once call them in and give battle again.
The last six days had been very exciting, and was a nervous strain on the
soldiers. One hundred and seventy-five miles had been made, a battle of
eight hours had been fought, and the camp of Indians destroyed.
The march to the west was resumed over the prairie, with the Knife
Mountains to the north and the Black Hills to the south, looming up in
the distance like great sentinels, standing to contest the approach of
civilization and defying the elements of ages.
In the immediate front, off towards the horizon, was what seemed to be a
level plain, - it was level, but for a little distance, and then broke to
your view what might have inspired a Dante to write a more recent edition
of Inferno; for, as far as the eye could reach, north and south and for
forty miles to the west, the body of the earth had been rent and torn
asunder, as though giant demons, in their infuriated defeat, had sought
to disembowel the earth.
General Sully said of it: "It is hell with the fires put out."
We are now in the Bad Lands, and it is Sunday, - the Lord's day, and in
such a region, - where devils had fought. White men's eyes had probably
never before seen this region, and the Indians were afraid of it; they
looked upon this region as the abode of evil spirits, and that the great
gorges and buttes and yawning chasms were but the product of their wrath.
The Sunday passed quietly until after noon, when a reconnoitering party
returned and said they had been fired upon by Indians.
About five o'clock on this Sunday General Sully changed the position of
the camp and went four miles farther up the river, in order to be in
better position to prevent a surprise or repel an attack.
The Indians were interested observers, for while this move was being made
1,000 of them were quietly sitting on their horses on the surrounding
General Sully, being sick in his tent at this time, the command devolved
upon Colonel Thomas, of the Eighth Minnesota, and to him he gave orders
to "have everything ready to move at six o'clock in the morning, in
perfect fighting order; put one of your most active field officers in
charge of a strong advance guard, and you will meet them at the head of
the ravine, and have the biggest Indian fight that ever will happen on
this continent; and let me further say that under no circumstances must
any man turn his back on a live Indian."
On Monday morning, bright and early, on August 8th, 1864, the columns
were formed. The General was in an ambulance at the front, and in
admiration looking up and down the lines of the soldiers who were so soon
to engage the Indians in battle, gave vent to his feelings in words more
expressive than elegant: "Those fellows can whip the devil and all his
General Sully himself was unable to go farther, but when he grasped
Colonel Thomas, who was in immediate command, by the hand he said: "You
must make some history to-day."
"Forward!" and the column is marching out, and not a sound is there to
indicate that its progress will be impeded, as we enter the narrow gorge,
only wide enough for a wagon trail. Almost an hour passes in steadily
climbing up the narrow and secluded way, and when near the head of the
gulch, from the beautiful stillness of the morning the pandemonium of war
The artillery advanced in a gallop, and, in position, soon commenced
planting shells among the redskins. This was followed up by the steady
advance of the dismounted men, who pressed their lines, and they
commenced to fall back. The General, sick though he was, and in the
ambulance, could not endure being there when the fight was going on, so
he ordered up his horse and, mounting, rode to the front, but nature
resisted, and he was obliged to dismount, which he did, and seating
himself on a boulder, with his field glass took in the whole situation.
Colonel Thomas, who was in command, hearing that the General was on the
field, sought him out and said: "I am ready to advance, sir."
The General, pointing his hand toward a range of hills, said: "Go ahead,
you will find the camp beyond those buttes; hold your men well in hand,
push the Indians; they will fight for their families; protect your
flank, and I will protect the rear."
The fight went on; the wounded were sent to the rear, and for twelve
miles we drove the Indians from point to point, but darkness came on
before their camp was reached.
In the bivouac at night the scene was a varied one. At the roll-call
there were names not answered, for the unerring arrow and Indian bullet
had done its work. At the next muster it would be necessary to mark after
some name: "Killed in battle in the Bad Lands August 8th, 1864," or,
"died of wounds received from Indians in battle in the Bad Lands August
8th, 1864," for there were 109 killed and wounded on this day.
The wounded received proper attention at once, and the other soldiers,
well tired out with the day's fighting and marching, were soundly
sleeping and dreaming of home.
There were 8,000 warriors engaged in this battle, and as nearly as could
be estimated they lost 350 killed and from 600 to 800 wounded. It was a
bloody battle, and the field was named by the Indians Waps-chon-choka.
The Indians, after this decisive battle, broke up into small bands and
went in every direction, so that the soldiers, as an army, could not well
The war had ended so far as the Indians were concerned, but there was
another fight on hand. Bad water and lack of rations are not a happy
condition of affairs, and the soldiers had to look this square in the
face. And hot! The tongues of some of the men were so swelled from thirst
and heat that they could not talk. The animals suffered equally with the
men, and in numerous instances it became necessary to put them out of
their misery by blowing out their brains.
And thus things went on from day to day until August 12th, when glad
news came from one of the scouts, who came riding back and frantically
waving something in his hands. It was simply a little chip of wood, and
why should this create such unbounded joy among a lot of war-begrimed
veterans? It was freshly cut and evidently came from the steamboat men,
as it was borne down on the bosom of the cool waters of the longed-for
The weary soldiers, thirsting and starving, viewed this little harbinger
of plenty with delight, and their strength began to return as they
increased their step in the march toward the river.
O, that beautiful river: - "The Nectar of the Gods." How life-inspiring
its fluid, as discipline was forgotten and joy and happy shouts took the
place of misery in the command.
The thirst was slaked, and now for something to eat, for soldiers,
poor mortals, get very hungry, and how often they longed for some good
home-made bread and sugar and cream for coffee. And pies; well, our
mouths used to fairly water for pies. But, on this especial occasion,
almost anything would do, for the boys were awfully hungry, and the
commissary was like "Old Mother Hubbard's" cupboard - empty.
There were timber bottoms a little way down the river full of elk and
black-tailed deer, so the Indians informed us.
A detail was made, and the hunters went out in search of game, and before
night they returned with the evidence of their day's hunt with them. They
were like the spies sent out in Bible times, who came back laden with
grapes, and reported that the country which they had explored was rich,
and flowed with milk and honey.
So, too, our soldier-hunters said the bottom lands were alive with elk
and deer; and, by the next night, the luscious ribs and steaks were
sizzling in the blaze, and hunger was being appeased as well as the
thirst had been.
The war being practically over, the several commands returned by various
routes to the points from whence they came, and were at once ordered
South to take their places in some of the other armies. The campaigns of
1862, '63 and '64 were successfully carried out, and we will recapitulate
our desires, our journeyings, our hopes and our fears and our rejoicings
in another chapter, and bid you adieu.
[Illustration: Examining the Colors After the Campaign.]
In writing this narrative my mind has been refreshed and incidents and
the names of persons almost forgotten come to me - they press on my memory.
I am able to recall many, but to specify them would unduly lengthen
this book. There was one important character, however, whom I had quite
forgotten at the proper time, and in this concluding chapter must make
mention of him.
Pierre Bottineau came originally from the Selkirk settlement, and in
1837 made a claim near St. Anthony Falls.
I was with him upon the plains of Dakota in 1857, and in his way he was a
remarkable man. On one occasion the party got lost in a furious storm and
we knew that war parties of Chippewas were roaming over the prairie and
it was not any way too healthy to be in the region we supposed we were
wandering in. We halted to hold a council and Pierre said: "As soon as
the stars come out I can locate." So we waited and waited for the storm
to pass over. The night was pitchy dark, but in time the stars came, when
Pierre laid flat down on the ground, face up, and for perhaps half an
hour surveyed the heavens and located our wandering feet. We were soon on
the right trail for our camp, which was forty or fifty miles away.
Pierre was one of General Sibley's principal scouts during the several
campaigns against the Indians in 1862 and 1863. He died some years
ago, and speaking of his death reminds me of others prominent in these
military operations who have gone beyond the river.
The two generals, Sibley and Sully, are gone, and of the field and staff,
I can recall Colonel John T. Averill, of the Sixth Minnesota, who was,
after the war, member of Congress. Adjutant Snow and Quartermasters
Carver and Gilbert, Colonels Stephen Miller and Wm. R. Marshall, both
honored by Minnesota by electing them to chief executive - they, with
Lieut. Colonel Bradley and all of the Seventh; Colonel Robert N. McLaren,
of the Second Cavalry, and Major Hatch, of the battalion bearing his
name, and Captain John Jones, of the famous battery. These are among some
of the chiefs who have been called.
Among the line of officers and the rank and file, it would be a mighty
host, and it saddens my heart when I think of them, so I will desist
and conclude by reminding you of the invitation extended and briefly
recapitulate our journeyings.
* * * * *
READER: The invitation extended to you to accompany us on a military
expedition into the Indian country has been accepted. It was under
exciting circumstances, when the whole country was surcharged with alarm,
and for good cause.
The Indians, cruel, relentless, revengeful, and with determination, were
murdering innocent men, women and children, and but for the friendly
offices of a faithful few, whose hearts were whiter than their skins, the
death list and list of horrors would have been far greater; and it is for
these few we speak when we say there are good Indians other than dead
ones; and Minnesota could not do a more appropriate thing to-day than
erect a monument to the memory of Old Betz, Other Day, Chaska and others,
who risked their lives to save their white friends from the tomahawk
of their more vengeful brethren, and who did so much to alleviate the
sufferings and to relieve the anxiety of the captive prisoners.
You went with us to besieged New Ulm and Fort Ridgely; helped bury
the dead at Redwood; marched with us and went into camp and endured
the thirty-six hours of anxiety and suffering at Birch Coolie; helped
bury the dead and care for the wounded there; returned with us to Fort
Ridgely; took part in the battle at Wood Lake, where the Indians were
defeated; shared our joys when we liberated the women at Camp Release;
helped arrest, shackle and guard the Indians; witnessed the execution of
thirty-eight at Mankato; marched across with the "Moscow Expedition";
rendezvoused with us at Camp Pope in 1863; marched and fought Indians
with us at Big Mound, Dead Buffalo Lake, Stony Lake and the Missouri
River. You mingled your tears with ours over Beaver's and Miller's
graves, as we left them in their loneliness on the bank of the river;
participated in and rejoiced with us all the way on our return, took part
in the campaign of 1864, and now, before bidding you adieu, one question:
Are you satisfied?
* * * * *
Illustrations moved so as to not split paragraphs. Quotation usage in
quoted letters was standardized.