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M8









TENTING ON THE PLAINS



OR



GENERAL OUSTER IN KANSAS AND TEXAS.



TENTING ON THE PLAINS



OR



GENERAL CUSTER IN KANSAS AND TEXAS



BY

ELIZABETH B. CUSTER

AUTHOR OF " BOOTS AND SADDLES."



NEW YORK

CHARLES L. WEBSTER & COMPANY
1887



,C



Copyrighted, 1887,

CHARLES L. WEBSTER & CO.

(All rights reserved.)



PRESS OP

JENKINS & McCoWAN,
334-228 Centre St.



DEDICATION TO TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

TO HIM WHOSE BRAVE AND BLITHE ENDURANCE MADE THOSE
WHO FOLLOWED HIM FORGET, IN HIS SUNSHINY PRES-
ENCE, HALF THE HARDSHIP AND THE DANGER.



CONTENTS.



PAGE

Biographical Sketch of Major-General George A. Custer. 1-25

CHAPTER I.

Good-by to the Army of the Potomac Off for Texas
Twenty Minutes for Dinner History of Eliza
Down the Mississippi A Crevasse General Custer
Meeting Confederate General Hood 27-62

CHAPTER II.

New Orleans after the War General Winfield Scott Up
Red River The Skill of the Pilots Our Romantic
Lover At Alexandria A Negro Prayer-Meeting
Confederate Forts Quicksands Alligator Hunting 63-92

CHAPTER III.

Mutiny Trial by Court Martial A Military Execution
Marching Through Texas Foraging for a Bed
Joy over a Pillow Every Man has his Price Four
Months in a Wagon Life Without a Looking-Glass 93-130

CHAPTER IV.

Marches Through Pine Forests Officers Attacked
with Break-Bone Fever Promises of Bold-Flowing
Streams Introduction to the Pine-Tree Rattle-Snake
Scorpions, Tarantulas, Centipedes, Chiggers and
Seed-ticks Crossing the Ponton" I Went A-
Fishing " I3I-H9



Viil CONTENTS.

PAGE

CHAPTER V.

Out of the Wilderness Our Camp at Hempstead
Hospitality of Southern Planters The General's
Deer-Hunting A Baptism of Gore Escape from
Being Blown up by Powder Eliza Establishes an
Orphan Asylum The Protecting Care that Officers
Show to Women 150-178

CHAPTER VI.

A Texas Norther A School-Girl's First Impression of
Texas The Ants as our Thriving Neighbors Gen-
eral Custer 111 of Break-Bone Fever Measuring an
Alligator The March to Austin Chasing Jack-Rab-
bits Byron, the Greyhound 179-208

CHAPTER VII.

Byron as a Thief An Equestrian Dude Mexican Horse
Equipage and Blankets General Custer visits a Deaf
and Dumb Asylum Tales of Lawlessness Pistols
Everywhere Entertainments at our Quarters Eliza's
Colored Ball 209-236

CHAPTER VIIL

Letters Home Extracts Caught by a Norther Longing
for a Yankee Wood-Pile Colonel Groome of 1812
Jack Rucker Beaten in a Horse-Race Ginnieand her
Family Our Father Custer's Dog 237-259

CHAPTER IX.

Disturbed Condition of Texas A Woman's Horse Edu-
cation at the Stables Leaving Austin for Hemp-
steadSam Houston a Hero among our Offi-
cers Detention in Galveston A Texas Norther on
the Gulf of Mexico Narrow Escape from Ship-
wreck Return Home on a Mississippi Steamer. .... 260-290

CHAPTER X.

Father Custer Gives an Account of how he was a Boy with
his Boys on the Mississippi River A Family Robbery
General Custer Parts with his Staff at Cairo and
Detroit The Silent Heroes Temptations to Induce
General Custer to Resign Offers from Mexico One
of his Class-mates Enters the Ministry 291-321



CONTENTS. ix

PAGE

CHAPTER XL

Reception by the War Veterans of their Boy General
Appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Seventh Cavalry
A Raid after a Pretty Girl Our Family of Horses
and Dogs Orders to Report at Fort Riley, Kansas
Jollifications at St. Louis Friendship for Lawrence
Barrett 322-347

CHAPTER XII.

Good-by to Civilization Westward Ho! The Prairie-
Schooner as we First Saw It A few Comments on
the Wisdom of the Army Mule The Wagon-Master
and Mule-Whacker as Types of Western Eccentricity
Carrying Supplies to Distant Posts First Overland
Journey in an Army Ambulance Arrival at Fort
Riley Border Warfare Between Quarrelsome Dogs
The Hospitality of Officers and their Families Wel-
comed and Housed by one of General Custer's Old
Friends Changing of Quarters According to Army
Regulations Preparing a New-Comer for his Call on
the Commanding Officer's Family The New Arrival
Presents Himself in very Full Dress Diana's Horse
tells Tales General Custer Takes his Dogs and gives
run to his Horse over the Plains His Horses Com-
mune with him after their Dumb Fashion The
Strength of his Arm Reserved for the Country
Separated from the Post by the Prairie Divides
We Trade Horses Phii Sheridan Tested on a Race-
Track Fighting Dissipation in the Seventh Cavalry
General Custer's Temptations The Family Teach
him to Appreciate his Sunburned Nose Men Who
Command the Admiration of Women The Inde-
structibility of an Army Demijohn 349-403

CHAPTER XIII.

"Good Society" An Embarrassing Position for an
Officer The General Extricates Him A Mock Trial
Varieties of Character Lessons in Horsemanship
A Disgraced Cavalry Woman Gossip A Medley of
Officers and Men War on a Dressing-Gown 404-439



X CONTENTS.

PAGE

CHAPTER XIV.

Ristori, and the Course of True Love A Proposal on the
House-topGideon's Band A Letter from Charles
C. Leland Breitmann in Kansas Clever Rogues
Escape from the Guard-House Marketing in Junc-
tion City Crossing a Swollen River The Story of
Johnnie An Expedition Leaves Fort Riley for a
Campaign 440-487

CHAPTER XV.

A Prairie Fire Letters from the General Lending a
Dog for a Bedfellow Beauty's Bows and Beaux
Negrc Recruits Turn the Post into a Circus Ladies
Fired on by a Sentinel The Sugar Mutiny Small-
pox in the Garrison General Gibbs Restores Order
An Earthquake at Fort Riley 488-514

CHAPTER XVI.

Extracts from General Custer's Letters The March from
Fort Riley to Fort Harker Dogs and Horses on their
First Western Campaign Experiences in Messing in
a Country Void of Supplies Chasing Jack-rabbits. . 515-530

CHAPTER XVII.

Extracts from Letters to General Custer Crossing Fox
River Account of the Undisciplined Troops War's
Alarms Mourning for Custis Lee 531-549

CHAPTER XVIII.

Gratitude A Great Snow-Storm The Sibley Tent
General Custer Defines his Ambition The Cook
Devises Strange Additions to the Bill of Fare Gen-
eral Hancock Holds a Council with the Chiefs of the
Cheyennes The Indian Nobility Request that their
Supper be Served before the Talk The Pipe of Peace
A Hint for Further Refreshments General Custer
Visits the Villages of Sioux, Apaches and Cheyennes
A Deputation of Three Hundred Warriors and
Chiefs in Battle Line The General's Description of
Them Civilized and Barbarous Warfare Confronting
Each Other Flight of the Indians General Custer
and his Regiment are sent in Pursuit Extracts from
General Custer's Letters Written from Fort Lamed. . 550-561



CONTENTS. XI

PAGE

CHAPTER XIX.

Extracls from General Ouster's Letters from Fort Hays
and Fort Wallace An Account of Killing his First
Buffalo-Calf The Death of Custis Lee Extract from
a Letter Written by General Hancock on the Indian
Depredations Riding to Meet the Mail The Doctor
Eats Indian Soup in the Village Some Items Regard-
ing a Match Buffalo-Hunt

CHAPTER XX.

Sacrifices and Self-Denial of Pioneer Duty Poor Water
and Alkaline Dust Vagaries of Western Water-
Ways Digging in Sunken Stream-Beds for Water
Rivers Unfringed by Trees or Shrubs The Allur-
ing Mirage A Short Tribute to the Western
Pioneers Their Endurance, Patience and Courage
The Governor of a Western Territory Shines as a
Cook as well as a Statesman The General Writes of
his First Buffalo-Hunt An Accidental Discharge of
his Pistol Kills my Horse, Custis Lee General
Sherman as a Special Providence The Western
Town on a Move Government makes no Provision
for Army Women to say their Prayers Journey
to Fort Hays The Match Hunt of the Regiment
Supper Given by the Vanquished to the Victors
Reception Given by the Elements on our Arrival
The Tent Goes Down A Scout to Fort McPherson
A Sentinel Fires on his Friends by Mistake
General Custer sends Escort to take us to his Camp
Captain Robbins and Colonel Cook Attacked, and
Fight for Three Hours 584-629

CHAPTER XXI.

Encamped on Big Creek Preparation for Storms A
Flood at Fort Hays Kansas Lightning Solicitude
about a Clothes-Line Women to the Rescue Men
Saved from Drowning A New Kind of Ferry-Boat
Catling Guns as Anchors Ghastly Lights Eliza's
Narrative Flora McFlimsey on the Frontier The
Retreat to a Prairie Divide 630-655



Xll CONTENTS.

PAGE

CHAPTER XXII.

Ordered Back to Fort Marker A Drunken Escort
Wild-FlowersColor without Odor Game Wild
Horses A Dromedary on the Plains A Woman
Pioneering A Riddled Stage Our Bed Running
Away Cholera A Contrast Reckoning Chances of
Promotion The Addled Mail-Carrier 656-675

CHAPTER XXIII.

The First Fight of the Seventh Cavalry Reinforce-
ments of Black Troops A Negro's Manoeuvre A
Unique Official Report Peculiar Fortifications
Indian Attack on a Stage A Desperate Running
Fight A Plucky Woman Cholera at Fort Wallace
Return of the Seventh There Swindling Contract-
ors Desertions An Ingenious Prison Fort Wallace
Attacked A Brave and Skillful Sergeant The
Worst Days of the Seventh No Letters General
Custer's March to Fort Harker for Supplies A Day
at Fort Riley Happiness at Last 676-702



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.



Portrait of Major-General George A. Custer Frontispiece.

Maps of Texas in 1866 and in 1886 Page 26

Eliza Cooking Under Fire 43

Sabre Used by General Custer During the War 85

A Mule Lunching From a Pillow 123

General Custer as a Cadet 1 37

Our Bunkies 171

Measuring an Alligator 199

General Custer at the Close ot the War (Aged 25) 265

" Stand There, Cowards, will you, and See an Old Man

Robbed ? " 295

General Custer with his Horse "Vic," Stag-hounds and

Deer-hounds 333

Maps of Kansas in 1866 and Kansas to-day 348

Conestoga Wagon, or Prairie-schooner 351

The Officer's Dress A New-comer for a Call 375

A Suspended Equestrienne 387

General Custer at His Desk in His Library 409

Gun-stand in General Custer's Library 451

Trophies of the Chase in General Custer's Library 467

Whipping Horses to Keep them from Freezing 497

"Well, You are a Warm-blooded Cuss!" 523

Smoking The Pipe of Peace 557

A Buffalo Undecided as to an Attack on General Custer 567

A Buffalo at Bay 573

A Match Buffalo Hunt 607

Gathering and Counting the Tongues 61 1

The Banquet 613

The Addled Letter-carrier 673

Negroes form their own Picket-line 679

An Attack on a Stage-coach 683

xiii



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH



OF



MAJOR-GENERAL GEORGE A. CUSTER.



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF MAJOR-GEN-
ERAL GEORGE A. CUSTER.

/^ENERAL GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUS-
TER was born in New Rumley, Harrison
County, O., December 5, 1839. He was tne e ^ aest
of a family of five children, consisting of four
boys and one girl Thomas, Nevin, Boston and
Margaret. There were three sets of children in the
family, as the father, Emanuel Custer, was a wid-
ower with a son and daughter when he married
Mrs. Kirkpatrick, who also had two sons. There
was such harmony and happiness among them
that outsiders knew no difference between full or
half brothers and sisters, and they themselves al-
most resented the question, saying that it was a sub-
ject they never discussed, nor even thought about.
Armstrong, as he was called at home, became his
father's and mother's idol and pride when he first
began to talk, for he was very bright and extremely
affectionate. His father belonged to the militia of
the county, and took the boy out on training days,
or whenever there happened to be any military dis-
play in the town. Almost the first little speech



2 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

he learned was a line he picked up from a decla-
mation one of his elder brothers was committing
to memory as a school task. His father was
proud, as well as surprised, to hear the little Arm-
strong lisp out one day, waving his tiny arm in
the air, " My voice is for war." How soon this
love for military life became a settled purpose no
one knows, for the boy was reticent as to his
future ; and always tender and considerate of his
invalid mother, he would not hurt her by talking
of leaving home. He only said, as he followed
the plough on his father's farm, that he would not
choose that life for his future. He loved books,
and when his brothers either slept or played at
the nooning time, he lay in the furrow and pored
over the lives of distinguished men or tales of
travel and adventure, that the thoughtful father
denied himself some comfort in order to buy for
his boys.

General Ouster, when asked once in his home how
he came to be able to command a brigade of cav-
alry at the age of twenty-three, attributed a great
deal of the success he had attained to the lesson
of self-control he had learned in teaching school,
and said that the duties of a teacher were an ad-
mirable training for a man who afterward com-
manded troops. The lad Armstrong was deter-
mined to obtain an education, and taught the



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. 3

district school in order to defray his expenses at
an academy at Hopedale. He afterward went
to Monroe, Mich., to avail himself of the ad-
vantages of an excellent academy for boys, and
paid his way by working- for his half-sister, with
whom he lived. During this time of work and
study his mind was fixed on entering the military
academy at West Point. He consulted no one,
but on his return to Ohio he framed such a manly,
earnest letter to the Member of Congress from his
father's district, the Hon. John A. Bingham, that,
though opposed in politics, he could not refuse,
and out of eleven applications departed from the
usual rule, and gave the appointment to the son
of one who was not his constituent.

The leaving-taking at home was the first trial
for the boy Armstrong. His choice of profession
was a surprise and a great trial to the devoted
mother, but she was a superior woman, and real-
ized that she had reared a son whose life could
not be circumscribed by the narrow confines of
his father's farm. Cadet life was a period of al-
most uninterrupted happiness, but, though quick
in mastering his tasks, his buoyant, fun-loving
temperament kept Cadet Custer very near the
foot of the class. He was wont to say, laugh-
ingly, in after years, that it required more skill to
graduate next to the foot, as he did, than to be at



4 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

the head of the list ; as, to keep within one of
going out, and yet escape being dropped, was a
serious problem.

He was graduated in the June of 1861, and was
too eager for active service to take the usual leave
of absence, but reported for duty at Washington
at once. Having had the privilege of choosing
the profession he liked, his enthusiasm at the pros-
pect of entering at once into the field had but one
serious side. He was deeply attached to his
Southern classmates ; and those with whom he had
parted with sadness, as one by one they returned
to their seceding State, were now to be arraigned
before him on an opposite side. But though they
afterward fought one another constantly during
the war, the attachment of cadet days was too
deep-seated to be disturbed. After the surrender
at Appomattox he met and entertained at his
headquarters his Southern classmates, while on the
night of the surrender seven Confederate generals,
whom he had captured, shared his tent and slept
under the same blankets with him.

On the 20th of July, 1861, Lieutenant Custer
reported for duty to the adjutant-general of the
army, and was intrusted with despatches from
General Scott to General McDowell. After deliver-
ing the despatches at 3 o'clock in the morning, at
the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, he



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.



5



reported for duty to the Fifth Cavalry, to which he
had been assigned. He was wont to say, laughingly,
that he "reached the front just in time to run with all
the rest" after the disastrous day at Bull Run. His
comrades represent him as the hardest rider among
them. If the regiment was relieved, and ordered
to turn into quarters for recuperation, Lieutenant
Custer, after seeing to the feeding of his horse,
obtained permission to be absent from his com-
mand, and was off, as his fellow-soldiers described
it, "smelling out another fight." He became lean
and haggard, though perfectly well, and his un-
groomed horse was also gaunt from hard service.
On one of these expeditions about the Army of
the Potomac, which stretched for miles over the
country, General Kearney, who was also a hard
rider and an untiring soldier, saw young Custer
and invited him to become a member of his staff.
Lieutenant Custer remained with him until an
order was issued relieving regular officers from
staff duty with volunteer generals. In the win-
ter of 1861-62 he remained with his regiment
and served in the defenses of Washington,
engaging in the Manassas and Peninsula cam-
paigns; and at Cedar Run he led his squadron in a
charge against the Confederate pickets, and forced
them to retire across the stream. He marched
with his regiment when the Army of the Potomac



6 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

changed its base to the Peninsula; and at Warwick
was selected as assistant to the chief of engineers
on the staff of General (Baldy) Smith, retaining
that position until the army halted at the Chicka-
hominy River. At the siege of Yorktown he was
engaged in the superintending of the construction
of earthworks, and was also given the duty of
making reconnoissances in a balloon, being among
the first to discover and report the evacuation of
the town. He took part in the battle of Williams-
burg with General Hancock's brigade, and was
highly commended by that officer after leading^
two regiments to an important position near Fort
Magruder. He commanded a company in an
important skirmish at New Bridge, near Cold
Harbor, on May 24, which was the result of a
reconnoissance to secure information concerning^
the fords and roads in that vicinity and to attack
the enemy, who were reported encamped near the
bridge.

General McClellan's headquarters were about
a mile from the Chickahominy River, and it was
desirous that a safe crossing for the army should
be discovered. Lieutenant Custer, in one of his
customary sallies by himself, in search of any
portion of the army that might be having a
skirmish, met General Barnard, of General McClel-
lan's staff, and offered to try for the ford for which



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. 7

the chief engineer of the army was looking. He
not only found a safe and firm crossing to the
opposite bank, but concluded, while over there,
to make a reconnoissance to ascertain what he
could of the position of the enemy. The Gen-
eral in vain attempted, by gestures, to deter him
from this venturesome deed. He reported, on his
return, that the principal picket guard could be
captured by determined men.

General Barnard could not pass such conduct by
unnoticed, and asked the dripping, muddy lieuten-
ant to his headquarters. It was in this predicament
he first met General McClellan, with his brilliant
staff, described then as resembling the glittering tail
of a meteor as they rode behind their chief in full
uniform. Lieutenant Custer was a sorry sight. He
often laughed, in describing himself in after years,
and drew a comical contrast between his Rozi-
nante of a horse, rough, muddy and thin, his own
splashed, weather-worn clothes, and the superbly
equipped men who confronted him. After the chief
engineer had reported what the young lieutenant
had accomplished, General McClellan rode up to
him, and asked if he would like to become one of
his staff. He accepted the appointment at once,
and was made aide-de-camp of volunteers, with
the rank of captain, to date from June 5, 1862.
He immediately asked to be permitted to attack



8 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL OUSTER.

the picket guard he had discovered that day, and
at daylight next morning surprised the enemy,
who retreated so hastily that they left their dead
and wounded on the field. He took some prison-
ers, and had also the honor to take the first colors
that were captured by the Army of the Potomac.

While on the staff of General McClellan he par-
ticipated in the battle of Fair Oaks, the seven
days' fighting, including the battles of Gaines's
Mill and Malvern Hill, the skirmish in White Oak
Swamp, and the evacuation of the Peninsula.

After General McClellan was relieved from the
command of the army, Captain Custer continued
on his personal staff, and later was engaged in
the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, and
the pursuit of the enemy to Warrenton. At this
time he was promoted in his regiment from second
to first lieutenant, to date from July 17, 1862.
He took part in the brilliant cavalry engagement
at Barbee's Cross-roads on November 5, as a
representative of the headquarters staff, and two
days after he followed General McClellan into
retirement. He was devoted to General McClel-
lan, and was grieved and keenly disappointed
when his chief was retired from active service.
The last magazine article he ever wrote, published
after his death, spoke with enthusiasm, affection,
and faith undisturbed after fourteen vears. In



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. g

like manner General McClellan bore testimony to
his unwavering friendship for his old aide-de-camp
in "McClellan's Own Story," published after his
death by Webster & Co.

While Captain Custer was on waiting orders he
remained in his half-sister's home, Monroe, Mich.,
among the schoolmates and friends of several
years before. As it was winter, and no active
operations were going on at the front, he was not
Impatient, and the time did not drag. It was in
Monroe that he met his wife, the daughter of
Judge Daniel S. Bacon, and, but for the Judge's
opposition to military life for his only daughter,
they would have then been married. On March
31, 1863, he was discharged from volunteer com-
mission, and joined his company at Capitol Hill,
D. C., on the 3d of April, where he served until
May 15, and was appointed aide-de-camp to Gen-
eral Pleasonton, participated in the closing opera-
tions of the Rappahannock campaign, was en-
gaged in the action at Brandy Station ; and for
daring gallantry in the skirmish at Aldie he was
appointed a brigadier-general of volunteers, to
date from June 29, 1863, and was assigned to the
Michigan brigade, which he soon made famous.
The men of his brigade adored him, and used to
boast to their comrades in other commands, " Our
boy-general never says ' Go in, men !' HE says, with



10 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

that whoop and yell of his, ' Come on, boys !' and
in we go, you bet."

General Custer was then twenty-three years of
age, the youngest general in the service ; his
golden hair fell .in curls on his shoulders, in obey-
ance to a boyish whim and a bet that he would
not cut it till the war was ended. On his lip was
his first downy mustache, but his keen eye marked
the determination and ability to command, while
his valor was, as the soldiers said, of that sort that
asks no man to go where he does not lead. He
joined the Third Cavalry Division on the 2gth of
June, at Hanover, Pa., and participated in the
Pennsylvania campaign, and was engaged on the
ist of July in a skirmish with the enemy's cavalry.
He had a horse killed under him on the 2d of
July, while leading a company of the Sixth Michi-
gan Cavalry in a charge near Hunterstown. He
was conspicuous on the right of the army at the
battle of Gettysburg, in conjunction with the
brigades of Gregg and Mclntosh, in defeating
General Stuart's effort to turn that flank. He
moved on the morning of the 4th with the Third
Cavalry Division in pursuit of the enemy, and
was engaged in the skirmishes at the Monterey
House and Hagerstown, the actions at Williams-
port (6th and i4th), Boonesboro', Funkstown
and Falling Waters, and was made a brevet



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. 1 1

major, to date from July 3, 1863, for gallant and
meritorious services at the battle of Gettysburg.

He was then employed in central Virginia till
the end of the year, and was engaged in the
skirmish at King George Court House, and in the
advance toward and skirmish at Culpeper Court
House (September 13), where a piece of shell
wounded him on the inside of the thigh, and
killed his horse. He was disabled for field service
until the 8th of October. Accepting twenty days
leave of absence, he went to Monroe, Mich., to
again petition Judge Bacon for his daughter's
hand. He was met with great cordiality, offered
the sincerest congratulations, commended as only



Online LibraryElizabeth Bacon CusterTenting on the plains, or, General Custer in Kansas and Texas → online text (page 1 of 39)