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

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the rim of a cheese box, with a tightly stretched
tanned head, and as unmusical as such a contrive
must of necessity be.

Here for tr\e first time I saw a war dance, as they
are given in native war-councils and the reds were


not at all abashed by the presence of group of Uncle
Sam s soldiers as on-lookers.

The braves were painted in the highest style of
Indian art. They numbered over two hundred. Some
wore bloomer-like costumes, made of light blue and
bright red calico. The Indian like the Negro, wants
bright colors, and they will have them too. Others
wore old army shirts and moccasins, the latter being
worn by"all. The greater number were dressed in
primitive costumes a breech-clout, moccasins and
beaver anklets, a necklace of bear claws, and a
girdle. All were decorated with wing and tail feath
ers plucked from large birds of flight, and tin whistles

were numerous. Many were nearly naked.

One brave, who was practically naked, had cover-
his person with an assortment of bright colored
pigments, and then, with his finger-nails had scratched
the colors off in odd streaks. Around his body was a
belt from which hung rabbit-tails, and from his rear
there hung a large bustle of eagle feathers.

The " orchestra " was composed of chosen braves,
who sat on the ground, sang war songs, songs of the
chase, and chanted boastingly, all the while pounding
in unison on their che-se-gas.

Not a squaw took part in the dance. The squaws
sat, or crouched, on the ground, around the dancers,
and occasionally, (while the orchestra-chorus gave
way), grunted out their approval as some warior told
of his victories when on the war path, and how he
had inflicted torture.

As a " curtain raiser," the braves marched into the
ring and blowing whistles continuously while they
jumped and shied about, twisting their bodies into
every conceivable position, keeping time to the beat
ing of the che-ce-gas. They lifted a foot and put


down with a thud, then repeat the step with the
other foot, and so on, all the time shouting " Hi-pa !
Hi-ya! Ho-ya! He-pa!" mingled in between their
dronings, boastings, and the shrill tones of whistles.

In the very center of the ring, was a large iron
kettle, containing a cooked dog. As the dance deep
ened in fervor, a young brave with simulated shyness
as if expecting an attack by the dog, struck it with
tomahawk and hunting knife, cut off some meat,
dipped a hand into the stew, and giving a fierce war-
whoop he tossed the bit of meat into the fire.

As the young brave finished the ceremony, shouts
of approval were given by his associates while the
squaws grunted again and again. The ceremony
depicted the approach to, attack on, and killing of a
white soldier by an Indian. The act of dipping his
hand into the liquid, was to symbolize their belief
that a warrior having killed a foe, who wets his hand,
or hands, in the victim s blood, will be given the
power to destroy all other foes.

All the braves, two or three at a time, went through
the same ceremony. They were Agency fed Indians
preparing to take the war-path !

Then the music and noise making ceased, and an
old chief addressed the braves in their own tongue,
urging united resistence to the whites. Other chiefs
made like appeals.

All said and done, it was a war-meeting. We
now knew what to expect !

Indian men are far better looking than Indian
women. This is due to the practical enslavement of
the squaws, who have to do all the hard work cook
the food, care for game, dress hides, make clothing,
cut and carry wood, submit to gross indignities. The
braves are, with rare exceptions, hard taskmasters.



Death at the Fort Solemn Funeral Attempts at Escape

Officer With Grit Chronic Trouble Maker Gets

Bob-Tail Discharge Drummed Out of Camp.

ONLY one man died at Fort Rice during the
whole winter, W. Baker, of " D " Company. He died
with the diphtheria, and was buried with military
honors, which were conducted in the following manner-

The body was dressed in full uniform and placed
in a neat coffin, and resting in a ward at the hospital*
was viewed by all the men at the Post. After all
take final look upon the silent face that was but a
short time before wreathed in smiles, the Companies
were formed in line in front of the hospital, and
as the body was carried out, they presented arms, the
trumpets were played and the coffin was placed
on the two gun caissons which had been joined,
were trimmed with black, and draped with the
the garrison flag the flag that Baker had helped to
unfurl so many times.

Hitched to the caissons were six horses, each with
a large black plume on its head, and each led by a
dismounted trooper. Then came the horse that Baker
had ridden. It was saddled bridled, equipped as for
a march, and his boots were tied in the stirrups with
the heels to the front. This horse was led by two

Then followed the four companies of the 7th Cav
alry" A," " A" " H," " M, " with carbines reversed
and on foot. The line led by eight trumpeters,
playing the funeral march, slowly crossed the parade,
pased the guard-house; where the guard stood with
arms at a present, then to the cemetery, a short
distance away.

Arrived at the cemetery the troops were formed
on three sides of the grave. The burial service was


then read by the Post Adjutant. Then the firing
party fired three rounds over the open grave. Then
Taps were sounded by one of the trumpeters, and we
marched back to the Fort, all much impressed by the
scene we had just witnessed.

There was a great deal of trouble with the pri
soners at the guard-house during the winter.

There are men in the regular army of the same
class as those that keep police courts busy. As often
as they get cash enough to get drunk on, such men
go on a spree. These nuisances should be fired, for
the good of the service.

Company "M" was afflicted with one of the worst
of the species. His name was Smith. He was a New
York City bum. He was in the guard-house the
most of the time. He would get drunk, pick quarrels
and fight on the least chance. He was the lowest of
type. He and a number of chronic bums from other
companies, caused guards a great deal of trouble.

When detailed for guard duty, (before I was pro
moted to the position of Trumpeter), again and
again I have received orders " Not to permit a prison
er to escape ; to shoot a prisoner making such an
attempt if he did not halt when ordered to !" I never
had trouble with a prisoner placed in my charge.

When new to the service, on an occasion when I
was detailed to guard and placed in charge of some
prisoners required to chop wood some distance from
camp, the Officer of the Day told me I must " shoot
any prisoner who attempted a get-away and failed to
halt when ordered to do so." For my own protection
I most respectfully asked the officer to deliver the
order to shoot to me in writing, and signed. " Then,"
I added, " I will either bring all my prisoners in, or
will furnish jobs for the Surgeon and Undertaker."

The officer declined to do this.


Evidently the drastic order or suggestion was not
meant to be taken literally. Those on guard duty
must keep within the bounds of reason.

The bums get bottles of liquor at the sutler s
store. The sutler is permitted to sell intoxicants.

But to return to Smith.

On an occasion when Smith and six others were
prisoners in the guard-house, every one of them in
shackles, they dug out and made a temporary get
away. Smith was the leader. These men wore the
shakles while digging a tunnel under a couple of the
logs that, standing on end, three feet in the earth,
formed the guard house walls. It was an old stockade.

The jail-break took place shortly before daybreak.
It was quickly discovered. The fugitives were soon
captured all but Smith. He was not found until near
night the next day, when Lieutenant Eckerson dis
covered Smith riding an army horse a couple of miles
from camp, and brought him back.

Smith afterwards told that he had hiden for
a whole day in the loft directly over the room
occupied by the guard at the guard-house ! How he
got there was never found out. Smith would not

Soon after this Smith was given a bobtail discharge
and escorted out of camp by a guard of soldiers. He
was told not to show himself here again.

A bobtail discharge is one with the character clause
torn off, and is considered the most disgraceful one a
soldier can receive.



Seventh Calvary Makes an Early Morning Dash Captures

a Large Herd of Indian War Ponies The Reds

Greatly Surprised Legend of Standing Rock.

EARLY the morning after the War Dance and
Pow-Wow at the Indian village, Boots and Saddles
was sounded, and in a few minutes our cavalrymen
were speeding across the prairie in the direction of
the ponies the Indians had refused to surrender on
demand. These animals were grazing about a mile
from the Indian village. The red warriors swarmed
from their tepees and started in the direction of their
ponies. Our Rodman was wheeled into position and
a couple of shells, the fuses cut short, exploded but
a short distance ahead of the reds. Most of the pack
whirled about and speeded for their tepees, others
stood iresolute and bewildered. The Catling guns
sang rapidly for a few seconds, and how those
reds, so boastful at their war dance the night before,
did "beat it!"

The pony herd was completely surrounded by the
Cavalry. After a brief confab between our Com
mander and a number of Chiefs, the captured ponies
were driven directly to our camp, and a mounted
guard placed in charge of them.

Then these reds were at our mercy. They are,
as a general thing, not good fighters on foot.

We hunted for more ponies and arms, but without
result. No doubt some of their best war ponies had
been driven away during the night. We found one
fine war pony tied down on the ground, hidden in a
clump of sage brush, within a mile of the Agency.

If these so-called warriors possessed the courage
to fight us, we would have had our hands full, but
they were afraid of the " big heap guns." There is


no doubt but the Rodman and Catling guns kept us
out of a terrible fight, and probably prevented defeat
with all its occompanying horrors.

There is an Indian legend about the origin of
Standing Rock. It runs about as follows :

" Long ago there was young squaw, the beauty of
the tribe and loved by all, who married a young chief
who was powerful as a warrior. In a battle with
another tribe this chief was killed. As soon as his
squaw learned of his death, she took their infant and
went out on the prairie, where she stood and mourned
the loss of her brave until she turned to stone !"

The story is believed by the Indians. There is the
Standing Rock to prove it. The rock, as it stands,
suggests the form of a squaw with a papoose slung
on her back.

Indians passing that way and many that made
made pilgrimages for the purpose placed choice bits
of meat, also medicine bags, at the foot of Standing
Rock. They say that the spirits of the chief and his
squaw come and get the offerings and take them to
Happy Huntings, where they dwell in joy supreme,
a place no pale face can enter.

: There are a good many Indians here, Colonel,"
one of the officers remarked to Colonel Sturges.

" The good Indians are up there on those poles,"
was the Colonel s reply, as the pointed towards a
ridge, not far away, where the reds placed the bodies
of their dead.

The body is rolled tightly in a blanket or a buffalo
skin, (together with his hunting and fighting equip
ment if a brave), with pipe, tobacco, and medicine
bags to keep evil spirits away. After the body has


been prepared in this way it is placed on a scaffold of
poles, elevated eight or ten feet above ground.

Should the dead be a warrior, his favorite pony is
tied to one of the supporting poles, and left there to
starve to death. This proceedure is to provide the
dead with a mount on which to ride in the hereafter.

The Colonel s only son was killed in the Custer
Massacre, and undoubtedly he meant what he said.

After spending a few days at Standing Rock
Agency, our command took the back trail for Fort
Rice and Fort A. Lincoln, where the men were to go
into Winter quarters. We had about two thousand
ponies taken from the Indians at the Agency, and a
wagon load of old guns, sabres and revolvers, among
the latter some of the old-time flint-lock variety.

Our trip thus far had been but a mild kind of an
outing, and nothing happened on our return to break
the dull monotony of the march.

We passed a great many Indians on the way to
Agency, and they gave us a wide berth. They were
anxious to reach the Agency, there to pass the Win
ter, living and recruiting at the expense of the
Government to go on the war-path in the Spring.

We passed a farm where two years ago a settler
had been raided by a war-party of Sioux. The settler,
his wife and son were killed and scalped, the daugh
ter was spared. The farm stock and all property the
savages could use was stolen, the rest was burned.

The girl, only eleven years of age, was taken to
their village, where she was compelled to marry a
young warrior and do his work the same as an old
squaw would. This was told by an Indian who was
one of the party. He also said that the girl went
crazy, recently, and with her infant in her arms
and plunged into the Missouri river, mother and
child being drowned.


The place where the settler, wife and son were
murdered, was now the site of a substantial log cabin,
surrounded by grain fields, while in front of the open
door three little settlers watched the soldiers ride past.

I was told how a white man, captured by Indian
warriors, was turned over to their squaws to be
tortured. His clothing was all stripped from his body
by the squaws, who then threw him on the ground
and tied his out-seretched arms and legs to firmly
driven stakes. Then they stuck numerous pitch-pine
splinters into his body, and set the protruding ends
on fire, and then the squaws danced about the
victim of their cruelty. When he would scream in
agony they would spit on him and call him a coward.
This torture was continued for several hours, and
reached its climax when one of the squaws cut a piece
of flesh from the man s thigh and thrust it into his
mouth and he became a raving maniac.

Finally, tiring of the sport, they left him, jet alive
and tied to the stakes, on the open prairie. There
the body, or what was left of it after supplying food
for prowling animals, was found a few days later and
buried by a party of miners.



In Winter Quarters Post Duties The Day s Round of
Trumpet Calls Camp Amusements Trip to Stand
ing Rock Guest of a Zealous Missionaries.

WE ARRIVED at Fort Rice about the first of Decem
ber, and then had to work pretty hard, getting the
forage and hay to the stables, as the corn had been
left on the bank of the river during the summer by
the steamers. Stables had to be repaired, and wood
cut and drawn to the post for the cold weather that
was sure to reach that portion of the country at an
eary date.

The arms captured from the Indians at Standing
Rock Agency were turned over to the Ordinance
Officer, and the ponies were, on their arrival at Fort
A. Lincoln, placed in change of herders and started
for St. Paul, where they were to be sold for the bene
fit of the Government.

I learne d that only about 700 ponies reached St.
Paul, the rest having " got lost." Uncle Sam is easy !

We passed the winter at Fort Rice, going through
the following routine day after day :

At the first streak of daylight in the morning
First Gall for Reveille would be sounded by the Trum
peter of the Guard, and ten minutes later Assembly.
Then all would fall in for the company parades, and
stand at parade rest while Assembly was sounded by
all the trumpeters.

At 6:30 Mess Call would announce that the scorch
ed hash, or slftmgullion, as we called it, was ready,
when the men would repair to the mess room. We
had potatoes, soft bread, bacon, bean soup, baked
beans, and beef stews for changes, and, taken as a
whole, we lived pretty well, especially before our old
First Sergeant, John Ryan, was discharged by reason


of his term of enlistment expiring. He was the best
non-com in the 7th. That is what his men thought.
He was always ready to see that the men got all they
were entitled to, whether there was a big company
fund or not.

At 7:30, Sick Gall would assemble those who were
either sick, or wished to get rid of some duty, to the
Dispensary, where the Surgeon would examine them
and prescribe for them. Those who were able to be
around were marked for " Quarters " which meant
that they were free from all duty and must stay in
there quarters, and those who were very sick, were
assigned to a cot in the Hospital.

It frequently happened that some of the patients
would have a "big head," or be too lazy to breathe
freely, when they would go on the sick report, and
try to pay off on the Doctor to get rid of duty, but it
would not take him very long to tumble to their
racket, and how his eyes would twinkle ! Then what
a dose they would get ! Castor Oil, Jalop; anything to
keep them moving would be administered in a good
big dose ! Doctor Taylor would see that it was taken,
too ! After the dose was down the mark was for
extra duty, which meant that the man was to be given
an extra amount of the work he was trying to avoid.

At 8th o clock Fatigue Call would be sounded, and
the men that had been detailed the evening before
would start out for the work that was to be done that
day. The Guards go to the guard-house, the Saddler
would go to his little log hut and work at repairing
halters and saddles, the sawmill men would go to the
Government mill and saw lumber to be used in the
different buildings, the Quartermaster s men would
report at the store-houses, the Stable Police to the
stables, Kitchen Police to the kitchens and mess room.
There was always plenty to do, but none of it hard


enough to hurt a man. No soldier ever over works.

At 9 o cock there would be First Call for Guard
Mounting, then Assembly of Guard Details, and
Trumpeters, when the Trumpeters from the different
companies would gather on the parade and play a
march while the guard details marched out and were
received and placed in proper position on the parade
by the Sergeant Major, when they would be reported
to the Adjutant as ready for inspection. The Trump
eters would then play a waltz while the guard was
being inspected.

The new guard would then march in review, or to
the Guard House, where they would relieve the old
guard and take charge of the prisoners and all pro
perty that was to be guarded. The man chosen by
the Adjutant as the cleanest and with the best look,
ing equipment, would report to the Commanding
Officer as his Orderly, a position all tried to get, as
an Orderly did not have to stand guard nor do much
of anything but buzz the hired girl in the kitchen,
and eat up all the cold victuals he could find. This
was called " dog robbing," a very suitable name !

After guard mounting, Water and Stable Calls
would summons every man not on other duty, to the
stables. Each man wore a white frock and overalls,
and they were a prim-looking Jot as they marched to
to the stables. The horses would be led to the river
for water, then returned to the stables and groomed
for a whole hour under the immediate direction of
the First Sergeant, and weo to the man who did not
give his horse strict attention and a thorough going
over with currycomb and brush. The shirker would
have an hour or more added to his work, and there
he had to stay when the rest went to their quarters
and had nothing to do for almost a whole hour.

Recall would be sounded at 12 o clock, and all


work would be dropped and preparations made for

First Sergeant s Call would follow, and the First
Sergeants would go to the Adjutant s Office and get
their morning reports.

Twelve-Thirty Mess Call would announce that
dinner was ready, and the men, also, were pretty
sure to be ready.

One o clock would again be the time for Fatigue
Call, when the different details would proceed to kill
time, as they had been doing all the forenoon.

If the weather was fine, Drill Call would be sound
ed at 2:30, and then the men would put on their belts
and sabres, and their longest faces, and fall in. Some
times it would be dismounted drill, and at other times
mounted, and then for a change me would have target
practice, and once a great while best of all no drill
or target practice.

At 4:00 o clock Recall would announce that the
time had come to cease work and drill. Then the
privates would don their white suits and be ready for
Water and Stable Call, which was sounded at 4:30,
when the " Government ghosts " would again march
to the stables and water and groom the horses.

At sunset, First Gall, then Assembly, would be
sounded, when the men would assemble on the Com
pany parades and answer to their names as they were
called by the First Sergeants, after which Retreat
would be sounded by all the trumpeters, and the
evening gun would be fired at the last note.

The men would now have nothing to do until 8:30,
when First Call for Tattoo and then Assembly, would
again call them to the parades, when the trumpeters
would play Tattoo; then, the roll being called,
they would be reported to the Adjutant, and the day
would close with Taps, sounded by the Trumpeter of


the Guard at exactly 9 o clock, when all lights in the
men s quarters must be extinguished.

All would then be still except the click of billiard
balls in the Officers Club room at the Sutler s.

Each hour the guards would call out something
like this : " Post Number 2, ten o clock and all s
well !"

This kind of soldiering gets very monotonous
after a while, and then the boys get permissioon to
have a stag-dance, when we have fun all by ourselves
and no officers to bother us. We dance all the popu
lar dances and take turns being the opposite sex.

We would also practice with foils, boxing gloves,
and on horizontal bars, and even handle little, wicked
pasteboard cards.

Every way and everything that could be thought
of would be brought into use to help pass away the
time, as vou may rest assured that thirty-five miles
from a post office, and mail only once a week, was a
very lonely location.

While the days were slowly dragging along in this
manner, we had a visit from the Paymaster, and we
were right glad to see him, too. After paying the
troops here, he was going to Standing Rock, and pay
troops at that place.

I asked the Captain for permission to accompany
the Paymaster and his escort to Standing Rock. I was
given a pass for three days with permission to use
my horse if I wanted to. So I joined the escort that
went with the Paymaster down to the Agency.

We left Fort Rice early in the morning, with the
temperature 13 degrees below zero.

My horse was all horse that day. He had got but
little exercise since we went into Winter quarters.
He would not walk. Often he had all his feet in the
air at once. My mount had a good time !


We crossed the Missouri river on the ice, and
then kept along with the ambulance, that carried
the paymaster and his clerk. Our ride was a long and
cold one, but there were no exciting incidents in it,
We did not arriye at the Agency until about dark on
the same day, having marched over forty-five miles.

We put our horses out in the shed, and then start
ed for the Catholic Indian Mission which is but a short
distance from the Agency, and were very cordially
received by Fathers Martin and Chrisostum, and
were soon seated at a table that was just loaded with
good things. We had a regular feast.

After supper we walked down to the Infantry
quarters and spent a very pleasant evening with the
men. It was here that I learned much of the way
that the Indian Agents rob the Indians and cause
most of the Indians wars.

After Tattoo we returned to the Mission for the
night, and slept in a clean warm bed that night, for
the first time in nearly a year !

In the morning we attended the services in the
Chapel, and then visited around all day. I spent a

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Online LibraryAmi Frank MulfordFighting Indians in the 7th United States Cavalry : Custer's favorite regiment → online text (page 3 of 11)