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 8 of 51)
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animal life on land.



We must remember, however, that many anthropologists regard all
men as having one origin, and hence believe that all peoples on the Amer-
ican continent are of a single differenti-
ated variety of man. For a working
hypothesis, the theory of the several dis-
tinct origins of man has many advantages.
All opponents to successive immigration
must necessarily admit a very early palaeo-
lithic immigration, or else an autochthon-
ous origin for man in America. If an
early immigration, why not later ones
after the supposed continental connections
had ceased to exist and man was capable

FIRE-MAKIXG BY THE PRE-HISTORIC MAX. o f m0 ving from place to place with the

aid of boats? In this connection the recent paper by Professor Otis T.
Mason is most suggestive.

Let us ask ourselves the simple questions: Why it is that dolichocephal-
ism* prevailed over northern, eastern and portions of western North
America, while brachycephalism prevailed over the southern and south-
western portions? Why is it that the early peoples of the south and south-
west the old Mexicans, the old Pueblo peoples and cliff-dwellers, and the
old earth-work builders of the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys are not only
brachycephalic to a greater or less extent, but also differ so markedly in
their mental traits from the dolichocephalic peoples of the north?

These prominent differences are probably racial, while environment
has unquestionably caused and preserved many modifications. Still the
long-heads of the north had as good opportunities to advance if they had
possessed the primary characteristics for a corresponding independent de-
velopment. When groups of them came in contact with the tribes farther
advanced, they showed themselves capable of receiving and absorbing a
certain amount of culture which they added to their own ; but it was only
by this contact. Left to themselves their development would naturally
have been on different lines, which, in fact, have in great part been fol-

In studying the characteristics of each people, the archaeologist must
ever be on the watch for elements showing this contact of people with
people in past times. Again, the special characteristics of a people must

'Dolichocephalic. Long-headed. A term applied to races having heads the diameter of which from side to
side is small compared to that from front to liack.

^Brachycephalic. Having heads more nearly round, like the Caucasian head.


be distinguished from the primary characteristics, arts and institutions of
association, that all human beings have common to their humanity -
their generic characteristics.

It, therefore, seems that the peoples of North America, known to history,
were composed of the descendants of the early man of the Pacific slope,
the early man of the Atlantic slope, the ancestors of the Caribs of the south-
east, the early brachycephalic people of the southwest, and, in all prob-
ability, immigrants from Asia at a later time. The brachycephalic branch
probably had its origin in Asia. The dolichocephalic branch may have
come in the earliest period either from Europe or Asia or from both con-
tinents. If from Europe, it must have crossed the continent of America
in exceedingly remote times with a return migration to the east, after the
glacial period. There is evidence of a western culture coming to the east,
since it was on the Pacific side of the continent that the greatest advance
in the primitive arts and culture was made in ancient times.

During the early migrations over the continent it seems probable that
the people of the Pacific Coast wandered northward and eastward, forming
tribe after tribe, as isolation of small groups took place. As time passed
on. peculiar customs, arts and languages were developed by the new con-
ditions of life. Some of these groups formed settlements on the northern
Pacific Coast to which were probably added immigrants from Asia. As
time went on, group after group became separated and pushed eastward
and southward when led by geographical conditions and the supply of
food, or when forced by enemies. In course of time one group reached the
Atlantic Coast and probably came in contact with the small palaeolithic
man of the east ; while others were forced to the north, where by environ-
ment and isolation the tribes of eastern Eskimo were formed. A similar
pushing of groups to the north on the Pacific Coast, and the following of
peculiar food supplies, may have resulted in the formation of the western
Eskimo. In the east, the long-headed peoples stretched southward along
the coast and westward into the interior along the rivers until they came
in contact with the advancing short-heads of the southwest. In the great
region of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys the mixture of the two races is
apparent; and there must have been a long contest between the more cul-
tured and -sedentary tribes who built the old earthworks, and the savage
and nomadic warriors from the north who in time took possession of the
fertile valleys. During this period of contact and crossing of the two
acres, the more savage learned of the arts and culture of the other. Some
of these arts and customs have come down to the present time and have



spread from their source until they have become the common inheritance
of now widely separated tribes. In the south and southwest, brachy-
cephalism prevailed, while at the north and northeast dolichocephalism
maintained its ascendency. In the central region and particularly in the
Ohio Valley a mixture of the two types is shown by the mesaticephalic or
medium skulls which prevail in the burial places of the tribes whose de-
scendants the white race drove from the region."




Vj) HE official reports and literature regarding the aborigines of
this country during the past four hundred years have been so
voluminous that the future historian will have ample material
for portraying the character of that race as civilization has
known it during the period. But their true history cannot be
written until the prejudices engendered by hundreds of years
of race war have, to a great extent, been obliterated. It is
not my purpose to write a history of that race, but only to
contribute a chapter, in part my own observations of the Indians, and in
part to give the testimony of others concerning them.

Among the authorities, the writings and illustrations of George Catlin
are entitled to a high rank in point of accuracy and attention to detail.
Catlin was ambitious to be the historian of a departed race. The inspira-
tion came to him on seeing a delegation of stalwart Indians on their visit
to the national capital. They made a marked and lasting impression upon
his artistic eye, and in 1832 he went west, ascending the Missouri River to
the mouth of the Yellowstone, and took up his abode among the Indians,
of that region. During the succeeding eight years he visited nearly half
a hundred different tribes, and collected much information concerning
their habits and character. In the early forties he returned to civilization
and gave to the world a very excellent account of the tribes with which
he had come in contact. I may also instance Washington Irving's work,
''The Rocky Mountains, or Adventures in the Far West," as presenting
trustworthy information ; also Schoolcraft, and numerous other works
treating of Indian history and character in earlier times.


Parkman, who has made the subject a life work, has given us many
volumes of interesting and valuable information concerning the original
inhabitants and the early occupation of the country by the Europeans.
McKinney's and Hall's works are valuable and interesting.

To the civilized man of to-day the idea of human torture is abhorrent,
whether prompted by bigotry, race hatred, or superstition, and the extreme
cruelty sometimes shown by the Indian has been dwelt upon as a peculiarly
inherent trait of his nature : and he has been condemned as a malignant
fiend, incapable of the better impulses of humanity and unworthy of
admission to the brotherhood of man. I have no sympathy with this
view, which has been crystalized into the brutal epigram, falsely at-
tributed to General Sherman, " The only good Indian is a dead Indian." I
hope before I am through with this work, I shall be able to show that much
that is good may be said of the Indian. I shall speak of him as a diplomatist,
a statesman and a warrior. I shall, to some extent, describe his industries,
his games, his music and his art, for there is much of art in the Indian's
decorations, his blending of colors, his pottery, his feather work, and his
bead, basket and blanket work. It is a singular thing, but long since
noted as a fact, that the more cultivated a people, the more intricate is
their music and the more simple their colors, especially in dress ; or. con-
versely, the more primitive and unenlightened they are. the simpler is
their music, and the more complicated or extravagant their coloring.

It will not be without interest to note somewhat briefly the condition
of the races found here by Columbus and the early explorers.

The first and, in view of the savage character now generally attributed
to him, most striking fact to be noted of the American Indian before he
degenerated through contact with the white man, and anterior to the
race war that was waged for centuries before his final overthrow, was
the dignity, hospitality and gentleness of his demeanor toward strangers
and toward his fellow savages ; his cordial welcome of the newcomers to
his shores and home.

What was it that changed all this and caused that race war, so relent-
lessly prosecuted and so heroically contested to the bitter end? Not
entirely treachery on the part of the Indian, but also the inexorable
needs of a higher civilization, too often in haughty contempt pushing its
conquests and gratifying its desires regardless of justice, plighted faith,
and the finer and purer instincts and emotions that actuate and
move the best elements of our nature. All accounts agree that
the first voyagers and explorers found the natives ''simple," "hospitable,"


and " friendly." Soon, however, they learned to fear and distrust
the strangers, who took every advantage of their ignorance and kindness.
Enticed on board their vessels they were seized and carried away from
their native lands to be put on exhibition or sold into perpetual slavery
beyond the seas. Columbus himself initiated this wrong. Sebastian Cabot
carried his quota to England, and Captain Aubert his to France. It may
be not uninteresting to cite a few instances from the records, both early
and recent, to illustrate more fully this too generally unrecognized fact.

Upon his first arrival Columbus wrote of the natives: " We found them
timid, and full of fear, very simple and honest, and exceedingly liberal,
none of them refusing anything he may possess when asked for it." Yet
he took some of them by force and carried them to Spain. These, how-
ever, were not Indians as we use the term, but Caribs, the milder race
found on the West Indian Islands.

Gaspar Cortereal, a mariner in the service of the king of Portugal,
ranged the coast in 1501 as far as the fifteenth parallel, admiring the
brilliant verdure and dense forests wherever he landed. He repaid the
hospitality with which he was everywhere received by the natives by
taking with him on his return fifty-seven of them, whom he had treach-
erously enticed on, heard his ship, and selling them into slavery.

An Italian mariner in the service of the king of France in 1524 sailed
along the coast from abouf^the latitude of Washington to that of New-
port, and his narrative furnishes the earliest description of that portion
of the Atlantic Coast. He describes the natives as very " courteous " and
" gentle," but as mild and. feeble, though " possessing prompt wit, with
delicate limbs and handsome visages." Seeing many fires ashore, and
the natives friendly, he sent his boat to them, but the surf was too vio-
lent to permit of landing. One of the sailors offered to swim ashore with
some presents ; but when he came near his fears prevailed, and, throw-
ing out his presents, he attempted to return to the ship, but the waves
cast him on the sand, half dead and quite senseless. The Indians imme-
diately ran to his assistance, carried him ashore, dried his clothes before
a fire, and did everything to restore him. His alarm, however, was ex-
cessive. When they pulled off his clothes to dry them, he thought they
meant to sacrifice him to the sun, which then shone brightly in the
heavens. He trembled with fear. As soon as he was restored they
gently led him to the shore, and then retired to a distance until the ship's
boat had been sent for him, and they saw him safely on board. In re-
quital of this kindness, the visitors robbed a mother of her child, and

M 6


attempted to kidnap a young woman " of tall stature and very beautiful."
Her outcries and vigorous resistance saved her.

In the year 1534, Jacques Cartier sailed from France to the region of
the St. Lawrence, and took possession of the country in the name of the
French king. The natives were very friendly and took great pains to
show it "by rubbing their hands upon the arms of the European visitors,
and lifting them up toward the heavens," and in other ways. Cartier
carried off some of the natives, but as he was to return the next year he
treated them well and trained them to act as interpreters.

In a second voyage, made the following year, ascending the St. Lawrence,
he visited the native villages of Stadacona, now Quebec, and Hochelaga,
the modern Montreal. Viewing the white men as heavenly visitors, the
Indians crowded around them to touch them, paying them every mark of
reverence and respect. They brought to Cartier their lame, blind, diseased
and impotent to be healed ; and he gratified their desires, " praying to God
to open the hearts of these poor people that they might be converted."
The interview closed with his giving them knives, beads and toys. When
he was about to sail, he enticed the chief, Donnaconna, with nine others
on board his ship, seized and confined them, and, regardless of the cries
and entreaties of their people carried them to France. Four years later
all these, excepting one little girl, were dead.

A typical case is related by Captain John Smith, the hero of colonial

" One Thomas Hunt, the master of this ship, when I was gone betrayed four and twenty
of these poor savages aboard his ship, and most dishonestly and inhumanly, for their kind
usage of me and all our men, carried them with him to Malaga and there for a little pri-
vate gain sold these silly savages. But this vile act kept him ever after from any more
employment in these parts."

But what is to be expected of the average adventurer when the highest
sentiment of the time in regard to the Indian as expressed by that emi-
nent divine, Rev. Cotton Mather, is found to have been this: "We may
guess that probably the devil decoyed these miserable savages hither, in
hopes that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ would never come here to
destroy or disturb his absolute empire over them."

The first attempt to found an English colony in New England was made
by Captain Bartholomew Gosnold in 1602. He landed first on Cape Cod,
and then sailed into Buzzard's Bay and began a settlement on the island
now known as Cuttyhunk. The Indians, who were frequent visitors,


he described as "exceedingly courteous, gentle of disposition, and
well-conditioned, exceeding all others in shape and looks. They
are of stature much higher than we, of complexion much like a dark
olive ; their eyebrows and hair black, which they wear long tied up
in knots, wherein they prick feathers of fowls in fashion of a coronet," etc.

Another account, speaking of the Abenaki and Micmac tribes farther
north on the coast of Maine, says, "they had permanent villages enclosed
by palisades. They were agriculturists, amiable and social, brave, faithful
to engagements and especially strong in their family attachments." In
May, 1605, Captain George Weymouth landed on their coast, seized
some of the natives and carried them to England. There was great diffi-
culty in getting the Indians into their boat. The statement is that they
were strong and naked so that " their best hold was by their long hair,"
and it was as much as five could do to take one of them. In England they
were objects of great wonder, and crowds of people followed them in the
streets as they had done a century before, when those brought over by
Cabot were exhibited.

When in 1609 Henry Hudson sailed in the " Half Moon" up the noble river
which now bears his name, he found the natives a "very loving people."
They invited him to visit them on shore, where they made him welcome
and a chief " made an oration and showed him all the country round
about." A few years later the Dutch laid the foundation of Manhattan,
now the great city of New York, the traders here as elsewhere constantly
defrauding the Indians. At length the Dutch governor, Kieft, attempted
to exact tribute from them and followed this up by an attack on the
Raritans for an alleged theft at Staten Island, which brought on a deso-
lating warfare that lasted two years.

This war was succeeded by a period of comparative peace and amity
between the whites and neighboring Algonquin tribes. The latter became
involved in a war with the Mohawks, who came down upon and drove
them in great numbers into Manhattan and other Dutch settlements near
it. As they were then at peace with the whites, policy and humanity
alike suggested that they should be well treated. Instead of this, their
defenseless condition only suggested to Kieft the policy of exterminating
them. Across the river, at Pavonia, a large number of them had collected,
and here at midnight the Dutch soldiers, joined by some privateersmen,
fell upon them while asleep in their tents and butchered nearly one hun-
dred of them, including women and children. As might have been ex-
pected this cruel act was terribly avenged. The Indians everywhere rose



upon the whites, killing the men, capturing the women and children, and
destroying and laying waste the settlements.

So it was all the way from the St. Lawrence to the Antilles. Within
twelve years of the discovery of the Island of St. Domingo, its teeming
population who had received the strangers with the most generous hospi-
tality, were driven to desperation by such perfidious betrayal as no savage
nation ever could surpass, and after a heroic resistance in which they
perished by the thousands, the miserable and broken-hearted remnant
were reduced to abject slavery.

The frauds and injuries of which they were the victims, were not for-
gotten by the natives, but, as was quite natural were eventually returned
with interest. The wars were never discontinued, except in isolated and
exceptional instances, until within our own time the curtain was rung
down on the final ending, it is to be hoped, of the drama of this race war.

Now and then an enlightened conciliatory and just course of deal-
ing was initiated by a Peter Stuyvesant or a William Penn, and
always with the happiest results, but in the main the policy above indi-
cated was the one pursued from the discovery down to our own day. Is
it to be wondered at that just in proportion as they were brought into
contact with the European their character changed, absorbing the worst
elements of the strangers without acquiring the best ?

Catlin, after many years given to the study of Indian character under
every variety of circumstance, noted the following results of contact
with the white race upon the Indian, the effect being classified as
secondary :



































































Catlin, after his eight years of life among the Indians, deliberately
characterizes as " an anomaly, a white man dealing with Indians and met-
ing out justice to them."

One of Washington Irving's most popular works was that relating to the
adventures of Captain Bonneville in the far West. The captain was an
enterprising army officer who obtained an indefinite leave of absence with
the object of studying the Indian in his native haunts. As a means to this
end he adopted the profession of a fur-trader and spent five years in the
region of the Kocky Mountains in the ostensible pursuit of a fortune. He
" started into the country with one hundred and ten men ; whose very
appearance and equipment exhibited a piebald mixture half civilized and
half savage." They sojourned among the Nez Perces. the Flatheads, and
many other tribes of Indians until then uncontaminated by exotic
influences, and what were their characteristics? "They were friendly
in their dispositions and honest to the most scrupulous degree in their
intercourse with the white men." Again, " Their hon-
esty is immaculate ; and their purity of purpose and
their observance of the rites of their religion
are most uniform and remarkable. They are
certainly more like a nation of saints than a
horde of savages."

And how was this " simple, timid, inoffen-
sive race " requited for the welcome given
these men? The very same account ex-
plains, and it is the old, sad story of wrong
to the Indian. " One morning one of the
trappers, of a violent and savage character,
discovering that his traps had been carried
off in the night, took a horrid oath that
he would kill the first Indian he should
meet, innocent or guilty. As he was re-
turning with his comrades to camp, he
beheld two unfortunate Root-Digger In-
dians seated on the river bank, fishing ;
advancing upon them, he levelled his rifle, shot one upon the spot, and
flung his bleeding body into the stream."

It is questionable whether any other native races have so much of that
stately dignity and pleasing deportment, as had the North American Indian,
while yet uncontaminated by foreign influences. Bishop Whipple wrote :




" The North American Indian is the noblest type of a heathen man on the earth. He
recognizes a Great Spirit ; he believes in immortality ; he has a quick intellect ; he is a
clear thinker ; he is brave and fearless, and, until betrayed, he is true to his plighted faith.
He has a passionate love for his children, and counts it joy to die for his people. Our
most terrible wars have been with the noblest types of the Indians, and with men who had
been the white man's friend."

Nicollet said the Sioux were the finest type of wild men he had
ever seen. Lewis and Clark, Governor Stevens, and Colonel Steptoe bore
testimony to the devoted friendship of the Nez Perces for the white man.
Colonel Boone, Colonel Bent, General Harney and others speak in the
highest praise of the Cheyennes.

The Indian's civility to strangers has been remarked by all the early


writers, and countless illustrations given to show that they were well
disposed, and that they treated newcomers with marked consideration.
It is a well-known fact that if it had not been for their hospitality and

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 8 of 51)