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a small dark spot on the prairie. Still no signs of
the command approaching. A slight doubt as to
the correctness of my course began to arise, when
I saw the tops of the wagons as they were making
their way up a small ravine. They were then
some two miles distant, so I patiently sat down
and awaited their coming. You should have se.en
the surprise of the officers when they found me
entirely alone on the prairie, without a horse being
in sight. An explanation followed, an officer sent
a party after my saddle, bridle and coat, and a
horse was loaned me, as I had left Phil and Fan-
chon with General Smith.



5 70 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

" So endeth the first lesson in buffalo-chasing.
But the second is not like unto it. On the horse
that was loaned me I again set out, this time nearer
the command. I soon saw a couple of buffalo
near by, and gave chase ; was alongside in no time,
and began pouring the contents of a revolver into
the side of one of them. My second shot brought
him down, but he was on his feet almost immedi-
ately and going off at a good rate. Again I was
alongside, and brought him to bay with another
shot, killing him readily.

" You have doubtless heard of the massacre of
the three men at the stage-station (Lookout Sta-
tion) about twenty miles from this post. The
station and hay-stables were burned, and the men
so badly burned as scarcely to be recognizable.
I was the first of the command to reach them, as
I was looking for a camp. Some men had been up
the day before (the i6th; the massacre was on the
1 5th) and partly buried the corpses. But the
wolves had been there, uncovered the bodies, and
eaten the flesh from the legs. The hair was burned
from their heads. It could not be determined
whether they had been burned alive or after being
killed. The flesh was roasted and crisped from
their faces and bodies, and altogether it was one
of the most horrible sights imaginable."

" NEAR FORT HAYS, April 22, 1867.
" The inaction to which I am subjected now,
in our present halt, is almost unendurable. It re-
quires all the buoyancy of my sanguine disposition
to resist being extremely homesick. Hitherto I
have been comparatively contented, and able to
divert my thoughts from home to incidents and
occurrences of the march, but even that poor pre-
text is denied me here. You little imagine how



HOSTILITIES PRODUCE WAR. 571

great the sacrifice is to me. . . . Our train
from Barker will probably arrive to-night, and
we shall leave, soon after it reaches us, for Dodge.
A note from headquarters last night said General
Hancock was moderating in his desire for war.
God grant it may be true ! . . . I can hardly
devote the proper time and attention to my daily
duties. ... I am almost determined that,
come what may, you must and shall join me
wherever I am this summer.

" If Indian hostilities should be the result of this
expedition, and I am sent off independently dur-
ing the summer, as I am at present, I believe you
can go with me. The fatigues of the march will
be all that you will have to contend against, and
these will not be greater than those encountered
in going through Texas. As for overtaking the
Indians, it is almost an impossibility. Our horses
cannot endure the marching that their ponies can,
fed upon nothing but prairie-grass."

"FoRT HAYS, April 23, 1867.

" Yesterday two couriers came from headquar-
ters, bringing with them an order assigning me
to the command of all the troops and posts on the
Smoky Hill route. My command extends west as
far as Denver, and north and south as far as I choose
to go. I can now have you with me very soon.

" War has been declared against the Sioux and
Cheyennes ; but you need not let this fact give
you any unnecessary trouble or anxiety, as I be-
lieve the hostile Indians are going north, beyond
the limits of this Department. The present state of
affairs was all anticipated when I sent you General
Hancock's letter ; but, with the hope that open
hostilities might be averted, I refrained from re-
ferring to that. However, the Indians, by their



572 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

late cold-blooded and heartless massacres, have
precipitated a war, the consequences of which
must rest with them. Two companies of the
Seventh had a fight a few days since, near Cim-
maron Crossing. Six Indians were killed. We
had two men killed and an infantry officer
wounded. I have ordered a line of couriers to
be established between here and Fort Barker,
consisting of six non-commissioned officers, so
that we can have a mail three times a week, and
but about ten hours between here and Harker.
This post is not a regular mail-station, and some-
times our mail is carried on to Denver and back.
Our couriers will obviate this difficulty."

" FORT HAYS, April 25, 1867.

" Oh, I was so tempted and provoked to-day !
The Superintendent of the Overland Route called
upon me, on his way from Denver to Junction
City. He and the Division Superintendent had a
car to themselves, and he offered me a seat in it.
Only think ; in thirty hours I would have been at
Riley ! I was tempted with the offer, and pro-
voked at my inability to accept it. ... The
Superintendent called to consult with me regard-
ing the protection of the Overland Route. I
have issued orders for the infantry to move out
to-morrow, and there will be five men at each
mail-station, while in addition there will be five
road employees, all well armed. If you were
alone, I would have the Superintendent bring you
back with him. Now, are you sorry you did not
go home like the other ladies, to spend the sum-
mer ? I need not ask, for I know nothing would
induce you to go so far away that you would lose
the chance of coming to camp.

" I have not been a hundred yards from my



574



TENTING ON THE PLAINS.



tent since we reached here, not even to the post,
half a mile away. I was lying on my pallet to-day,
thinking over my blessings, and I could not help
uttering a prayer of gratitude to God, for all that
he has bestowed on me, and asking that I might
be made worthy, and be led to pursue such a moral
life that others might be benefited by my example.
" I read most of the time, and through the Doc-
tor I have enjoyed some interesting books. I have
been absorbed to-day in a scientific book entitled
' Origin of the Stars.' In reading a book of poems,
I came across the following lines, which so nearly
express my views, and also what I endeavor to
make my rule of thought, that I copy them for
you :

" ' Blest, indeed, is he who never fell,

But blest much more, who from the verge of hell
Climbs up to Paradise; for sin is sweet,
Strong is temptation, willing are the feet
That follow pleasure; manifold her snares,
And pitfalls lurk beneath our very prayers.
Yet God, the clement, the compassionate,
In pity of our weakness, keeps the gate
Of pardon open, scorning not to wait
Till the last moment when His mercy throws
A splendor from the shade of Azrael's wings.

O Man ! be charity thy aim,

Praise cannot harm, but weigh thy words of blame,
Distrust the virtue that itself exalts,
And turn to that which doth avow its faults.
Pardon, not wrath, is God's best attribute.' "



"NEAR FORT HAYS, April 30, 1867.
" Letters from you have not reached me as they
should. ' Something wrong seemed a-brewing.' In
all my life I do not remember anything that has been
so unceasingly on my mind; but to-day Richard was
himself again : I received your letter of Tuesday.



A SPECK ON THE HORIZON.



575



The irregularity of the mails is terribly trying.
After your letter came, I felt like a ride; so, order-
ing my horse, slinging my field-glass over my
shoulder, and strapping my revolver about my
waist, I galloped off to a fine knoll, about a mile
and a half distant, from which, I rightly conject-
ured, an extensive view of the surrounding coun-
try might be obtained. Arriving there, I dis-
mounted, and throwing the rein over my arm,
began admiring the landscape. I looked long and
with increasing interest until, far toward the East,
I discovered two dark specks apparently approach-
ing. I waited long enough to distinguish that
they were two buggies a most unusual sight in
these regions. I became interested, for I knew it
was not the coach, whose arrival was expected.
To reach the road and intercept them, it was
necessary to traverse about two miles of prairie.
Who knows, I said, but there may be news for
me ! To entertain this thought was to act upon
it, and in a moment I was in the saddle and head-
ing for the road, as if on ' the ride for life.' Lu,
Sharp and Rover vainly endeavored to keep up
with me. * Arriving at the road just in time, whom
should I see but the Division Superintendent and
express messenger! Who will deny that 'there is a
destiny that shapes our ends '? After handshaking,
the first words were inquiries of Riley, and the mes-
senger answered, ' I have letters for you.' We then
rode on together to camp. Although glad to see
them I could hardly wait till they took their de-
parture, so eager was I to devour my letters. . .
" I have sent for Comstock, the scout, to join me.
He is delighted at the idea, and has an A tent
directly in rear of mine. Yesterday several of the
officers were out buffalo-hunting, and one of them
accidently shot his horse, and also a large buffalo-



5 76 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

dog belonging to Company E, which at the time
had the buffalo by the nose. The dog will recover.
Four of the hunting-party were lost, wandered
about all night, and finally arrived at a station ten
miles away. I am still confident of seeing you ;
for I cannot believe that affairs will assume that
shape which will separate us this summer.

"Take a dark view of it, and grant that we
have an Indian war : we must have a base of
supplies, to which we shall go at brief intervals;
and at such a place you could be safe, All will
yet be well. You will find some more horse-shoes.

"Tell Eliza I am on the search for an Indian
husband for her one that won't bother her much
to sew buttons on his shirts or trousers, and his
washing won't be heavy, and one dish will satisfy
him for one meal, provided it is stewed puppies.

"I have the funniest pet now. It is a young
beaver. He is quite tame ; runs about the tent,
follows me, and when I lie down on the bed to
read, he cuddles up under my gown or on my arm
and goes to sleep. He cries exactly like a baby
two days old. A person outside the tent would
think there was a nursery in here, if he could hear
it about 2 o'clock in the morning. I feed it from
my hand at the table. Its tail is perfectly flat. I
am going to tell Eliza that it used to be round,
but a wagon ran over it. Its hind feet are webbed
like a duck's ; its fore feet are like hands."



"NEAR FORT HAYS, May 2, 1867.
" It never rains but it pours : I have had nine
letters to-day. Did you ever read of a man at
death's door being restored to life, of a drowning
man saved, or of a person long imprisoned in dark-
ness given back to light and liberty ? No miser



A CANINE STEW.

with his gold ever gloated over his possessions as
I do to-day. You cannot imagine or realize the
state I have been in for the last ten days. As
General Gibbs has told you that I darn the holes
in my socks by tying knots, I shall forward charges
of slander against him. Tell him, as he wants
men for the band, as soon as the other companies
arrive, I will send him every man that ever played
on any instrument, from a curry-comb to a thresh-
ing-machine, including , who I know can play

on an instrument called poker, that is, if he can
find the music for this instrument.

"I thought of Alfred and Blair when we sur-
rounded the Indian camp,'at the time we supposed
the village occupied. There were dogs of all ages,
sexes and sizes. In one of the lodges we found
young puppies, in another we found in a camp-
kettle a mess of stewed dogs. The Indians ran
off so hurridly they left all their cooking-utensils
and meat, some of which was being prepared for

the evening meal. Dr. C was the victim of a

good joke. He is of an inquiring turn of mind,
always anxious to see everything and judge for
himself, and he was about the first to discover the
camp-kettle containing the dogs. ' Fortunate occur-
ence,' thought the Doctor ; ' here is an opportunity
seldom found, of judging of the Indian mode of
preparing buffalo-meat to be eaten. Happy
thought !' The Doctor fished out of the kettle a
large piece of the supposed buffalo-meat, and with
an apparently good appetite fell to and ate heartily.
There is no means of telling how long his enjoy-
ment might have continued, had not my half-
breed guide come up at that moment and exam-
ined the contents of the kettle. Taking out a
portion, he exclaimed, ' It is dog ! ' The Doctor
took the laugh quite coolly, remarking, ' I don't



578 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

care ; it's good, any how.' I forgot, also, to tell you
in a former letter about the only occupant of the
Indian camp. It was a little half-breed girl. We
found her half naked. She was perhaps eight or
nine years old. It is all true that you have heard
about the Indians' treatment of the little creature.
I had the Doctor make an examination, and he
found she was in a horrible condition. She was
almost insensible when we discovered her, and
after recovering sufficiently to talk she said ' the
Indian men did her bad.'

" Wo be unto these Indians, if ever I overtake
them ! The chances are, however, that I shall not
see any of them, it being next to impossible to
overtake them when they are forewarned and
expecting us, as they now are. I wrote a very
strong letter, a week or ten days ago, against an
Indian war, picturing, as strongly as I could, the
serious results that must follow, in the way of put-
ting a stop to travel on the overland route, and
interfering with the work of the Pacific Railroad,
all of which would be a national calamity. I re-
garded the outrages that have been committed
lately as not the work of a tribe, but of small and
irresponsible parties of young men, who are eager
for war. The stampede of the Indians from the
village, I attributed entirely to fear. I closed with
the hope that my opinion would be received in
the light intended, and that, if a war was finally
to be waged, none would enter it more determined
or earnest than I. My opinion is, that we are not
yet justified in declaring war.

" This evening I notified the companies that on
Saturday, the 4th, we would have a foot-race, up-
on the following conditions : Distance, three
hundred yards ; the company producing the win-
ner to be excused from guard and fatigue duty



DIVERSIONS FOR IDLE MEN.



579



one week, the winner to be excused from the same
duty twenty days. I had orderly call sounded,
and the sergeant-major notified the eight first-
sergeants of the race. They went back to their
companies, and the excitement began when they
set about ascertaining who was the fastest man
in each company . There was constant cheering,
clapping of hands, and laughing until dark. All
seemed deeply interested in the event. I intro-
duced it to give the men exercise, innocent amuse-
ment, and something to do to keep them out of
mischief.

"It is also proposed that the officers of the
Seventh and those of the post united, divide into
two parties, and each go buffalo-hunting, the
party that kills the smallest number of buffalo to

Cay the expenses of a supper for the entire num-
er. So you see we are endeavoring to pass the
time as pleasantly as possible.

" I wish you were here to go buffalo-hunting.
I know you will enjoy it. You will be carried
away with excitement. Nothing so nearly ap-
proaches a cavalry charge and pursuit as a buffalo-
chase. I am so glad that you have been so pru-
dent and thoughtful as to provide a sheet-iron
stove. It will be invaluable to us. There are
times during high winds, rains or storms, when it
is impossible to cook by an out-door fire. Where
did you learn all this ? If I had not known you,
I would imagine that you had crossed the Plains
several times. Comstock messes with me. I like
to have him with me, for many reasons. He is a
worthy man, and I am constantly obtaining valu-
able information from him regarding the Indians,
their habits, etc. He brought a large dog with
him, which he values highly and calls ' Cuss/ an
abbreviation of Custer."



580 TENTING ON 7 'HE PLAINS.

" HALF-PAST i IN THE MORNING,
" NEAR FORT HAYS, May 4, 1867.

" I have this minute returned from General
Hancock's tent, where I have been since dark. He
leaves for Leaven worth in the morning, General
Smith accompanying him. You can return with
the latter. He is delighted with the idea of bring-
ing you, and will do anything in his power to
render your trip comfortable. We have a beauti-
ful camp, and you will be delighted with the
country. Have a box made for the chickens, to
fasten on behind the wagons. You had better
have Turk, the bull-dog, and the setters led
through the town. Bring plenty of calico dresses.
I hope to see you before the 2oth of May. Where
is Fox River now ?

"To MRS. GENERAL CUSTER,
" Fox RIVER STATION."

"NEAR FORT HAYS,

"May 6, 1867.

" I must tell you about the foot-race. After
dinner we walked up on the hill to see the eight
picked men test their speed. It was quite excit-
ing. The men wore only their shirts, drawers,
and stockings. The race was won by an A Com-
pany man. An E Company man was in ad-
vance, but tripped, and fell just before reaching
the goal. Everybody seemed interested. After
that came a horse-race, one quarter of a mile,
between an H Company horse on the part of the
cavalry, and an infantry horse from the post.
The infantry was very sanguine of success, their
horse never having been beaten ; but, as fortune
favors the brave, the cavalry horse won hand-
somely."



AN ORDER FOR "DOUBLE-QUICK." 581

"9:30 P. M. NEAR FORT HAYS, May 7, 1867.

" Will you be contented with a brief letter, as
our hunt came off to-day, and I have ridden fifty
miles ? The other party competing goes out to-
morrow. Our party of seven officers killed
twelve buffalo. One of the officers of the other
party has been here, trying to find out how many
we killed. But we shall hide the tongues, which
it was agreed should be the tally, and keep our
day's work a secret till they return.

" I cannot help regretting that I did not think
of what you suggested in time ; that is, that I
send to Saline for your household goods. It
would expedite your coming. Oh, how I wish we
had telegraphic communication ! Send letters
by the stages that pass you on your march here.
Let nothing delay you a single day. Leave Gen-
eral Smith, if he is delayed, and come on in
advance, if you have an opportunity. Do not let
the grass grow under your feet."

"FoRT MCPHERSON, June 17, 1867.

"I have delayed writing to you until I could
learn from General Sherman something positive
regarding my future movements. I now know.
Be brave ! ' It is always darkest just before day.'
General Sherman says I may not return to the
Smoky Hill route until nearly winter, but he says
that you can come to me here, and wondered
why I did not bring you. General Sherman says
he will direct the quartermaster at Omaha to
arrange for passes ; but do not for the world let
that detain you. Money is no consideration !

" I am fully aware of the great undertaking be-
fore you. Perhaps you had better await a des-
patch from me at Sedgwick ; but if either Gen-
eral Hancock or General Smith will give you the



582 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

assistance you need, you will avoid delay. If
General Smith should send a company on a scout
to Fort McPherson, you could come with them.
If you can get a chance to come to Wallace, I
will send a squadron there to meet you. I like
this last plan best of all. I only fear you may
not have your saddle with you. I trust so, as
you will have considerable marching" on horse-
back to do. The ranchmen along the Platte are
so stampeded that General Sherman thinks the
Seventh should remain here until all difficulties are
settled, and this may not be until winter ; but
General Sherman says that General Hancock
may make a fuss about taking me away from
him, and ask to have me back. If you see Gen-
eral Hancock, ask him to make a fuss at once ;
in that case, you would await me on the Smoky
Hill route. I am on a roving commission, going
nowhere in particular, but where I please. I can-
not advise as to which course you should pursue.
Your judgment will meet the crisis. Once here,
you will stay, even if we have nothing but a
shelter-tent. Now that General Sherman says
you can come, do not let General Hancock or
General Smith have any peace until they send you
to Wallace."

" FORKS OF THE REPUBLICAN RIVER,
" TWENTY-FIVE MILES FROM FORT WALLACE,

"June 22, 1867.

" You cannot imagine my anxiety regarding
your whereabouts, for the reason that, if you are
now at Wallace, you can join me in about six
days, and we can be together all summer. I wrote
twice from McPherson, telling you how to reach
me by way of Wallace. I am expected to keep
the Indians quiet on the Platte route to Denver.



THE APPROACH OF A REUNION. 583

They are pretty well scared. I have already
made peace with ' Pawnee Killer ' and his band of
Sioux the same that owned the lodges that were
destroyed. It was intended that I should draw
my supplies from Fort Sedgwick, but I am now
equidistant from there and Wallace, and Corn-
stock reports the road from here to Sedgwick al-
most impassable for trains, owing to the scarcity
of water, while that to Wallace is good. I there-
fore send to Wallace. Mr. Cook will set out this
evening at sunset, with twelve wagons and a com-
pany of cavalry as escort, a second company
going half-way and there awaiting his return.
Mr. Cook will return in six days, so you see what
a splendid opportunity this is to join me. I hear
that General Hancock is at Wallace. If so, Gen-
eral Smith is doubtless with him, and has taken
you along. I never was so anxious in my life. I
will remain here until Mr. Cook returns with the
rations and you, I hope. Now, to prepare for
emergencies, you may still be at Hays. I hope
not, but, thinking you might, I will act accord-
ingly. I want Comstock to see General Smith,
and will send him to Hays. If you are still there,
Comstock will take this letter to you and bring
your reply.

" Tellme when you can be at Wallace, and I will
send a squadron there for you. Our marching
will not be hard for you ; although we sometimes
make thirty-five miles a day, it is not usual."



CHAPTER XX.

SACRIFICES AND SELF-DENIAL OF PIONEER DUTY POOR

WATER AND ALKALINE DUST VAGARIES OF WEST-
ERN WATER-WAYS DIGGING IN SUNKEN STREAM-
BEDS FOR WATER RIVERS UNFRINGED BY TREES

OR SHRUBS THE ALLURING MIRAGE A SHORT

TRIBUTE TO THE WESTERN PIONEERS THEIR EN-
DURANCE, PATIENCE AND COURAGE THE GOV-
ERNOR OF A WESTERN TERRITORY SHINES AS A

COOK AS WELL AS A STATESMAN THE GENERAL

WRITES OF HIS FIRST BUFFALO-HUNT AN ACCI-
DENTAL DISCHARGE OF HIS PISTOL KILLS MY HORSE,
CUSTIS LEE GENERAL SHERMAN AS A SPECIAL PROV-
IDENCE THE WESTERN TOWN ON A MOVE GOV-
ERNMENT 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 RECEP-
TION GIVEN BY THE ELEMENTS ON OUR ARRIVAL

THE TENT GOES DOWN A SCOUT TO FORT M*PHER-

SON A SENTINEL FIRES ON HIS FRIENDS BY MIS-
TAKE GENERAL CUSTER SENDS ESCORT TO TAKE

US TO HIS CAMP CAPTAIN ROBBINS AND COLONEL

COOK ATTACKED, AND FIGHT FOR THREE HOURS.

TT is a source of regret, as these pages grow daily

under my hand, that I have not the power to

place before the country the sacrifices and noble

584



THE HE A TED EARTH. 585

courage endured by the officers and soldiers of
our army in their pioneer work. I, can only por-
tray, in the simplest manner, what I saw them en-
dure unmurmuringly, as I was permitted to follow
in the marches and campaigns of our regiment. I
find that it is impossible to make the life clear to
citizens, even when they ask me to describe
personally something of frontier days, unless they
may have been over the Plains in their journeys
to and from the Pacific coast. Even then, they
look from the windows of the Pullman car on to
the desert, white with alkali, over which the heat
rises in waves, and upon earth that struggles to give
even life to the hardy cactus or sage-brush. Then
I find their attention is called to our army, and I



Online LibraryElizabeth Bacon CusterTenting on the plains, or, General Custer in Kansas and Texas → online text (page 32 of 39)