Two days after the battle a small d achment was
sent to bury the bodies, but not one was given proper
interment graves were shallow, and dirt thrown but
sparsely over bodies was soon washed away by rains
or dug away by scavanger animals and birds.
Crossing the Little Horn, or Custer River as it is
now called, to the east side, a well-defined trail leads
up the gradual slope a quarter of a mile in length-
The ground is covered with sage brush, coarse
grass, prickley pears, and is destitute of rocks or
timber. We reach the summit, and see a ravine with
gentle sloping sides, near a half-mile in length and
free from rocks, timber, or anything that could fur
nish shelter. Nearby are the uncovered remains of
eighteen men, in six piles, with a piece of tepee pole
sticking in the ground at each pile. Upon one of
these " tombstones " hung a white sombrero, relic of a
member of the Seventh Cavalry, with two bullet holes
through it, and a long cut as if made with an axe ;
and near by we found an axe, with a dark stain on
the rusty blade, it having undoubtedly been used by
FIGHTING INDIANS 149
the squaws in their frenzied mutilation of the wound
ed and dead of the Curtis command. Near here were
the carcasses of two horses ; to the north, a few yards
away, were heaps of bones so mixed that it was not
possible to count the number of persons represented.
A little farther on, and another heap containing the
bones of three men appear beside the skeleton of a
horse, evidently killed to be used as a breastwork.
A heavy trail runs along the crest of the divide,
which separates the river from the ravine, and it was
thickly strewn with whitened bones, rotting equip
ments and clothing.
Three hundred yards up the trail, we came upon
the knoll where Custer and the remnant of his com
mand made their final stand. We picture him in our
mind, as he coolly loads and fires with the rest of the
men, frequently glancing over the bluffs to see if
Reno, whom he had so urgently requested to hasten
to his support, is at hand. Reno s utter failure to
respond is generally condemned.
This elevation of the battlefield is but a little
above the divide of which it is the terminus, and is,
apparently, a commanding position. But the enemy
were too powerful for the small body of troops who
were there. On top of the hill where Custer was
killed, we saw the skeletons of four men and
horses, among the latter being the skeleton of the
horse that Custer rode.
We return to Tongue River, with the picture of
that field of death vividly impressed on our mind,
and wondering if Custer and is men would have per
ished had Reno tried to fight his way to Custer s
rescue. Trump ter Martin says Reno could have got
there ; and Trumpeter Martin knows, as he is the
man Custer sent back to ask Reno to hurry to his
150 SEVENTH CAVALRY
The Author Bids Farewell to His Comrades at Fort Rice
Army Hospital Receives Honorable Discharge on
Account of Total Disability Back Home !
AT THE Fort Rice army hospital, our bunch of
victims of the final stand of Chief Joseph, passed
the Fall and part of the Winter, while there was a
gradual thinning out.
Some were discharged, others returned to quar
ters, and still others returned to duty, and yet there
were eighteen of us in the ward, but all considered
out of danger by Surgeon Taylor.
I was one day called to the office of the Command
ing officer, and as I entered, Colonel Otis looked up,
and in his gruff voice asked me if I wanted to go to
the Soldiers Home at Washington. (Otis had taken
" sick leave," on furlough, while the chase to overtake
Chief Joseph was on, and returned under escort to
To his question I answered, " No, sir 1"
Otis then informed me that I was to be discharged
by reason of Surgeon Taylor s report that I was
incurable ; and that I could go home, if I had one, or
to the Regular Army Soldiers Home, either one I
His manner was gruff and anything but courteous
he ran true to form the only name by which he
was known among the men under his command when
he was in charge of a Battalion under Sturges
" wandering through the wilderness" " The Bull
I told Otis I thought I could die as well in one
place as another, and that I would go to what would
FIGHTING INDIANS 151
be my home. He said " All right," and I returned to
the Hospital, feeling rather blue. Here I was, not
twenty-four years of age, and to be discharged as
Well, this meant
No longer to indulge in those long and tiresome
No longer Drill ! Drill! Drill!
No more hard-tack and bacon!
I would now have all I could do to keep up on
Not a very pleasant outlook for a young man, but
no use murmuring. No use worrying. Lots of men
"have gone home dead, and I can wiggle I But I did
feel all out whack.
In a few days the Steward returned from the
Adjutant s office with his morning report, and coming
up to me as I sat on the edge of my cot, held out his
Tiand and said : " Old man, I wish that I was you !
You are now your own boss, and will not have to do
dog s duty any more !" And then he handed me a
I looked at the address on the outside. It read :
"Mr, A. F, Muford, Hospital"
" Well," says I, " there must be something in it, if
they address me as Mr. after so many other names,
I opened the envelope and on the inside found a
sheet of sheep-skin, and on this piece of parchment,
filled in with Clerk Hall s best fist, were the following
152 SEVENTH CAV ALRY
ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES.
To whom it may concern:
Know ye, that Ami F. Mulford, a Trumpeter of
Captain T. H. French s Company " M," of the Seventh
(7) Regiment of Cavalry, who was enlisted the Fifth
day of September, one thousand eight hundred and
seventy-six, to serve five years, is hereby discharged
from the service of the United States in consequence
of Surgeon s Certificate of Disability.
Said Ami F. Mulford was born in Murdston,
County [this is a clerical error, it should read,
THURSTON, Steuben County} in the State of New
York, is 23 7-12 years of age, five feet five inches
high, light complexion, blue eyes, light hair, and by
accupation when enlisted, a clerk.
Given under my hand at Fort Rice, D. T., this
eighteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord
one thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven.
[ Signed,] ELMER OTIS,
Lt.-Col. 7th Cav. Commanding.
[ Signed,] E. G. MATHEY,
Captain 7th Cavalry,
I was no longer a soldier.
I am a citizen, and as such as good as any other
man, and my own boss ; I can now live or die, get fat
or starve to death, and it will be nobody s business.
Free, independent yet crippled for life.
In a few days I received my final statement, had
it cashed, and with nearly two hundred dollars in an
inside pocket, and my left leg in a sling, to keep it
from dragging on the ground, I take my crutches,
hobble to the door, and am helped aboard the stage
that is to take me to Bismarck, bid good-bye to com
rades, and with a last long look at Fort Rice, I start
for God s country !
FIGHTING INDIANS 153
The Westward Drive of the American Frontier Line A
Century of Indian Uprisings Ends When Conquest of
Natives is Completed by Surrender of Nez Perces.
THE native occupants of North America, had the
entire continent distributed or parcelled out, among
the various tribes, so that each knew the metes and
bounds of their own territory, and understood that
to venture onto the territory of another tribe was to
trespass that meant war. The various Indian tribes
had down through the ages worked out the practical
adjustment of their physical requirements so that
Mother Earth provided for all. The lesser tribes
in some instances formed federations, for mutual
protection against invasions by stronger bodies of
Indians as did the Iroquois tribes of New York and
Northwestern Pennsylvania the Mohawks, Oneidas,
Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas. The Iroquois
Federation was formed about 1550. In numbers the
Senecas were far in the lead. The Council House of
the Iroquois Federation as atOnondaga Lake; that of
the Senecas at Seneca Castle, at the foot of Seneca
Lake Each of the affiliated tribes had a Council of
its own, and also had equal representation at the
Federation Council Fire at Onondaga Lake.
A similar federation, composed of twelve tribes r
about half the total being Tuscarora Indians,
flourished in North Carolina, until they got into
trouble with encroaching whites about 1710, and were
defeated in a number of battles. In lj?12 the Tusca.
roras, being of Iroquois blood, were admitted to mem
bership in the Iroquois Federation before that known
as the Five Nations, thence on termed the Six
Nations. But so nicely had the land of the Federa
tion been adjusted to meet the requirements of the
original five tribes or nations that no territory
154 SEVENTH CAVALRY
was alloted to the Tuscaroras as a tribe, but the
members were distributed among the Oneidas, Onon-
dagas, Senecas, Cayugas and Mohawks. Tuscaroras
liad no voice in the Councils of the Federation.
The immediate purpose of the Iroquois in forming
their Federation was to stop invasions of their lands
by the Hurons and other powerful tribes of the North
and Northwest. In 1612 the Seneca country was in
vaded from the north by a .French army, bent on con
quest, accompanied by a large number of Huron
warriors. The Senecas stood their ground and re
pulsed the invaders, inflicting great loss. The French
soldiers were armed with guns ; the Senecas with
bows and arrows, spears, war clubs, stone tomahawks
and darts thrown with throngs fastened to sticks.
The Indians had no written language. Property
in the various tribes was held in common. The
religious instinct found expression in many ways, in
the legends and activities of all the American Indians.
They believed in a Great Spirit, supreme over all, the
source of their being ; also in benificent spirits of less
degree, and in evil spirits who caused afflictions and
disasters. To the mind of an Indian, everything he
came in contact with, whether animate or inani > ate,
possessed spirit life and magic power. The para
mount idea of their Faith, was a Happy Hunting
Ground, of boundless extent, above the skies ; a land
of eternal Summer, of peace and plenty.
When charters were granted the colonies of
Massachusetts and of Connecticut,the grants covered
territory extending entirely across the continent
from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean !
Those who fled from Old World oppressions, and
colonized the Atlantic sea board, did not consider
that the Indians had rights that should be respected.
Every effort on the part of the natives, to hold or
regain possession of land taken, by force or artifice,
FIGHTING INDIANS 155
from them by the invading whites, but hastened the
At a Treaty held in July, 1755, called by Sir Wil
liam Johnson, representing the English government,
with a view to adjusting troubles due to encroach
ments by whites on hunting grounds along the
Susquehanna River, the chief spokesman of the Six
Nations said :
" Brother : You desire us to unite and live togeth
er, and draw all our allies near us, but we shall have
no land left, either for ourselves or them, for your
people when they buy a small piece of land of us, by
stealing they make it large. We desire such things
may not be done, and that your people may not be
suffered to buy any more of our land."
The encroachments of the whites on the lands of
the Indians, have been unyielding and persistent, and
the so-called Frontier, extending from the northern to
the southern bounds of this government, was
pushed westward from the Atlantic Ocean, until it
was met in the far west by a frontier line moving
eastward from the Pacific Ocean, and then came the
final battle between United States troops, under
General Miles, and the Nez Perces warriors in the
Bad-Lands of the Great Northwest, where the curtain
was finally rung down, when Chief Joseph surrender
ed to General Miles, October 5th, 1877.
Revised by A. F. Mulford