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Nelson Appleton Miles.

Personal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire online

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Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 19 of 51)
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his command into action between those of Custer and Reno. Captain Ben-
teen halted his men and helped to rally the battalion of Major Reno. In
that vicinity the two commands remained the entire day and night. One
commander had received positive and repeated orders from Custer to attack
the enemy ; the other had received Custer's last and equally positive order



GENERAL NELSON A. MILES.



209



to "Come on," "Be quick," and "Bring packs" containing the reserve am-
munition. The courier who brought Ouster's last order was the best pos-
sible guide to be had to lead the way to Ouster's position if any direction
was needed ; but the sound of the rifle shots and the volleys down the
river indicated exactly where the troops and the ammunition were re-
quired and should have gone.

Under rules governing all military forces, whenever two commands
come together the senior officer is responsible for the whole. And the
senior officer should give the necessary orders. Major Reno was therefore
the responsible commander at that point.

Captain Godfrey says that from where Reno's command remained they
could hear the firing going on farther down in the valley between Ouster's
men and the Indians, for a long time. The Indians disappeared from that




ing chased Major Re-
of the valley and up
Captain Weir with
a short distance along
direction of the firing,
smoke and dust and
tion in the valley, re-
could go no further.



front after hav-
no's troops out
on the b 1 u ff s .
his troops moved
the crest in the
and seeing
a great com mo-
ported that he
That may have
been a time
when one troop
under a gallant
officer might not
have been able
to go where

seven troops could and ought to have
gone. One of the scouts, Herendeen,
and thirteen men who were with Reno,
and who were left in the timber from
which Reno retreated, after the Indians
had gone down the valley, walked
across the plain, forded the river, and
rejoined their command on the hill.
These two movements indicate that
there were no Indians in this vicinity
during the time that the firing was going on that is mentioned by Godfrey,




THE OUSTER BATTLEFIELD Two YEARS
AFTER.



210 PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF

down the valley of the Little Big Horn where the real battle was
being fought.

All that was known of the fate of Ouster's command for at least two
years, was derived chiefly from the evidence found upon the field after the
engagement. In this way it became known that his trail, after pass-
ing the butte from which he had sent the last order to Captain Ben-
teen, bore on down toward the Indian village nearing the creek at one
point of low ground, and then moving to the right where it took position
along a crest parallel with the Little Big Horn and the Indian village.
Here the dead bodies showed that the engagement had occurred along this
crest. The bodies of the men were found, some on the slope toward the
Indian camp, many on the crest, and some back a shoi't distance in the
rear of the crest. Lieutenant Crittenden's body was found near the ex-
treme left ; Captain Keogh, with a number of his troops, in the rear of the
center ; General Custer and his two brothers on the extreme right. The
bodies of some forty soldiers were found scattered on the ground between
the extreme right and the Little Big Horn, those nearest the river in a
small ravine or depression of ground.

At first the impression was that Custer had attempted to go down this
ravine and had been driven back ; but no horses were found along this line
of dead bodies. This is approximately all that is known of the fate of
Custer and his command from what information could be obtained from
the appearance of the ground and the bodies of the men and horses after
the fight. This tragic ending of our republic's first centennial gave a
theme to the poet Longfellow, who wrote the following lines :

THE REVEXGE OF RAIN-IF-THE-FACE.

In that desolate land and lone,
Where the Big Horn and Yellowstone

Roar down their mountain path,
By their fires the Sioux Chiefs
Muttered their woes and griefs

And the menace of their wrath.

" Revenge ! " cried Rain-in-the-Face,
" Revenge upon all the race

Of the White Chief with yellow hair!"
And the mountains dark and high
From their crags re-echoed the cry
Of his anger and despair.



GENERAL NELSON A. MILES



211



In the meadow, spreading wide
By woodland and riverside

The Indian village stood ;
All was silent as a dream,
Save the rushing of the stream

And the blue-jay in the wood.



In his war paint and his beads,
Like a bison among the reeds,

In ambush the Sitting Bull
Lay with three thousand braves
Crouched in the clefts and caves

Savage, unmerciful !



Into the fatal snare

The White Chief with yellow hair

And his three hundred men
Dashed headlong, sword in hand ;
But of that gallant band

Not one returned again.

The sudden darkness of death
Overwhelmed them like the breath

And smoke of a furnace fire ;
By the river's bank, and between
The rocks of the ravine.

They lay in their bloody attire.

But the foetnen fled in the night,
And Rain-in-the-Face, in his flight,

Uplifted high in air
As a ghastly trophy, bore
The brave heart, that beat no more,

Of the White Chief with yellow hair.








Whose was the right and the wrong ?
Sing it, O funeral song,

With a voice that is full of tears,
And say that our broken faith
Wrought all this ruin and scathe,

In the Year of a Hundred Years.



RAIN-IS-THB-FAOE.



M 13



212 PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF



CHAPTER XVI.

AFTER THE OUSTER MASSACRE.

ORDERS TO REINFORCE GENERAL TERRY XOTES OF PREPARATION FAREWELL TO FAMILIES AND

FRIENDS DEPARTURE FROM FORT LEAVENWORTH INCIDENTS OF THE JOURNEY UP THE

MISSOURI AFFAIRS AT THE MOUTH OF THE YELLOWSTONE FORT BUFORD TO THE

ROSEBUD JUNCTION OF TERRY AND CROOK THE LARGEST MILITARY FORCE

EVER ASSEMBLED ON THE PLAINS CAPTAIN AJJSON MILLS AT

SLIM BUTTES GENERALS TERRY AND CROOK REPAIR TO

WINTER QUARTERS TO RESUME THE CAMPAIGN

IN THE SPRING " YELLOWSTONE KELLEY "

IN CANTONMENT SEVERITY

OF THE CLIMATE IN

WINTER.

HE announcement of the annihilation of Ouster and this large
body of men, whatever may have been the causes of the same
as discussed in the preceding chapter, shocked the entire
country, and was telegraphed around the world as a great dis-
aster. I remember reading on the morning of July 5, at Fort
Leaven worth, Kansas, the headline of a newspaper, printed in the
largest kind of type and running across the entire page the sin-
gle word, '' Horrible." Then followed a brief but graphic account
of the disaster upon the Little Big Horn. It shocked our little com-
munity there perhaps more than it did any other part of the country,
as General Ouster was well known among us. He and his regiment were
most popular throughout all that region, and the disaster seemed to their
friends most appalling. It seemed to magnify in the public mind the pow-
er and terrors of the Sioux Nation, and immediate orders were sent to dif-
ferent parts of the country directing that detachments of troops be ordered
to the seat of war.

Six companies of my regiment were ordered to move from Fort Leaven-
worth under Lieutenant-Colonel Whistler, but as six companies were more
than half of the regiment, I claimed that by right it was a colonel's com-
mand and requested to be ordered with it myself, which request was at
once granted. Subsequently the remainder of the regiment was ordered
to follow. The prospect of going up into that "dark and bloody ground''




GENERAL NELSON A. MILES. 213

was certainly not the most inspiring, but as I had a well-drilled and
splendidly-disciplined regiment, experienced in Indian campaigning a
command in which I placed a confidence which was reciprocated by offi-
cers and soldiers I did not feel the least hesitancy in taking it up into
that country. The sympathy expressed for us by the friends of the regi-
ment was, however, fully appreciated.

Within a few days the command was equipped for the field, and the
announcement that the regiment was to leave by train on a certain day at
a specified hour, brought a large concourse of people from the surrounding
country, numbering hundreds, if not thousands, to see us move away.
Many were presented with bouquets and other tokens of regard, and while
it was an inspiring sight to behold the resolute and determined appearance
of both officers and men, yet within all our hearts there was certainly a
deep sadness as we bade adieu to our families and friends. The command
was paraded, and, at the order to march, stepped off as lightly over the turf
as they were accustomed to do in their ordinary parades ; the band playing
" The Girl I Left Behind Me," and one of the national airs. We marched
to the depot, and from there were moved by train to Yankton, Dakota.

As we passed through the towns and villages it reminded me of the
time when the troops were going to the war for the Union in the days of
1861 and '62, Many of the public buildings and private houses were draped
in mourning, and frequently the national colors were displayed in token of
sympathy for the dead and encouragement for the living. The command
was cheered wherever it passed a gathering of citizens, and finally went
on board a large river steamer at Yankton. As we moved up the river the
same tokens of respect and confidence were shown at every village we
passed, and these demonstrations were answered by the cheers and hurrahs
of the men, indicating the utmost confidence in their own prowess. As
we passed one of the military posts, a few officers and ladies of the gar-
rison were down on the beach to watch our steamer ploughing its way up
the Missouri River. One of the officers signaled a single word to us with
a handkerchief, as we were beyond the reach of communication except by
signaling ; the word was " Success." To show their confidence and at the
same time their independence, one of our men signaled back two short
words, " You bet."

These and like incidents marked our course until we reached Fort Lin-
coln which we found shrouded in the deepest gloom and mourning. The
relatives and friends of that portion of the gallant Seventh that had
perished were still at this military station. More than thirty widows of



214



PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF



officers and soldiers were there in sadness and loneliness, including the
widow of the brave Ouster. Such a scene could not fail to touch every
heart, while it nerved them all to fortitude for the future. Here the
command was inspected by the department inspector to see that all the
paraphernalia and equipments that were supposed to be demanded for such
a campaign as was before it. had been supplied. The command was found
in perfect condition, having all the equipments required by the regulations.




SCENE ON THE STEAMBOAT.

The inspection being over we reembarked, and, after moving up the
Missouri for several miles, an order was given for the troops to pack up all
the paraphernalia that we had found in our experience with the southern
Indians to be not absolutely essential for a campaign in the field. These
included bayonets and bayonet scabbards, sabres, cartridge boxes, military
caps, &c. This order was received by the men with a hurrah, and they
quickly and carefully packed in boxes to be shipped down the river all that
they did not require, realizing that to carry unnecessary material on the
long, weary marches was a useless burden. In place of cartridge boxes,



GENERAL NELSON A. MILES. 215

they gladly buckled about their waists the more useful equipment of cart-
ridge belts, with the cartridges carefully polished for immediate and seri-
ous action.

For ten days the great steamer ploughed its way up the Missouri, fre-
quently coming upon a sand bank, owing to the constant changes in the
channel of that turbulent river. When an accident of this kind occurred
the great shafts in the bow of the boat were lowered, and with the engines
the bow was partially lifted off, while the stern wheel was reversed and
then another effort made to find the main current of the waters. At one
time near the close of day the bow struck a sand bank. The weary roust-
abouts on board the vessel, impatient and tired as they were with the day's
work were still inclined to be humorous, one of them remarking that "it had
been said that the world was created in six days, but he did not believe that
the Creator had yet made up his mind where he wanted the Missouri River."

During the day the men occupied themselves in polishing their cart-
ridges or looking over their equipments to see that everything was in
order, or in cleaning their rifles. When at leisure they were engaged in
reading, or in writing letters to their friends to be sent back whenever
they might have an opportunity. In the evening they gathered on the
upper and lower decks and amused themselves by listening to the songs of
those of their number who were fortunate enough to have fine voices and
were good solo or quartette singers.

We reached Fort Buford, at the mouth of the Yellowstone, just after
dark, and a large number of the officers and men came down to the wharf
to see our troops. Such terror had the disaster to Ouster occasioned in the
hearts of these men that they seemed overcome with sadness; not a cheer
greeted our command as the steamer moved up to the wharf; and they were
surprised to hear from the deck a quartette of our men singing the most
jolly and rollicking songs that they knew, with a chorus of laughter joined
in by their comrades.

We then moved on up the Yellowstone, and during our first evening on
that river I noticed some trepidation on the part of one of the black serv-
ants as the men were about to put down their blankets for the night. He
appeared a shade lighter than usual as he said to the steward of the
steamer, " Hyar massa, kin you inform me which is de Sioux side of dis
yere Yellowstone?" Upon being asked why he wanted to know, he said,
"So I kin lay my blanket down on de udder side of de boat."

We continued our journey up to the Rosebud and I reported my com-
mand to Brigadier-General Terry. We formed part of his forces during the




216 PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF

two months following, and moved up the Rosebud, where General Terry's
troops joined those under Brigadier-General Crook. This brought the two
department commanders together with one of the largest bodies of troops
ever marshalled in that country. The combined forces then moved east
across the Tongue River to the mouth of the Powder River. There the
commands separated again, General Crook crossing the tributaries of the
Yellowstone and Little Missouri, then going southeast,
crossing the Belle Fourche, and going into camp near the
Black Hills. His command suffered very much for want
of food and many of his animals perished on this
march. He sent some troops on in advance, under the
command of Captain Anson Mills, now colonel of the
Third Cavalry, to obtain supplies. This gallant
and skillful officer surprised a band of Indians
near Slim Buttes and captured their camp, con-
taining a large amount of supplies which proved
of great benefit to his detachment and also to the
troops of General Crook when they came up.
This command moved south from the Black

Hills to the various stations and did not, as a whole, take any further part
in the campaign against the Sioux.

From the mouth of the Powder River the remaining portion of the
command, under General Terry, moved north to the Big Dry, thence east,
then south again, and ultimately to Glendive, on the Yellowstone. There
it embarked in steamers and returned to the various stations, leaving my
command, the Fifth Infantry, with six companies of the Twenty-second
Infantry, in the field to occupy that country during the approaching
winter.

It was contemplated that my troops should build a cantonment, but it
was not supposed that they would do much more than occupy that much
of the country until the next spring, when it was expected that they would
form the basis for another season's campaign. This order was given by
General Sherman, commanding the army, and he also made an order for a
larger body of troops to be located at that point. For several reasons the
cavalry regiment first designated to be a part of that command was not
sent into that country. A few horses were procured about thirty in all
for mounting some of the infantry to act as couriers and messengers. A
few fi'iendly Indians were also obtained for the command, as well as a few
frontiersmen for service as scouts and guides.



GENERAL NELSON A. MILES. 217

It was my purpose when I found I had been designated to remain in
that country not to occupy it peaceably in conjunction with the large
bodies of Indians that were then in the field, and which practically
included the entire hostile force of the five Indian tribes, namely : the
Uncpapas under Sitting Bull, the Ogalallas under Crazy Horse, the North-
ern Cheyennes under Two Moons, and the Minneconjoux and Sans Arcs
under their trusted leaders. Judging from our experience of winter cam-
paigning in the southwest, I was satisfied that the winter was the best
time for subjugating these Indians. At that period it was regarded as
utterly impossible foi white men to live in that country and endure the
extreme cold outside the protection of well-prepared shelter. But I was
satisfied that if the Indians could live there the white men could also,
if properly equipped with all the advantages we could give them, which
were certainly superior to those obtainable by the Indians. I remarked to
General Terry that if given proper supplies and a reasonable force, I would
clear the Indians out of that country before spring. He remarked that it
was impossible to campaign in the winter, and that I could not contend
against the elements.

About this time fortune threw in my way a man who was destined to
prove very valuable to me, and who was known in that country by the
soubriquet of "Yellowstone Kelley." Mr. Kelley had
gone into that region as early as 1868, and had lived
there as a hunter and bearer of dispatches ever since.
He was an educated man, came of a good family, and
was young and strong ; but he had become so infatu-
ated with that wild life and with the beauties of nature
as he found them there, that he had remained, mak-
ing that country his permanent home. He had trav-
ersed almost every part of it. In coming down
the Yellowstone he had killed a large bear, and
cutting off one of its paws he sent it in to me
as his card, and with his compliments. This
led to an acquaintance and an inquiry on my
part into his career and capabilities. I felt
convinced that he was a person who could be YELLOWSTONE KELLEY.

put to a very useful purpose at that juncture

of affairs, and on expressing myself to that effect I found that he was ready
to place himself at my service. I supplied him with two of the best
horses I had, one being a thoroughbred, and with these he made several




218 PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF

long journeys by himself. I shall have occasion to mention his name from
time to time as this narrative proceeds.

My command moved from Glendive to the junction of the Tongue River
with the Yellowstone, where ground had already been selected for the
cantonment by Lieutenant-Colonel J. N. G. Whistler, Fifth United States
Infantry, and every preparation was being made in the way of the cutting
of timber, the hauling of logs, and the building of huts for the shelter of
the stores, as far as possible, as well as for the shelter of the troops while
they were in cantonment. Preparations were made for the accommodation
of the entire command during the winter, but I felt sure that simply to
hibernate and allow the Indians to occupy the country meant a harassing
and unendurable existence for the winter; besides giving great encourage-
ment to the Indians by permitting them to believe themselves masters of
the situation while we were simply tolerated upon the ground we occupied.
My opinion was that the only way to make the country tenable for us was
to render it untenable for the Indians; and with that view I made all the
preparations necessary for the protection of our stores, and every possible
provision for the comfort of the troops when they should be able to rest.
I also made the most careful preparations for a vigorous, active, and severe
winter campaign. I appreciated all the terrors of that rigorous climate,
and determined not to expose the troops to any unnecessary hardships, or
to undertake a campaign in the snows of Montana and Dakota with no
better equipments than those found necessary for a summer campaign in
Texas. I was satisfied that if the Indians could live in that country in
skin tents in winter, even though sheltered by favorable bluffs and loca-
tions and not required to move, that we, with all our better appliances
could be so equipped as to not only exist in tents, but also to move under
all circumstances.

I, therefore, as far as possible, equipped my command as if I were organ-
izing an expedition for the Arctic regions; and in respect to climatic effects,
the record during that time and since has demonstrated that the severity
of the cold of winter there was nearly equal to anything encountered by
Schwatka, Greely or other explorers. During the winter campaigns of
1876 and '77 all the mercurial thermometers we had with us were frozen
solid. The following winter a spirit thermometer registered between 55
and 60 below and the lowest record was on Poplar Creek where the com-
mand crossed in 1876, and where the thermometer subsequently registered
66 below zero; which was equal to the cold of the Arctic regions. That
temperature is simply appalling. Even when the air was perfectly still



GENERAL NELSON A. MILES.



219



and all the moisture of the atmosphere was frozen, the air was filled with
frozen jets, or little shining crystals.

We were abundantly supplied with food and clothing, and every pre-
caution was taken to protect both men and animals against the severity of
this intense cold. Every effort was also made to keep the train and riding
animals in full flesh. They were fed abundance of corn to give as much
heat to their systems as possible, and plenty of hay whenever it could be
obtained, and when this was not obtainable they were given the dry grass
of the country that is cured on the ground.

Both officers and men profited by the experience they had been through
in the winter campaigns in the Indian Territory, and applied themselves

zealously to their equip-
ment in every possible
way. In addition to the
usual strong




MARCHIXG ix WINTER.



woolen cloth-
ing furnished for the
uniform, they cut up
woolen blankets and
made themselves heavy

and warm underclothing. They were abundantly supplied with mittens
and with arctics or buffalo overshoes, and whenever it was possible they
had buffalo moccasins made, and frequently cut up grain sacks to bind
about their feet in order to keep them from freezing. They made woolen
masks that covered the entire head, leaving openings for the eyes and to
breathe through, and nearly all had buffalo overcoats. This command of
more than four hundred men looked more like a large body of Esquimaux
than like white men and United States soldiers. In fact with their masks
over their heads it was impossible to tell one from another.

When the snow was deep they frequently marched in single file, the
leading man breaking the road until weary, then falling out for another to
take his place and returning to the rear of the column while the fresh



220



PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF



man continued to beat the pathway through the snow. At night they
made large fires of dry cottonwood and frequently slept on the snow be-
side them. They crossed all the principal rivers, the Missouri, the Yellow-
stone and the Tongue, with heavily-loaded wagons and pieces of artillery
on the solid ice. These active operations continued from early in Octo-
ber until the middle of February.




GENERAL NELSON A. MILES.



221



CHAPTER XVII.
A WINTER CAMPAIGN.

PREPARING FOR A WINTER CAMPAIGN SITTING BULL DIVIDES His FORCES A NARROW ESCAPE
SUPPLY TRAIN DRIVEN BACK BY INDIANS HUNTING FOR SITTING BULL HE Is FOUND
MEETING BETWEEN THE LIXES ATTEMPTED TREACHERY A SECOND MEETING
CONFERENCE ENDS ABRUPTLY THE BATTLE OPENS PRAIRIE ON FIRE IN-
DIANS DEFEATED AND HOTLY PURSUED AGAIN A FLAG OF TRUCE MAIN
BODY OF INDIANS AGREE TO SURRENDER AT AGENCY AND GIVE
HOSTAGES ESCAPE OF SITTING BULL AND PORTION OF IN-



Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 19 of 51)