A. P. (Alonzo Putnam) Connolly.

A Thrilling Narrative of the Minnesota Massacre and the Sioux War of 1862-63 online

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Having found the whereabouts of Little Crow and disposed of him, we will
return to the command.



Camp Atchison was the most important of all the camps on the whole route.
It was here the General was visited by some three hundred Chippewa
half-breeds, led by a Catholic priest named Father Andre, who told him
that the Indians, hearing that General Sully, who was marching up the
west side of the Missouri with a large body of troops, was delayed on
account of low water, were deflecting their course in the hope of being
reinforced by the Sioux inhabiting the country west of the Missouri.

The General, upon becoming satisfied of this, decided to push on as
rapidly as possible after them, and to facilitate the movement he formed
a permanent post at Camp Atchison, which is located about fifty miles
southeast from Devil's Lake, where he left all the sick and broken-down
men, and a large portion of his ponderous train, with a sufficient guard
to protect them if attacked. With these arrangements completed, the
column, with twenty-five days' rations for 1,500 infantry, 500 cavalry,
100 pioneers and artillery, started by forced marches to overtake the
Indians before they reached the Missouri River.

On the morning of July 20th the General, with his selected men and
reduced train, left Camp Atchison to pursue the Indians and engage them
in battle. Attached to the expedition in the capacity of contractor
was Mr. George A. Brackett, who met with an experience, the memory of
which will remain with him during his life. It is most interesting and
exciting, and his own version of it, as narrated at the "camp fire" when
he found his old St. Anthony friends and Captain Chase's company, known
as the "Pioneers," will be read with interest. Mr. Brackett says:

On the fourth day out, in company with Lieutenant Ambrose Freeman, of the
Mounted Rangers, we left the main column for the purpose of adventure
and game. I had my train started and in good hands, and got permission
for the Lieutenant to accompany me. Five miles away, having met nothing
worthy of note, we surveyed the country from the summit of a range of
hills, when we saw several scouts not very far away. We struck a parallel
course, believing we were moving in the same direction as the main
column. While watering our horses in the lake, we espied two other scouts
on the opposite side doing the same thing. We then moved farther on, over
the range of bluffs, covering about three-quarters of a mile. We followed
along parallel, or perhaps a little to the left of the main body, a
distance of three miles. Lieutenant Freeman saw three antelopes, an old
one and two young ones, in the distance. We fired and wounded the old
one, who made off around the bluff. I held the Lieutenant's horse and he
chased her on foot, which took us off our course some distance round the
bluffs. We traversed a section of country bordering a large lake, near
which we succeeded in killing the antelope.

As we were coming down to the lake and while the Lieutenant was creeping
up toward the antelope, I again saw scouts on the opposite side of the
lake, and the train was in sight on the hillside several miles distant.
Instead of taking our course back, we had a curiosity to go around the
lake to where we saw the scouts. On our way around we saw cherry bushes
newly cut and piled up, and I set about to tear them down. Lieutenant
Freeman persisted in saying that they were Indian signs and that Indians
were in the vicinity. In preparation for them we cocked our rifles and
made around the bushes, so as not to put ourselves in a too exposed
position. We took our course, as we supposed, towards the train, or where
the train had recently passed.

Between one and two o'clock we discovered three objects a long distance
off, but between us and the train's course, and making for the train.
This action, as soon as we came near enough to judge, convinced us that
they were Indians, yet we kept on toward them, and they were making
preparations to meet us, one leading and the other two riding their
horses. We got all ready to give them a trial, they creeping around on
one side of the bluff and we creeping around to meet them. I saw one
with a straw hat on rise up and recognized him as one of our scouts. He
beckoned us to come towards him. From all the description I had of him I
supposed him to be Chaska, and the other two were full blood Sioux. Both
had government horses, and armed, one with a Springfield and the other a
carbine. I asked him where General Sibley was. They pointed to a hill,
I should judge, three miles away from where we stood, in the direction
where the train passed.

I saw a large number of men on a bluff, judged to be about two hundred
in number, whom I supposed to be General Sibley's men looking for us. We
all started directly for them, and as we did so, saw what we supposed
to be a guard of cavalry starting towards us. After we had started the
scouts turned to a little lake to water their horses, but the Lieutenant
and myself having previously watered ours, did not go with them. We still
saw the cavalry, as we supposed, about fifteen in number, coming towards

I remarked to Lieutenant Freeman that they must have turned back, as
they had disappeared and were out of sight. We were soon surprised,
however, by seeing fifteen Indians charging upon us as with a flag of
truce; but they were not coming evidently in a friendly spirit, as they
fired a volley upon us. I yelled to the scouts that they were Indians,
and remarked to Lieutenant Freeman that we had better at once join
the scouts, which we endeavored to do. When we got within twenty or
twenty-five rods of the scouts we were riding about three rods apart. One
Indian rode up to Lieutenant Freeman and shot an arrow through his back,
on the left side, and at the same time another Indian dismounted and
discharged his gun at me, but I laid low on my horse's neck, as close as
I possibly could, and he shot over me, and Chaska stepped up to the top
of a knoll and shot this same Indian who had fired at me.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

[Illustration: George A. Brackett Telling the Thrilling Story of His
Escape to the Members of Capt. Chase's Company of "Pioneers."]

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Price, to any address, { 60 Cents in Paper.
{ $1.00 and $1.50 in Cloth.

_A. P. CONNOLLY, Chicago._

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

As Lieutenant Freeman dropped from his horse I asked him if he was hurt.
He replied, "I am gone." He wished me to cut a piece of string which
was around his neck, and supported a part of the antelope which he was
carrying. As I cut the string he changed his position more on his side
and more up hill. He asked faintly for water, which I gave him from my
canteen, and by this time the scouts had mounted their horses and left
us. The Indians were then all around us, and one at the side of the lake;
but as the scouts ran toward them they fell back. Lieutenant Freeman,
by this time being dead, I took his rifle and revolver and followed the
scouts as fast as I could. The Indians mentioned as near the lake, seeing
the Lieutenant's horse, which followed me, left us and started for the
horse, thus enabling me to overtake the scouts. The Indians succeeded in
catching the horse, and the whole crowd again started after us. We rode
for about four miles, when we were overtaken and surrounded by them by
the side of a little marsh. We all jumped from our horses. The scouts
made motions and ran up to meet them, but Chaska motioned for me to jump
into the tall rushes on the marsh. I saw nothing more of the scouts, and
the Indians all rushed down to where the horses were. I cocked my rifle,
and lay in the rushes within ten feet of where they were, and heard them
quarrel about the possession of the horses. They presently settled their
dispute and started off, for fear, as I supposed, of being overtaken by
some of our forces. They took their course around the marsh in which
I lay for an hour; this was about three p. m. A shower came up, and
immediately after it cleared I started on my course, with the sun to my
back, and traveled for two hours. I followed this direction for two days,
stopping in marshes during the night. On the evening of the second day I
struck a river of clear water, about a quarter of a mile wide, running
in a southerly direction. Next morning I started due south, and traveled
until almost night, when I took a westerly course, concluding that the
trail was not in that direction; traveled a little to north of west, and
struck Gen. Sibley's trail the afternoon of the third day, about twelve
miles from where we camped the night before. I left the main column,
and made the deserted camp that night. I started next morning on the
back track for Camp Atchison, and made the painful journey in two days,
arriving there the second night, between eight and nine o'clock, making
the distance of the four camps in two days, bare-headed, barefooted and
coatless. I was obliged to leave my rifle on the last day of my travel,
but I could not carry it any farther, and made up my mind that this would
probably be my last day. It was probably about nine o'clock, and I was
about to give up when I came to a few tents and found them to be those of
the Pioneers (Captain Chase's company of the Ninth Minnesota Infantry),
and fell to the ground faint and unable to rise again. But, thank God!
around that fire were sitting some of my old St. Anthony friends, who
kindly picked me up and carried me to my tent.

I lost my coat, hat and knife in the fight the first day, so I took
Lieutenant Freeman's knife, and with it made moccasins of my boot legs,
as my boots so chafed my feet in walking that I could not possibly wear
them. These improvised moccasins were constantly getting out of repair,
and my knife was much needed to keep them in order for use, as well as
to make them in the first place. But just before reaching the trail of
the expedition on the fifth day I lost the knife, and the loss, I felt
at the time, would have decided my fate if I had much farther to go.
But a kind Providence was in my favor, for almost the first object that
greeted my eyes upon reaching the trail was a knife, old and worn to be
sure, but priceless to me. This incident some may deem a mere accident,
but let such a one be placed in my situation at that time and he would
feel with me that it was given in answer to a prayer made to the great
Giver of Good. On the third day, about ten miles from the river spoken
of, I left Lieutenant Freeman's rifle on the prairie because I became too
weak to carry it longer; besides, it had already been so damaged by rain
that I could not use it. I wrote upon it that Lieutenant Freeman had been
killed, and named the course I was then pursuing. The pistol I retained
and brought with me to Camp Atchison.

While wandering I lived on cherries, roots, birds' eggs, young birds and
frogs, caught by my hands, all my ammunition but one cartridge having
been spoiled by the rain of the first day. That cartridge had a gutta
percha case and was preserved. It was my only hope for fire when I should
need it, or when I dared venture to make one. I had also some water-proof
percussion caps in my portmanteau, which were also put to good use. I
took one-half the powder in the cartridge, with a percussion cap, and
with the use of my pistol and some dried grass, started a fire at which
I cooked a young bird. How did I catch the bird? Well, Providence again
favored me, and as I was lying low and making no noise, the bird wandered
so near that by firing a stick I had with me in such a manner as to make
it whirl horizontally, it struck the bird on the side of the head and
broke its neck. This was on the second night. On the fourth I used the
remainder of the cartridge in the same way and for a like purpose. The
rest of the time I ate my food uncooked. Except some hard bread (found at
the fourth camp mentioned above), which had been fried and then thrown
in the ashes. I have forgotten one sweet morsel (and all were sweet
and very palatable to me), viz., some sinews spared by wolves from a
buffalo carcass. As near as I am able to judge I traveled in the seven
days at least two hundred miles. I had ample means for a like journey
in civilized localities, but for the first time in my life found gold
and silver coin not legal tender. My boot-leg moccasins saved me, for
a walk of ten miles upon such a prairie, barefooted, would stop all
farther progress of any person accustomed to wearing covering upon the
feet. The exposure at night, caused more particularly by lying in low
and wet places, in order to hide myself, was more prostrating to me than
scarcity of food. The loneliness of the prairies would have been terrible
in itself, but for the drove of wolves that after the first day hovered,
in the day time, at a respectful distance, and at night howled closely
around me, seemingly sure that my failing strength would soon render me
an easy prey. But a merciful Providence has spared my life by what seems
now, even to myself, almost a miracle.

The body of Lieutenant Freeman was afterwards found and buried by members
of General Sibley's main force. An arrow had pierced his breast, and the
tomahawk and scalping knife had left bloody traces about his head. He was
buried on the desolate plain, five hundred miles away from his beloved,
bereaved wife and children. After the war closed his body was exhumed,
carried to his late home, and re-interred by loving hands, with all the
honors due a brave soldier. The peculiar circumstances of his death, my
last moments with him, my subsequent days of weary, dangerous wandering,
my suffering, anxiety and happy deliverance have made an impression upon
my memory so indelible that time has not, nor cannot efface them.

My friend Brackett and myself came to St. Anthony, Minn., on the same
day, May 1st, 1857, and we "put up" at the same hotel, and it is most
interesting to hear him relate this wonderful adventure and marvelous
escape. He yet lives to tell the story, and poor Freeman! It seemed sad
to leave him in his lonely grave on the prairie wild, but such is the
fate of war.



A few days after leaving Camp Atchison scouts began to report to General
Sibley that Indians in large numbers were between us and the hills
beyond. Everything indicated this, and the evidences were that we were
soon to have a battle.

We came in sight of the Indians every day, but nothing decisive until
July 24th, when we overtook them. Scouts reported a large body of
Indians, with Red Plume and Standing Buffalo among them, encamped by the
very lake near which the General intended camping. Standing Buffalo was
not there as a hostile, and it was a surprise all around. The General,
satisfying himself that a determined resistance would be offered us,
corralled his train and made such disposition of the troops as he deemed
necessary. It was here where Dr. Weiser, of the First Minnesota Rangers,
was killed while parleying with a delegation from the hostile camp, and
it was treachery, pure and simple. The battle was opened by Whipple's
battery, and while the cannon boomed and sent leaden hail and death
among the fleeing Indians, the artillery of Heaven opened amid a furious
thunder storm, and a private of Colonel McPhail's command was killed.

[Illustration: Designed by A. P. Connolly.

Battle of Big Mound, Dakota.

Fought between General Sibley's forces and the Sioux, on July 24th, 1863.
The Indians were defeated.]

The Indians in this affair lost eighty-seven killed and wounded and a
vast amount of property.

A portion of our command made forty-six miles that day. My own regiment
was ordered in pursuit, and we followed them for ten miles, after having
already marched eighteen. An order had been sent by an aide for the
pursuing troops to bivouac where they were, but being misunderstood,
instead of camping, as it was intended, we returned, having been on the
march all night. As we came into camp we found that an early reveille had
been sounded, and the troops were about ready to march. The part of the
command that had joined in the pursuit and returned during the night was
so completely exhausted that the whole force was compelled to rest for
a day. This battle was a decided victory, counting heavily in the scale
of advantage, as it put the savages on the run to a place of safety and
materially disabled them from prosecuting further hostilities.

After the battle of the Big Mound, as narrated, the command was compelled
to take one day's rest on account of the over-taxed condition of the
troops. The next day we marched over the same ground, and it was a
comical yet interesting sight to witness the wholesale abandonment of
buffalo robes, camp equipage and "jerked" meat; robes by the thousands
and meat by the tons had been thrown away by the Indians in their hurry
to get out of harm's way. We found dogs that had been harnessed up and
loaded down with cooking utensils, dead; - they had died from sheer
exhaustion. The prairies as far as the eye could penetrate on either side
presented this condition of abandonment by the Indians, of their property
and winter's supply of food. As far as the eye could penetrate on either
hand were evidences of their hasty flight, as if swept with the besom
of God's wrath. The men would "right about" and fight the soldiers, and
then turn, and running towards their fleeing families, urge them to still
greater exertion to get away from the avenging army.

In the sand on the bank of the lake, I found a tiny papoose moccasin, and
could see the imprint and count each separate toe of the little foot in
the sand, as it probably was dragged along by the anxious mother, who was
too heavily laden to carry her little baby. I thought, - poor, helpless
child, not in the least responsible for its unhappy condition, and yet
made to suffer. So with all classes of God's humanity; - the innocent too
often made to suffer, not only with the guilty, but for the guilty, and
in our decisions we should be careful lest we injure innocent persons.
The fresh made graves we found on this trail told their sorrowful
story, - the little Indian spirit had taken its flight, - the body was
buried and the heart-broken mother hurried on to keep up with her people,
and get away from the army.

[Illustration: Ready to Go Into Action.]



After the decisive battle of the Big Mound the Indians made up their
minds evidently that the army and destruction was in their rear, and
their Rubicon must be reached and crossed or annihilation was their
portion, hence activity was apparent among them. The great impediment to
their active work in the field and hasty flight was their families, and
it required good generalship to successfully manage this retreating host.

The next decisive engagement with them was fought on July 26th; known as
the battle of "Dead Buffalo Lake," so designated from the fact that the
carcass of a big buffalo was found on its shores.

This day strict orders had been given that there should be no shooting
within the lines. This was made necessary from the fact of a soldier
having been wounded the day before from the careless use of a rifle in
the hands of a comrade. We were going along at an easy jog, when all at
once a beautiful deer went bounding along. He seemed terribly frightened,
and evidently had been surprised by the skirmishers ahead. All orders
were forgotten, and a general stampede was made for this beautiful deer.
Shots were fired after him, but he made his escape, and it did seem too
bad, for we were hungry for deer meat. The general thought we had met
the Indians again, and aides were sent to the front, with orders for the
proper disposition of the troops. As the Indians were known to be in
large numbers not far ahead, the General was pardoned for his surmises.

We passed their abandoned camp early in the morning, but about noon the
scouts reported a large body of Indians coming down upon us from various
directions. The command was placed in line of battle, and soon the
skirmishers, in command of Colonel William Crooks, opened fire, supported
by Lieutenant Whipple's six-pounder.

The savages came swooping down on us, and it seemed as though they sprang
up out of the earth, so numerous were they.

There were those among them who knew something of the tactics of war,
and they attempted a vigorous flank movement on the left of the column,
which was promptly checked by Captain Taylor and his mounted Rangers.
Another determined attack was made which was handsomely repulsed by two
companies of the Sixth Minnesota, under Colonel Averill.

A running fire was kept up until about three o'clock, when a bold dash
was made to stampede the animals which were herded on the bank of a lake.

This attempt was promptly met and defeated by Wilson's and Davy's cavalry
and six companies of the Sixth Minnesota, under Major McLaren. The
Indians, foiled at all points, and having suffered serious losses in
killed and wounded, retired from the field, and galloped away after their
families, who, a few miles ahead, were hurrying on towards the Missouri
river. Our animals were so jaded they could not stand a forced march. The
reason was very apparent. We had our regular rations, while the horses
and mules were on short rations on account of the hot weather burning up
the grass, and, besides, the alkali water was as bad for beast as for man.

We were obliged to dig wells every night for water before we could get
our supper, for we could not use the water from the alkali lakes. As many
as sixty wells were dug in a night. Think of it, - each company obliged
to dig a well in order to get water for supper, but this was one of the
daily duties of the soldier. It is astonishing how the "boys in blue"
could adapt themselves to every condition and circumstance. I am on a
tender spot now, - "the boys in blue." 'Tis true times are changed; a
few of us are alive yet, and perhaps we are just a little bit "stuck on
ourselves"; but, "the old soldier," as we are now dubbed, cannot forget
"the boys in blue." In a few years more a new generation will have
control of our government, but the wonderful years from 1861 to 1865 will
not be forgotten. If we do not give our government, body and soul, into
the hands of foreigners who cannot speak our language it is possible that
the memory of the "boys in blue" will remain with us for a time yet. They
were a mighty host then, and the tramp, tramp, tramp of their feet as
they marched to defeat and victory will go down the centuries; - but, I
must come back to my narrative.



On the morning of July 28th, just as the command was breaking camp at
Stony Lake, we were attacked by Indians, in full force.

General Sibley had the expeditionary forces so well in hand that the
enemy could not possibly do us any harm. We halted but a moment, as some
of the scouts came riding furiously towards us, followed by Indians
intent on their capture. The boys cheered as they came within our
lines. The battery was ordered to the front, and soon threw a shell
among the Indians, who then galloped around on the flank, while another
squad came immediately upon our rear; but, the whole column, in a solid
square, moved on. The engagement took place on the prairie, and it was
a beautiful sight to see the regularity with which the column moved.
First, two companies of cavalry skirmishers, and at a proper interval
two companies of infantry; the same order was preserved in the rear, and
flankers on the right and left, so as to form a hollow square. In the
center were the reserve troops, stores of all sorts, and the artillery.

The teams were so fixed as to make it impossible to get up a stampede.
The Indians resort to their peculiar tactics to stampede the teams, - they
tried it to its fullest extent on this occasion, but without avail. They
did not impede our progress in the least, and as the column moved right
along, they soon gave up the attempt, and we pressed them so closely they
allowed the killed and wounded to fall into our hands. The casualties

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Online LibraryA. P. (Alonzo Putnam) ConnollyA Thrilling Narrative of the Minnesota Massacre and the Sioux War of 1862-63 → online text (page 11 of 13)