The Memoirs of General P. H. Sheridan, v2
General Philip Henry Sheridan

Part 4 out of 5

plundering at an early day, to prepare myself for the work evidently
ahead the first thing I did on assuming permanent command was to make
a trip to Fort Larned and Fort Dodge, near which places the bulk of
the Indians had congregated on Pawnee and Walnut creeks. I wanted to
get near enough to the camps to find out for myself the actual state
of feeling among the savages, and also to familiarize myself with the
characteristics of the Plains Indians, for my previous experience had
been mainly with mountain tribes on Ehe Pacific coast. Fort Larned I
found too near the camps for my purpose, its proximity too readily
inviting unnecessary "talks," so I remained here but a day or two,
and then went on to Dodge, which, though considerably farther away
from the camps, was yet close enough to enable us to obtain easily
information of all that was going on.

It took but a few days at Dodge to discover that great discontent
existed about the Medicine Lodge concessions, to see that the young
men were chafing and turbulent, and that it would require much tact
and good management on the part of the Indian Bureau to persuade the
four tribes to go quietly to their reservations, under an agreement
which, when entered into, many of them protested had not been fully

A few hours after my arrival a delegation of prominent chiefs called
on me and proposed a council, where they might discuss their
grievances, and thus bring to the notice of the Government the
alleged wrongs done them; but this I refused, because Congress had
delegated to the Peace Commission the whole matter of treating with
them, and a council might lead only to additional complications. My
refusal left them without hope of securing better terms, or of even
delaying matters longer; so henceforth they were more than ever
reckless and defiant. Denunciations of the treaty became outspoken,
and as the young braves grew more and more insolent every day, it
amounted to conviction that, unless by some means the irritation was
allayed, hostilities would surely be upon us when the buffalo
returned to their summer feeding-grounds between the Arkansas and the

The principal sufferers in this event would be the settlers in middle
and western Kansas, who, entirely ignorant of the dangers hanging
over them, were laboring to build up homes in a new country. Hence
the maintenance of peace was much to be desired, if it could be
secured without too great concessions, and although I would not meet
the different tribes in a formal council, yet, to ward off from
settlers as much as possible the horrors of savage warfare, I showed,
by resorting to persuasive methods, my willingness to temporize a
good deal. An abundant supply of rations is usually effective to
keep matters quiet in such cases, so I fed them pretty freely, and
also endeavored to control them through certain men who, I found,
because of former associations, had their confidence. These men,
employed as scouts, or interpreters, were Mr. William Comstock, Mr.
Abner S. Grover, and Mr. Richard Parr. They had lived on the Plains
for many years with different tribes of Indians, had trapped and
hunted with them, and knew all the principal chiefs and headmen.
Through such influences, I thought I saw good chances of preserving
peace, and of inducing the discontented to go quietly to their
reservations in the Indian Territory as soon as General Hazen, the
representative of the Peace Commissioners, was ready to conduct them
there from Fort Larned.

Before returning to Leavenworth I put my mediators (as I may call
them) under charge of an officer of the army, Lieutenant F. W.
Beecher, a very intelligent man, and directed him to send them out to
visit among the different tribes, in order to explain what was
intended by the treaty of Medicine Lodge, and to make every effort
possible to avert hostilities. Under these instructions Comstock and
Grover made it their business to go about among the Cheyennes--the
most warlike tribe of all--then camping about the headwaters of
Pawnee and Walnut creeks, and also to the north and west of Fort
Wallace, while Parr spent his time principally with the Kiowas and

From the different posts--Wallace, Dodge, and Larned Lieutenant
Beecher kept up communication with all three scouts, and through him
I heard from them at least once a week. Every now and then some
trouble along the railroad or stage routes would be satisfactorily
adjusted and quiet restored, and matters seemed to be going on very
well, the warm weather bringing the grass and buffalo in plenty, and
still no outbreak, nor any act of downright hostility. So I began to
hope that we should succeed in averting trouble till the favorite war
season of the Indians was over, but the early days of August rudely
ended our fancied tranquility.

In July the encampments about Fort Dodge began to break up, each band
or tribe moving off to some new location north of the Arkansas,
instead of toward its proper reservation to the south of that river.
Then I learned presently that a party of Cheyennes had made a raid on
the Kaws--a band of friendly Indians living near Council Grove--and
stolen their horses, and also robbed the houses of several white
people near Council Grove. This raid was the beginning of the Indian
war of 1868. Immediately following it, the Comanches and Kiowas came
to Fort Larned to receive their annuities, expecting to get also the
arms and ammunition promised them at Medicine Lodge, but the raid to
Council Grove having been reported to the Indian Department, the
issue of arms was suspended till reparation was made. This action of
the Department greatly incensed the savages, and the agent's offer of
the annuities without guns and pistols was insolently refused, the
Indians sulking back to their camps, the young men giving themselves
up to war-dances, and to powwows with "medicine-men," till all hope
of control was gone.

Brevet Brigadier-General Alfred Sully, an officer of long experience
in Indian matters, who at this time was in command of the District of
the Arkansas, which embraced Forts Larned and Dodge, having notified
me of these occurrences at Larned, and expressed the opinion that the
Indians were bent on mischief, I directed him there immediately to
act against them. After he reached Larned, the chances for peace
appeared more favorable. The Indians came to see him, and protested
that it was only a few bad young men who had been depredating, and
that all would be well and the young men held in check if the agent
would but issue the arms and ammunition. Believing their promises,
Sully thought that the delivery of the arms would solve all the
difficulties, so on his advice the agent turned them over along with
the annuities, the Indians this time condescendingly accepting.

This issue of arms and ammunition was a fatal mistake; Indian
diplomacy had overreached Sully's experience, and even while the
delivery was in progress a party of warriors had already begun a raid
of murder and rapine, which for acts of devilish cruelty perhaps has
no parallel in savage warfare. The party consisted of about two
hundred Cheyennes and a few Arapahoes, with twenty Sioux who had been
visiting their friends, the Cheyennes. As near as could be
ascertained, they organized and left their camps along Pawnee Creek
about the 3d of August. Traveling northeast, they skirted around
Fort Harker, and made their first appearance among the settlers in
the Saline Valley, about thirty miles north of that post. Professing
friendship and asking food at the farm-houses, they saw the
unsuspecting occupants comply by giving all they could spare from
their scanty stores. Knowing the Indian's inordinate fondness for
coffee, particularly when well sweetened, they even served him this
luxury freely. With this the demons began their devilish work.
Pretending to be indignant because it was served them in tin cups,
they threw the hot contents into the women's faces, and then, first
making prisoners of the men, they, one after another, ravished the
women till the victims became insensible. For some inexplicable
reason the two farmers were neither killed nor carried off, so after
the red fiends had gone, the unfortunate women were brought in to
Fort Harker, their arrival being the first intimation to the military
that hostilities had actually begun.

Leaving the Saline, this war-party crossed over to the valley of the
Solomon, a more thickly settled region, and where the people were in
better circumstances, their farms having been started two or three
years before. Unaware of the hostile character of the raiders, the
people here received them in the friendliest way, providing food, and
even giving them ammunition, little dreaming of what was impending.
These kindnesses were requited with murder and pillage, and worse,
for all the women who fell into their hands were subjected to horrors
indescribable by words. Here also the first murders were committed,
thirteen men and two women being killed. Then, after burning five
houses and stealing all the horses they could find, they turned back
toward the Saline, carrying away as prisoners two little girls named
Bell, who have never been heard of since.

It was probably the intention to finish, as they marched back to the
south, the devilish work begun on the Saline, but before they reached
that valley on the return, the victims left there originally had fled
to Fort Harker, as already explained, and Captain Benteen was now
nearing the little settlement with a troop of cavalry, which he had
hurriedly marched from Fort Zarah. The savages were attacking the
house of a Mr. Schermerhorn, where a few of the settlers had
collected for defense, when Benteen approached. Hearing the firing,
the troopers rode toward the sound at a gallop, but when they
appeared in view, coming over the hills, the Indians fled in all
directions, escaping punishment through their usual tactics of
scattering over the Plains, so as to leave no distinctive trail.

When this frightful raid was taking place, Lieutenant Beecher, with
his three scouts--Comstock, Grover, and Parr--was on Walnut Creek.
Indefinite rumors about troubles on the Saline and Solomon reaching
him, he immediately sent Comstock and Grover over to the headwaters
of the Solomon, to the camp of a band of Cheyennes, whose chief was
called "Turkey Leg," to see if any of the raiders belonged there; to
learn the facts, and make explanations, if it was found that the
white people had been at fault. For years this chief had been a
special friend of Comstock and Grover. They had trapped, hunted, and
lived with his band, and from this intimacy they felt confident of
being able to get "Turkey Leg" to quiet his people, if any of them
were engaged in the raid; and, at all events, they expected, through
him and his band, to influence the rest of the Cheyennes. From the
moment they arrived in the Indian village, however, the two scouts
met with a very cold reception. Neither friendly pipe nor food was
offered them, and before they could recover from their chilling
reception, they were peremptorily ordered out of the village, with
the intimation that when the Cheyennes were on the war-path the
presence of whites was intolerable. The scouts were prompt to leave,
of course, and for a few miles were accompanied by an escort of seven
young men, who said they were sent with them to protect the two from
harm. As the party rode along over the prairie, such a depth of
attachment was professed for Comstock and Grover that,
notwithstanding all the experience of their past lives, they were
thoroughly deceived, and in the midst of a friendly conversation some
of the young warriors fell suddenly to the rear and treacherously
fired on them.

At the volley Comstock fell from his horse instantly killed. Grover,
badly wounded in the shoulder, also fell to the ground near Comstock
Seeing his comrade was dead, Grover made use of his friend's body to
protect himself, lying close behind it. Then took place a remarkable
contest, Grover, alone and severely wounded, obstinately fighting the
seven Indians, and holding them at bay for the rest of the day.
Being an expert shot, and having a long-range repeating rifle, he
"stood off" the savages till dark. Then cautiously crawling away on
his belly to a deep ravine, he lay close, suffering terribly from his
wound, till the following night, when, setting out for Fort Wallace,
he arrived there the succeeding day, almost crazed from pain and

Simultaneously with the fiendish atrocities committed on the Saline
and Solomon rivers and the attack on Comstock and Grover, the
pillaging and murdering began on the Smoky Hill stage-route, along
the upper Arkansas River and on the headwaters of the Cimarron. That
along the Smoky Hill and north of it was the exclusive work of, the
Cheyennes, a part of the Arapahoes, and the few Sioux allies
heretofore mentioned, while the raiding on the Arkansas and Cimarron
was done principally by the Kiowas under their chief, Satanta, aided
by some of the Comanches. The young men of these tribes set out on
their bloody work just after the annuities and guns were issued at
Larned, and as soon as they were well on the road the rest of the
Comanches and Kiowas escaped from the post and fled south of the
Arkansas. They were at once pursued by General Sully with a small
force, but by the time he reached the Cimarron the war-party had
finished its raid on the upper Arkansas, and so many Indians combined
against Sully that he was compelled to withdraw to Fort Dodge, which
he reached not without considerable difficulty, and after three
severe fights.

These, and many minor raids which followed, made it plain that a
general outbreak was upon us. The only remedy, therefore, was to
subjugate the savages immediately engaged in the forays by forcing
the several tribes to settle down on the reservations set apart by
the treaty of Medicine Lodge. The principal mischief-makers were the
Cheyennes. Next in deviltry were the Kiowas, and then the Arapahoes
and Comanches. Some few of these last two tribes continued friendly,
or at least took no active part in the raiding, but nearly all the
young men of both were the constant allies of the Cheyennes and
Kiowas. All four tribes together could put on the war-path a
formidable force of about 6,000 warriors. The subjugation of this
number of savages would be no easy task, so to give the matter my
undivided attention I transferred my headquarters from Leavenworth to
Fort Hays, a military post near which the prosperous town of Hays
City now stands.

Fort Hays was just beyond the line of the most advanced settlements,
and was then the terminus of the Kansas-Pacific railroad. For this
reason it could be made a depot of supplies, and was a good point
from which to supervise matters in the section of country to be
operated in, which district is a part of the Great American Plains,
extending south from the Platte River in Nebraska to the Red River in
the Indian Territory, and westward from the line of frontier
settlements to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, a vast region
embracing an area of about 150,000 square miles. With the exception
of a half-dozen military posts and a few stations on the two overland
emigrant routes--the Smoky Hill to Denver, and the Arkansas to New
Mexico--this country was an unsettled waste known only to the Indians
and a few trappers. There were neither roads nor well-marked trails,
and the only timber to be found--which generally grew only along the
streams--was so scraggy and worthless as hardly to deserve the name.
Nor was water by any means plentiful, even though the section is
traversed by important streams, the Republican, the Smoky Hill, the
Arkansas, the Cimarron, and the Canadian all flowing eastwardly, as
do also their tributaries in the main. These feeders are sometimes
long and crooked, but as a general thing the volume of water is
insignificant except after rain-falls. Then, because of unimpeded
drainage, the little streams fill up rapidly with torrents of water,
which quickly flows off or sinks into the sand, leaving only an
occasional pool without visible inlet or outlet.

At the period of which I write, in 1868, the Plains were covered with
vast herds of buffalo--the number has been estimated at 3,000,000
head--and with such means of subsistence as this everywhere at hand,
the 6,000 hostiles were wholly unhampered by any problem of food-
supply. The savages were rich too according to Indian standards,
many a lodge owning from twenty to a hundred ponies; and
consciousness of wealth and power, aided by former temporizing, had
made them not only confident but defiant. Realizing that their
thorough subjugation would be a difficult task, I made up my mind to
confine operations during the grazing and hunting season to
protecting the people of the new settlements and on the overland
routes, and then, when winter came, to fall upon the savages
relentlessly, for in that season their ponies would be thin, and weak
from lack of food, and in the cold and snow, without strong ponies to
transport their villages and plunder, their movements would be so
much impeded that the troops could overtake them.

At the outbreak of hostilities I had in all, east of New Mexico, a
force of regulars numbering about 2,600 men--1,200 mounted and 1,400
foot troops. The cavalry was composed of the Seventh and Tenth
regiments; the infantry, of the Third and Fifth regiments and four
companies of the Thirty-Eighth. With these few troops all the posts
along the Smoky Hill and Arkansas had to be garrisoned, emigrant
trains escorted, and the settlements and routes of travel and the
construction parties on the Kansas-Pacific railway protected. Then,
too, this same force had to furnish for the field small movable
columns, that were always on the go, so it will be rightly inferred
that every available man was kept busy from the middle of August till
November; especially as during this period the hostiles attacked over
forty widely dispersed places, in nearly all cases stealing horses,
burning houses, and killing settlers. It was of course impossible to
foresee where these descents would be made, but as soon as an attack
was heard of assistance was always promptly rendered, and every now
and then we succeeded in killing a few savages. As a general thing,
though, the raiders escaped before relief arrived, and when they had
a few miles the start, all efforts to catch them were futile. I
therefore discouraged long pursuits, and, in fact, did not approve of
making any at all unless the chances of obtaining paying results were
very evident, otherwise the troops would be worn out by the time the
hard work of the winter was demanded from them.

To get ready for a winter campaign of six months gave us much to do.
The thing most needed was more men, so I asked for additional
cavalry, and all that could be spareds--even troops of the Fifth
Cavalry--was sent tome. Believing this reinforcement insufficient,
to supplement it I applied for a regiment of Kansas volunteers, which
request being granted, the organization of the regiment was
immediately begun at Topeka. It was necessary also to provide a
large amount of transportation and accumulate quantities of stores,
since the campaign probably would not end till spring. Another
important matter was to secure competent guides for the different
columns of troops, for, as I have said, the section of country to be
operated in was comparatively unknown.

In those days the railroad town of Hays City was filled with so
called "Indian scouts," whose common boast was of having slain scores
of redskins, but the real scout--that is, a 'guide and trailer
knowing the habits of the Indians--was very scarce, and it was hard
to find anybody familiar with the country south of the Arkansas,
where the campaign was to be made. Still, about Hays City and the
various military posts there was some good material to select from,
and we managed to employ several men, who, from their experience on
the Plains in various capacities, or from natural instinct and
aptitude, soon became excellent guides and courageous and valuable
scouts, some of them, indeed, gaining much distinction. Mr. William
F. Cody ("Buffalo Bill"), whose renown has since become world-wide,
was one of the men thus selected. He received his sobriquet from his
marked success in killing buffaloes for a contractor, to supply fresh
meat to the construction parties, on the Kansas-Pacific railway. He
had given up this business, however, and was now in the employ of the
quartermaster's department of the army, and was first brought to my
notice by distinguishing himself in bringing me an important despatch
from Fort Larned to Fort Hays, a distance of sixty-five miles,
through a section infested with Indians. The despatch informed me
that the Indians near Larned were preparing to decamp, and this
intelligence required that certain orders should be carried to Fort
Dodge, ninety-five miles south of Hays. This too being a
particularly dangerous route--several couriers having been killed on
it--it was impossible to get one of the various "Petes," "Jacks," or
"Jims" hanging around Hays City to take my communication. Cody
learning of the strait I was in, manfully came to the rescue, and
proposed to make the trip to Dodge, though he had just finished his
long and perilous ride from Larned. I gratefully accepted his offer,
and after four or five hours' rest he mounted a fresh horse and
hastened on his journey, halting but once to rest on the way, and
then only for an hour, the stop being made at Coon Creek, where he
got another mount from a troop of cavalry. At Dodge he took six
hours' sleep, and then continued on to his own post--Fort Larned--
with more despatches. After resting twelve hours at Larned, he was
again in the saddle with tidings for me at Fort Hays, General Hazen
sending him, this time, with word that the villages had fled to the
south of the Arkansas. Thus, in all, Cody rode about 350 miles in
less than sixty hours, and such an exhibition of endurance and
courage was more than enough to convince me that his services would
be extremely valuable in the campaign, so I retained him at Fort Hays
till the battalion of the Fifth Cavalry arrived, and then made him
chief of scouts for that regiment.

The information brought me by Cody on his second trip from Larned
indicated where the villages would be found in the winter, and I
decided to move on them about the 1st of November. Only the women
and children and the decrepit old men were with the villages, however
enough, presumably, to look after the plunder most of the warriors
remaining north of the Arkansas to continue their marauding. Many
severe fights occurred between our troops and these marauders, and in
these affairs, before November 1 over a hundred Indians were killed,
yet from the ease with which the escaping savages would disappear
only to fall upon remote settlements with pillage and murder, the
results were by no means satisfactory. One of the most noteworthy of
these preliminary affairs was the gallant fight made on the
Republican River the 17th of September by my Aide, Colonel George A.
Forsyth, and party, against about seven hundred Cheyennes and Sioux.
Forsyth, with Lieutenant Beecher, and Doctor J. H. Mooers as surgeon,
was in charge of a company of citizen scouts, mostly expert rifle-
shots, but embracing also a few Indian fighters, among these Grover
and Parr. The company was organized the latter part of August for
immediate work in defense of the settlements, and also for future use
in the Indian Territory when the campaign should open there. About
the time the company had reached its complement--it was limited to
forty-seven men and three officers--a small band of hostiles began
depredations near Sheridan City, one of the towns that grew up over-
night on the Kansas-Pacific railway. Forsyth pursued this party, but
failing to overtake it, made his way into Fort Wallace for rations,
intending to return from there to Fort Hays. Before he started back,
however, another band of Indians appeared near the post and stole
some horses from the stage company. This unexpected raid made
Forsyth hot to go for the marauders, and he telegraphed me for
permission, which I as promptly gave him. He left the post on the
10th of September, the command consisting of himself, Lieutenant
Beecher, Acting Assistant Surgeon Mooers, and the full strength,
forty-seven men, with a few pack mules carrying about ten days'

He headed north toward the Republican River. For the first two days
the trail was indistinct and hard to follow. During the next three
it continued to grow much larger, indicating plainly that the number
of Indians ahead was rapidly increasing. Of course this sign meant a
fight as soon as a large enough force was mustered, but as this was
what Forsyth was after, he pushed ahead with confidence and alacrity.
The night of the 16th of September he encamped on the Arickaree
branch of the Republican, not far from the forks of the river, with
the expectation of resuming the march as usual next day, for the
indications were that the main body of the savages must be still a
long way off, though in the preceding twenty-four hours an occasional
Indian had been seen.

But the enemy was much nearer than was thought, for at daybreak on
the morning of the 17th he made known his immediate presence by a
sudden dash at Forsyth's horses, a few of which were stampeded and
captured before the scouts could reach them. This dash was made by a
small party only to get the horses, so those engaged in it were soon
driven off, but a few minutes later hundreds of savages--it was
afterward learned that seven hundred warriors took part in the fight-
-hitherto invisible, showed themselves on the hills overlooking the
camp and so menacingly as to convince Forsyth that his defense must
be one of desperation. The only place at hand that gave any hope of
successful resistance was a small island in the Arickaree, the
channel on one side being about a foot deep while on the other it was
completely dry; so to this position a hurried retreat was made. All
the men and the remaining animals reached the island in safety, but
on account of the heavy fire poured in from the neighboring hills the
packs containing the rations and medicines had to be abandoned.

On seeing Forsyth's hasty move, the Indians, thinking they had him,
prepared to overwhelm the scouts by swooping down on one side of the
island with about five hundred mounted warriors, while about two
hundred, covered by the tall grass in the river-bottom attacked the
other side, dismounted. But the brave little band sadly disappointed
them. When the charge came it was met with such a deadly fire that a
large number of the fiends were killed, some of them even after
gaining the bank of the island. This check had the effect of making
the savages more wary, but they were still bold enough to make two
more assaults before mid-day. Each of these ending like the first,
the Indians thereafter contented themselves with shooting all the
horses, which had been tied up to some scraggy little cottonwood-
trees, and then proceeded to lay siege to the party.

The first man struck was Forsyth himself. He was hit three times in
all--twice in one leg, both serious wounds, and once on the head, a
slight abrasion of the scalp. A moment later Beecher was killed and
Doctor Mooers mortally wounded: and in addition to these misfortunes
the scouts kept getting hit, till several were killed, and the whole
number of casualties had reached twenty-one in a company of forty-
seven. Yet with all this, and despite the seeming hopelessness of
the situation, the survivors kept up their pluck undiminished, and
during a lull succeeding the third repulse dug into the loose soil
till the entire party was pretty well protected by rifle-pits. Thus
covered they stood off the Indians for the next three days, although
of course their condition became deplorable from lack of food, while
those who were hurt suffered indescribable agony, since no means were
at hand for dressing their wounds.

By the third day the Indians, seeming to despair of destroying the
beleaguered party before succor might arrive, began to draw off, and
on the fourth wholly disappeared. The men were by this time nearly
famished for food. Even now there was nothing to be had except
horse-meat from the carcasses of the animals killed the first day,
and this, though decidedly unpalatable, not to say disgusting, had to
be put up with, and so on such unwholesome stuff they managed to live
for four days longer, at the end of which time they were rescued by a
column of troops under Colonel Bankhead, which had hastened from Fort
Wallace in response to calls for help, carried there by two brave
fellows--Stilwell and Truedell--who, volunteering to go for relief,
had slipped through the Indians, and struck out for that post in the
night after the first day's fight.



The end of October saw completed the most of my arrangements for the
winter campaign, though the difficulties and hardships to be
encountered had led several experienced officers of the army, and
some frontiersmen like Mr. James Bridger, the famous scout and, guide
of earlier days, to discourage the project. Bridger even went so far
as to come out from St. Louis to dissuade me, but I reasoned that as
the soldier was much better fed and clothed than the Indian, I had
one great advantage, and that, in short, a successful campaign could
be made if the operations of the different columns were energetically
conducted. To see to this I decided to go in person with the main
column, which was to push down into the western part of the Indian
Territory, having for its initial objective the villages which, at
the beginning of hostilities, had fled toward the head-waters of the
Red River, and those also that had gone to the same remote region
after decamping from the neighborhood of Larned at the time that
General Hazen sent Buffalo Bill to me with the news.

The column which was expected to do the main work was to be composed
of the Nineteenth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, commanded by Colonel
Crawford; eleven troops of the Seventh United States Cavalry, under
General Custer, and a battalion of five companies of infantry under
Brevet Major John H. Page. To facilitate matters, General Sully, the
district commander, was ordered to rendezvous these troops and
establish a supply depot about a hundred miles south of Fort Dodge,
as from such a point operations could be more readily conducted. He
selected for the depot a most suitable place at the confluence of
Beaver and Wolf creeks, and on his arrival there with Custer's and
Page's commands, named the place Camp Supply.

In conjunction with the main column, two others also were to
penetrate the Indian Territory. One of these, which was to march
east from New Mexico by way of Fort Bascom was to be composed of six
troops of the Third Cavalry and two companies of infantry, the whole
under Colonel A. W. Evans. The other, consisting of seven troops of
the Fifth Cavalry, and commanded by Brevet Brigadier-General Eugene
A. Carr, was to march southeast from Fort Lyon; the intention being
that Evans and Carr should destroy or drive in toward old Fort Cobb
any straggling bands that might be prowling through the country west
of my own line of march; Carr, as he advanced, to be joined by Brevet
Brigadier-General W. H. Penrose, with five troops of cavalry already
in the field southeast of Lyon. The Fort Bascom column, after
establishing a deepot of supplies at Monument Creek, was to work down
the main Canadian, and remain out as long as it could feed itself
from New Mexico; Carr, having united with Penrose on the North
Canadian, was to operate toward the Antelope Hills and headwaters of
the Red River; while I, with the main column was to move southward to
strike the Indians along the Washita, or still farther. south on
branches of the Red River.

It was no small nor easy task to outfit all these troops by the time
cold weather set in, and provide for them during the winter, but by
the 1st of November I had enough supplies accumulated at Forts Dodge
and Lyon for my own and Carr's columns, and in addition directed
subsistence and forage for three months to be sent to Fort Gibson for
final delivery at Fort Arbuckle, as I expected to feed the command
from this place when we arrived in the neighborhood of old Fort Cobb,
but through some mismanagement few of these stores got further than
Gibson before winter came on.

November 1, all being ready, Colonel Grawford was furnished with
competent guides, and, after sending two troops to Fort Dodge to act
as my escort, with the rest of his regiment he started from Topeka
November 5, under orders to march straight for the rendezvous at the
junction of Beaver and Wolf creeks. He was expected to reach his
destination about the 20th, and there unite with the Seventh Cavalry
and the battalion of infantry, which in the mean time were on the
march from Dodge. A few days later Carr and Evans began their march
also, and everything being now in motion, I decided to go to Camp
Supply to give the campaign my personal attention, determined to
prove that operations could be successfully conducted in spite of
winter, and bent on showing the Indians that they were not secure
from punishment because of inclement weather--an ally on which they
had hitherto relied with much assurance.

We started from Fort Hays on the 15th of November, and the first
night out a blizzard struck us and carried away our tents; and as the
gale was so violent that they could not be put up again, the rain and
snow drenched us to the skin. Shivering from wet and cold, I took
refuge under a wagon, and there spent such a miserable night that,
when at last morning came, the gloomy predictions of old man Bridger
and others rose up before me with greatly increased force. As we
took the road the sleet and snow were still falling, but we labored
on to Dodge that day in spite of the fact that many of the mules
played out on the way. We stayed only one night at Dodge, and then
on the 17th, escorted by a troop of cavalry and Forsyth's scouts, now
under the command of Lieutenant Lewis Pepoon, crossed the Arkansas
and camped the night of the 18th at Bluff Creek, where the two troops
of the Nineteenth Kansas, previously detailed as my escort, were
awaiting our coming. As we were approaching this camp some
suspicious looking objects were seen moving off at a long distance to
the east of us, but as the scouts confidently pronounced them
buffalo, we were unaware of their true character till next morning,
when we became satisfied that what we had seen were Indians, for
immediately after crossing Beaver Creek we struck a trail, leading to
the northeast, of a war party that evidently came up from the head-
waters of the Washita River.

The evening of November 21we arrived at the Camp Supply depot, having
traveled all day in another snowstorm that did not end till twenty-
four hours later. General Sully, with Custer's regiment and the
infantry battalion, had reached the place several days before, but
the Kansas regiment had not yet put in an appearance. All hands were
hard at work trying to shelter the stores and troops, but from the
trail seen that morning, believing that an opportunity offered to
strike an effective blow, I directed Custer to call in his working
parties and prepare to move immediately, without waiting for
Crawford's regiment, unaccountably absent. Custer was ready to start
by the 23d, and he was then instructed to march north to where the
trail had been seen near Beaver Creek and follow it on the back
track, for, being convinced that the war party had come from the
Washita, I felt certain that this plan would lead directly to the

The difficulties attending a winter campaign were exhibited now with
their full force, as the march had to be conducted through a snow-
storm that hid surrounding objects, and so covered the country as to
alter the appearance of the prominent features, making the task of
the guides doubly troublesome; but in spite of these obstacles
fifteen miles had been traversed when Custer encamped for the night.
The next day the storm had ceased, and the weather was clear and
cold. The heavy fall of snow had of course obliterated the trail in
the bottoms, and everywhere on the level; but, thanks to the wind,
that had swept comparatively bare the rough places and high ground,
the general direction could be traced without much trouble. The
day's march, which was through a country abounding with buffalo, was
unattended by any special incident at first, but during the
afternoon, after getting the column across the Canadian River--an
operation which, on account of the wagons, consumed considerable
time--Custer's scouts (friendly Osages) brought back word that, some
miles ahead, they had struck fresh signs, a trail coming into the old
one from the north, which, in their opinion, indicated that the war
party was returning to the villages.

On the receipt of this news, Custer, leaving a guard with the wagons,
hastily assembled the rest of his men' and pushing on rapidly,
overtook the scouts and a detailed party from his regiment which had
accompanied them, all halted on the new trail awaiting his arrival.
A personal examination satisfied Custer that the surmises of his
scouts were correct; and also that the fresh trail in the deep snow
could at night be followed with ease. After a short halt for supper
and rest the pursuit was resumed, the Osage scouts in advance, and
although the hostile Indians were presumed to be yet some distance
off, every precaution was taken to prevent detection and to enable
our troops to strike them unawares. The fresh trail, which it was
afterward ascertained had been made by raiders from Black Kettle's
village of Cheyennes, and by some Arapahoes, led into the valley of
the Washita, and growing fresher as the night wore on, finally
brought the Osages upon a campfire, still smoldering, which, it was
concluded, had been built by the Indian boys acting as herders of the
ponies during the previous day. It was evident, then, that the
village could be but a few miles off; hence the pursuit was continued
with redoubled caution until, a few hours before dawn of the 27th, as
the leading scouts peered over a rise on the line of march, they
discovered a large body of animals in the valley below.

As soon as they reported this discovery, Custer determined to
acquaint himself with the situation by making a reconnoissance in
person, accompanied by his principal officers. So, sending back word
to halt the cavalry, he directed the officers to ride forward with
him; then dismounting, the entire party crept cautiously to a high
point which overlooked the valley, and from where, by the bright moon
then shining, they saw just how the village was situated. Its
position was such as to admit of easy approach from all sides. So,
to preclude an escape of the Indians, Custer decided to attack at
daybreak, and from four different directions.

The plan having been fully explained to the officers, the remaining
hours of the night were employed in making the necessary
dispositions. Two of the detachments left promptly, since they had
to make a circuitous march of several miles to Teach the points
designated for their attack; the third started a little later; and
then the fourth and last, under Custer himself, also moved into
position. As the first light grew visible in the east, each column
moved closer in to the village, and then, all dispositions having
been made according to the prearranged plan, from their appointed
places the entire force to the opening notes of "Garry Owen," played
by the regimental band as the signal for the attack--dashed at a
gallop into the village. The sleeping and unsuspecting savages were
completely surprised by the onset; yet after the first confusion,
during which the impulse to escape principally actuated them, they
seized their weapons, and from behind logs and trees, or plunging
into the stream and using its steep bank as a breastwork, they poured
upon their assailants a heavy fire, and kept on fighting with every
exhibition of desperation. In such a combat mounted men were
useless, so Custer directed his troopers to fight on, foot, and the
Indians were successively driven from one point of vantage to
another, until, finally, by 9 o'clock the entire camp was in his
possession and the victory complete. Black Kettle and over one
hundred of his warriors were killed, and about fifty women and
children captured; but most of the noncombatants, as well as a few
warriors and boys, escaped in the confusion of the fight. Making
their way down the river, these fugitives alarmed the rest of the
Cheyennes and Arapahoes, and also the Kiowas and Comanches, whose
villages were in close proximity--the nearest not more than two miles

Then of course all the warriors of these tribes rallied to attack
Custer, who meantime was engaged burning Black Kettle's camp and
collecting his herds of ponies. But these new foes were rather wary
and circumspect, though they already had partial revenge in an
unlooked for way by cutting off Major Elliott and fifteen men, who
had gone off in pursuit of a batch of young warriors when the fight
was going on at the village. In fact, the Indians had killed
Elliott's whole party, though neither the fate of the poor fellows,
nor how they happened to be caught, was known till long afterward.
It was then ascertained that the detachment pursued a course due
south, nearly at right angles to the Washita River, and after
galloping a couple of miles over the hills, crossing a small branch
of the Washita on the way, they captured some of the fugitives. In
bringing the prisoners back, Elliott was in turn attacked on the open
prairie by a large number of savages from farther down the Washita,
who by this time were swarming to the aid of Black Kettle's village.
The little band fought its way gallantly to within rifle-range of the
small creek referred to, but could get no farther, for the Indians
had taken up a position in the bed of the stream, and from under
cover of its banks Elliott and all his remaining men were quickly
killed. No relief was sent them, for Custer, not having seen Elliott
set out, knew nothing of the direction taken, and, besides, was busy
burning the villages and securing the ponies, and deeply concerned,
too, with defending himself from the new dangers menacing him.
Elliott and his brave little party were thus left to meet their fate

While Custer was burning the lodges and plunder and securing the
ponies, the Indians from the villages down the Washita were gathering
constantly around him till by mid-day they had collected in
thousands, and then came a new problem as to what should be done. If
he attacked the other villages, there was great danger of his being
overwhelmed, and should he start back to Camp Supply by daylight, he
would run the risk of losing his prisoners and the ponies, so,
thinking the matter over, he decided to shoot all the ponies, and
keep skirmishing with the savages till nightfall, and then, under
cover of the darkness, return to Camp Supply; a programme that was
carried out successfully, but Custer's course received some severe
criticism because no effort was made to discover what had become of

Custer had, in all, two officers and nineteen men killed, and two
officers and eleven men wounded. The blow struck was a most
effective one, and, fortunately, fell on one of the most villanous of
the hostile bands that, without any provocation whatever, had
perpetrated the massacres on the Saline and Solomon, committing
atrocities too repulsive for recital, and whose hands were still red
from their bloody work on the recent raid. Black Kettle, the chief,
was an old man, and did not himself go with the raiders to the Saline
and Solomon, and on this account his fate was regretted by some. But
it was old age only that kept him back, for before the demons set out
from Walnut Creek he had freely encouraged them by "making medicine,"
and by other devilish incantations that are gone through with at war
and scalp dances.

When the horrible work was over he undertook to shield himself by
professions of friendship, but being put to the test by my offering
to feed and care for all of his band who would come in to Fort Dodge
and remain there peaceably, he defiantly refused. The consequence of
this refusal was a merited punishment, only too long delayed.

I received the first news of Custer's fight on the Washita on the
morning of November 29. It was brought to me by one of his white
scouts, "California Joe," a noted character, who had been
experiencing the ups and downs of pioneer life ever since crossing
the Plains in 1849. Joe was an invaluable guide and Indian fighter
whenever the clause of the statute prohibiting liquors in the Indian
country happened to be in full force. At the time in question the
restriction was by no means a dead letter, and Joe came through in
thirty-six hours, though obliged to keep in hiding during daylight of
the 28th. The tidings brought were joyfully received by everybody at
Camp Supply, and they were particularly agreeable tome, for, besides
being greatly worried about the safety of the command in the extreme
cold and deep snows, I knew that the immediate effect a victory would
be to demoralize the rest of the hostiles, which of course would
greatly facilitate and expedite our ultimate success. Toward evening
the day after Joe arrived the head of Custer's column made its
appearance on the distant hills, the friendly Osage scouts and the
Indian prisoners in advance. As they drew near, the scouts began a
wild and picturesque performance in celebration of the victory,
yelling, firing their guns, throwing themselves on the necks and
sides of their horses to exhibit their skill in riding, and going
through all sorts of barbaric evolutions and gyrations, which were
continued till night, when the rejoicings were ended with the hideous
scalp dance.

The disappearance of Major Elliott and his party was the only damper
upon our pleasure, and the only drawback to the very successful
expedition. There was no definite information as to the detachment,
--and Custer was able to report nothing more than that he had not
seen Elliott since just before the fight began. His theory was,
however, that Elliott and his men had strayed off on account of
having no guide, and would ultimately come in all right to Camp
Supply or make their way back to Fort Dodge; a very unsatisfactory
view of the matter, but as no one knew the direction Elliott had
taken, it was useless to speculate on other suppositions, and
altogether too late to make any search for him. I was now anxious to
follow up Custer's stroke by an immediate move to the south with the
entire column, but the Kansas regiment had not yet arrived. At first
its nonappearance did not worry me much, for I attributed the delay
to the bad weather, and supposed Colonel Crawford had wisely laid up
during the worst storms. Further, waiting, however, would give the
Indians a chance to recover from the recent dispiriting defeat, so I
sent out scouting parties to look Crawford up and hurry him along.
After a great deal of searching, a small detachment of the regiment
was found about fifty miles below us on the North Canadian, seeking
our camp. This detachment was in a pretty bad plight, and when
brought in, the officer in charge reported that the regiment, by not
following the advice of the guide sent to conduct it to Camp Supply,
had lost its way. Instead of relying on the guides, Crawford had
undertaken to strike through the canyons of the Cimarron by what
appeared to him a more direct route, and in the deep gorges, filled
as they were with snow, he had been floundering about for days
without being able to extricate his command. Then, too, the men were
out of rations, though they had been able to obtain enough buffalo
meat to keep from starving. As for the horses, since they could get
no grass, about seven hundred of them had already perished from
starvation and exposure. Provisions and guides were immediately sent
out to the regiment, but before the relief could reach Crawford his
remaining horses were pretty much all gone, though the men were
brought in without loss of life. Thus, the regiment being dismounted
by this misfortune at the threshold of the campaign, an important
factor of my cavalry was lost to me, though as foot-troops the Kansas
volunteers continued to render very valuable services till mustered
out the next spring.



A few days were necessarily lost setting up and refitting the Kansas
regiment after its rude experience in the Cimarron canyons. This
through with, the expedition, supplied with thirty days' rations,
moved out to the south on the 7th of December, under my personal
command. We headed for the Witchita Mountains, toward which rough
region all the villages along the Washita River had fled after
Custer' s fight with Black Kettle. My line of march was by way of
Custer's battle-field, and thence down the Washita, and if the
Indians could not sooner be brought to terms, I intended to follow
them into the Witchita Mountains from near old Fort Cobb. The snow
was still deep everywhere, and when we started the thermometer was
below zero, but the sky being clear and the day very bright, the
command was in excellent spirits. The column was made up of ten
companies of the Kansas regiment, dismounted; eleven companies of the
Seventh Cavalry, Pepoon's scouts, and the Osage scouts. In addition
to Pepoon's men and the Osages, there was also "California Joe," and
one or two other frontiersmen besides, to act as guides and
interpreters. Of all these the principal one, the one who best knew
the country, was Ben Clark, a young man who had lived with the
Cheyennes during much of his boyhood, and who not only had a pretty
good knowledge of the country, but also spoke fluently the Cheyenne
and Arapahoe dialects, and was an adept in the sign language.

The first day we made only about ten miles, which carried us to the
south bank of Wolf Creek. A considerable part of the day was devoted
to straightening out matters in the command, and allowing time for
equalizing the wagon loads, which as a general thing, on a first
day's march, are unfairly distributed. And then there was an
abundance of fire-wood at Wolf Creek; indeed, here and on Hackberry
Creek--where I intended to make my next camp--was the only timber
north of the Canadian River; and to select the halting places near a
plentiful supply of wood was almost indispensable, for as the men
were provided with only shelter-tents, good fires were needed in
order to keep warm.

The second day, after marching for hours through vast herds of
buffalo, we made Hackberry Creek; but not, however, without several
stampedes in the wagon-train, the buffalo frightening the mules so
that it became necessary to throw out flankers to shoot the leading
bulls and thus turn off the herds. In the wake of every drove
invariably followed a band of wolves. This animal is a great coward
usually, but hunger had made these so ravenous that they would come
boldly up to the column, and as quick as a buffalo was killed, or
even disabled, they would fall upon the carcass and eagerly devour
it. Antelope also were very numerous, and as they were quite tame--
being seldom chased--and naturally very inquisitive, it was not an
unfrequent thing to see one of the graceful little creatures run in
among the men and be made a prisoner. Such abundance of game
relieved the monotony of the march to Hackberry Creek, but still,
both men and animals were considerably exhausted by their long tramp,
for we made over thirty miles that day.

We camped in excellent shape on the creek and it was well we did, for
a "Norther," or "blizzard," as storms on the Plains are now termed
struck us in the night. During the continuance of these blizzards,
which is usually about three days, the cold wind sweeps over the
Plains with great force, and, in the latitude of the Indian
Territory, is weighted with great quantities of sleet and snow,
through which it is often impossible to travel; indeed, these
"Northers" have many times proved fatal to the unprotected
frontiersman. With our numbers the chance of any one's being lost,
and perishing alone (one of the most common dangers in a blizzard),
was avoided; but under any circumstances such a storm could but
occasion intense suffering to all exposed to it, hence it would have
been well to remain in camp till the gale was over, but the time
could not be spared. We therefore resumed the march at an early hour
next morning, with the expectation of making the south bank of the
main Canathan and there passing the night, as Clark assured me that
timber was plentiful on that side of the river. The storm greatly
impeded us, however, many of the mules growing discouraged, and some
giving out entirely, so we could not get to Clark's "good camp," for
with ten hours of utmost effort only about half a day's distance
could be covered, when at last, finding the struggle useless, we were
forced to halt for the night in a bleak bottom on the north bank of
the river. But no one could sleep, for the wind swept over us with
unobstructed fury, and the only fuel to be had was a few green
bushes. As night fell a decided change of temperature added much to
our misery, the mercury, which had risen when the "Norther" began,
again falling to zero. It can be easily imagined that under such
circumstances the condition of the men was one of extreme discomfort;
in truth, they had to tramp up and down the camp all night long to
keep from freezing. Anything was a relief to this state of things,
so at the first streak of day we quit the dreadful place and took up
the march.

A seemingly good point for crossing the Canadian was found a couple
of miles down the stream, where we hoped to get our train over on the
ice, but an experiment proving that it was not strong enough, a ford
had to be made, which was done by marching some of the cavalry
through the river, which was about half a mile wide, to break up the
large floes when they had been cut loose with axes. After much hard
work a passage-way was thus opened, and by noon the command was
crossed to the south bank, and after thawing out and drying our
clothes before big fires, we headed for a point on the Washita, where
Clark said there was plenty of wood, and good water too, to make us
comfortable till the blizzard had blown over.

We reached the valley of the Washita a little before dark, and camped
some five or six miles above the scene of Custer's fight, where I
concluded to remain at least a day, to rest the command and give it a
chance to refit. In the mean time I visited the battle-field in
company with Custer and several other officers, to see if there was a
possibility of discovering any traces of Elliotts party. On arriving
at the site of the village, and learning from Custer what
dispositions had been made in approaching for the attack, the
squadron of the escort was deployed and pushed across the river at
the point where Elliott had crossed. Moving directly to the south,
we had not gone far before we struck his trail, and soon the whole
story was made plain by our finding, on an open level space about two
miles from the destroyed village, the dead and frozen bodies of the
entire party. The poor fellows were all lying within a circle not
more than fifteen or twenty paces in diameter, and the little piles
of empty cartridge shells near each body showed plainly that every
man had made a brave fight. None were scalped, but most of them were
otherwise horribly mutilated, which fiendish work is usually done by
the squaws. All had been stripped of their clothing, but their
comrades in the escort were able to identify the bodies, which being
done, we gave them decent burial. Their fate was one that has
overtaken many of our gallant army in their efforts to protect the
frontiersmen's homes and families from savages who give no quarter,
though they have often received it, and where the possibility of
defeat in action carries with it the certainty of death and often of
preceding torture.

From the meadow where Elliott was found we rode to the Washita, and
then down the river through the sites of the abandoned villages, that
had been strung along almost continuously for about twelve miles in
the timber skirting the stream. On every hand appeared ample
evidence that the Indians had intended to spend the winter here, for
the ground was littered with jerked meat, bales of buffalo robes,
cooking utensils, and all sorts of plunder usually accumulated in a
permanent Indian camp. There were, also, lying dead near the
villages hundreds of ponies, that had been shot to keep them from
falling into our hands, the scant grazing and extreme cold having
made them too weak to be driven along in the flight. The wholesale
slaughter of these ponies was a most cheering indication that our
campaign would be ultimately successful, and we all prayed for at
least a couple of months more of cold weather and plenty of snow.

At the Kiowa village we found the body of a white woman--a Mrs.
Blynn--and also that of her child. These captives had been taken by
the Kiowas near Fort Lyon the previous summer, and kept close
prisoners until the stampede began, the poor woman being reserved to
gratify the brutal lust of the chief, Satanta; then, however, Indian
vengeance demanded the murder of the poor creatures, and after
braining the little child against a tree, the mother was shot through
the forehead, the weapon, which no doubt brought her welcome release,
having been fired so close that the powder had horribly disfigured
her face. The two bodies were wrapped in blankets and taken to camp,
and afterward carried along in our march, till finally they were
decently interred at Fort Arbuckle..

At an early hour on December 12 the command pulled out from its cosy
camp and pushed down the valley of the Washita, following immediately
on the Indian trail which led in the direction of Fort Cobb, but
before going far it was found that the many deep ravines and canyons
on this trail would delay our train very much, so we moved out of the
valley and took the level prairie on the divide. Here the traveling
was good, and a rapid gait was kept up till mid-day, when, another
storm of sleet and snow coming on, it became extremely difficult for
the guides to make out the proper course; and fearing that we might
get lost or caught on the open plain without wood or water--as we had
been on the Canadian--I turned the command back to the valley,
resolved to try no more shortcuts involving the risk of a disaster to
the expedition. But to get back was no slight task, for a dense fog
just now enveloped us, obscuring all landmarks. However, we were
headed right when the fog set in, and we had the good luck to reach
the valley before night-fall, though there was a great deal of
floundering about, and also much disputing among the guides as to
where the river would be found Fortunately we struck the stream right
at a large grove of timber, and established ourselves, admirably. By
dark the ground was covered with twelve or fifteen inches of fresh
snow, and as usual the temperature rose very sensibly while the storm
was on, but after night-fall the snow ceased and the skies cleared
up. Daylight having brought zero weather again, our start on the
morning of the 17th was painful work, many of the men freezing their
fingers while handling the horse equipments, harness, and tents.
However, we got off in fairly good season, and kept to the trail
along the Washita notwithstanding the frequent digging and bridging
necessary to get the wagons over ravines.

Continuing on this line for three days, we at length came to a point
on the Washita where all signs indicated that we were nearing some of
the villages. Wishing to strike them as soon as possible, we made a
very early start next morning, the 17th. A march of four or five
miles brought us to a difficult ravine, and while we were making
preparations to get over, word was brought that several Indians had
appeared in our front bearing a white flag and making signs that they
had a communication to deliver. We signaled back that they would be
received, when one of the party came forward alone and delivered a
letter, which proved to be from General Hazen, at Fort Cobb. The
letter showed that Hazen was carrying on negotiations with the
Indians, and stated that all the tribes between Fort Cobb and my
column were friendly, but the intimation was given that the
Cheyennes and Arapahoes were still hostile, having moved off
southward toward, the Red River. It was added that Satanta and Lone
Wolf--the chiefs of the Kiowas--would give information of the
whereabouts of the hostiles; and such a communication coming direct
from the representative of the Indian Department, practically took
the Kiowas--the village at hand was of that tribe--under its
protection, and also the Comanches, who were nearer in to Cobb. Of
course, under such circumstances I was compelled to give up the
intended attack, though I afterward regretted that I had paid any
heed to the message, because Satanta and Lone Wolf proved, by
trickery and double dealing, that they had deceived Hazen into
writing the letter.

When I informed the Klowas that I would respect Hazen's letter
provided they all came into Fort Cobb and gave themselves up, the two
chiefs promised submission, and, as an evidence of good faith,
proposed to accompany the column to Fort Cobb with a large body of
warriors, while their villages moved to the same point by easy
stages, along the opposite bank of the river--claiming this to be
necessary from the poor condition of the ponies. I had some
misgivings as to the sincerity of Satanta and Lone Wolf, but as I
wanted to get the Kiowas where their surrender would be complete, so
that the Cheyennes and Arapahoes could then be pursued, I agreed to
the proposition, and the column moved on. All went well that day,
but the next it was noticed that the warriors were diminishing, and
an investigation showed that a number of them had gone off on various
pretexts--the main one being to help along the women and children
with the villages. With this I suspected that they were playing me
false, and my suspicions grew into certainty when Satanta himself
tried to make his escape by slipping beyond the flank of the column
and putting spurs to his pony. Fortunately, several officers saw
him, and quickly giving chase, overhauled him within a few hundred
yards. I then arrested both him and Lone Wolf and held them as
hostages--a measure that had the effect of bringing back many of the
warriors already beyond our reach.

When we arrived at Fort Cobb we found some of the Comanches already
there, and soon after the rest. of them, excepting one band, came in
to the post. The Kiowas, however, were not on hand, and there were
no signs to indicate their coming. At the end of two days it was
plain enough that they were acting in bad faith, and would continue
to unless strong pressure was brought to bear. Indeed, they had
already started for the Witchita Mountains, so I put on the screws at
once by issuing an order to hang Satanta and Lone Wolf, if their
people did not surrender at Fort Cobb within forty-eight hours. The
two chiefs promised prompt compliance, but begged for more time,
seeking to explain the non-arrival of the women and children through
the weak condition of the ponies; but I was tired of their duplicity,
and insisted on my ultimatum.

The order for the execution brought quick fruit. Runners were sent
out with messages, by the two prisoners, appealing to their people to
save the lives of their chiefs, and the result was that the whole
tribe came in to the post within the specified time. The two
manacled wretches thus saved their necks; but it is to be regretted
that the execution did not come off; for some years afterward their
devilish propensities led them into Texas, where both engaged in the
most horrible butcheries.

The Kiowas were now in our hands, and all the Comanches too, except
one small band, which, after the Custer fight, had fled toward the
headwaters of the Red River. This party was made up of a lot of very
bad Indians--outlaws from the main tribe--and we did not hope to
subdue them except by a fight, and of this they got their fill; for
Evans, moving from Monument Creek toward the western base of the
Witchita Mountains on Christmas Day, had the good fortune to strike
their village. In the snow and cold his approach was wholly
unexpected, and he was thus enabled to deal the band a blow that
practically annihilated it. Twenty-five warriors were killed
outright, most of the women and children captured, and all the
property was destroyed. Only a few of the party escaped, and some of
these made their way in to Fort Cobb, to join the rest of their tribe
in confinement; while others, later in the season, surrendered at
Fort Bascom.

This sudden appearance of Evans in the Red River region also alarmed
the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, and their thoughts now began to turn to
submission. Food was growing scarce with them, too, as there was but
little game to be found either in the Witchita Mountains or on the
edge of the Staked Plains, and the march of Carr's column from
Antelope Hills precluded their returning to where the buffalo ranged.
Then, too, many of their ponies were dead or dying, most of their
tepees and robes had been abandoned, and the women and children,
having been kept constantly on the move in the winter's storms, were
complaining bitterly of their sufferings.

In view of this state of things they intimated, through their
Comanche-Apache friends at Fort Cobb, that they would like to make
terms. On receiving their messages I entered into negotiations with
Little Robe, chief of the Cheyennes, and Yellow Bear, chief of the
Arapahoes, and despatched envoys to have both tribes understand
clearly that they must recognize their subjugation by surrendering at
once, and permanently settling on their reservations in the spring.
Of course the usual delays of Indian diplomacy ensued, and it was
some weeks before I heard the result.

Then one of my messengers returned with word that Little Robe and
Yellow Bear were on their way to see me. They arrived a few days
later, and, promptly acceding to the terms, promised to bring their
people in, but as many of them would have to come on foot on account
of the condition of the ponies, more time was solicited. Convinced
of the sincerity of their professions I gave them a reasonable
extension, and eventually Yellow Bear made good his word, but Little
Robe, in spite of earnest and repeated efforts, was unable to deliver
his people till further operations were begun against them.

While these negotiations were in progess I came to the conclusion
that a permanent military post ought to be established well down on
the Kiowa and Comanche reservation, in order to keep an eye on these
tribes in the future, Fort Cobb, being an unsuitable location,
because too far to the north to protect the Texas frontier, and too
far away from where it was intended to permanently place the Indians.
With this purpose in view I had the country thoroughly explored, and
afterward a place was fixed upon not far from the base of the
Witchita Mountains, and near the confluence of Medicine Bluff and
Cash creeks, where building stone and timber could be obtained in
plenty, and to this point I decided to move. The place was named
Camp Sill-now Fort Sill--in honor of my classmate, General Sill,
killed at Stone River; and to make sure of the surrendered Indians, I
required them all, Kiowas, Comanches, and Comanche-Apaches, to
accompany us to the new post, so they could be kept under military
control till they were settled.

During the march to the new camp the weather was not so cold as that
experienced in coming down from Camp Supply; still, rains were
frequent, and each was invariably followed by a depression of
temperature and high winds, very destructive to our animals, much
weakened by lack of food. The men fared pretty well, however, for on
the rough march along the Washita, and during our stay at Fort Cobb,
they had learned to protect themselves materially from the cold. For
this they had contrived many devices, the favorite means being
dugouts--that is, pits dug in the ground, and roofed over, with
shelter-tents, and having at one end a fire-place and chimney
ingeniously constructed with sod. In these they lived very snugly--
four men in each--and would often amuse themselves by poking their
heads out and barking at the occupants of adjacent huts in imitation
of the prairie-dog, whose comfortable nests had probably suggested
the idea of dugouts. The men were much better off, in fact, than
many of the officers, for the high winds frequently made havoc with
our wall-tents. The horses and mules suffered most of all. They
could not be sheltered, and having neither grain nor grass, the poor
beasts were in no condition to stand the chilling blasts. Still, by
cutting down cottonwood-trees, and letting the animals browse on the
small soft branches, we managed to keep them up till, finally even
this wretched food beginning to grow scarce, I had all except a few
of the strongest sent to Fort Arbuckle, near which place we had been
able, fortunately, to purchase some fields of corn from the half-
civilized Chickasaws and Choctaws.

Through mismanagement, as previously noted, the greater part of the
supplies which I had ordered hauled to Arbuckle the preceding fall
had not got farther on the way than Fort Gibson, which post was about
four hundred miles off, and the road abominable, particularly east of
Arbuckle, where it ran through a low region called "boggy bottom."
All along this route were abandoned wagons, left sticking in the mud,
and hence the transportation was growing so short that I began to
fear trouble in getting subsistence up for the men. Still, it would
not do to withdraw, so I made a trip to Arbuckle chiefly for the
purpose of reorganizing the transportation, but also with a view to
opening a new route to that post, the road to lie on high ground, so
as to avoid the creeks and mud that had been giving us so much
trouble. If such a road could be made, I hoped to get up enough
rations and grain from the cornfields purchased to send out a
formidable expedition against the Cheyennes, so I set out for
Arbuckle accompanied by my quartermaster, Colonel A. J. McGonigle.
"California Joe" also went along to guide us through the scrub-oaks
covering the ridge, but even the most thorough exploration failed to
discover any route more practicable than that already in use; indeed,
the high ground was, if anything, worse than the bottom land, our
horses in the springy places and quicksands often miring to their
knees. The ground was so soft and wet, in fact, that we had to make
most of the way on foot, so by the time we reached Arbuckle I was
glad to abandon the new road project.

Finding near Arbuckle more fields of corn than those already
purchased, I had them bought also, and ordered more of the horses
back there to be fed. I next directed every available mule to be put
to hauling rations, having discovered that the full capacity of the
transportation had not yet been brought into play in forwarding
stores from Gibson, and with this regulation of the supply question I
was ready to return immediately to Camp Sill. But my departure was
delayed by California Joe, who, notwithstanding the prohibitory laws
of the Territory, in some unaccountable way had got gloriously tipsy,
which caused a loss of time that disgusted me greatly; but as we
could not well do without Joe, I put off starting till the next day,
by which time it was thought he would sober up. But I might just as
well have gone at first, for at the end of the twenty-four hours the
incorrigible old rascal was still dead drunk. How he had managed to
get the grog to keep up his spree was a mystery which we could not
solve, though we had had him closely watched, so I cut the matter
short by packing him into my ambulance and carrying him off to Camp

By the time I got back to Sill, the Arapahoes were all in at the
post, or near at hand. The promised surrender of the Cheyennes was
still uncertain of fulfillment, however, and although Little Robe and
his family had remained with us in evidence of good faith, the
messages he sent to his followers brought no assurance of the tribe's
coming in--the runners invariably returning with requests for more
time, and bringing the same old excuse of inability to move because
the ponies were so badly off. But more time was just what I was
determined not to grant, for I felt sure that if a surrender was not
forced before the spring grass came, the ponies would regain their
strength, and then it would be doubtful if the Cheyennes came in at

To put an end to these delays, Custer proposed to go out and see the
Cheyennes himself, taking with him for escort only such number of men
as could be fairly well mounted from the few horses not sent back to
Arbuckle. At first I was inclined to disapprove Custer's
proposition, but he urged it so strongly that I finally consented,
though with some misgivings, for I feared that so small a party might
tempt the Cheyennes to forget their pacific professions and seek to
avenge the destruction of Black Kettle's band. However, after
obtaining my approval, Custer, with characteristic energy, made his
preparations, and started with three or four officers and forty
picked men, taking along as negotiators Yellow Bear and Little Robe,
who were also to conduct him to the head-waters of the Red River,
where it was supposed the Cheyennes would be found. His progress was
reported by couriers every few days, and by the time he got to the
Witchita foot-hills he had grown so sanguine that he sent California
Joe back to me with word that he was certain of success. Such
hopeful anticipation relieved me greatly, of course, but just about
the time I expected to hear that his mission had been achieved I was
astonished by the party's return. Inquiring as to the trouble, I
learned that out toward the Staked Plains every sign of the Cheyennes
had disappeared. Surprised and disappointed at this, and discouraged
by the loneliness of his situation--for in the whole region not a
trace of animal life was visible, Custer gave up the search, and none
too soon, I am inclined to believe, to save his small party from

This failure put a stop to all expeditions till the latter part of
February, by which time I had managed to lay in enough rations to
feed the command for about thirty days; and the horses back at
Arbuckle having picked up sufficiently for field service they were
ordered to Sill, and this time I decided to send Custer out with his
own and the Kansas regiment, with directions to insist on the
immediate surrender of the Cheyennes, or give them a sound thrashing.
He was ordered to get everything ready by March 1, and then move to
the mouth of Salt Creek, on the North Fork of the Red River, at which
place I proposed to establish a new depot for feeding the command.
Trains could reach this point from Camp Supply more readily than from
Arbuckle, and wishing to arrange this part of the programme in
person, I decided to return at once to Supply, and afterward rejoin
Custer at Salt Creek, on what, I felt sure, was to be the final
expedition of the campaign. I made the three hundred and sixty miles
from Sill to Supply in seven days, but much to my surprise there
found a despatch from General Grant directing me to repair
immediately to Washington. These orders precluded, of course, my
rejoining the command; but at the appointed time it set out on the
march, and within three weeks brought the campaign to a successful

In this last expedition, for the first few days Custer's route was by
the same trail he had taken in January--that is to say, along the
southern base of the Witchita Mountains--but this time there was more
to encourage him than before, for, on getting a couple of marches
beyond old Camp Radziminski, on all sides were fresh evidences of
Indians, and every effort was bent to strike them.

From day to day the signs grew hotter, and toward the latter part of
March the game was found. The Indians being in a very forlorn
condition, Custer might have destroyed most of the tribe, and
certainly all their villages, but in order to save two white women
whom, it was discovered, they held as captives, he contented himself
with the renewal of the Cheyennes' agreement to come in to Camp
Supply. In due time the entire tribe fulfilled its promise except
one small band under "Tall Bull," but this party received a good
drubbing from General Carr on the Republican early in May. After
this fight all the Indians of the southern Plains settled down on
their reservations, and I doubt whether the peace would ever again
have been broken had they not in after years been driven to
hostilities by most unjust treatment.

It was the 2d of March that I received at Camp Supply Grant's
despatch directing me to report immediately in Washington. It had
been my intention, as I have said, to join Custer on the North Fork
of the Red River, but this new order required me to recast my plans,
so, after arranging to keep the expedition supplied till the end of
the campaign, I started for Washington, accompanied by three of my
staff--Colonels McGonigle and Crosby, and Surgeon Asch, and Mr. Deb.
Randolph Keim, a representative of the press, who went through the
whole campaign, and in 1870 published a graphic history of it. The
day we left Supply we, had another dose of sleet and snow, but
nevertheless we made good time, and by night-fall reached Bluff
Creek. In twenty-four hours more we made Fort Dodge, and on the 6th
of March arrived at Fort Hays. Just south of the Smoky Hill River, a
little before we got to the post, a courier heading for Fort Dodge
passed us at a rapid gait. Suspecting that he had despatches for me,
I directed my outrider to overtake him and find out. The courier
soon turned back, and riding up to my ambulance handed me a telegram
notifying me that General Grant, on the day of his inauguration,
March 4, 1869, had appointed me Lieutenant-General of the Army. When
I reported in Washington, the President desired me to return to New
Orleans and resume command of the Fifth Military District, but this
was not at all to my liking, so I begged off, and was assigned to
take charge of the Division of the Missouri, succeeding General
Sherman, who had just been ordered to assume command of the Army.



After I had for a year been commanding the Division of the Missouri,
which embraced the entire Rocky Mountain region, I found it necessary
to make an inspection of the military posts in northern Utah and
Montana, in order by personal observation to inform myself of their
location and needs, and at the same time become acquainted with the
salient geographical and topographical features of that section of my
division. Therefore in May, 1870, I started west by the Union-
Pacific railroad, and on arriving at Corinne' Station, the next
beyond Ogden, took passage by stage-coach for Helena, the capital of
Montana Territory. Helena is nearly five hundred miles north of
Corinne, and under ordinary conditions the journey was, in those
days, a most tiresome one. As the stage kept jogging on day and
night, there was little chance for sleep, and there being with me a
sufficient number of staff-officers to justify the proceeding, we
chartered the "outfit," stipulating that we were to stop over one
night on the road to get some rest. This rendered the journey more
tolerable, and we arrived at Helena without extraordinary fatigue.

Before I left Chicago the newspapers were filled with rumors of
impending war between Germany and France. I was anxious to observe
the conflict, if it was to occur, but reports made one day concerning
the beginning of hostilities would be contradicted the next, and it
was not till I reached Helena that the despatches lost their doubtful
character, and later became of so positive a nature as to make it
certain that the two nations would fight. I therefore decided to cut
short my tour of inspection, so that I could go abroad to witness the
war, if the President would approve. This resolution limited my stay
in Helena to a couple of days, which were devoted to arranging for an
exploration of what are now known as the Upper and the Lower Geyser
Basins of the Yellowstone Park. While journeying between Corinne and
Helena I had gained some vague knowledge of these geysers from an old
mountaineer named Atkinson, but his information was very indefinite,
mostly second-hand; and there was such general uncertainty as to the
character of this wonderland that I authorized an escort of soldiers
to go that season from Fort Ellis with a small party, to make such
superficial explorations as to justify my sending an engineer officer
with a well-equipped expedition there next summer to scientifically
examine and report upon the strange country. When the arrangements
for this preliminary expedition were completed I started for Fort
Benton, the head of navigation on the Missouri River, on the way
passing through Fort Shaw, on Sun River. I expected to take at
Benton a steamboat to Fort Stevenson, a military post which had been
established about eighty miles south of Fort Buford, near a
settlement of friendly Mandan and Arickaree Indians, to protect them
from the hostile Sioux. From there I was to make my way overland,
first to Fort Totten near Devil's lake in Dakota, and thence by way
of Fort Abercrombie to Saint Cloud, Minnesota, the terminus of the

Luckily I met with no delay in getting a boat at Benton, and though
the water was extremely low, we steamed down the channel of the
Missouri with but slight detention till we got within fifty miles of
Fort Buford. Here we struck on a sandbar with such force of steam
and current as to land us almost out of the water from stem to
midships. This bad luck was tantalizing, for to land on a bar when
your boat is under full headway down-stream in the Missouri River is
no trifling matter, especially if you want to make time, for the
rapid and turbid stream quickly depositing sand under the hull, makes
it commonly a task of several days to get your boat off again. As
from our mishap the loss of much time was inevitable, I sent a
messenger to Fort Buford for a small escort, and for horses to take
my party in to the post. Colonel Morrow, the commandant, came
himself to meet us, bringing a strong party of soldiers and some
friendly Indian scouts, because, he said, there were then in the
region around Buford so many treacherous band of Sioux as to make
things exceedingly unsafe.

Desiring to reach the post without spending more than one night on
the way, we abandoned our steamer that evening, and set off at an
early hour the next morning. We made camp at the end of the day's
march within ten miles of Buford, and arrived at the post without
having had any incident of moment, unless we may dignify as one a
battle with three grizzly bears, discovered by our friendly Indians
the morning of our second day's journey. While eating our breakfast-
-a rather slim one, by the way--spread on a piece of canvas, the
Indians, whose bivouac was some distance off, began shouting
excitedly, "Bear! bear!" and started us all up in time to see, out on
the plain some hundreds of yards away, an enormous grizzly and two
almost full-grown cubs. Chances like this for a bear hunt seldom
offered, so there was hurried mounting--the horses being already
saddled--and a quick advance made on the game from many directions,
Lieutenant Townsend, of the escort, and five or six of the Indians
going with me. Alarmed by the commotion, bruin and her cubs turned
about, and with an awkward yet rapid gait headed for a deep ravine,
in which there was brushwood shelter.

My party rode directly across the prairie and struck the trail not
far behind the game. Then for a mile or more the chase was kept up,
but with such poor shooting because of the "buck fever" which had
seized most of us, that we failed to bring down any of the grizzlies,
though the cubs grew so tired that the mother was often obliged to
halt for their defense, meanwhile urging them on before her. When
the ravine was gained she hid the cubs away in the thick brushwood,
and then coming out where we could plainly see her, stood on the
defense just within the edge of the thicket, beyond the range of our
rifles though, unless we went down into the canyon, which we would
have to do on foot, since the precipitous wall precluded going on
horseback. For an adventure like this I confess I had little
inclination, and on holding a council of war, I found that the
Indians had still less, but Lieutenant Townsend, who was a fine shot,
and had refrained from firing hitherto in the hope that I might bag
the game, relieved the embarrassing situation and saved the credit of
the party by going down alone to attack the enemy. Meanwhile I
magnanimously held his horse, and the Sioux braves did a deal of
shouting, which they seemed to think of great assistance.

Townsend, having descended to the bottom of the ravine, approached
within range, when the old bear struck out, dashing into and out of
the bushes so rapidly, however, that he could not get fair aim at
her, but the startled cubs running into full view, he killed one at
the first shot and at the second wounded the other. This terribly
enraged the mother, and she now came boldly out to fight, exposing
herself in the open ground so much as to permit a shot, that brought
her down too, with a broken shoulder. Then the Indians and I,
growing very brave, scrambled down to--take part in the fight. It
was left for me to despatch the wounded cub and mother, and having
recovered possession of my nerves, I did the work effectively, and we
carried off with us the skins of the three animals as trophies of the
hunt and evidence of our prowess.

As good luck would have it, when we reached Buford we found a
steamboat there unloading stores, and learned that it would be ready
to start down the river the next day. Embarking on her, we got to
Stevenson in a few hours, and finding at the post camp equipage that
had been made ready for our use in crossing overland to Fort Totten,
we set out the following forenoon, taking with us a small escort of
infantry, transported in two light wagons, a couple of Mandans and
the post interpreter going along as mounted guides.

To reach water we had to march the first day to a small lake forty
miles off, and the oppressive heat, together with the long distance
traveled, used up one of the teams so much that, when about to start
out the second morning, we found the animals unable to go on with any
prospect of finishing the trip, so I ordered them to be rested forty-
eight hours longer, and then taken back to Stevenson. This
diminished the escort by one-half, yet by keeping the Indians and
interpreter on the lookout, and seeing that our ambulance was kept
closed up on the wagon carrying the rest of the detachment, we could,
I thought, stand off any ordinary party of hostile Indians.

About noon I observed that the scouts in advance had left the trail
and begun to reconnoitre a low ridge to their right, the sequel of
which was that in a few minutes they returned to the wagons on a dead
run and reported Sioux just ahead. Looking in the direction
indicated, I could dimly see five or six horsemen riding in a circle,
as Indians do when giving warning to their camp, but as our halt
disclosed that we were aware of their proximity, they darted back
again behind the crest of the ridge. Anticipating from this move an
immediate attack, we hastily prepared for it by unhooking the mules
from the wagon and ambulance, so that we could use the vehicles as a
barricade. This done, I told the interpreter to take the Mandan
scouts and go over toward the ridge and reconnoitre again. As the
scouts neared the crest two of them dismounted, and, crawling slowly
on their bellies to the summit, took a hasty look and returned at
once to their horses, coming back with word that in the valley beyond
was a camp of at least a hundred Sioux lodges, and that the Indians
were hurriedly getting ready to attack us. The news was anything but
cheering, for with a village of that size the warriors would number
two or three hundred, and could assail us from every side.

Still, nothing could be done, but stand and take what was to come,
for there was no chance of escape--it being supreme folly to
undertake in wagons a race with Indians to Fort Stevenson, sixty
miles away. To make the best of the situation, we unloaded the
baggage, distributing and adjusting the trunks, rolls of bedding,
crackerboxes, and everything else that would stop a bullet, in such
manner as to form a square barricade, two sides of which were the
wagons, with the mules haltered to the wheels. Every man then
supplied himself with all the ammunition he could carry, and the
Mandan scouts setting up the depressing wail of the Indian death-
song, we all awaited the attack with the courage of despair.

But no attack came; and time slipping by, and we still unmolested,
the interpreter and scouts were sent out to make another
reconnoissance. Going through just such precautions as before in
approaching the ridge, their slow progress kept us in painful
suspense; but when they got to the crest the strain on our herves was
relieved by seeing them first stand up boldly at full height, and
then descend beyond. Quickly returning, they brought welcome word
that the whole thing was a mistake, and no Sioux were there at all.
What had been taken for a hundred Indian lodges turned out to be the
camp of a Government train on its way to Fort Stevenson, and the
officer in charge seeing the scouts before they discovered him, and
believing them to be Sioux, had sent out to bring his herds in. It
would be hard to exaggerate the relief that this discovery gave us,
and we all breathed much easier. The scare was a bad one, and I have
no hesitation in saying that, had we been mounted, it is more than
likely that, instead of showing fight, we would have taken up a
lively pace for Fort Stevenson.

After reciprocal explanations with the officer in charge of the
train, the march was resumed, and at the close of that day we camped
near a small lake about twenty miles from Fort Totten. From Totten
we journeyed on to Fort Abercrombie. The country between the two
posts is low and flat, and I verily believe was then the favorite
abiding-place of the mosquito, no matter where he most loves to dwell
now; for myriads of the pests rose up out of the tall rank grass--
more than I ever saw before or since--and viciously attacked both men
and animals. We ourselves were somewhat protected by gloves and
head-nets, provided us before leaving Totten, but notwithstanding
these our sufferings were well-nigh intolerable; the annoyance that
the poor mules experienced must, therefore, have been extreme;
indeed, they were so terribly stung that the blood fairly trickled
down their sides. Unluckily, we had to camp for one night in this
region; but we partly evaded the ravenous things by banking up our
tent walls with earth, and then, before turning in, sweeping and
smoking out such as had got inside. Yet with all this there seemed
hundreds left to sing and sting throughout the night. The mules
being without protection, we tried hard to save them from the vicious
insects by creating a dense smoke from a circle of smothered fires,
within which chain the grateful brutes gladly stood; but this relief
was only partial, so the moment there was light enough to enable us
to hook up we pulled out for Abercrombie in hot haste.

From Abercrombie we drove on to Saint Cloud, the terminus of the
railroad, where, considerably the worse for our hurried trip and
truly wretched experience with the mosquitoes, we boarded the welcome
cars. Two days later we arrived in Chicago, and having meanwhile
received word from General Sherman that there would be no objection
to my going to Europe, I began making arrangements to leave, securing
passage by the steamship Scotia.

President Grant invited me to come to see him at Long Branch before I
should sail, and during my brief visit there he asked which army I
wished to accompany, the German or the French. I told him the
German, for the reason that I thought more could be seen with the
successful side, and that the indications pointed to the defeat of
the French. My choice evidently pleased him greatly, as he had the
utmost contempt for Louis Napoleon, and had always denounced him as a
usurper and a charlatan. Before we separated, the President gave me
the following letter to the representatives of our Government abroad,
and with it I not only had no trouble in obtaining permission to go
with the Germans, but was specially favored by being invited to
accompany the headquarters of the King of Prussia:

"LONG BRANCH, N. J., July 25, 1870.

"Lieutenant-General P. H. Sheridan, of the United State Army, is
authorized to visit Europe, to return at his own pleasure, unless
otherwise ordered. He is commended to the good offices of all
representatives of this Government whom he may meet abroad.

"To citizens and representatives of other Governments I introduce
General Sheridan as one of the most skillful, brave and deserving
soldiers developed by the great struggle through which the United
States Government has just passed. Attention paid him will be duly
appreciated by the country he has served so faithfully and

"U. S. GRANT."

Word of my intended trip was cabled to Europe in the ordinary press
despatches, and our Minister to France, Mr. Elihu B. Washburn, being
an intimate friend of mine, and thinking that I might wish to attach
myself to the French army, did me the favor to take preliminary steps
for securing the necessary authority. He went so far as to broach
the subject to the French Minister of War, but in view of the
informality of the request, and an unmistakable unwillingness to
grant it being manifested, Mr. Washburn pursued the matter no
further. I did not learn of this kindly interest in my behalf till
after the capitulation of Paris, when Mr. Washburn told me what he
had done of his own motion. Of course I thanked him gratefully, but
even had he succeeded in getting the permission he sought I should
not have accompanied the French army.

I sailed from New York July 27, one of my aides-de-camp, General
James W. Forsyth, going with me. We reached Liverpool August 6, and
the next day visited the American Legation in London, where we saw
all the officials except our Minister, Mr. Motley, who, being absent,
was represented by Mr. Moran, the Secretary of the Legation. We left
London August 9 for Brussels, where we were kindly cared for by the
American Minister, Mr. Russell Jones who the same evening saw us off
for Germany. Because of the war we secured transportation only as
far as Vera, and here we received information that the Prussian
Minister of War had telegraphed to the Military Inspector of
Railroads to take charge of us on our arrival a Cologne, and send us
down to the headquarter of the Prussian army, but the Inspector, for
some unexplained reason, instead of doing this, sent us on to Berlin.
Here our Minister, Mr. George Bancroft, met us with a telegram from
the German Chancellor, Count Bismarck, saying we were expected to
come direct to the King's headquarters and we learned also that a
despatch had been sent to the Prussian Minister at Brussels directing
him to forward us from Cologne to the army, instead of allowing us to
go on to Berlin, but that we had reached and quit Brussels without
the Minister's knowledge.



Shortly after we arrived in Berlin the Queen sent a messenger
offering us an opportunity to pay our respects, and fixed an hour for
the visit, which was to take place the next day; but as the tenor of
the despatch Mr. Bancroft had received from Count Bismarck indicated
that some important event which it was desired I should witness was
about to happen at the theatre of war, our Minister got us excused
from our visit of ceremony, and we started for the headquarters of
the German army that evening--our stay in the Prussian capital having
been somewhat less than a day.

Our train was a very long one, of over eighty cars, and though drawn
by three locomotives, its progress to Cologne was very slow and the
journey most tedious. From Cologne we continued on by rail up the
valley of the Rhine to Bingebruck, near Bingen, and thence across
through Saarbrucken to Remilly, where we left the railway and rode in
a hay-wagon to Pont-a-Mousson, arriving there August 17, late in the
afternoon. This little city had been ceded to France at the Peace of
Westphalia, and although originally German, the people had become, in
the lapse of so many years, intensely French in sentiment. The town
was so full of officers and men belonging to the German army that it
was difficult to get lodgings, but after some delay we found quite
comfortable quarters at one of the small hotels, and presently, after
we had succeeded in getting a slender meal, I sent my card to Count
von Bismarck, the Chancellor of the North German Confederation, who
soon responded by appointing an hour--about 9 o'clock the same
evening--for an interview.

When the Count received me he was clothed in the undress uniform of
the Cuirassier regiment, of which he was the colonel. During the
interview which ensued, he exhibited at times deep anxiety regarding
the conflict now imminent, for it was the night before the battle of
Gravelotte, but his conversation was mostly devoted to the state of
public sentiment in America, about which he seemed much concerned,
inquiring repeatedly as to which side--France or Prussia--was charged
with bringing on the war. Expressing a desire to witness the battle
which was expected to occur the next day, and remarking that I had
not had sufficient time to provide the necessary transportation, he
told me to be ready at 4 o'clock in the morning, and he would take me
out in his own carriage and present me to the King--adding that he
would ask one of his own staff-officers, who he knew had one or two
extra horses, to lend me one. As I did not know just what my status
would be, and having explained to the President before leaving
America that I wished to accompany the German army unofficially, I
hardly knew whether to appear in uniform or not, so I spoke of this
matter too, and the Count, after some reflection, thought it best for
me to wear my undress uniform, minus the sword, however, because I
was a non combatant.

At 4 o'clock the next morning, the 18th, I repaired to the
Chancellor's quarters. The carriage was at the door, also the
saddle-horse, but as no spare mount could be procured for General
Forsyth, he had to seek other means to reach the battle-field. The
carriage was an open one with two double seats, and in front a single
one for a messenger; it had also a hand-brake attached.

Count Bismarck and I occupied the rear seat, and Count Bismarck-
Bohlen--the nephew and aide-decamp to the Chancellor--and Doctor
Busch were seated facing us. The conveyance was strong, serviceable,
and comfortable, but not specially prepossessing, and hitched to it
were four stout horses--logy, ungainly animals, whose clumsy harness
indicated that the whole equipment was meant for heavy work. Two
postilions in uniform, in high military saddles on the nigh horse of
each span, completed the establishment.

All being ready, we took one of the roads from Pont-a-Mousson to
Rezonville, which is on the direct road from Metz to Chalons, and
near the central point of the field where, on the 16th of August, the
battle of Mars-la-Tour had been fought. It was by this road that the
Pomeranians, numbering about 30,000 men, had been ordered to march to
Gravelotte, and after proceeding a short distance we overtook the
column. As this contingent came from Count Bismarck's own section of
Germany, there greeted us as we passed along, first in the dim light
of the morning, and later in the glow of the rising sun, continuous
and most enthusiastic cheering for the German Chancellor.

On the way Count Bismarck again recurred to the state of public
opinion in America with reference to the war. He also talked much
about our form of government, and said that in early life his
tendencies were all toward republicanism, but that family influence
had overcome his preferences, and intimated that, after adopting a
political career, he found that Germany was not sufficiently advanced
for republicanism. He said, further, that he had been reluctant to
enter upon this public career, that he had always longed to be a
soldier, but that here again family opposition had turned him from
the field of his choice into the sphere of diplomacy.

Not far from Mars-la-Tour we alighted, and in a little while an aide-
de-camp was introduced, who informed me that he was there to conduct
and present me to his Majesty, the King of Prussia. As we were
walking along together, I inquired whether at the meeting I should
remove my cap, and he said no; that in an out-of-door presentation it
was not etiquette to uncover if in uniform. We were soon in presence
of the King, where--under the shade of a clump of second-growth
poplar-trees, with which nearly all the farms in the north of France
are here and there dotted--the presentation was made in the simplest
and most agreeable manner.

His Majesty, taking my hand in both of his, gave me a thorough
welcome, expressing, like Count Bismarck, though through an
interpreter, much interest as to the sentiment in my own country
about the war. At this time William the First of Prussia was
seventy-three years of age, and, dressed in the uniform of the
Guards, he seemed to be the very ideal soldier, and graced with most
gentle and courteous manners. The conversation, which was brief, as
neither of us spoke the other's native tongue, concluded by his
Majesty's requesting me in the most cordial way to accompany his
headquarters during the campaign. Thanking him for his kindness, I
rejoined Count Bismarck's party, and our horses having arrived
meantime, we mounted and moved off to the position selected for the
King to witness the opening of the battle.

This place was on some high ground overlooking the villages of
Rezonville and Gravelotte, about the centre of the battlefield of
Mars-la-Tour, and from it most of the country to the east toward Metz
could also be seen. The point chosen was an excellent one for the
purpose, though in one respect disagreeable, since the dead bodies of
many of the poor fellows killed there two days before were yet
unburied. In a little while the King's escort began to remove these
dead, however, bearing them away on stretchers improvised with their
rifles, and the spot thus cleared was much more acceptable. Then,
when such unexploded shells as were lying around loose had been
cautiously carried away, the King, his brother, Prince Frederick
Charles Alexander, the chief-of-staff, General von Moltke, the
Minister of War, General von Roon, and Count von Bismarck assembled
on the highest point, and I being asked to join the group, was there
presented to General von Moltke. He spoke our language fluently, and
Bismarck having left the party for a time to go to a neighboring
house to see his son, who had been wounded at Mars-la-Tour, and about
whom he was naturally very anxious, General von Moltke entertained me
by explaining the positions of the different corps, the nature and
object of their movements then taking place, and so on.

Before us, and covering Metz, lay the French army, posted on the
crest of a ridge extending north, and about its centre curving
slightly westward toward the German forces. The left of the French
position was but a short distance from the Moselle, and this part of
the line was separated from the Germans by a ravine, the slopes,
fairly well wooded, rising quite sharply; farther north, near the
centre, this depression disappeared, merged in the general swell of
the ground, and thence on toward the right the ground over which an
approach to the French line must be made was essentially a natural
open glacis, that could be thoroughly swept by the fire of the

The line extended some seven or eight miles. To attack this
position, formidable everywhere, except perhaps on the right flank,
the Germans were bringing up the combined forces of the First and
Second armies, troops that within the past fortnight had already
successfully met the French in three pitched battles. On the right
was the First Army, under command of General Von Steinmetz, the
victors, August 6, of Spicheren, near Saar, and, eight days later, of
Colombey, to the east of Metz; while the centre and left were
composed of the several corps of the Second Army, commanded by Prince
Frederick Charles of Prussia, a part of whose troops had just been
engaged in the sanguinary battle of Mars-la-Tour, by which Bazaine
was cut off from the Verdun road, and forced back toward Metz.

At first the German plan was simply to threaten with their right,
while the corps of the Second Army advanced toward the north, to
prevent the French, of whose intentions there was much doubt, from
escaping toward Chalons; then, as the purposes of the French might
be, developed, these corps were to change direction toward the enemy
successively, and seek to turn his right flank. But the location of
this vital turning-point was very uncertain, and until it was
ascertained and carried, late in the afternoon, the action raged with
more or less intensity along the entire line.

But as it is not my purpose to describe in detail the battle of
Gravelotte, nor any other, I will speak of some of its incidents
merely. About noon, after many preliminary skirmishes, the action
was begun according to the plan I have already outlined, the Germans
advancing their left while holding on strongly with their right, and
it was this wing (the First Army) that came under my observation from
the place where the King's headquarters were located. From here we
could see, as I have said, the village of Gravelotte. Before it lay
the German troops, concealed to some extent, especially to the left,
by clumps of timber here and there. Immediately in front of us,
however, the ground was open, and the day being clear and sunny, with
a fresh breeze blowing (else the smoke from a battle between four
hundred thousand men would have obstructed the view altogether), the
spectacle presented Was of unsurpassed magnificence and sublimity.
The German artillery opened the battle, and while the air was filled
with shot and shell from hundreds of guns along their entire line,
the German centre and left, in rather open order, moved out to the
attack, and as they went forward the reserves, in close column, took
up positions within supporting distances, yet far enough back to be
out of range.

The French artillery and mitrailleuses responded vigorously to the
Krupps, and with deadly effect, but as far as we could see the German
left continued its advance, and staff-officers came up frequently to
report that all was going on well at points hidden from our view
These reports were always made to the King first, and whenever
anybody arrived with tidings of the fight we clustered around to hear
the news, General Von Moltke unfolding a map meanwhile, and
explaining the situation. This done, the chief of the staff, while
awaiting the next report, would either return to a seat that had been
made for him with some knapsacks, or would occupy the time walking
about, kicking clods of dirt or small stones here and there, his
hands clasped behind his back, his face pale and thoughtful. He was
then nearly seventy years old, but because of his emaciated figure,
the deep wrinkles in his face, and the crow's-feet about his eyes, he
looked even older, his appearance being suggestive of the practice of
church asceticisms rather than of his well-known ardent devotion to
the military profession.

By the middle of the afternoon the steady progress of the German left
and centre had driven the French from their more advanced positions
from behind stone walls and hedges, through valleys and hamlets, in
the direction of Metz, but as yet the German right had accomplished
little except to get possession of the village of Gravelotte,
forcing the French across the deep ravine I have mentioned, which
runs north and south a little distance east of ihe town.

But it was now time for the German right to move in earnest to carry
the Rozerieulles ridge, on which crest the French had evidently
decided to make an obstinate fight to cover their withdrawal to Metz.
As the Germans moved to the attack here, the French fire became heavy
and destructive, so much so, indeed, as to cause General Von
Steinmetz to order some cavalry belonging to the right wing to make a
charge. Crossing the ravine before described, this body of horse
swept up the slope beyond, the front ranks urged forward by the
momentum from behind. The French were posted along a sunken road,
behind stone walls and houses, and as the German cavalry neared these
obstructions it received a dreadful fire without the least chance of
returning it, though still pushed on till the front ranks were
crowded into the deep cut of the road. Here the slaughter was
terrible, for the horsemen could make no further headway; and because
of the blockade behind, of dead and wounded men and animals, an
orderly retreat was impossible, and disaster inevitable.

About the time the charge was ordered, the phase of the battle was
such that the King concluded to move his headquarters into the
village of Gravelotte; and just after getting there, we first learned
fully of the disastrous result of the charge which had been entered
upon with such spirit; and so much indignation was expressed against
Steinmetz, who, it was claimed, had made an unnecessary sacrifice of
his cavalry, that I thought he would be relieved on the spot; though
this was not done.

Followed by a large staff, General Steinmetz appeared in the village
presently, and approached the King. When near, he bowed with great
respect, and I then saw that he was a very old man though his
soldierly figure, bronzed face, and shortcropped hair gave some
evidence of vigor still. When the King spoke to him I was not close
enough to learn what was said; but his Majesty's manner was
expressive of kindly feeling, and the fact that in a few moments the
veteran general returned to the command of his troops, indicated
that, for the present at least, his fault had been overlooked.

The King then moved out of the village, and just a little to the east
and north of it the headquarters were located on high, open ground,
whence we could observe the right of the German infantry advancing up
the eastern face of the ravine. The advance, though slow and
irregular, resulted in gradually gaining ground, the French resisting
stoutly with a stubborn musketry fire all along the slopes. Their
artillery was silent, however; and from this fact the German
artillery officers grew jubilant, confidently asserting that their
Krupp guns had dismounted the French batteries and knocked their
mitrailleuses to pieces. I did not indulge in this confidence,
however; for, with the excellent field-glass I had, I could
distinctly see long columns of French troops moving to their right,
for the apparent purpose of making a vigorous fight on that flank;
and I thought it more than likely that their artillery would be heard
from before the Germans could gain the coveted ridge.

The Germans labored up the glacis slowly at the most exposed places;
now crawling on their bellies, now creeping on hands and knees, but,
in the main, moving with erect and steady bearing. As they
approached within short range, they suddenly found that the French
artillery and mitrallleuses had by no means been silenced--about two
hundred pieces opening on them with fearful effect, while at the same
time the whole crest blazed with a deadly fire from the Chassepot
rifles. Resistance like this was so unexpected by the Germans that
it dismayed them; and first wavering a moment, then becoming panic-
stricken, they broke and fled, infantry, cavalry, and artillery
coming down the slope without any pretence of formation, the French
hotly following and pouring in a heavy and constant fire as the
fugitives fled back across the ravine toward Gravelotte. With this
the battle on the right had now assumed a most serious aspect, and
the indications were that the French would attack the heights of
Gravelotte; but the Pomeranian corps coming on the field at this
crisis, was led into action by Von Moltke, himself, and shortly after
the day was decided in favor of the Germans.

When the French guns opened fire, it was discovered that the King's
position was within easy range, many of the shells falling near
enough to make the place extremely uncomfortable; so it was suggested
that he go to a less exposed point. At first he refused to listen to
this wise counsel, but yielded finally--leaving the ground with
reluctance, however--and went back toward Rezonville. I waited for
Count Bismarck, who did not go immediately with the King, but
remained at Gravelotte, looking after some of the escort who had been
wounded. When he had arranged for their care, we set out to rejoin
the King, and before going far, overtook his Majesty, who had stopped
on the Chalons road, and was surrounded by a throng of fugitives,
whom he was berating in German so energetic as to remind me forcibly
of the "Dutch" swearing that I used to hear in my boyhood in Ohio.
The dressing down finished to his satisfaction, the King resumed his
course toward Re'zonville, halting, however, to rebuke in the same
emphatic style every group of runaways he overtook.

Passing through Rezonville, we halted just beyond the village; there
a fire was built, and the King, his brother, Prince Frederick
Charles, and Von Roon were provided with rather uncomfortable seats
about it, made by resting the ends of a short ladder on a couple of
boxes. With much anxiety and not a little depression of spirits news
from the battle-field was now awaited, but the suspense did not last
long, for presently came the cheering intelligence that the French
were retiring, being forced back by the Pomeranian corps, and some of
the lately broken right wing organizations, that had been rallied on
the heights of Gravelotte. The lost ground being thus regained, and
the French having been beaten on their right, it was not long before
word came that Bazaine's army was falling back to Metz, leaving the
entire battle-field in possession of the Germans.

During the excitement of the day I had not much felt the want of
either food or water, but now that all was over I was nearly
exhausted, having had neither since early morning. Indeed, all of
the party were in like straits; the immense armies had not only eaten
up nearly everything in the country, but had drunk all the wells dry,
too, and there seemed no relief for us till, luckily, a squad of
soldiers came along the road with a small cask of wine in a cart.
One of the staff-officers instantly appropriated the keg, and
proceeded to share his prize most generously. Never had I tasted
anything so refreshing and delicious, but as the wine was the
ordinary sour stuff drunk by the peasantry of northern France, my
appreciation must be ascribed to my famished condition rather than to
any virtues of the beverage itself.

After I had thus quenched my thirst the King's, brother called me
aside, and drawing from his coat-tail pocket a piece of stale black
bread, divided it with me, and while munching on this the Prince
began talking of his son--General Prince Frederick Charles, popularly
called the Red Prince--who was in command of the Second Army in this
battle--the German left wing. In recounting his son's professional
career the old man's face was aglow with enthusiasm, and not without
good cause, for in the war between Prussia and Austria in 1866, as
well as in the present campaign, the Red Prince had displayed the
highest order of military genius.

The headquarters now became the scene of much bustle, despatches
announcing the victory being sent in all directions. The first one
transmitted was to the Queen, the King directing Count Bismarck to
prepare it for his signature; then followed others of a more official
character, and while these matters were being attended to I thought I
would ride into the village to find, if possible, some water for my
horse. Just as I entered the chief street, however, I was suddenly
halted by a squad of soldiers, who, taking me for a French officer
(my coat and forage cap resembling those of the French), leveled
their pieces at me. They were greatly excited, so much so, indeed,
that I thought my hour had come, for they could not understand
English, and I could not speak German, and dare not utter
explanations in French. Fortunately a few disconnected German words
came to me in the emergency. With these I managed to delay my
execution, and one of the party ventured to come up to examine the
"suspect" more closely. The first thing he did was to take off my
cap, and looking it over carefully, his eyes rested on the three
stars above the visor, and, pointing to them, he emphatically
pronounced me French. Then of course they all became excited again,
more so than before, even, for they thought I was trying to practice
a ruse, and I question whether I should have lived to recount the
adventure had not an officer belonging to the King's headquarters
been passing by just then, when, hearing the threatenings and
imprecations, he rode up to learn the cause of the hubbub, and
immediately recognized and released me. When he told my wrathy
captors who I was, they were much mortified of course, and made the
most profuse apologies, promising that no such mistake should occur
again, and so on; but not feeling wholly reassured, for my uniform
was still liable to mislead, I was careful to return to headquarters
in company with my deliverer. There I related what had occurred, and
after a good laugh all round, the King provided me with a pass which
he said would preclude any such mishap in the future, and would also
permit me to go wherever I pleased--a favor rarely bestowed.



Back to Full Books