Part 6 out of 9
The next day, early, the little girl took her brother on her
back, and went out and gathered a big pile of wood, and
brought it to the lodge before the old woman was awake.
When she got up she called to the girl, “Go to the river and
get a bucket of water.” The girl put her brother on her back,
and took the bucket to go. The old woman said to her: “Why do
you carry that child everywhere? Leave him here.” The little
girl said: “Not so. He is always with me, and if I leave him
he will cry and make a great noise, and you will not like that.”
The old woman grumbled, but the girl went on down to the river.
When she got there, just as she was going to fill her bucket,
she saw a great bull standing by her. It was a mountain
buffalo, one of those which live in the timber; and the long
hair of its head was all full of pine needles and sticks and
branches, and matted together. (It was a Su-ye-stu-mik,
a water-bull.) When the girl saw him, she prayed him to take
her across the river, and so to save her and her little
brother from the bad old woman. The bull said, “I will take
you across, but first you must take some of the sticks out of
my head.” The girl begged him to start at once; but the bull
said, “No, first take the sticks out of my head.” The girl
began to do it, but before she had done much she heard the old
woman calling her to bring the water. The girl called back,
“I am trying to get the water clear,” and went on fixing the
buffalo's head. The old woman called again, saying, “Hurry,
hurry with that water.” The girl answered, “Wait, I am
washing my little brother.” Pretty soon the old woman called
out, “If you don't bring that water, I will kill you and your
brother.” By this time the girl had most of the sticks out of
the bull's head, and he told her to get on his back, and went
into the water and swam across the river. As he reached the
other bank, the girl could see the old woman coming from her
lodge down to the river with a big stick in her hand.
When the bull reached the bank, the girl jumped off his back
and started off on the trail of the camp. The bull swam back
again to the other side of the river, and there stood the old
woman. This bull was a sort of servant of the old woman.
She said to him, “Why did you take those children across the
river? Take me on your back now and carry me across quickly,
so that I may catch them.” But the bull said, “First take
these sticks out of my head.” “No,” said the old woman;
“first take me across, then I will take the sticks out.”
The bull repeated, “First take the sticks out of my head,
then I will take you across.” This made the old woman very
angry, and she hit him with the stick she had in her hand;
but when she saw that he would not go, she began to pull the
sticks out of his head very roughly, tearing out great
handfuls of hair, and every moment ordering him to go, and
threatening what she would do to him when she got back.
At last the bull took her on his back, and began to swim
across with her, but he did not swim fast enough to please her;
so she began to pound him with her club to make him go faster.
When the bull got to the middle of the river he rolled over on
his side, and the old woman slipped off, and was carried down
the river and drowned.
The girl followed the trail of the camp for several days,
feeding on berries and roots that she dug; and at last one
night after dark she overtook the camp. She went into the
lodge of an old woman who was camped off at one side, and the
old woman pitied her and gave her some food, and told her
where her father's lodge was. The girl went to it, but when
she went in her parents would not receive her. She had tried
to overtake them for the sake of her little brother who was
growing thin and weak because he had not been fed properly;
and now her mother was afraid to let her stay with them.
She even went and told the chief that her children had come
back; he was angry, and he ordered that the next day they
should be tied to a post in the camp, and that the people
should move on and leave them there. “Then,” he said, “they
cannot follow us.”
When the old woman who had pitied the children heard what the
chief had ordered, she made up a bundle of dried meat, and
hid it in the grass near the camp. Then she called her dog
to her—a little curly dog. She said to the dog: “Now listen.
To-morrow when we are ready to start I will call you to come
to me, but you must pay no attention to what I say. Run off
and pretend to be chasing squirrels. I will try to catch you,
and if I do so I will pretend to whip you; but do not follow
me. Stay behind, and when the camp has passed out of sight,
chew off the strings that bind those children. When you have
done this, show them where I have hidden that food. Then you
can follow the camp and overtake us.” The dog stood before
the old woman and listened to all that she said, turning his
head from side to side, as if paying close attention.
Next morning it was done as the chief had said. The children
were tied to the tree with rawhide strings, and the people
tore down all the lodges and moved off. The old woman called
her dog to follow her, but he was digging at a gopher hole and
would not come. Then she went up to him and struck at him
hard with her whip, but he dodged and ran away, and then stood
looking at her. Then the old woman became very angry and
cursed him, but he paid no attention; and finally she left him,
and followed the camp. When the people had all passed out of
sight, the dog went to the children and gnawed the strings
which tied them until he had bitten them through. So the
children were free.
Then the dog was glad, and danced about and barked, and ran
round and round. Pretty soon he came up to the little girl
and looked up in her face, and then started away, trotting.
Every little while he would stop and look back. The girl
thought he wanted her to follow him. She did so, and he took
her to where the bundle of dried meat was and showed it to her.
Then, when he had done this, he jumped upon her and licked the
baby's face, and then started off, running as hard as he could
along the trail of the camp, never stopping to look back.
The girl did not follow him. She now knew it was no use to go
to the camp again. Their parents would not receive them, and
the chief would perhaps order them to be killed.
She went on her way, carrying her little brother and the
bundle of dried meat. She travelled for many days and at last
came to a place where she thought she would stop. Here she
built a little lodge of poles and brush, and stayed there.
One night she had a dream, and an old woman came to her,
in the dream, and said to her, “To-morrow take your little
brother and tie him to one of the lodge poles, and the next
day tie him to another, and so every day tie him to one of
the poles until you have gone all around the lodge and have
tied him to each pole. Then you will be helped, and will no
longer have bad luck.”
When the girl awoke in the morning she remembered what the
dream had told her, and she bound her little brother to one of
the lodge poles; and each day after this she tied him to one
of the poles. Each day he grew larger, until, when she had
gone all around the lodge, he was grown to be a fine young man.
Now the girl was glad, and proud of her young brother who was
so large and noble-looking. He was quiet, not speaking much,
and sometimes for days he would not say anything. He seemed
to be thinking all the time. One morning he told the girl
that he had a dream and that he wished her to help him build
a pis-kun. She was afraid to ask him about the dream, for she
thought if she asked questions he might not like it. So she
just said she was ready to do what he wished. They built the
pis-kun, and when it was finished the boy said to his sister,
“The buffalo are to come to us, and you are not to see them.
When the time comes you are to cover your head and to hold
your face close to the ground; and do not lift your head nor
look, until I throw a piece of kidney to you.” The girl said,
“It shall be as you say.”
When the time came, the boy told her where to go; and she went
to the place, a little way from the lodge, not far from the
corral, and sat down on the ground, and covered her head,
holding her face close to the earth. After she had sat there
a little while, she heard the sound of animals running, and
she was excited and curious, and raised her head to look; but
she saw only her brother, standing near, looking at her.
Before he could speak, she said to him, “I thought I heard
buffalo coming, and because I was anxious for food I forgot
my promise and looked. Forgive me this time, and I will try
again.” Again she bent her face to the ground, and covered
Soon she heard again the sound of animals running, at first a
long way off, and then coming nearer and nearer, until at last
they seemed close, and she thought they were going to run over
her. She sprang up in fright and looked about, but there was
nothing to be seen but her brother, looking sadly at her.
She went close to him and said, “Pity me. I was afraid, for
I thought the buffalo were going to run over me.” He said,
“This is the last time. If again you look, we will starve;
but if you do not look, we will always have plenty, and will
never be without meat.” The girl looked at him and said,
“I will try hard this time, and even if those animals run
right over me, I will not look until you throw the kidney
to me.” Again she covered her head, pressing her face against
the earth and putting her hands against her ears, so that she
might not hear. Suddenly, sooner than she thought, she felt
the blow from the meat thrown at her, and springing up, she
seized the kidney and began to eat it. Not far away was her
brother, bending over a fat cow; and, going up to him, she
helped him with the butchering. After that was done, she
kindled a fire and cooked the best parts of the meat, and they
ate and were satisfied.
The boy became a great hunter. He made fine arrows that went
faster than a bird could fly, and when he was hunting he
watched all the animals and all the birds, and learned their
ways and how to imitate them when they called. While he was
hunting, the girl dressed buffalo-hides and the skins of deer
and other animals. She made a fine new lodge, and the boy
painted it with figures of all the birds and the animals he
One day, when the girl was bringing water, she saw a little
way off a person coming. When she went in the lodge, she told
her brother, and he went out to meet the stranger. He found
that he was friendly and was hunting, but had had bad luck and
killed nothing. He was starving and in despair, when he saw
this lone lodge and made up his mind to go to it. As he came
near it, he began to be afraid, and to wonder if the people
who lived there were enemies or ghosts; but he thought,
“I may as well die here as starve,” so he went boldly to it.
The strange person was very much surprised to see this
handsome young man with the kind face, who could speak his own
language. The boy took him into the lodge, and the girl put
food before him. After he had eaten, he told his story,
saying that the game had left them, and that many of his
people were dying of hunger. As he talked, the girl listened;
and at last she remembered the man, and knew that he belonged
to her camp.
She asked him some questions, and he talked about all the
people in the camp, and even spoke of the old woman who owned
the dog. The boy advised the stranger, after he had rested,
to return to his camp and tell the people to move up to this
place, that here they would find plenty of game. After he had
gone, the boy and his sister talked of these things. The girl
had often told him what she had suffered, what the chief had
said and done, and how their own parents had turned against
her, and that the only person whose heart had been good to her
was this old woman. As the young man heard all this again,
he was angry at his parents and the chief, but he felt great
kindness for the old woman and her dog. When he learned that
those bad people were living, he made up his mind that they
should suffer and die.
When the strange man reached his own camp, he told the people
how well he had been treated by these two persons, and that
they wished him to bring the whole camp to them, and that
there they should have plenty.
This made great joy in the camp, and all got ready to move.
When they reached the lost children's camp, they found
everything as the stranger had said. The brother gave a feast;
and to those whom he liked he gave many presents, but to the
old woman and the dog he gave the best presents of all.
To the chief nothing at all was given, and this made him very
much ashamed. To the parents no food was given, but the boy
tied a bone to the lodge poles above the fire, and told the
parents to eat from it without touching it with their hands.
They were very hungry, and tried to eat from this bone; and as
they were stretching out their necks to reach it—for it was
above them—the boy cut off their heads with his knife.
This frightened all the people, the chief most of all; but
the boy told them how it all was, and how he and his sister
When he had finished speaking, the chief said he was sorry
for what he had done, and he proposed to his people that this
young man should be made their chief. They were glad to do
this. The boy was made the chief, and lived long to rule the
people in that camp.
The story of the Wolf-Man runs as follows:—
There was once a man who had two bad wives. They had no shame.
The man thought if he moved away where there were no other
people, he might teach these women to become good, so he moved
his lodge away off on the prairie. Near where they camped was
a high butte, and every evening about sundown the man would go
up on top of it, and look all over the country to see where
the buffalo were feeding, and if any enemies were approaching.
There was a buffalo-skull on the hill, which he used to sit on.
“This is very lonesome,” said one woman to the other, one day.
“We have no one to talk with, nor to visit.”
“Let us kill our husband,” said the other. “Then we will go
back to our relations and have a good time.”
Early in the morning the man went out to hunt, and as soon as
he was out of sight, his wives went up on top of the butte.
There they dug a deep pit, and covered it over with light
sticks, grass, and dirt, and placed the buffalo-skull on top.
In the afternoon they saw their husband coming home, loaded
down with meat he had killed. So they hurried to cook for him.
After eating, he went up on the butte and sat down on the
skull. The slender sticks gave way, and he fell into the pit.
His wives were watching him, and when they saw him disappear,
they took down the lodge, packed everything on the dog travois,
and moved off, going toward the main camp. When they got
near it, so that the people could hear them, they began to
cry and mourn.
“Why is this?” they were asked. “Why are you in mourning?
Where is your husband?”
“He is dead,” they replied. “Five days ago he went out on
a hunt, and he never came back.” And they cried and mourned
When the man fell into the pit, he was hurt. After a while
he tried to get out, but he was so badly bruised he could not
climb up. A wolf travelling along came to the pit and saw
him, and pitied him. “Ah-h-w-o-o-o-o! Ah-h-w-o-o-o-o!” he
howled, and when the other wolves heard him they all came
running to see what was the matter. There came also many
coyotes, badgers, and kit-foxes.
“In this hole,” said the wolf, “is my find. Here is a
fallen-in man. Let us dig him out, and we will have him for
They all thought the wolf spoke well, and began to dig.
In a little while they had a hole close to the man. Then the
wolf who found him said, “Hold on; I want to speak a few words
to you.” All the animals listening, he continued, “We will
all have this man for our brother, but I found him, so I think
he ought to live with us big wolves.” All the others said
that this was well; so the wolf went into the hole, and,
tearing down the rest of the dirt, dragged out the almost dead
man. They gave him a kidney to eat, and when he was able to
walk a little, the big wolves took him to their home.
Here there was a very old blind wolf, who had powerful medicine.
He cured the man, and made his head and hands look like those
of a wolf. The rest of his body was not changed.
In those days the people used to make holes in the pis-kun
walls and set snares, and when wolves and other animals came
to steal meat, they were caught by the neck. One night the
wolves all went down to the pis-kun to steal meat, and when
they got close to it, the man-wolf said, “Stand here a little.
I will go down and fix the places, so you will not be caught.”
He went on and sprung all the snares; then he went back and
called the wolves and others—the coyotes, badgers, and foxes—
and they all went in the pis-kun and feasted, and took meat
to carry home.
In the morning the people were surprised to find the meat gone,
and their nooses all drawn out. They wondered how it could
have been done. For many nights the nooses were drawn and
the meat stolen; but once, when the wolves went there to steal,
they found only the meat of a scabby bull, and the man-wolf
was angry, and cried out, “Bad-you-give-us-o-o-o!
The people heard him and said, “It is a man-wolf who has done
all this. We will catch him.” So they put pemmican and nice
back fat in the pis-kun, and many hid close by. After dark
the wolves came again, and when the man-wolf saw the good
food, he ran to it and began eating. Then the people all
rushed in and caught him with ropes and took him to a lodge.
When they got inside to the light of the fire, they knew at
once who it was. They said, “This is the man who was lost.”
“No,” said the man, “I was not lost. My wives tried to kill
me. They dug a deep hole, and I fell into it, and I was hurt
so badly that I could not get out; but the wolves took pity on
me and helped me, or I would have died there.”
When the people heard this they were angry, and they told the
man to do something.
“You say well,” he replied. “I give those women to the
I-kun-uh-kah-tsi; they know what to do.”
After that night the two women were never seen again.
* * *
The Utes are strictly mountain Indians. They were a fierce,
warlike tribe, and for years continuously raided the sparse
settlements at the base of the Rocky Mountains on both their
slopes. They were known to the Spaniards early in the
seventeenth century. The Utah Nation is an integral part of
the great Shoshone family, of which there are a number of
bands, or tribes—the Pah-Utes, or Py-Utes, the Pi-Utes, the
Gosh-Utes, or Goshutes, the Pi-Edes, the Uinta-Utes, the
Yam-Pah-Utes, besides others not necessary to enumerate.
The word Utah originated with the people inhabiting the
mountain region early in the seventeenth century, when
New Mexico was first talked of by the Spanish conquerors.
Pah signifies water; Pah-guampe, salt water, or salt lake;
Pah-Utes, Indians that live about the water. The word was
spelled in various ways, “Yutas” by the early Spaniards.
This is perhaps the proper way. Other spellings are “Youta,”
“Eutaw,” “Utaw,” and “Utah,” which is now the accepted
The Utes, unquestionably, were the Indians concerned in the “Mountain
Meadows Massacre.” The Utes, too, were the tribe that committed the
atrocities at their agency, killing the Meeker family and others there,
finishing their deeds of murder by the massacre of Major T. T.
Thornburgh's command on the White River in 1879. The terrible story
is worth recounting:—
Major T. T. Thornburgh, commanding officer of the Fourth
United States Infantry, at Fort Fred Steele on the Union
Pacific Railroad in Wyoming, was placed in charge of the
expedition which left Rawlins for White River Agency,
September 24. The command consisted of two companies, D and F
of the Fifth Cavalry, and Company E of the Fourth Infantry,
the officers included in the detachment being Captains Payne
and Lawson of the Fifth Cavalry, Lieutenant Paddock of the
Third Cavalry, and Lieutenants Price and Wooley of the Fourth
Infantry, with Dr. Grimes accompanying the command as surgeon.
Following the troops was a supply-train of thirty-three wagons.
When the command reached the place known as Old Fortification
Camp, Company E of the Fourth Infantry, with Lieutenant Price
in command, was dropped from the command, the design of this
step being to afford protection to passing supply-trains, and
to act as a reserve in case there was demand for it.
Major Thornburgh turned his face toward the Indian country in
deep earnest, with the balance of his command consisting of
the three cavalry companies numbering about one hundred and
Having been directed to use all despatch in reaching the
agency, the major marched forward with as great rapidity as
possible. The route selected is not well travelled, and is
mountainous, and of course the troops did not proceed so
rapidly as they might have done on more familiar highways.
Nothing was seen of or heard from the Indians until Bear River
was reached; this runs north of the reservation and almost
parallel with the northern line. At the crossing of this
stream, about sixty-five miles from White River Agency, ten
Indians, headed by two Ute chiefs, Colorow and Jack, made
their appearance. They were closely questioned, but professed
great friendliness for the whites and would betray none of the
secrets of their tribe. They declared that they were merely
out on a hunt, and repeated that they were friends of the
white man and of the Great Father's government, and especially
of the Great Father's soldiers.
After this parley, which took place September 26, Thornburgh
sent his last telegram from camp: “Have met some of the Ute
chiefs here. They seem friendly and promise to go with me to
the agency. They say the Utes don't understand why we came
here. I have tried to explain satisfactorily; don't now
anticipate any trouble.” The conclusion is that Thornburgh
was one of the most prudent and discreet of officers, but that
he was thrown off his guard by the savages.
The march was continued and nothing more was seen of the
Indians though a close watch by keen-eyed scouts was kept up
for them, until Williams' Fork, a small tributary of Bear
River, was reached, when the same ten Indians first seen again
quite suddenly and very mysteriously appeared. They renewed
their protestations of friendship, while they covertly and
critically eyed the proportions of the command. They made a
proposition to the commander that he take an escort of five
soldiers and accompany them to the agency. A halt was called
and Major Thornburgh summoned his staff to a consultation.
After carefully discussing the matter with a due regard for
the importance, the advantage, and disadvantage of the step,
the officers' council came to the conclusion that it was not
wise to accept this proffer on the part of the Indians, as it
might lead to another Modoc trap, and to Thornburgh's becoming
another Canby. Thornburgh's scout, Mr. Joseph Rankin, was
especially strong in opposition to the request of the Indians.
Major Thornburgh then concluded to march his column within
hailing distance of the agency, where he would accept the
proposition of the Indians. But he was never allowed to carry
out his designs. Here it became apparent how thin the
disguise of friendship had been, and Thornburgh was soon
convinced how fatal would have been the attempt for him,
accompanied by only five men, to treat with them.
The command had reached the point where the road crosses Milk
River, another tributary of the Bear River, inside the
reservation and in the limits of Summit County, about
twenty-five miles north of the agency, when they were attacked
by the hostiles, numbering, it is believed, between two
hundred and fifty and three hundred warriors, who had been
lying in ambush.
The scene of the attack was peculiarly fitted for the Indian
method of warfare. When Thornburgh's command entered the
ravine or cañon they found themselves between two bluffs
thirteen hundred yards apart. Those on the north were two
hundred feet high, those on the south one hundred feet.
The road to the agency ran through the ravine in a
southeasterly direction, following the bend of the Milk River,
at a distance of five hundred yards. Milk River is a narrow,
shallow stream, which here flows in a southwesterly direction,
passing through a narrow cañon. Through this cañon, after
making a detour to avoid some very difficult ground,
the wagon-road passes for three or four miles. Along the
stream is a growth of cottonwood trees; but its great advantage
as an ambuscade lies in the narrowness of the cañon.
On the top of the two ranges of bluffs the Indians had
intrenched themselves in a series of pits, so that when the
troops halted at the first volley, they stood between two
fires at a range of only six hundred and fifty yards from
The battle took place on the morning of September 29.
The locality of the ambush had been known as Bad Cañon,
but it will hereafter be described as Thornburgh's Pass.
Lieutenant Cherry discovered the ambush, and was ordered by
Major Thornburgh to hail the Indians. He took fifteen men of
E Company for this work. Major Thornburgh's orders were not
to make the first fire on the Indians, but to wait an attack
from them. After the Indians and Cherry's hailing party had
faced each other for about ten minutes, Mr. Rankin, the scout,
who was an old Indian fighter, seeing the danger in which the
command was placed, hurried direct to Major Thornburgh's side
and requested him to open fire on the enemy, saying at the
same time that that was their only hope. Major Thornburgh
“My God! I dare not; my orders are positive, and if I
violate them and survive, a court-martial and ignominious
dismissal may follow. I feel as though myself and men were
to be murdered.”
Major Thornburgh, with Captain Payne, was riding at the head
of the column; Company F, Fifth Cavalry, in advance;
Lieutenant Lawson commanding next; and D Company, Fifth
Cavalry, Lieutenant Paddock commanding, about a mile and
a half to the rear, in charge of the wagon-train.
Cherry had moved out at a gallop with his men from the right
flank, and noticed a like movement of about twenty Indians
from the left of the Indians' position. He approached to
within two hundred yards of the Indians and took off his hat
and waved it, but the response was a shot fired at him,
wounding a man of the party and killing his horse. This was
the first shot, and was instantly followed by a volley from
the Indians. The work had now begun in real earnest, and
seeing the advantage of the position he then held, Cherry
dismounted his detachment and deployed along the crest of the
hill to prevent the Indians flanking his position, or to cover
his retreat if found necessary to retire upon the wagon-train,
which was then coming up slowly, guarded by Lieutenant
Paddock's company, D, Fifth Cavalry.
Orders were sent to pack the wagons and cover them, with the
company guarding them. The two companies in advance were
Captain Payne's company, F, Fifth Cavalry, and Lieutenant
Lawson's company, E, Third Cavalry, which were dismounted and
deployed as skirmishers, Captain Payne on the left and
Lieutenant Lawson on the right.
From Cherry's position he could see that the Indians were
trying to cut him off from the wagons, and at once sent word
to Major Thornburgh, who then withdrew the line slowly,
keeping the Indians in check until opposite the point which
his men had, when, seeing that the Indians were concentrating
to cut off his retreat, Captain Payne, with Company F, Fifth
Cavalry, was ordered to charge the hill, which he did in
gallant style, his horse being shot under him and several of
his men wounded.
The Indians being driven from this point, the company was
rallied on the wagon-train. Major Thornburgh then gave orders
to Cherry to hold his position and cover the retreat of
Lieutenant Lawson, who was ordered to fall back slowly with
the company horses of his company.
Cherry called for volunteers of twenty men, who responded
promptly and fought with desperation. Nearly every man was
wounded before he reached camp, and two men were killed.
Cherry brought every wounded man in with him. Lieutenant
Lawson displayed the greatest coolness and courage during this
retreat, sending up ammunition to Cherry's men when once they
were nearly without it.
Simultaneously with the attack on Thornburgh's advance the
Indians swept in between the troops and the wagon-train, which
was protected by D Company, Lieutenant Paddock commanding.
The desperate situation of the soldiers in the ravine was at
once apparent to every officer and man in the ambush.
The soldiers fought valiantly, desperately, and the Indians
shrank under the terrible counter fire. A more complete trap
could not be contrived, for the troops were not only
outnumbered, but exposed to a galling fire from the bluffs,
over the edge of which it was impossible to reach the foe,
as the range of sight would, of course, carry bullets clean
over the Indian pits.
Major Thornburgh was here and there and everywhere, directing
the attack, the defence, and later the retreat. He was
constantly exposed to fire, and the wonder is that his
intrepidity did not win his death ere it did. Captain Payne
and his company, under orders from Thornburgh, fell back to a
knoll, followed by Lieutenant Lawson and company, the retreat
being covered by Lieutenant Cherry's command. Hemmed in at
both outlets of the pass and subjected to a steady deathly
fire from the heights on either side, the troops were melting
down under the savage massacre.
Major Thornburgh, seeing the terrible danger in which his
command was placed from the position of the Indians, at once
mounted about twenty men, and at the head of them he dashed
forward with a valour unsurpassed by Napoleon at the Bridge of
Lodi, and made a charge on the savages between the command and
It was in this valorous dash that Thornburgh met his fate,
thirteen of his bold followers also being killed, the gallant
leader falling within four hundred yards of the wagons.
The remainder of the command, then in retreat for the train
corral, followed the path led by Thornburgh and his men.
As Captain Payne's company was about to start, or had started,
his saddle-girth broke and he got a fearful fall. One of his
men dismounted and assisted him on his horse, the captain's
horse having run away. F Company, Fifth, followed by the
captain, he being badly bruised, reached the wagon-train to
find it being packed, and Lieutenant Paddock wounded, and
fighting the Indians. Lieutenants Lawson and Cherry fell back
slowly with their companies dismounted and fighting all the
way, every man doing his duty.
The stubborn resistance of Lieutenant Cherry in covering the
retreat gave time for the troops at the train to form
temporary breastworks of men's bundles, flour, sacks of corn,
wagons, and dead horses. When the last detachment had reached
the Paddock corral the soldiers fought intrenched, horses
being shot down rapidly and the foe settling into position on
all the high points about them. Captain Payne, who by
Thornburgh's death came into command, drew up eight of the
wagons and ranged them as a sort of a breastwork along the
northern and eastern sides of an oval, at the same time
cutting transverse trenches on the western and southern points
of the oval, along the line of which the men posted themselves.
Inside the oval eight more wagons were drawn up for the
purpose of corralling the animals, and there was also a pit
provided for sheltering the wounded. Behind the pits ran a
path to the nearest bend of Milk River, which was used for
obtaining water. The command held its position until 8:30
o'clock that night, when the Indians withdrew.
In the engagement there were twelve soldiers killed and
forty-two wounded. Every officer in the command was shot with
the exception of Lieutenant Cherry, of the Fifth Cavalry.
The Indians killed from one hundred and fifty to two hundred
mules belonging to the government. Surgeon Grimes was wounded
but was able for duty. The troops had about six days'
One of the greatest chiefs of the Ute Nation was Ouray. His character
was marked by its keen perception, and ideas of right and wrong,
according to a strictly Christian code. He was bold, and an
uncompromising protector of the rights of his tribe, and equally as
earnest in his endeavours to impress upon the minds of the Indians
that the whites were their friends. He was renowned for his wisdom
rather than for his bravery, which is the test of greatness among
savages. He was brave, too, but that did not, in his own conception,
complete the qualities which a leader should possess. His tribe
during the period of his chieftainship had five battles with the
Arapahoes and several with the Sioux and Cheyennes. It was a bloody
war between the Indians of the plains and the mountains, between
highlanders and lowlanders, and in these struggles Ouray became a
During some of these battles with the Arapahoes, Ouray led as many as
seven hundred warriors into the field. At one time he had but thirty
braves with him, while the enemy numbered nearly eight hundred.
The Arapahoes came upon the Utes one morning just about daylight,
surprising them completely. Ouray rallied his small force, however,
formed them into a square, and after retreating a short distance,
fighting continuously for fourteen hours, succeeded in repulsing his
The story of his life is an interesting one. He says that he was born
in Taos Valley in New Mexico, near the Pueblo village of that name,
in 1839. The band to which he belonged spent a great deal of its time
in the Taos Valley, San Luis Park, and along the base of the Sangre
de Cristo Mountains. In that region they were accustomed to meet the
Apaches, who came from the south. It was a common thing for a tribe
of Indians to marry out of their own. Ouray's father married an
Apache woman, hence the epithet so often sneeringly applied to the
chief, by those who did not like him, of “He's an Apache pappoose.”
His band became so accustomed to association with the Mexicans that
some of them began to adopt the customs of that people, and when
Ouray's father and mother decided to wed, they were married in the
little adobe church on a hill in the village at the Red River Crossing.
A priest performed the ceremony according to the Catholic ritual.
When Ouray was born, he was taken to the same building and baptized
into the Catholic faith.
Ouray was not head chief at first; but his influence increased so fast
with the other bands of the tribe, that, in the year of President
Lincoln's death, he was declared head chief of the whole Ute Nation.
Ouray resided in a neatly built adobe house erected for him by the
government; it was nicely carpeted and furnished in modern style.
He owned a farm of three hundred acres, a real garden spot. Of these
he cultivated a hundred, owned a large number of horses, cattle, and
sheep, and rode in a carriage presented to him by Governor McCook of
Colorado. He hired labourers from among the Mexicans and Indians.
He was very much attached to the white man's manner of living, and
received from the government a thousand dollars a year annuity.
From first to last, Ouray had been friendly to the whites, and always
an advocate of peace. The moment he heard of the attack on Thornburgh's
command, he sent runners to the spot and ordered the Indians to cease
at once; so powerful was he that hostilities ended immediately.
The Pi-Utes have a rather poetical conceit in accounting for the
movements of the celestial bodies. Their theory is that the sun rules
the heavens. He is a big chief; the moon is his squaw, and the stars
are his children. The sun devours his children whenever he is able
to catch them. They are constantly afraid of him as he is passing
through the sky. He gets up very early in the morning; his children,
the stars, fly out of sight, and go away into the blue; and they are
not seen again until he goes to bed, which is deep down under the
ground, in a great hole. When he goes to his hole, he creeps and
crawls, and sleeps there all night. The hole is so little that he
cannot turn around in it, so he is obliged, when he has had all the
sleep he requires, to pass on through, and in the morning he is seen
in the east again. When he comes out of his hole, he begins to hunt
through the sky to catch and eat any of the stars he can find. All of
the sun is not seen; his shape is like a snake or lizard. It is not
his head that is seen, but his stomach, which is stuffed with stars
he has devoured. His wife, the moon, goes into the same hole as her
husband, to sleep also. She has great fear of him, and when he comes
into the hole to sleep, she does not remain there long, if he be cross.
The moon has great love for her children, the stars, and is ever happy
to be travelling up where they are. Her children feel perfectly safe,
and smile as she passes along. But she cannot help one of them being
devoured every month. It is ordered by Pah-ah, the Great Spirit, who
dwells above all, that the sun must swallow one of his children each
month. Then the mother-moon feels very sorry, and she must mourn.
She paints her face black, for her child is gone. But the dark will
soon wear away from her face a little by little, night after night,
and after a time her face becomes all bright again. Soon the sun
swallows another child, and the moon puts on her black paint again.
They account for the appearance of a comet by stating that the sun
often snaps at one of the stars, his children, and does not get a good
hold of it, he only tears a piece out; and the star, getting wild with
pain, goes flying across the sky with a great spout of blood flowing
from it. It is then very much afraid, and as it flies it always keeps
its head turned to watch the sun, its father, and never turns its face
away from him until it is far out of his reach.
A few years ago, the Utes sold their lands to the United States
government, and the various bands were removed to a reservation.
Among the many legends of the Utes, that accounting for the origin of
the hot springs at the mouth of the cañon of the Rio las Gallinas
(near Las Vegas, N.M.) is one of the most remarkable. It was related
to one of the authors of this volume thirty-two years ago, by an aged
warrior, while the party of Indians and white men who had been hunting
for black-tail deer in the mountains were sitting around their
camp-fire at night.
The wrinkled and paint-bedaubed savage veteran filled his pipe,
lighted it, then taking a whiff after saluting the sky, the earth,
and the cardinal points of the compass, passed it around,
Indian-fashion, and began his weird story; which is here given,
divested of the poor English of our interpreter:—
Thousands of snows have passed, thousands of Indian summers
made their delightful round, since the Medicine Waters were
formed there by the Great Spirit to prove that the people of
the powerful Ute Nation were his special care. Warriors, too,
who were wounded in battle with their hereditary enemies,
the Pawnees of the plains—if they were brave and had pleased
the Great Spirit—had only to repair to the hot waters flowing
out of the mountain side, bathe three times a day in their
healing flood, and drink of the coldest that sprang from the
same rocky ledge. Then, in the course of a few suns, no matter
how badly injured, they would certainly recover and become
stronger than ever. If, however, any who had behaved cowardly
in the heat of action—which to the Great Spirit is a great
abomination, never condoned—and went to the Big Medicine to
heal his wounds, the water had no effect and he soon died.
So these Medicine Waters were not only a panacea for all
diseases, and injuries received in honourable warfare, but an
infallible test of the courage of every wounded warrior engaged
in frequent sanguinary conflicts.
That the action of Las Vegas Hot Springs was believed to be a direct
manifestation of the power of the Great Spirit, the legend farther
confirms, for after his preliminary observations of their efficacy and
purpose, the old warrior continued:
The Utes were the first people created. They had thousands of
ponies. The mountains were filled with deer, bear, bighorn,
and elk, while the plains below were black with herds of buffalo.
They were very wealthy. Many hundreds of years they remained
the happiest race on earth, always victorious in battle, and
never suffering for food. Their head chief at this time was
We-lo-lon-nan-nai (the forked lightning), the bravest warrior
of all the tribes. His people loved him for his good qualities,
and the justice with which he administered the affairs of
the nation. One morning he was taken suddenly ill, and called
into his lodge the celebrated medicine-men of his band to
prescribe for him; but these famous doctors, after exhausting
all their art and cunning, were obliged to declare there was
no hope for their chief; he would soon be gathered to his
fathers unless the Great Spirit, in his love for his chosen
people, would interfere. To enlist his offices in behalf of
their cherished dying leader, the oldest medicine-man, by virtue
of seniority, ordered a sacrifice to be made as an offering
of adoration and suppliance.
A large altar of pine logs was erected near the lodge of
We-lo-lon-nan-nai, and a buffalo bull, freshly captured for
the purpose, driven to the spot, killed, and his hide taken off.
The entire carcass was lifted with much ritualistic observance
upon the altar, and then the whole tribe, in obedience to the
order of the head medicine-man, prostrated themselves on the
ground. Touching a torch to the pile, and wrapping himself
in the bloody skin of the animal, the medicine-man took a
position about a hundred yards from the altar in an attitude
of supplication, to commune with the Great Spirit.
Absolute silence reigned; not a sound broke the awful solemnity
of the occasion, excepting the crackling of the fragrant pine
limbs used as fuel, and the seething of the flesh as it melted
under the heat.
When the altar and all its appliances had been burnt to ashes,
the medicine-man gave the signal for the people to rise, and
then announced the communication he had received from the
“We-lo-lon-nan-nai will not die; he shall live long enough to
rule over the Ute Nation; but he is very sick. He must be
carried to a spot which will be designated by the Great Spirit,
where he will cause a Big Medicine to appear out of the ground.
It will not only cure the chief of the Utes this time, but it
is for the sick and wounded of the nations for all time to come.
To-morrow, at sunrise, We-lo-lon-nan-nai must be escorted by
a hundred warriors to where the Big Medicine is to appear,
guided by the flight of an arrow to be shot from the bow of
the youngest medicine-man in the tribe as often as the end of
its flight is reached. Day after day shall he shoot, until
the arrow stands up in the earth, where is the place the
Big Medicine is to be found, when We-lo-lon-nan-nai smokes
the red-stone peace-pipe of the tribe.”
Arriving at the great cañon, where the arrow stood upright
in the earth, and where only a cold stream of water flowed
through its bottom, We-lo-lon-nan-nai sat himself down under
the rocky ledge at the entrance to the mighty gap in the range,
and, lighting his pipe, directed the smoke of the fragrant
kin-nik-i-nik toward the heavens. Suddenly there was a terrible
convulsion of the earth, and immediately there burst forth
fountains of hot water and mud mounds, where before there was
not the sign of a spring.
Astonished at this manifestation, We-lo-lon-nan-nai offered up
a silent prayer, and, divesting himself of his robe, told his
followers to bury him in the hot mud up to his head. They
complied with his orders, and he remained in the excavation,
which was made large enough to receive his entire body, for a
whole day; and when taken out at night all his pains were gone,
and he seemed to his warriors to have recovered his youth.
Many of them who were suffering with different ailments then
tried the efficacy of the hot water and the mud, and were from
that instant cured.
The report of the miraculous healing of the Ute chief soon
spread among the neighbouring tribes, and the sick from
everywhere came flocking to the Big Medicine Springs, which
they continued to use until the white man took possession of
the country, and the Indians have ever since been lessening
gradually in number, until there are now but few left, because
deprived of their Big Medicine.
We-lo-lon-nan-nai ruled over the Utes for many years after his
restoration to health; in fact, never died, but was carried on
the wings of an immense bird, which was supposed by the
wandering warriors to be a messenger of the Great Spirit,
right to the abode of the blessed. His name is revered to
this day, and the young men are encouraged to emulate his
virtues, the story of which has come down through untold æons.
To the uninitiated reader, it may, perhaps, be interesting to know
the meaning of the somewhat strange Indian cognomens.
The majority of savages receive their names from some peculiarity of
person, costume, or from bodily deformity. Ba-oo-kish, or Closed Hand,
a noted Crow chief, was thus named from the fact that when young his
hand was so badly burned as to cause his fingers to close within the
palm, and grow fast. White Forehead, because he always wore a white
band around his head to conceal the scar of a wound which had been
inflicted by a squaw. Mock-pe-lu-tah, Red Cloud or Bloody Hand, one
of the most terrible warriors of the Sioux Nation, derived his name
from his deeds of blood, and the red blankets which his braves
invariably wore. They “never moved on their enemies without appearing
as a cloud, so great were their numbers. Sweeping down with his hosts
on the border, he covered the hills like a red cloud in the heavens,
and never returned to his village until he had almost exterminated
the tribe or settlement against which his wrath was directed.”
Ta-shunk-ah-ko-ke-pah-pe, Man afraid of his Horses, obtained his name
from having captured a great many horses at one time, which he was
constantly afraid he would lose. Once, when the Shoshones attacked
his camp, he left his family in the hands of the enemy, to run off his
horses. No Knife, a noted man of the Omahas, was named from an
incident that occurred at the time of his birth. He was born on the
march, and was ever after known by his singular appellation.
Ta-ton-ka-ig-oton-ka, Sitting Bull, the most vindictive and determined
enemy the whites ever had, was so named because once, after having
shot a buffalo, he leaped from his horse astride of the animal to skin
it, when with the Indian upon him the wounded bull sat up on his
haunches. The celebrated Sioux chief, Sin-ta-gal-las-ca, Spotted Tail,
when young always wore a coon tail in his hair, hence his name.
Connected with the history of this famous warrior, there is a pathetic
episode, which shows the better side of Indian character.
Spotted Tail had a daughter, who was very beautiful according to the
savage idea. She fell in love with an army officer stationed at Fort
Laramie. He did not reciprocate her passion, and plainly told the
dusky maiden he could never marry her. The poor girl visited the fort
every day, and would sit for hours on the porch on her beloved's
quarters until he came out, and then she would quietly follow him
about with the fidelity of a dog. She seemed to ask no greater
pleasure than to look at him, be near him, and was ever miserable
when out of his sight.
Spotted Tail, who was cognizant of his daughter's affection for the
young army officer, remonstrated with her in vain, and when he found
he could not conquer her foolish passion, sent her away to a remote
band of his tribe. She obediently went without murmuring, but,
arrived at her destination, she refused food, and actually pined away
until she became a mere skeleton. Spotted Tail was sent for, to see
her die. He hastened to her bed of robes and found her almost gone.
With the little strength she had left, she told her father of her
great love for the whites, and made him promise that he would ever
after her death live at peace with them. Then she appeared to be very
happy, and closing her eyes said, “This is my last request, bury me at
Fort Laramie,” then died. The old chief carried her body to the fort,
and interred it with the whites, where she wished to live.
The grave of the unfortunate maiden had been carefully marked, and
as long as the fort was garrisoned it continued to be an object of
Spotted Tail, after the death of his daughter, never spoke in council
with the whites without referring to her request, and declared it to
be his wish to live at peace with the people she loved so well.
SIOUX WAR OF 1863.
In 1863, the Indians of the valley under the leadership of the
celebrated Sioux war-chief, Spotted Tail, broke out, and the
government determined to chastise them. An expedition was organized,
which was to rendezvous at North Platte, consisting of the First
Nebraska Cavalry, Twelfth Missouri Cavalry, a detachment of the Second
United States and Seventh Iowa Cavalry, Colonel Brown, the senior
officer, commanding the whole.
Some of the operations of this expedition and personal adventures have
been told by George P. Belden, then belonging to the First Nebraska
Cavalry. He was a famous trapper, scout, and guide, and was known
as “The White Chief.” He afterward became an officer in the regular
army. His account runs as follows:—
The snow was quite deep on the plains, and knowing that the
hostile Indians, who were then encamped on the Republican
River, were encumbered by their villages, women, and children,
it was thought to be a favourable time to strike them a severe
blow. There were many Indians in our command, among others a
large body of Pawnee scouts. Early in January the expedition
left the Platte River, and marched southward toward the
Republican. When we reached the river a depot of supplies was
established and named Camp Wheaton, after the general then
commanding the Department of the Platte. This done, the
scouting began, and we were ready for war. Nor were we long
kept waiting, for Lieutenant James Murie, who marched out to
Short Nose Creek with a party of scouts, was suddenly attacked
by a large body of Sioux, and six of his men wounded. Colonel
Brown considered this an unfortunate affair, inasmuch as the
Indians, having learned by it the presence of troops in their
country, would be on the alert, and, in all probability,
at once clear out with their villages. He determined, if it
were possible, still to surprise them, and ordered the command
immediately into the saddle. We pushed hard for Solomon's
Fork, a great resort for the savages, but arrived only in time
to find their camps deserted and the Indians all gone.
One evening, as we were encamped on the banks of the Solomon,
a huge buffalo bull suddenly appeared on the bluff overlooking
the camp, and gazed in wonder at a sight so unusual to his
eyes. In a moment a dozen guns were ready to fire, but as the
beast came down the narrow ravine washed by the rains in the
bluff, all waited until he should emerge on the open plain
near the river. Then a lively skirmish was opened on him, and
he turned and quickly disappeared again in the brush. Several
of the soldiers ran up one of the narrow water-courses, hoping
to get a shot at him as he emerged on the open prairie. What
was their surprise to meet him coming down. He ran up one
ravine, and being half crazed by his wounds, had, on reaching
the prairie, turned into the one in which the soldiers were.
As soon as he saw him, the soldier in front called out to
those behind him to run, but they, not understanding the
nature of the danger, continued to block up the passage.
The bull could barely force his great body between the high
and narrow banks; but before all the soldiers could get out of
the ravine he was upon them, and trampled two of them under
his feet, not hurting them much, but frightening them terribly.
As the beast came out again on the open bank of the river a
score of soldiers, who had run over from their camp with their
guns, gave him a dozen balls. Still he did not fall, but,
dashing through the brush, entered the cavalry camp, and
running up to a large gray horse that was tied to a tree,
lifted the poor brute on his horns and threw him into the air.
The horse was completely disembowelled, and dropped down dead.
The buffalo next plunged his horns into a fine bay horse,
the property of an officer in the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, and
the poor fellow groaned with pain until the hills resounded.
Exhausted by his exertions and wounds, the bull laid down
carefully by the side of the horse, as if afraid of hurting
himself, and in a moment rolled over dead. We skinned and
dressed him, and carried the meat into camp for our suppers;
but it was dearly bought beef, at the expense of the lives of
two noble horses; and Colonel Brown notified us he wished no
further contracts closed on such expensive terms.
While we lay encamped at the depot of supplies, on the
Republican, Colonel Brown called for volunteer scouts, stating
that he would give a purse of five hundred dollars to any one
who would discover a village of Indians and lead the command
to the spot. This glittering prize dazzled the eyes of many
a soldier, but few had the courage to undertake so hazardous
an enterprise. Sergeant Hiles, of the First Nebraska, and
Sergeant Rolla, of the Seventh Iowa, came forward and said
they would go upon the expedition provided they could go alone.
Both were shrewd, sharp men, and Colonel Brown readily gave
his consent, well knowing that in scouting, where the object
is not to fight, but to gain information and keep concealed,
the fewer men in the party the better their chances of escape.
On the day after Hiles and Rolla had left camp, Nelson, who
had come down and joined the army as a guide, proposed to me
that we should go out and hunt an adventure. My old love of
Indian life was upon me, and I joyfully accepted his
proposition. I applied to Colonel Brown for permission to set
out at once, but he declined to grant my request, on the
ground that it was not necessary or proper for an officer to
engage in such an enterprise. I, however, coaxed the colonel
a little, and he finally told me I might go.
Packing several days' supplies on a mule, as soon as it was
dark Nelson and I started, he leading the mule, and I driving
him from behind. We travelled over to the Little Beaver, then
up the stream for some distance, when we crossed over and
camped on Little Beaver. Here we expected to find Indian
signs, but were disappointed. We rested for a short time, and
then travelled down the Beaver until opposite Short Nose Creek,
when we crossed the divide and camped on that stream.
Two days later we pushed on to Cedar Creek, and then crossed
over to Prairie Dog Creek. We had travelled only at night,
hiding away all day in the brush that lined the creeks, and
keeping a sharp lookout for Indians. So far, we had seen no
Indian signs, and began to despair of finding any, when one
morning, just as we were preparing for breakfast, I heard
several shots fired, apparently four or five miles up the
creek. Nelson ran out on the bluff, and, applying his ear to
the ground, said he could distinctly hear the reports of many
rifles. We could not imagine what this meant, and withdrew
into the bluffs “to make it out,” as the old trappers say.
Nelson was the first speaker, and he gave it as his opinion
that Colonel Brown, who had told us before leaving camp he
would soon start for the Solomon, had set out earlier than he
expected, and was now crossing above us. I set my compass,
and, finding we were nearly on the line where Brown would
cross, readily fell in with Nelson's reasoning. So sure was I
that the guns we had heard were Colonel Brown's soldiers out
hunting that I proposed we should saddle up and go to them.
This move came near proving fatal to us, as will presently
appear. We rode boldly up the stream, in broad daylight,
some five miles, when, not finding any trail, I began to
express my surprise at the long distance we had heard the
reports of the guns, but Nelson told me it was no uncommon
thing, when snow was on the ground, to hear a rifle-shot ten
to twenty miles along a creek bottom, and, incredible as this
may seem, I found out afterward it was nevertheless true.
We rode on about five miles farther, when suddenly Nelson
halted, and, pointing to an object a long distance ahead, said
he believed it was a horseman. We lost no time in getting
into the bluffs, where we could observe what went on without
being seen, and soon saw an animal coming down the creek
bottom. As it drew near, we discovered it to be a horse,
evidently much frightened, and flying from pursuers.
The horse galloped past, but stopped half a mile below us and
quietly went to grazing, every now and then raising his head
and looking up the creek, as if he expected to see some enemy
following him. We lay for several hours momentarily expecting
to see a body of Indians coming down the creek, but none came,
and at noon Nelson said I should watch, and he would crawl
down the creek and see if he could discover anything from the
horse. I saw Nelson approach quite near the animal, and heard
him calling it, when, to my surprise, it came up to him and
followed him into the bluffs. The horse was the one Sergeant
Hiles had ridden from the camp a few days previous, and was
well known to Nelson and me as a superb animal, named Selim.
It did not take us long to come to the conclusion that Hiles
and Rolla had been attacked, and that the firing we had heard
in the morning was done by the Indians. From the fact that
Hiles' horse had no saddle on when found, we concluded he had
been in the hands of the Indians, and had probably broken away
from them, and we doubted not that at least Hiles was dead.
Fearing the savages would come down upon us next, we lost no
time in getting down the creek. We soon passed where we had
encamped the night before, and, finding the fire still burning,
put it out, and, covering up the ashes, pushed on for several
miles and camped among the bluffs. Nelson carried up several
logs from the creek, with which to make a barricade in case of
attack, and, Nelson taking first watch, I lay down to sleep,
without fire or supper, except a piece of raw pork.
At nine o'clock I arose to watch, and soon after midnight,
the moon coming up bright and clear, I awoke Nelson, and
suggested to him we should saddle up and cross over to Cedar
Creek, for I had a strong presentiment that some misfortune
would befall us if we remained longer where we were. It is
not a little singular, but true, that man has a wonderful
instinct, and can nearly always divine coming trouble or
danger. This instinct in the frontiersman, of course, is
wonderfully developed by the perilous life he leads; but,
call it presentiment or what you will, this instinct exists
in every beast of the field, as well as in the human breast,
and he who follows it can have no safer guide. Several times
have I saved my life by obeying the dictates of that silent
monitor within, which told me to go, and yet gave me no reason
for my going.
We had not ridden far when we came upon a heavy Indian trail,
and found it not more than four or five hours old. The tracks
showed some fifty ponies, and all going in the direction of
the Republican. We were now convinced that Rolla had escaped
and the Indians were pursuing him. Following on the trail for
some distance, until we came to a bare spot on the bluff where
our horses would leave no tracks in the snow, we turned to the
left, and, whipping up the ponies, struck out for a forced
march. We knew the Indians might return at any moment, and if
they should find our trail they would follow us like blood-hounds.
All night long we pushed on, halting only at sunrise to eat a
bite and give our poor ponies a few mouthfuls of grass. Again
we were off, and throughout the day whipped and spurred along
our animals as rapidly as possible. At night we halted for
two hours to rest, and then mounted the saddle once more.
On the fifth day we met a company of cavalry that had been
sent out by Colonel Brown to look for us, and with them we
returned to camp.
We learned from the cavalrymen that Sergeant Hiles had been
attacked by the Indians, and Sergeant Rolla had been killed.
Hiles, though he had lost his horse, had managed to work his
way back to camp on foot, where he had arrived the morning
they left camp, nearly starved. We had gone much out of our
way to escape the Indians who had followed Hiles; but since we
had avoided them and succeeded in saving our scalps, we did
not care a fig for our long and toilsome journey.
Sergeant Hiles related to me his adventures after leaving camp,
and I will here repeat them as a sequel to my own. He said:
“Rolla and I travelled several days, and finally pulled up
on Prairie Dog Creek. We had seen no Indians, and were
becoming careless, believing there were none in the country.
One morning just about daybreak I built a fire, and while
Rolla and I were warming ourselves we were fired upon by some
forty Indians. Rolla fell, pierced through the heart, and
died instantly. How I escaped I know not, for the balls
whistled all around me, knocking up the fire, and even
piercing my clothing, yet I was not so much as scratched.
“I ran to my horse, which was saddled and tied near by, and
flinging myself on his back, dashed across the prairies.
The Indians followed, whooping and yelling like devils, and
although their ponies ran well, they could not overtake my
swift-footed Selim. I had got well ahead of them, and was
congratulating myself on my escape from a terrible death, when
suddenly Selim fell headlong into a ravine that was filled
with drifted snow. It was in vain I tried to extricate him;
the more he struggled the deeper he sank. Knowing the Indians
would be up in a few minutes, I cut the saddle-girths with
my knife, that the horse might be freer in his movements, and
then, bidding him lie still, I took my pistols and burrowed
into the snow beside him. After I had dug down a little way,
I struck off in the drift, and worked myself along it toward
the valley. I had not tunnelled far before I heard the
Indians coming, and, pushing up my head, I cut a small hole in
the crust of the snow, so I could peep out. As the savages
came up they began to yell, and Selim, making a great bound,
leaped upon the solid earth at the edge of the ravine, and,
dragging himself out of the drift, galloped furiously across
the prairies. Oh! how I wished then I was on his back, for I
knew the noble fellow would soon bear me out of reach of all
“The Indians divided, part of them going up the ravine and
crossing over to pursue Selim, while the rest dismounted to
look for his rider. They carefully examined the ground all
around to find my trail, but not finding any, they returned
and searched up and down the ravine for me. Two or three
times they punched in the snow near me, and once an Indian
passed within a few feet of the hole. Great drops of
perspiration stood on my forehead, and every moment I expected
to be discovered, dragged out, and scalped, but I remained
perfectly still, grasping my pistols, and determined to make
it cost the redskins at least three of their number.
“After a while the Indians got tired searching for me, and
drew off to consult. I saw the party that had gone in pursuit
of Selim rejoin their companions, and I was not a little
gratified to observe that they did not bring back my gallant
steed with them, from which I knew he had made his escape.
“The Indians mounted and rode down the ravine, examining every
inch of ground for my trail. As I saw them move off, hope
once more revived in my breast; but in an hour they came back
and again searched the drift. At last, however, they went
off without finding me, and I lay down to rest, so exhausted
was I, from watching and excitement, that I could not stand.
I knew I did not dare to sleep, for it was very cold, and a
stupor would come upon me. All that day and night, and the
next day, I lay in the drift, for I knew the Indians were
“On the second night, as soon as it was dark, I crawled out,
and worked my way to the foot of the ravine. At first I was
so stiff and numb I could hardly move hand or foot, but as I
crawled along, the blood began to warm up, and soon I was able
to walk. I crept cautiously along the bluffs until I had
cleared the ravine, and then, striking out on the open prairie,
steered to the northward. Fortunately, the first day out I
shot an antelope and got some raw meat, which kept me from
starving. In two days and a half I reached the camp, nearly
dead from fatigue and hunger, and was thoroughly glad to be at
home in my tent once more, with a whole scalp on my head.”
We had not found an Indian village, and none of us got the
five hundred dollars, but we all had a glorious adventure, and
that to a frontiersman is better than money.
While we lay in camp on Medicine Creek, Colonel Brown sent
for me, and ordered me to look up and map the country. I was
detached as a topographical engineer, and this order relieved
me from all company duty, and enabled me to go wherever I
pleased, which was not a little gratifying to one so fond of
Packing my traps on my pony one day, I set out down the
Medicine ahead of the command, intending to hunt wild turkeys
until near night, and then rejoin the command before it went
into camp. The creek bottom was alive with turkeys, the cold
weather having driven them to take shelter among the bushes
that lined the creek. I had not gone far when a dense fog
arose, shutting out all objects, even at the distance of a few
feet. It was a bad day for hunting, but presently as I rode
along I heard a turkey gobble close by, and, dismounting,
I crept among the bushes and peered into the fog as well as
I could. I saw several dark objects, and drawing up my
double-barrelled shot-gun fired at them. Hardly had the noise
of the explosion died away, when I heard a great flopping in
the bushes, and on going up to it found a large turkey making
his last kicks. I picked him up and was about to turn away,
when I saw another fine old gobbler desperately wounded, but
trying to crawl off. I ran after him, but he hopped along
so fast I was obliged to give him the contents of my other
barrel to keep him from getting away into the thick brush.
I had now two fine turkeys, and, as the day was bad,
determined to go no further, but ascend the bluffs and wait
for the command. I went out on the prairie, and made a
diligent search for the old trail, but, as it was covered with
some seven inches of snow, I could not find it. Knowing the
command would pass near the creek, I went back to hunt,
thinking I would go up after it had passed, strike the trail,
and follow it into camp.
I had not gone far down the creek when I ran into a fine elk,
and knocked him over with my Henry rifle. I cut off the
choice pieces, and, packing them on my pony, once more set out
to find the trail. I knew the command had not passed, and
ascended the highest point on the bluff, straining my eyes to
see if I could not discover it moving. I waited several hours,
but not finding it, I concluded it had not marched by the old
trail, but struck straight across the country. I now moved up
the creek, determined to keep along its bank until I came to
the old camp, and then follow the trail. I had not gone far
when I came upon two Indians who belonged to my company, and
who were also looking for the command.
Night was coming on, the wind rising, and the air growing
bitter cold, so I said to the Indians we would go down the
creek where there was plenty of dry wood, and make a night
camp. They readily assented, and we set out, arriving at a
fine grove just before dark.
While one of the Indians gathered wood, the other one and I
cleared away the snow to make a place for our camp. The snow
in the bottom was nearly three feet deep, and when we had
bared the ground a high wall was piled up all around us.
The wood was soon brought, and a bright fire blazing. After
warming ourselves, we opened a passage through the snow for a
short distance, and clearing another spot led our horses into
this most perishable of stables. Our next care was to get
them some cottonwood limbs to eat, and then we gathered small
dry limbs and made a bedstead of them on which to spread our
blankets. Piling in some wood until the fire roared and
cracked, we sat down in the heat of the blaze, feeling quite
comfortable, except that we were desperately hungry. Some
coals were raked out, and the neck of the elk cut off and
spitted on a stick to roast. When it was done we divided it,
and sprinkling it with a little pepper and salt from our
haversacks had as savoury and wholesome a repast as any
epicure might desire. After supper, hearing the coyotes
howling in the woods below, I had the Indians bring in my
saddle, to which was strapped the elk meat, and, cutting the
limb off a tree close by the fire, we lifted the saddle
astride the stump so high up that the wolves could not reach
it. All being now in readiness for the night, we filled our
pipes and sat down to smoke and talk.
At nine o'clock the Indians replenished the fire, and, feeling
sleepy, I wrapped myself in my blankets and lay down to rest.
I soon fell asleep, and slept well until nearly midnight, when
I was awakened by the snapping and snarling of the wolves near
the fire. The wood had burned down to a bed of coals, and
gave but a faint light, but I could see a dozen pair of red
eyes glaring at me over the edge of the snowbank. The Indians
were sound asleep, and, knowing they were very tired, I did
not wake them, but got my gun, and, wrapping myself in my
blankets, sat up by the fire to watch the varmints and warm my
feet. Presently I heard a long wild howl down in the woods,
and knew by the “whirr-ree, whirr-ree” in it that it proceeded
from the throat of the dreaded buffalo wolf, or Kosh-e-nee, of
the prairies. There was another howl, then another, and
another, and, finally, a loud chorus of a dozen. Instantly
silence fell among the coyotes, and they began to scatter.
For a time all was quiet, and I had begun to doze, when
suddenly the coals flew all over me, and I opened my eyes just
in time to see a great gray wolf spring out of the fire and
bound up the snowbank. I leaped to my feet and peered into
the darkness, where I could see scores of dark shadows moving
about, and a black cluster gathered under my saddle. I called
the Indians, who quietly and nimbly jumped to their feet, and
came forward armed with their revolvers. I told them what had
happened, and that we were surrounded by a large pack of gray
wolves. We had no fear for ourselves, but felt uneasy lest
they might attack our horses, who were pawing and snorting
with alarm. I spoke to them kindly, and they immediately
became quiet. At the suggestion of the Indians I brought
forward my revolvers, and we all sat down to watch the
varmints, and see what they would do.
In a few minutes, a pair of fiery, red eyes looked down at us
from the snowbank; then another, and another pair, until there
were a dozen. We sat perfectly still, and presently one great
gray wolf gathered himself, and made a leap for the elk-meat
on the saddle. He nearly touched it with his nose, but failed
to secure the coveted prize, and fell headlong into the fire.
We fired two shots into him, and he lay still until one of the
Indians pulled him out to keep his hair from burning and
making a disagreeable smell. In about five minutes, another
wolf leaped at our elk-meat and fell in the fire.
We despatched him as we had done the first one, and then threw
him across the dead body of his brother. So we kept on firing
until we had killed eight wolves; then, tired of killing the
brutes with pistols, I brought out my double-barrelled
shot-gun, and loading each barrel with nine buckshot, waited
until they were gathered thick under the tree on which hung
my meat, and then let them have it. Every discharge caused
some to tumble down, and sent the rest scampering and howling
to the rear. Presently they became more wary, and I had to
fire on them at long range.
The Indians now went out and gathered some dry limbs, and we
kindled up a bright fire. Then we threw the carcasses of the
nine dead wolves, that were in our camp, over the snowbank,
and knowing that the beasts would not come near our bright
fire, two of us lay down to sleep, while the third remained up
to watch and keep the fire burning.
The coyotes now returned, and with unearthly yells attacked
their dead brothers, snapping, snarling, and quarrelling over
their carcasses as they tore the flesh and crunched the bones.
We rose at daylight, and through the dim light could see the
coyotes trotting off to the swamp, while near the camp lay
heads, legs, and piles of cleanly licked bones, all that was
left of the gray wolves we had killed.
After breakfast we set out to find the command, striking
across the country, expecting to come upon their trail.
We travelled all day, however, and saw no trail. At night
we camped out again, and were scarcely in camp, when we again
heard the wolves howling around us. They had followed us all
day, no doubt expecting another repast, such as had been
served to them the night before. We, however, kept a bright
fire burning, and no gray wolves came about; so the coyotes
were disappointed, and vented their disappointment all night
long in the most dismal howls I ever heard. At times, it
seemed as though there were five hundred of them, and joining
their voices in chorus they would send up a volume of sound
that resembled the roar of a tempest, or the discordant
singing of a vast multitude of people.
While we cooked breakfast, a strong picket of wolves watched
all around the camp, feasting their greedy eyes from a
distance on my elk-meat. When we started from camp, a hundred
or more of them followed us, often coming quite close to the
back pony, and biting and quarrelling about the elk that was
never to be their meat. When we halted, they would halt, and
sitting down, loll out their tongues and lick the snow.
At length, I took my shot-gun, and loading the barrels, fired
into the thickest of the pack. Two or three were wounded, and
no sooner did their companions discover that they were
bleeding and disabled, than they fell upon them, tore them to
pieces, and devoured every morsel of their flesh. I had seen
men who would do the same thing with their fellows, but until
I witnessed the contrary with my own eyes, I had supposed this
practice was confined to the superior brute creation.
The third day out, finding no trace of the command, we
concluded to go back to the Medicine and seek the old camp,
from which we could take the trail and follow it up until we
came upon it. We reached the Medicine at sundown, and there,
to our satisfaction, found the troops still in camp, where we
had left them. They had not marched in consequence of the
cold and foggy weather.
I was soon in my own tent and sound asleep, being thoroughly
worn out with the exposure and fatigue of my long journey.
I was sent down from Camp Cottonwood (now Fort McPherson),
with thirty men, to Gilman's Ranch, fifteen miles east of
Cottonwood on the Platte, where I was to remain, guard the
ranch, and furnish guards to Ben Holliday's overland
stage-coaches. In those days, Gilman's was an important place,
and in earlier times had been a great trading point for the
Sioux. Two or three trails led from the Republican to this
place and every winter the Sioux had come in with their ponies
loaded down with buffalo, beaver, elk, and deer skins, which
they exchanged with the traders at Gilman's. War had, however,
put a stop to these peaceful pursuits; still the Sioux could
not give up the habit of travelling these favourite trails.
The ponies often came in from the Republican, not now laden
with furs and robes, but each bearing a Sioux warrior.
The overland coaches offered a great temptation to the
cupidity of the Sioux, and they were not slow to avail
themselves of any opportunity to attack them. The coaches
carried the mails and much treasure, and if the savages could
now and then succeed in capturing one, they got money, jewels,
scalps, horses, and not infrequently white women, as a reward
for their enterprise.
Troops were stationed in small squads at every station, about
ten miles apart, and they rode from station to station on the
top of all coaches, holding their guns ever ready for action.
It was not pleasant, this sitting perched up on top of a coach,
riding through dark ravines and tall grass, in which savages
were ever lurking. Generally the first fire from the Indians
killed one or two horses, and tumbled a soldier or two off the
top of the coach. This setting one's self as a sort of a
target was a disagreeable and dangerous duty, but the soldiers
performed it without murmuring. My squad had to ride up to
Cottonwood, and down to the station below, where they waited
for the next coach going the other way, and returned by it to
their post at Gilman's. All the other stations were guarded
in like manner; so it happened that every coach carried some
One evening my pony was missing, and thinking he had strayed
off but a short distance, I buckled on my revolvers and went
out to look for him. I had not intended to go far, but not
finding him, I walked on, and on, until I found myself some
four miles from the ranch. Alarmed at my indiscretion, for I
knew the country was full of Indians, I hastily set out to
return, and as it was now growing dark, I determined to go up
a ravine that led to the post by a nearer route than the trail.
I had got nearly to the end of the ravine, where the
stage-road crossed it, and was about to turn into the road
when, on looking up the bank, I saw on the crest of the slope
some dark objects. At first I thought they were ponies, for
they were moving on all fours, and directly toward the road.
I ran up the bank, and had not gone more than ten yards, when
I heard voices, and looking around, saw within a dozen steps
of me five or six Indians lying on the grass, and talking in
low tones. They had noticed me, but evidently thought I was
one of their own number. Divining the situation in a moment,
I walked carelessly on until near the crest of the hill, where
I suddenly came upon a dozen more Indians, crawling along on
their hands and knees. One of them gruffly ordered me down,
and I am sure I lost no time in dropping into the grass.
Crawling carefully along, for I knew it would not do to stop,
I still managed to keep a good way behind and off to one side.
We at last reached the road, and the Indians, gun in hand,
took up their position in the long grass close by the roadside.
I knew the up-coach would be due at the station in half an hour,
and I was now myself in the unpleasant position of waylaying
one of the very coaches I had been sent to guard. Perhaps one
of my own soldiers coming up on the coach would kill me, and
then what would people say? how would my presence with the
Indians be explained? and how would it sound to have the
newspapers publish, far and near, that an officer of the
United States army had deserted his post, joined the Indians,
and attacked a stage-coach? However, there was no help for it,
and I lay still waiting for developments. It was now time for
the coach, and we watched the road with straining eyes. Two
or three times I thought I heard the rumbling of the wheels,
and a tremor seized me, but it was only the wind rustling in
the tall grass. An hour went by, and still no coach.
The Indians became uneasy, and one who seemed to be the leader
of the expedition rose up, and, motioning the others to follow
him, started off down the hill toward the ravine. I made a
motion as if getting up, and seeing the Indians' backs turned,
dropped flat on my face and lay perfectly still. Slowly their
footsteps faded away, and raising my head I saw them mount
their ponies and disappear over the neighbouring hill, as if
going down the road to meet the coach.
As soon as they were out of sight, I sprang up and ran as fast
as I could to the ranch when, relating what had happened,
I started with some soldiers and citizens down the road to
meet the stage. We had not gone far when we heard it coming
up, and on reaching it found it had been attacked by Indians
a few miles below, one passenger killed and two severely
wounded. The coach had but three horses, one having been
killed in the fight. The Indians had dashed at the coach
mounted, hoping to kill the horses, and thus cut off all means
of retreat or flight, but they had only succeeded in killing
one horse, when the passengers and soldiers had driven them
off, compelling them to carry two of their number with them,
dead or desperately wounded.
I was more careful after that, when I went out hunting ponies,
and never tried again to waylay a coach with Indians.
Among the soldiers stationed at Gilman's Ranch were a number
of Omaha and Winnebago Indians, who belonged to my company, in
the First Nebraska Cavalry. I had done all I could to teach
them the ways of civilization, but despite my instructions,
and their utmost endeavours to give up their wild and
barbarous practices, every now and then old habits would
become too strong upon them to be borne, and they would
indulge in the savage customs of their youth. At such times
they would throw aside their uniforms, and, wrapping a blanket
about them, sing and dance for hours.
One evening they were in a particularly jolly mood, and having
obtained permission to have a dance, went out in front of the
building, and for want of a better scalp-pole, assembled
around one of the telegraph poles. One fellow pounded lustily
on a piece of leather nailed over the mouth of a keg, while
the others hopped around in a circle, first upon one leg, then
the other, shaking over their heads oyster-cans, that had been
filled with pebbles, and keeping time to the rude music, with
a sort of guttural song. Now it would be low and slow, and
the dancers barely move, then, increasing in volume and
rapidity, it would become wild and vociferous, the dancers
walking very fast, much as the negroes do in their “cake-walks.”
We had had all manner of dances and songs, and enough drumming
and howling to have made any one tired, still the Indians
seemed only warming up to their work. The savage frenzy was
upon them, and I let them alone until near midnight. Their own
songs and dances becoming tiresome, I asked them to give me
some Sioux songs, for I had been thinking all the evening of
the village up the Missouri, and of my squaws. The Indians
immediately struck up a Sioux war song, accompanying it with
the war dance.
All the Indian songs and dances are terminated with a jump,
and a sort of wild yell or whoop. When they had danced the
Sioux war song, and ended it with the usual whoop, what was
our surprise to hear it answered back at no great distance,
out upon the prairie. At first I thought it was the echo, but
Springer, a half-breed Indian, assured me what I had heard was
the cry of other Indians. To satisfy myself, I bade the
Indians repeat the song and dance, and this time, sure enough,
when it was ended the whoop was answered quite near the ranch.
I went inside, lest my uniform should be seen, and telling
Springer to continue the dance, I went to a back window and
looked out, in the direction from which the sound came.
The moon was just rising, and I could distinctly see three
Sioux Indian warriors sitting on their ponies, within a few
hundred paces of the house. They seemed to be intently
watching what was going on, and were by no means certain as to
the character of the performers or performance. At a glance,
I made them out to be our deadly enemies, the Ogallalla Sioux,
and determined to catch them. I quickly called Springer, and
bade him kindle up a small fire, and tell the Indians to
strike up the death song and scalp-dance of the Sioux. This,
as I expected, at once reassured the strange warriors, and,
riding up quite close, they asked Springer, who was not
dancing, and who had purposely put himself in their way:—
“What are you dancing for?”
“Dancing the scalps of four white soldiers we have killed,”
“How did you kill them?” inquired the foremost Indian warrior.
“You see,” said Springer, who, being part Sioux, spoke the
language perfectly, “we were coming down from the Neobarrah,
and going over to the Republican to see Spotted Tail and our
friends, the Ogallallas, when some soldiers fired on us here,
and seeing there were but four of them, we attacked and killed
them all. They are now lying dead inside; come, get down and
help dance their scalps.”
Two of the warriors immediately dismounted, giving their
ponies to a third one to hold, who remained mounted. Springer
seemed to take no notice of this, but leading the warriors up
to the dance, joined in with them, the other Indians making
room in the circle for the newcomers.
When the dance was ended, Springer said, “Come, let us bring
out the scalps,” and turning to the two Indians, inquired,
“Will you look at the bodies?” About half the Indians had
already gone into the ranch, under pretence of getting the
scalps, and the two Sioux walked in with Springer, apparently
without suspicion that anything was wrong.
As soon as they had crossed the threshold the door was closed
behind them, and two burly Omahas placed their backs against it.
It was entirely dark in the ranch, and Springer proceeded to
strike a light. When the blaze of the dry grass flared up
it revealed everything in the room, and there stood the two
Sioux, surrounded by the Omahas, and a dozen revolvers
levelled at their heads.
Never shall I forget the yell of rage and terror they set up,
when they found they were entrapped. The Sioux warrior
outside, who was holding the ponies, heard it, and plunging
his heels into the sides of his pony, made off as fast as he
could. Notwithstanding my men fired a dozen shots at him,
he got off safely, and carried away with him all of the three
The two Sioux in the ranch were bound hand and foot, and laid
in one corner of the room; then my Indians returned to the
telegraph pole to finish their dance. Feeling tired, I lay
down and fell asleep.
Next morning I was awakened by most unearthly yells, and
looking out, saw my Indians leaping and dancing and yelling
around the telegraph pole, where they now had a large fire
burning. Presently Springer came in and said the Indians
wanted the prisoners. I told him they could not have them,
and that in the morning I would send them to Colonel Brown,
at McPherson, as was my duty. Springer, who was a
non-commissioned officer, communicated this message to the
Indians, when the yelling and howling redoubled. In a short
time, Springer came in again, and said he could do nothing
with the Indians, and that they were determined to have the
prisoners, at the same time advising me to give them up.
I again refused, when the Indians rushed into the ranch, and,
seizing the prisoners, dragged them out. Seeing they were
frenzied I made no resistance, but followed them closely,
keeping concealed, however.
They took the Sioux to an island on the Platte, below the
ranch, and there, tying them to a tree, gathered a pile of
wood and set it on fire.
Here follows a description of the unspeakable tortures which the
unfortunate prisoners suffered, and which are too horrible to be told
in these pages.
The Sioux uttered not a complaint, but endured all their
sufferings with that stoicism for which the Indian is so justly
celebrated, and which belongs to no other race in the world.
Sick at heart, I crept back to the ranch and went to bed,
leaving the Indians engaged in a furious scalp-dance, and
whirling the bloody scalps of the Sioux over their heads,
with long poles to which they had them fastened.
Next morning, when I awoke, I found the Indians wrapped in
their blankets, and lying asleep all around me. The excitement
of the night had passed off, and brought its corresponding
depression. They were very docile and stupid, and it was with
some difficulty I could arouse them for the duties of the day.
I asked several of them what had become of the Sioux prisoners,
but could get no other answer than, “Guess him must have got
I was sorely tempted to report the affair to the commanding
officer at Fort McPherson, and have the Indians punished, but
believing it would do more good in the end to be silent,
I said nothing about it. After all, the Omahas and Winnebagoes
had treated the Sioux just as the Sioux would have treated
them, had they been captured, and so, it being a matter
altogether among savages, I let it rest where it belonged.
I was for a time, in 1865, on duty at Fort Cottonwood,
Nebraska, as adjutant of my regiment, the First Nebraska
Volunteer Cavalry, when the scarcity of officers at the post
made it necessary for the commanding officer to detail me,
with thirty Indian soldiers, to proceed to, and garrison
Jack Morrow's Ranch, twelve miles west of the fort, on the
south side of the Platte River. The Sioux were very hostile
then, and it was an ordinary occurrence for ranches to be
burned and the owners killed.
Morrow's Ranch, unlike the little, low, adobe ranches
everywhere seen, was a large three-story building, with
out-buildings adjacent, and a fine large stable for stock,
the whole being surrounded by a commodious stockade of cedar
palisades, set deep in the ground, and projecting to the
height of about ten or twelve feet above the surface.
Upon arriving at the ranch, late at night, my usually noisy
Indians were quietly sleeping in the huge ox-wagons, which had
been provided for transportation. I found the front of the
ranch lit up by fires built between the stockade and the
buildings on a narrow strip of ground, serving for a front
yard. I had been informed by the commanding officer at
Cottonwood, that Mr. Morrow was not living at his ranch, but
was away East, and the object in sending me there was to
prevent the Indians from burning so valuable a property.
I was not prepared to find a party encamped at the ranch, and
not knowing but that they might be Indians, waiting in so
favourable a spot to waylay travellers or emigrants passing
the road in front of the stockade, I told my drivers to halt
their teams, and, quietly awakening my Indians, I bade them be
in readiness to rush up if I should give them a signal by
yelling, but to remain in the wagons until I called them, and
to make no noise. I then quietly rode forward to reconnoitre,
and as the stockade timbers were set very close together,
I had to crawl up to the loop-holes cut in the timber to see
what was going on inside. Standing on the ground, and holding
my pony's nose with my hand to keep him quiet, I stood on my
tiptoes, and could see, through one of the loop-holes,
a curious sight, but one natural enough on the frontier.
Grouped around three small fires, built close to the front of
the ranch, sat some ten or twelve weather-beaten men, whose
hair hung to their shoulders, and each one of whom wore a
slouched hat, a pair of revolvers, and a good stout knife,
the inseparable companions of a western prairie man. All were
intent on eating supper of fried bacon, slapjacks, and coffee.
They had no guard, doubtless feeling secure in their number
and means of defence, against any Indian attack that might be
made. “Hello!” I shouted, “have you got supper enough for one
more?” “Yes, if you are white or red; but if black, no,” was
answered back, with an invitation to “show” myself. I led the
pony across the narrow trench which ran around the stockade,
and, mounting him, rode into the yard. As I approached the
party I overheard remarks, such as, “An army cuss”; “One of
those little stuck-up officers.” But not appearing to have
heard them, I got down, and asked what party they were.
“Wood-haulers,” they replied; “taking building logs down the
road”; followed by “Who are you, and where are you going this
late at night?” I told them who I was, and that I had now
finished my journey, as I intended to stop there. I was
immediately informed in a curt manner that they guessed I was
rather “mixed” about staying there, if I had any stock along,
for the stables were full, and the ranch, too; and they had
no room for any additional people or stock. I told them that
I had two teams standing outside, and that it was my intention
to put the mules and my pony in the stable; and if there was
no room there, I should make room by turning out some of their
animals. To this I was plainly told that I could neither turn
a mule out nor put an animal in, nor could I remain at the
ranch, which they had occupied for their own quarters,
Jack Morrow having left and gone East, probably never to return.
They said they were a little stronger in numbers than myself
and my two drivers, and I must move on or they would make me.
I told them that I was a United States officer, acting under
orders, and that it would be an easy matter for me to ride back
to Cottonwood and get men enough to enforce my orders unless
they submitted. Several of the rough-looking fellows said that
they each carried good revolvers, and that it was an easy
matter to stop me if I attempted to return to Cottonwood, and
swore they would do so. I remained quiet for a moment, and
the leader of the party looking at me, asked: “What are you
going to do about it?” “I am going to open the stables and
put my animals in that shelter,” I replied, at the same time
mounting my pony and riding out to the stables, a short
distance in front of which stood my teams. Several of the
frontiersmen got up, and, without saying a word, walked to the
stables, and went up close to the doors. I ordered the
teamsters to drive to the stables, unharness from the heavy
ox-wagons, place their teams inside, and if they could not
find vacant stalls enough, to untie and turn loose mules to
empty the required number for my teams. The teamsters obeyed
by driving up, and when they had dismounted and were about to
unhitch from the wagons, one of the wood-haulers at the stable
door said: “You can save yourself the trouble, mister, of
unhitching them mules, for you ain't a going to put them in
this stable; and the first man that attempts it I'll fix.”
“Suppose I wish to open that door and put up my teams,” said I,
“without any trouble; wouldn't it be better for all concerned?”
“You go to h——l!” he replied; and added, “You won't get in
this stable; that's settled.” “I'll see about that!” and
yelling “Turn out! Turn out!” in the Indian language, my
soldiers jumped from the canvas-covered wagons, yelling like
demons, and brandishing their carbines and revolvers in a
threatening manner. Never were men so taken back as the
wood-haulers. They were sure we were Sioux, and started to
run, but I called them back. Not a word was then spoken while
my Indians led the mules, that were now unhitched, into the
Leaving the teamsters to feed and water their animals, I turned
my pony over to an Omaha, to unsaddle, and marched my soldiers
up to the house, of which I took possession. The roughs
changed their tune, and tried to laugh the matter off, saying
they knew all the time the wagons were full of soldiers, and
they only wanted to see if I had “nerve.” I told them they
could leave their teams in the stables, as my teamsters told
me there was room enough yet remaining for all the mules, but
that in the morning they must leave. At early light they were
off, not, however, before I had found out the names of the
leaders of the gang. The doors of the house had been taken
off the hinges, and the framed pine used to sleep and chop
meat on, all being marked with gashes chopped in them with
axes. The windows were also broken, the glass and sashes gone,
and the building as much damaged as if Indians had been there
for a month. I did all I could to save the property scattered
over the grounds, and remained at the ranch some weeks, until
an order came for me to go to Omaha as a witness before the
United States Court.
While the troops lay at Camp Cottonwood, now Fort McPherson,
the scurvy broke out among the men and caused terrible
suffering. There were no anti-scorbutics nearer than
Leavenworth, Kansas, which could be had for the troops, and
before these could be received, the disease increased to an
alarming extent. At last, however, the remedies arrived, and
the men began rapidly to convalesce. The doctor advised them
to eat wild fruit and berries, and to take plenty of exercise
in the open air. There was a plum grove about four miles from
the camp, and as this wild fruit was very wholesome, the sick
men went out nearly every day to gather it.
One morning, Captain Mitchell, of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry,
procured an ambulance, and, taking with him a driver named
Anderson, an orderly named Cramer, and seven hospital patients,
started for the plum grove. They arrived at the first grove
about ten o'clock, and, finding that most of the plums had
been gathered, drove on to another grove some three miles
farther up the cañon. They were now about seven miles from
camp, too far to be safe, but, as no Indians had been seen
lately in the country, they did not feel uneasy. At the upper
grove they found two soldiers of the First Nebraska Cavalry,
named Bentz and Wise, who had been sent out by the quartermaster
to look for stray mules, and they had stopped to gather some
plums. As both these men were well armed, Captain Mitchell
attached them to his party, and felt perfectly secure.
Bentz and Wise went up the cañon a little way, and while
eating fruit were suddenly fired on from the bushes by almost
a dozen Indians. At the first volley Bentz had his belt cut
away by a ball, and lost his revolver. The soldiers turned
to fly, but, as they galloped off, another ball entered Bentz'
side, desperately wounding him. They now rode down the cañon,
hoping to rejoin Captain Mitchell's party, but soon saw a body
of Indians riding down the bluff ahead of them, evidently with
the design of cutting them off. Wise told Bentz to ride hard,
at the same time handing him one of his revolvers, to defend
himself in case of emergency. Bentz was very feeble and dizzy,
so much so, indeed, that he could barely sit in the saddle.
Wise was mounted on a superb horse belonging to Lieutenant
Cutler, which he had taken out to exercise, and, seeing that
the Indians would head them off, and that Bentz, who was
riding an old mule, could not keep up, he gave the powerful
brute rein, and shot down the cañon like an arrow. He passed
the intervening Indians in safety, just as three of them
dashed out of a pocket in the bluff and cut off poor Bentz.
Wise saw Bentz knocked from his mule, and, knowing it was
useless to try to save him, left him to his fate, and thought
only of saving his own life. He rode hard for Captain
Mitchell, who was not far distant, but before he could reach
him another party of Sioux headed him off, and he turned and
rode up the bluffs to the flat lands. The Indians pursued him,
and made every effort to kill or capture him, but his fine
horse bore him out of every danger. Three times he was cut
off from the camp, but by taking a wide circuit he managed to
ride around the Indians, and at last succeeded in reaching the
high road above the camp. As many settlers lived on this road,
the Indians did not venture to follow him along it, and he was
soon safely housed in the log-cabin of a frontiersman, and
relating his adventures.
Meanwhile Captain Mitchell, having seen the fate of Bentz and
escape of Wise, made haste to assemble his party, and, lifting
those who were too weak to climb into the wagon, they set off
for the camp. Mitchell and Anderson were the only two of
the party who had arms, but they assured the sick men they
would defend them to the last. Anderson took the lines and
drove, while Mitchell seated himself in the rear end of the
ambulance, with a Henry rifle to keep off the Indians.
They had not gone far before they came upon a large force of
warriors drawn across the cañon, to cut off their retreat.
The bluffs were very steep and high on both sides of them,
and escape seemed impossible; nevertheless Mitchell ordered
Anderson to run his team at the right-hand bluff and try and
ascend it. The spirited animals dashed up the steep bank and
drew the wagon nearly half-way up, when one of the wheels
balked and nearly overturned the wagon. A loud yell from
the savages, at this moment, so frightened the horses that
they sprang forward, and, before they could appreciate it,
they were over the bluff on the level prairie, and flying
toward the camp at the rate of ten miles an hour.
They now began to hope, but had only gone as far as the first
plum grove when they saw the Indians circling around them, and
once more getting between them and the post. Still they hoped
that some soldiers might be in the first grove gathering plums,
or that Wise had reached the post and given the alarm, so that
help would soon come to them. Captain Mitchell fired his
rifle once or twice, to attract the attention of any persons
who might be in the plum grove, but there was no response, and
Anderson drove rapidly on.
The Indians now began to close in upon the ambulance from all
sides. They would ride swiftly by a few yards distant, and,
swinging themselves behind the neck and shoulders of their
ponies, fire arrows or balls into the wagon. Two of the sick
men had already been wounded, and Captain Mitchell, finding it
impossible to defend them while the ambulance was in motion,
the shaking continually destroying his aim, ordered Anderson
to drive to the top of the hill near by, and they would fight
it out with the redskins. Cramer now took the lines, when,
either through fear or because he did not believe in the
policy of stopping, he kept straight on. Captain Mitchell
twice ordered Cramer to pull up, but, as he paid no attention,
he told Anderson to take the lines from him. In attempting to
obey the Captain's order, Anderson lost his footing and fell
out of the wagon. The Captain now sprang forward, put his
foot on the brake to lock the wheels, when a sudden lurch of
the wagon caused him to lose his balance, and he fell headlong
on the prairie. Fortunately, he alighted near a deep gully,
where the water had cut out the bank, and, rolling himself
into it, he looked out and saw Anderson crawling into a bunch
of bushes near by. When these accidents happened,
the ambulance had just crossed over the crest of a little hill,
and, as the Indians had not come over as yet, they did not see
either of the men fall from the wagon. The Captain had only
two revolvers, but Anderson's gun, a Spencer rifle, had been
thrown out with him, and he picked it up and took it into
In a few moments the Indians came up, riding very fast, and
the main body crossed the ravine near where Captain Mitchell
lay. Some of them jumped their horses directly over the spot
where he was concealed, but in a few moments they were gone,
and soon had disappeared behind the neighbouring divide,
leaving the Captain and Anderson to their own reflections.
What to do was the next question. That the Indians would
overtake the ambulance, kill all its occupants, and return,
the Captain had not a doubt. He determined to go down the
ravine, and, calling Anderson to follow, started off. He had
already crawled some distance when, hearing the clatter of
horses' hoofs, he peeped over the edge of his cover, and saw
about seventy-five Indians riding directly up to where he was
concealed. Giving himself up for lost, he lay down, drawing
his revolvers and preparing them for action, for he was
determined not to let the savages have his scalp without
making a desperate resistance. The warriors came up, and,
dismounting within thirty yards of him, began a lively
conversation. The chief walked up close to the brink of the
ravine, and almost within arm's-length of the Captain, and
stood gazing on the ground. Mitchell now saw the chief was
blind of an eye and wore a spotted head-dress; and he knew by
these marks he was none other than the celebrated Sioux
warrior, Spotted Tail. On making this discovery the Captain
levelled both his revolvers at the chief's breast, and was
fully determined to fire. He believed that the loss of five
captains would be a small matter, if by their death they could
secure the destruction of the great leader of the Sioux.
Just as he was about to pull the triggers a loud shout from
the warriors caused Spotted Tail to start forward and run
rapidly up the hill. The ponies were led down the ravine and
the warriors scattered in all directions, seeking cover.
One of them ensconced himself in the ravine not more than
thirty feet from Mitchell. Raising his head so that he could
see out, the Captain endeavoured to ascertain what caused all
the excitement among the Indians. At first he had thought
he was discovered, then that reënforcements from the fort had
arrived, and a battle was about to begin; but now he saw
Anderson was discovered. When the Captain had started down
the ravine Anderson had followed him, and just emerged from
the bushes when the Indians suddenly came up. He had dropped
on the ground, and endeavoured to roll himself back among the
sage-brush, when an Indian saw him and gave the alarm.
The warriors, not knowing how many white men might be in the
brush, with their usual caution, had immediately sought cover.
A hot fire was opened on Anderson's position, and at first he
did not respond at all. A warrior, more bold than discreet,
ventured to go closer to the bushes, when a small puff of
white smoke was seen to rise, a loud report rang out on the
air, and the warrior fell, pierced through the heart. A yell
of rage resounded over the hills, and three more Indians ran