Title: 1874 letter from Columbus, Neb "Dear unkle"

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North-Williamson Letters

Columbus, Nebr.

Nov. 25th, 1874.

Dear Uncle:

Your good letter was rec’d. a few days ago and I will now try and answer and give you a short sketch of my doings since I left Michigan in the spring of 1867. I came home as you may remember in March and just stopped long enough to visit the folks home and then went on to Fort Kearny when Frank was camped with his Battalion of Pawnies. He (Frank) gave the charge of one of the companies to me and in a few days we were ordered to Ft. McPherson, where we stayed only two days and were then sent to the end of the U.P.R.R. to act as guard for the track layers; for two weeks before we got there the Indians had been coming down every morning to fight the track layers and Graders, and the next morning after we got there they came again as usual and Frank started me out after them with twenty men. There was about fifteen of the Indians and of course they ran for it. I followed them about ten miles and had to give it up without catching them. The next morning they came down again and run off a lot of mules; and Frank took twenty of our Scouts and after a running fight of fifteen miles succeeded in getting the mules back and killed one Indian and wounded several more. The one that he killed proved to be a brother of the celebrated Chief Spotted Tail and that put a stop to further Depredations in part of the country. Everything went on quietly then for about two weeks when Genl. Augur came up from Omaha and he detailed my company and one other to escort him to Fort Laramie. We traveled up the south Platte to the mouth of Crow Creek and then followed up that to near where Cheyenne City now stands and from there we crossed into Lodge Pole creek and followed up that to the mouth of Cheyenne Pass (if you will look on a map maybe you can understand me) the day we got to the Pass we ran across some Arapahoe Indians and after a lively little chase for four or five miles we killed two and got three ponies from them. We left Genl. Augur here and started south into the hills west of Cheyenne and camped with a party of Engineers where Granite Canyon now is. We stayed there for about a month when I was ordered to the end of the track again which was then where the Town of Sidney now is. On Lodge Pole Creek I camped with the end of the track from July 9th until the first day of Oct. Nothing of note took place during that time; we had to move camp from one to two miles each day and the lull of the time I put in hunting on the first day of Oct. I was again ordered to night forward, firearms, night march and away we go for Fort Fetterman as Escort for Col. Menn. We went by way of Cheyenne and after hard marching for ten days we reached Fetterman, and was then relieved by a company of white soldiers and ordered back to Cheyenne. From there we were ordered to Fort Kearny and after laying in camp for about two weeks, we were disbanded and sent home thus ended my first campaign as a Pawnee Scout.

I must tell you here of one of Frank’s exploits during the summer, he was camped with one company of forty-six men at Plum Creek Station when one morning a man made into his camp and reported a large body of Indians on the opposite side of the Platte River. Frank did not have much faith in the report, but thought he would go and see anyhow. When he got over there he found the report true and found himself facing one hundred and fifty splendidly mounted and well armed Sioux & Cheyenne warriors. Retreat was almost impossible for the Platte River with its treacherous quick sands was behind him and so that glorious old brother of mine ordered a charge and before the astonished Sioux warriors knew what they were about forty-six Pawnees with the invincible White Chief was riding them down like a whirlwind. The charge was so sudden and irresistible that the Sioux made but little resistance and Frank chased them for fifteen miles killing seventeen and capturing 33 horses and one Squaw and one papoose. Do you wonder that I am proud of such a brother. Frank’s loss was five horses killed and one man slightly wounded. I will close again for that year and go on with my own story.

Nov. 28th, 1874.

I was interrupted the other day and have been so busy ever since that this is the first chance that I have had to go on with my little story.

When we came home in the fall of 67, I hired to Jim to clerk in the trading post at the Pawnee Reserve. I commenced work the first of Jan. 1868 and stayed with him for over one year. I might tell you how the Sioux came down that summer and run off all of our horses and how we followed them and once caught them and there was such a large party that we were glad to get away without fighting them. But it would not be very interesting so I will just say that everything passed off quietly that year until Christmas when Libbie and Phonnie were married. At that time Phonnie’s husband had a beautiful little Bay horse and he and Phon gave him to me for a Christmas Present. You don’t know how proud I was of that horse, well I rode him home to the Pawnee Reserve and four days after the Sioux came down and broke open our stable and took him out. I was pretty sure what band of Indians it was that took him and immediately wrote to their Agent and in about three weeks got an answer that he had the horse, so I started after him. He was at Fort Randall on the Missouri River and when I got there the Commander of the Post said he could not give him up without I went on to the Whitestone Agency which was twenty-five miles above there and get an order from the Agent; he let me have my horse and I started out and got to the Agency about eleven that night. Came near being my last on earth, I had gone into the Trading Post with a Frenchman that I was acquainted with, the store was full of Indians and some of them asked the Frenchman who I was. He told them that I was a brother of the great White Chief of the Pawnees and in less time than it takes to write it there was about twenty five Sioux Warriors flourishing butcher Knives, tomahawks and war clubs around my head. I was sitting in one corner of the store behind the stove and knowing that perfect coolness was all that could save me I never got up off from the chair. I didn’t even look up the excitement lasted about one minute (it seemed to me one year) and then a Chief named Walk-Under-the-ground, who had been smoking passed me his pipe. I knew that meant safety, but the Frenchman told me afterwards that if it had been any other Indian but the one that it was, that smoking the pipe of peace wouldn’t have saved me that night. The next morning I had to ride the distance back to Fort Randall by myself and as the road is a bad one running through deep ravines and thick willow brush I did not breathe very free till I got there, but I did get there all right and from there home nothing of importance occurred. After staying at home a couple of weeks Frank got orders to recruit a company of Pawnees and on the 10th of Feb. 1869 we started to Fort McPherson where we drew rations, clothing, horses and (illegible) and on the 13th I left the Fort for a ten days scout on the Republican River and Frank went home to Enlist another company. I went on to the Republican and there met with two companies of White Cav. And on the 18th of Feb. we started back to Ft. McPherson. It would be impossible for me to tell you of all the horrible suffering of that days march. It was snowing and blowing a Gale from the North West and we had to face the storm for twenty five miles and when we got into camp we didn’t have a tent in the whole outfit. My hands and face were badly frozen and I do believe I would have died that night if it hadn’t been for my men as soon as we got to camp they tore the covers off the Wagons and while some of them were making a Wigwam others were cleaning away the snow and cutting fry grass with their butcher knives, while one of my sergeants as noble an Indian (of whom I will have more to say by and by) as ever lived was rubbing my hands and face with snow to take the frost out; in half an hour we had a big fire in our Wigwam and was sitting there in our shirt sleeves as comfortable as could be. Not so the poor white soldiers they had gone on about a mile farther and they all laid out that night and it was bitter cold. There was over fifty horses froze to death that night, None of the men died but about twenty of them had to have their feet taken off when we got to the Fort. I might tell you what a time we had the next morning crossing the white mans bank of the Republican R. and how I was the first man to cross, but am afraid you might think I was boasting, so will only say we got to the Ft. all right.

After laying in camp at McPherson about four weeks I was ordered to Ogallala Station on the U.P.R.R. and staid until the first of June when I was recalled to join Gen. Carr’s expedition to the Republican and we left McPherson on the 14th with seven companies of cavalry and two companies of Scouts. Frank had met me at the Fort with one company when I came down from Ogallala, but he was ordered back home to Enlist a third company and as I was capt. Of company it left me in command of the two companies. We reached the Rep. in four days and then marched down the River two days in the afternoon of the second day just as we were sitting down to supper we heard a couple of shots fired and immediately after the well known war hoop of the Sioux. My men all sprang up and started for their horses and I did the same, catching the first horse that I came to. I shouted to the boys to hurry up and away I went. I felt confident that there were not many of the Sioux and that they had just dashed in to run off our stock, they failed to get any but shot two men and killed two mules by the time I had got across the River there was ten of my men with me and about three quarters of a mile ahead was the Sioux. They were not riding very fast for they knew how long it usually took Cavalry to get started but as soon as they saw us coming and heard the Pawnee Warhoop they began to use their whips and away we go up hills and down ravines (that would make your hair stand on end to ride down on a walk) we went tearing along for fifteen miles. But it was al in vain, darkness was coming on and the Sioux were still a quarter of a mile ahead so we turned slowly back tired and sore and hungry. We reached camp about midnight and the next morning the Genl. sent for me. I went up to his tent and there before all of his Officers he reprimanded me for leaving camp to pursue the Indians without orders from him. I answered as civily as I could that the only way to fight Indians was to go for them as fast as possible whenever they were found. He said that he understood his business and all that I had to do was obey orders. I told him that I expected to obey orders, but that when the Indians attacked a camp that I was intended to go for them and that I shouldn’t wait for orders from him nor any other man. Having spoke my little piece I touched my pony with the spurs and dashed away to the head of my company. I expected that I would be placed under arrest, but was not and everything went off quietly. Three days after this Frank joined us on the Solomon River with another company of Scouts. We now had one hundred and fifty Pawnees and about four or five hundred White Cav. After scouting down the Solomon about twenty miles we turned North West and in five days we were back to the Republican where we struck the Trail of a large band of Indians. We laid in camp a few days to recruit our tired horses and then started out on the trail. This was on the fourth of July, we followed right up the River and on the morning of the 6th some of our men that were out scouting ran across a small party of Indians and succeeded in killing three of them, but it let the Indian camp know that we were in the country and the next day we lost their trail, they had scattered out all over the Prairie and it was almost impossible to follow them; still we kept on up the River to its head and then turned around and took our back trail down the River, the night we turned back the Sioux attacked our camp about midnight and attempted to run off the stock but failed. They shot one of my men, however, we knew right then that they had been watching us and guessed rightly that that was their farewell and so it proved. The next morning we left the River and started North towards the Platte and traveled forty miles before we found any water and when we did find it we found ourselves on the Indian trail again and with a better prospect of catching them than ever before, for of course they had seen us turn back and thought we were going straight to Fort McPherson.

I want to tell you right here one of the Indians failings when he knows that an enemy is after him it is impossible to take him unawares, but let him think himself safe and he is the most careless being on earth. The next day we followed them again and passed two of their camps and camped at their third and the day after we did the same, and the place where we camped that night the Indians had just left that morning, the next morning we were on the trail before daybreak. Frank had picked out thirty five of our best men and fastest horses and the Genl sent us on ahead. About two oclock in the afternoon one of my men who was a little ahead of us rode to the top of a hill off to our left and the moment he got high enough to look over he wheeled his horse short around and came back to us a flying and said that he could see the Sioux camp. Frank who had been riding a mule and leading his Grey horse now changed and while he was getting ready he sent a man back with a Dispatch to the Genl. and in a few minutes all was ready, we were about four miles from their Camp but thought we could not get any nearer without their seeing us, so it was decided to charge from there. Frank made a short speech to his men and when all was ready we started at a long steady Gallop. There were four of us white with the Pawnees and Frank had said when we started that we must all stick together, but somehow we got separated and after going about three miles I looked around for the other boys. Two of them was behind me but where is Frank, he is no where to be seen. About a dozen of our men one ahead of me and I let go of my mare and in a moment I am up to the leading me and about a quarter of a mile ahead Frank is just going up the side of a ravine all thought of danger to myself was gone in a moment there was my Brother rushing into a large Indian camp alone. Could I overtake him, I knew the little Grey that he rode went (like the Indians say) like a bird, but my mare had never been beaten on a long race and I slacked the reins and patter her on the neck. She seemed to know what she had to do and stretched out her neck and laid back her ears and almost flew over the ground. Frank now looks back and I wave my hat at him and in a few moments more I am up to him and on we go when right before us jumps a Sioux warrior and leaping onto his horse dashes into the camp and Frank says now for some fun. Our men are close up now and Frank gives the warhoop and we are amongst them. Warriors rushed out of the tents to be shot down before they were half awake and in fifteen minutes the fight is all over and the Chief old Tall Bull and fifty two of his warriors have gone to the happy hunting ground and we have captured everything that he had in his camp and one hundred and twenty mules and over three hundred ponies and all that without losing a single man and out of the fifty two Indians killed our thirty five men had killed 38 of the Sioux and that Bros. of mine had killed the Chief. My sergeant, the one that I spoke of before, killed four in this fight and was presented with a medal for his bravery. We then started for Fort Sedgewick on the Platte to rest and recruit our horses for in about thirty days we have marched over one thousand miles and our stock is terribly run down. On the way I had a few words with Gen. Carr and when we go to the Fort I resigned and came home the first of August. Now for fear this won’t be very interesting I will close for this time and if you want any more of it say so and if you don’t want it say so. I am ever so much obliged to you for your good advice but you must remember that I am twenty eight years old in fact too old to be led much good by and love to you all from

Your aft. Nephew

Title: 1874 letter from Columbus, Neb "Dear unkle"

Keyword: Native Americans

People: Spotted Tail, 1823-1881 Carr, E. A. (Eugene Asa), 1830-1910 Tall Bull (Lakota Indian chief), 1830-1869

Places: Columbus (Neb.) Fort Kearny (Neb.) Fort McPherson (Neb.) Fort Laramie (Wyo.) Omaha (Neb.) Platte River (Neb.) Cheyenne (Wyo.) Fort Fetterman (Wyo.) Fort Kearny (Neb.) Missouri River Fort Sedgwick (Colo.)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation, and the Center for Great Plains Studies.

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