George Pfauts Belden.

Belden, the white chief; or, Twelve years among the wild Indians of the plains online

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still, grasping my pistols, and determined to sell my life as
dearly as possible, and make it cost the red-skins at least three
of their number.

'^ After awhile the Indians got tired searching for me,
and drew off to consult. I saw the party that had gone in
pursuit of Selim rejoin their companions, and I* was not a
little gratified to observe they did not bring back my gal-
lant steed with them, from which I knew he had made his
escape.

*' The Indians mounted and rode down the ravine, examin-
ing every inch of ground for my trail. As I saw them move
off hope onoe more revived in my breast; but in an hour they
came back and again searched the drift. At last, however,
they went off without finding me, and I lay down to rest, so
exhausted was I, fi:om watching and excitement, that I could
not stand. I knew I did not dare to sleep, for it was very
cold, and a stupor would come upon me. All tiiat day and
night and the next day I lay in the drift, for I knew the In-
dians were watching it.

^^On the second night, as soon as it was dark, I crawled
out, and worked my way to tiie foot of the ravine. At first
I was so stiff and numb I could hardly move hand or foot,
but as I crawled along the blood b^an to warm up, and soon
I was able to walk. I crept cautiously along the blufb until
I had cleared the ravine, and liien, striking out on the oi^exk
prairie, steered to the northward. Fortunately, the first day
oat I shot an antelope and got some raw meat^ which kept me



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B£LD£N: THfi WHITE CHIEF. 3J7

from starving. In two days and a half I reached the camp,
nearly dead from &tigue and hunger, and was thoroughly glad
to be at home in my tent once more^with a whole scalp on my
head/'

We had not found an Indian village, and none of us got the
1500, but we had all had a glorious adventure, and that to a
frontiersman is better than money.



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318 BELDEN: THE WHITE CHIEF.



CHAPTER XLVII.

■irVTlNO WILD TURKET8 ON THB KBDIOIKB— THB LOST TRAIL— WAITIXe >0S
THE OOHHAND— BAG A FINE ELK — HUNTING FOB THB TBAIL — TWO INDIANS—
WB OAHP OUT— AN AD7ENTUBB WITH WOLVES— CATOTBS AND BUFFALO
WOLVES — NINE DEAD WOLVES — THB FATAL LEAP — ^A BUSY NIGHT — ON THB
MARCH— THB TRAIL LOST— CAMP OUT AGAIN — ^MORB WOLVES — CANNIBALS-
STRIKING FOR HOMB-^HB CAMP FOUND— IN MY OWN TENT — ^PLEASANT RB-
FLBOTIONS AND REST.

%llTHILE we lay in camp on Medicine Creek, Colonel
^ * Brown sent for me, and ordered me to look up and
map the country. I was detached as a topographical engineer,
and this order relieved me from all company duty, and en^
abled me to go wherever I pleased, which was not a little grat-
ifying to one so fond of rambling about.

Packing my traps on my pony one day, I set out down the
Medicine ahead of the command, intending to hunt wild tur-
keys until near night, and then rejoin the command before it
went into camp. The creek bottom was alive with turkeys,
the cold Weather having driven them to take shelter among the
bushes that lined the creek. I had not gone far when a dense
fog arose, shutting out all objects, even at the distance of a few
feet. It was a bad day for hunting, but presently as I rode
along I heard a turkey gobble close by, and, dismounting, I
crept through the bushes and peered into the fog as well as J



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belden: the white chief. 319

could. I saw several dark objects, and drawing up my double-
barreled shot-gun, fired at them. Hardly bad the noise of the
explosion died away, when I heard ^a great flopping in the
bushes, and on going up to it found a large turkey making his
last kicks. I picked him up and was about to turn away,
when I saw another fine old gobbler desperately wounded, but
trying to crawl off. I ran after him, but he hopped along so
fast I was obliged to give him the contents of my other barrel
to keep him from getting away into the thick brush.

I had now two fine turkeys, and, as the day was bad, de-
termined to go no further, but ascend the bluffs and wait for
the command. I went out on the prairie, and made a diligent
search for the old trail, but, as it was covered some seven
inches deep with snow, I could not' find it. Knowing the
command* would pass near the creek, I went back to hlint,
thinking I would go up after it had passed, strike the trail,
and follow it into camp.

I had not gone far down the creek when I ran into a fine
elk, and knocked him over with my Henry uifle. I cut off the
choice pieces, and, packing them on my pony, once more set
out to find the trail. I knew the command had not passed,
and ascended the highest point on the bluff, straining my eyes
to see if I could not discover it moving. I waited several
hours, but not finding it, I concluded it had not marched by
the old trail, but struck straight across the country. I now
moved up the creek, determined to keep along it^ bank until
I came to the 6ld camp, and then follow the trail. I had not
gone far when I came upon two Indians who belonged to my
company, and who were also looking for the command.

Night was coming on, the wind rising, and the air growing
bitter cold, so I said to the Indians we would go down tne



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320 BELDEX: THE WHITE CHIEF.

creek where there was plenty of dry wood, and make a night
camp. They readily assented, and we set out, arriving at a
fine grove just before dark.

While one of the Indians gathered wood, the other one and
I cleared away the snow to make a place for our camp. The
snbw in the bottom was nearly three feet deep, and when we
had bared the ground a high wall was piled up all around
us. The wood was soon brought, and a bright fire blazing.
After warming ourselves we opened a passage through the
snow for a short distance, and, clearing another spot, led our
horses into this most perishable of stables. Obr next care
was to get them some Cottonwood limbs to eat,''* and then we
gathered small dry limbs and made a bedstead of them on
which to spread our blankets. Piling on more wood until the
fire roared and cracked, we sat down in the heat of the blaze,
feeling quite comfortable, except that we were desperately
hungry. Some coals were raked out, the neck of the elk cut
off and spitted on a stick to roast. When it was done we
divided it, and, sprinkling it with a little pepper and salt from
our haversacks, had as savory and wholesome a repast as any
epicure might desire. After supper, hearing the cayotes howl-
ing in the woods below, I had the Indians bring in my saddle,
to which was strapped the elk meat, and, cutting the limb off a
tree close by iiie fire, we lifted the saddle astride of the stump
60 high up that the wolves could not reach it. All being new

^The Indiana often feed their horses on eottonwood limbs. Officers
on tbe plains give their horses eottonwood to eat when they can get
nc feed or grass, and say the bark of the eottonwood is ahnost as
autritioas as hay. A horse will chew up limbs as thick as a man^s
thumb, and in winter-time eat the bark off every eottonwood tree he can
i^aoh — Kdttor.



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BELDEN: THE WHTTE CHIEF. 321

in readiness for the nighty we filled our pipes and sat down to
snioke and talk.

At nine o'clock the Indians replenished the fire^ and^ feeling
sleepy, I wrapped myself in my blankets and lay down to rest
I soon fell asleep^ and slept well until near midnight, when I
was awakened by the snapping and snarling of the wolves near
the fire. The wood had burned down to a bed of coals, and
gave but a faint light, but I could see a dozen pair of red eyes
glaring at me over the edge of the snow-bank. The Indians,
were sound asleep^ and, knowing they wm*e very tired, I did not
awake them, but got my gun, and, wrapping myself in my
blankets, sat up by the fire to watch the varmints and warm my
feet. Presently I heard a long wild howl down in the woods,
and knew by the "whirr-ree, whirr-ree'' in it that it proceeded
from the throat of the dreaded buffitlo wolf, or Kosh-^-n^, of
the prairies. There was ' another howl, then another, and
another, and, finally, a loud chorus of a dozen. Instantly
silence fell among the cayotes, and they b^n to scatter. For
a time all was quiet, and if had begun to doze, when suddenly
the coals flew all over me, and I ope<ied my eyes just in time
to see a great gray wolf spring out of the fire and bound up
the snow-bank. I leaped to my feet and peered into the dark-
ness, where I could see scores of dark shadows moving about,
and a black cluster gathered under my saddle. I called the In-
dians, who quietly and nimbly jumped to their feet, and came
forward armed with tfieir revolvers. I told them what had
happened, and that we were surrounded by a large pack of gray
wolves. We had no fear for oursK'lves, but felt uneasy lest
they might attack our horses, who were pawing and snoHing
with alarm. I ^ke to them kindly, and they immediately

beeame quiet. At the suggestion of the Indians I brought

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822 BELDEN : THE WHITE CHIEF.

forwani my revolvers, and we all sat down to watch the vai>«
uiints, and see what they would do.

In a few minutes, a pair of fiery, red eyes, looked down at
us from the snow-bank ; then, another and another pair, until
there were a dozen. We sat perfectly still, and presently one
great gray wolf gathered himself, and made a leap for the elk-
meat on the saddle» He nearly touched it with his nose, but
failed to secure the coveted prize, and fell headlong into the fire.
We fired two shots into him, and he lay still until one of the
Indians pulled him out to keep his hair from burning and
making a disagreeable smell. In about five minutes, another
wolf leaped at the elk-meat and fell at our feet. We dispatched
him as we had done the first one, and then threw him across
the body of his dead brother. So we kept on firing until we
had killed eight wolves, when, tired of killing the brutes with
pistols, I brought out my double-barreled shot gun, and load-
ing each barrel with nine buck-shot, waited until they were
gathered thick under the tree on which hung my meat, and then
let them have it. Every discharge caused some to tumble
down, and sent the rest scampering and howling to the rear.
Presently they became more wary, and I had to fire at them at
long range. •

The Indians now went out and gathered some dry limbs,
and we kindled up a bright fire. Next we threw the car-
casses of the nine dead wolves, that were in our camp,
over the snow-bank, and knowing that the beasts would
not come near our bright fire, two of us lay down to
sleep, while the third remained up to watch and keep the fire
burning.

The cayotes now returned, and with unearthly yells, attacked
theur dead betters, snapping, Snarling, and quarreling over their



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BELDEN: THE WHITE CHIEF. 32J

carcasses as they tore the flesh and craunched the bones of the
dead wolves.

We rose at daylight^ and^ through the dim light, could see
the cayotes trotting ofiF to the swamp, while near the camp lay
heads, legs, and piles of cleanly licked bones, all that was left
of the gray wolves we had killed.

After breakfast, we set out to find the* command, striking
across the country, expecting to come upon the trail. We
tAyeled all day, however, and saw no trail. At night we
camped out again, and were scarcely in camp, when we again
heard the wolves howling all around us. They had followed
us all day, no doubt expecting ahother repast, such as had been
served to them the night before. We, however, kept a bright
fire burning, and no gray wolves came about; so the cayotes
were disappointed, and vented their disappointment all night
long in the most dismal howls I ever heard. At times, it
seemed as though there were five hundred of them, and join-
ing their voices in chorus, they would send up a volume of
sound that resembled the roar of a tempest, or the discordant
dinging of a vast multitude of people.

While we cooked breakfast, a strong picket of wolvet
watched all around the camp, feasting their greedy eyes from a
distance on my elk-meat. When we started from camp, a hun-
dred or more of them followed us, oft;en coming quite close to
the pack-pony, and biting and quarreling about the elk that wa3
never to be their meat. When we halted, they would halt,
and sitting down, loll out their red tongues and lick the
snow. At length, I took my shot-gun, and loading the
barrels, fired into the thickest of the pack. Two or three
were wounded, and no sooner did their companions discover
tliat they were bleeding and disabled, than they fell upon



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324 BELDEN: THE WHITE CHIEF.

them^ tore them to pieces^ and devpured every morsel of thek
flesh. I had seen men who would do the same thing witL
their fellows^ but until I witnessed the contrary with my own
eyes, I had supposed this practice was confined to the superior
brute creation*

The third day out, finding no trace of the command, wo
concluded to go back to the Medicine and seek the old camp,
from which place we could take the trail and follow up until we
came upon it. We reached the Medicine at sun-down, i^
there, to our satisfitction, found tlie troops still in camp, where
we had left them, they not having marched in consequence of
the cold and foggy weather.

I was soon in my own tent and sound asleep, bebg thoroughlf
worn out with \be exposure and &tigue of my long journey.



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BELDEN: THE WHITE CHIEF. 325



CHAPTER XLVIIT.

muTTiira xr font ok the prairib— caught bt Indians— how i fooli»

THEM — ^WAYLAYING THB 8TAOB-0OAGH — A NIOB OCCUPATION FOB A UNITED
STATES OFnCER — A DISAPPOINTMENT TO THB INDIANS, BUT NOT TO ME — THB
INDIANS BBOOMB IMPATIENT AND LBATB — LEFT BEHIND — RTTNNING TO THB
BANCHB — THB COACH — ITS CONDITION — THB ATTACK — THE RESULT — SAFB
AT THB RANOBB.

T WAS aent- down from Camp Cottonwood (now Fort
'^ MdPherson), with thirty men, to Giknan's Banche, fifteen
miles east of Cottonwood on the Platte, where I was to re-
main, .guard the ranche, and furnish guards to Ben Hollidaj's
overland stage coaches. In those days, Oilman's was an
important plac^ and in earlier times, had been a great trading
point for the Sioux. Two or three trails led from the Eepub-
lican to this place, and every winter the Sioux had come in
with their ponies loaded down with buffalo, beaver, elk, and
deer skine^ which they exchanged with the traders at Gilman's*
War had, however, put a stop to these peaceful pursuits ; still
the Sioux could not give up the habit of traveling these favorite
trails. The ponies often come in from the Bopiiblican, not now
laden with flms and robes, but each bearing a load of beastiali^
called a Sioux warrior. The overland coaches offered a great
temptation to the cupidity and vices of the Sioux, and they
were not slow to avail themselves of any opportuni^ to attack



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326 BELDEN; THE WHITE CHIEF.

them. The coaches carried the mails and much treaaure^ aud
if the savages could now and then succeed in capturing one,
they got money, jewels, scalps, horses, and not unfrequently
white women, as 'a reward for their enterprise.

Troops were stationed in small squads at every station^
about ten miles apart, and they rode from station to station on
the top of all coaches, holding their guns ever ready for action.
It was not pleasant, this sitting perched up on top of a coach,
riding through dark ravines and tall grass, in which savages
were ever lurking. Generally, the first fire from the Indians
killed one or two horses, and tumbled a soldier or two off the
top of the coach. This setting one's self up as a sort of target,
was a disagreeable and dangerous duty, but the soldiers per-
formed it without murmuring. My squad had to ride up to
Cottonwood, and down to the station below, where they waited
for the next coach going the other way and returned Jby it to
their post at Gilman's. All the other stations were guarded in
like manner; so it happened that every coach carried some
soldiers.

One evening I found my pony missing, and thinking he had
strayed off but a short distance, I buckled on my revolvers and
went out to look for him. I had not intended to go far, but
not finding him, I walked on, and on, until I found myself .
some four miles from the ranche. Alarmed at my indiscretion,
for I knew the country was full of Indians, I hastily set out to
return, and as it was now growing dark, I determined to go up
a ravine that led to the post by a nearer route than the trail. I
had got nearly to the end of the ravine, where the stage-road
crossed it, and was about to turn out into the road when, on
looking up the bank, I saw on the crest of the slope, some dark
objects. At first, I thought they were ponies, for they were



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BELDEN: THE WHITE CHIEF. 327

moving on all fours, and directly toward the road. I mn up
the bank, and had not gone more than ten yards, when I heard
voices, and looking round, saw within a dozen steps of me, five
or si^L Indians lying on the grass, and talking in low tones.
Thej had noticed me, but evidently thought I was one of their
own number. Divining the situation in a moment, I walked
carelessly on until near the crest of the hill, where I suddenly
came upon a dozen more Indians, crawling along on their hands
and knees. One of them grufiBy ordered nie down, and I am
sure I lost no time in dropping into the grass. Crawling care-
fully along, for I knew it would not do to stop, I still managed
to keep a. good way behind and off to one side. We at last
reached the road, and the Indians, gun in hand, took up their
position in the long grass close by the road-side. I knew the
up-coach would be due at the station in half an hour, and I
now found myself in the unpleasant position of waylaying one
of the very coaches I had been sent to guard. Perhaps, one of
my own soldiers coming up on the coach would kill me, and
then what would people say? how would my presence with the-
Indians be explained? and how would it sound to have the
newspapers publish, far and near, that an officer of the United
States army had deserted his post, joined the Indians, and
attacked a stage-coach? However, there was no help for it, and
I lay still waiting for developments. It was now time for the
coach, and we watched the road with straining eyes. Two or
three times I thought I heard the rumbling of the wheels, and
a tremor seized me, but it was only the wind rustling the tall
grass. An hour went by, and still no coach, when the Indians,
becoming uneasy— one who seemed to be the leader of the
expedition, rose up, and motioning the others to follow him^
started off down the hill towai*d the ravine. I made a motion
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328 BELDEN: THE WHITE CHIEF.

as if getting up^ and seeing the Indians backs turned^ dropped
flat on my face and lay perfectly still. Slowly their footsteps
faded away, and raising my head, I saw them mount their
ponies and disappear over the neighboring hill, as if going
down the road to meet the coach.

As soon as they were out of sight, I sprang up and ran at
ast as I could to the ranche when, relating what had happened,
I started with some soldiers and citizens down the road to meet
the stage. We had not gone far when we heard it coming up,
and on reaching it, found it had been attacked by Indians a few
miles below, one passenger killed and two severely wounded.
The coach had but three horses, one having been killed in the
fight. Tlie Indians had dashed at the coach mounted, hoping
to kill the horses, and thus cut ofiF all means of retreat or flight,
but they had only succeeded in killing one horse, when the
passengers and soldiers had driven them off, compelling them to
carry two of their number with " them, dead or desperately
wounded.

I was more careful after that, when I went out hunting
ponies, and never tried again to waylay a coach with Indians.



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BELDEN: THE WHITE CHIEF



CHAPTER XLIX.

aAPTURIXO TWO SIOUX WABBIORS AT OILHAN's RANCHB — ^MY PBT INDIANS —
WAR DANCES AND SONGS — THE ENTRAPPED OOALLALAS — ESCAPE OP TBB
WARRIOR AND PONIES — ^MORE DANCING — ^AN UNPLEASANT REQUEST — THE
REFUSAL — WHAT CAME OF IT — ^SPRINGER's ADVICE — FATE OF THE TWO
8T0UX — THEIR HEROISM AND ENDURANCE — TERRIBLE BARBARITY OF SAVAGH.S
—WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY ABOUT IT,

AMONG the soldiers stationed at Oilman's Kanche, were a
number of Omaha and Winnebago Indians^ who belonged
to my company, in the First Nebraska Cavalry. I had done all
I could to teach them the ways of civilization, but despite my
instructions, and their utmost endeavors to give over their wild
and barbarous practices, every now and then old habits would
become too strong upon them to be borne, and they would in-
dulge in the savage customs of their youth. At such times
they would throw aside their uniforms, and, wrapping a blanket
about them, sing and dance for hours.

One evening they were in a particularly jolly mood, and hav-
ing obtained permission to have a dance, went out in front
of the building, and for want of a better scalp-pole, assembled
around one of the telegraph poles. One fellow pounded lustily
en a piece of leather nailed over the mouth of a keg, while the

others hopped around in a circle, first upon <iDe leg, then the

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;W0 BELDEN: THE WHITE CHIEF.

otlier/sliaking oyster-cans over their heads, that had been filled
with pebbles, and keeping time to the rude music, with a sort
of guttural song. Now it would be low and slow, and the
dancers barely move, then, increasing in volume and rapidity,
it would become wild and vociferous, the dancers walking very
fast, much as the negroes do in their " walk arounds." We had
had all manner of dances and songs, and enough drumming and
howling to have made any one tired, still the Indians seemed
only warming up to their work. The savage frenzy was upon
them, and I let them alone until near midnight Their own
songs and dances becoming tiresome, I asked them to give me
some Sioux songs, for I had been thinking all the evening of
the village up the Missouri and my squaws. The Indians im-
mediately struck up a Sioux war song, accompanying it with
the war dance.

All the Indian songs and dances are terminated with a
jump, and a sort of wild yell or whoop. When they had danced
the Sioux war song, and ended it with the usual whoop, what
was our surprise to hear the cry answered back at no great
distance, out on the prairie. At first I thought it was the echo,
but Springer, a half-breed Indian, assured me what I had heard
was the cry of other Indians. To satisfy myself, I bade the
Indians repeat the song and dance, and this time, sure enough,
when it was ended the whoop was answered quite near the
ranche. I went inside, lest my uniform could be seen, and
telling Springer to continue the dance, I went to a back window
and looked out, in the direction from which the sound appeared
to come.

The moon was just rising, and I could distinctly see three
Indian warriors sitting on their ponies, within a few hundred
paces of the house. They seemed to be intently w^Whing



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BELDEN: THE WHITE CHIEF. g^^

wliat was going on, and were by na means certain as to the
character of the performers or performance. At a glance, 1
made them out to be our deadly enemies, the Ogallala Sioux,
and determined to catch them. I quickly called Springer, and
bid him kindle a small fire, and tell the Indians to strike up
the death song and scalp dance of the Sioux. This, as I ex*
pected, at once re-assured the strange warriors, and, riding up
quite' close, they asked Springer, who was not dancing, and who
had purposely put himself in their way,

" What are you dancing for ? ^

"Dancing the scalps of four white soldiers we have killed,"
replied Springer.

"How did you kill them,*' inquired the foremost Indian
warrior. *

" You see,^ said Springer, who, being part Sioux, spoke the
language perfectly, " we were coming down from the Neobarrah,
and going over to the Republican to see Spotted Tail and our
friends the Ogallalas, when some soldiers fired on us here, and
seeing there were but four of them, we attacked and killed them
all. They are now lying dead inside,*' added Springer; " come,
get down and help dance their scalps.*'

Two of the warriors immediately dismounted, giving their
ponies to the third one to hold, who remained mounted.



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