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

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so many men being detailed to wait on the officers.

The camp is soon very still, no noise except that
made by the horses, as they graze near by, and the
hourly call of the guards and pickets, ending with,
"All s well!"

Suddenly the Fire Call is sounded by Chinkey
Martin, Trumpeter of the Guard, and we hustle out


of our tents. Fire out here, and not a house or any
other building within eighteen miles of us ! Yes, it
was a fire, and before we got through with it, it
found it was the hottest and most stubborn fire we
ever faced.

The prairie was on fire, and the flames were com
ing our way with the speed of a tornado. We hear
the flames roar and crackle, in the distance, as they
flash our way, fed by dead grass and dry sage-brush.

For a moment the camp is in confusion, and then
Assembly is sounded, and every man demonstrates
what discipline will do. The men fall in as coolly as
if they were to parade, instead of attacking the most
dangerous foe they ever encountered.

Each man was ordered to secure a section of pup-
tent, and as soon as we did so, the order was given,
" Right f award, four s right, double quick," and for
ward we go to meet the on-rush of flames. We did not
stop until right at the edge of the flames. Then we
whip the fire with the sections of pup-tents. Soon we
begin to fall back ; the heat is intense ; another
company rushes to our relief fighting the flames while
we get a few breaths of cooler air, and then come
to the relief of this company. So it goes, turn about.
Meanwhile the horses, as though they realized that
there was peril for them in the prairie fire, run to the
camp, crowd in among the tents, and with nostrils
dilated, stand and snort. Army horses are not in
clined to stampede. I think that the reason for this,
is because they have horse-sense, and in a time of
peril turn for protection to the men who feed and
groom them. I have noticed that a Cavalryman who
abuses or neglects his horse, is pretty sure to be
un-horsed on a march and compelled to walk.

After two hours of hard work the fire was put out
where its onrush endangered the camp, and the tired
men returned to their tents, or what was left of them.


While the men were working at the fire, doing
their best and getting results, Colonel Otis, standing
back where the air was breatheable, shouted:

" Put that fire out ! ! Company M, move to the

The Colonel s orders were not kindly received. He
riled some of the men, and they retorted :

" Give that calf more rope !"

" Somebody sit on the Bulldozer !"

" I want to go home to my ma !"

Col. Otis was so disliked by privates and company
officers, that, such remarks were not unusual. But
when he did get after a man, his name was Dennis.

The prairie fire that endangered the camp was
whipped out, the horses were taken back to their
pasturage by details eppointed to look after them, and
soon all was quiet again.

An hour later, and again the Fire Call! The wind
had changed, and the prairie fire, having turned our
flank, was coming our way from another direction.
We met the flames as before, and soon beat them out
but got no more sleep that night.

We had met the Red Demon, in the Red Demon s
own country, and won out.

We cooked and eaten our breakfasts, groDtned the
horsand were in the saddle at five on the march
towards Fort Lincoln, which we soon could see. The
Fort presented a pretty picture. The old fort topped
a bluff, the cavalry barracks were at the foot of the
bluff, with the cavalry camp with its many white
tents near by and many horses and cattle, in separate
herds, feeding on the open prairie not far away. All
formed a picture that is not ever seen east of the
Missouri river.

Away to the right is seen the city of Bismarck,
teeming with activity ; stretches of the crooked river
are glimpsed at intervals.


It is Sunday, but Government orders do not pay
attention to the Sabbath. On we go, over the undu
lating bottom land, that would make glad many a
farmer in the East. No stones, no stumps or hard
heads to plow or mow around a strip of land from
two to twenty miles wide, and about eighty miles

We arrive at our camping place, where we join
other troops, at about 2 o clock in the afternoon.

Guidons Out, is ordered, and soon another ward is
added to the famous military city on the Northwest
frontier. We have " A " tents in this camp. They are
roomy and comfortable.

The commissioned officers of our command are
welcomed by their brother officers and entertained
and soon the care of the entire camp is left to the

We spent two days sharpening sabres, and wonder
what that was for, for we did not have much faith in
our present commanders as being eager to lead us on
a charge against any considerable body of hostile

With drills and camp work we pass away the time
until April 27th. That was pay-day, with muster and
inspection we had not been paid in four months.

The Seventh Cavalry is now all together, twelve
companies each one hundred strong, and we make
quite a city. Out tents are pitched in the form of a
triangle, with the horses lariated out in the rear.

We are ordered to move. On the morning of May
1st we are packed up and at the bank of the river,
our company waiting its turn in crossing on steam
boats that are there for that purpose.

We are ferried across on the steamer Far West.
From 5 o clock in the morning until 9 at night, there
is an almost unceasing sound of trumpets, and com-


mands given by officers. After crossing the river we
go into camp on the large open prairie, which
stretches from the river to the city of Bismarck,
nearly six miles distant.

The regiment laid in this camp one day. Many
visitors from Bismarck came to the camp.

Entrenching tools were issued, a straight trowel
concern, and we find them very handy to fry bacon

Considerable excitement was created that day, by
the first appearance of one of the new Black Hills
stages, or gunboats as we call them. They consist of a
very heavy and large stage with a 2-pound Mountain
Howitzer mounted on top. They also have twelve
Winchester repeating rifles inside, with plenty of
ammunition in little pockets near the windows, or
rather port-holes.

These stages are run form Bismarck to the Black
Hills, and despite all their arms and caution, are
very frequently held up, by white as well as red
devils, who rob the passengers and take valuables

The Regimental band came out from the Cavalry
barracks, and we were treated to some first-class
music, as they are one of the crack bands of the army.

You should have heard the boys cheer when the
band struck up General Custer s favorite/ Garryowen."
We fairly made the land tremble, when, after a
few minutes rest, they played that beautiful and
stirring piece, "Custer s Last Charge !" This is what
should be called a mechanical piece, as the imita
tions of gun fire is produced by a machine which was
invented for that purpose, and it is a good one, too.
The air itself is lively, but when they add the sounds
of carbines, rifles and trumpets, you respond in your
most hearty manner.


How we wish the brave and manly Custer was
with us. He was a fighter, a kind commander, and
a gentleman, in every sense of the word. Custer
did not want a detail at the close of a hard day s
march, to put up his tent and wait on him. No, not
he. "Boys make yourselves as comfortable as you can,"
was all he wanted at that time. He would eat his
hard-tack and bacon and roll in his blanket under
the nearest tree or bush, and fall asleep, but it did
not take much to wake him up, and when his eyes
were open he was awake all over !

" Follow me, Boys!" was his order for a charge,
and who would not follow such a commander.

West Point did not spoil General Custer. He
was always and ever an exemplary man, an ideal
American, a true Soldier.

A few days before General Custer started on the
scouting expediton that resulted in the destruction of
himself and comrades, he received an order from the
Department Commander, General Terry, which said:

" It is of course impossible to give you any definite
instructions in regard to this movement ; and were it not
impossible to do so, the Department Commander places
too much confidence in your zeal, energy, and ability to
v/ish to impress upon you precise orders, which might
hamper your action when nearly in contact with the



Begin Active Campaign Seventh Cavalry Marches Out

of Bismarck With General Sturges in Command

Strenuous Times in the Land of Hostiles.

MAY the fourth finds us packed up and in the
saddle at 8 o clock, and away we go, across the level
bottom land, up a low lying hill, and are soon in the
city of Bismarck, the budding Metropolis of the Far

How the people cheered ! Everybody was out to
see us pass through. They see many new faces in
the Seventh and know that many members of the
old regiment are at rest in the Bad Lands of the

We heard a spectator say to a companion, " If
Custer was only here with them !" And if Custer
had been, how the people would have cheered him !

First came the field musicians. The band had
been left behind, to furnish music for the ladies.

There were twenty-five trumpeters, each mounted
on a splendid black horse, the Chief Trumpeter ex-
cepted; he rides a large buckskin.

We play " The Girl I Left Behind Me," and "That
Little German Band."

Next comes General Sturges, Regimental Com
mander, and Lieutenant-Colonel Otis, Commander of
the First Battalion, and Major Merrill, Commander of
the Second Battalion.

Then follows the twelve companies of the Seventh
Cavalry, neary every cavalyman a veteran, in columns
of four s, with their company colors fluttering gaily
in the breeze, and with their sabres at a present.
Oh, it is a glorious sight ! No circus parade ever
equaled it. Cheer them, citizens ; it is probably the


last time you will ever have a chance ! And how they
do cheer ! The men salute and pass along, not speak
ing a word.

The artillery follows close behind the men, their
Rodman and Catling guns casting a shadow over the
little mountain Howitzers, that rumble along by their
sides; these little breech-loaders are small but will do
their full share of duty before they return. The red
trimmed unf orms of the artillerymen cast a strange
colored glare before your eyes, after looking at the
yellow of the Cavalry so long,

Ah, do not forget the wagon train, for on that
depends the life of the regiment, horses and all !
Here it comes ! See the six-mule teams strain on the
heavily loaded wagons. Sixty-eight wagons, and all
loaded with hard-tack, beans, coffee, camp equipage,
and oats and corn for the horses and mules. And
then comes the cattle herd, that is our meat on foot,
and it will all be welcome.

We p^ss out of Main street and up over the bluffs,
and are soon out of sight of all civilization.

All ride along in silence, and many have grave
doubts of ever coming back. The failure of the com
mand last Summer, with the loss of so many good
men on the Big Horn, make the chances of returning
seem rather slim.

After marching along in this formation until about
4 o clock in the afternoon, we halt and go into camp
for the night.

Here we meet the greatest bothers that ever ap
pear in a Cavalry camp women ! Two daughters
and a son of General Sturges, have been riding in an
ambulance all day. So they are tired, and must have
a wall tent put up for their special benefit. A detail
is made to do this work, and another detail of soldiers


to look after the requirements of the young ladies
and the lad out on a frolic.

This compels details to delay the erection of their
own shelters, cooking their suppers and giving the
proper attention to their horses. It was really too
bad that the young ladies got tired, but do you think
that they thanked the soldiers for doing what they
could to made them comfortable, Oh, no ! The men
do the work and the officers get the thanks.

What a difference between the conduct of such
camp followers, and the wife of Gen. Custer, who
would ride all day beside the General, when on a
march. And when it was time to camp for the night,
she would dismount, and care for her horse she
never wanted a special detail. She was a Cavalry

The headquarters ladies and the lad left us next
morning, in one of the ambulances under an escort,
LO return to Fort A. Lirmlri, with nothing to do all
Summer but enjoy themselves. They will have an
army band to provide music for numerous society
functions and young officers for dancing partners.

We enjoyed a lively thunderstorm during the
afternoon, and got a thorough soaking. No dry beds
for the men that night.

We have no change of clothing now, so will have
to get dry as best we can, and the best way is to roll
up in your saddle blanket and sweat it out, all the
time getting full benefit of the aroma that arises from
the sweat from your horse s sides and back, as it
creeps up out of the blanket.

The horses are tied to the line that is stretched
between the companies, each given a quart of oats,
groomed we carry our currycombs and brushes
with us and then are lariated out so that they
may pick all the feed possible till morning, men being


detailed to watch them the whole night long, by turns,
otherwise a great many of them would be lost by
getting tangled up in their lariats. Besides the lariats
a rope about fifty feet long tied in the ring on the
halter, the other end fastened in a swivel-ring on the
end of a picket pin ; the horses are hoppled with a
strap reaching from a front to a hind foot, and buck
led around the legs near the hoofs. Thus hoppled
horses cannot travel as fast as a man can run, and are
easily caught when they make a break.

Finally the usual routine of Retreat, Tattoo and
Taps, having been gone through with, we lie down
to sleep, but do we sleep ? Not much ! At about ten
o clock at night it begins to rain and blow, and we
have another splendid thunder shower ! Tents are
blow down and go flying in every disection, and things
are mixed up in great shape. We take it all in good
part, only the men that are sent to pitch the officers
tents, do any growling. We catch a few winks of
sleep and are glad that it is no worse.



Fort Stevenson and Berthol Indian Agency In a Rough

Country Have Fishing Contest Heavy Rains Are

Active Sitting Bull Seeking for Trouble.

ON WE GO, day after day. May 7th we march
through Fort Stevenson. We are halted at the post
long enough for the officers to get a drink. Then on
we march. Oh, what a difference will be seen in the
officers after they have one drink to cut the ragged
edges out of their throats.

Fort Stevenson is a small, three-company post, on
the east bank of the Missouri river, and is garrisoned
by three companies of the Fifth Infantry. They have
about the same duties to do that we did when we
were in Winter quarters, but no horses to care for.
Many of them said they wished they were where they
would not be abused so much, but we told them they
would only find that place out of the army. They
said it was just like doing chores at a poor house for
your board and clothes, They looked as though they
lived petty well, anyway, and I guess they found
plenty of time to make love to the squaws, as there
were many of these creatures around there.

We passed near Berthol Indian Agency, and
camped about one mile from It. Now we see the
Indians for certain, there being about five hundred
of the Reeve-Sioux at Berthol.

Peaceable ? Yes, if you are a big crowd and well
armed. A great many of these reds came to our camp
with potatoes, onions, moccasins and bead-work of
different kinds, which they wanted to sell. They
were not treated very well by the men and no
wonder, as they are a dirty, thieving lot, and were
the worst beggars I ever was.


They would approach you, and holding out a hand
that would make a blacksmith blush, would say in
their gutteral tones:

"How! Sar-koo-mar-koo?" This means, how do
you do, what are you going to give me ? I bought a
pair of buckskin leggins and moccasins of them, and
they came in good after my boots had given out, as
there are no worse boots made then those that are
issued to the Cavalry. They also had milk to sell,
and our mess feasted on Mountain Stew, potatoes
and bacon, and were happy. They do not raise the
potatoes for their own use, but sell them to the
different wagon trains almost constantly going to and
from the river posts above ; and also to the wheel-
borrow steamboats that ply their trade on the upper
Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.

May 10th my company was rear guard, and we
had a picnic ! We found three of the 7th Cavalry
men on the roadside, where they had fallen from
their horses, and were too full to get back on their
horses. They had got petty full at the Agency, and
with a bottle in their pockets, had tried to keep up
their spirits and the march at the same time, but had
made a failure of it. When they had fallen off their
horses, the Captains had, with lack of humanity,
ordered all the Government property taken from
these men, and left them to get into camp as best they
could. We placed them in one of the wagons, and
that is how they came to be able to answer to their
namef at roll-call that night, and were saved from
being reported as deserters. Oh, no, you cannot get
any intoxicating liquors at the Indian Agency unless
you call for it and have the money to pay for it, at
therate of one dollar for a half -pint.

This is a very rough section of the country,
being mostly bluffs and bad-lands. The prairie fires
has burned the grass from nearly all the bottoms,


and it was quite difficult to find a good place for our
horses to graze at night. Some of the horses already
begin to show the effects of the trips, and more than
one cavalryman will soon have to foot it along with
the wagon train, as we take no extra horses along for
the men. Each officer has two for his own use, and
it does not seem to make much difference to them
whether the men have to walk or not.

The prairies are nearly covered with flowers, of
many kinds, some of them being equal to a great
many hot-house plants and as for variety there seems
to be no end.

Game, such as antelope, jack-rabbits, wild ducks,
prairie chickens, gophers, rattlesnakes, and buffalo-
chips, is quite plentiful. We march from fifteen to
twenty-five miles a day, not being able to go any
faster on account of the wagon train.

On the twelfth we had quite a big scare. A scout
carne in and reported that Sitting Bull had crossed
the river at Fort Peck, about one hundred and fifty
miles above our camp, and had murdered the whole
garrison, (two companies of Infantry), and either car
ried off or burned all the government property at that
place. If this is true the prospects for clasping hands
across the bloody chasm are yery good indeed, and
when it come time to shake, (which we doubt with
the present men in command), Sitting Bull will find
that the Custer Avengers are right on top of the heap-
We were named the Custer Avengers, while in camp
near Bismarck, and hope to be able to live up to the

We now have an extra picket detail and guard
mount, to protect againt a surprise by the Indians,
or red devils, as they are commonly called by the


I think that if the Government would hire a few
farmers to go along with the command, we would
not have to wait so much for the wagon train, as then
the farmers would go to work and fix the roads in
less time then it take the engineer corps, and it
would give West Pointers plenty of time to stand
and draw plans while the command crossed the bad
places and pushed ahead. I shall recommend this
plan in my next report to the Government !

Sunday, May 13. Broke camp at 5 o clock. After
marching 18 miles we camp. We now find plenty of
fish, and as soon as the carnp duties are done, we
grab a hunk of fat bacon for bait and go fishing. Cat-
fishes and suckers take to bacon ieadily, and a kind of
chub was also our reward. We cook and eat a fish

Another generous shower visits us during the
night. Let them come. We do not not catch cold.

We marched the 14th and 15th of May in about the
same routine. The only thing out of the usual course
that happened, was that while stepping out of an am
bulance one of the hospital stewards slipped and fell r
breaking a leg between the ankle and knee. The bone
stuck out through the flesh and skin several inches.
This man had been in three Indian battles, and did
not get even a scratch, and when this accident took
place he declared, " It was darn mean to use a fellow
in this way."

Broke camp May 16th at 7 A. M. Marched 18
miles and camped on the banks of Little Muddy
River. This is a small creek-like stream, and gets its
name from the large amount of mud and small quan
tity of water it contains. The only way to get a
drink, here, is to take a mouthful of the mixture, and
squeeze the mud out in your mouth, and swallow the


Two men were sunstruck to day. The heat was

We were in the saddle bright and early on the
morning of the 17th, In three hours we reach Fort
Buford, Montana Territory. This is a large post,
situated nearly opposite the point where the Yellow
stone river enters the Missouri. It is garrisoned by
five Infantry Companies and countless mosquitoes !

Our regiment was halted here long enough for the
officers to get refreshments, when we moved to the
bank of the river, and at 3 o clock camped on a muddy
bottom. No grass to speak of, considerable low
brush, and too many prairie dogs holes and rattle
snakes for comfort.

Soon there was a furious thunder storm, with
continous flashes of lightning, while the water poured
down. But we did not care much, it was so pleasant
to have it rain so we could not drill !

My bunkieand I bought some, eggs so we thought
from the steamboat Far West, and the eggs proved
to be too far west; that is the chicks had been picked
too soon. So we had no eggs for breakfast, but we
did not care much, as they only cost us fifty cents a
dozen. We compounded a fairly appetizing relish of
pulverized hard-tack, bacon and raisins, boiled in
condensed milk.

The rumor that Mr Sitting Bull has captured
Fort Peck has no foundation. However, he is report
ed to be about one hundred miles above this place r
waiting for us. His party conisits of thirteen
hundred well armed warriors.

Our men are all in good spirits, and the sutler at
Fort Buford is having a big trade. The demand for
rattlesnake poison is brisk.

During the evening a party of Infantryman
came down from Fort Buford, and there was
a general exchange of stories. We were inclined to
believe that our visitors stretched their stories a little
too much, but we did not say so.



Our Captain Makes a Social Call His Orderly Left Out

in Rain Double- Acting Frying Pans General Miles

Captures Reds Our Force Ordered to Hurry.

MAY 17th. This morning it rained and the wind
was so strong that it was almost impossible to keep a
tent up. So we stood around in the rain, and after
vain attempts to keep our fires going, we just stood
and shivered, while waiting for the weather to
ease up.

I had the pleasure of going to the Fort with my
Captain, as his Orderly. When we arrived there, I
had the exquisite pleasure of standing out in the
driving rain and serving as a " hitching post," getting
wet through and through, with " Old Sugar " trying
every few moments to nip an ear offfas an intimation
that it was time to go. But the Captain staid on and
on ; he had a good time. The only difference between
us was, that I did no enjoy myself and did get wet on
the outside, while the Captain did enjoy himself and
did not get wet on the outside ; but I will bet what
little soul I have left, that in the morning my head
will feel better than his does, and it will not be neces
sary to have my hat stretched over the top of a hard
tack box, so I can get it on.

The Second Battalion crossed the river this after
noon, to get out of the mud, and went into camp on
the side of a ridge about half a mile from the
Yellowstone, a short distance from the Missouri. We

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