William Henry Ryus.

The second William Penn; a true account of incidents that happened along the old Santa Fe trail in the sixties online

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Online LibraryWilliam Henry RyusThe second William Penn; a true account of incidents that happened along the old Santa Fe trail in the sixties → online text (page 4 of 11)
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could not profit by them. However, this was an
error on the part of the Colonel, as will be seen.
All the horses and saddles would have been re-
turned in due time. Three weeks after Ford's
experience in the Indian country, an old Indian
and his squaw came riding into Fort Larned on
two of the horses, which they traded off for nuts,
candy, sugar and more candy, and were highly
pleased over their exchange. They had no use
for the large horses because they could not stand
the weather as well as their Indian ponies. They
grinningly told the storekeeper they would return
in "two moons" with more horses.


The Fort Riley Soldiers Go to Fort Larned to

Horse Race With Cheyennes, Com-

anches and Kiowas.

The Indians are great people for sport and
amusement and it would be difficult to imagine
a more inveterate gambler. Their greatest ambi-
tion is to excel in strength and endurance.

Several times as our coaches meandered across
the plains, we came upon the lodges of thousands
of Indians, where the male population were trying
their skill at horse-racing. Even the small boys,
many times as many as fifteen or twenty, would
be horse-racing and the chiefs would be betting
upon their favorites.

For their race tracks, they dug ditches about
four feet apart and threw up the sod and dirt be-
tween the ditches. The whole tribe then packed
the ground in the tracks hard and smooth by
riding their horses up and down those tracks to
pack the dirt still more firmly. These tracks were
generally one and one-eighth miles long. The
Indians would then select a horse which they
regarded as especially swift and banter the soldiers
for a horse race, which the soldiers were quick to
accept, if they were lucky enough to get a fur-
lough. These Fort Riley soldiers always brought
their best horses to Fort Larned to race against
the Indians' race ponies.

Once during the summer of 1863 when there
were only a few white people at Fort Larned, the
Indians, about 15,000 strong, commenced prepara-


tion for a horse race between themselves and the
Fort Riley soldiers. Everything was completed
and the Indian ponies were in good trim to beat
the soldiers. The Indians had placed their stakes
consisting of ponies, buffalo robes, deer skins,
trinkets of all kinds and characters, in the hands
of their squaws. Then the Fort Riley soldiers
came and the betting was exciting in the extreme,
the soldiers betting silver dollars against their
ponies, etc. The soldiers were victorious and
highly pleased over the winnings. The Indians
handed the bets over manfully and without a
flinch, but one Indian afterward told me that they
had certainly expected to have been treated to at
least a smoke or a drink of "fire water;" but the
soldiers rode away laughing and joking and prom-
ised the Indians to return in "two moons," per-
haps "three moons," in response to their invitation.
I was at this race and joined in the sport. Every-
thing was as pleasant as could be. There was no
disturbance of any kind and the soldiers took their
"booty" and, as a matter of fact, did not even
invite the Indians to smoke a consolation pipe.

During the fall of 1863 a small band of Com-
anches and Kiowas went to Texas and procured
a white faced, white footed, tall, slim black stallion
for racing purposes. In elation they notified the
Fort Riley soldiers to come again. This time,
not only did the Fort Riley soldiers come, but
citizens from all over the whole country for a dis-
tance of from 300 to 500 miles came to see the fun.
There were from twenty to thirty thousand Indi-
ans there, and the Indians who invited them pre-
pared to take care of a large crowd in good style,


so confident were they that this time "the pot"
would be theirs. They had hunted down, killed
and dressed some fifty or sixty buffalo, and had
them cooking whole, in the ground barbecuing
the meats. This time the putting up of the bets
before the races came off was still more exciting
than at the previous race, for the Indians had from
500 to 1,000 ponies to put up. The white men
matched their money against the ponies of the
Indians. The race had begun. As it proceeded,
shouts of "Hooray, hooray, the Indians' black
stallion is ahead, 100 feet in advance of the sol-
diers' horse, he goes. The race is won, and the
black stallion stands erect and excited, proud and
defiant, and has won the laurel for his man, and
seems to know that the trophy is theirs. All had
placed their bets in the hands of the squaws for
the spokesman, Little Ravin, the orator and reg-
ular dude of the Arapahoes, gave the white people
to understand that everything would be safe in the
hands of the squaws he had selected to hold stakes
These squaws proved true to their trust. After
the distribution of the winnings, Little Ravin told
the soldiers to stay and eat. Everybody grew
merry. The soldiers went to the government
dining room there at Fort Larned and got all the
knives and forks they could rake and scrape to-
gether and took them to the barbecue. When
the Indians saw that the white people had entered
into the banquet with such enthusiasm and zest
they went to the settlers' store and bought two or
three hundred dollars worth of candies, canned
goods of all kinds, crackers, etc., to make their
variety larger. They also bought 50 boxes of


cigars with which to treat the citizens and soldiers.
When everything was in readiness for the feast,
the white men all stood up near the feast with a
few of the greatest chiefs of the several tribes,
while the other Indians who were not acting as
waiters, to see that the choicest pieces of buffalo
meat were given their guests, stood in a ring back
of the white guests, and did not attempt to satisfy
their hunger until after the whites had demon-
strated that they had feasted to the brim. This
was one of the most amusing incidents of my life
on the frontier, and the Fort Riley boys felt that
in this treatment, they had been dealt a blow to
their own generosity, and one of the soldiers acting
as spokesman, told the Indians that they were
ashamed of their own lack of hospitality when
they were the winners of the other race. This
pleased the Indians greatly, and they fell an eas>
victim to the duplicity of the soldiers and made a
contract to sell their black stallion racing horse
to them for the sum of $2,000, which sale was to be
completed 60 days later if the soldiers still wantec
the purchase of the horse, at which time they were
to notify the Chief, and he was to bring or send
him to Fort Riley. This was a great sacrifice, but
the ignorant Indian was not aware of it. During
the 60 days before the Indian brought the horse in
and received their money one soldier went up to
St. Joe and sold this horse, so I have been told
for the sum of $10,000 in cash, but for the truth
of this statement I will not vouch.

It is a picturesque sight to watch the Indians
move camp. Their trains often covered severa
hundred acres of land. The Indians usually move


in a large body, or band. Their moving "van"
consists of two long slim poles placed on each side
of a pony, made fast by means of straps tanned
by the squaws from buckskin and buffalo hides.
About six or seven feet from the ponies' heels are
placed two crossbars about three or four feet
apart, connected by weaving willow brush from
one crossbar to the other, between these shafts, or
poles, hitched to the pony. Upon this woven
space or "hold" are placed the household goods,
the folded tents or tepees, and lastly, their children
and decrepit Indians.

It is not unusual to see several thousand of
these strange vans moving together, their trains
being sometimes three or four miles in length.
Then their politeness might also be spoken of,
for while it is true that they have a traditional
politeness, it is not a matter of history. Their
sledges were never in the public road but at least
10 to 20 rods outside of the road in the sage brush
and cactus, leaving the road free for the Stage
Company's mail coach.

In all the different books I have ever read, I
have never seen one word of praise for any cour-
tesy the Indians gave us during those frontier
days, but instead I find nothing but abuse. The
Indian is the only natural born American and the
only people to inhabit North America before the
discovery by Columbus. This land we so greatly
love rightfully belonged to the Red Man of the
forest, and it is my opinion that they had as much
right to protect their own lands as do we in this
century. The novelists howl about the depreda-
tions committed by the Indian, but their ravings


are made more to sell their books and to create
animosity than for any good purposes.

The Eastern people eagerly read everything
they found that abused the Indians, and the Indi-
ans in those days had no presses in which to make
known their grievances. The only thing left was
to get vengeance wherever he found a white man.
"To me belongeth vengeance and recompense."
Personally I blame the press for loss of life to both
the Indian and the white men, for having schooled
the white man erroneously. Travelers crossing
the plains were always on the defensive, and ever
ready to commence war on any Indian who came
within the radius of their firearms. When I was
a boy I read in my reader: "Lo, the cowardly
Indian/ The picture above this sentence was that
of an Indian in war paint, holding his bow and
arrow, ready to shoot a white man in the back.

The novelists write many things of how Kit
Carson shot the Indians. Kit Carson was a per-
sonal friend of mine, and when I read snatches to
him from books making him a "heap big Indian
killer," he always grew furious and said it was a
"damn lie/' that he never had killed an Indian,
and if he had, that he could not have made the
treaties with them that he had made, and his scalp
would have been the forfeit. At one time Kit
Carson went on an Indian raid with Colonel Willis
down into Western Indian Territory. He volun-
teered to go with Colonel Willis to protect him
and his soldiers, and at this very time Colonel
Henry Inman tells of Kit Carson being on the
plains of the Santa Fe Trail, with a large company
of soldiers under his command, shooting Indians.


This is a mis-statement of Colonel Inman. Kit
Carson never had a company of soldiers, was not
a military man, and at no time raided the Indians.
As will be seen in another chapter of this book,
he was simply $. scout and protector for the sol-
diers. Like Dryden, however, "I have given my
opinion against the authority of two great men,
but I hope without offense to their memories."
Kit Carson said that the Indian, as a people, are
just as brave as any people. Their warriors were
not expected to go out as soldiers with a com-
manding officer, but each was to protect himself.
That, in their opinion, was the only way to carry
on war.


Major Carleton Orders Colonel Willis to Go Into

Southwestern Indian Territory and "Clean

Out the Indians." Kit Carson Volunteers

to Go With Colonel Willis as Scout

and Protector.

In June, 1865, two or three settlers coming from
the border of the Indian Country along the Texas
and Arizona line, into Santa Fe, planned to hunt
and kill all the game on the reservation without
consulting the Indians. This occasioned trouble
and one white man was killed. General Carleton,
in command of all the Southwestern country, sta-
tioned at Santa Fe, heard about the killing, and
without attempting to understand the position the
Indians held, or in any way to find out the cause
of trouble, sent an order to Colonel Willis, who
was stationed at Fort Union, to take his 300 Cali-
fornia Volunteers to this reservation and to "Clean
out the Indians." His order was imperative. It
did not say for him to endeavor to find out the
cause of the death of this white man, but to go
at once into their camp and to massacre, confiscate
anything of value, and have no mercy on the Red-
skins, who had slaughtered a white man who was
"only hunting" on the Indian reservation.

When Colonel Willis got this order he said to
me that he knew absolutely nothing about the
Indian mode of warfare, and that he was fearful
of getting his soldiers all killed, and he wished that
Kit Carson would go with him, but that he would


not ask him to do so because he knew that Carson
would disapprove of the orders he had from
Colonel Carleton.

President Polk appointed Kit Carson to a second
lieutenancy and his official duty was to conduct
the fifty soldiers under his command through the
country of the Comanches, but for some reason the
Senate refused to confirm the appointment, and
he consequently had no connection with the regu-
lar army.

When Colonel Willis had his soldiers all in trim
and was about to leave Fort Union, Kit Carson,
who had been watching him from a nail keg upon
which he was sitting, came up to him and slapped
Willis' horse on the hip, saying: "Willis, I guess
I had better go with you; if you go down there
alone, them red devils will never let you return."
"Kit," said Colonel Willis, "That is what I want
you to do, and we will wait for you." But Kit
Carson needed no time to prepare, he threw his
saddle on and told Colonel Willis that he was
ready without any delay. At about 10 o'clock in
the forenoon the company left Fort Union, carry-
ing one cannon and plenty of ammunition. At
about daybreak on their second day out, they came
upon a village of 100 or more tents camped on
about the line of New Mexico and Arizona. There
were Kiowas, Comanches, Cheyennes, Utes, Arap-
ahoes and some Apaches in this village. Colonel
Willis said to Kit Carson that it was about time
to "try their little canon," but Kit Carson told Col.
Willis "No." Kit asked Col. Willis to show him
his orders, which by the way he had not seen be-
fore volunteering to come with Willis. When



Carson read the order he was startled. It had
never occurred to him that a man of Col. Carle-
ton's reputation would be so unjust. Now said
Kit Carson to Col. Willis, "Suppose we send out
some runners and bring the chiefs to us and see
what occasioned all this trouble that caused Gen.
Carleton to give such orders." Col. Willis said he
had no such orders as that from Carleton, and the
only thing he could do was to "beard the lion in
his den" because his orders were strict, they said
to go and kill the Indians wherever he found them
and he would be compelled to obey orders. The
consultation between Col. Willis and Brevet Kit
Carson almost amounted to an argument. Kit
Carson declared that his orders should have read
"in your discretion, etc.," and that it was not ad-
visable to take life in this manner, "but since you
must obey orders," Brevet Gen. Kit Carson said,
"Fire away, if every mother's son of you lose your

At daybreak Col. Willis' soldiers fired into the
Indian camp, where dwelt something like 1500 In-
dians, mostly old squaws and papooses with a few
able-bodied warriors. Few escaped with their
lives and those who did escape were entirely des-
titute for the soldiers set fire to their tents after
loading their wagons to the hilt with whatever
they considered might be of value, buffalo robes,
moccasins, blankets and other assets, together
with all the provisions from the camp. There were
several tons of the latter buffalo meat, antelope,
venison, goat, bear and dried jack rabbit. When
Kit Carson found that all this provision was con-
fiscated he demanded that it be unloaded and left
for the consumption of the few remaining Indians


scattered over the plains who were without food
or shelter.

After this raid they started for the Indian Ter-
ritory and over into Texas, hunting for more In-
dians. Kit Carson kept surveying the landscape
with a view to securing suitable places to fortify
against the formidable foe whom he knew might
at any time steal upon them and ambush them.
Col. Willis had been watching him for several
days and was totally unable to make out from his
deportment what he was looking for. When Kit
Carson told him that he was hunting for safe
camping places Col. Willis asked him if he thought
they might be attacked. Kit Carson told him that
he knew that before many "moons" they would be
surrounded by Indians, and that they must begin
their preparations for defense. Col. Willis was un-
used to Indian signs, but Kit Carson knew them
well. He had already seen the Indian smokes. An
Indian's telegraphic means were by smokes placed
at intervening points. These smokes denote place,
number, etc., known to all Indians and "path-find-
ers." Kit Carson with his field glass inspecting
the country had noticed these smokes and knew
that a large band was being called together. He
informed Col. Willis that they must travel back
to a certain place he had selected, a stone ridge
with a spring gushing out of the side of a cliff. This
was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. They
reached the stone ridge about dusk. "Carson,"
said Willis, "tell us what to do, I know nothing
about fighting these wild devils." Kit Carson told
him to put his soldiers to piling stone and make
a breastwork to hide behind. He told Willis to
send some of the soldiers to the spring and build


up a wall several feet all around it and put some
of the soldiers in there for protection and at the
same time have a place to get water. . The soldiers
had not a minute to lose. The Indians bore down
upon them and sent arrows into their midst, but
did no damage. Kit Carson told a soldier to put
a hat on a pole and lift it up, that he believed some
Indians were hidden in a wild plum thicket close
by; if so, they would shoot at the hat. This hat
trick was tried several times. Kit Carson had lo-
cated the Indians pretty well by this time and told
Col. Willis to set his cannon so it would shoot
very low, to barely miss the ground, and then he
thought they would have a chance to snatch a
"piece of sleep" befor-e daylight. When the can-
non exploded the Indians retreated, taking with
them their dead and wounded and did not come
back any more that night. An Indian will risk
his life rather than leave a dead member of his
band in the white man's possession. It is an old
superstition that if a warrior loses his scalp he
forfeits his hope of ever reaching the "happy hunt-
ing ground." Col. Willis and Kit Carson camped
there until two o'clock in the morning when they
went down off of the stone ridge out onto the open
prairie twenty miles distant, where they again
camped. After dark they again started out on the
trail. Indians hardly ever attack at night. Never-
theless, the Indians began to congregate until they
numbered several thousand and chased Col. Willis
and Kit Carson 300 miles. Under the clever man-
agement of Kit Carson's Indian tricks Col. Willis
and his soldiers all escaped without a loss of a man
or getting one injured. Kit Carson told me tfiat


he was "mighty thankful that the gol-derned grass
was too green to burn."

My Position in Reference to the Treatment of


It has been my endeavor in writing this book to
relate incidents as they actually occurred and of
my own personal knowledge and observation. My
experience with the Indians and my observations
with their natural traits and characteristics con-
vinces me that the white man has not, in most in-
stances, been willing to do him justice and has sub-
jected him to a great deal of unmerited abuse and
persecution. The outbreaks by the Indians in all
instances that came under my observation were
brought about by the ill treatment of the whites.
The Indians were always very reluctant to avenge
themselves upon the whites for the wrongs done

The Indians have been driven from their hunt-
ing grounds until many times they were unable td
secure food and were upon the verge of starvation.
Naturally, then, they would approach the wagons
of the white men, go to their settlements or follow
the stage coaches and emigrant trains in the hope
of securing something to eat. The whites would
often become unnecessarily alarmed and attempt
to frighten them away by killing one or more of
their number. As a result of this the Indians
would be aroused and take to the warpath and at-
tempt to avenge the death of their lost warrior by
killing a white man wherever he chanced to find


I have known such instances as this to occur
many times and had I not exercised every care to
avoid hostilities and establish peaceful relations be-
tween myself and my passengers and the Indians
I would no doubt have met with a similar experi-
ence in some of my trips along the Santa Fe Trail.


W. H. Ryus Enters Second Contract With Stage

Company, Messenger and Conductor of

the U. S. Mail and Express.

The spring of 1864 I left the services of the stage
company and came to Kansas City, Kansas, where
my parents lived.

In June of that year I bought a team, mowing
machine and wire hay rake and entered into a con-
tract to furnish hay to the government. I took
my hay-making apparatus out on the prairie, about
ten miles from Kansas City, and cut several hun-
dred tons of hay which I sold to the government
quartermaster at Kansas City.

During the summer of that year Confederate
General Price made his famous raid through West-
port, going South with his army, followed by the
Federal soldiers.

There were upwards of 3000 of the Federal mil-
itia, and while on the road from Westport to Kan-
sas City they became frightened and stampeded.
They heard that Price's army was coming toward
them from Westport. It was an exciting scene
to see men acting like wild men.

The militia posted at Kansas City, Kansas, con-
sisted of troops from the counties of Brown, At-
chison and Leavenworth and were under a news-
paper man's command, an editor from Hiawatha,
Kansas, whose name I do not recall. The gov-
ernor of Kansas ordered this major to take his
militia and go to the line and protect Kansas City,
Missouri, from Price's raiders. The soldiers re-


fused to go with their major in command. How-
ever, they agreed to go to Missouri if their major
would resign in favor of Captain James Pope of
Schuyler County, New York, who was in com-
mand of a militia of Kansas soldiers. This was
done and Captain Pope was made major and took
charge of the several different companies besides
his own.

At about ten o'clock in the forenoon in the lat-
ter part of July the militia then started to go over
into Missouri after Gen. Price. I went along with
the militia, and as we were approaching West-
port we caught sight of several thousand stam-
peding soldiers, going as fast as their legs would
carry them.

I rode up alongside of Major Pope and said,
"There's a stampede, see them coming! I will
make my horse jump the fence and run up to them
and tell them Price's army is coming the other
way." Major Pope replied, "Go a-flying." He
halted his troops and I rode through the fields to-
ward the stampeding soldiers, yelling to them and
their officers that Price's army was coming to-
ward them from Kansas City. This checked them
and gave them a chance to collect their wits.

The officers of the stampeded troops then called
to the soldiers, "The rebels are coming this way,
right-about-face." By the time the stampeded
troops were brought to a halt they were face to
face with Major Pope's regiment. Major Pope
being an old soldier, understanding military tac-
tics, went to the south end of the stampeded
troops, took charge of them and commanded them
to right-about-face and started south for West-
port on a double-quick time.


After the militia had gotten under way I put my
horse under the dead run and caught up with the
Union soldiers who were in pursuit of Price's army
at Indian Creek, twenty miles from Westport.

As it was now growing late I thought best to
return to Kansas City. On my way back I again
came in contact with Major Pope with the militia
and told him that it was impossible for them to
catch up with Price's raiders or the other Union
forces, for they were going on the dead run. I told
him that he might just as well go into camp, which
he did, greatly to the relief of his almost exhausted

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Online LibraryWilliam Henry RyusThe second William Penn; a true account of incidents that happened along the old Santa Fe trail in the sixties → online text (page 4 of 11)