by Mo-nah-see-tah and a general hand-shaking,the entire party proceeded without hesitation to the guard fire, where theyjoined their less fortunate chiefs.

It may strike the reader with some surprise that Mo-nah-see-tah, herselfa captive in our hands, should have voluntarily returned to us that night afteronce being safely beyond our lines. But she only confirmed the confidencethat was placed in her. During her imprisonment, if her stay in our campwithout a guard may be termed imprisonment, she had become a great favoritewith the entire command; not only this, but she believed she would in duetime be given up to her own people, and that until then she would receivekind treatment at our hands and be exposed to less personal danger and sufferingduring hostilities than if with her village.

The visit of the young men to our camp that night could not but have abeneficial influence upon the tribe, as they were enabled to see that the threechiefs were being treated with the utmost consideration, and were being held,as informed at first, simply as hostages, to enforce compliance with demands247which even an Indian’s ideas of right and wrong must pronounce just. Aftera lengthy conversation between the captives and their friends, the latter tooktheir departure, charged with messages to the village, both from the captivechiefs and me, similar to those transmitted through the chief who had been releasedfor that purpose.

The following day was passed without incident in awaiting the arrival of tidingsfrom the village. Early in the afternoon the pickets reported a smallbody of Indians in sight. Upon a nearer approach the party appeared to consistof about fifty mounted Indians. They rode steadily in the direction of thecamp, with no apparent wish to conceal their movements, thus indicating thatthey were on an errand of peace. When within half a mile or less of campthe entire party dismounted, and after picketing their ponies out to graze, advancedon foot directly toward camp. So strange a proceeding, and at a timewhen the excitement regarding our relations with the Indians ran high, wassufficient to assemble nearly all the occupants of camp to watch the approachof this delegation of Indians. The latter were apparelled in their best andmost highly colored clothes. As they came near, it was perceived that severalpaces in advance of the main group strode two chiefs, evidently leaders of theparty; both advanced with uncovered heads. Suddenly I thought I detecteda familiar face and form in the taller of the two chiefs in front, and on morecareful scrutiny I recognized my former friend and guest Little Robe, who hadthus quickly responded to my invitation to cast aside all doubts and come andvisit me, with a view to bringing about more friendly relations between hispeople and the whites.

As soon as I recognized him I advanced to meet him. He grasped myhand and embraced me with what seemed to me real cordiality. Waiting untilthe other members of his party came up, I shook hands with each individual,and then invited them to my tent. As the tent would not accommodate theentire party, Little Robe designated about a dozen of the most important, whoentered, while the others remained outside. I soon found that in Little Robe Ihad a hearty coadjutor in the work before me. He admitted that the whitegirls were held as captives in the Cheyenne village, which was the first positiveevidence received of this fact. He also stated, what I had no reason todoubt, that he had at various times attempted to purchase them, with a view, ifsuccessful, of returning them to the nearest military post; but his efforts in thisdirection had always failed. He admitted the justice of my demands upon hispeople, and assured me that to bring about a satisfactory condition of affairs hewould use every exertion and employ all the influence at his command. Itwas to assure me of this desire on his part that he had hastened to visit me.

Knowing that the surest and speediest way to establish a state of goodfeeling in an Indian is to provide liberally for the wants of his stomach, I ordereda beef to be killed and distributed among the followers of Little Robe;with this also were distributed the usual supplies of coffee, sugar, flour, etc., sothat the recipients were not only prepared to regard us as at least very kindlydisposed, but I knew the effect on the village, when the result of the visit, andthe treatment extended to our guests was described, would materially aid us inour negotiations with the tribe.

Little Robe, while earnest in his desire to see the white girls returned to us,frankly admitted that his influence was not supreme, and there were those whowould object to their release, at least without compensation; and it might bethat a satisfactory settlement of the question might be delayed for many days.248After partaking of a bountiful repast, Little Robe and his party set out for thevillage, promising to send me word the following day as to his success. Anotherday was passed in waiting, when the chief who had accompanied LittleRobe the previous day again visited us, but brought no decisive or satisfactoryreply. The substance of the reply was that the Cheyennes desired us to releasethe three chiefs then held by us as hostages, after which they would beprepared to consider the question of the release of the two white girls. Tothis I sent back a reply that we would remain in the camp we then occupieduntil the following day, when, if a favorable answer should not have been received,we would follow on their trail and encamp nearer to the village, thegreat distance then separating us, about twelve miles, being a hindrance in theway of transmitting messages promptly from one to the other.

I knew that the village was in no condition for a rapid or extended flight,and could be overhauled by the cavalry whenever desired; at the same time, toallow as much freedom in their deliberations as possible, I had not been unwillingthat a few miles should separate us. No reply was received; consequentlywe packed up and marched down the Sweetwater, on the trail of thevillage, about ten miles, and went into camp. Here I received another visitfrom the chief who had previously acted as diplomatic courier between thecamp and village, but the response of the Cheyennes was still unsatisfactory,and exhibited a disinclination on their part to make any decided promises respectingthe release of the captive white girls. They insisted as preliminaryto such decision that the three chiefs held by us should be restored to liberty,after which we might discuss the question relating to the release of the girls.

I will not weary the reader by describing the various subterfuges resortedto by the Indians, by which they strove to avoid or delay the surrenderof the white girls without first, as had been customary, receiving aransom. Finally, after I had almost exhausted the patience of the troops,particularly of the Kansas regiment which had been raised and organizedmainly to effect the recapture of the white girls, or else avenge the outrageof which they had been the victims, I determined to force matters to anissue without further quibbling on the part of the Indians.

I sent for a delegation of chiefs from the Cheyenne village to receive myultimatum. They came, and upon their arrival I assembled them in my tent,the three captured chiefs being also permitted to be present, as the conference,as will be seen, was to be of deep interest to them. After recounting tothe chiefs the incidents of our pursuit of the village, their surprise at beingovertaken, the stratagems by which they hoped to elude us, the steps we hadalready taken to obtain the release of the white girls, and the delays interposedby the Indians, I stated that I had but one other message to send to thevillage; and upon the chiefs of the latter would rest the responsibility of peaceor war. Further delay would not be submitted to on our part. We knewthey had two of our race captives in the village, and we were there to demandand enforce the demand for their release, cost what it might. I theninformed them that if by sunset the following day the two white girls werenot restored to our hands unharmed, the lives of the three chiefs would beforfeited, and the troops would resume active hostilities. At the same time Icalled attention to the fact that in the famished condition of their ponies theycould not expect to escape the pursuit of the cavalry. Every argument whichmight have weight in influencing a favorable decision was stated to them. Theconference then broke up, and the three chiefs were remanded to the custody249of the guard. The delegation from the village, after a brief interview withtheir captive comrades, took a hasty departure, and set out upon their return tothe village, deeply impressed, apparently, with the importance of promptnessin communicating to the chiefs at the village the decision which had been arrivedat regarding the captives.

The terms given to the Indians soon became known to every individual inthe command, and naturally excited the deepest interest. All hoped for afavorable issue, but no one regarded the events then transpiring with theintense interest and anxiety felt by young Brewster, who now saw that hislong-cherished hope to recover his sister was either about to be realized, orforever sealed in disappointment.

The captive chiefs did not pretend to conceal their solicitude as to the partthey were involuntarily made to play in the events then transpiring. I didnot expect prompt action on the part of the chiefs in the village. I knewthey would practise every delay conceivable before complying with our demands;but when the question was forced upon them as to whether they preferredto deliver up the white girls to us or to force by their refusal the executionof the three chiefs, their decision would be in favor of their people.

Three o’clock arrived, and no tidings from the village. By this time the officersand men of the command had assembled near headquarters, and uponthe small eminences near by, eagerly watching the horizon in the directionof the village, to catch the first glimpse of the messengers who must soon arriveto avert the execution of the three chiefs. Even the three chiefs becamedespondent as the sun slowly but surely approached the horizon, and no tidingsfrom the village reached them. Finally Romeo came to me and statedthat the three chiefs desired to see me. I repaired to their place of confinementat once, and was asked by the younger of the three if it was my firmpurpose to make good my words in the event of the failure of their peopleto release the white girls. I replied in the affirmative. The chief then attempteda little Indian diplomacy, by assuring me that in the village andamong his own people he was a man of great consequence, and could exerta wide influence; for this reason he requested me to release him, and he wouldhasten to the village, obtain the release of the two girls, and return in time tosave his two companions.

When this proposition was first made I attributed it to fear that the chiefs inthe village might decline to restore the two girls to liberty, and the lives ofthe three chiefs would be sacrificed thereby; but subsequent events provedthat while this consideration may have had its influence, the principal motivewhich prompted the proposition was a desire to escape from our hands beforethe white girls should be restored to us, as the chief referred to had been aparty to their capture and to the subsequent ill treatment they had received.

I replied to his proposal, that if he was of such importance in his tribe ashe claimed to be, he was the most proper person for me to retain possessionof, as his people would be more likely to accede to my demands to save his lifethan that of a person of less consequence.

The sun was perhaps an hour high when the dim outlines of about twentymounted figures were discerned against the horizon, on a high hill, two orthree miles to the west of us. Instantly all eyes were directed to the party,but the distance was too great to enable any of us to clearly define eitherthe number or character of the group. The eyes of the three chiefs perceptiblybrightened with hope. Securing my field glass, I carefully scanned the250party on the hill. Every one about me waited in anxious suspense the resultof my examination. Gradually, under the magnifying powers of theglass, I was able to make out the figures in sight. I could only determineat first that the group was, as might be imagined, composed of Indians, andbegan counting them audibly, when I discovered two figures mounted uponthe same pony.

As soon as this was announced several of my companions at once exclaimed,“Can they be the girls?” I could detect nothing, however, in theirappearance warranting such a conclusion, their dress apparently being thesame as that of the other individuals of the group. While endeavoring to makeout something more definite in regard to the party, I saw the two figures descendfrom the pony, and, leaving the rest of the group, advance toward us onfoot. All this I reported to the anxious bystanders, who became now morethan ever convinced that the two figures approaching must be the two girls. Ibegan describing the appearance of the two as well as I could, with the aid ofthe glass: “One seems to have a short, heavy figure; the other is considerablytaller and more slender.” Young Brewster, who stood at my side, immediatelyresponded, “The last one must be my sister; she is quite tall. Let me goand meet them; this anxiety is more than I can endure.” But this I declined,fearing that should one of the two now approaching us prove to be his sister,seeing her in the forlorn condition in which she must be might provoke youngBrewster beyond control, and induce him to attempt to obtain revenge in amanner not governed by either prudence or propriety. So I reluctantly declinedto permit him to advance beyond our lines. But by this time the twofigures had approached near enough to enable me clearly to determine that theywere really of white complexion, and undoubtedly the two girls whose releasewe were so impatiently waiting for.

As the Kansas volunteers had left their homes and various occupations incivil life to accomplish, among other results, the release of the two girls whohad been abducted from the frontier of their State, I deemed it appropriatethat that regiment should be the first to welcome the two released captives tofriends and freedom. Accordingly the three senior officers of the regimentwere designated to proceed beyond our lines and conduct the two girls to camp—aduty whose performance carried its pleasure with it. The three officersadvanced to meet the two figures (I use the term figures, as the dress was ofthat nondescript pattern which renders this term most appropriate). They hadpassed one fourth of the distance, perhaps, when young Brewster, whom I haddetained at my side with difficulty, bounded away, and the next moment wasrunning at full speed to greet his long-lost sister. Dashing past the three officers,he clasped in his arms the taller of the two girls. This told us all wehad hoped for. We awaited their approach, and as they drew near to the littlebrook which flowed just beyond the point occupied by the group of officersaround me, I stepped forward, and extending my hands to the two girls, badethem a hearty welcome to liberty. In a moment officers and men were strugglingabout them upon all sides, eager to take them by the hand, and testifythe great joy felt at their deliverance from a life of captivity.

Men whom I have seen face death without quailing found their eyes filledwith tears, unable to restrain the deep emotion produced by this joyful event.The appearance of the two girls was sufficient to excite our deepest sympathy.Miss White, the younger of the two, though not beautiful, possessed a most interestingface. Her companion would have been pronounced beautiful by the251most critical judge, being of such a type as one might imagine Maud Müller tobe.

Their joy at their deliverance, however, could not hide the evidences ofprivation and suffering to which they had been subjected by their cruel captors.They were clothed in dresses made from flour sacks, the brand of themills being plainly seen on each dress; showing that the Indians who had heldthem in captivity had obtained their provisions from the Government at someagency. The entire dress of the two girls was as nearly like the Indian modeas possible; both wore leggings and moccasins; both wore their hair in twolong braids, and as if to propitiate us, the Indians, before releasing them, hadadded to the wardrobe of the two girls various rude ornaments, such as areworn by squaws. About their wrists they wore coils of brass wire; on their fingershad been placed numerous rings, and about their necks strings of variouslycolored beads. Almost the first remark I heard young Brewster make afterthe arrival of the two girls was, “Sister, do take those hateful things off.”

Fortunately they were not the only white women in camp. I had a whitewoman as cook, and to enable the two girls to improve their wardrobe a littlebefore relating to us the history of their capture and captivity, they were conductedto the tent of the white woman referred to, from whose limited wardrobethey were able to obtain enough to replace the dresses made of floursacks, and in a few minutes reappeared presenting a much more civilized appearancethan when they first entered camp.

In a previous chapter I have given the main incidents of their capture.The story of their captivity was that of hundreds of other women and girlswhose husbands, fathers, or brothers take their lives in their hands and seekhomes on the frontier. There was much in their story not appropriate forthese pages. They described how great their joy was at encountering eachother for the first time as prisoners in the hands of the Indians. They hadbeen traded repeatedly from the hands of one chief to those of another, thelast transfer having been effected only two weeks prior to their release. Soonafter their first meeting, it was their good fortune, comparatively, to becomethe property of one chief. This threw them into each other’s society, andtended to lighten the horrors of their captivity. While thrown together in thismanner, they planned an escape. Their plan, it seems, was more the result ofdesperation than of careful deliberation, as they had no idea as to what state orterritory the village was then in, nor in what direction to travel should theyescape from the village. Indeed, one of their first questions on entering ourlines was to ask in what part of the country we were.

Determining at all hazards, however, to flee from their captors at the firstopportunity, and trust to chance to lead them to the settlements or to somemilitary post, they escaped from the village one night and travelled for severalhours in a northerly direction. During this attempt to regain their liberty, theyreached a wagon road, over which wagons and horses had passed recently,and were congratulating themselves upon the success of their effort, when abullet whistled past them, and in close proximity to them. Casting an anxiouslook, they saw, to their horror and disappointment, their late captor orowner riding at full speed in pursuit. Escape was impossible. Nothing remainedbut to await the arrival of the chief, who came up excited with savagerage at the idea of their attempt to escape him. Marching back on footto the village, they became the recipients of renewed insults and taunts. Nordid it end here. The squaws of the village, always jealous of white women252when captives, took this opportunity to treat them with the greatest severityfor their attempt to regain their liberty. The old chief, also, decided upona change of programme. He had invested several ponies when he becamethe possessor of the two girls, and he did not propose to risk the loss of thisproperty. So he determined to separate the two girls by selling one of them;and the two friends in misfortune were torn from each other. Miss White, inconsideration of three ponies given in exchange, passed into the hands ofanother chief, whose lodge was generally located some miles from that ofher late master.

The story of the two girls, containing accounts of wrongs and ill treatmentsufficient to have ended the existence of less determined persons, istoo long to be given here. Besides indignities and insults far more terriblethan death itself, the physical suffering to which the two girls were subjectedwas too great almost to be believed. They were required to transporthuge burdens on their backs, large enough to have made a load for a beastof burden. They were limited to barely enough food to sustain life; sometimesa small morsel of mule meat, not more than an inch square, was theirallowance of food for twenty-four hours. The squaws beat them unmercifullywith clubs whenever the men were not present. Upon one occasion one ofthe girls was felled to the ground by a blow from a club in the hands of oneof the squaws. Their joy therefore at regaining their freedom after a captivityof nearly a year can be better imagined than described; while that of thebrother who had struggled so long and determinedly to regain his sister couldnot be expressed in words.

After the momentary excitement consequent upon the safe arrival of thegirls in camp had subsided, officers, particularly of the Kansas volunteers,came to me with the remark that when we first overtook the Cheyenne villageand I failed to order an attack when all the chances were in our favor,they mentally condemned my decision as a mistake; but with the results accomplishedafterwards they found ample reason to amend their first judgment,and frankly and cordially admit that the release of the two captives was farmore gratifying than any victory over the Indians could have been if purchasedby the sacrifice of their lives.

With this happy termination of this much of our negotiations with the Indians,I determined to march in the morning for Camp Supply, Indian Territory,satisfied that with the three chiefs in our possession, and the squaws andchildren captured at the Wash*ta still held as prisoners at Fort Hays, Kansas,we could compel the Cheyennes to abandon the war path and return to theirreservation. The three chiefs begged to be released, upon the ground thattheir people had delivered up the two girls; but this I told them was but oneof the two conditions imposed; the other required the tribe to return to theirreservation, and until this was done they need not hope for freedom; but inthe mean while I assured them of kind treatment at our hands.

Before dark a delegation of chiefs from the village visited camp to likewiseurge the release of the three chiefs. My reply to them was the same asthat I had given to the captives. I assured them, however, that upon complyingwith their treaty obligations, and returning to their reservation, thethree chiefs would be restored to their people, and we would return to themalso the women and children captured at the Wash*ta. Seeing that no modificationof these terms could be obtained, they finally promised to accede tothem, saying that their ponies, as I knew to be the fact, were in no condition253to travel, but as soon as practicable they would surely proceed with their entirevillage to Camp Supply, and abandon the war path forever; a promise which,as a tribe, they have adhered to, from that day to this, with strict faith, so faras my knowledge extends.

I had not heard from General Sheridan since we separated at Fort Sill; heto set out for Camp Supply, and I with my command to begin my presentmovement. But when near Camp Supply a courier met me with despatchesfrom General Sheridan—who had been meanwhile summoned to Washington—informingme in regard to the arrangements made for my command uponits arrival at Camp Supply. The Kansas volunteers were to march to FortHays, and there be mustered out of the service. The Seventh Cavalry wasalso to proceed to the same point, and there await further orders, as the Generalin his note stated that he had concluded to draw in the Seventh, and endthe campaign.

In reply to my letter, written subsequently from Camp Supply, giving hima detailed account of our operations, including the release of the two whitegirls, I received a letter of warm encouragement from the General, writtenfrom Chicago, where he had just established his present headquarters. In thatletter he wrote: “I am very much rejoiced at the success of your expedition,and feel proud of our winter’s operations and of the officers and men who haveborne its privations and hardships so manfully.... Give my kind regardsto the officers, and say how happy I should be to see them should anyof them come this way on leave.” These words of hearty sympathy and approval,from one who had not only shared but appreciated at their true worthour “privations and hardships,” were far more cheering and valued than theempty honor contained in half a dozen brevets bestowed grudgingly, and recalledin a moment of pique.

Making a brief halt at Camp Supply to rest our animals and replenish ourstores, my command continued its march to Fort Hays, crossing the Arkansasriver at Fort Dodge, Kansas. Upon our arrival at Fort Hays we were met bythe husband of young Brewster’s sister, who had learned of her restoration toliberty from the published despatches which had preceded us to Fort Hays.He was still lame from the effects of the bullet wound received at the time theIndians carried off his bride, whom he had given up as dead or lost to himforever. The joy of their meeting went far to smooth over their late sorrow.They could not find language to express their gratitude to the troops for theirefforts in restoring them to each other. As the Indians had robbed them ofeverything at the time of the attack, a collection was taken up among thetroops for their benefit, which resulted in the accumulation of several hundreddollars, to be divided between the two captives. The time came for our gueststo leave us, and rejoin their people, or such of them as had survived the attackof the Indians. Good-bys were spoken, and the two girls, so lately victimsof the most heartless and cruel captivity, departed, with husband, brother, andfriends, for their frontier homes, bearing with them the warm sympathies andcordial good wishes of every soldier in the command.

Mo-nah-see-tah was anxious to visit her friends who were now captives atFort Hays, and who were kept in a large stockade at the post, our campbeing placed some two or three miles below the post. Accordingly she repairedto the stockade, and spent several hours, relating, no doubt, the storyof our march since they had separated from each other. She preferred tolive in the cavalry camp, where she was allowed to roam without the restraint254of a guard; but it was deemed advisable soon after to place her withthe other women and children inside the stockade. The three captive chiefswere also transferred to the same place for safe keeping. Here a most unfortunatemisunderstanding arose. The chiefs had been confined inside thesame enclosure with the women and children, but in separate tents. The commandingofficer of the post decided to remove them to rooms in the guard-house,adjoining the stockade. This was decided upon as a measure of security.There was no interpreter kept at the post; consequently there wasno way of communicating with the Indians except by rude signs, and eventhis method was but indifferently understood by the infantry soldiers constitutingthe garrison of the post. From accounts given me by the Indians afterwards,it seems the men of the guard, in the execution of the order to transferthe three chiefs, entered the stockade muskets in hand, and upon the failureof the chiefs to comprehend what was required of them, the soldiers attemptedto push the chiefs from the stockade by force, pointing with their bayonetsto the outside. The chiefs, failing to understand a word spoken to them,and with the natural suspicion of their race, imagined that they were beingled or driven forth to execution, and determined to die there and then. Anattack was at once made upon the guard with knives which they carried beneaththeir blankets. The sergeant of the guard received a stab in theback which almost proved mortal. This was the signal for a determinedfight between the three chiefs and the guard, the latter having the decidedadvantage in numbers and weapons. The result could not be long doubtful.One of the chiefs, Big Head, the young man who had proposed to proceed tothe village and obtain the release of the two white girls, fell dead at the first fireof the guard. The oldest of the three, Dull Knife, received a bayonet woundthrough the body which proved fatal in a few days. The third, Fat Bear, wasfelled by a blow from the butt of a musket, but did not receive serious injury.

Knowing that I could converse with the Indians, and from my acquaintancewith them might be able to quiet the excitement among the remainingprisoners, the commanding officer of the post sent to me for assistance.Upon repairing to the stockade, I found the women and children in a stateof great excitement and huddled together inside their tents. Entering thestockade, I soon learned their version of the affair, which did not vary materiallyfrom that just given. Mo-nah-see-tah pointed to a bullet-hole in herblanket, the effect of a stray shot fired during the mêlée. The affair was asource of deep regret to all.

The Cheyennes, in accordance with their promise made to me, returned totheir reservation; and having thus far complied with the terms of the agreementthen made, it devolved upon the military authorities to return to themtheir people whom we had, up to that time and since the battle of the Wash*ta,retained as prisoners of war. An order was accordingly issued releasing theonly surviving chief, Fat Bear, and the women and children then held at FortHays. Wagons and subsistence were furnished them from Fort Hays to CampSupply, and a squadron of the Seventh Cavalry escorted them to the latterpoint, where they were received by their own people. Mo-nah-see-tah, althoughgladdened by the prospect of being restored to her people, exhibitedmarked feelings of regret when the time for her departure arrived. She hadgrown quite accustomed to the easy, idle life she had led among the troops,as compared with that mere existence of toil and drudgery to which all tribesof Indians consign their squaws.


Romeo, who had accompanied us throughout the events described in thesepages as interpreter, took unto himself a wife from the Cheyenne village, andthereafter became a sort of trader between the whites and Indians. I believehe is still acting in that capacity. Lone Wolf is still the leading chief of theKiowas; but if public and private advices are to be relied upon, he has actedwith extremely bad faith toward the Government, and even as these lines arebeing penned is reported as absent from his reservation, leading a war partyof his people in committing depredations upon the people of the Texas frontier.Satanta, since his release from the Texas State prison, has led a comparativelyquiet and uneventful life. How much of this is due to his incarcerationin prison for a short term of years can only be inferred. Little Ravencontinues to exercise the powers of head chief of the Arapahoes, althoughhe is too old and infirm to exercise active command. My former friend andcompanion, Yellow Bear, is the second chief in rank to Little Raven, andprobably will succeed to the dignities of the latter ere many years have rolledaround. Little Robe, of the Cheyennes, whose acts and words were alwayson the side of peace, died some three years ago.

A few words in regard to one other character with whom the reader ofthese sketches has been made acquainted, and I shall have disposed of theprincipal personages, not included in the military, whom the reader has encounteredfrom time to time. California Joe accompanied my command toFort Hays, Kansas, on the Kansas Pacific railroad, when the troops were partiallydisbanded and sent to different stations. California Joe had never seena railroad nor a locomotive, and here determined to improve his first opportunityin these respects, and to take a trip in the cars to Leavenworth, distantabout four hundred miles. A few days afterward an officer of my command,happening to be called to Leavenworth, thought he recognized a familiarform and face in front of the leading hotel of the city. A closer scrutinyshowed that the party recognized was none other than California Joe.But how changed! Under the manipulations of the barber, and through theaid of the proprietor of a gentleman’s furnishing store, the long, curly locksand beard of California Joe, both of which had avoided contact with comb,brush, or razor for many years, had undergone a complete metamorphosis.His hair and beard were neatly trimmed and combed, while his figure, avery commanding one, had discarded the rough suit of the frontiersman, andwas now adorned by the latest efforts of fashion. If the reader imagines,however, that these changes were in keeping with the taste of California Joe,the impression is wholly incorrect. He had effected them simply for a sensation.The following day he took the cars for the West, satisfied with thefaint glimpse of civilization he had had.

As I soon after left that portion of the plains in which these scenes arelaid, I saw no more of California Joe; but I often wondered what had becomeof my loquacious friend, whose droll sayings and quaint remarks had oftenserved to relieve the tedium of the march or to enliven the group about thecamp-fire. I had begun, after a few years had passed without trace or tidingsfrom Joe, to fear that he had perhaps gone to that happy hunting ground towhich he no doubt had sent more than one dusky enemy, when a few weeksago I was most agreeably surprised to receive indubitable evidence that CaliforniaJoe was still in the land of the living, but exactly where I could notdetermine, as his letter was simply dated “Sierre Nevade Mountains, California.”Now as this range of mountains extends through the entire length and256embraces a considerable portion of the State of California, Joe’s addresscould not be definitely determined. But as his letter is so characteristic ofthe man, I here introduce it as the valedictory of California Joe:

Sierre Nevade Mountains, Calefornia, March 16, 1874.

Dear General after my respets to you and Lady i thought that i tell you that i am still on top ofland yit i hev been in the rockey mountain the most of the time sence last I seen you but i got onthe railroad and started west and the first thing I knew I landed in san Francisco so I could notgo any further except goin by water and salt water at that so i turned back and headed for themountains once more resolved never to go railroading no more i drifted up with the tide to sacramentocity and i landed my boat so i took up through town they say thar is 20 thousand peopleliving thar but it looks to me like to be 100 thousand counting chinaman and all i cant describe mywolfish feeling but i think that i look just like i did when we was chasing Buffalo on the cimaroneso I struck up through town and i come to a large fine building crowded with people so bulgedin to see what was going on and when i got in to the counsil house i took a look around at thecrowd and i seen the most of them had bald heads so i thought to myself i struck it now that theyare indian peace commissioners so i look to see if i would know any of them but not one so afterwhile the smartess lookin one got up and said gentlemen i introduce a bill to have speckle mountaintrout and fish eggs imported to california to be put in the american Bear and yuba rivers—thoserivers is so muddy that a tadpole could not live in them caused by mining—did any body ever hearof speckle trout living in muddy water and the next thing was the game law and that was verynear as bad as the Fish for they aint no game in the country as big as mawking bird i heard somefellow behind me ask how long is the legislaturs been in session then i dropt on myself it wuzentIndian commissioners after all so i slid out took across to chinatown and they smelt like a kiowacamp in August with plenty buffalo meat around—it was gettin late so no place to go not got a redcent so i happen to think of an old friend back of town that i knowed 25 years ago so i lit out andsure enough he was thar just as i left him 25 years ago baching [leading the life of bachelor—G.A.C.] so i got a few seads i going to plant in a few days give my respects to the 7th calvery and exceptthe same yoursly

California Joe.

The events described in this chapter terminated my service in the field onwhat is known as the southern and middle plains, embracing all that portionof the plains south of the Platte river. From and after the Wash*ta campaignthe frontiers of Kansas have enjoyed comparative peace and immunity fromIndian depredations. No general Indian war has prevailed in that part of thecountry, nor is it probable that anything more serious in this way than occasionalacts of horse-stealing will occur hereafter. Many of my friends have expressedsurprise that I have not included in “Life on the Plains” some of thehunting scenes and adventures which have formed a part of my experience;but I feared the introduction of this new feature, although probably the pleasantestand in many respects most interesting of my recollections of border life,might prolong the series of articles far beyond the length originally assigned tothem. I hope, however, at an early day to relate some of my experiences withthe large game so abundant on the plains, and in this way fill up a blank in thesearticles which my friends who are lovers of sport have not failed to observe.

As I pen these lines, I am in the midst of scenes of bustle and busy preparationattendant upon the organization and equipment of a large party for animportant exploring expedition, on which I shall start before these pages reachthe publishers’ hands. During my absence I expect to visit a region of countryas yet unseen by human eyes, except those of the Indian—a country describedby the latter as abounding in game of all varieties, rich in scientificinterest, and of surpassing beauty in natural scenery. Bidding adieu to civilizationfor the next few months, I also now take leave of my readers, who Itrust, in accompanying me through my retrospect, have been enabled to gaina true insight into a cavalryman’s “Life on the Plains.”

The End.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were madeconsistent when a predominant preference was foundin the original book; otherwise they were not changed.Spelling variations in dialect were retained.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalancedquotation marks were remedied when the change wasobvious, and otherwise left unbalanced.

Illustrations in this eBook have been positionedbetween paragraphs and outside quotations. In versionsof this eBook that support hyperlinks, the pagereferences in the List of Illustrations lead to thecorresponding illustrations.

Text often refers to “Major Elliot” and “Major Elliott.”Both spellings retained here.

Page 87: One entry in the table is not in chronological sequence.


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