A. P. (Alonzo Putnam) Connolly.

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

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were light, because the shells that were thrown among them did but little

The cavalry in this case was effective, and crowded the Indians, as they
charged them with drawn sabre.

This was the last stand the Indians made in a body, and they hastened
on towards the Missouri river, which they finally crossed at a point
near where Bismarck, North Dakota, now stands. They made a determined
resistance, and had been repulsed in three successive engagements, and
their situation was critical in the extreme, - the victorious army in the
rear and the Missouri in front.

After the Indians had given up the fight and had ridden ahead to urge
their families on, and we had buried the dead and cared for the wounded,
we pushed on after them.

A young Teton chief, who was out on a tour of observation, was captured
by some of the cavalry, and the circumstances and manner in which it was
done are interesting.

Thousands of us saw the strange object, but the men who captured him were
the more interested observers, and the narrator says:

"As the scouts approached it, a dark, motionless object was seen lying
upon the ground. Coming nearer, some one cried out: 'It's an old buffalo
robe'; but, as one stooped to pick it up, it sprang from the earth and
bounded off like a deer, arms extended, and flying swiftly, in a zig-zag
manner. It was a broad mark for the carbines, but where in it was the
motive power? It was impossible to tell. Some thirty shots were fired,
all hitting the robe, but still he kept on with the same zig-zag motion,
so that it was impossible to hit him.

[Illustration: Designed by A. P. Connolly.

Battle of Stony Lake, Dakota, July 28th, 1863.

Indians defeated and slaughtered in great numbers by General Sibley's

"At last one of the guides reined up near him and, placing a revolver to
his head, fired, but he dodged and escaped the ball.

"He now stopped, dropped the robe, and threw up both hands, in token of

The robe he wore was literally riddled with bullets, but not a scratch
upon the body of the Indian. His gallantry and his lordly bearing won the
admiration of his captors, and placing him behind one of the scouts they
bore him away in triumph, and presented him to General Sibley, to whom
he extended his hand in friendly salute, but which was declined until he
had made his statement, and assured the General that his hands were not
stained with innocent blood. Being thus convinced, General Sibley shook
him by the hand, and they became friends. He belonged to the Teton band,
which is one of the largest divisions of the Dakota Nation. They lived
west of the Missouri, and his information was that they were interested
observers, but had no sympathy with, nor taking no part in, the war.

He and his father, who was one of the head chiefs, were out on a visit
to the Yanktonians, and, learning that they were soon to have a fight
with the soldiers, his curiosity prompted him to go as an observer. His
curiosity was satisfied, and he retired with the balance, but had stopped
in a clump of grass to allow his pony to graze. While here he had fallen
asleep, and the pony was the object that first attracted the attention
of the scouts, which resulted in the Indian's capture, as above narrated.

He was a prisoner with us for five days, during which time he was treated
with some consideration as the heir apparent to the chieftainship of his
tribe. He was about twenty years old; a fine looking fellow, tall and
athletic. He became strongly attached to the General and the staff.

General Sibley afterwards learned of this Indian's death. He had given
the boy, on his departure, a letter to his father, commending him for
refusing to take up the tomahawk against the whites, and in appreciation
of this, that he had kept the son for a few days in his camp and then
gave him his liberty, so that he might return to his own people. It was
good policy, because the letter, being found in his possession, indicated
to the Indians that General Sibley was not responsible for his death.

A few days after his departure, a party of miners, who had been up in
Idaho, were coming down the Missouri river, and at the very place where
our men had reached the river and filled their canteens the Indians were
lying in wait for the descending miners.

The young Teton desired peace, and rushed toward them waving General
Sibley's letter over his head. They, not understanding his signal, shot
him to death, when they were at once surrounded by the exasperated
Indians, and a battle, short and decisive, was fought, and every man of
the miners was killed, but not before twice their number of Indians had
shared the same fate.

This was another sad chapter of this unholy war.

The Indians now approached the river, but, owing to the thick underbrush,
were obliged to abandon all their carts, - their ponies they took with
them, but their winter's supply of meat they abandoned.

Our skirmish line was formed at three paces, but even then it was
impossible to observe a line, so thick were the weeds and underbrush. The
enemy was sighted, and an advance ordered, when the line moved forward,
and after an hour of hard work, we, like De Soto, when he discovered the
Mississippi, gazed in admiration on its prototype, - the Missouri.

After having for weeks drank the brackish water of the prairie lakes, we
drank from this sweet though turbid stream, and were refreshed, as were
the children of Israel, who partook of the cool water from the stricken

While drinking and wading in the stream, we were fired upon from the
opposite shore, although a flag of truce had been raised. The Indians'
bullets fell short of their mark, but the retreat was sounded, and we
marched back for the open prairie, and returned to our camp, which was
situated on a beautiful plateau a few miles below. The brush was so thick
that the Indians were obliged to abandon all of their carts and camp
equipage, with thousands of buffalo robes, and tons of dried meat. The
rout of the Indians and destruction of property was complete.

Our casualties were very light; but, among the killed was Lieutenant
Beaver, an English lord, who came to this country to engage in a buffalo
hunt; but, upon his arrival, learning of the Indian outbreak, tendered
his services to the Government, and was commissioned a lieutenant on
General Sibley's staff, as aide-de-camp. He had been sent by General
Sibley with an order to Colonel Crooks, who was in command of the
advance, and, on his return, he and his beautiful black horse were

Colonel Crooks said to Lieutenant Beaver that the regiment would return
as soon as the skirmishers could be rallied, and invited him to remain
and ride with him back to camp, but the aide, true soldier that he was,
felt it his duty to report to General Sibley at once, and paid the

The Indians, some at least, not being able to cross the river, were in
hiding, and others had re-crossed, and were skulking in the thick brush,
waiting for a chance to shoot with arrows. Lieutenant Beaver had mistaken
the path he came in on, and took one that led him on to some of these
skulking Indians, and he thus met his death.

Colonel Crooks returned, and though Lieutenant Beaver messed with him,
his tent was at General Sibley's headquarters, and his absence from mess
was not noticed until, upon inquiry at the General's tent, it was found
he had not reported. The sudden disappearance of one who was such a
general favorite cast a gloom over the camp.

As soon as it became dark fire rockets were sent up, in hopes that if he
was wandering away, through taking a wrong road, he might be guided back
to camp. The early morning found us astir, for a detail of my regiment
had been made to reconnoiter and to skirmish clear down to the bank of
the river, in order to gain tidings of Lieutenant Beaver, and, also, of
Private Miller, of the Sixth Regiment, who also was missing.

The reconnoissance proved successful, and both bodies were found, as well
as the body of the lieutenant's horse. Lieutenant Beaver had evidently
made a desperate fight for his life, because his two revolvers were
empty, and the indications were that he had made more than one of the
enemy bite the dust.

[Illustration: Sighting the Enemy on the Missouri.]

The bodies were brought to camp and prepared for burial in the trenches
on opposite sides of the camp, and the work was so done as to obliterate
all signs and prevent the Indians from locating the spots and desecrating
the graves. The service was touchingly solemn, and many tears were shed,
as we thought of these lonely graves so far away from the homes of the
living relatives.

Lieutenant Beaver had friends in England who were abundantly able to have
his remains disinterred and removed to a more suitable place of burial.
Money was sent out from England for this purpose, and trusted agents sent
up to the Missouri banks for the purpose of bringing back the remains.
There is a grave at Graceland, in St. Paul, on the top of which rests a
slab of granite, and engraven on this are the words:

"Sacred to the memory of Lieutenant F. J. H. Beaver, who died July 28,
1863. Peace to his ashes."

On the banks of the Missouri is a lonely grave. The winter's storms and
the summer's heat have come and gone. The night vigils of the strange
birds have been kept, the requiem of gentle breezes has been sung over
this lonely grave. Comrade Nicholas Miller, private of Company K, Sixth
Minnesota Infantry Volunteers, sleeps in his lonely bed, and "after
life's fitful fever he sleeps well."



We remained but two days at this Missouri camp, when the reveille sounded
early in the morning of August 1st, and the troops were astir. We were
a long way from home, and on short rations; and, in addition to this,
we felt some anxiety about the boys we left at Camp Atchison, having
heard nothing from them. The sun was very hot the day we left; one of
the kind the boys called "muggy," - disagreeable in the extreme. At dress
parade the night before, we received the compliments of the General in
orders read, announcing that the purpose of the expedition had been
accomplished. This was, of course, good news to us, and we speculated as
to how early a date would find us taking leave of this far-away camp.

The scouts reported to the General that Indians had been crossing the
river below us all day long, and the indications were that they intended
to make an attack about midnight, in order to steal our teams. With this
information before him, General Sibley ordered one-half the command out
on guard, and the balance to lay on their arms. In an hour or so another
order came, for the balance of the command to reinforce the guard,
because there surely would be an attack, and it did come about twelve
o'clock; but the attempt to capture the teams miscarried; for, after a
few shots, the Indians retired. Having lost nearly all of their wagons
and cured meat, they were in a desperate condition, and a commissary
train would have been a rich prize.

On the morning we left it was astonishing how quickly we got ready, and
how lonesome the canvas city looked after the bugle sounded "strike
tents." We marched out this fine morning with our banners flying, and the
band playing "The Girl I Left Behind Me."

There were no regrets, for the "beautiful Indian maiden" had not made a
favorable impression on us, and we had our own little families at home.

The Sixth Minnesota was in the rear, and we were hardly beyond the limits
of the camp before the Indians had taken possession and commenced firing
on our rear guard. The Colonel gave the necessary commands to bring us
to a "right about," with orders to "commence firing." The orders came in
quick succession, and were such a surprise to the Indians that they took
to their heels with great alacrity. They hovered about us during all the
day, but did not in the least retard us in our homeward march. We were
instructed to supply ourselves with water before starting, because we
must march eighteen miles, to Apple river bend, before we could get a
fresh supply.

The day was excessively warm, and the men became thirsty; but, behold! we
look away, and a beautiful lake appears before us. "Water! water!" cry
the thirsty men, and our canteens were soon empty, in anticipation of
refilling them from the bosom of this beautiful lake before us. We march
and thirst again, and the beautiful lake seems just as far away.

"It's two miles to that lake," says one thirsty soul. We march the
two miles, and yet are two miles away, and the thirst and heat are

"Surely that's water," said another, "but we don't seem to get any nearer
to it."

We marched and marched; but we must be in a valley, for the lake is out
of sight.

"When we get over the ridge we'll see the beautiful lake," comes from
some one in the ranks.

We got over the ridge, but the beautiful lake, in all its refreshing
loveliness, had vanished. Had it evaporated, or had it sunk into the
ground? Neither. We had been deceived, - it was a mirage! The air was hot,
the earth parched, the throats dry, the canteens empty, and we were yet
eight miles from water.

Eight long, weary miles to go before we reach the bend in Apple river,
but there was no help for it, and we bear to it with our soldier load.
"Five miles farther," says the scout, and our hearts almost stop beating,
we are so parched; three miles, and on we march; only one mile more, and
we would run if we could. We reach the bank, and the Colonel commands:
"Battalion, halt!" but the refreshing water is too near, and the
famishing men make a run for it, and do not stop until they are in waist
deep, and then they drink to their fill and replenish their canteens.

On our return march we passed nearly over the same ground as we did
going out. We passed the battlefield of the Big Mound, and went into
camp by the lake where Lieutenant Freeman was killed; this was on the
4th of August. The next day our scouts reported "Indians ahead," - a
false alarm, - the Indians espied were half-breeds bringing us mail from
Camp Atchison, and also the news that George A. Brackett, who was with
Lieutenant Freeman when he was killed, had made his way, after weary
days and nights of wandering, and in a half-starved condition, to Camp
Atchison, where he fell among friends.

When we arrived at Camp Atchison it took but a day to arrange for our
final departure. Lieutenant Freeman's body had been recovered and buried,
and the place so marked that it was easily found afterwards, when the
body was removed and taken to his home for final interment.

We drew five days' rations of hard tack and bacon, and the side dishes
that go with it; just what they were I cannot now remember. I guess the
dear old army bean was one and desiccated vegetable another; anyway,
we were not troubled with the gout from too much eating of rich food.
The surgeons made proper provision for the transportation of the sick
by placing them in ambulances, and at an early hour the headquarters'
bugler sounded "strike tents," and the canvas city was razed to the
ground; - Camp Atchison was a back number.

The command took up the line of march for Fort Snelling, where we
expected to receive orders to proceed at once to join the Union Army in
the South. We were a jolly crowd, and the march seemed but a pleasant
pastime; we had driven the enemy out of the country, and, save the first
two or three days of our return march, he was giving us no trouble. We
made good time, and the nearer we got home the shorter the miles became.

When we got down to civilization we were accorded an ovation; especially
was this the case at Minneapolis, where the whole city turned out to bid
us welcome.

We arrived at Fort Snelling on the morning of September 12th, after
having made a march of more than twelve hundred miles; - and thus ended
the campaign of 1863.



My active work in the Sioux Indian war ended in the autumn of 1863,
and the regiment went South, but history has made me familiar with the
campaign of 1864, and I thus devote space to it, so as to follow the
troops and Indians to the culmination and final successful closing of the
greatest Indian war of modern times.

The return of General Sibley from the Missouri campaign of 1863 did not
end the Sioux war, because, while the Indians had been defeated in five
pitched battles in 1862 and '63, yet they were known to be in large
numbers, ready to take the field again in 1864, as soon as the weather
would permit. Such being the case, it became necessary to organize
against them.

To this end another expedition was fitted out from the Minnesota side,
which was to co-operate with General Sully from the Missouri side.
General Sully, on account of the low stage of water in the Missouri in
1863, was unable to co-operate with General Sibley, as was intended, and
on August 1st, 1863, and when General Sibley's order for the homeward
march was promulgated, General Sully was one hundred and sixty miles
farther down the river than it was intended he should be. This was the
reason why the Indians were not more severely whipped than they were. It
would have been suicidal for General Sibley to have crossed the Missouri
river at this time, with rations and ammunition as scarce as they were.

The Indians took advantage of the situation and evinced a determination
to take the field again. A cavalry regiment had been authorized by the
War Department for one year and for frontier service. This regiment was
filled to the maximum, and placed in command of Colonel R. N. McLaren.

A battalion had been raised previous to this, known as Hatch's battalion,
and was on duty near Pembina, and by this wise provision confidence was
restored in this part of the country.

The Indians still had undisputed possession of the country west of the
Missouri, and, although they may have been peaceable, it was necessary to
settle the question permanently, and place them on their reservations.

The plan of the campaign of 1864 was very similar to that of the year
previous, excepting in the matter of command, the two columns, - the one
from the Minnesota side and the other from the Missouri side, - were to
combine and become two brigades, under the command of General Sully.

The first brigade was composed of Iowa and Kansas infantry, and they
embarked at Sioux City, Iowa, and proceeded up the Missouri. The second
brigade embraced the Eighth Minnesota Infantry, mounted on ponies,
Colonel M. T. Thomas in command; the Second Minnesota Cavalry, Colonel
McLaren; and the Third Minnesota Battery, Captain John Jones. This
brigade was in command of Colonel Thomas, and left Fort Snelling on June

General Sibley and staff accompanied this brigade of 2,100 men as far as
Fort Ridgely, where he gave them their final orders.

Colonel Thomas, who considered General Sibley a man of ability, thought
him too cautious, and, in response to his final orders, said: "General, I
am going to hunt for Indians; if they will hunt for and find me it will
save a heap of trouble."

It was a beautiful morning on June 5th, and as the first rays of the
morning sun flashed the full light of day, "boots and saddles" sounded in
the clear tones of the bugles, and the column, headed by a magnificent
band, mounted on milk white horses, marched out to the tune of "The Girl
I Left Behind Me."

The General reviewed the column as it passed, and after complimenting the
appearance of the soldiers and bidding good-bye to Colonel Thomas and his
staff, who were starting on a five months' campaign beyond the bounds of
civilization, rode back to the fort.

The column was now under way, and day after day the march went on, in
solid square, so organized that all the Indians in North America could
not disturb it. At night the square closed up, so as to ensure greater
safety and reduce guard duty.

The column moved up the valley of the Minnesota river to its source, and
then took a westerly course, making daily from sixteen to twenty miles,
resting on Sunday.

The scouts, failing to find even signs of Indians, the march became
monotonous until the valley of the Missouri was reached. Here was found
General Sully's trail of the year previous, and soon some of his scouts
came into camp and reported General Sully only one day's march away,
where he was waiting for the fleet of boats on which were supplies for
the troops.

The monotony of the daily march was enlivened by the report that Indians
were hovering around, - they came to reconnoiter, but not to fight yet.
This of itself was encouraging, because the boys began to think they
would not even see an Indian; but there was fun ahead, as we shall see in
the next chapter.



General Sully, an unpretentious man, with clear perception, appeared to
know where the Indians were, and what they would do. His service in the
regular army peculiarly fitted him for this service, and this, with his
genial temperament, made him an agreeable commander.

The boats were unloaded, the command supplied with sixty days' rations
and divested of all surplus clothing and equipments, made ready for a
vigorous march after Indians.

The troops were reviewed by the commanding officer, General Sully,
who, by the way, was at one time Colonel of the First Minnesota,
and afterwards promoted to Major-General of Volunteers and Brevet
Brigadier-General of the regular army. The review of the troops
constituted the celebrating the Fourth of July, 1864.

When the column finally moved, which was on July 19, it marched out into
an unknown and unexplored country, from the white man's standpoint.

[Illustration: Resting Before an Attack.]

What a transformation, - then unknown and unexplored, - no highways, no
railroads, no civilization, - to-day the onward march of our race has left
its imprint by railroads, beautiful farms, busy cities, busy factories,
Christian civilization, education and the "little red school house." But
I am anticipating; turn back the leaves and we are again on the Knife
river, and we snuff a battle, for the Indians are ahead in great numbers.

It was on July 28th, among the foothills of the mountains, that a large
camp of Indians was found. In this camp were no less than one hundred
and ten bands of hostile Sioux, and they meant business, for they had
congregated here for the express purpose of cleaning out the white
soldiers, and they felt confident they could do it.

The Indians, on their horses, were stripped for the fray, and began
leisurely to ride in line of battle toward the white enemy. When within
rifle shot, the soldiers opened fire, and instantly the scene was
changed. The bands concentrated, and, uttering their war cries, they
dashed at full speed on our lines, firing, and, like the wind, whirled
to the rear, loading as they went, when they would again face the enemy,
and, coming within gunshot, fire again.

They were so confident of success that they did not attempt to save their
own camp, which was the objective point of the soldiers; and they did not
realize their dangerous position until they found that their terrific
onslaught on our lines did not in the least impede the progress of the

Soon the artillery was brought up, and the shells were sent thick and
fast among them. By this time they began to realize that retreat were the
tactics now.

There were 1,600 tepees filled with women and children, with the usual
supply of dogs, - not less than two dogs to a tepee, and such a stampede.

It was a grand sight in one sense and sad in another. To see this great,
moving mass of 10,000 or 12,000 souls, with their camp paraphernalia,
including dogs and ponies, rushing over the prairie; the fleeing
multitude spread out as far as the eye could reach on either side,
rushing on in mad haste, as though fleeing from the city of destruction.
It was the sight of a lifetime, but sad to contemplate that the sins
of some were being showered upon the heads of the innocent women and

The loss to the Indians in killed was estimated at 100 to 150; the
wounded they carried off the field. The dead were buried in the night in
large trenches, the earth leveled off, and the troops marched away.

The Indians were not satisfied with the result of this engagement; they
naturally would not be. They claimed that the best of their young men
were off hunting for our troops in another direction, and they should at

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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 12 of 13)