Copyright
Harry Young.

Hard knocks : a life story of the vanishing West online

. (page 11 of 17)
Online LibraryHarry YoungHard knocks : a life story of the vanishing West → online text (page 11 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ORIGIN OF CAMP ROBINSON THE JENNY EXPEDI-
TION OR "GOLD IN THE BLACK HILLS."

I AM now drawing near the time when I left the
Agency, and wish to mention two characteristics
of the Sioux. Few readers of this book have any
idea of the origin of the heliograph. Before my
time among those people they carried on their
persons a round piece of polished silver, and when
they wanted to get into communication with others
of their kind, they would ascend a high hill and with
this piece of polished silver, would signal with dots
and dashes the same as used by our present tele-
graphic code, this being accomplished by the reflection
of the sun. In time it would be answered by other
Indians a long distance away. Later on and during
my time among them, they substituted a piece of
looking glass and one could not find a grown Sioux
without this piece of glass on his person. In cloudy
weather they substituted for this, grass smoke. They
would build a fire on the hilltop, immediately smother
it with grass, then holding a blanket or buffalo robe
over it by the four corners until it was filled with
smoke. If they wished to signal a dot, they would let
out a small quantity of smoke. If a dash, they would
let out a larger quantity. If they wished to signal
by night, they would build a fire, covering it in the
same manner and for a dot, they would quickly expose
the fire and for a dash, a longer exposure. Their
telegraphic code may not have been so complete as
ours, but their system was certainly the same. I am



HARD KNOCKS Page 148

sure that the credit of the heliograph should be given
to General Custer, as he had a large experience with
the Indians and was conversant with their habits and
would be the most likely one to have reported this
signalling, when the War Department, by experiments,
invented the heliograph. This was used largely by our
signal corps on the plains and -elsewhere prior to the
discovery of wireless telegraphy.

The Sioux, as previously mentioned, were great
braggarts and dreamers. I will cite you an instance
of this characteristic. In January, 1874, they had
very deep snows in Wyoming and Nebraska. This
made traffic difficult for freighting teams. At this
time a man named Charles Clay had the contract for
freighting the supplies to Red Cloud Agency from
Cheyenne. His transportation was by ox teams. For
about thirty days he was unable to get through to the
Agency with these supplies. Consequently we were
cempletely out of everything. The Indians in the
morning would ride out on a high hill, sitting there
until almost dark, looking to the south in hopes of
seeing these teams coming. They would come into the
Agency at night and report to the agent that they
saw heaps of teams coming. At first this was good
news to us, but in a couple of days no teams arrived.
They would then repeat the operation, bringing in the
same news. They would keep this up for several days,
and as a fact, the teams did not arrive for fifteen
days. What I wish to impress the reader with is,
that the Indian having this supply train in mind, and
not wanting to report anything but good news, really
imagined he saw the teams, and the of tener he went
on this hilltop, the more he believed he saw them.
Before they finally arrived, the Indians were com-
pelled to kill their ponies and eat them.

The reader has probably read or heard of the Sioux
War of 1876. But few know the actual causes that



Page 149 HARD KNOCKS

led up to it. In the month of March, 1875, a young
man arrived on the Agency named Frank Appleton.
His father having preceded him to the Agency to
teach the Sioux how to farm and was termed "Boss
Farmer." Frank was the nephew of Dr. Seville. Upon
his arrival there he was appointed chief clerk to the
agent, Otis Johnson having retired. Before coming to
the Agency and while in Cheyenne, he broke his leg
and came to the Agency using crutches. We all liked
him very much and talked with him a great deal about
his eastern home. He was from Sioux City, Iowa.
He told us in conversation that he did not want to
come out there, but that his father and Seville in-
sisted on his coming, and while in Cheyenne before
breaking his leg he had a dream that something
awful was going to happen, and while on the Agency
he begged his father and uncle to allow him to return
to his home, also telling them of his dream, and they
laughed at him. Consequently, he remained.

On April 1st Dr. Seville went down to Spotted Tail
Agency, which was forty miles north of Red Cloud
Agency. His business there was to confer with their
agent in regard to an order from Washington to
formulate some plans to disarm the Sioux. About
three o'clock in the afternoon of this day an Indian
arrived on the Agency. He was not one of our regular
Indians, but belonged up north. He had just arrived
from the Platte River and stated that a white man
had killed his brother down there and that in re-
taliation he was going to kill one of us white men
before he went north. Joe Bessnet, the chief inter-
preter, hearing this from the Indians, conversed with
the fellow. He then warned us white men not to go on
the outside of the stockade that evening for fear this
fellow might carry out his threat. This stockade
was built of lumber fourteen feet high, the lumber
being three inches thick, The entrance had two



HARD KNOCKS Page 150

large gates that swung against a center post and
when the gates were closed, they were hooked on the
inside with hooks and staples. When darkness came,
we closed the gates. During the day one of the
carpenters carelessly left a ladder on the outside. This
Indian, about two o'clock the following morning,
ascended this ladder and dropped inside the stockade,
and then unfastened the gates. Then going to Apple-
ton's sleeping quarters, which was the nearest build-
ing to the gates, knocked on the door. Appleton got
up, putting on his slippers, cap and long ulster, stepped
outside and asked the Indian what he wanted. The
Indian replied something in the Sioux language.
Appleton not understanding Sioux and knowing that
Billy Hunter, the assistant interpreter, was sleeping
in the quarters with myself, Mike Dunne and Paddy
Simmons, turned his back to the Indian and made but
a few steps toward these quarters when the Indian
shot him, using a Winchester rifle, hitting him just
under the left shoulder blade.

The report of the gun awoke us boys. We hurriedly
dressed and going out of the door, saw Appleton on
his hands and knees trying to get up. When he heard
us, he said, "Come quick, boys, I am shot." We
hurried to him and carrying him into his bedroom, he
told us that he knew he was going to die. A young
doctor had arrived on the Agency the day before, and
we woke him up, telling him that Appleton was
severely wounded, but he was so frightened that we
could not get him out of his room. Billy Hunter then
ran down to Red Cloud's camp, which was but a short
distance away, telling him what had happened. Red
Cloud then set Indian runners to Man Afraid of His
Horses and Chief Little Wound's camp. They all three
came into the room where Frank lay, Red Cloud sitting
down on the side of the bed near Franks head, took
him by the hand, patting it on the back, and with



Page 151 HARDKNOCKS

head bowed and with tears trickling down his cheeks,
said: "It is too bad. You are a good man. Bad In-
dian live up north." A few minutes later Appleton
died.

This was the first tear I ever knew an Indian to
shed. Red Cloud having lost his son previous to this,
the memory of which came back to him with great
force and melted his Indian heart to tears. Mike
Dunne immediately started on horseback for Spotted
Tail Agency to inform Seville. When daylight came,
Indians, young and old, crowded into the stockade in
great numbers. Many of them were dressed in their
war paint and under great excitement. About two
o'clock in the afternoon Seville arrived from Spotted
Tail Agency. The leading Indians then held a great
council with him which ended by their telling him
that they were afraid they could not control their
young men as they were very greatly excited.

I neglected to say that in the construction of this
stockade, they built in the southeast corner a high
cupola, where one could go and get an unobstructed
view for miles. The excitement became so great that
Joe Bassnet called I3en Tibbetts to one side, telling
him in Sioux to take us men up in this cupola, and to
remain there until he told us that it was safe to
come out. Ben did so. We then took sacks of flour
and other food, including water, into the cupola, and
with the flour built a barricade. We had but one gun
up there, that being a Winchester (the one used by
Ben for shooting cattle) . There we remained for four
days and nights. I could not describe the great
excitement going on among the Indians. They came
from all directions, the chiefs all sitting in council,
trying to decide what was best to do. They held the
agent as a hostage until the decision was made. The
younger Indians wanted to bum the Agency, kill us
white men, and go north.



HARD KNOCKS Page 152

American Horse, previously spoken of, made the
Indians a final talk, telling them if they were brave
and wanted to fight the white man that they could go
down to Fort Laramie on the Platte River and find
plenty of them, including the soldiers, but they must
not harm us white men on the Agency ; that some of
us were married to their people, and were building
them an Agency and treating them kindly. This
seemed to quiet them. A white man living outside
of the stockade with a squaw as a wife a squaw
man, as we termed them was very much excited
and mounting his horse, rode to Fort Laramie in
great haste. On arriving there, he told General Smith,
who was in command, that the Indians had killed all
us white men and had burned the Agency and had
gone north on the war path. General Smith im-
mediately telegraphed General Crook, who was in
command of the Department of the Platte, with head-
quarters at Omaha, Nebraska. General Crook in-
formed the War Department at Washington of these
conditions. The War Department immediately trans-
ferred the Sioux Indians from the Interior Department
to the War Department. Crook was then ordered to
Fort Laramie, where he organized what was termed
the Crook expedition. Three days after the death of
Appleton the Indians furnished an escort for the
body to Fort Laramie, the doctor accompanying the
remains. From there they shipped the body to his
home. This showing conclusively that his present-
ment had come true. Without a question of doubt,
the killing of this young man was the true cause of
the Sioux War of 1876.

After four days in this cupola, Bessnet informed
us that we could go back to our work as all was
safe. We all gave American Horse credit for saving
our lives. The following day, myself and two others
left the Agency for Fort Laramie. We knew that



Page 153 HARDKNOCKS

something was going to happen as Appleton, at the
time he was killed, was really acting agent, and we
knew the government would not stand for this kill-
ing. When we arrived at Fort Laramie, all was ex-
excitement there; soldiers being equipped, six-mule
teams being assembled for transportation purposes,
soldiers arriving from Fort D. A. Russell. We im-
mediately made application for a teamster's job and
had no trouble in securing one.

To explain more fully regarding conditions existing
between the Interior Department and the Military De-
partment regarding the Sioux before the death of
Frank Appleton on Red Cloud Agency, I will cite one
instance. One bright day in 1873, the horses of K
Company, 2nd Cavalry, were out on herd near the Post
Fort Laramie, guarded by two cavalry soldiers, when
five Sioux Indians rushed in between, the Post and the
horses and ran them off, taking the soldiers with the
horses, getting across the Platte River before they
could stop them. The soldiers they stripped of their
clothing and sent them back to the Post naked. These
horses the Government never did recover as they
could not cross the Platte River after them, by virtue
of the Sioux treaty. I saw many of these horses on
the Agency when I worked there. This expedition
verifies the fact that the killing of Appleton changed
ail treaty relations with the Sioux, and proves that this
expedition was the first step in the Sioux war of 1876.

In three days, with ten companies of soldiers,
General Crook in command, part being cavalry, we
started for the Agency. There were one hundred
six-mule teams, and I assure you it was a beautiful
sight to look this assembly over. The six-mule teams
traveling four abreast across the prairie, cavalry as
the advance guard and cavalry as the rear guard. The
infantry marched in single file on the outside, also



HARD KNOCKS Page 154

riding in the wagons. In due time we arrived on the
Agency and found nothing there except some old
bucks and old squaws, the balance of the Indians
having gone north, knowing that this expedition was
coming to the Agency. The agent and the boys there,
were of course, delighted to see us. We camped there
for about ten days. Then they established, about
three miles from the Agency, Fort Robinson at that
time called "Camp Robinson." This post derived its
name from the fact that Lieutenant Robinson had
been killed by the Indians near Fort Laramie three
years prior to this. (As a coincident, I myself while
a teamster at Fort Laramie, drove the ambulance
that hauled Lieutenant Robinson's body into Fort
Laramie, and I also drove the six-mule team that
hauled the first load of commissaries to Camp Robin-
son). After establishing this camp, we returned to
Fort Laramie, leaving about one-half of the command
at Camp Robinson. Upon our arrival there, orders
were awaiting Crook to select, from our six-mule
teams, mules suitable for packing purposes, and with
his command to report to Fort Fetterman. This was
the first move directly of the Sioux War of 1876.
There was also at Fort Laramie orders to organize
what was called the Black Hills or Jenny expedition.
Colonel Dodge was in charge of the military depart-
ment and Professor Jenny was the scientist. The
latter had instructions under military escort to enter
the Black Hills and have it prospected for gold, as
there had been rumors that miners from the north
had gotten in there and found gold plentiful. This
was then called the Popsy Paw country and was
owned by the Sioux under treaties with the govern-
ment. If Professor Jenny could verify this fact, the
government's intention was to buy it from the Sioux.
This would allow white men to go in there undisturbed.



Page 155 HARD KNOCKS

I joined this expedition in the capacity of a team-
ster. I drove what was termed "Headquarter Wagon."
This wagon contained the equipment belonging to
General Dodge, and was always in the lead and thus
termed the "Lead Wagon." Among teamsters, this
was quite an honor and also quite a convenience, as
one arrived in camp earlier than the many teams
strung out in the rear.

The government was short of transportation and
in addition to fifty government six-mule teams, they
were compelled to hire forty teams owned by citizens,
making in all ninety teams.

Before leaving Fort Laramie, I met up at the
Sutler store a man named Botsford. He was an old
government employe and when I first went to Chey-
enne, he was superintendent of transportation for the
government at a station close by, named Camp Carlin.
All supplies destined for northern posts passed
through his station, same having been brought there
by the Union Pacific railroad. The superintendent
was considered a very high official, having a great
responsibility upon his hands. Botsford was a highly
educated man and when off duty hobnobbed a good
deal with the officers at Fort D. A. Russell, a short
distance away. He was also very sporty and par-
ticularly fond of horse racing. At a horse race one
day, he and Lieutenant Whiting had a serious mis-
understand regarding some bet that was made. After
the race Botsford went to Camp Carlin and later
Lieutenant Whiting followed him there, when they
got into a quarrel, Lieutenant Whiting drawing a six-
shooter, shooting twice at Botsford, but missing him.
Botsford being unarmed, ran to his quarters, the
lieutenant following him. On a table lay Botsford's
gun. He snatched it up, shooting the Lieutenant and
killing him. This, of course, was a very serious
matter the killing of a United States officer.



HARD KNOCKS Page 156

About this time an ambulance drove up. Bots-
ford jumped into it, ordering the driver to drive him
to Cheyenne. He there gave himself up to the sheriff.
Later, when the soldiers heard of the death of their
lieutenant, they armed themselves and a great num-
ber of them started for Cheyenne to avenge the
lieutenant's death. The citizens of Cheyenne, knowing
that there would be serious trouble over the matter,
also armed themselves and barricaded the streets
leading up to the jail where Botsford was confined.
This stopped the advance of the soldiers. Finally,
officers from Fort D. A. Russell rode into Cheyenne
and ordered the soldiers back to their quarters. Bots-
ford later on was tried and acquitted, but naturally
was discharged from the government's employ. He
then began to carouse and drink heavily, and in six
months he was a perfect sot. In fact, so low that he
became a saloon bum.

In meeting at the sutler's store as previously
stated, I said to him, "Why don't you brace up and
come out with us on this expedition?"

He replied, "No; I am too far gone, and if I got
away from whiskey for two days, I would die."

I then said to him, "Botsford, if you will agree to
come along, I'll see Jim Duncan, the wagonmaster,
and get you a position driving a six-mule team, and
furthermore, I'll take whiskey enough along to brace
you up. In doing this you can make a man of your-
self again. You are too good a man to go on in the
manner you are and here is your last chance."

The poor fellow began to cry and between sobs
told me that those were the first encouraging words
he had had spoken to him in two years. I left him
and went down to the corral to see Duncan. I asked
Duncan to give Botsford a chance. He laughed at
me, saying that Botsford would not live three days.



Page 157 HARDKNOCKS

I then told him my plan to brace Botsfprd up and
also told him that three years prior to this, Botsford
had done him many favors and that now was the
time to reciprocate. However, Duncan replied, "Your
heart is much larger than your head, and if you will
attend to him, I'll giye him a job." The next morning
I had Botsford astride of the wheeler in a six-mule
team.

In a few days the expedition started, and about six
times a day I would go back to Botsford and give him
a good, stiff drink of whiskey. I did not let many days
go by before reducing both quantity and quality, and
in two weeks one would not have recognized the Bots-
ford of former days. An army officer who chanced to
see Botsford driving his team, reported the fact to
Colonel Dodge, telling him of Botsford's previous
trouble with Lieutenant Whiting. This, of course,
caused a great deal of talk among the officers and
soldiers. Professor Jenny finally hearing of it, came
over one night to Duncan's tent and asked him who
this Botsford was. I was standing close by and
Duncan called me, telling Professor Jenny at the
same time that I could tell him all about the Bots-
ford affair. Jenny invited me over to his tent and
I gave him Botsford's past history. When I got
through, he said that he wanted a private secretary
and asked me if I thought Botsford would accept the
position. I replied, "Yes, I'll see that he does accept
it." I then hunted Botsford up and explained matters
to him. He threw up his hands and said "No, and
for God's sake let me alone where I am." Talking
with him further, I discovered his reason for not
wanting to accept the position. He explained that if
he accepted the position it would throw him into
the society of the officers which might lead to trouble
for him. I then took him over to Jenny, leaving him
there. In about two hours he came over to my tent



HARD KNOCKS Page 158

and told me he had accepted the position. Botsford
held this appointment for a long time and was very
satisfactory to Professor Jenny. I will write more
of this man later.

Another man of prominence who accompanied this
expedition was a Mr. McGillacuty. Mr. McGillacuty
had a national reputation and had surveyed the
boundary line between British Columbia and the
United States. His duties were to take the topog-
raphy of the country.

Our guide on this expedition was California Joe,
a very noted man in the west. This man was one of
the greatest mountaineers the west ever produced,
not excepting Freemont. I will also speak more of
this great man later on.

In due time we arrived at the outskirts of the
Black Hills, and made our first permanent camp on
French Creek. The town of Custer City is now located
there, named in honor of General Custer.



Page 159 HARDKNOCKS



CHAPTER XVIII.

GOOD AND BAD ARMY OFFICIALS OF THIS EXPEDITION
A TRIBUTE TO CAPTAIN BURKE HOW HE
FOUGHT ONE OF HIS PRIVATES FAIR AND SQUARE
A TEAMSTER'S MANY TROUBLES HOW A LIEU-
TENANT GOT EVEN CALAMITY JANE.

A~TER we had formed this permanent camp,
Jenny and his assistants, who were miners and
citizens, he being allowed five of them, went
prospecting. In two weeks they found gold
on this creek in paying quantities. They
then went over the divide to Spring Creek, which
was but a few miles from their camp. They also
found gold there. It then became necessary
to send twenty-five teams back to Fort Laramie for
supplies. I was detailed as one of the twenty-five.
This trip was under the command of Captain Burke.
He was stationed at Fort Laramie when I arrived
there and during my stay. Officers of these frontier
posts favored, if possible, the teams and teamsters
that were stationed in their posts. Captain Burke had
risen from the ranks and was universally liked by all
who knew him, especially the citizens. In the army
at this time officers graduating from West Point
usually looked down on officers who had risen from
the ranks, but not so in Captain Burke's case, as he
was a very square and just man. I will cite you one
instance of his character as a man.

Some two years prior to this time at Fort Laramie,
the first sergeant of Burke's company, I, of the 14th
infantry, reported to him that he had a very trouble-
some, fighting soldier in the company, and who had
whipped in a fist fight two or three of his men and
who bragged that he could whip any man in 'Fort
Laramie in a rough and tumble fight. Burke told the



HARD KNOCKS Page 160

sergeant that at guard mount next day to march the
company down to the banks of the Platte Ever, about
a quarter of a mile east of the parade grounds. To
do this, they had to march by the teamsters' quarters
at the corral. The next day we teamsters, seeing the
company march by, wondered where .they were going.
Suddenly they halted, and I and three others ran
down there to see what they were doing. Just as
we arrived, Burke had ordered this man, whose name
was Murphy, to advance five paces in front of the
company. The soldier did so. Burke then addressed
him as follows :

"My good man, my first sergeant informs me that
you have been making a great deal of trouble in the
company by fighting with and bullying your com-
panions. He also states that you have made a boast
that you can whip, in a rough and tumble fight, any
man in Fort Laramie, and I am here to inform you
that there is one man in Fort Laramie who doubts
your ability to fulfill your boast, and that man is I."

The soldier replied: "You forget that you are a
captain and la private, and that I dare not fight you."

Burke leisurely unbuttoned his coat, removing it,
and throwing it on the grass between himself and the
soldier, remarked: "There lies Captain Burke and
\iere stands plain, ordinary Dan Burke. Now prepare
yourself by removing your blouse and hat, for you are
going to have the time of your life." The soldier did
so, and at it they went ; first one having the best of it,
and then the other.

They fought over the grass, rolling over and over;
sometimes Burke on top, other times the soldier. Blood
flowed freely. Finally, Burke got him by the throat
with his left hand, he being on top, then pressing his
knee against his abdomen, in the meantime choking
and punching him in the face, until the soldier shouted,


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryHarry YoungHard knocks : a life story of the vanishing West → online text (page 11 of 17)