Addison Erwin Sheldon.

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it was no larger around than a man's body. Then he tied
together all the pony lariats which the Pawnees had, let them
down and found they were long enough to reach the ground
below. He tied one end of the long lariat around the point
of rock, made a running loop in it for his foot and slowly let
himself down pushing his back against the wall for support
until he reached the bottom. Then with great strength and
steadiness he climbed up by the same rope. The next night
he called the Pawnees together and told. them the way of
escape. One by one, beginning with the youngest, the Paw-
nees let themselves down by the rope to the bottom of the
wall. The last one to go down was the leader. Then they
softly crept through the camp of the Sioux and by morning
were miles away on their journey to the Pawnee villages
upon the Loup.

No one knows how long the Sioux camped at the foot of
the great high cliffs waiting for the Pawnees to starve or to
surrender. But tradition says that if one will go to the top
of Court House Rock and camp there all night he can hear
the whisper of the Sioux sentinels far below him as they
watch at the base of the cliff for their old enemies to come


1. Was the Pawnee leader a wise man? What tells?

2. Why let the youngest down first?

3. .Why did the Sioux not hear the Pawnees as they made their escape?

4. Should you like to camp on the top of Court House Rock over night?




pioneers of Nebraska owe a great debt of gratitude
to the Pawnee scouts and their gallant white leader,
Major Frank North. During the Sioux and Cheyenne wars
on the Nebraska frontier, from 1864 to 1877, these brave
Indians, by their courage and vigilance, defended our

border, saving the lives of hundreds
of settlers. In all the campaigns
the Pawnee scouts were at the
front. They knew the country
through years of buffalo hunting.
They knew the ways and the camp-
ing grounds of their old enemies,
the Sioux, Cheyennes and Arapa-
hoes. In their memories were the
old wars of their fathers, and the
blood of friends killed by a cruel
foe. Spurred by these memories

they led the way to the hostile camps. They stampeded the
enemy 's ponies, fought bravely in every battle and never
stopped at hunger or hardship in the long hard rides. The
story of the Pawnee scouts and their service to the people of
Nebraska is one never to be forgotten.

When the sudden storm of the Sioux and Cheyenne war
broke on the Nebraska border in the summer of 1864, the
white people were taken by surprise. This was during the
war between the North and the South, when many of the
settlers had enlisted and left their families without protec-
tion. Hundreds of settlers and emigrants were killed,
ranches and wagon trains burned, stock run off and butch-
ered. As the story of the murders and burnings was brought




in, there was terror in all the settlements. Everywhere the
Indians were reported as being just at hand. Many settlers
left their homes and fled to the Missouri River while others
gathered at central ranches and hastily threw up intrench-

The few United States soldiers on our frontier were not
experienced in fighting Indians. A call was made for Paw-
nee scouts. Frank North was then twenty-four years old
and a clerk at the Pawnee agency in what is now Nance
County. He had settled at Columbus in 1858, lived among
the Pawnees, learned their language and gained their confi-
dence. He was made first lieutenant of the first company of
Pawnee scouts, and soon after became captain, then major and
remained their leader until they were mustered out of service.

Their first important achievement was in General Con-
nor's campaign in 1865. On August 22d, Captain North
with forty scouts struck the trail of twenty-seven Sioux of
Red Cloud's band, who had just killed a party of fifteen sol-
diers. He followed the trail all day and all night, overtook
the Sioux at daybreak and scalped every warrior, bringing
back the horses and mules they had stolen. This was the
first victory over the Sioux in this war. A few days later the
Pawnee scouts led General Connor's army to a great camp
of fifteen hundred hostile Arapahoes under Chief Black Bear.
A complete victory was won, in which over two hundred
Arapahoes were slain, and seven hundred ponies and all the
tepees captured. The village with all its goods was burned
and the destitute Arapahoes were glad to come in to Fort
Laramie and make peace.

In 1867 Captain North was made major of a battalion of
four companies of Pawnees, fifty Indians in each company.
They were armed with the new Spencer repeating rifles or
"seven shooters" and their special duty was to protect the
workmen in building the Union Pacific Railroad. The hostile
Indians had nearly stopped its construction by killing men,
burning stations and running off stock.



The Pawnee battalion took up this work with delight.
It had 300 miles of road from Plum Creek (now Lexington),
in Dawson County to the Laramie Plains, to protect. The
Sioux were completely surprised when they found their old

2 1 7


1. James R. Murie. Interpreter and student of Pawnee folk-lore. Son of Captain Murie
of Major North's battalion.

2. Captain Jim. His name under North was Koot-tah-wi-kootz-tah-kah (White Hawk).
He served several times, is a medicine man and chief of Peta-hau-rata band.

3. John Buffalo. His name under North was Ree-tit-ka-wi (Feather in scalp-lock). He
served several times, is a Skidi and a medicine man, and served as Friar in a company.

4. John Box, whose name when serving as a scout was Kee-wah-koo-pa-hat (Red Fox).
He is a progressive Indian and one of the leading men among the Skidis.

5. High Eagle, whose name was Lay-tah-cots-si-ti-tu-hu-rey-ri-ku-kak-kit-ka-hoc. He
was very young when scouting.

6. Seeing Eagle, a Skidi, and a warrior who served under North each time. His name
when scouting was Lay-tah-cots-si-ti-ti-rit (They saw an eagle).

7. Belly Osborne, a Skidi who was with North every time. He was a sergeant in Com-
pany A. His name under North was Koot-tah-wi-koots-rah-rah-he-coots (Brave Hawk).

enemy the Pawnees on their trail, with good horses and rifles
and the United States back of them. After one or two sharp
skirmishes, in which they were chased long distances with
loss, their raids on the railroad became rare.


August 1, 1867, the Cheyenne chief " Turkey Leg" with
his band tore up a culvert four miles west of Plum Creek and
ditched a Union Pacific freight train. They killed the train-
men, broke open the cars, stole everything they could take
and burned the train. Captain Murie with one company
of Pawnee scouts, chased old Turkey Leg out of the state,
killing fifteen warriors and capturing the chief 's nephew and
a squaw. This discouraged Turkey Leg so much that he
came into North Platte, gave up the six white prisoners he
had in exchange for his nephew and the squaw, made peace,
and became a good Indian.

The Sioux Chief Tall Bull with a hostile band roamed
over western Kans-as and Nebraska for a long time, murder-
ing, robbing, burning and dodging the soldiers sent after him.
On July 12, 1869, Major North and the Pawnee scouts guided
General Carr with the Fifth Cavalry to Tall Bull's camp
hidden in the sandhills between the Platte and the French-
man 's Fork, just west of the Nebraska state line. The bat-
tle of Summit Springs which followed completely wiped out
Tall Bull and his band. Fifty-two warriors were killed, and
the camp with over four hundred horses and mules captured.
Two white women prisoners were in Tall Bull 's tent. When
he found the soldiers were upon him he killed one and wound-
ed the other. The one wounded was a German woman
whose husband had been murdered in Kansas. In the
captured camp was a great deal of rich plunder taken from
white people, including jewelry and over $1,500 in twenty-
dollar gold pieces. This fell into the hands of soldiers and
Pawnee scouts. Later when it was found that much of this
gold had been taken from the dead husband of the wounded
woman the white soldiers brought in $300 and the Pawnee
scouts $600 and placed this sum in her hands on the battle-

The defeat of Tall Bull's band was one of the greatest
blessings to the Nebraska border. The Nebraska legisla-
ture passed a vote of thanks to General Carr's com-


mand, especially mentioning Major North and the Pawnee

For two years the Pawnee scouts continued to guard and
patrol the Union Pacific Railroad, making it possible to run
regular trains to the Pacific Ocean. In January, 1871, the
scouts were mustered out of service while Major North re-
mained as scout and guide.

In the summer of 1876 the Sioux under Sitting Bull and
Crazy Horse were again on the warpath. General Custer
and all his command were killed on the Little Big Horn in
Montana. There were seven or eight thousand Sioux under
Red Cloud and Spotted Tail in what is now Dawes and
Sioux counties, Nebraska, near Fort Robinson. It was feared
that they would break away and join the hostile Indians.
General Sheridan ordered Major North to go to Indian Terri-
tory, where the Pawnee tribe now lived, and to enlist one
hundred scouts to serve against the Sioux. There was great
excitement on the Pawnee reserve when Major North came.
He found the Pawnees very poor. All of them wanted to go
with him. He picked out his one hundred men and was
followed for eighty miles by others begging to enlist.

With these one hundred scouts Major North reached
Fort Robinson, October 22, 1876, and without resting was
ordered to march forty miles with a regiment of cavalry.
After an all night march they surprised Red Cloud's camp
near Chadron at daybreak and captured it without a shot.
All the ponies of Red Cloud 's band, over 700, were taken by
the Pawnees to Fort Laramie and sold, while the Indians
were marched on foot to Fort Robinson and kept to the end
of the war. It was a bitter disgrace for the proud Sioux to
have their ponies taken away from them by their old Pawnee
enemies and Red Cloud never forgot it.

In November, General Crook ordered Major North and
the Pawnee scouts to march north for a winter campaign
against the Sioux and Cheyennes. The Indian scouts
brought news that they had found a large Cheyenne camp in


a pocket of the Big Horn mountains so well concealed that it
would be impossible to approach it in daylight. General
McKenzie was ordered by General Crook to make a night
march with 800 white cavalry and 70 Pawnee scouts. All
night the soldiers rode over a terribly rough and dangerous
region with their Pawnee guides at the head. Toward morn-
ing they heard the sound of Indian drums.

The Cheyennes were dancing a scalp dance over the re-
turn of a successful war party. About daybreak the
warriors, tired with dancing, went to sleep. A little later
the Pawnees and soldiers burst into their camp. The
Cheyennes fought desperately, for they were fighting for their
homes and their winter living. Most of them escaped to the
rough ground from which they fired on the troops. All the
Cheyenne ponies, 650 in number, were taken by the Paw-
nees. General McKenzie ordered all the Cheyenne lodges,
all their rich buffalo robes and winter provisions to be piled
and burned to ashes, and the Cheyennes saw them burn. A
heavy snowstorm came on and General McKenzie marched
back, taking with him the Indian ponies and leaving the band

The miserable Cheyennes with their women and children
made their way on foot to the camp of Crazy Horse on Pow-
der River. Over forty of then* number died from exposure
and starvation on the way. Stern Crazy Horse shut his
doors in their face. He was so angry because they had per-
mitted themselves to be outwitted and surprised that he
would give them no help. There was nothing for the
Cheyennes to do but to drag themselves across the cold plains
to Fort Robinson and surrender to the whites.

All the cold winter the war went on. General Crook
never rested nor gave the enemy rest. There was no chance
for the Sioux that winter to hunt buffalo or elk, The terri-
ble cavalry and the Pawnee scouts, their old enemies, were
on their trail. In the spring the starving and ragged rem-
nants of the once proud Sioux of the plains came in and


surrendered on Nebraska soil at Fort Robinson. It was a
great day for the Pawnee scouts when they were mustered
out of service May 1, 1877, and returned to Indian Territory
to tell the story of Red Cloud's ponies and Crazy Horse's

After the war was over Major North engaged with W. F.
Cody (Buffalo Bill) in cattle ranching on the Dismal River
in western Nebraska. Thousands of their cattle ranged the
sand hills. Their ranch door was open wide without price to
all honest travelers, but cattle and horse thieves, white or
red, soon learned to dread the fearless spirits and ready rifles
waiting for them there. Many are the stirring and true
stories told of Frank North in those ranching days.

In 1882 the people of Platte County elected Major North
to the Nebraska legislature. He died at Columbus March
14, 1885, aged forty-five years, leaving a wife and daughter.
All the people of Nebraska mourned his loss, for he was not
only a brave soldier but kind and just and true in all his life.

Only a few of the famous Pawnee scouts who followed
Major North and kept the Nebraska border in the stormy
years of war and frontiering now survive. Those whom I
saw on their reservation in Oklahoma were a fine group of
sturdy men with strong fearless faces. Their eyes light up
when the name of Major North is mentioned, and looking
up into the sky they speak with deepest love and admiration
his Pawnee name, "Pani-LeShar."


1. Why were the Pawnees and white men together able to defeat the hostile

Indians when neither one alone could make headway against them?

2. Why did the hostile Indians try to prevent the building of the Union

Pacific Railroad?

3. Did General Crook do right in taking away all their ponies from Red

Cloud's band? Ought the United States to pay for them?

4. What qualities do you think a white man must have to become a leader

among Indians?


ROCK BLUFFS is a quiet little village in Cass County on
the Missouri River. It is one of the earliest settle-
ments in the state. Its name will always be joined to an
important event in Nebraska history, for on the counting of
its vote depended whether Nebraska should come into the
union a Republican or a Democratic state. And the counting
of its vote was made to depend on the ballot box going to

At the election in June, 1866, the people of Nebraska
voted upon the question whether Nebraska should become a
state. At the same time they voted for state officers whom
they would have provided it became a state. The Republi-
cans were in favor of making Nebraska a state at once and
named David Butler of Pawnee County as candidate for
governor. The Democrats opposed making Nebraska a
state at once, and named J. Sterling Morton of Otoe County
as candidate for governor. The people were nearly evenly
divided and there was great excitement.

There were no telephones and very few telegraph lines in
Nebraska in those days. The settlements were scattered
and it took a long time to find out how the people had voted.
When the returns came in it was found that about one hun-
dred more had voted to have Nebraska become a state at
once than had voted against it.

A legislature also was voted for at this time, which was to
choose two United States Senators. In Rock Bluffs pre-
cinct there were cast 107 votes for the Democrats and 49 for
the Republicans. With these votes counted the Democrats
would elect six members of the legislature from Cass County.
Without them the Republicans would elect all six members.
It was found that the election officers who had charge of the





ballot box in Rock Bluffs precinct had gone at noon from the
house where the election was held to a house a mile away to
eat dinner and had taken the ballot box with them. The

law said that the ballot
box should be in sight of
the voters on election day
from nine o'clock in the
morning until six o 'clock
at night. The county
clerk and the men who
helped him to canvass
the votes at Plattsmouth
threw out all the votes
from Rock Bluffs precinct
because the ballot box
went to dinner instead of staying at the polls. This gave
the six Republican candidates a majority in Cass County.
When the legislature met to elect two United States
Senators the two Republican candidates, John M. Thayer
and T. W. Tipton, each received 29 votes and the two Demo-
cratic candidates, J. Sterling Morton and A. J. Poppleton,
each received 21 votes. If the Rock Bluffs vote had been
counted the two Democrats would have been elected.

There was a great outcry by the Democrats at the time
and in the records and newspapers of those early days you
may still read the hot words spoken and written about this
affair. The men who fought each other in those fierce early
political battles have nearly all passed away. Little now
remains of the village of Rock Bluffs. A few old houses only
exist on the old site near the Missouri River, six miles from a
railroad and only a few of the people there now know the
story of the ballot box that went to dinner and changed the
politics of a state.


1. Do you think the vote of Rock Bluffs precinct should have been thrown


2. Was Nebraska made permanently a Republican instead of a Democratic

state by this action?

ON the 17th of September, 1869, was fought the hardest
battle between the white men and the plains Indians in
the annals of the West. It was fought on the Arickaree fork
of the Republican River, a few miles from the southwest
corner of Nebraska and not far from the present town of
Wray, Colorado, on the Denver line
of the Burlington road. Fifty-one
scouts and frontiersmen under the
command of Lieutenant Geo. A.
Forsyth stood off, on a little sand-
bar in the river, the combined forces
of the Northern Cheyennes, Arapa-
hoes and Oglala Sioux for nine days.
They lost more than one third their
own number in killed and wounded,
while the Indian loss was many
times as great.

For months these Indians had
been murdering the settlers and
travelers in western Nebraska and
Kansas. Soldiers were sent to pursue them but always
arrived on the scene of their action after the Indians were
gone, finding nothing but the melancholy duty of burying
the murdered citizens. Lieutenant Forsyth raised a com-
pany of fifty frontiersmen. Many of them had lost their
dearest friends and relatives by the Indians. Some of them
were noted scouts. All of them enlisted to fight.

Early in September this little command started from the
place of the latest Indian murder near Fort Wallace, Kansas.
They struck a trail leading to the Republican River. Follow-




ing the trail up the Republican River in Nebraska it was
joined by other trails and still others until the little party of
fifty men was traveling a great beaten road, as wide as the
Oregon Trail, made by thousands of Indians and ponies, and
with hundreds of camp fires where they stopped at night.
It seemed a crazy act to follow so great a trail with so small
a party, but the little band had started out to find and fight
Indians and kept on.

On the afternoon of September 16th, the Indian signs
were very fresh and Lieutenant Forsyth resolved to go into
camp early, rest his men and be ready to strike the Indians
the next day. An extra number of men were posted on
picket duty to prevent surprise. In the earliest gray of the
next morning, the men were up and saddling their horses
when there came a volley of shots from the pickets followed
by the yell and rush of Indians. The savages had expected
to find the soldiers asleep and their horses out feeding.
Their plan was to stampede the horses and leave the soldiers
on foot in the open prairie where they could easily surround
them and cut them off. They found their horses saddled,
every scout ready with his rifle, and soon retreated out of
reach of the white men 's bullets. As daylight broke, Grover,
the head scout, exclaimed, " Look at the Indians !" The hills
on both sides of the little valley swarmed with them. None
of the scouts had ever before seen so many hostile Indians in
one body.

Lieutenant Forsyth saw the situation at a glance. A few
hundred yards away in the middle of the river was a sandbar
island having one cottonwood tree and a growth of willows.
It was the only cover in the valley. At the word of com-
mand the scouts dashed forward through the water to the
island. Every man tied his horse strongly to a willow bush
and dropping on his knee held his rifle in one hand and dug
a hole in the sand with the other. This move was a com-
plete surprise to the Indians. They had expected to eat up
the little band at one mouthful. They now saw them mak-


ing a fort out of the little island. The Indians crowded up
to the bank on both sides of the river and filled the air with
a storm of bullets and arrows. A number of the scouts were
killed and wounded, while the poor horses plunged and
struggled in misery until they fell in death.

The fire of the Indians was very hot and accurate.
Lieutenant Forsyth had his leg broken by a bullet and his
second in command, Lieutenant Frederick H. Beecher, a
nephew of Henry Ward Beecher, was killed. Forsyth cut
the bullet from his leg, which he bandaged with his own hands,
telling his men to be steady, to help each other and to make
every shot count. In the course of an hour the men became
calmer. They were getting a good cover with sand and
dead horses. Every time an Indian showed himself within
range a bullet went after him. This discouraged the
Indians so much that they drew back, while the scouts took
the time to care for the wounded and to throw up more sand.

About noon there was a great gathering of Indians on the
hill in sight of the scouts. Warriors came riding in from all
parts of the field. Among them was one whom every scout
knew at long distance. He was Roman Nose, over six feet
tall, the tallest Indian on the plains, and one of their greatest
chiefs. It was evident a big plan was under way. The
council broke up and the plan appeared. Roman Nose led
a body of mounted young men out into the valley. Others
joined them. They drew together in a line facing the island
with Roman Nose at the head. The plan was now clear.
This chosen body of two or three hundred was to charge
straight on the island while the rest of the Indians crept up
through the grass and fired as fast as they could at the scouts
in their sand pits to distract their attention.

Roman Nose gave the signal and his horsemen started
for the island. Lieutenant Forsyth had ordered his men not
to fire until the first pony reached the river's edge. The
scouts were armed with a new gun, the Spencer Seven-
shooter Carbine. The Indians knew what a one-shot rifle



was, but had never seen one that shot seven times without
loading. On came the line of Indians, yelling and whipping
their horses. Just at the river 's bank the rifles of the scouts
flashed from the sand pits and groups of riders fell from their
ponies. On they came. Another volley and more Indians
fell. Another, and another and another and another, with
a steady aim and terrible effect. Roman Nose himself fell
dead from his horse and the Indian line broke and scattered.
Lieutenant Forsyth turned anxiously to his scout Grover.
"Can they do any better than that?" he asked. "I have
been on these plains, boy and man, for twenty years and I
never saw anything like it," answered the scout. "Then
we have got them," replied Forsyth.

The battle now changed to a siege, while from the hills
arose that most harrowing of all sorrowful cries, the wail of
the Indian women for their dead. Through many hours
this haunted the ears of the men on the island. There were
no more attempts to take the island by storm. Starvation
was the Indian plan. At the first of the fight the scouts had

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Online LibraryAddison Erwin SheldonHistory and stories of Nebraska → online text (page 9 of 20)