J. H. (John Hanson) Beadle.

Western wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... online

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Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 53 of 62)
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year there would be almost perfect peace, the next a bloody Indian war.
It seems to have been the policy of the Indians to behave well long
enough to throw emigrants off their guard, then swoop down and mur




der and plunder with impunity. The region between the Smoky Hill
and the Republican was particularly noted for bloody encounters. It
was raided in turn by Sioux, Cheyennes and Arapahoes, and often by all
three in concert. Every ravine and knoll on the route has its own
local legend the details, a blending of the ludicrous and horrible.

Tradition relates
that two bold set-
tlers started for
the mines in a time
of profound peace,
just after the In-
dians had con-
cluded a most sol-
emn treaty and
shaken hands over
their promise to
live in eternal
peace with the
whites ; the set-
tlers, in Western
mirth fulness,

painting; on their
" BUSTED." *

white wagon-

cover the words, " Pike's Peak or Bust." A scouting party sent out
from some post came upon them on the Upper Republican just in time
to see the savages vanishing in the distance. The oxen lay dead in
the yoke. Beside the wagon were the corpses of the two settlers,
transfixed with arrows. They had " busted."

In 1864 the savages broke out worse than ever, carrying off several
women captive from the settlements in Kansas. In 1865 there was
a precarious peace; but in 1866 and '67 the Indians raided every part
of the stage road. Meanwhile the noted "Chivington massacre" had
occurred, and General P. E. Connor had, by extraordinary exertions,
killed some Montana Indians; both events were seized upon by East-
ern "humanitarians," and for awhile they succeeded in completely
paralyzing all portions of our army. And here it may be observed
that our peculiar, tortuous, uneconomical and most unsatisfactory
Indian policy, is the result of a certain conflict of forces highly liable
to occur in a free republic. There is, first, a small but eminently
respectable and powerful party which is opposed to fighting the
Indian at all, and think he might be fed and soothed into keeping the


peace; and that, at any rate, it would be cheaper to feed all the
Indians to repletion than to fight them. And as to this last point they
are emphatically correct. There is, next, a considerably larger num-
ber, mostly on the frontiers, who believe in a war of extermination,
but they have little or no political influence. There are also .the
traders and agents, some honest and some otherwise, whose interests
are involved; and the sensible middle class, who believe in keeping
treaties with the Indians, and thrashing them if they break treaties.
Of course it sometimes happens that one of these parties is ahead, and
then another. As a result our policy is strangely crooked, inconsist-
ent and expensive. The Indian no sooner gets accustomed to one
policy than another is adopted; he has scarcely learned to trust one
officer till another is in his place, who takes a malicious pleasure,
apparently, in undoing all that the former has done. This uncertainty
entails frightful expense both in treasure and life. But it is a diffi-
culty inseparable, apparently, from our form of government.

It is unnecessary to trace the causes which led to Hancock's cam-
paign against the Indians in 1867. It was a formidable affair on
paper, but accomplished nothing. Our whole force consisted of eight
troops of cavalry, seven companies of infantry and one battery of
artillery, the whole numbering 1,400 men. General Hancock, with
seven companies of infantry, four of the Seventh Cavalry, and all the
artillery, marched from Fort Riley to Fort Harper, and there was
joined by two more troops of cavalry. Thence they marched south-
west to Fort Lamed, near the Arkansas. The hostile Indians, con-
sisting of Cheyennes and Sioux, had appointed a council near by ; but
all sorts of difficulties seemed to arise to prevent their comi-ng up to
time. First, there was a heavy snow, although it was the second
week in April ; and the runners reported that the bands could not
come. Then word came that they had started, but found it necessary
to halt and kill some buffalo; and again that they had once come in
sight, but were afraid on account of so many soldiers being present.
Then General Hancock proceeded up the stream to hunt the Indian
camp, and was met by an imposing band of warriors. Another par-
ley ensued: midway between the hostile forces Generals Hancock,
A. J. Smith and others met Roman Ncse, Bull Bear, White Horse,
Gray Beard and Medicine Wolf, on the part of the Cheyennes, and
Pawnee Killer, Bad Wound, Tall-Bear-that-walks-under-Ground,
Left Hand, Little Bull and Little 'Bear, on the part of the Sioux.
There was no fighting, but after a few days more of excuses, the
mounted Indians suddenly departed. Then it was discovered that the



whole proceeding was but a well-played ruse to enable the Indians to
get their women and children to a place of safety, and leave the war-
riors free for contingencies. The accomplished commanders of the
American army had been tricked by a lot of dirty savages. Custer
in the lead, pushed on with all possible speed after the Indians, but in
vain. They had struck the stage stations on the Smoky Hill route,
and murdered several persons; and the war was begun. It ended
decidedly to the advantage of the Indians.


Ouster's first experience in actual Indian fighting was while escort-
ing a wagon-train loaded with supplies from Fort Ellis. The Indians
had selected for the fight a piece of ground well cut up with gullies
an admirable system of "covered ways" by which they hoped to get
close up to the wagons without being discovered, and then make a
charge. But the watchful eye of a scout discovered their plan, and
brought on the conflict on ground more favorable to the whites. The
train was simultaneously attacked on all sides by six or seven hundred
well-mounted Indians, outnumbering Ouster's party twelve to one.
The savages attacked in the manner known as "circling" that is,
riding round and round the whites, hanging on the opposite side of
their horses so as to be shielded, and firing over the animal's back
and under his breast. The scout Comstock had predicted a long and
obstinate battle : " Six hundred red devils ain't a goin' to let fifty men
stop them from getting the sugar and coffee that's in these wagons."
And they did not yield the prize as long as there was hopo. The
ioldiers were located around the wagons in skirmish order. The


Indians encircled them in a much larger ring ; but though the firing
continued for hours, only a few Indians were hit, so difficult was it to
take aim at the swiftly flying horse or rider. All this time the train
moved slowly on over the comparatively level prairie, the teamsters
shivering with terror, and scarcely needing the command to " keep
closed up one teaih's head right against the next wagon." This fight
lasted three hours, and had the Indians maintained it much longer,
the soldiers must have run out of ammunition. But the savage scouts,
posted all around on the highest points, gave warning that something
was wrong ; and soon the whole band ceased firing and galloped off.
Five of them had been killed and several wounded. The cause of
their sudden retreat proved to be Colonel West's cavalry command,
which soon arrived.

Ouster's next anxiety was for Lieutenant Kidder and his party of
eleven men, who were known to be moving across from the Republi-
can to Fort Wallace, through a country now swarming with hostile
Indians. Soon after getting the supply train into camp, Comstock,
the scout, was appealed to for his opinion as to Kidder's chances. It
was far from encouraging. But Comstock's reply to the officers con-
tains some hints worth recording. Said he : "Well, gentlemen, there's
several things a man must know to give an opinion. No man need tell
me any pints about Injuns. If I know any thing, it's Injuns. I know
jest how they'll do any thing, and when they'll take to do it ; but
that don't settle the question. Ef I knowed this young lootenint, if I
knowed what sort of a man he is, I could tell you might} nigh to a
sartainty all you want to know; for, you see, Injun huntin' And Injun
fightin' is a trade all by itself; and like any other bizness, a man has
to know what he's about, or ef he don't, he can't make a livin' at it.
I have lots o' confidence in the fightin' sense o' Red Bead, the Sioux
chief, who is guidin' the lootenint, and ef that Injun can have his
own way, there is a fair show for his guidin' 'em through all right;
but there lays the difficulty. Is this lootenint the kind of a man
that is willin' to take advice, even if it does come from an Injun? My
experience with you army folks has allays been that the youngsters
among ye think they know the most ; and this is 'specially true ef
they've jist come from West Pint. Ef one o' 'em young fellers
knowed half as much as they bleeve they do, you couldn't tell 'em
nothin'. As to rale book larnin', why I spose they've got it all, but
the fact of the matter is they couldn't tell the difference 'twixt the
trail of a war party and one made by a huntin' party to' save their
necks. Half uv 'em when they first cum here can't tell a squav


from a buck, because they both ride straddle ; but they soon larn. But
that's neither here nor thar. I'm told that this lootenint we're talkin'
about is a new-comer, and that this is his first scout. Ef that be the
case, it puts a mighty unsartain look on the whole thing ; and 'twixt
you and me, gentlejnen, he'll be mighty lucky ef he gets through all
right. To-morrow we'll strike the Wallace trail, and I can mighty
soon tell whether he's gone that way."

Xoxt day the relief party, led by Custer, came on Lieutenant
K.idder's trail, and after a brief examination Comstock pronounced :
"The trail shows that twelve' American horses, shod all around, have
passed at a walk; and when they went by this pint they war all
right, because their horses are a movin' along easy, and no pony
tracks behind 'em, as would be ef the Injuns had an eye on 'em. It
would be astonishin' for that lootenint and his layout to git into the
fort without a skrimmage. He may, but ef he does, it'll be a scratch
ef ever there was one; and I'll lose my confidence in Injuns."

Custer ordered the command to hurry up, and, following the trail,
they came, in a few hours, upon two dead horses with the cavalry
brand, but stripped of all accouterments. A little farther, and they
saw that the American horses had been going at full speed, while all
around Comstock pointed out the minute but abundant evidences that
the Indians had fought them from all sides, the pony tracks being
numerous. A little farther, and they entered the tall grass and
thickets along Beaver Creek, and there saw several buzzards floating
lazily in the air, while the trail was sprinkled with exploded cartridges
and other debris. That told the tale. Nor were they long in finding
the dead. The sight made the blood even of these brave men curdle.
Lieutenant Kidder and his companions lay near together, stripped of
every article of clothing, and so brutally hacked and mangled that all
separate recognition Avas impossible. Every skull had been broken,
every head scalped ; the bodies were mutilated in an obscene and in-
describable manner, and some lay amid ashes, indicating that they had
been roasted to death. The scalp of Red Bead, the friendly Sioux, lay
by his body, as it is contrary to their rules to carry away the scalp of
one of their own tribe ; nor is it permitted among most Indians to
keep such a scalp or exhibit it. The exact manner of their death can
not be known, but all the surroundings showed that they fought long
and well. Caster's command buried them on the spot where found,
whence the father of Lieutenant Kidder removed his remains the next

Custer marched on to Fort Wallace with all possible speed, but


troubles multiplied. The soldiers had begun to desert. Forty men
took "French leave" in one night! The next day thirteen men
deserted in broad day, in full view of the command, seven mounted
and six on foot. After a desperate run the latter were captured, two
slightly and one mortally wounded. It is to be noted that they were
then in a region where the deserters apprehended no danger from
Indians. Two men were killed by the Indians after all danger was
tli ought to be past. From Fort Wallace the command marched east-
ward to Fort Hayes. The war was over, and Custer applied for and
obtained leave to visit, by rail, Fort Riley, where his family was then
located ; and for this, and other matters connected with that campaign,
Custer was court-martialed! This proceeding appears to have been
purely malicious, prompted by the dislike of some inferior officers over
whom Custer had exercised pretty severe discipline. The charges
were drawn by one whom he had severely reprimanded for drunken-
ness. He had left Fort Wallace without orders, because, under the
circumstances, he thought proper to report to his commander in
person. To this they added the fact that^Jie went on to Riley to
visit his family, and thus constructed a charge that he had abandoned
his post for his private convenience ! Mean as this attack was, it was
successful. Custer was suspended from rank and pay for one year!

Meanwhile another summer campaign was undertaken against the
hostile Indians, with equally barren results. General Sully marched,
in 1868, against the combined Cheyennes, Kioways, and Arapahoes,
whom he struck near the present Camp Supply. If this was a " drawn
battle," that is the best that can be said of it. Sully retired, badly
crippled, and made no further attempts. At the same time General
" Sandy " Forsythe, Avith a company of scouts and plainsmen enlisted
for the purpose, was hunting for the hostile Sioux on the northern
affluents of the Republican. He found them. They also found him.
Of his total force of fifty-one men, six were killed and twenty
wounded ; all their horses were captured, and the command was only
saved from annihilation by the arrival of reinforcements. The Noble
Red Man evidently understood his business better than the Generals
opposed to him. The people of Colorado grew sarcastic. Western
people often do when mail and supplies are cut off for weeks at a time.
It appeared that the mountain territories were in a fair way to be
isolated from the rest of the country. California Joe, a scout who had
been with several of the commanders, thus gave in his experience :

" I've been with 'em when they started out after the Injuns on
wheels in an ambulance as if they war goin' to a town funeral


in the States, and they stood about as much chance o' ketchin' the
Injuns as a six-mule train would of ketchin' a pack o' coyotes. That
sort o' work is only fun for the Injuns; they don't want any thing
better. Ye ought to seen how they peppered it to us, and we doin'
nothing all the time. Some war afraid the mules war a goin' to stam-
pede and run off with all our grub, but that war onpossible ; for,
besides the big loads of corn and bacon, thar war from eight to a
dozen infantry men piled into every wagon. Ye'd ought to heard the
quartermaster in charge o' the train tryin' to drive the men outen the
wagons and git them into the fight. He was an Irishman, and he sez
to 'em: 'Git out of thim waggins. Yez 'ill -hev me tried for disoba-
dience ov orders for marchin' tin men in a waggin whin I've orders
but for eight.' "

But the rude common sense of General Sheridan, soon after his
arrival on the plains, put an end to summer campaigning. He and
Sherman united in asking for the restoration of Custer; and, on the
12th of November, 1868, that officer, at the head of his command
again, started out on his famous Washita campaign. Soon after the
departure from Fort Dodge, on the Arkansas, the command was over-
taken by a violent snow-storm ; but this the commander thought all
the more favorable to his plans. General Sheridan could only point
out to Custer the neighborhood of the hostiles' camp, and leave all
details to his judgment. With four hundred wagons and a guard
of infantry for them, and the Seventh Cavalry in fighting order, he
pressed rapidly southward to the edge of the Indian country, where a
camp was established for the wagons, as a base of supplies, and the
cavalry pressed on. California Joe and other scouts accompanied the
expedition, besides a small detachment of Osage Indians, headed by
Little Beaver and Hard Rope, who did excellent service. After a
terrible winter march, the command, 800 strong, arrived at the bluff
of the Washita at midnight, and saw below them, in the moonlight,
the hostile camp. It was evident, at a glance, that the Indians trusted
implicitly in the old army habit of fighting them only in summer.
They had no scouts out, and were buried in repose. The command
was divided into four nearly equal detachments ; and, by making wide
detours, the Indian camp was completely surrounded before daylight.
The night was terribly cold, but no fire could be lighted, and the
suffering was intense. As Custer stood upon the brow of the hill, and
peered through the darkness into the camp, he distinctly heard the
cry of an Indian baby, borne through the cold, still air, and reflected
with pain that, under the circumstances, there was so much probability



that the troopers' bullets would make no distinction of age or sex.
Soon after daylight the attack was made. Although taken by sur-
prise, the Indians fought desperately, but were utterly routed. It
practically annihilated Black Kettle's band of Cheyennes. A hun-
dred and three warriors were killed, fifty-three squaws and children
captured, eight hundred and seventy-five ponies taken, and a vast
amount of other property. Of the force, two officers and nineteen
men were killed, three officers and eleven men wounded. In the very


t 'our of victory Custer discovered that this was but one of a long line
.-' villages extending down the Washita; but he had struck such
terror that the others did not gather force sufficient to attack, and he
returned to camp in safety.

And here it may be noted that in plains' travel and fighting, there
is no difficulty so great as dealing with the wounded. With all the
appliances furnished our army surgeons, there must still be many
deficiencies; and, with the ordinary plainsman, a bad wound is either


certain death or a long and terrible struggle, in which nothing saves
the man but an iron constitution. In the old days a regular back-
woods' science grew up among trappers and voyageurs; they treated
gunshot wounds and broken bones, extracted bullets and arrows, or
amputated shattered limbs in a way that would have amazed the
faculty, but was singularly successful. The camp-saw and a well
sharpened Jbowie-knife were their surgical instruments; their cauteries,
hot irons; and their tourniquets, a handkerchief twisted upon the
limb with a stick run through the knot and turned to press upon the
artery. Arrows were often drawn through the limb, the feathers
having been cut off; and bullets flirted out of an incision quickly
made with a sharp razor. In winter the wounded limb was almost
frozen by snow or ice applied before the amputation ; in summer there
was nothing for it but to suffer it through. An old voyageur, with
but one arm, gave me an account of his losing the other, which made
my "each particular hair to stand on end." The arm was completely
shattered below ,the elbow; it was amputation or death, and the party
was a thousand miles from any surgeon. But with knife, saw, and
red-hot iron the job Avas skillfully done; he survived such rude surgery
without a shock to his fine constitution.

After a brief rest Custer was again sent to the Washita, where he
alternately negotiated with and threatened the savages until he had
recovered some captives they held, and located the Indians near the
forts. And here originated the difficulty between him and General
W. B. Hazen, then in charge of the southern Indians Custer main-
taining that Satanta and Lone Wolfs bauds of Kioways had been in
the fight against him, Hazen denying it. It was six years before the
matter was settled, Hazen producing unquestionable evidence that he
was right. We find evidences, from time to time, that Custer was
somewhat hasty in his judgments, and very impulsive in giving ut-
terance to them in short, that he had some of the faults as well as all
the virtues of a dashing, impetuous man.

For two years there was peace on the plains; but in the spring of
1873 the first Yellowstone expedition went out. From Yankton the
Seventh Cavalry, with Custer in command, marched all the way to
Fort Hice, six hundred miles, Mrs. Custer and other ladies accom-
panying the column on horseback. There the ladies halted, but it
was not till July that the entire expedition started cavalry, infantry,
artillery and scouts, numbering seventeen hundred men all under
command of Major-General D. S. Stanley. The main object was to
explore the Country, and open a way for the surveyors of the Northern


Pacific Railroad. Ouster, as usual, was put in the lead, and soon after
reaching the Yellowstone had several skirmishes with the Indians,
who were desperately resolved against the passage of a railroad
through the country. If they could only have looked forward over
the next year of the financial world, they might have been spared all
anxiety on that point. During this march the sutler and veterinary
surgeon of the Seventh Cavalry were murdered by a Sioux called
Rain-in-the-Face ; and out of that matter grew the latter's hostility to
Custer, and perhaps the latter's tragic death three years after.

Early in 1874 began the memorable Black Hills expedition, an un-
dertaking that began in the grossest injustice and ended in wholesale
murder. From the first discovery in California, rumors had con-
stantly prevailed of great gold placers in the Black Hills, but the re-
gion was a mystery. The Warren Expedition, in 1857, had gone
around the whole district, but the Sioux emphatically prohibited them
from entering it, stating that it was sacred ground. Other expeditions
proved that the region was a great oval, about a hundred by sixty
miles in extent, cut up by numerous low mountain ranges covered
with timber ; that it possessed, as do all such mountainous regions, a
more rainy climate than the plains, and scores of little valleys of
great fertility. It is obvious, from the lay of the country, that the re-
gion can not contain any great area of agricultural land, but quite
probable that it abounds in good mountain pastures and timbered
hills. The tenacity with which the Sioux clung to it only the more
convinced the Westerners that it contained gold by millions, and
many were the exciting stories told. The treaty of 1868 confirmed it
to Red Cloud and other chiefs in person in Washington, and
the Black Hills were declared inviolable a section of the Indian
reservation never to be trespassed upon by white men. The Custer
expedition of 1874 was undertaken in direct violation of that treaty,
and upon the half-avowed principle that treaties were not to be kept
with Indians if whites needed the country in question. Consistent
with this ill-faith the expedition was made the occasion of ridiculous
exaggeration, not to say downright falsehood. Correspondents were
sent along with descriptive powers suited to an earthly Eden, and
they described one ; explorers went to find gold by millions, and they
found it. The country needed a sensation, and the Government took
the contract of supplying it. When the expedition had returned, and
the brilliant correspondents had made their report, General Hazen un-
dertook to moderate popular enthusiasm by portraying the high plains
as they generally are ; but the public rejected him, and found in his


testimony only another evidence of his animosity to General Custer.
The general result was, settlement of the Black Hills before the In-
dian title was extinguished, and another expensive and fruitless In-
dian war.

The next year Rain-in-the-Face, a noted brave of the Uncpapa
Sioux, was arrested for the murder of Dr. Honzinger and Mr.
Baliran, of the Yellowstone Expedition of 1873. He was brought

Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 53 of 62)