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Fighting Indians in the 7th United States Cavalry : Custer's favorite regiment online

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line of the railroad. At some of the stations baskets
of apples and lunches were handed in through the
windows of the cars for the soldiers.

How well I remember one aged lady, who handed a
pie and some cakes through a window of our car, and
on our thanking her for her kindness, said : " My
only son was killed in the Custer massacre." She
wanted do all she could to brighten our way, for she
knew we would have poor food and many hardships
after we reached the hostile-infested Northwest.

As the train started on, we gave that woman as
hearty cheers as ever split the air. When she bade us
good-bye, she hoped the Indian war would be over
before we reached the front.

It does not cost much to do these little kindly acts
and this one was wonderfully helpful.

Cheers greeted us on arrival at the different places
along the railroad, and we all seemed to grow bigger,
and some wished we had at hand a few hostiles to
practice on.

Opportunities for fun were many, and eagerly

Many a time the train s bell-rope was given a
yank, and the engineer would stop the train and
come back and help the conductor locate the cause of


the emergency signal. And didn t the train crew
pour forth sulphureous vapors in volcanic quantities !

We ate raw salt bacon, drank cold coffee, and
gnawed hard-tack, and were as jolly a lot of fellows
as ever filled a car.

Did you ever attempt to eat a hard-tack ! If not,
try to bite a piece out of an old fire-brick. I do not
wonder the Government examines a man s teeth so
carefully before he is enlisted ; it should provide steel
teeth and a file with which to sharpen them.

After a two days ride we arrive at Fargo, a small
Frontier town on the Northern Pacific Railroad. Here
we were to lay over for the night. Our car was
placed on a side track near the depot.

Oh, what a feast we had that night ! The Lieuten
ant had telegraphed ahead to the proprietor of a
restaurant, and on our arrival we were treated to hot
coffee, soft bread <:nd baked potatoes. Yes, and there
was one thing more, and it was over a year before I
tasted it again. It was butter cow s butter, the real
article, good and fresh, not a rancid double-acting
foundry product.

Didn t we love that Lieutenant but we did not
tell him so, as we were afraid that one of the waiter
girls who had him in tow, might not like it. We all
resolved to make him remember that splendid supper
served aboard the car. I guess we succeeded. But
girls will be girls, and shoulder straps are catching.

After supper two men were detailed to guard the
car doors, and ordered not to permit a man to pass.

But, notwithstanding this precaution, every mem
ber of our party, except the guards, did go out and
view the town that night. But not one of the bunch
passed through a door-way of the car.

This town had had a lively experience with a large
party of recruits, a few weeks before, when merchants


lost large quantities of tobacco, fruits and vegetables.
So on this occasion all stores were closed for the
night at an early hour.

We passed a very comfortable night.

A Pullman hunting car was standing near the
depot, its sides pretty well covered with the game
secured that day by a party of hunters who had hired
the car. During the night one of our boys brought
to our car an armful of wild ducks, and reported
hunting extra good in that locality.

The ducks were very carefully stowed away in the
coal box of our car and artistically covered over with
soft coal. Now we would have a feast, if we could only
pass muster in the morning, and I do not think that
there was ever a party of soldiers more anxious to
leave town then we were.

Our train was to leave Fargo at 7:30 in the morn
ing. At about 7:00 we saw the Lieutenant and a
couple of men coming our way. When they got to the
car the Lieutenant surprised us all by saying to the
guard at the door:

"Did any man passed you in the night. !"

" No, Sir," was the truthful reply.

The Lieutenant then if urther astonished us by say
ing that there had been two dozen ducks stolen from
the side of the hunting car during the night, and he
then ordered all the men to open their bundles, so
that the men with him could make a search for the
missing game.

The bundles were opened, their contents pulled
over, and not the least sign of a duck was to be
found ! Then the callers looked under every seat
in the racks at the sides of the car, and in fact they
looked in every place big enough to hold a duck,
except the coal box.


After searching for nearly twenty long minutes
they gave it up, and saying that they were sorry to
have put us to so much bother, and expressing regret
that they had even suspected us. Then one of them
went to the hunting car and returned with a box of
cigars, which he passed around, and left the car, to
the great relief of yours truly !

Another day was spent on the road between Fargo
and Bismarck, the train at times running so slow that
the men could often jump off and run ahead and ask
the engineer for a chew, or run ahead and try to flag
the train ! The reason the train went so slow was
explained to me by the conductor, as being due to
alkali water foaming in the boiler of the locomotive,



We Arrive at Bismarck In Camp Hancock Cook Those

Missing Ducks March Six Miles Across the Prairie

to Fort A. Lincoln Crow Indians Friendly.

WE ARRIVE at Bismarck, Dakota Territory, about
8 o clock in the evening, and are at once marched to
Camp Hancock, on the Main street, where we hang
up for the night. We were dirty, tired and hungry,
and were very glad that our journey was so near
its end.

Bismarck was a thriving town of about five
thousand inhabitants, notorious for its many dance-
halls, gambling dens and crime holes of all kinds.

There was a large floating population of the
the worst characters from the East and reckless
frontier toughs. Brawls and murders were frequent,
mostly due to the consumption of a vicious whiskey
manufactured not for from town. The buildings
used for trade and commerce were of wood, cheaply
knocked together, in a spread out way, high in front
with a low shanty in the rear. The dwellings were
mostly shacks.

Camp Hancock consisted of a row of old log huts
or sheds which were built for the accommodation
of the soldiers who guarded the workmen when the
railroad was being built. The quarters were roomy
and airy, and I guess the part we occupied had been
used as a cattle-shed, as the indications pointed that
way, Nevertheless we got along as well as soldiers
on the march generally do, for if there is a good
place available it is occupied by the officers.

After getting ourselves sorted out a little we
built a fire in an old stove standing in one end
of the room, and all hands \ set to work to undress
the ducks we had secured from the hunting party,
and as we had no hot water, and the ducks were cold


and stiff, you can imagine what time a we had,
and how the game looked when we got through. You
could not tell what they were originally.

After a good deal of skirmishing one of the men
found on old tin boiler. It only leaked in five places.
It took us twenty minutes to stuff the holes up with
old pieces of shirt, and it would sizzle. We then filled
it with water and tore the ducks up as best we could
and threw them in, and while one man did duty at
the fire,|the rest went out to forage for onions, salt,
pepper, or anything that lay loose. Chagrined because
we were suspected of stealing the ducks, we had
resolved to have them cooked in a proper manner,
even if we hid have to break our good r esolutions to

It was not far from 12 o clock, midnight, when the
ducks were pronounced ready and we all gathered
around the boiler and then began our attack on the
duckery. We had no knives and forks, nor plates,
nothing but our dirtyhands and fingers, but that did
.not worry us much, as we had the best of appetites,
Two men would take a duck; and then there
would be a trial of strength with one duck in the
middle and a man each side, and the tough birds
were dismantled. What fun, and also what a least.
It must be acknowledged that they were, to quote
Puck, " Right smart, tol ble good," as stated at the

Puck, as we had named him, was a young man
from Hoosierville, Hooppole County, Ill-noise, (as he
pronounced it), and he was a thoroughbred, too. He
got on our car at Morehead, and asked us if we could
carry him through, as he was out skads. We soon
had him dressed up in a suit of blue, and that uniform
passed him through to Bismarck, and as he expressed
it, "It was party tol ble done !"

It is not very often that one can beat his way on


the Western roads, and it is a good recommend in
this part of the county for a young man to say, in
reply to the question:

" How did you get here ?"

" I came through on my wit and muscle I"

After a hastey and scant breakfast in the morning
we shoulder our packs, and start for Fort A. Lincoln,
whose garrison flag could be seen on the hill, six
miles distant. The Lieutenant had an ambulance to
ride in, and he was not decent enough to tell us to
put our bundles in it, as there was plenty of room to
do. Our luggage was quite heavy. Oh, what a hard
march that was for so short a distance.

Only six miles across the prairie, but our bundles
made it seem twenty, and a small bundle will get
very heavy in a little while on such a tramp. Each
of us was carrying all his worldy goods and chattels.

I suppose it was done to help toughen our muscles,
as the officers are great for that, though they like to
have it done by others. I thought we would never get
to the Fort.

After over an hour s march we arrived at the
river, and there had to wait about an hour for the
steam ferry boat to get up steam and come across
for us.

We passed away the time while we were waiting
for the boat, sitting on the muddy bank, and 1 ook-
ing over to the Promised Land, where the camp could
be plainly seen from where we were. It looked like a
large village of low white huts, and the horses resem
bled a herd of cattle as they were grazing on the
prairie below the camp. I had never before seen so
many horses together there were twelve hundred
of them and it was a scene well worthy of a place
on canvass. Finally the boat came across for us, and
we are soon on board, bag and bagage.


Over we go, and as scon as the boat touches the
far shore we jump off and scramble up the bank as
best we can. We pass though quite a crowd of
Indians Crows who utter their gutteral " how-how "
as we pass them. On we go, passing a saw mill and
sutler s store, and then turn to the left and pass along
by the guard-house where General Custer once held
Rain-in-the-Face, a notorious Indian guilty of killing
two white men. Rain-in-the-Face was captured by
Col. Tom Custer. The Indian escaped, took part in
the Little Big Horn massacre, two years later, and
there in revenge cut the heart from Colonel Tom
Custer, brother of the General.

We cross the parade and halt before the Adjutant s
office, where the Lieutenant makes his report.

Our arrival at the Fort is announced by the fireing
of one gun, and I think that if the President of the
United Stated is entitled to fifty, that there should
have been two hundred fired for us.

All the members of the 7th Cavalry not on duty
gathered as near us ?s they dared to, and they seem
ed to act as though they feared the stars and bars,
but would like to get a whack at the man who wore
them ! They laughed heartily at our very best
attempts to stand at "attention," which command is
generally given T-E-N-tion, with all the accent on the

There we had to stand for nearly an hour, while
the Captains were selecting, or drawing cuts, to see
who should have such and such a man for his collec
tion ef dogs, as that is about all they seem to think
that a private soldier amounts to.

Finally, at about twelve o clock, noon, we are all
selected and assigned to the different companies; and
I, for the first time, become a high-private in Com
pany " M," Vth U. S. Regular Cavalry, and start
with my First Sergeant, John Ryan, to join my
company at their camp on the prairie, about one-
fourth of a mile below the Cavalry s winter quarters.



Seventh Cavalry Camp The Soldiers Are a Rough-and-

Lot Our First Meal in Camp Pup-Tents My

First Cavalry Drill Was Some Thriller.

I WAS amazed and depressed, with the appearance
of the camp. My patriotism went below zero as I saw
how unkempt the soldiers were unshaved, uniforms
flayed and dirty ; many with their hair nearly down
to their collars; gaunt and hungry-looking, yet,
withal, as good and jolly a lot of men as I ever met.
A hearty welcome, was given us recruits ; soon we
were real comrades. What a difference between the
real soldiers we now met, and those paper collar
dudes at Fort Snelling !

Sure these Seventh Cavalry vets laugh at our
blunders, and have fun at our expense, but if you are
in need of anything they have you can have it for the
asking ; and if you want a friend who will stand by
you through thick and thin, they are the boys to
tie to.

I joined the Company at dinner, when I for the
first time take my tin cup and tin plate and follow the
crowd to the Cook s tent. There each applicant is
supplied a plateful of baked beans, a cup of bean
soup, and about one fourth of a loaf of good soft white
bread. Then back to our tent we go, and eat our
dinner, and it did taste good. Our morning s march
had given us an appetite worth while, and we clean
the eatables all up.

One of the men said to me,

" Let me take your plate, and I will get you some
more !"

I decline his friendly offer with thanks, and sug
gest that if my appetite lasts I will make a big hole


in the appropriation for food. He comes back with,
" It is a good plan to feed up to the limit when you
get a chance, for you will need a hump like a camel,
to draw on, when you get in the field."

I was assigned to one of the pup-tents, with two
other men. We were soon settled and ready for
callers, and the soldiers were not slow in coming to
see the recruits. The vets all wanted to know what
was going on in the outside world.

We tell our callers all the news we know of, and
a few of the latest stories, and they meet us on
aqual terms, and are all are happy.

The pup-tents are made of four pieces of canvas,
the sections buttoned together, with a short stake at
each end and a ridge-piece. The tent, in position, is
only about three feet high and four feet long. You
enter at one end that is you crawl in and you have
to stay crawled until you come out. Pup-tents are
good to keep the sun off but not much protection
when it rains.

While in this camp I had my first experience in
mounted cavalry drill, and as I have undertaken to
give you a personally conducted trip, I will give you
everything just as I found it.

Back in the days when I was a farmer boy, in the
township of Lindley, N. Y., I excelled as a rider of
horses and took especial delight in riding bareback.

But somehow this was different !

Indeed it was fun, fun of the funniest kind for
the spectators.

First, you are given a horse to ride bare-back, and
you have to jump your mount oyer ditches and rail
fences. This is to give you confidence in your ability
to ride. You do not mind it much after the first


Next, you are given a horse with an army saddle
on, and you smile to yourself and say in your mind,
that now you will show that you can ride. You soon
find that you are in for a circus, and destined to be
the cause of unlimited fun for the onlookers.

As you are about to mount, the stirrup straps are
crossed in the saddle, and when you innocently
attempt to straighten them back in their proper

" Let those stirrups alone, and mount !" comes the

Scared out what little sense I had when I entered
the camp, (for it was " Your s Most Respectfully "), I
climb onto the saddle.

The horse, an old one and onto his job, puts on a
horse grin and gets down to business.

As soon as I get aboard, I am ordered to,

" Put your feet in the stirrups !"

To do so, I must draw my knees up to my chin.

Feeling like a misquito that has been detected
trying to suck blood out of a wax figure, I await what
is to come next. It comes all of a sudden. The horse
starts ahead in great shape and I try to keep in con
tact with him. The best I can do, is to meet the
saddle half way every time it comes up !

Oh, what a ride ! What delicious fun !
I take a tumble, regain my feet, and, having the
bridle rein in hand, manage to regain the saddle, and
the performance continues for near an hour. I was all
in, however, when ordered to dismount and " tie the
horse to the line," which I do most gladly and with all
possible expedition. This done, as I turned away
from the head of the horse, back went its ears,
and with a quick swing it lunged forward and took a
not very gentle nip where saddle- blisters were already
in evidence, and held on. With a jerk that almost


tears away the seat of my trousers, I break away ; my
initiation drill is over, and I meander down the Com
pany street, tired, discouraged, mad, homesick.

Oh, that nip ! Why did not that horse select some
other portion of my anatomy ? I had rather give an
ear, that to lose a much longed-for pleasure of
sitting down and giving the place the hard saddle
had pounded a square deal.

The next day all recruits were drilled with their
Company, each recruit fully armed and equipped, and
when we mounted each one painfully reminded of
yesterday s exhibition performance.

When the Sergeant dismisses us from drill, we
greenies take a bee-line for the sutler, who has the
exclusive privilege of suppling strong drink to
soldiers, and we each took several doses of medicine.
His treatment was so effectual, that we return to the
pup tents much relieved.



Repair Telegraph Line Between Bismarck and Fort A.

Lincoln Sioux Indians Ugly Ordered to Standing

Rock Rerservation Indians Hold War Dance.

OUR COMMAND laid in camp at Fort A. Lincoln for
;about three weeks, the men doing guard, picket and
police duty by turns. I was detailed to take three
men and repair the Government telegraph line, which
extended from the telegraph office in the railroad
station at Bismarck to the Adjutant s office at the
Cavalry carnp.

There were numerous wood choppers in the bot
tom lands on the Bismarck side of the river, and they
were not careful whether they fell a tree across the
wire or not. There were no insulators at the office,
so I got a lot of ale and wine bottles and used the
necks of them for insulators, and they were an orna
ment to the scraggy cot ton wood poles we had to use.
I also had a fine time stretching a new wire across
the Missouri river near the camp, as the steamboat
had broken the old one down with its smoke-stack.
After nearly a week of hard work we got the line so
we could work it all right, and then I " spelled " the
regular operator at the camp.

This kind of work was finally stopped by an order
that came, to the effect that the 7th Cavalry must
take to the field again, and go to Standing Rock
Indian Agency, and there disarm the Indians and
take their ponies excepting one to each tepee.

Now we looked for trouble to begin, as there
was a large body of the ugly Sioux at that point and
they were getting the Agency Indians rather uneasy,
and all were reported as getting ready to go to join
Sitting Bull.


We were soon on the go, and were glad to get
away from camp duty, and all looked ahead to the
eighty miles that were between us and the reds as
about the proper distance for an outing, and not
too far from winter quarters.

As we were moving along on our third day out,
the regiment was suddenly halted, and the order
passed along the whole line for the men to " Dismount
and tighten saddle-girths !"

The old soldiers said that now we were in for a
run, as there had been a scout seen to hurry up
to the Commanding Officer, and deliver some kind of
a message, whereupon the command was at once
halted. We have ten of the Crow Indian scouts with
us, and as they are deadly enemies of the Sioux they
did good work. They go ahead and keep a sharp
look-out for hostiles and ambushes. They are enlisted f:
and draw the same pay and rations that a private
soldier does, and for the work they do deserve more
praise and pay than they ever get. They will do
more head scouting than a white scout, and are more
valuable as dispatch carriers, as they arealway ready,
day or night, to carry dispatches to any part of the
country, and will be a good many miles on their
journey before a white scout thinks of getting started.

Saddle-girths were tightened, arms looked to and
loaded, blankets and kits on the saddles tightened up,
and all made ready for a good shaking up, as there
will be no stopping to pick up anything that is

In less timethan it takes to write this we are in
the saddles again, and forward we move.

" Forward at a trot !" sounds the headquarters
trumpet, and we prick our horses with the spurs,
and trot it is.


We rise to the top of the bluff behind which we
had halted, and then we can see the Indians. There
are over a thousand of them !

They were less then two mile away, and were
riding their ponies in a circle on the open prairie. It
is a beautiful sight, especially to us poor devils who
had never seen any Indians but those that stand in
front of the cigar stores and held the wooden toma
hawk and cigars. It is a lively scene and worth
going miles to see.

"Ta-ta-ta-ta-te-ta-te-ta-te-ta-ta-a-a!" goes the trumpet,
and away goes the whole command at a charge,
direct for the Indians. Our sabres are drawn and
slung to our wrists by the slip-knots, we hold our
revolvers in hand ready for instant use, as we put
the spurs to our horses and urge them ahead with
a yell that echoes from bluff to bluff and through the
ravines all around us.

Will they stand ! They outnumber us, and we
think that they mean to give us battle ! On we go,
horses doing their best, and still we urge them for
more speed !

As we get within a mile of them the Indians sud
denly turn their ponies and scamper back toward
the Agency !

They are afraid to tackle us on the open prairie.
That would give us too good a chance ! Neither do
they like the looks of those wagons that suddenly
stop and turn around ! Those wagons would have
soon unloaded a part of their load in their ranks, and
a cannon is just what they will not face !

The " wagons, " as they are called by the Indians,
were two Rodman and Gatling guns !

After a very lively chase of eight miles we arrived
at the Agency, and the Indians gether on the prairie
just below us in their village. A few rounds are fired


from one of the "wagons" to show the reds what they
can do, and as the balls whistle over their heads and
make the dirt fly a half-mile ahead of them and
their camp, they are completely cowed.

Had they charged us in a body there is no doubt
but what they would have won the battle, as they
were five to our one, and were all armed with rifles
and revolvers, most of them having new repeating
rifles, and they could handle them mounted better
than our troops, as they were used to fighting in
that manner

An interpreter was sent to parley with them, and
to give them plainly to understand that the United
States troops had been sent from Fort Rice and Fort
A. Lincoln, to get their guns and ponies. That they
must yield, and then they would be cared for. That
the Government wanted peace, not war.

After waiting for a long time, during which the
the reds held a pow-wow among themselves and were
much divided, finally a few squaws appeared bringing
some old rifles and carbines. Although we knew
the braves were well equipped with arms and am-
amunition, we could could not find where they had
hidden them.

We camped that night about half a mile from the
Indian village part way between their village and
the agency. There I first heard their barbaric songs
and music in a most disgusting setting. The reds
kept us awake nearly all night, with their unearthly
howlmgs and cha-ce-ga pounding a drum similar to

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Online LibraryAmi Frank MulfordFighting Indians in the 7th United States Cavalry : Custer's favorite regiment → online text (page 2 of 11)