Copyright
Ami Frank Mulford.

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

. (page 4 of 11)
Online LibraryAmi Frank MulfordFighting Indians in the 7th United States Cavalry : Custer's favorite regiment → online text (page 4 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


good portion of th time at the Indian village that I
helped take the ponies from in the Fall. The Indians
were all very friendly.

I returned to the Mission again that night. There
an Indian couple got married that night. They were
as tickled as a boy with a new gun. The man was
about forty and the squaw nearly as old, and they
had three children to start housekeeping on.

We started on our return trip in the morning, glad
that we had taken the " vacation," but sore and lame.
My horse was as lively as when he left the stable
at Fort Rice. : There is no place like home," we
thought when we arrived in sight of the garrison
and were mighty glad to take our place beside the
warm fire at Fort Rice.



FIGHTING INDIANS 49



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

Indians at Home Garments of Adults of Both Sexes

Much Alike Untidy and Preyed Upon by Vermin

Little Lads Skilful With Bow and Arrow.

DID YOU ever see Indians in their own homes ? I
will try and give you a description of them as they
appeared to me, and I have no doubt but that it will
be news to many who have been in the habit of read-
Ing the firey, untamed stories that are enclosed in
yellow covers.

Come with me to the prairie back of the post
sutler s at Fort Rice, where there are represented
three different branch tribes of Indians Crow, Reeve
and Sioux. They live in there own wild style, and
visits to their villages and camps, and on all their
special ceremonies, recalls to my mind the great
curiosity they were to rne; and with a desire to learn
of them, and from them, I paid particular attention
to all that happened.

In the first place, as you near the village, you
observe what to you looks like a woman, with a long
blanket thrown over her head, standing in front
of one of the tepees. Holding your nose for the
stench is terrible; worse than that of a soap factory or
tannery aroma. You approach as near as you think
is safe, when all at once the supposed woman turns
towards you, and you see that it is a man.

The dress of the sexes is very similar. With their
blankets on it is almost impossible to tell them apart
until they speak ! You approach nearer, are greeted
with a gutteral " how-how " and respond " how. " This
is the common practice of Simon-pure savages of
the Far West. Look at his dress if it can be called
dress or anything else see what is it made of, and
how it is made ? Well, it is made of three pieces of
blanket, one piece for each leg, and the third and



50 SEVENTH CAVALRY



larger piece is shirt, vest and coat. The legs are
made by sewing the pieces together up one side, and
a strip of the same material comes up on the outside
and fastens into the belt, which holds it up. The
other leg is made in the same manner. Take a pair
of old pants, cut the front and back out of them, and
you have an extra good pair of Indian pants.

The great and only redeeming feature of this kind
of pants is that they cannot be put on back side in
front, as there is neither back or front in them ! A
necktie of rabbit-tails or beaver fur is worn around
the wrists don t know why, and I do not think that
the Indian does, either, as I never found a red that
could, or who would tell. His hair is long with bits
of fur tied onto the end of each one of the braids,
at each side of the head, and a bunch of eagle feath
ers stuck in the scalp-lock, a small bunch of hair
braided together on the top of the head. His feet are
covered with moccasins, made from the hide of the
deer or buffalo, and trimmed with many different
colored beads. A large knife stuck in a rudely con-
stucted sheath, is at his belt, always ready for
instant use.

The squaws dress in much the same manner, with
the one exception that they sometimes have a short
skirt made of some fancy-colored calico. They are all
dirty, lousy, and lazy. I have sat and watched Indians
hunt vermin on their bodies, much after the same
manner that monkeys do in their cages at the
circus. See her thrust her hand in under her blanket !
Do not be afraid. She is not after her knife they all
carry them, too she is after the gay and happy louse.

In this same manner I have seen white ladies in
Louisiana go after the gay and festive flea !

Indians and a lice are always the closest of
neighbors, and have much in common

This is all there is of an Indian, unless it is the



FIGHTING INDIANS 51

smell, and you would not be allowed to carry that
around with you, eyen in an assafetida factory.

That stringy-looking stuff hanging on those long
poles is meat that is being jerked. Help yourself to
some and see how it tastes. Those long strings there
are not carpet-rags, they are the inwards of a beef
and will be roasted and eaten for dinner ; can t you
tay and take dinner with them ? Take some of this,
it is the very choicest delicacy that they have, and
cannot be bought it is dog meat, and very highly
prized by them.

I have watched the little Indian boys, as with their
bows and arrows, they hunted the blackbirds that
hung around the post, and they kill a great many of
them. See that little fellow there, not over three
foot high and about six years old. See how he creeps
along on tip-toe towards the birds. How his eyes
sparkle, like a cat s that is watching a mouse; he does
not make the least bit of noise as he gets nearer and
nearer to his game. Now he stops and raises his bow
slowly before his face, and with hardly a pause the
arrow is let loose, and he gives a grunt of satisfac
tion as one of the birds turns over on its back. No
wonder reds are the best of hunters as that is all

they do.

*****

One morning just after guard mount, a long, lank,
consumptive-looking soldier entered the dispensary,
holding on to his lower jaw, just as though he was
afraid that it would get away from him, and groan
ing all the time. No use to ask what is the matter,
it is evident that he is a victim of intense tooth
ache. He not only has the tooth ache, but has arrived
at that stage of the game when a man decides to
have the blasted thing pulled, if it takes the whole top
of his head off.

" Steward," he calls out, " Give me some chloro
form. I have a tooth to come out, and can t stand the



52 SEVENTH CAVALRY

operation without taking something." While the
Steward was getting ready to do the job, Jim gazed
out of the window groaning and wishing he was dead.

As he sat there he saw one of the company
laundresses and the wife of an officer approach and
pass each other, coming from opposite sides of the
parade. Both ladies were togged in their finest fix
ings, were equally proud and dignified, and they
passed each other with eyes front and nose up, as if
each thought she owned the whole reservation, with
the troops thrown in.

It was evident that both ladies just ached to look
back and see what the other had on. The Laundress
controlled her curiosity. Not so the other lady. She
looked back, continuing her grand march as she did
so, and disastrous was the result. She encountered
a plebian wheelbarrow, which had no respect of class
or caste. The wheelborrow reared up and knocked
her hat off, and the lady sat down on the parade
with the wheel end of the wheelbarrow on her lap.
Then there was a mix-up, with striped hose much in
evidence, until the lady got the barrow to lie quiet
for a moment, when she sprang to her feet, recap
tured her hat, and headed for her quarters.

Jim saw all this, and as the lady rose to her feet
and gave the vicious wheelbarrow a parting kick,
he let laughter have full sway. The tooth-ache had
disappeared.

" Steward, never mind the go-to-sleep. Haw, haw,
haw ! Get your forcips and yank that tooth right out
quick. Hee-he, haw-haw ! I m tickled to death and
the tooth is asleep. He-haw ; ha-ha-haw-he-haw ! Out
with her before she wakes up."

The Steward obeyed the order and the tooth was
out before Jim got over being " tickled."



FIGHTING INDIANS 53



CHAPTER TWELVE.

Missouri River Over Its Banks Camp s Wood Choppers

In Peril Midnight Search for Missing Men The

Writer Promoted to the Position of Trumpeter.

ALL THE FUEL we had during the Winter was
cotton wood. When green, cotton wood will not burn
even fairly well. Men are detailed to go up the river
for about six miles and chop dead cottonwood trees.
The wood is hauled in on army wagons. Chopping
wood under such circumstances was not a desirable
job, but it had to be done.

The company detail for this duty consisted of a
Sergeant and three choppers. They took guns, am
munition, and plenty of grub, and would camp out
for a week at a time.

While our company detail was up there, there
came a few days of thawing weather. The river rose
rapidly, the ice went out, and soon the Missouri was
over its banks, and the bottom lands under water.

Men were sent to see if the wood-choppers were
safe, but could not get within a mile of the camp, and
came back with a report that the camp was flooded,
and not a chopper could be seen or heard, as the
river covered the whole bottom, thereabouts, from
bluff to bluff.

Here was a nice pickle. Something must be done.
The river continued to rise. Captain French and
Lieutenant Gersham, came to the company quarters
and asked for volunteers to go the relief of the men
at the wood camp. There were plenty of the men
willing to go, as the Sergeant, Paddy Ryan, was
popular with the boys ; and, favorite or not, our men
were not the kind to refuse to do all they could to
help any one in distress.

I had been promoted to be one of the Company
trumpeters, a few days before, and was proud of my



54 SEVENTH CAVALRY



" Stripes and Bugle." I asked permission to go with
the rescue party, and being accepted, I suggest that I
take my bugle along, as I could make the missing
men hear its call, and thus let the men know that
help was near, even if we could not reach them.

We started from the Fort about 12 o clock at
night, aboard a covered wagon drawn by four horses.
It was bitter cold and getting colder. A few miles out
our horses were traveling in water up to their bodies,
but we keep on until we reach a sice stream that
was so rapid and deep that we were compelled to
halt.

Here we halloed, fired guns and revolvers, and
I sounded my trumpet again and again with all the
power at the disposel of 165 pounds avoirdupois. We
were within a mile of the wood choppers. We sought
higher land, and, building a rousing fire near the
edge of the water, waited for daylight.

As soon as it was light enough to get our bearings
we made another attempt to reach the wood choppers,
but deep water and the ice that had formed in still
places during the night made impossible nearer
approach to our objective.

The crest of the flood passed towards noon, and
soon the water began to go down. Then Comrade
Atkins and myself, waded on about half-a-mile and
came to a wide and deep gully, where the water was
swift, and which we could not cross. Here we fired
a few shots and I blowed calls on my trumpet, then
we returned to our army wagon, and after warming
up at the open fire, our detail rode back to the Fort.

We had heard nothing from the wood camp and
did not know whether the men were dead or alive.

The water continued to fall during the night and
the next morning Lieutenant Eckerson, of Company
B, mounting a mule, rode to the cottonwoods,



FIGHTING INDIANS 55



where he found the men all alive. Sergeant Ryan
and one of the men were in a tree, the others on the
roof of the log cabin. Thus, exposed to the elements,
these soldiers had spent a day and a night.

All the men were victims of the low temperature.
They were taken to the Hospital as soon as they
were brought to the Fort. The feet of one of the
men were so badly frozen that it was necessary to
remove all his toes. They were on the sick list for a
long time, but eventually were marked " duty," and
returned to their companies, ready for anything.

When Lieutenant Eckerson rode into the wood
camp on the mule, Sergeant Ryan, partly delirous,
began to make a verbal report of the items of Gov
ernment property in his charge. The Lieutenant
stopped him, saying:

" Damn the Government property ! It is you men
that I want to get out of this place."

Sergeant Ryan afterwards told me, while we were
celebrating his return to duty, that in the cotton-
wood tree, he heard my trumpet, and it was the
sweetest music that ever reached his ears.

Of course this was not Fighting Indians, but I
have learned that the duty of a soldier, out this way,
consists more of downright work than anything
else.

I had a better time after I became a trumpeter.

I now take my turn as the Trumpeter of the
Guard, and blow garrison calls, and I do not have to
share in police duty or standing guard.

A trumpeter is the Captain s hitching post, and
does not get a great deal of time in which to gather
moss. He is liable at any time, and especially when
in the field, to be called to carry dispatches and
orders, not always a pleasant task, especially in a
section where scalp-hunting hos tiles are numerous.



56 SEVENTH CAVALRY



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

Desertions Numerous Reasons for Desertions Snobbery

of Officers Resented Bad Solders and Bad Officers

Birds of a Feather Comradeship With Custer.

TOWARDS SPRING the men began to desert, and
check roll-calls were ordered. These calls were made
as follows : Sometime during the night, the Captain
or a Lieutenant would come to the Company quarters
and with the First Sergeant, would go from bunk to
bunk, (waking up those asleep), and require each
man to give his name, which would be checked of as
"present."

The object of this, was to prevent a man in case
he deserted getting much of a start if he succeeded
in getting away from the post. As soon as a man
was missed, details were started in various directions
and here was where the Indian scouts did their best
work. They would get on the track of a deserter
and follow him wherever he went, and as there is a
pretty good reward for bringing in a deserter, they
were very anxious to find him.

If a man did not answer when his name was called
and the Sergeant did not know where he was, he
would be marked absent without leave, and unless he
could give a good account of himself at the next roll-
call to the guard-house he must go.

Our company did not lose a man all that Winter,
but other companies lost from one to ten men, and I
never heard of a deserter being returned after he
had a ten or twelve hours start.

*****

There has been a great deal said and written
about desertions from the army while on frontier
service, the causes, and best remedies.

I believe the principal cause of desertions is the
manner in which many of the harsh officers treat



FIGHTING INDIANS 57



enlisted men ; is due to the lack of true manhood
rather than lack of knowledge. This applies to men
put through the military " cracker machine " on the
Hudson at West Point. Too many of the lads sent
there, are spoiled and ever after disdain life s common
duties, be it in the army or elsewhere. Bad officers
are sure to spoil good soldiers.

As a rule an army officer does not mix with or
recognize the fact that elnisted men have any rights
or attributes to be respected. There is, socially,
an impassable gulf between enlisted men and their
officers I qualify this broad statement by adding,
" with rare exceptions." General George A. Custer
was one of the rare exceptions.

Abraham Lincoln, was one of the common people.
He never forgot the enduring rock of ages from
which he was hewn.

Those who founded this nation, founded it on the
fundamental principle, set forth in the Declaration of
Independence, " that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,
Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

The aloofness of officers and harsh treatment of
thair man, cause a great deal of discontent, and hurts
the service.

I know of commissioned officers whose evil ways
are notorious. No decent man would care for their
comradeship. But there as good men in the ranks of
the army as there among the officers, or in any other
station in life.

In my company we have one printer, one tele
graph operator, a doctor, two lawyers, three profes
sors of languages, one harness maker, four cooks
and bakers, two blacksmiths, one jeweler, three
school teachers, also farmers, lumbermen, peddlers,
railroad men and day laborers.



58 SEVENTH CAVALRY



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

Spring Breaks at Last Seventh Cavalry Begins Active

Campaign Start from Fort Rice Cavalryman s

Outfit So me Horses Are Peculiar Farewells.

SPRING broke at last, when we hailed with delight
the order that came for the four companies of the 7th
Cavalry, then at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, to
prepare for active field service and proceed at once to
Fort A. Lincoln, there to join the remainder of the
regiment, and to report to General S. D. Sturges.

Those who have never been in the army, or who
have never seen a regiment pack up and be in the
saddle on fifteen minutes notice, know nothing of the
excitement, and you might say flutter, we were in, as
that order was read out to us at dress parade, at
Retreat, on the evening of April 16th, 1877.

All had rather endure the hardships of an active
compaign, and take the chances of being killed by an
Indian, than remain in quarters and be abused
by stiff-necked officers during the Summer.

I will now give you a brief description of what had
to be done in two days, for we were to start
in that time. There were four companies of the
Seventh at Fort Rice, A, D, H and M, each one
hundred strong, and that meant that four hundred
horses must be shod in that time, a night and day job
work night and day by all that could work at that
trade. All the saddles, bridles and halters had to
be looked over, and repaired where necessary, which
was quite a job for the company saddlers and their
help.

Saddlebags, canteens, haversacks, lariats, hobbles,
tin cup , picket pins, revolvers, ammunition, nosebags
for horses, and all the other necessary accessories
that go to make up a Cavalryman s outfit, had to be



FIGHTING INDIA NS 59

got out of the storehouses and issued. Oh, no, there
was not much to be done.

Each man has a box, or chest, that he keeps his
personal property and kit in, and all these must be
packed and placed in*the company storehouse. We
were not to take anything but a change of clothing,
all to be carried on the saddle, and a good soldier
will make his load as light as possible for his horse.

Each man bought a soft wide-rimmed felt cam
paign hat from the sutler, and we had to pay a good
big price for the out-of-date things, too.

We were all packed and ready to move by the
morning of the 18th of April, and after bidding good
bye to those who were to remain at the post
during our absence, we mounted, and with all the
trumpeters at the head of the column playing the
tune of " The Girl I left Behind Me; we marched
through the parade and out of the post, and were at
last in the field. We marched about one-fourth of
a mile, and went into came for the night.

The trumpets used in the Cavalry have no valves.
but are nevertheless full of music, and a good player
will make himself heard a long distance. We
had trumpets of different keys, which we used
in the Fort. With these, and each man tooting when
his turn came, we made pretty fair music.

As we passed out of the north gate of the garrison
H Company, of the Seventeenth Infantry, passed in
at the east gate. They were to guard the post during
our absence, and protect the wives and children of
absent officers, always provided with luxuries. " How
we hate to leave the Gigger," was a remark made on
all sides by the boys. The Gigger was as black a
wench as ever supplied a soldier with scraps of pie
and cake from a Captain s pantry. She was a
terror !



60 SEVENTH CAVALRY



There were but a few women attached to our
command two laundresses to each company and
they were ladies in every sense of the word, and
were respected by the common herd more then were
the wives of the officers. Officers wives in the army
seem to act just as though they had a right to give
orders to the privates, but they are the only ones that
the rules do not recognize and provide for. When a
command is on the move, there is transportation
furnished for the laundresses, but their places at
that time are nearly always usurped by painted
dolls. Surgeon Taylor s wife was considered the only
lady " across the parade." The writer of this will
always remember her, with his best wishes for the
prosperity of both herself and little stranger.

As an illustration of the uncertainty of coming
back, I will here relate an incident that happened
the morning we left the post: The companies were
standing in line, ready to mount, only waiting for the
" Bulldozer," Lieutenant-Colonel Elmer Otis, to bid
good-bye to his family for about the dozenth time,

when First Sergeant M , of D Company, asked

permission to go to his quarters and bid his wife and
children a last good-bye. His request was granted, he
mounted his horse and galloped to the quarters, and
was there met by his wife and children. They were
all in tears.

He quickly dismounts and folding his wife in his
arms, said : " Mary, I have some kind of presentment
which tells me that I shall not return with the boys
when they come back in the Fall. I will go where
duty calls me and may God take care of you and the
little ones. If I fall do not forget me ! Good-bye,
little wife."

He kisses them all, and then mounting his horse,
is soon in his position at the head of his company,



FIGHTING INDIANS 61

and as the command moves off is seen to brush his
sleeve across his eyes more then once.

His presentment, or whatever it was, came true
He was shot through the lungs at the battle of Snake
Creek, on the morning of Chiet Joseph s surrender to
General Miles.

As a general thing the officers of a regiment are
very cranky after they leave good quarters, for field
duty, and this occasion did not prove an exception.

Jimminey whiz; how certain officers made the man
hunt tactict !

It was impossible to please them. It was first one
thing and then another.

Captain French s horse " Big-head " gave him a
great deal of trouble, and as a matter of course riled
him. Oh, what a horse that was. He would go along
all right for a while, and then the first thing you
knew he would take it into his head to walk on
the other side of the company; and, not being parti
cular where he went, or how he got there, he would
take a side carom on the company, and through he
would go knocking the men out of the line, in spite
of all that the Captain could do to try and stop him .
I have seen the other officers laugh at the antics of
that sorrel. The Captain said that it was the only
horse he ever mounted that he could not handle, but
that he had to give up beat on that one.

" Old Sugar," a large bay stallion was bad enough,
but " Hog " was rightly named, as he was worse then
any hog I ever saw for contrariness; you can drive a
hog, but you could neither drive, ride or back that
horse where he did not want to go.



62 SEVENTH CAVALRY



CHAPTER FIFTEEN. ^

First Night Out We Fight an Intensely Hot Prairie Fire

Set by Hostile Indians Cavalry Horses Rush Into

Camp for Protection Again at Fort A. Lincoln.

THE FIRST DAY out from Fort Rice We marched
only 18 miles, and then went into camp at about 5
o clock at Dry Springs ravine. This place gets its
name from the many little springs there, but which
hardly ever contain enough water to fill a canteen.
We happened to strike them at the right time, and
found plenty of good water.

We pitched our tents, fed and groomed our horses
and picketed them out to graze, after which I was
initiated into the mystery of frying hard-tack and
also lost my first ration of bacon in the operation
The bacon was first fried, and then the tack was
fried in the grease, after which the mess was placed
in hot water, and then the tack become tender and
nice. I got things rather mixed up, and set my bacon
and tack on fire, and so had to skirmish for a supper.

After Retreat, Tattoo and Taps, and swapping a
few stories, we crawled in our pup-tent, rather tired
but otherwise feeling first rate, and were soon sleeping
as sound as a man could sleep in any bed. The
officers have roomy wall-tents and folding cots to
help them worry though the hardships, but the
common herd who have all the work to do, take up
with the worst there is, and our work is increased by


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryAmi Frank MulfordFighting Indians in the 7th United States Cavalry : Custer's favorite regiment → online text (page 4 of 11)