In 1863, the Indians of the valley under the leadership of the celebrated Sioux war-chief, Spotted Tail, broke out, and the government determined to chastise them. An expedition was organized, which was to rendezvous at North Platte, consisting of the First Nebraska Cavalry, Twelfth Missouri Cavalry, a detachment of the Second United States and Seventh Iowa Cavalry, Colonel Brown, the senior officer, commanding the whole.

Some of the operations of this expedition and personal adventures have been told by George P. Belden, then belonging to the First Nebraska Cavalry.[60] He was a famous trapper, scout, and guide, and was known as "The White Chief." He afterward became an officer in the regular army. His account runs as follows: -

        The snow was quite deep on the plains, and knowing that the hostile Indians, who were then encamped on the Republican River, were encumbered by their villages, women, and children, it was thought to be a favourable time to strike them a severe blow. There were many Indians in our command, among others a large body of Pawnee scouts. Early in January the expedition left the Platte River, and marched southward toward the Republican. When we reached the river a depot of supplies was established and named Camp Wheaton, after the general then commanding the Department of the Platte. This done, the scouting began, and we were ready for war. Nor were we long kept waiting, for Lieutenant James Murie, who marched out to Short Nose Creek with a party of scouts, was suddenly attacked by a large body of Sioux, and six of his men wounded. Colonel Brown considered this an unfortunate affair, inasmuch as the Indians, having learned by it the presence of troops in their country, would be on the alert, and, in all probability, at once clear out with their villages. He determined, if it were possible, still to surprise them, and ordered the command immediately into the saddle. We pushed hard for Solomon's Fork, a great resort for the savages, but arrived only in time to find their camps deserted and the Indians all gone.

        One evening, as we were encamped on the banks of the Solomon, a huge buffalo bull suddenly appeared on the bluff overlooking the camp, and gazed in wonder at a sight so unusual to his eyes. In a moment a dozen guns were ready to fire, but as the beast came down the narrow ravine washed by the rains in the bluff, all waited until he should emerge on the open plain near the river. Then a lively skirmish was opened on him, and he turned and quickly disappeared again in the brush. Several of the soldiers ran up one of the narrow water-courses, hoping to get a shot at him as he emerged on the open prairie. What was their surprise to meet him coming down. He ran up one ravine, and being half crazed by his wounds, had, on reaching the prairie, turned into the one in which the soldiers were. As soon as he saw him, the soldier in front called out to those behind him to run, but they, not understanding the nature of the danger, continued to block up the passage. The bull could barely force his great body between the high and narrow banks; but before all the soldiers could get out of the ravine he was upon them, and trampled two of them under his feet, not hurting them much, but frightening them terribly. As the beast came out again on the open bank of the river a score of soldiers, who had run over from their camp with their guns, gave him a dozen balls. Still he did not fall, but, dashing through the brush, entered the cavalry camp, and running up to a large gray horse that was tied to a tree, lifted the poor brute on his horns and threw him into the air. The horse was completely disembowelled, and dropped down dead. The buffalo next plunged his horns into a fine bay horse, the property of an officer in the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, and the poor fellow groaned with pain until the hills resounded. Exhausted by his exertions and wounds, the bull laid down carefully by the side of the horse, as if afraid of hurting himself, and in a moment rolled over dead. We skinned and dressed him, and carried the meat into camp for our suppers; but it was dearly bought beef, at the expense of the lives of two noble horses; and Colonel Brown notified us he wished no further contracts closed on such expensive terms.

        While we lay encamped at the depot of supplies, on the Republican, Colonel Brown called for volunteer scouts, stating that he would give a purse of five hundred dollars to any one who would discover a village of Indians and lead the command to the spot. This glittering prize dazzled the eyes of many a soldier, but few had the courage to undertake so hazardous an enterprise. Sergeant Hiles, of the First Nebraska, and Sergeant Rolla, of the Seventh Iowa, came forward and said they would go upon the expedition provided they could go alone. Both were shrewd, sharp men, and Colonel Brown readily gave his consent, well knowing that in scouting, where the object is not to fight, but to gain information and keep concealed, the fewer men in the party the better their chances of escape.

        On the day after Hiles and Rolla had left camp, Nelson, who had come down and joined the army as a guide, proposed to me that we should go out and hunt an adventure. My old love of Indian life was upon me, and I joyfully accepted his proposition. I applied to Colonel Brown for permission to set out at once, but he declined to grant my request, on the ground that it was not necessary or proper for an officer to engage in such an enterprise. I, however, coaxed the colonel a little, and he finally told me I might go.

        Packing several days' supplies on a mule, as soon as it was dark Nelson and I started, he leading the mule, and I driving him from behind. We travelled over to the Little Beaver, then up the stream for some distance, when we crossed over and camped on Little Beaver. Here we expected to find Indian signs, but were disappointed. We rested for a short time, and then travelled down the Beaver until opposite Short Nose Creek, when we crossed the divide and camped on that stream. Two days later we pushed on to Cedar Creek, and then crossed over to Prairie Dog Creek. We had travelled only at night, hiding away all day in the brush that lined the creeks, and keeping a sharp lookout for Indians. So far, we had seen no Indian signs, and began to despair of finding any, when one morning, just as we were preparing for breakfast, I heard several shots fired, apparently four or five miles up the creek. Nelson ran out on the bluff, and, applying his ear to the ground, said he could distinctly hear the reports of many rifles. We could not imagine what this meant, and withdrew into the bluffs "to make it out," as the old trappers say.

        Nelson was the first speaker, and he gave it as his opinion that Colonel Brown, who had told us before leaving camp he would soon start for the Solomon, had set out earlier than he expected, and was now crossing above us. I set my compass, and, finding we were nearly on the line where Brown would cross, readily fell in with Nelson's reasoning. So sure was I that the guns we had heard were Colonel Brown's soldiers out hunting that I proposed we should saddle up and go to them. This move came near proving fatal to us, as will presently appear. We rode boldly up the stream, in broad daylight, some five miles, when, not finding any trail, I began to express my surprise at the long distance we had heard the reports of the guns, but Nelson told me it was no uncommon thing, when snow was on the ground, to hear a rifle-shot ten to twenty miles along a creek bottom, and, incredible as this may seem, I found out afterward it was nevertheless true.

        We rode on about five miles farther, when suddenly Nelson halted, and, pointing to an object a long distance ahead, said he believed it was a horseman. We lost no time in getting into the bluffs, where we could observe what went on without being seen, and soon saw an animal coming down the creek bottom. As it drew near, we discovered it to be a horse, evidently much frightened, and flying from pursuers. The horse galloped past, but stopped half a mile below us and quietly went to grazing, every now and then raising his head and looking up the creek, as if he expected to see some enemy following him. We lay for several hours momentarily expecting to see a body of Indians coming down the creek, but none came, and at noon Nelson said I should watch, and he would crawl down the creek and see if he could discover anything from the horse. I saw Nelson approach quite near the animal, and heard him calling it, when, to my surprise, it came up to him and followed him into the bluffs. The horse was the one Sergeant Hiles had ridden from the camp a few days previous, and was well known to Nelson and me as a superb animal, named Selim.

        It did not take us long to come to the conclusion that Hiles and Rolla had been attacked, and that the firing we had heard in the morning was done by the Indians. From the fact that Hiles' horse had no saddle on when found, we concluded he had been in the hands of the Indians, and had probably broken away from them, and we doubted not that at least Hiles was dead.

        Fearing the savages would come down upon us next, we lost no time in getting down the creek. We soon passed where we had encamped the night before, and, finding the fire still burning, put it out, and, covering up the ashes, pushed on for several miles and camped among the bluffs. Nelson carried up several logs from the creek, with which to make a barricade in case of attack, and, Nelson taking first watch, I lay down to sleep, without fire or supper, except a piece of raw pork.

        At nine o'clock I arose to watch, and soon after midnight, the moon coming up bright and clear, I awoke Nelson, and suggested to him we should saddle up and cross over to Cedar Creek, for I had a strong presentiment that some misfortune would befall us if we remained longer where we were. It is not a little singular, but true, that man has a wonderful instinct, and can nearly always divine coming trouble or danger. This instinct in the frontiersman, of course, is wonderfully developed by the perilous life he leads; but, call it presentiment or what you will, this instinct exists in every beast of the field, as well as in the human breast, and he who follows it can have no safer guide. Several times have I saved my life by obeying the dictates of that silent monitor within, which told me to go, and yet gave me no reason for my going.

        We had not ridden far when we came upon a heavy Indian trail, and found it not more than four or five hours old. The tracks showed some fifty ponies, and all going in the direction of the Republican. We were now convinced that Rolla had escaped and the Indians were pursuing him. Following on the trail for some distance, until we came to a bare spot on the bluff where our horses would leave no tracks in the snow, we turned to the left, and, whipping up the ponies, struck out for a forced march. We knew the Indians might return at any moment, and if they should find our trail they would follow us like blood-hounds.

        All night long we pushed on, halting only at sunrise to eat a bite and give our poor ponies a few mouthfuls of grass. Again we were off, and throughout the day whipped and spurred along our animals as rapidly as possible. At night we halted for two hours to rest, and then mounted the saddle once more. On the fifth day we met a company of cavalry that had been sent out by Colonel Brown to look for us, and with them we returned to camp.

        We learned from the cavalrymen that Sergeant Hiles had been attacked by the Indians, and Sergeant Rolla had been killed. Hiles, though he had lost his horse, had managed to work his way back to camp on foot, where he had arrived the morning they left camp, nearly starved. We had gone much out of our way to escape the Indians who had followed Hiles; but since we had avoided them and succeeded in saving our scalps, we did not care a fig for our long and toilsome journey.

        Sergeant Hiles related to me his adventures after leaving camp, and I will here repeat them as a sequel to my own. He said: "Rolla and I travelled several days, and finally pulled up on Prairie Dog Creek. We had seen no Indians, and were becoming careless, believing there were none in the country. One morning just about daybreak I built a fire, and while Rolla and I were warming ourselves we were fired upon by some forty Indians. Rolla fell, pierced through the heart, and died instantly. How I escaped I know not, for the balls whistled all around me, knocking up the fire, and even piercing my clothing, yet I was not so much as scratched.

        "I ran to my horse, which was saddled and tied near by, and flinging myself on his back, dashed across the prairies. The Indians followed, whooping and yelling like devils, and although their ponies ran well, they could not overtake my swift-footed Selim. I had got well ahead of them, and was congratulating myself on my escape from a terrible death, when suddenly Selim fell headlong into a ravine that was filled with drifted snow. It was in vain I tried to extricate him; the more he struggled the deeper he sank. Knowing the Indians would be up in a few minutes, I cut the saddle-girths with my knife, that the horse might be freer in his movements, and then, bidding him lie still, I took my pistols and burrowed into the snow beside him. After I had dug down a little way, I struck off in the drift, and worked myself along it toward the valley. I had not tunnelled far before I heard the Indians coming, and, pushing up my head, I cut a small hole in the crust of the snow, so I could peep out. As the savages came up they began to yell, and Selim, making a great bound, leaped upon the solid earth at the edge of the ravine, and, dragging himself out of the drift, galloped furiously across the prairies. Oh! how I wished then I was on his back, for I knew the noble fellow would soon bear me out of reach of all danger.

        "The Indians divided, part of them going up the ravine and crossing over to pursue Selim, while the rest dismounted to look for his rider. They carefully examined the ground all around to find my trail, but not finding any, they returned and searched up and down the ravine for me. Two or three times they punched in the snow near me, and once an Indian passed within a few feet of the hole. Great drops of perspiration stood on my forehead, and every moment I expected to be discovered, dragged out, and scalped, but I remained perfectly still, grasping my pistols, and determined to make it cost the redskins at least three of their number.

        "After a while the Indians got tired searching for me, and drew off to consult. I saw the party that had gone in pursuit of Selim rejoin their companions, and I was not a little gratified to observe that they did not bring back my gallant steed with them, from which I knew he had made his escape.

        "The Indians mounted and rode down the ravine, examining every inch of ground for my trail. As I saw them move off, hope once more revived in my breast; but in an hour they came back and again searched the drift. At last, however, they went off without finding me, and I lay down to rest, so exhausted was I, from watching and excitement, that I could not stand. I knew I did not dare to sleep, for it was very cold, and a stupor would come upon me. All that day and night, and the next day, I lay in the drift, for I knew the Indians were watching it.

        "On the second night, as soon as it was dark, I crawled out, and worked my way to the foot of the ravine. At first I was so stiff and numb I could hardly move hand or foot, but as I crawled along, the blood began to warm up, and soon I was able to walk. I crept cautiously along the bluffs until I had cleared the ravine, and then, striking out on the open prairie, steered to the northward. Fortunately, the first day out I shot an antelope and got some raw meat, which kept me from starving. In two days and a half I reached the camp, nearly dead from fatigue and hunger, and was thoroughly glad to be at home in my tent once more, with a whole scalp on my head."

        We had not found an Indian village, and none of us got the five hundred dollars, but we all had a glorious adventure, and that to a frontiersman is better than money.

        While we lay in camp on Medicine Creek, Colonel Brown sent for me, and ordered me to look up and map the country. I was detached as a topographical engineer, and this order relieved me from all company duty, and enabled me to go wherever I pleased, which was not a little gratifying to one so fond of rambling about.

        Packing my traps on my pony one day, I set out down the Medicine ahead of the command, intending to hunt wild turkeys until near night, and then rejoin the command before it went into camp. The creek bottom was alive with turkeys, the cold weather having driven them to take shelter among the bushes that lined the creek. I had not gone far when a dense fog arose, shutting out all objects, even at the distance of a few feet. It was a bad day for hunting, but presently as I rode along I heard a turkey gobble close by, and, dismounting, I crept among the bushes and peered into the fog as well as I could. I saw several dark objects, and drawing up my double-barrelled shot-gun fired at them. Hardly had the noise of the explosion died away, when I heard a great flopping in the bushes, and on going up to it found a large turkey making his last kicks. I picked him up and was about to turn away, when I saw another fine old gobbler desperately wounded, but trying to crawl off. I ran after him, but he hopped along so fast I was obliged to give him the contents of my other barrel to keep him from getting away into the thick brush.

        I had now two fine turkeys, and, as the day was bad, determined to go no further, but ascend the bluffs and wait for the command. I went out on the prairie, and made a diligent search for the old trail, but, as it was covered with some seven inches of snow, I could not find it. Knowing the command would pass near the creek, I went back to hunt, thinking I would go up after it had passed, strike the trail, and follow it into camp.

        I had not gone far down the creek when I ran into a fine elk, and knocked him over with my Henry rifle. I cut off the choice pieces, and, packing them on my pony, once more set out to find the trail. I knew the command had not passed, and ascended the highest point on the bluff, straining my eyes to see if I could not discover it moving. I waited several hours, but not finding it, I concluded it had not marched by the old trail, but struck straight across the country. I now moved up the creek, determined to keep along its bank until I came to the old camp, and then follow the trail. I had not gone far when I came upon two Indians who belonged to my company, and who were also looking for the command.

        Night was coming on, the wind rising, and the air growing bitter cold, so I said to the Indians we would go down the creek where there was plenty of dry wood, and make a night camp. They readily assented, and we set out, arriving at a fine grove just before dark.

        While one of the Indians gathered wood, the other one and I cleared away the snow to make a place for our camp. The snow in the bottom was nearly three feet deep, and when we had bared the ground a high wall was piled up all around us. The wood was soon brought, and a bright fire blazing. After warming ourselves, we opened a passage through the snow for a short distance, and clearing another spot led our horses into this most perishable of stables. Our next care was to get them some cottonwood limbs to eat, and then we gathered small dry limbs and made a bedstead of them on which to spread our blankets. Piling in some wood until the fire roared and cracked, we sat down in the heat of the blaze, feeling quite comfortable, except that we were desperately hungry. Some coals were raked out, and the neck of the elk cut off and spitted on a stick to roast. When it was done we divided it, and sprinkling it with a little pepper and salt from our haversacks had as savoury and wholesome a repast as any epicure might desire. After supper, hearing the coyotes howling in the woods below, I had the Indians bring in my saddle, to which was strapped the elk meat, and, cutting the limb off a tree close by the fire, we lifted the saddle astride the stump so high up that the wolves could not reach it. All being now in readiness for the night, we filled our pipes and sat down to smoke and talk.

        At nine o'clock the Indians replenished the fire, and, feeling sleepy, I wrapped myself in my blankets and lay down to rest. I soon fell asleep, and slept well until nearly midnight, when I was awakened by the snapping and snarling of the wolves near the fire. The wood had burned down to a bed of coals, and gave but a faint light, but I could see a dozen pair of red eyes glaring at me over the edge of the snowbank. The Indians were sound asleep, and, knowing they were very tired, I did not wake them, but got my gun, and, wrapping myself in my blankets, sat up by the fire to watch the varmints and warm my feet. Presently I heard a long wild howl down in the woods, and knew by the "whirr-ree, whirr-ree" in it that it proceeded from the throat of the dreaded buffalo wolf, or Kosh-e-nee, of the prairies. There was another howl, then another, and another, and, finally, a loud chorus of a dozen. Instantly silence fell among the coyotes, and they began to scatter. For a time all was quiet, and I had begun to doze, when suddenly the coals flew all over me, and I opened my eyes just in time to see a great gray wolf spring out of the fire and bound up the snowbank. I leaped to my feet and peered into the darkness, where I could see scores of dark shadows moving about, and a black cluster gathered under my saddle. I called the Indians, who quietly and nimbly jumped to their feet, and came forward armed with their revolvers. I told them what had happened, and that we were surrounded by a large pack of gray wolves. We had no fear for ourselves, but felt uneasy lest they might attack our horses, who were pawing and snorting with alarm. I spoke to them kindly, and they immediately became quiet. At the suggestion of the Indians I brought forward my revolvers, and we all sat down to watch the varmints, and see what they would do.

        In a few minutes, a pair of fiery, red eyes looked down at us from the snowbank; then another, and another pair, until there were a dozen. We sat perfectly still, and presently one great gray wolf gathered himself, and made a leap for the elk-meat on the saddle. He nearly touched it with his nose, but failed to secure the coveted prize, and fell headlong into the fire. We fired two shots into him, and he lay still until one of the Indians pulled him out to keep his hair from burning and making a disagreeable smell. In about five minutes, another wolf leaped at our elk-meat and fell in the fire. We despatched him as we had done the first one, and then threw him across the dead body of his brother. So we kept on firing until we had killed eight wolves; then, tired of killing the brutes with pistols, I brought out my double-barrelled shot-gun, and loading each barrel with nine buckshot, waited until they were gathered thick under the tree on which hung my meat, and then let them have it. Every discharge caused some to tumble down, and sent the rest scampering and howling to the rear. Presently they became more wary, and I had to fire on them at long range.

        The Indians now went out and gathered some dry limbs, and we kindled up a bright fire. Then we threw the carcasses of the nine dead wolves, that were in our camp, over the snowbank, and knowing that the beasts would not come near our bright fire, two of us lay down to sleep, while the third remained up to watch and keep the fire burning.

        The coyotes now returned, and with unearthly yells attacked their dead brothers, snapping, snarling, and quarrelling over their carcasses as they tore the flesh and crunched the bones.

        We rose at daylight, and through the dim light could see the coyotes trotting off to the swamp, while near the camp lay heads, legs, and piles of cleanly licked bones, all that was left of the gray wolves we had killed.

        After breakfast we set out to find the command, striking across the country, expecting to come upon their trail. We travelled all day, however, and saw no trail. At night we camped out again, and were scarcely in camp, when we again heard the wolves howling around us. They had followed us all day, no doubt expecting another repast, such as had been served to them the night before. We, however, kept a bright fire burning, and no gray wolves came about; so the coyotes were disappointed, and vented their disappointment all night long in the most dismal howls I ever heard. At times, it seemed as though there were five hundred of them, and joining their voices in chorus they would send up a volume of sound that resembled the roar of a tempest, or the discordant singing of a vast multitude of people.

        While we cooked breakfast, a strong picket of wolves watched all around the camp, feasting their greedy eyes from a distance on my elk-meat. When we started from camp, a hundred or more of them followed us, often coming quite close to the back pony, and biting and quarrelling about the elk that was never to be their meat. When we halted, they would halt, and sitting down, loll out their tongues and lick the snow. At length, I took my shot-gun, and loading the barrels, fired into the thickest of the pack. Two or three were wounded, and no sooner did their companions discover that they were bleeding and disabled, than they fell upon them, tore them to pieces, and devoured every morsel of their flesh. I had seen men who would do the same thing with their fellows, but until I witnessed the contrary with my own eyes, I had supposed this practice was confined to the superior brute creation.

        The third day out, finding no trace of the command, we concluded to go back to the Medicine and seek the old camp, from which we could take the trail and follow it up until we came upon it. We reached the Medicine at sundown, and there, to our satisfaction, found the troops still in camp, where we had left them. They had not marched in consequence of the cold and foggy weather.

        I was soon in my own tent and sound asleep, being thoroughly worn out with the exposure and fatigue of my long journey.

        I was sent down from Camp Cottonwood (now Fort McPherson), with thirty men, to Gilman's Ranch, fifteen miles east of Cottonwood on the Platte, where I was to remain, guard the ranch, and furnish guards to Ben Holliday's overland stage-coaches. In those days, Gilman's was an important place, and in earlier times had been a great trading point for the Sioux. Two or three trails led from the Republican to this place and every winter the Sioux had come in with their ponies loaded down with buffalo, beaver, elk, and deer skins, which they exchanged with the traders at Gilman's. War had, however, put a stop to these peaceful pursuits; still the Sioux could not give up the habit of travelling these favourite trails. The ponies often came in from the Republican, not now laden with furs and robes, but each bearing a Sioux warrior. The overland coaches offered a great temptation to the cupidity of the Sioux, and they were not slow to avail themselves of any opportunity to attack them. The coaches carried the mails and much treasure, and if the savages could now and then succeed in capturing one, they got money, jewels, scalps, horses, and not infrequently white women, as a reward for their enterprise.

        Troops were stationed in small squads at every station, about ten miles apart, and they rode from station to station on the top of all coaches, holding their guns ever ready for action. It was not pleasant, this sitting perched up on top of a coach, riding through dark ravines and tall grass, in which savages were ever lurking. Generally the first fire from the Indians killed one or two horses, and tumbled a soldier or two off the top of the coach. This setting one's self as a sort of a target was a disagreeable and dangerous duty, but the soldiers performed it without murmuring. My squad had to ride up to Cottonwood, and down to the station below, where they waited for the next coach going the other way, and returned by it to their post at Gilman's. All the other stations were guarded in like manner; so it happened that every coach carried some soldiers.

        One evening my pony was missing, and thinking he had strayed off but a short distance, I buckled on my revolvers and went out to look for him. I had not intended to go far, but not finding him, I walked on, and on, until I found myself some four miles from the ranch. Alarmed at my indiscretion, for I knew the country was full of Indians, I hastily set out to return, and as it was now growing dark, I determined to go up a ravine that led to the post by a nearer route than the trail. I had got nearly to the end of the ravine, where the stage-road crossed it, and was about to turn into the road when, on looking up the bank, I saw on the crest of the slope some dark objects. At first I thought they were ponies, for they were moving on all fours, and directly toward the road. I ran up the bank, and had not gone more than ten yards, when I heard voices, and looking around, saw within a dozen steps of me five or six Indians lying on the grass, and talking in low tones. They had noticed me, but evidently thought I was one of their own number. Divining the situation in a moment, I walked carelessly on until near the crest of the hill, where I suddenly came upon a dozen more Indians, crawling along on their hands and knees. One of them gruffly ordered me down, and I am sure I lost no time in dropping into the grass. Crawling carefully along, for I knew it would not do to stop, I still managed to keep a good way behind and off to one side. We at last reached the road, and the Indians, gun in hand, took up their position in the long grass close by the roadside. I knew the up-coach would be due at the station in half an hour, and I was now myself in the unpleasant position of waylaying one of the very coaches I had been sent to guard. Perhaps one of my own soldiers coming up on the coach would kill me, and then what would people say? how would my presence with the Indians be explained? and how would it sound to have the newspapers publish, far and near, that an officer of the United States army had deserted his post, joined the Indians, and attacked a stage-coach? However, there was no help for it, and I lay still waiting for developments. It was now time for the coach, and we watched the road with straining eyes. Two or three times I thought I heard the rumbling of the wheels, and a tremor seized me, but it was only the wind rustling in the tall grass. An hour went by, and still no coach. The Indians became uneasy, and one who seemed to be the leader of the expedition rose up, and, motioning the others to follow him, started off down the hill toward the ravine. I made a motion as if getting up, and seeing the Indians' backs turned, dropped flat on my face and lay perfectly still. Slowly their footsteps faded away, and raising my head I saw them mount their ponies and disappear over the neighbouring hill, as if going down the road to meet the coach.

        As soon as they were out of sight, I sprang up and ran as fast as I could to the ranch when, relating what had happened, I started with some soldiers and citizens down the road to meet the stage. We had not gone far when we heard it coming up, and on reaching it found it had been attacked by Indians a few miles below, one passenger killed and two severely wounded. The coach had but three horses, one having been killed in the fight. The Indians had dashed at the coach mounted, hoping to kill the horses, and thus cut off all means of retreat or flight, but they had only succeeded in killing one horse, when the passengers and soldiers had driven them off, compelling them to carry two of their number with them, dead or desperately wounded.

        I was more careful after that, when I went out hunting ponies, and never tried again to waylay a coach with Indians.

        Among the soldiers stationed at Gilman's Ranch were a number of Omaha and Winnebago Indians, who belonged to my company, in the First Nebraska Cavalry. I had done all I could to teach them the ways of civilization, but despite my instructions, and their utmost endeavours to give up their wild and barbarous practices, every now and then old habits would become too strong upon them to be borne, and they would indulge in the savage customs of their youth. At such times they would throw aside their uniforms, and, wrapping a blanket about them, sing and dance for hours.

        One evening they were in a particularly jolly mood, and having obtained permission to have a dance, went out in front of the building, and for want of a better scalp-pole, assembled around one of the telegraph poles. One fellow pounded lustily on a piece of leather nailed over the mouth of a keg, while the others hopped around in a circle, first upon one leg, then the other, shaking over their heads oyster-cans, that had been filled with pebbles, and keeping time to the rude music, with a sort of guttural song. Now it would be low and slow, and the dancers barely move, then, increasing in volume and rapidity, it would become wild and vociferous, the dancers walking very fast, much as the negroes do in their "cake-walks." We had had all manner of dances and songs, and enough drumming and howling to have made any one tired, still the Indians seemed only warming up to their work. The savage frenzy was upon them, and I let them alone until near midnight. Their own songs and dances becoming tiresome, I asked them to give me some Sioux songs, for I had been thinking all the evening of the village up the Missouri, and of my squaws. The Indians immediately struck up a Sioux war song, accompanying it with the war dance.

        All the Indian songs and dances are terminated with a jump, and a sort of wild yell or whoop. When they had danced the Sioux war song, and ended it with the usual whoop, what was our surprise to hear it answered back at no great distance, out upon the prairie. At first I thought it was the echo, but Springer, a half-breed Indian, assured me what I had heard was the cry of other Indians. To satisfy myself, I bade the Indians repeat the song and dance, and this time, sure enough, when it was ended the whoop was answered quite near the ranch. I went inside, lest my uniform should be seen, and telling Springer to continue the dance, I went to a back window and looked out, in the direction from which the sound came.

        The moon was just rising, and I could distinctly see three Sioux Indian warriors sitting on their ponies, within a few hundred paces of the house. They seemed to be intently watching what was going on, and were by no means certain as to the character of the performers or performance. At a glance, I made them out to be our deadly enemies, the Ogallalla Sioux, and determined to catch them. I quickly called Springer, and bade him kindle up a small fire, and tell the Indians to strike up the death song and scalp-dance of the Sioux. This, as I expected, at once reassured the strange warriors, and, riding up quite close, they asked Springer, who was not dancing, and who had purposely put himself in their way: -

        "What are you dancing for?"

        "Dancing the scalps of four white soldiers we have killed," replied Springer.

        "How did you kill them?" inquired the foremost Indian warrior.

        "You see," said Springer, who, being part Sioux, spoke the language perfectly, "we were coming down from the Neobarrah,[61] and going over to the Republican to see Spotted Tail and our friends, the Ogallallas, when some soldiers fired on us here, and seeing there were but four of them, we attacked and killed them all. They are now lying dead inside; come, get down and help dance their scalps."

        Two of the warriors immediately dismounted, giving their ponies to a third one to hold, who remained mounted. Springer seemed to take no notice of this, but leading the warriors up to the dance, joined in with them, the other Indians making room in the circle for the newcomers.

        When the dance was ended, Springer said, "Come, let us bring out the scalps," and turning to the two Indians, inquired, "Will you look at the bodies?" About half the Indians had already gone into the ranch, under pretence of getting the scalps, and the two Sioux walked in with Springer, apparently without suspicion that anything was wrong.

        As soon as they had crossed the threshold the door was closed behind them, and two burly Omahas placed their backs against it. It was entirely dark in the ranch, and Springer proceeded to strike a light. When the blaze of the dry grass flared up it revealed everything in the room, and there stood the two Sioux, surrounded by the Omahas, and a dozen revolvers levelled at their heads.

        Never shall I forget the yell of rage and terror they set up, when they found they were entrapped. The Sioux warrior outside, who was holding the ponies, heard it, and plunging his heels into the sides of his pony, made off as fast as he could. Notwithstanding my men fired a dozen shots at him, he got off safely, and carried away with him all of the three ponies.

        The two Sioux in the ranch were bound hand and foot, and laid in one corner of the room; then my Indians returned to the telegraph pole to finish their dance. Feeling tired, I lay down and fell asleep.

        Next morning I was awakened by most unearthly yells, and looking out, saw my Indians leaping and dancing and yelling around the telegraph pole, where they now had a large fire burning. Presently Springer came in and said the Indians wanted the prisoners. I told him they could not have them, and that in the morning I would send them to Colonel Brown, at McPherson, as was my duty. Springer, who was a non-commissioned officer, communicated this message to the Indians, when the yelling and howling redoubled. In a short time, Springer came in again, and said he could do nothing with the Indians, and that they were determined to have the prisoners, at the same time advising me to give them up. I again refused, when the Indians rushed into the ranch, and, seizing the prisoners, dragged them out. Seeing they were frenzied I made no resistance, but followed them closely, keeping concealed, however.

        They took the Sioux to an island on the Platte, below the ranch, and there, tying them to a tree, gathered a pile of wood and set it on fire.

Here follows a description of the unspeakable tortures which the unfortunate prisoners suffered, and which are too horrible to be told in these pages.

        The Sioux uttered not a complaint, but endured all their sufferings with that stoicism for which the Indian is so justly celebrated, and which belongs to no other race in the world.

        Sick at heart, I crept back to the ranch and went to bed, leaving the Indians engaged in a furious scalp-dance, and whirling the bloody scalps of the Sioux over their heads, with long poles to which they had them fastened.

        Next morning, when I awoke, I found the Indians wrapped in their blankets, and lying asleep all around me. The excitement of the night had passed off, and brought its corresponding depression. They were very docile and stupid, and it was with some difficulty I could arouse them for the duties of the day. I asked several of them what had become of the Sioux prisoners, but could get no other answer than, "Guess him must have got away."

        I was sorely tempted to report the affair to the commanding officer at Fort McPherson, and have the Indians punished, but believing it would do more good in the end to be silent, I said nothing about it. After all, the Omahas and Winnebagoes had treated the Sioux just as the Sioux would have treated them, had they been captured, and so, it being a matter altogether among savages, I let it rest where it belonged.

        I was for a time, in 1865, on duty at Fort Cottonwood, Nebraska, as adjutant of my regiment, the First Nebraska Volunteer Cavalry, when the scarcity of officers at the post made it necessary for the commanding officer to detail me, with thirty Indian soldiers, to proceed to, and garrison Jack Morrow's Ranch, twelve miles west of the fort, on the south side of the Platte River. The Sioux were very hostile then, and it was an ordinary occurrence for ranches to be burned and the owners killed.

        Morrow's Ranch, unlike the little, low, adobe ranches everywhere seen, was a large three-story building, with out-buildings adjacent, and a fine large stable for stock, the whole being surrounded by a commodious stockade of cedar palisades, set deep in the ground, and projecting to the height of about ten or twelve feet above the surface.

        Upon arriving at the ranch, late at night, my usually noisy Indians were quietly sleeping in the huge ox-wagons, which had been provided for transportation. I found the front of the ranch lit up by fires built between the stockade and the buildings on a narrow strip of ground, serving for a front yard. I had been informed by the commanding officer at Cottonwood, that Mr. Morrow was not living at his ranch, but was away East, and the object in sending me there was to prevent the Indians from burning so valuable a property. I was not prepared to find a party encamped at the ranch, and not knowing but that they might be Indians, waiting in so favourable a spot to waylay travellers or emigrants passing the road in front of the stockade, I told my drivers to halt their teams, and, quietly awakening my Indians, I bade them be in readiness to rush up if I should give them a signal by yelling, but to remain in the wagons until I called them, and to make no noise. I then quietly rode forward to reconnoitre, and as the stockade timbers were set very close together, I had to crawl up to the loop-holes cut in the timber to see what was going on inside. Standing on the ground, and holding my pony's nose with my hand to keep him quiet, I stood on my tiptoes, and could see, through one of the loop-holes, a curious sight, but one natural enough on the frontier.

        Grouped around three small fires, built close to the front of the ranch, sat some ten or twelve weather-beaten men, whose hair hung to their shoulders, and each one of whom wore a slouched hat, a pair of revolvers, and a good stout knife, the inseparable companions of a western prairie man. All were intent on eating supper of fried bacon, slapjacks, and coffee.

        They had no guard, doubtless feeling secure in their number and means of defence, against any Indian attack that might be made. "Hello!" I shouted, "have you got supper enough for one more?" "Yes, if you are white or red; but if black, no," was answered back, with an invitation to "show" myself. I led the pony across the narrow trench which ran around the stockade, and, mounting him, rode into the yard. As I approached the party I overheard remarks, such as, "An army cuss"; "One of those little stuck-up officers." But not appearing to have heard them, I got down, and asked what party they were. "Wood-haulers," they replied; "taking building logs down the road"; followed by "Who are you, and where are you going this late at night?" I told them who I was, and that I had now finished my journey, as I intended to stop there. I was immediately informed in a curt manner that they guessed I was rather "mixed" about staying there, if I had any stock along, for the stables were full, and the ranch, too; and they had no room for any additional people or stock. I told them that I had two teams standing outside, and that it was my intention to put the mules and my pony in the stable; and if there was no room there, I should make room by turning out some of their animals. To this I was plainly told that I could neither turn a mule out nor put an animal in, nor could I remain at the ranch, which they had occupied for their own quarters, Jack Morrow having left and gone East, probably never to return. They said they were a little stronger in numbers than myself and my two drivers, and I must move on or they would make me. I told them that I was a United States officer, acting under orders, and that it would be an easy matter for me to ride back to Cottonwood and get men enough to enforce my orders unless they submitted. Several of the rough-looking fellows said that they each carried good revolvers, and that it was an easy matter to stop me if I attempted to return to Cottonwood, and swore they would do so. I remained quiet for a moment, and the leader of the party looking at me, asked: "What are you going to do about it?" "I am going to open the stables and put my animals in that shelter," I replied, at the same time mounting my pony and riding out to the stables, a short distance in front of which stood my teams. Several of the frontiersmen got up, and, without saying a word, walked to the stables, and went up close to the doors. I ordered the teamsters to drive to the stables, unharness from the heavy ox-wagons, place their teams inside, and if they could not find vacant stalls enough, to untie and turn loose mules to empty the required number for my teams. The teamsters obeyed by driving up, and when they had dismounted and were about to unhitch from the wagons, one of the wood-haulers at the stable door said: "You can save yourself the trouble, mister, of unhitching them mules, for you ain't a going to put them in this stable; and the first man that attempts it I'll fix."

        "Suppose I wish to open that door and put up my teams," said I, "without any trouble; wouldn't it be better for all concerned?" "You go to h - l!" he replied; and added, "You won't get in this stable; that's settled." "I'll see about that!" and yelling "Turn out! Turn out!" in the Indian language, my soldiers jumped from the canvas-covered wagons, yelling like demons, and brandishing their carbines and revolvers in a threatening manner. Never were men so taken back as the wood-haulers. They were sure we were Sioux, and started to run, but I called them back. Not a word was then spoken while my Indians led the mules, that were now unhitched, into the stables.

        Leaving the teamsters to feed and water their animals, I turned my pony over to an Omaha, to unsaddle, and marched my soldiers up to the house, of which I took possession. The roughs changed their tune, and tried to laugh the matter off, saying they knew all the time the wagons were full of soldiers, and they only wanted to see if I had "nerve." I told them they could leave their teams in the stables, as my teamsters told me there was room enough yet remaining for all the mules, but that in the morning they must leave. At early light they were off, not, however, before I had found out the names of the leaders of the gang. The doors of the house had been taken off the hinges, and the framed pine used to sleep and chop meat on, all being marked with gashes chopped in them with axes. The windows were also broken, the glass and sashes gone, and the building as much damaged as if Indians had been there for a month. I did all I could to save the property scattered over the grounds, and remained at the ranch some weeks, until an order came for me to go to Omaha as a witness before the United States Court.

        While the troops lay at Camp Cottonwood, now Fort McPherson, the scurvy broke out among the men and caused terrible suffering. There were no anti-scorbutics nearer than Leavenworth, Kansas, which could be had for the troops, and before these could be received, the disease increased to an alarming extent. At last, however, the remedies arrived, and the men began rapidly to convalesce. The doctor advised them to eat wild fruit and berries, and to take plenty of exercise in the open air. There was a plum grove about four miles from the camp, and as this wild fruit was very wholesome, the sick men went out nearly every day to gather it.

        One morning, Captain Mitchell, of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, procured an ambulance, and, taking with him a driver named Anderson, an orderly named Cramer, and seven hospital patients, started for the plum grove. They arrived at the first grove about ten o'clock, and, finding that most of the plums had been gathered, drove on to another grove some three miles farther up the canyon. They were now about seven miles from camp, too far to be safe, but, as no Indians had been seen lately in the country, they did not feel uneasy. At the upper grove they found two soldiers of the First Nebraska Cavalry, named Bentz and Wise, who had been sent out by the quartermaster to look for stray mules, and they had stopped to gather some plums. As both these men were well armed, Captain Mitchell attached them to his party, and felt perfectly secure.

        Bentz and Wise went up the canyon a little way, and while eating fruit were suddenly fired on from the bushes by almost a dozen Indians. At the first volley Bentz had his belt cut away by a ball, and lost his revolver. The soldiers turned to fly, but, as they galloped off, another ball entered Bentz' side, desperately wounding him. They now rode down the canyon, hoping to rejoin Captain Mitchell's party, but soon saw a body of Indians riding down the bluff ahead of them, evidently with the design of cutting them off. Wise told Bentz to ride hard, at the same time handing him one of his revolvers, to defend himself in case of emergency. Bentz was very feeble and dizzy, so much so, indeed, that he could barely sit in the saddle.

        Wise was mounted on a superb horse belonging to Lieutenant Cutler, which he had taken out to exercise, and, seeing that the Indians would head them off, and that Bentz, who was riding an old mule, could not keep up, he gave the powerful brute rein, and shot down the canyon like an arrow. He passed the intervening Indians in safety, just as three of them dashed out of a pocket in the bluff and cut off poor Bentz.

        Wise saw Bentz knocked from his mule, and, knowing it was useless to try to save him, left him to his fate, and thought only of saving his own life. He rode hard for Captain Mitchell, who was not far distant, but before he could reach him another party of Sioux headed him off, and he turned and rode up the bluffs to the flat lands. The Indians pursued him, and made every effort to kill or capture him, but his fine horse bore him out of every danger. Three times he was cut off from the camp, but by taking a wide circuit he managed to ride around the Indians, and at last succeeded in reaching the high road above the camp. As many settlers lived on this road, the Indians did not venture to follow him along it, and he was soon safely housed in the log-cabin of a frontiersman, and relating his adventures.

        Meanwhile Captain Mitchell, having seen the fate of Bentz and escape of Wise, made haste to assemble his party, and, lifting those who were too weak to climb into the wagon, they set off for the camp. Mitchell and Anderson were the only two of the party who had arms, but they assured the sick men they would defend them to the last. Anderson took the lines and drove, while Mitchell seated himself in the rear end of the ambulance, with a Henry rifle to keep off the Indians.

        They had not gone far before they came upon a large force of warriors drawn across the canyon, to cut off their retreat. The bluffs were very steep and high on both sides of them, and escape seemed impossible; nevertheless Mitchell ordered Anderson to run his team at the right-hand bluff and try and ascend it. The spirited animals dashed up the steep bank and drew the wagon nearly half-way up, when one of the wheels balked and nearly overturned the wagon. A loud yell from the savages, at this moment, so frightened the horses that they sprang forward, and, before they could appreciate it, they were over the bluff on the level prairie, and flying toward the camp at the rate of ten miles an hour.

        They now began to hope, but had only gone as far as the first plum grove when they saw the Indians circling around them, and once more getting between them and the post. Still they hoped that some soldiers might be in the first grove gathering plums, or that Wise had reached the post and given the alarm, so that help would soon come to them. Captain Mitchell fired his rifle once or twice, to attract the attention of any persons who might be in the plum grove, but there was no response, and Anderson drove rapidly on.

        The Indians now began to close in upon the ambulance from all sides. They would ride swiftly by a few yards distant, and, swinging themselves behind the neck and shoulders of their ponies, fire arrows or balls into the wagon. Two of the sick men had already been wounded, and Captain Mitchell, finding it impossible to defend them while the ambulance was in motion, the shaking continually destroying his aim, ordered Anderson to drive to the top of the hill near by, and they would fight it out with the redskins. Cramer now took the lines, when, either through fear or because he did not believe in the policy of stopping, he kept straight on. Captain Mitchell twice ordered Cramer to pull up, but, as he paid no attention, he told Anderson to take the lines from him. In attempting to obey the Captain's order, Anderson lost his footing and fell out of the wagon. The Captain now sprang forward, put his foot on the brake to lock the wheels, when a sudden lurch of the wagon caused him to lose his balance, and he fell headlong on the prairie. Fortunately, he alighted near a deep gully, where the water had cut out the bank, and, rolling himself into it, he looked out and saw Anderson crawling into a bunch of bushes near by. When these accidents happened, the ambulance had just crossed over the crest of a little hill, and, as the Indians had not come over as yet, they did not see either of the men fall from the wagon. The Captain had only two revolvers, but Anderson's gun, a Spencer rifle, had been thrown out with him, and he picked it up and took it into the bushes.

        In a few moments the Indians came up, riding very fast, and the main body crossed the ravine near where Captain Mitchell lay. Some of them jumped their horses directly over the spot where he was concealed, but in a few moments they were gone, and soon had disappeared behind the neighbouring divide, leaving the Captain and Anderson to their own reflections. What to do was the next question. That the Indians would overtake the ambulance, kill all its occupants, and return, the Captain had not a doubt. He determined to go down the ravine, and, calling Anderson to follow, started off. He had already crawled some distance when, hearing the clatter of horses' hoofs, he peeped over the edge of his cover, and saw about seventy-five Indians riding directly up to where he was concealed. Giving himself up for lost, he lay down, drawing his revolvers and preparing them for action, for he was determined not to let the savages have his scalp without making a desperate resistance. The warriors came up, and, dismounting within thirty yards of him, began a lively conversation. The chief walked up close to the brink of the ravine, and almost within arm's-length of the Captain, and stood gazing on the ground. Mitchell now saw the chief was blind of an eye and wore a spotted head-dress; and he knew by these marks he was none other than the celebrated Sioux warrior, Spotted Tail. On making this discovery the Captain levelled both his revolvers at the chief's breast, and was fully determined to fire. He believed that the loss of five captains would be a small matter, if by their death they could secure the destruction of the great leader of the Sioux. Just as he was about to pull the triggers a loud shout from the warriors caused Spotted Tail to start forward and run rapidly up the hill. The ponies were led down the ravine and the warriors scattered in all directions, seeking cover. One of them ensconced himself in the ravine not more than thirty feet from Mitchell. Raising his head so that he could see out, the Captain endeavoured to ascertain what caused all the excitement among the Indians. At first he had thought he was discovered, then that re-enforcements from the fort had arrived, and a battle was about to begin; but now he saw Anderson was discovered. When the Captain had started down the ravine Anderson had followed him, and just emerged from the bushes when the Indians suddenly came up. He had dropped on the ground, and endeavoured to roll himself back among the sage-brush, when an Indian saw him and gave the alarm. The warriors, not knowing how many white men might be in the brush, with their usual caution, had immediately sought cover.

        A hot fire was opened on Anderson's position, and at first he did not respond at all. A warrior, more bold than discreet, ventured to go closer to the bushes, when a small puff of white smoke was seen to rise, a loud report rang out on the air, and the warrior fell, pierced through the heart. A yell of rage resounded over the hills, and three more Indians ran toward Anderson's cover. Three reports followed each other in rapid succession, and the three Indians bit the dust. There was now a general charge on Anderson, but he fired so fast and true that the Indians fell back, carrying with them two more of their number.

        The Captain now felt it his duty to help Anderson, and was about to open fire with his revolvers, when Anderson, who, no doubt, expected as much, yelled three or four times, saying in a sort of a cry, "My arm is broken; keep quiet; can't work the Spencer any more." The brave fellow no doubt intended this as a warning to the Captain not to discover himself by firing, and he reluctantly accepted the admonition and kept quiet.

        A rush by some thirty warriors was now made on Anderson, and, notwithstanding his disabled condition, he managed to kill three more Indians before he was taken. He was overpowered, however, dragged out of the bushes, and scalped in full sight of the Captain. He fought to the last, and compelled them to kill him to save their own lives. Nothing could exceed the rage of the Indians, and especially old Spotted Tail, as he saw the body of warrior after warrior carried down the hill, until nine dead Indians were laid beside Anderson. In his grief for the loss of his braves, the old chief kicked the corpse of poor Anderson, and the other Indians came up and mutilated it horribly.

        In a few minutes after the death of Anderson, a mounted party was seen coming over the hills, and about thirty warriors rode up to Spotted Tail, and reported that they had captured the ambulance and killed all who were in it. They exhibited to Spotted Tail the scalps of all Captain Mitchell's late companions, except that of Cramer. The ambulance horses were brought back, each carrying what is known "down East" as a "noble red man."

        In a few moments the warriors had their dead comrades securely strapped to ponies, and, mounting their own, set out toward the Republican. As soon as they were out of sight, and it became dark, Captain Mitchell started for the camp, where he arrived about ten o'clock, and told the story of the "Cottonwood Massacre," as I have here related it.

        Early the next morning I was sent out with a large force to pursue and, if possible, overtake and punish the Indians. For two days I followed them hard, and, on the evening of the second day, came upon a small party as they were crossing a stream, but in attempting to charge them, they scattered over the prairie and were soon lost in the darkness. The trail now divided in every direction, and it would have been impossible to follow it unless each soldier had pursued some half a dozen warriors, when it is not likely he would have returned. So we turned back, and marched for Cottonwood. The bodies of the dead had been brought in and buried, and everything had been found as Captain Mitchell had stated.

        Private Wise was severely censured for not immediately going to camp and giving the alarm, but he said he had no idea the wagon and its sick men had ever left the canyon, for there were at least one hundred and fifty warriors around it when he came away, so he thought he might as well rest until morning before bearing such dismal news as he had to communicate to his fellow-soldiers.

In 1867 nearly all the Plains tribes of Indians evinced a sullen disposition, and the indications were that the country was on the eve of a prolonged savage war. The cause of this, perhaps, might well be attributed to the encroachments by the whites, upon the great hunting-grounds of the tribes. The transcontinental lines of railway were nearly completed and in their wake followed an immigration from the Eastern states, unprecedented in the history of the nation. President Andrew Johnson appointed a Peace Commission, composed of a large number of the most distinguished men of the country, both military and civil. Their duty was to visit the various chiefs, and endeavour to make such treaties with them as would ensure permanent peace. History shows that so far as the object for which it was created is concerned, it was a stupendous farce. Let it be understood, however, that the failure to accomplish the work intended, was through no fault of the Commission. The fault lies with Congress which neglected to make the necessary appropriations to carry out the stipulations of the treaties. On account of this broken faith on the part of the government there occurred a series of massacres, and a prolonged war, which cost millions of dollars.[62]

One of the stipulations on the part of the Commission was that the Sioux, Arapahoes, and Cheyennes were to surrender that portion of their country along the Big Horn Mountains and territory tributary to them. The Man afraid of his Horses and Red Cloud were very determined in their opposition, and Red Cloud with his entire band withdrew, shortly after commencing his work of mischief. It is a fact that so indignant and enraged were the Indians at the idea of the government depriving them of their favourite hunting-grounds, that a messenger, sent out to induce the chiefs to come in, was badly whipped, insulted, and ordered to go back to where he came from.

Old Major Bridger, the celebrated scout, and Jack Stead,[63] the interpreter of the Commission, had no faith in the propositions of some of the chiefs, notably Black Horse, who agreed to accept the proposition of the Commission and ally themselves with the whites. These chiefs were the representatives of over a hundred lodges; they had been out on a hunt when they met Red Cloud who stated to them that they must join the Sioux and drive the white man back. To their honour be it said, these chiefs kept their word and fulfilled to the letter the pledges to keep the peace which they had given the Commission.

Following the so-called treaty a series of depredations was made by discontented bands of Indians, and culminated in the massacre of troops near Fort Phil Kearny. The following account of this fight is taken from Senate Document No. 13, 1867: -

        On the morning of December 21 the picket at the signal station signalled to the fort that the wood train was attacked by the Indians, and corralled, and the escort fighting. This was not far from 11 o'clock A.M., and the train was about two miles from the fort, and moving toward the timber. Almost immediately a few Indian pickets appeared on one or two of the surrounding heights, and a party of about twenty near the Big Piney, where the mountain road crossed the same, within howitzer range of the fort. Shells were thrown among them from the artillery in the fort, and they fled.

        The following detail, viz., fifty men and two officers from the four different infantry companies, and twenty-six cavalrymen and one officer, was made by Colonel Carrington. The entire force formed in good order, and was placed under command of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Fetterman, who received the following orders from Colonel Carrington: "Support the wood train, relieve it, and report to me. Do not engage or pursue Indians at its expense; under no circumstances pursue over Lodge Trail Ridge." These instructions were repeated by Colonel Carrington in a loud voice, to the command when in motion, and outside the fort, and again delivered in substance through Lieutenant Wands, officer of the day, to Lieutenant Grummond, who was requested to communicate them again to Colonel Fetterman.

        Colonel Fetterman moved out rapidly to the right of the wood road, for the purpose, no doubt, of cutting off the retreat of the Indians then attacking the train. As he advanced across the Piney, a few Indians appeared in his front and on his flanks, and continued flitting about him, beyond rifle range, till they disappeared beyond Lodge Trail Ridge. When he was on Lodge Trail Ridge, the picket signalled the fort that the Indians had retreated from the train; the train had broken corral and moved on toward the timber. The train made the round trip, and was not again disturbed that day.

        At about fifteen minutes before twelve o'clock, Colonel Fetterman's command had reached the crest of Lodge Trail Ridge, was deployed as skirmishers, and at a halt. Without regard to orders, for reasons that the silence of Colonel Fetterman now prevents us from giving, he, with the command, in a few moments disappeared, having cleared the ridge, still moving north. Firing at once commenced, and increased in rapidity till, in about fifteen minutes and at about 12 o'clock M., it was a continuous and rapid fire of musketry, plainly audible at the fort. Assistant Surgeon Hines, having been ordered to join Fetterman, found Indians on a part of Lodge Trail Ridge not visible from the fort, and could not reach the force there struggling to preserve its existence. As soon as the firing became rapid Colonel Carrington ordered Captain Ten Eyck, with about seventy-six men, being all the men for duty in the fort, and two wagons with ammunition, to join Colonel Fetterman immediately. He moved out and advanced rapidly toward the point from which the sound of firing proceeded, but did not move by so short a route as he might have done. The sound of firing continued to be heard during his advance, diminishing in rapidity and number of shots till he reached a high summit overlooking the battle-field, at about a quarter before one o'clock, when one or two shots closed all sound of conflict.

        Whether he could have reached the scene of action by marching over the shortest route as rapidly as possible in time to have relieved Colonel Fetterman's command, I am unable to determine.

        Immediately after Captain Ten Eyck moved out, and by orders of Colonel Carrington issued at the same time as the orders detailing that officer to join Colonel Fetterman, the quartermaster's employees, convalescents, and all others in the garrison, were armed and provided with ammunition, and held in readiness to re-enforce the troops fighting, or defend the garrison.

        Captain Ten Eyck reported, as soon as he reached a summit commanding a view of the battle-field, that the Peno Valley was full of Indians; that he could see nothing of Colonel Fetterman's party, and requested that a howitzer should be sent him. The howitzer was not sent. The Indians, who at first beckoned him to come down, now commenced retreating, and Captain Ten Eyck, advancing to a point where the Indians had been standing in a circle, found the dead naked bodies of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Fetterman, Captain Brown, and about sixty-five of the soldiers of their command. At this point there were no indications of a severe struggle. All the bodies lay in a space not exceeding thirty-five feet in diameter. No empty cartridge shells were lying about, and there were some full cartridges. A few American horses lay dead a short distance off, all with their heads toward the fort. This spot was by the roadside, and beyond the summit of the hill rising to the east of Peno Creek. The road, after rising this hill, follows this ridge along for about half or three-quarters of a mile, and then descends abruptly to Peno Creek. At about half the distance from where these bodies lay to the point where the road commences to descend to Peno Creek was the dead body of Lieutenant Grummond; and still farther on, at the point where the road commences to descend to Peno Creek, were the dead bodies of the three citizens and four or five of the old, long-tried, and experienced soldiers. A great number of empty cartridge shells were on the ground at this point, and more than fifty lying on the ground about one of the dead citizens, who used a Henry rifle. Within a few hundred yards in front of this position ten Indian ponies lay dead, and there were sixty-five pools of dark and clotted blood. No Indian ponies or pools of blood were found at any other point. Our conclusion, therefore, is that the Indians were massed to resist Colonel Fetterman's advance along Peno Creek on both sides of the road; that Colonel Fetterman formed his advanced lines on the summit of the hill overlooking the creek and valley, with a reserve near where the large number of dead bodies lay; that the Indians, in force of from fifteen to eighteen hundred warriors, attacked him vigorously in this position, and were successfully resisted by him for half an hour or more; that the command then being short of ammunition, and seized with panic at this event and the great numerical superiority of the Indians, attempted to retreat toward the fort; that the mountaineers and old soldiers, who had learned that a movement from Indians, in an engagement, was equivalent to death, remained in their first position, and were killed there; that immediately upon the commencement of the retreat the Indians charged upon and surrounded the party, who could not now be formed by their officers, and were immediately killed. Only six men of the whole command were killed by balls, and two of these, Lieutenant-Colonel Fetterman and Captain Brown, no doubt inflicted this death upon themselves, or each other, by their own hands, for both were shot through the left temple, and powder burnt into the skin and flesh about the wound. These officers had also often-times asserted that they would not be taken alive by Indians.

        In the critical examination we have given this painful and horrible affair, we do not find of the immediate participants any officer living deserving of censure; and, even if evidence justifies it, it would ill become us to speak evil of or censure those dead who sacrificed life struggling to maintain the authority and power of the government and add new lustre to our arms and fame. . . .

        The difficulty, in a "nutshell," was that the commanding officer of the district was furnished no more troops or supplies for this state of war than had been provided and furnished him for a state of profound peace.