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

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keep behind Indians that may be on the war-path,
and so that we will have water at the camps. March
thirty miles. We have no extra clothing but over
coats, and many of the men have not got that much,
as they have thrown their overcoats away in order to
lighten the load of their horse.

General Miles left us to go to Glendive, taking
Company E as an escort.

We pass abandoned tepee poles and other Indian
belongings in large quantities, indicating that the
reds ahead of us are in a hurry.

July 9th. Broke camp at 5 o clock and follow the
Indian trail. Marched over rough country. Saw
numerous antelope. Pass three dead ponies, and two
dead Indians. The bodies of the Indians had been


placed on poles. It is probable that the ponies had
been sacrificed that their owners might enter the
Happy Hunting grounds in due and ancient form.

Pawnee Tom, a half-breed scout, shot and wound
ed a cinnamon bear, this afternoon. He left his pony
and crawled on his hands and knees nearly a thous
and yards to get near enough for a shot ; as soon as
the gun was fired the bear headed for a gulley
near by. By the time Tom had remounted his pony
the bear had disappeared, but he trailed the wounded
animal to its lair, and a second shot ended its life. As
the result of his bravery, Tom secured a necklace of
bear s claws, and will henceforth have a voice in the
councils of his tribe.

We find wild goose berries in abundance, but they
are exceedingly sour.

Saddles are kept packed all the time now, with
everything in readiness for a fight with hostiles at
any moment. At night our beds consist of our saddle-
blankets spread on the ground, and our saddles for
pillows, and they are good ones We lie down, shut
our eyes, imagine we are covered up, and go to sleep,
not to wake till morning ; unless it rains, when we
cover our heads with a corner of the blanket, roll
over, and are soon sound asleep again.

The morning of July 10th we broke camp at five
o clock, marched 33 miles, and went into camp on the
bank of Yellow Muddy Creek. This creek gets its
name from the yellow mud that colors the water ; and
it looked to me a good deal like mush.

We have an abundance of antelope meat, and book
it in different ways, the most common being to place
it on coals. Of course it tastes smokey and is more
or less scorched, but it is eaten with keen relish.

While riding my horse to water this evening, he
took it into his head to see what he could, and having
nothing on him but a halter and lariat I let him go it.


I was given an exhilarating ride. After running about
a mile, and jumping over a ditch that was fully ten
feet across and twenty-five deep, I stopped him just
in time to prevent him from jumping into or over
the Captain s tent!

We killed a large number of rattlesnakes in the
camp, and Crazy Jim skinned, cooked, and ate one,
with as much relish as I ever saw a man eat a piece
of eel. He said it tasted a good deal like an eel, only
it was sweeter and not so tough. There was no one
in the company who wanted to borrow his frying pan
after that. He stuffed the skin of the snake full of
grass, and then wore it round his neck just as you
would a scarf.

Crazy Jim, or James Severs, as his name really is,
is from Indiana, and is a brave and ever-ready soldier.
He was named Crazy Jim on the campaign last year,
when, at the time of the massacre of the men on the
Little Big Horn, he saved a pack mule and its load of
ammunition from falling into the hands of the Indians,
at the risk of his own life. While he was after the
mule the Indians fired over one hundred shots at him,
but not a bullet happened to hit him, although they
caused dust to fly near hin in all directions. He is
now wearing one stripe on his dress coat sleeve,
showing that he has served one five years enlistment,
and is now on his second. He re-enlisted last winter
at Fort Rice, and says he will must have a furlough
this winter, as there is a girl digging leeks in Indiana
that he wants to see mighty bad,

We were up very early on the morning of
July llth, and were in the saddle at 3:45. I got per
mission of the Captain to hunt along the line of march
with Private Neeley. Antelope were very thick, but a
little sly. I shot my first antelope on this hunt. Neeley
shot five out of one herd, and we took the hind


quarters of six of them on our horses and started to
join the command. They were a heavy load for our
poor animals.

We got nearly nine miles from the line of march
which I think is doing very well for two men in a
hostile country. While we were yet about three miles
from camp we saw three riders coming towards us,
and we did not wait to see what they wanted but
hurried on towards the camp as fast as our horses
could very well travel with the heavy loads we had.
We had no extra liking for a battle on the open
prairie with that kind of game, and on looking back
and seeing that they were running their ponies, and
seeing that we could not get to camp before they
overtook us, we rode up to the foot of a bluff, and
then led our horses to the top of it. We had not the
least doubt but that we were in for a fight and wanted
to have all the advantage on our side. We would
have given all the meat we had to have been in camp
at that particular time, but we did not intend to
surrender; oh, no !

We waited in silence for nearly five minutes, and
as the men came nearer and they did not look so
much like Indians as they had but a short time before
and our Indians soon proved to be three men from
" E " Company, who, like ourselves, had been on a
hunt, and were looking for the camp. We went down
to them, and in answer to their inquiries as to what
what we were up there for, we said we were trying to
see if we could locate the camp.

Here was a chance for one of those hair-breadth
escapes so often read about, and I have no doubt but
that the majority of them are about as dangerous as
ours was.

There was a very hard thunder shower in the
evening, and of course we men got wet, but we have
got so used to being wet that it is no hardship, but it
is a little disagreeable. Marched twenty miles, and
camped on Red Water Creek.



Patrol Marches Wearing Down Cavalry Horses Men Are

Impatient Chief Mule-Packer Murdered by Rival

Command Heads Back to Tongue River.

JULY 12th, I87& Broke camp this morning with
rain falling, the men out of sorts and rations getting
low. We do not seem to be doing anything likely to
get results merely fooling around out of reach of
hostiles. It strikes me as rather queer that Colonel
Otis should devote so much time to visiting aban
doned Indian village sites instead of getting in actual
contact with hostiles.

We are now to head back to the camp where our
wagon train is parked, whence we started forth on
this apparently resultless scouting expedition. We
have been scouting almost six days and are so near
our starting point that we can reach it in one day.

This has been a hard trip for our underfed and
travel-worn horses. To-day my horse lagged for the
first time. I touched him with the spurs, but he did
not respond ; then I dismounted and led him behind
the command, feeling sorry for the poor fellow. We
came in sight of camp when three miles away, and
my horse was rrore than three hours in covering the
distance. Several times I thought he was going to
fall down and die.

I have with this little horse kept pace with my
Captain all Summer, and he has had two large horses
at his disposal, changing mounts nearly every alter
nate day, so I think my mount has been an unusual
ly good one. The Captain is a great hunter and a
splendid shot I think the best in the whole regiment,
either with rifle or revolver. When out hunting, in
addition to my load, my horse has carried an Infantry
rifle with ammunition, for the Captain s use, and I
have followed him on many a wild chase in pursuit of
game, and when he has dismounted to take a shot,


I have invariably been ready to hand him his gun and
hold his horse.

Marched 41 miles to-day.

July 13th. Broke camp at 8 o clock in the morn
ing and took our own trail back towards Tongue
River. No danger of finding hostiles on this trail !
Went 16 miles and camped on Cherry Creek, in a
poor location. However, the ground is too rough to
drill on.

I rode my Lieutenant s extra horse to-day, as mine
was only able to carry itself. The men said I looked
like a mosquito on a hay-stack, and I guess they were
right, as it is the tallest and most rangy horse with
the command. I need a step-ladder to mount him
with. He is docile, willing, and an easy rider.

The Captain saw a bear near a ravine, about one
mile from the trail, and calling me to follow, started
for the game. I gave the big horse the rein and a
touch of the spurs, and away we went. The bear saw
us coming and turned and ran, and a bear can run !
We fired at the bear with our revolvers but did not
hit it, so it did not stop to give battle, but soon was
out of sight in the ravine. I was surprised that the
big horse made such speed. We had not been back
in line long, when Colonel Otis rode alongside and
asked the Captain if he knew if Lieutenant Mathey
wanted to sell that horse. Evidently the Colonel was
looking for a horse that could run !

July 14. Were in the saddle at 7 A. M. I rode
the Captain s Indian pony Pete, the most contrary
piece of pony I ever came in contact with. Could not
get the pony started when, the command pulled out
but after giving the balky beast the usual medi
cine and getting its nose in the right direction, I took
after the troops, and the pony made good time.

Marched 25 miles and camped where there was
excellent grass and good water for the horses. We


remained here a number of days, then marched back
to our former camping place on Sunday Creek, where
a few days were given to drilling. At 4 o clock in the
afternoon we received orders to report at Tongue
River, and an hour later were on the way.

At about 8 o clock, while the troops were moving
along silently and quietly, a rifle shot rang out. All
was excitement, and officers rode hurridly along, to
discover who had fired the gun. As they arrived at
the back end of the line, they discovered the packers
crowded around some one lying on the ground, and
were told that the Chief Packer had been shot in the
head and was unconscious, evidently dying. His com
rades said the Chief Packer and one of his men had
some words about the way the packing was done
and had called each other hard names. Finally the
man who did the shooting, swore that he would take
the position of Chief Packer when the pack mules
arrived at Tongue River, as he knew more about
packing than any other man with the outfit, then sud
denly wheeled his horse about, shot the Chief Packer
and rode off in the darkness. The chum of the dying
man a moment later, gun in hand, mounted a pony
and started in pursuit of the assassin.

The murdered man left a wife and three children
in one of the larger cities of Florida, where he owned
considerable property. Love of adventure, and a
desire to investigate the mining and agriculturial
inducements of the North-West, had prompted the
adventure that culminated in this dire tragedy.

The body was rolled in a blanket and placed in a
shallow grave by the side of the trail.

The affair was reported to General Miles, who sent
a detail with an ambulance for the body, which was
examined by the surgeons, enclosed in a coffin, and
buried in the Military Cemetery at Tongue River.



Once More on the Yellowstone General Miles Extends

Aid to Destitue Tribe of Indians General Sturges

Fails to Accept Challenge of Bold Nez Perces.

WE reached the bank of the Yellowstone river at
about midnight, and it being too dark to pitch our
tents, we were ordered to unsaddle and rest as best
we could until morning. So off came the saddles and
down on the ground went the whole command, glad
to get a chance for a little rest.

Reveille was sounded bright and early in the morn
ing, and after a hasty breakfast we mount and
march one mile, when we camp on Tongue River,
nearly opposite and about one mile from the head
quarters of General Miles.

We can now look down on the Tongue- River-ites,
and are glad once more to be where we can see some
indications of civilization.

The location of the Cantonment at Tongue River
was the selection of General Miles, and does credit
to his knowledge and foresight.

There are about 500 Cheyenne Indians camped
near the Post. They are under the personal super
vision of General Miles. I am told that it was only
through his personal exertions that the warriors of
these Indians were prevented from taking the war
path, some time ago, when the man in charge of the
Agency failed to pay the annuity due them from the
Government. The chiefs complained to General Miles
that the man in charge of the Agency at the time was
" Heap cheat." Miles appealed in their behalf direct
to the Government at Washington, and was told the
appropriation for these Indians had been exhausted.


He supplied their needs from his own scanty stores,
and told them he would see that they did not suffer.

The command remained in this camp several days
and then General Sturges was ordered to take six
companies of the Seventh Cavalry and head Chief
Joseph off from his attempt to escape into the great
wilderness north of the nation s boundary line.

The hardships of our Indian campaign now began
in earnest. We made forced marches and got in
ahead of Chief Joseph and his warriors and tribe s
people generally, at the foot of the Little Rocky
Mountains, in Montana Territory, Sept. ^8th, 1877.
Here General Sturges halted his command, and it
seemed that he wanted the Indians to take the
offensive. The reds advanced and a slight skirmish
ensued, and instead of leading a charge, Sturges
posted himself on a bluff, with a body guard, fully a
mile from the reds, and viewed proceedings through
his field glass. A bullet from a long-range gun in the
hands of an Indian who knew how to shoot, struck
the ground a short distance in front of the General,
who lowered his glass, remarking that it was getting
dangerous up there, and got out of danger.

At this time Lieutenant Hare went personally to
Major Merrill, and asked permission to lead his
company in a charge against the hostiles ; but, of
course, the request was refused. Prompt action was
what the men of the Old Seventh wanted. They all
felt that if " turned loose," they could and would
clean out Chief Joseph and his warriors in short

Our loss in the long distance skirmish, which
lasted but a few minutes, was three men slightly
wounded ; the enemy loss was about the same. Their
long-range rifles are much more effective than our
short-range carbines, unless we get in close quarters-


The number of warriors with Joseph, and also the
non-compatants, are much less than he had when
he started on his projected break for the Canadian
wilds. The patrol work of United States troops is
bewildering to the militant Indian chiefs, and the
young bucks are not leaving reservations for the
" war-path " in any considerable numbers. The
reds under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse have found
" scalp hunting " poor business, and are dwindling.

But why prolong the unequal contest !

After Chief Joseph had passed through the Gap in
the Mountains, General Sturges marched our force
around a range of the mountains, and then, permitting
the retreating Indians to again get away, followed
after them. We camped several nights where they
had camped the night before. At each camping place
the reds had erected breastworks, prepared to give us

If this is a war of attrition, they were getting the
food and we were getting appetites. Rations ran
short, until we had nothing to eat but buffalo meat
and bull-cherries. Finally we got where we could get
neither buffalo meat nor bull-cherries. Then we
butchered Indian ponies. This meat was good.

General Sturges issued a bombastic card of thanks
and as the document was being read by the Adjutant
you could hear men say, " We do not want wind
pudding ; give us something solid !" General Sturges
sent to General Howard for rations and Howard sent
us ammunition. A day later a wagon train arrived
from Fort Peck, with rations. Instead of hard bread
they brought flour, and salt pork that was spoiled.
Each man was issued a quart of flour and a chunk of
pork. We made flap-jacks. Taking a tin cup and
partly filling it with wheat flour, we would add water
and make a paste, and then add a piece of pork, and


cook the mess. It was difficult to dig it out of the
cup. It was worse than hard-tack and ancient bacon.

Sturges with six companies, every soldier fight
ing mad, loitered along. But when Miles was given
the " right of way," he pressed after the fugitive reds,
headed them off and forced Chief Joseph to surrender,
after a hard fighting that lasted three days.

I was mighty glad to be " on the job " at the Battle
of Snake River, and so were my comrades of Com
pany M, Seventh Cavalry.

Son e time before this event, while with Sturges,
I was ordered to take a despatch to General
Miles, and was to go alone over unknown land, liable
at any moment to meet hostiles. I could not refuse
to make the venture. Better lose my scalp than to
get the name of being a coward.

Receiving the necessary instructions as to route
and provided with a compass, at dusk I set forth on
the hazardous ride. To say that I was startled at
every little sound, would be putting it very mild. But
I kept on and arrived at my destination about noon
the next day. Never did a camp look so good to me
as that one did. And never again do I want to take
such a trip. It was over bluffs, along ravines, across
stretches of prairie, expecting to get a bullet from
the gun of a lurking hostile at any moment. It is no
wonder that at the age of twenty-four my hair is
streaked with gray.



Graphic Account of Battle Between NezPerces and Troops

Commanded by General Miles Chief Joseph Forced

to Yield Emphasizes Dislike for Gen. Howard.

THE general interest in the battle between Nez
Perces warriors led by Chief Joseph, and the Cavalry
force with General Miles in Command, and the
surrender of the hostiles, demands more attention
than ever has appeared in print. It was the finale of
an important campaign ; it threw wide open the
door that had blocked the way for the settlement of
the Great North- West ; it stopped trespassing on the
soil of a friendly nation by disgruntled natives of this
country our wards, not wanted there, whose best
interests demanded that they should cease savagery
and live in peace with their white neighbors.

When Chief Joseph started forth on this final and
fateful campaign, he was in command of a large force
of superior and well equipped Indian warriors. With
these hostiles, it was a most sacred war. From the
time they left their homes in Oregon until they
were attacked by the command of General Miles on
Snake Creek, they had traveled sixteen hundred miles
and at a rate that would have killed a cavalry horse.

This was a wonderful trip. Chief Joseph did not
make it with warriors alone. He had with him all
the squaws, children and aged males of the tribe,
their tepees and other belongings. Joseph s movements
were retarded, and at times diverted, by strong
bodies of United States troops. He was able and
shrewd, and was keen in leading pursuing columns
along trails where their men and horses would suffer
most for want of food and water.

Chief Joseph s warriors had dwindled to about
three hundred ; every one of them hardened by the
difficulties of the march, able to go days without food
or water, and each brave carrying a gun made Jfor
use in hunting large game. They also had a number


of long range needle-guns, two of them being sup
plied with the most approved telescope sights. One
of the rifles was a heavy Creedmore, such as is used
by the most skilful shots in America on the celebrat
ed ranges. No doubt it was one of these rifles that
sent that bullet in the direction of General Sturges,
during the brief skirmish at the Gap in the Moun
tains, which caused him to lower his field-glass and
step out of range.

The failure of General Howard to land Chief
Joseph, is said to be due to the fact that Howard
started on the chase with his command not half sup
plied with equipment necessary for such a drive.
As a result, Howard s movements were hampered and
his fighting strength greatly reduced at the time when
his force should have been at its very best.

General Howard was not versed in Indian warfare.
He found there is a vast difference between Agency-
life and its treaty making and fighting Indians. It was
Howard s lack of tact that impelled Joseph and his
brother White Bird and the rest of the Nez Perces to
reject the demand of Howard. They did not want
to fight ; they wanted to escape to a land of refuge,
where they could live in peace. This is the Indians
side of the story.

Chief Joseph continued on his retreat through the
northern mountains. On August 9th General Gibbons
came into ineffectual contact with him at the Big
Hole Mountains.

When General Miles started from the mouth of
Tongue River, September 18th, to attack Chief
Jeseph, he had formed his plans so well that victory
was assured. He struck Chief Joseph s camp the 30th
of September, 1877, after marching twelve days, at
the very place he said he would before setting out


from Tongue River. The men under Miles were
eager for the fray. As soon as the Indians were seen
General Miles, without hesitation, placed himself in
front of the troops, and at once the first order was
given. It was :


The battle was on !

Ahead went our three companies of the Seventh
Cavalry, direct for the Indians, each man trying to
be the first to draw blood.

Never was a more gallant charge made by any

The Second Cavalry had been ordered to round
up and look after the ponies of the reds, and this
placed the burden of the fight on the three companies
of the Seventh Cavalry. The charges on the reds
and on their ponies were simultaneous.

Two men reel in their saddles and fall to the
ground at the beginning of the charge. There is no
faltering, spurs hasten to the utmost the speed of the
horses. We soon come to where the ground is so
cut up by natural rifle-pits that our horses can ad
vance no further. The Indians are firing rapidly ;
our men are responding.

Halt ! is the shrill bugle command.

Then Dismount /and Prepare to Fight on Foot !

And this is what was done, and with as much
coolness as though we were on parade, instead of
being where bullets are whistling.

As soon as our men dismount the carbines begin
to talk to the Indians so fast and with such good
results, that the fire of the reds slackens, as they take
to cover, but soon they arefiring more rapidly than

General Miles gave orders for the men to shelter
themselves as much as they could and to make their


shots count. Men got behind anything that would
afford the least shelter, and some dug into the earth
with entrenching tools. We lay there and shot at
every moving thing seen above the tops of the breast
works of the reds. There are many men in the
command who never before were under fire, and they
are as aggressive and cool as the veterans.

A man falls on the right of the line or, rather,
rises and then falls ! He was lying down when a
rifle bullet hit him in the shoulder. He springs
to his feet in agony, and instantly falls, and rolls
behind a little pile of dirt, and tries to grasp his
carbine, but he cannot do so with hands benumbed,
and sinks back as though dead !

There he lies until darkness makes it safe for
comrades to go to his relief. He was found alive,
and taken to the hospital tent on a stretcher, where
the Surgeon dressed the wound and he soon became
conscious. It is Private Deitline, of Company M.
The Surgeon says he is badly wounded, but will pull
through all right. Good, for we all like him ; he is
our Company Farrier.

Other wounded men are taken to the hospital.
We soon get over the nausea at first caused by the
sight of wounds and blood, and assist in caring for

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Online LibraryAmi Frank MulfordFighting Indians in the 7th United States Cavalry : Custer's favorite regiment → online text (page 8 of 11)