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post. When he got about twenty steps on the north
side of the wagon road, the Indians shot him. They
then scalped and mutilated the body horribly, and it
is said, cut out his heart, and also cut his ears and
nose off. The team in the meantime having arrived
at the post, they immediately sent soldiers out to look
for the sergeant and private. Finding the sergeant
as stated, and after removing him, they drove a large
stake where his head lay, putting on this stake an old
buffalo skull.

When I went into that country, I heard the story
many times that where that body lay, grass had never
grown after the killing, while all around it was the
very finest of grass. This spot was situated on the
top of what was called La Bonte Hill. The first time
I went to Fetterman, several other teamsters and my-
self examined this spot; in fact, all teams or horse-
men going by and knowing of this phenomenon,
always examined it. I have seen it myself twenty
times and am satisfied in my mind that this spot at
one time was a deserted ant hill, which the elements
had flattened down.

While in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1912, I met a
great many old-timers, and in talking with them I
mentioned the incident. They all remembered it well.
One of them, Bob Carson, said he had visited the spot
two weeks prior to this time and that it was still
barren. Old-timers believed that this grass was
killed by the blood of the sergeant. I remarked that
I thought it was an old ant hill. They looked at me
a little while, one of them saying : "Young, since you
have been living in large cities and meeting these d
fool scientists, they have talked that into your head.


We have had four or five of them tell us the same
thing," and to a man they stuck to the theory that
the blood had killed the grass. A year ago my old
friend, Hi Kelley, while visiting his son in Portland,
took dinner at my house. I happened to mention this
subject to him and he immediately said, "Yes, that
place is barren yet; made so by the blood of the poor

While at Fort Laramie many amusing incidents
happened ; incidents which were so ludricous as to up-
set the dignity of the company commanders, and on
various occasions that of the commanding officer.

I recall three such incidents. A recruit was sent
out to Laramie and for some days he got along very
well, but when one of the old-timers called his atten-
tion to the fact that he had been eating with the mess
for some 'days without "butter checks, he asked where
they were obtained. A soldier named Mickey Flinn
informed him that the captain always issued such as
were needed. The recruit immediately set out in
search of the captain. His blouse was unbuttoned and
his round-topped army cap sat at an angle of 40 de-
grees on his head. Knocking on the door, the cap-
tain, who was known as a strict disciplinarian,

"Say, cap," said the recruit, "by heck, I have got
to have some of them butter checks."

"Some what?" exploded the captain.

"Butter checks, I gad, butter checks, 'cause them
d fools down at the cook house won't let me eat
any more until I get J em."

The captain looked at the man and grabbing his
cap from his head, started for the company quarters,
where he met the first sergeant of the company, ask-
ing him who sent this man to his quarters dressed in


such an unmilitary costume, demanding butter checks.
"What does it mean?"

The recruit spoke up, saying, "The sergeant is not
the man who sent me."

The captain then asked him if he could point out
the man who did. He replied, "Yes."

They then formed the company in line, and walk-
ing down looking at first one and then the other,
pointed put Flinn as the man, who denied the charge,
and calling on the other men who substantiated the
denial. The captain could retain himself no longer,
and throwing the recruit's cap on the floor, burst out
in a roar of laughter, and walking from the quarters,
turned around at the door, and in a loud voice ordered
.the sergeant to give the man some butter checks.

Between the parade ground and the Platte River
were situated three very large stacks of hay, which
were quite a distance from the guard house. Around
those stacks of hay night and day was stationed a
guard, whose duty it was to walk around them. It
came a recruit's time to take this post. His hours
were from ten o'clock at night until two o'clock in the
morning. This was considered a very lonely post.
About fifty yards below the stacks was an old Indian
burying ground. The older soldiers confidentially told
this recruit that at the hour of twelve, midnight, the
spirits of these departed Indians often appeared. They
warned him not to shoot at these spirits as it was
useless, but if any did appear, to shoot his gun in the
air and they would come to his relief. The day pre-
vious they had taken a soldier to the hospital who
had an ulcerated tooth, the pain of which made him
delirious. About midnight he walked out of the hos-
pital with a bed sheet thrown over his head and shoul-
ders. He wandered down by the hay stacks toward
the Platte River. This recruit, seeing him in that
garb, knew at once that he was one of the Indian


spirits, and as directed, shot his gun in the air, when
the corporal of the guard and two- soldiers went to his
assistance. By the time they arrived there, the sup-
posed spirit had disappeared. They then told the re-
cruit that he was nervous and imagined he saw this
spirit. However, he insisted strongly that he was sure
he had seen one and refused to stand guard any
longer. They finally compelled him to do so.

The next morning the post surgeon in going
through the hospital, discovered that the soldier with
the ulcerated tooth was missing, and hearing of the
incident related, instructed that search be made for
him. They found him lying on his stomach on the
river bank with his head in the water, dead presum-
ably drowned.

Another recruit, hearing his companions talking
about post guard and not knowing what it meant,
asked the corporal what one did on post guard. The
corporal replied, "Don't show your ignorance before
the soldiers, as they will josh you. Go get your gun
and come with me and I will instruct you."

They walked out to the rear of the quarters, the
corporal picking up a large wagon spoke and an axe,
with which he drove the spoke in the ground, leaving
an exposure of about a foot. He then instructed the
recruit to hold his gun with both hands and balance
himself by standing on this stake with one foot, and
when he got so that he could do so, he would be pre-
pared to stand post guard. The corporal then in-
formed the rest of the company what he had done and
through the windows they watched this fellow for a
half hour, trying to balance himself on the stake.
Finally he gave it up, marching into the quarters,
when, of course, they all laughed at him.




IN November, 1873, there arrived at Fort Laramie
two teams from Red Cloud Agency, driven by Pat
Simmons and Mike Dunn. They informed me that
I could now get a position on the Agency and that
they were on their way to Cheyenne for supplies,
and would return in seven days, and instructed me to
meet them on the south side of the Platte River, at the
lower crossing, twenty-five miles east of Fort Laramie,
as they would camp there that night. As per this
agreement I left Fort Laramie on the morning of the
seventh day and walked the entire distance, alone. The
Platte River is a very treacherous stream and full of
quicksand, but at certain places it can be crossed,
owing to a gravel bottom. These places were called
fords, the location of which it was necessary for one
to know in crossing the stream, to avoid getting into
the quicksands. Should one, in crossing unfortunately
miss the ford, there would be great danger in losing
his team and wagon. I have known instances where
they had gotten into the quicksand, barely escaping
with their own lives or the lives of their teams, as it
was utterly impossible to get the wagons out. In one
case, a wagon entirely disappeared in forty-eight

On my journey to this crossing, owing to the sandy
road, I walked very slowly, and darkness overtook me


before my arrival. Becoming bewildered, I strayed
out into the sand hills and came to the realization that
I was lost, but knowing that the Platte River lay in
a northerly direction, I started that way and finally
found it about midnight. Tired and cold and being
without blankets, I tried to find some driftwood with
which to make a fire, but the night being so dark, I
was unsuccessful. I then walked back from the river
to keep warm and stumbled onto an old cock of hay
which had been left by Government contractors, they
having left it there while cutting wild hay. I lifted
it up and crawled under it. In time my shelter be-
came warm, and hungry and footsore, I fell asleep.
However, before doing so, I heard a noise that struck
me with terror, the howling of wolves I

My feelings can better be imagined than described,
and it was only from sheer exhaustion that I fell
asleep. When I awoke, the sun was well up in the
heavens. The teams had crossed the river and I found
that I was two miles above the ford. I took my
clothes off, tied them in a bundle on my head and
waded into that cold Platte River. I got along all
right until near the north side, when I unfortunately
got off the ford and into the quicksand. I now found
my progress exceedingly slow and difficult. When I
tried to step ahead, my foot would be fast in the sand,
and it was only by continually plunging that I was
able to reach the shore in a very exhausted condition.
I dressed and went to a ranch kept by a squaw-man
named "Nick Jannesse." I asked him if he had seen
the Agency teams. He said yes, that they had broken
camp four hours ago. He gave me breakfast and I
started after them, catching up with them about noon
in the sand hills. The boys were very glad to see me,
but not more so than I was to see them. They had
thought I was not coming. We arrived at the Agency
in due time and I reported to Dr. Seville, who took


me into his office to give me instructions as one of his

To have the reader understand the situation as it
existed in the summer of 1873, I will explain on what
plan they proposed to civilize the Sioux.

The Indians at that time were in the hands of the
Interior Department of the Government, their inten-
tion being to civilize them through kindness, the mili-
tary having nothing whatever to do with them. At
this time the Sioux domain comprised all lands from
the British Northwest as far south as Wyoming and
east to Nebraska. The Platte River was the dividing
line. Fort Laramie was the nearest post to the

Before giving my experiences while on Red Cloud
Agency, I wish to take the reader back some years
before my time. I think in the fifties or early sixties,
a certain officer in Fort Laramie owned a cow worth
thirty dollars. This cow by some means strayed
across the Platte River, where there was a large camp
of Sioux Indians. One of the Indians killed this cow.
The officer who owned it, took a few soldies over to
the Indian camp and demanded from the chief the
Indian who killed the cow. This officer was drunk at
the time. His demand was met with refusal, where-
upon he shot the chief, killing him. Prior to this time
the Indians were friendly with the whites. They
would steal their horses but were not in open war, as
was the case after this occurrence. I cannot recall
this officer's name or the name of the chief killed,
but doubtless their names as well as the circumstances
can be found on record in the War Department at

A few days after this incident a company of sol-
diers were on the south side of the Platte, about
twenty-five miles below Fort Laramie. They were not
aware of the trouble on account of the cow. The In-


dians, about one thousand in number, attacked and
killed the entire company, numbering sixty. They
were all buried in the same grave near where they
fell, with the exception of the lieutenant in command,
who was taken to Fort Laramie. After this it was
war to the death between Sioux and white man. It
was all caused by a drunken officer and an old thirty-
dollar cow; and many whites have lost their lives
since then through this occurrence.

I will now return to the Agency. Dr. Seville, the
agent, of whom I have before made mention, came
from Sioux City, Iowa. He was a fine man and I
understand he left a large practice in Sioux City to
take this position. His salary was not large but there
were many ways for him to make money independent
of his salary. Dr. Seville explained to me , how I
should act. First, I was not to carry any firearms.
I was not to resent any insults from an Indian, no
matter what he said or did to me; I was to treat them
kindly, etc.

"Now," said Seville, "if you are sure you can live
up to those rules, you may go to work. Your wages
will be one hundred dollars per month and found."

I accepted his terms and became an employe of
the Agency. There were twenty-one of us employed
there, Otis Johnson being chief clerk. Others whom
I recall were Mart Gibbons, who was corral boss ; Ben
Tibbetts, agency butcher; Paddy Simmons, Mike
Dunne and Dutch Joe, teamsters. Tom Monahan was
boss carpenter; Mr. Appleton was agency farmer, and
we also had there a negro named "Alec," who later
put on a breech-clout and became a full-fledged Sioux
warrior. I often wonder what ever became of this
negro. He is worthy of mention. He was about
twenty-five years of age, perfectly built and very in-
telligent. He spoke the Sioux language fluently and
was a great favorite with the tribe. He gradually


adopted their ways from preference, it evidently be-
ing the height of his ambition to become one of them.

The first day I worked I was carrying a board on
my shoulder, when a young buck caught it by the end,
and swinging it around, knocked me down. I jumped
up and ran at him, mad as a March hare. Some one
yelled at me, "Look out, Young! You will lose your
job if you hit him." I remembered my instructions
from the agent and stopped.

These Sioux were very mischievous and were con-
tinually playing tricks on us boys. We also had on
the Agency a character named Molasses Bill, this
name being given him on account of his love for
molasses. He was employed as a carpenter and had
one glass eye. One day Bill and I were on the roof
of the commissary putting on tar paper. The wind
was blowing hard as it often did, and the air was full
of fine sand, which got into Bill's eye, causing him
much annoyance. This compelled him to remove the
glass eye and wipe it off with his handkerchief. An
Indian named Grass saw the act and was much sur-
prised to know that we had a white man who could
remove his eye at will. Grass motioned him down
from the building and with other Indians made him
remove the eye again. In doing so, the Indians all set
up a great howl and thought Bill the wonder of the
age, and Bill for the next few days was kept busy
taking out and putting in that glass eye. After some
days it seemed to affect his head and he became in-
sane. The agent was finally compelled to furnish him
with an Indian escort and send him to Fort Laramie.

I will here mention a few names of the chiefs and
more prominent Indians, but before doing so will ex-
plain how Indians derive their names.

The Indians do not christen their children but se-
lect names from some act which has attracted an older
Indian while the one named is in his infancy. For


instance, take the name "Man Afraid of His Horses."
This particular name was given him when a child by
some older Indian having seen him afraid of horses.
As he grew into manhood, he was called "Man Afraid
of His Horses," and while I lived on the Agency this
Indian had a grown son, and to distinguish him from
his father, he was called "Young Man Afraid of His
Horses." There was no exception to this rule and
there is no doubt that their names were derived in
this way.

"Red Cloud" was the acknowledged chief of the
Agency and the most powerful. Their power origi-
nated from two causes. "Red Cloud" was a great
warrior in his early days; while other Indians, for in-
stance, "Little Wound," got his great power from
the number of his relatives. They were divided into
bands. There was "Red Cloud's" band, "Little
Wound's" band, "Man Afraid of His Horses' " band,
etc. Then again, they had great diplomats. One
was "Spotted Tail." He would be ranked in the same
order as our great James G. Elaine or Roscoe Conk-
ling, and all treaties formed with other tribes or with
the United States Government, were submitted to
him before being ratified, and it was from this trait
of character that he was all-powerful.

Referring to "Little Wound" reminds me of the
night mentioned when I made my tenderfoot trip with
my Indian companion. The reason for my companion's
excitement was that "Little Wound's" band of braves
had been on a hunting expedition in the eastern part
of Wyoming, where they ran across a camp of old
men and women of the Pawnee tribe. The young
Pawnee bucks being out on the hunt and having left
the old men and women in camp, this "Little Wound's"
band killed them all, amounting to about one hundred,
and these young bucks were returning to the Agency
the night we met them on the road; they had heard


from their scouts that the Pawnee Indians were about
to attack the Sioux in retaliation for killing their old
men and women. I afterward saw them in their war
dance with those poor old folks' scalps. This I will
explain later.

Another powerful and notorious Indian was
"Sword," who was a very bad one whom we much
feared. He had been wounded in the groin by a white
man some years before, which made him hate the
white race, and knowing his hatred for the white man,
we always kept at a safe distance until we knew he
had left the Agency. He afterward died from the
wound. Another very prominent Indian, "American
Horse," and who was very friendly to the whites, had
a national reputation, having visited the Great Father
at Washington in company with other Sioux chiefs,
and where he had promised the Government that he
would use his great influence and his best endeavors
to keep the Indians from killing the whites, stealing
their horses, and committing other depredations,
which he did to the best of his ability. I will speak
of him later and show how he kept his word.

Another Indian character was "Chief Grass" of
whom I have spoken previously. Grass could speak
English fairly well and he had a very comprehensive
brain. For instance, we built a sawmill nine miles
from the Agency with which we cut the lumber to
construct the buildings. Grass one day, with some
other Indians, wanted to see this mill in operation.
The boss sawyer of the mill was named Charley.
Charley was quite a loafer and did not keep the mill
in operation half of the time. I was delegated by the
agent to go put to this sawmill with these Indians.
When we arrived there, the mill was not in operation.
Grass turned around to me and remarked:
"What's the matter? Mill no run."
I replied, "Ask Charley ; he's boss man here."


Grass did so.

Charley replied, "I have to gum the saw."

Grass looked at him a while and said, "Me think
you no good. Too much loaf all the time. Dam big
expense on us Indians."

Then turning to me, he said: "You good man.
You start mill up."

I had a hard time explaining to Grass that I knew
nothing about running a sawmill. They then looked
the mill over and we returned to the Agency. Grass
called on the agent and entered a strong complaint
against Charley. After counselling some time, the
agent finally promised that he would see that the mill
was kept running in future, and this seemed to satisfy
old Grass.

Another prominent and very bad Indian was "Red
Dog." He always wore a hunting jacket made en-
tirely of scalps that he himself had taken during his
lifetime. In the back of this jacket was a woman's
scalp. She in life was a white woman and a blonde.
I suppose he killed and scalped her in the Minnesota
massacre years prior to this time, as he took a very
active part in that affair. I could have purchased that
jacket at one time for about five dollars worth of
powder and lead, and wished in later days that I had
done so, as today it would be worth a large sum of




IN the preceding chapter I mentioned a number of
prominent as well as bad Sioux. I next recall Big
Foot, who took a big part in the Custer massacre.
He was Sitting Bull's right-hand bower in that
affair. There were also many lesser lights called
Indian soldiers.

The most popular white man on the Agency was
Ben Tibbetts. He was employed as agency butcher.
His duty was to take care of the old, discarded
squaws and men. He had lived among the Indians
for a great many years and knew a great many of
them ; spoke their language, knew their habits and had
an Indian squaw for a wife. This man took a great
interest in me and gave me some good advice regard
ing the Sioux. He told me never to give them any-
thing, and that they were awful beggars. For in-
stance, if one gave a Sioux fifty cents, the next day
he would want a dollar, and if refused, he became an
enemy. I took Ben's advice, only varying from it on
one occasion.

There was an old Indian named Gray Eyes, who
spoke English quite well, and one day he told me his
papoose was awful sick and that if he could secure
some red apples he had seen at the trading store, he
knew that they would make him well. These apples
cost twenty-five cents. Instead of buying the


apples for him, as I should have done, I foolishly gave
him the money. This he proceeded to invest in a
bottle of Perry Davis' Painkiller. The next day his
squaw came and told the agent that one of the white
men had given her Indian some poison water that had
almost killed him. She was referring to the pain-
killer, which he had drunk and which made him very
sick. The following day Gray Eyes again appeared
and told me what an immense amount of good the red
apples had done his papoose. He wanted fifty cents
more, so that he could get a larger supply and com-
pletely cure the little one. This I refused, and it re-
sulted in my being called all manner of names and
losing the friendship of Gray Eyes, verifying what
Tibbetts had told me.

There were two trading stores on the Agency. One
was kept by Mr. Deere and the other by Yates &
Reshaw. Both stores carried a full supply of Jamaica
ginger, Perry Davis' Painkiller and cheap bay rum, and
the Indians bought large quantities of each. It was
their custom to adulterate this and drink it in place of
whiskey. They would take the bay rum, pour it into a
cup of water and, after skimming the oil for the sur-
face, they would dring it. This often resulted in their
getting beastly drunk and finally the agent was forced
to prohibit the sale of the stuff at the stores. Bad
white men would bring whiskey, of the vilest kind, on
the Agency and trade it to the Indians for Buffalo
robes, blankets and horses. While under the influence
of this vile stuff, they became very quarrelsome and
dangerous to us white men employed there.

Chief Red Cloud had a favorite son about eighteen
years of age, whom he expected in time to succeed him.
Indians show a great affection for their sons, much
more so than for their daughters. No matter how bad
the boys became, they were never punished, but were
more appreciated. Red Cloud was completely wrapped


up in his son and had predicted a great future for him.
The son became severely ill, which had a very depress-

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Online LibraryHarry YoungHard knocks : a life story of the vanishing West → online text (page 8 of 17)