Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 2, No. 1
March, 1924

Page 9

I was commissioned as second lieutenant in the 6th United States Infantry, October 1, 1867. (At the time, I lacked a few weeks of being nineteen years old.) After a delay of ten days, I left my home, at Louisville, Kentucky, to join my command. The 6th Infantry was stationed in the Indian Territory, its headquarters being at Fort Gibson. Kansas City was the nearest railway station. I went by way of St. Louis to Arlington, Missouri, where I took a stage for Springfield and Neosho, to Baxter Springs, Kansas. I arrived at Baxter Springs on Sunday evening and was informed that the next stage for Fort Gibson would leave on the following Sunday morning. However, I was so fortunate as to find a man who had brought a load of discharged civilian employes up from Fort Gibson and I secured the privilege of riding back in his wagon. It was a slow trip, occupying about four days, and camp was made wherever nightfall found us.

Upon my arrival at Fort Gibson, I reported to the commanding officer of my regiment, Colonel Delancey Floyd-Jones. I remained at Fort Gibson on temporary duty for about three weeks. During that time I was attached to one of the companies in the garrison and was so busily engaged in learning the duties of

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my new position that I had but little time to get acquainted with the surrounding country and its people. In recent years it has been my privilege to renew my acquaintance with Mr. Florian H. Nash, who was a prominent merchant of Fort Gibson when I was there in 1867.

After this brief tour of special duty at Fort Gibson, I was assigned to Company "E," of the 6th Infantry, which was then stationed at Fort Arbuckle. I made the trip with Jack Evans, the trader, in his ambulance. The journey from Fort Gibson to Fort Arbuckle required about five days. We stayed all night on the site of the present town of Wewoka, where we found a company of the 10th Cavalry encamped.


The garrison of Fort Arbuckle consisted of two companies of the 6th Infantry and two troops of the 10th Cavalry, Captain James W. Walsh, of the last mentioned regiment, being in command of the post. As both of the other officers of my company were absent, I assumed command of the company— a real test of the ability of a youthful lieutenant. There were sixty men in the company, thirty-five of whom were Irishmen who had been recruited in the Bowery, in New York City. As an instance of what was required in the way of decision and action at my hands under such conditions, I may state that a few weeks after my arrival at Fort Arbuckle, while serving as the officer of the day, I found a sergeant, a corporal and a private at the laundress’ quarters, drinking, at one a. m., although "taps" had been sounded at nine p. m. I promptly sent the two non-coms to their quarters in arrest and started to the guard-house with the private, who was drunk enough to be ugly. He suddenly assumed an attitude of hostility and announced in rich brogue profanity that he would not be "afther goin’ wit’ the likes o’ yez." I did not know enough to draw a sword but, having learned in Kentucky that, if a man tried to hit me, I should hit him first, I did not hesitate— my fist went to the bone under his eye and he fell like a log. I then took him to the guard house. The next morning, the three men were tried by garrison court, on the charge of being out of quarters after "taps," and were fined three dollars each. Had I preferred charges against the private for threatening to attack an officer, he would have been tried by a general court

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martial and would have been sentenced to imprisonment for ten or fifteen years. That was the last trouble I ever had in the way of insubordination while I was an officer of the 6th Infantry.

Without previous experience as an officer, I found myself puzzled at times, especially in drilling the company. Once, for a time, my company and "F" Company (both depleted in numbers) drilled together as one company, with Lieutenant Charles D. Lyon commanding. One day, in the absence of Lieutenant Lyon, I was in command. While going through "skirmish" drill, the line came to a dry ravine, full of brushy growth. For the life of me I could not think of any command to extricate the company, so I called out, "Go ahead— what are you stopping for?" The company finally emerged on the prairie, on the other side of the ravine and I marched it back to the post by a more circuitous though less difficult route.


During the winter of 1867-8, Doctor Congdon, acting assistant surgeon, Horace Jones, the interpreter and guide, and myself spent much of our spare time in hunting with a pack of hounds. The game consisted principally of wild cats, ’coons and ’possums, as deer and turkey were scarce in the immediate vicinity of the Fort. Quail and prairie chickens were abundant but, in hunting these larger animals, we used shotguns with shot somewhat smaller than buckshot. One day, we were in a valley when we heard the dogs baying as if they had something in the hills. Doctor Congdon and Horace Jones went up to see what it was, while I stayed with the horses. As the commotion seemed to be coming nearer, I walked in that direction, leaving the horses in the valley. As I drew near, the quarry, which proved to be a large panther, ran out on the edge of a large precipice-like ledge and jumped off. When the hounds reached the same place, they laid down and whimpered but a large cur dog which had followed the pack, jumped off and followed the panther, which took to a tree, where I found it. Boy-like, I went under the tree, in which it had sought refuge, and fired both barrels of my shotgun into the beast’s belly. It ran down that limb and out on another. Jones came up, put some large slugs in his gun and shot the brute through both shoulders, the shock knocked it

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out of the tree into a pool of water. Then, as it crawled out on the bank, Doctor Congdon went up quite close and shot it through the eye, killing it. It measured eight feet and nine inches in length. Some of our Caddo scouts asked for, and received, the privilege of taking the meat of the dead feline. There were about fifteen Caddo scouts at Fort Arbuckle.

There was a settlement of Chickasaw freedmen in the valley of Wild Horse Creek in those days. It was located some four or five miles above Fort Arbuckle, between Six-Mile and Eight-Mile creeks.


Once during that winter, I was sent with Horace Jones on some sort of a mission to Sherman, Texas. We passed the ruins of Fort Washita during the course of our journey. Horace Jones was one of the most remarkable characters with whom I came in contact while I was in the military service in the Indian Territory. He was a native of Missouri and, I understood, was a lineal descendant of Daniel Boone. He was a man of good breeding and had been fairly well educated. There were several stories as to why he had come to lose himself in the wilderness out beyond the frontier. One was that he had been disappointed in love; but the commonly accepted theory was that it was the blood of the old Boone stock that loved the wilderness and drew him away from the abodes of civilization. In military life, where the social lines were always well defined, he, a civilian, was always regarded by the officers as a social equal and was uniformly treated as such. As an interpreter, he was not only accurate but reliable. Upon one occasion he sat in a council and listened as Phil McCusker interpreted a statement which had been made by an Indian. When McCusker stopped as if the statement had been finished, Horace Jones said, "Tell it all, Mac." And McCusker hastened to do so.


In the spring of 1868, General Benjamin H. Grierson, colonel of the 10th Cavalry, with four troops of his regiment— two from Fort Gibson and two from Fort Arbuckle— left Fort Arbuckle on an expedition westward to the Wichita Mountains, with instructions to select the site for a new military post. I

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was assigned to the command of a detachment of the 6th Infantry which had been detailed to act as guard for the wagon train that accompanied the expedition. Horace Jones was the interpreter and guide. The roads were very rough the first few miles, as there were numerous creeks, the bottom lands adjoining which were very boggy and it was necessary to resort to "corduroying" in several places in getting over one four-mile stretch.

General Grierson, who had entered the Regular Army from the volunteer military service, was a man of tireless energy and kindly disposition. He had been one of the most successful raiders produced in either army during the Civil War, evincing most remarkable ability in avoiding combat with the enemy, slipping quietly by and going on with the raid. Had John Morgan been possessed of Grierson’s ability in this line, his celebrated raid through Ohio would have been a success instead of ending in disaster. As he never had received any military training, he cared little for military discipline. He was an accomplished musician and as such he could and, upon several occasions did, act as regimental bandmaster.

When we reached Cache Creek, General Grierson rode up on the site of the proposed new post and sat on his horse and looked at it. Then, taking his saddle off, he threw it on the ground and said, "We will build the post here." We remained there several days and then proceeded westward, on the south side of the mountain range, until we reached a gap, somewhere east of the present towns of Mountain Park and Snyder. There General Grierson took a detachment and went on to Camp Radziminski and rejoined the command in the evening. We circled around the western part of the range and returned on the north side, striking the valley of the Washita near the site of the present town of Anadarko. Thence we marched down the valley of the Washita to Fort Arbuckle, the troops returning to their proper stations. The trip had required about three weeks.

The night we were camped east of Snyder, we were joined by a band of Comanche braves who were starting on the warpath against the Apaches. We invited the chief to take dinner with us. Our usual bill of fare was varied on this occasion by a dish of wild plums which looked good to men who commonly

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had to content themselves with canned goods. This dish of plums was passed to our Comanche guest, who took a spoonful of the fruit, put it in his mouth and then returned the spoon to the dish of plums. Of course, no one else cared for plums after that.

That night, the Comanches had a war dance, during the course of which they boasted of the scalps they had taken, telling when and where they had taken them. Horace Jones told us that he was satisfied that several of the scalps of which they boasted thus were those of white people but that the Indians were careful not to say so.


While we were at the site of the proposed new post, General Grierson ordered Lieutenant S. L. Woodward to proceed to look for buffalo in a southeastward direction from camp and to secure some fresh meat for the command. Horace Jones and I accompanied him. That afternoon, we found a large herd and succeeded in getting quite close to it before the animals took alarm and stampeded. The method of killing was to ride on the left side of the animal selected for slaughter, with the bridle reins in the left hand and a Spencer carbine resting in the hollow of the left arm. Then, when the hunter reached a proper position, he fired point blank at a spot just behind the left shoulder of the galloping beast.

In the course of a few hours we succeeded in killing fifty buffalo. The chase had been so exciting that one lost all notice of the flight of time and paid little or no attention to the topography of the ground which was traversed during its course. In riding back over the ground after the hunt had ended, I was amazed to find that we had crossed two creeks and passed over a large prairie dog town, apparently without any knowledge of the fact at the time. We encamped near where most of the buffalo had been killed and sent back to the command for two wagons. Our only food that night was buffalo meat, without salt. We saved only the humps, loins, hind-quarters and tongues, leaving the rest of each carcass for the wolves.


It is customary at military posts to lower the garrison flag when a big storm is impending. This was done upon one occasion

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at Fort Arbuckle. Just as the flag was lowered, a band of Indians came riding into the post. A few moments later there was a blinding flash of lightning, accompanied by a deafening peal of thunder, and the tall flag-staff, splintered by the bolt, fell with a crash in the midst of the parade ground. The Indians, who had witnessed the removal of the flag so shortly before, and who were always quick to ascribe a cause or an effect, at once remarked that "the good medicine," (i. e., the flag) having been taken down it was only to be expected that the elements would show their wrath.


In the fall of 1868, Company "E" of the 6th Infantry, Captain Joseph B. Rife, commanding, and Troop "M" of the 10th Cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant Philip L. Lee, were ordered to reoccupy old Fort Cobb, which had been abandoned by the Federal forces at the outbreak of the Civil War, and which had subsequently been destroyed either by the Indians or by Confederate forces. Fort Cobb was located at the mouth of a stream which was then known as Pond Creek but which is now called Cobb Creek. The walls of one stone building were still intact and this we had covered with a thatched roof after which it was used for the storage of commissary supplies.

We were in camp at Fort Cobb when General Custer attacked and destroyed the village of the Cheyenne chief, Black Kettle. Our first news of that affair was brought to the post by a band of professedly friendly Indians who came to the post for protection. Through Horace Jones, the interpreter, they reported that eighteen soldiers had been killed. These Indians belonged to one of the tribes from the North— probably Cheyenne or Arapaho— as Horace Jones, our interpreter was unable to converse with them except through the medium of the sign language. (The Comanche language was the one which was best known among the Indians of the Southern Plains and was known and used in intertribal communications by members of other tribes, much as French was used as the language of diplomacy among the nations of Europe). When these Indians came to Fort Cobb, their leaders, or chiefs, went into conference with Captain Rife. Although they were professedly friendly, one of the enlisted men soon informed me that every one of them had arms concealed un-

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der their blankets and robes. Without reporting to the commanding officer (who was engaged in the conference) I had the report verified by two other enlisted men, after which I selected about a dozen of the best men in the company, caused them to take their arms and conceal themselves in the timber just behind the place where the conference or council was being held, in order that they might be prepared for action at the first sign of treachery.

A week or two afterward, General Grierson arrived from Fort Arbuckle with a squadron of the 10th Cavalry and, several weeks later General Sheridan and Custer arrived with the 7th Cavalry and the 19th Kansas Cavalry. General William B. Hazen, who was at the time serving as special Indian agent, had arrived at the post shortly before the battle of the Washita.

When the Washita expedition reached Fort Cobb, it had a big train, with hundreds of mules. Corn had to be purchased for these animals. Doctor Shirley, of the Seminole Agency, put in a bid of $1.25 per hundred pounds of corn. A man by the name of Blackburn, whose home was at Sherman, Texas, submitted a bid of $2.25 per hundred pounds. The officers who had been in the Territory long enough to be acquainted recommended that the Blackburn bid be accepted and that he be awarded the contract because they believed that he could deliver the corn and that Shirley could not. But the contract was let to Shirley and he failed to make the delivery as stipulated. The horses and mules had to be fed on the bark of limbs cut from cottonwood trees and over a thousand animals perished in consequence before the winter’s campaign was ended. After the failure of Shirley to comply with his contract, a new contract was let to Blackburn for the corn at his own price. He had raised a thousand acres of corn at Pauls Valley, which was then known as Rush Creek Valley. The Washita Valley was so muddy that the roads became almost impossible to haul the grain from Rush Creek to Fort Cobb, so it was finally decided to drive the animals from Fort Cobb to Rush Creek Valley to he kept during the rest of the winter.

Early in January, 1869, the forces of the Washita Expedition, under General Custer’s command, were moved from Fort Cobb over to the site of the proposed new post of Camp Wichita, on Medicine Bluff Creek. Generals Sheridan and Grierson had

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already visited the site together, and, upon their return to Fort Cobb, General Sheridan having approved the selection of the site, which had been made by General Grierson during the preceding summer, it was decided to move the whole command over at once. The squadron of the 10th Cavalry (General Grierson’s regiment) was also moved over to the new post, leaving only my company ("E" of the 6th Infantry) stationed at Fort Cobb. The new post was called Camp Wichita until it was formally designated as Fort Sill by the secretary of War, some months later.

We bought much game from the Indians while at Fort Cobb, giving in exchange flour, sugar or tobacco. A pound of sugar or a pound of flour would pay for a turkey, as would half a pound of tobacco. Two or three pounds of sugar would buy the whole of a venison. When our stock of bacon and salt pork was exhausted the men of the company were fed on buffalo, venison, antelope, turkey, prairie chicken, and fish. The men complained because they had no bacon, so I was ordered to take the company wagon and a small escort and go to Camp Wichita for a supply. While at Camp Wichita, I took it upon myself to ask General Grierson if Company "E" could not be ordered to Camp Wichita. He quickly acted upon the suggestion, giving me a written order to Captain Rife to abandon Fort Cobb and march his company to Camp Wichita. It thus fell to my lot to be stationed at Fort Cobb during all of the time it was reoccupied before its final abandonment.

As already stated, the original post at Fort Cobb had been destroyed, though the stone walls of one building were still standing and this we covered with a temporary roof of thatch. Log huts were built for the men and the officers had tents. There was not much to abandon therefore, even though Fort Cobb had had a place on the map for ten years. We had been furnished an extra wagon to enable us to move to Camp Wichita. When we arrived at the new post, we found three other companies ("C," "F," and "B") of the 6th Infantry stationed there, besides four trops of the 10th Cavalry and all of the 7th Cavalry and the 19th Kansas Cavalry.

General Sheridan had already departed for the East, by way of Camp Supply, Fort Dodge and Hays City, before our company was transferred to Camp Wichita. En route, with his

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escort, he stopped at Fort Cobb for a few hours. He dined with Captain Rife and myself. As I was never much of a hand to push myself with my official superiors, I excused myself and left the table with Lieutenant Pepoon, of the General’s escort, at the conclusion of the meal. After my departure, the General asked Captain Rife, "Where did you get your boy?"— meaning, of course, his youthful lieutenant. Afterward, when I had occasion to pass near him after he had come outside the tent, he halted me and asked why I had not come to have a talk with him. I replied that I had not supposed that he would be interested in talking to a young subaltern, to which he responded, "I am always interested in my young officers. Why, I was only a lieutenant myself, less than ten years ago." To which I replied, "That is all right, General, but there is not much likelihood that I will be a major general in ten years." Some years later, it was my privilege to meet General Sheridan again, at his headquarters in Chicago, where he manifested the same cordial and sincere interest in my welfare.

General Sheridan had a greater personality than anyone I ever knew. I knew a number of old army officers who had outranked him in the "old army," before the Civil War, anyone of whom would swear that he was a man of no ability and that his successive promotions were the result of good luck rather than attainment or achievement. Yet, if any of these envious former superiors happened to have occasion to visit the General at his headquarters, in Chicago, they were sure to meet with a most cordial reception and, while extending his hospitalities, the General would be almost sure to remark that "you would be where I am if you had had better luck and more opportunity" and then these same officers would return to their respective regiments or stations, swearing that Sheridan was the greatest general that ever lived. No one with a knowledge of men could help being impressed with the evident fact that he was a man of very great ability. His uniform consideration of his younger subordinates was such that every one of them loved him.


In June, 1869, Vincent Colyer, secretary of the Board of Indian Commissioners, came to Fort Sill, where he presented an order from the department headquarters directing the command-

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ing officer to furnish him with an escort to any portion of the department which he might wish to visit. He decided to go from Fort Sill to Fort Bascom, New Mexico, and requested General Grierson for a suitable escort. I was detached from my own company and assigned temporarily to the command of Company "C" of the 6th Infantry, which was to act as Mr. Colyer’s escort on this journey. The company was badly depleted in strength, having but nineteen effective men, in addition to which there was a guide and interpreter named Bradley, a cook and two teamsters, as we had a wagon and an ambulance. We carried rations for thirty days and the men had less than one hundred rounds of ammunition each.

Leaving Fort Sill, we followed the usual road to Cache Creek and thence northwest to the Washita crossing, which was fifteen or twenty miles above Fort Cobb. We camped on the south side of the river. (I had understood that Mr. Colyer had objected to having me assigned to duty as the commander of the escort because, as he said, I was too young for such a responsible undertaking). Fully cognizant of the dangers of the wilderness, I warned Mr. Colyer not to leave the camp. However, he thought he knew more about such matters than I did, so that day after we had gone into camp by the Washita, he wandered out alone, crossed the river and got among the horse herds of a band of Kiowas whose village was near at hand. Two Indians rode up to him with their pistols drawn, whereupon Mr. Colyer drew his pistol (a small pocket revolver) only to be promptly disarmed by his captors. Then, in some mysterious way— for he knew no more of the sign language than he did of the Kiowa tongue— he succeeded in making them understand that there was a camp of soldiers near.

The Indians took Mr. Colyer to their camp, where he promised them all sorts of supplies. They then brought him over to our camp and made a demand upon me for what he had promised. If I had undertaken to comply with their demand it would have taken all our provisions. I gave them a little and told him to give them an order on General Hazen, the acting Indian agent, for the rest. (He did so but I afterward learned that General Hazen refused to honor the order when it was presented.) Mr. Colyer then asked to be taken back to Camp Wichita. I told him

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that I knew that General Grierson was not anxious for the company to make the trip to New Mexico and that, if he would put his request in writing, I would escort him back to Camp Wichita. He replied that he would do so in the morning. That night there was a heavy storm, which resulted in a stampede of the Kiowa horse herds and, in trying to round up the frightened animals, the Kiowas were racing about our camp in much the same manner that they would in making an attack. I turned out the command and the men were under arms until we learned the cause of the uproar, when we went back to bed. All of this tended to increase the nervous anxiety of Mr. Colyer, so that he could not sleep. He sat up in bed, with his hands over his face, and prayed and then threw himself back on his blankets and begged me to take him back to Camp Wichita. The next morning, when we broke camp, he came to me and asked, "Well, what are you going to do?" I answered, "We will go ahead," whereupon he threw both hands up, clasping them over his head, and then brought them down as he exclaimed, "My God, we will be scared every night!" He had not offered to give me the written request to be escorted back to Camp Wichita as he had promised to do the night before and I did not propose to turn back unless he did request it in writing for the reason that I suspected he would deny the responsibility for such a retrograde movement and throw the blame upon me. I therefore gave the word to advance on our course toward our destination at Fort Bascom.

At the outset, Mr. Colyer asked me to lay over on Sunday, which I agreed to do. On Sunday he always preached to the command. He had frequently complained of the profanity of the men. In his discourse, one Sunday, he took the men to task for swearing. He said, "Suppose the Lord would take you at your word and ‘damn the mules,’ and ‘damn the wagons,’ and ‘damn your souls,’ what would become of you?" And then he could not understand why all of the men as well as the officer in command laughed or that he had really been guilty of profanity himself.

A few days later, when we were near the trail to Camp Supply, he came to me and said that he wanted me to take him to Fort Harker, Kansas. As before, I replied that, if he would put his request in writing, I would comply with the same. He then said, "You have never seen my orders?" (i. e., from the depart-

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ment commander to post commanders to whom it might be presented), to which I replied that I had not. He then showed the orders to me. After reading them, I commented to the effect that I was merely a commander of a detachment in the field— not a post commander— and that, therefore, these orders were not addressed to me. He then told me that he did not have to give me any written request, and that if I would not comply with his verbal request he would have the men of the company confine me to the ambulance and he would go where he pleased. Indignant, almost beyond expression, at this threatened assumption of authority, I replied in terms that were much more emphatic than polite that I would kill him if he attempted to do anything of that kind. Mr. Colyer wilted.

We left the valley of the Washita and crossed the divide to the valley of the Canadian, striking the latter about one day’s march below the Antelope Hills. During the march across this divide there occurred another incident of more than passing notice. One of the men of the company rushed out and shot at a buffalo. It seemed that he had been cleaning his rifle and that, in oiling the bore with a piece of fat pork, he had left a fragment of the meat in the muzzle, consequently, when he fired at the buffalo, the barrel of his rifle burst. I had previously given orders that no one in the command should fire at any game except one corporal, who was an expert marksman. (This was done in order to husband our limited supply of ammunition). When we went into camp that evening, in order to punish the man who had violated this order and who had thus destroyed a weapon that might be greatly needed in an emergency, I caused him to be stood between the wheels on the side of a wagon and had each hand tied to a wagon wheel. This was too much for the tender-hearted secretary of the Board of Indian Commissioners, who came to me and demanded that the man be released. I refused to comply with the demand. He then asked, "Haven’t I any rights here at all?" to which I responded, "Yes, the right of request." He then said, "Then I request you to release the man," to which I replied, "I cannot grant it, as the offense has been too serious to go unpunished." He then informed me that he would not eat with me any more, to which I responded that he might suit his own pleasure as to that.

Mr. Colyer then went to the first sergeant of the company

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and asked if he might join in the mess of the enlisted men. The sergeant told him that he might do so with my consent, which was then asked and granted. He then asked if I would divide provisions with him (as I had laid in a stock for both of us at the outset of our journey), to which I acceded upon condition that the same should go into the common stock of the enlisted men’s mess. Of course the men of the company manifested their approval of this by immediately devouring all of the canned goods and other extras and delicacies that had been provided for Mr. Colyer, so that he was soon reduced to a diet of hardtack, salt pork and beans.

Our next camp was at the big springs, south and west from the Antelope Hills, and possibly ten or twelve miles distant therefrom and probably on or near the Oklahoma-Texas boundary. Knowing that General Custer had been campaigning against the Indians in the Texas Panhandle country, which we were then entering, I realized that we should proceed with caution. I therefore gave an order to the driver of the ambulance (which had been furnished for Mr. Colyer’s use) to watch the loaded wagon and not get separated or too far ahead of it. After a march of an hour or two, the company being ahead of the ambulance, I looked back and found that the ambulance was at least a half a mile ahead of the wagon. I halted the company at once and asked the driver of the ambulance why he had disobeyed my orders. Mr. Colyer interrupted to inform me that he had ordered the driver to go on regardless of the progress of the wagon that the ambulance was for his use and that he had control of it. Then I "read the riot act" to him and, when we moved on again, he walked with me at the head of the company.

I also told Mr. Colyer that I knew that he had been talking to the men about me and that he must do so no more. He said, "I never did." I turned around and said, "Sergeant Carroll, come here." Mr. Colyer then said, "I did have a talk with Sergeant Carroll," to which I answered, "Yes, and you have been talking with the others and, if I find you doing the like again, I will put you in irons and take you on to New Mexico for inciting in subordination in my company."

We crossed to the north side of the Canadian River about fifteen miles above the Adobe Walls. Our camp was on a small

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creek, where we were to remain over Sunday. I sent Bradley out and he found a trail about four or five miles from camp. Monday morning, when we broke camp, we struck out for this trail and, having reached it, followed it toward Fort Bascom. As we marched along, we found pieces of cordwood that had evidently dropped from a wagon, so we concluded that we must be nearing Fort Bascom. We marched fifteen miles when we came to a creek where there was a good site for a camp, with plenty of water and wood. After we had gone into camp, Mr. Colyer came to me and asked me to go ahead, as he was certain that Fort Bascom was just beyond the hill in front. I told him that I felt that way about it, too, but that we had already marched fifteen miles and we could see five miles farther and that there was no certainty that the fort was so near and that, even if it were, we would reach it early the next day. I then laid down and took a nap. I woke late in the afternoon and, not seeing Mr. Colyer about the camp, I asked for him. One of the men then informed me that he had walked on into Fort Bascom! The next morning we broke camp and resumed the march. We soon came to a fork in the road where, fastened to a grass stalk, we found a note on which was written, "V. Colyer, en route to Fort Bascom, N. M." with hour and date. Later on, we found three more notes of the same purport and then we saw Mr. Colyer coming back. The men began to jeer him but I made them desist. I gave him my lunch (as he had had neither supper nor breakfast) and then he told me that he had gone on top of a hill where he built a rock shelter when it grew dark. He said that every time he laid down to try to sleep a wolf (coyote) would howl, so he did not sleep any but remained awake all night with a pistol in his hand. When we arrived opposite the place where he had thus spent the night, we found another note with the words, "look on the hill for V. Colyer."

We camped at the next creek, which was nineteen miles from the last camp. At this camp we experienced a tremendous wind-storm the wind was so high that I had to run the wagon over the guy-ropes of my tent to keep it from blowing down. (Mr. Colyer also refused to occupy the same tent with me, sleeping in the ambulance instead). We used a "running guard," with short shifts for each man, and, as a rule, none of the men had to perform guard duty more than one shift in two nights.

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When we left Camp Wichita, our mules were not in very good condition, as forage had been scarce and they had not been receiving more than a quart of grain each day. During the course of this march, with the grass in its prime and with long hours for grazing, they soon began to improve in appearance and flesh. We had one mule which became something of a privileged character with the command. His name was Garibaldi, or Gary-baldy, as it was rendered by the soldiers and, in due time, this was contracted to plain Gary. Gary was never hobbled or tethered but was always turned loose when we went into camp. He would often graze at a considerable distance from our camp— sometimes as much as a half-mile— but he could always be depended upon to come back. The men of the company fed him scraps from their own meals and he became quite fond of hardtack and would even eat bacon when properly cooked. One evening, when the mosquitos were unusually bad, we built smudge fires and Gary took refuge in the smoke, finally backing into my tent to free himself from his tormenters. When he was grazing at some distance from the camp, at the howl of a wolf or any other alarm, Gary would gallop into camp, with head and tail up and looking backward, first over one shoulder and then over the other. Because of this alertness, which could scarcely have been excelled by that of a trained watch dog, every man who was posted on guard was cautioned to "watch Gary."

As the journey proved to be somewhat longer than we had expected, our rations were running short. Mr. Colyer asked me what I would do in case our supply of food should become exhausted. I replied that, if we did not succeed in securing any game, we would have to kill one of the mules. He said, "We will kill Nellie." Now Nellie was the best mule we had, so I said, "No, we will kill Polly." (Polly had a poll-evil.)

The next day we marched nineteen miles to another creek, where we made camp. By this time, Mr. Colyer was quite willing to wash his hands of responsibility and place it wholly upon me. I decided to send a party consisting of a corporal and three men, including the driver, ahead with the ambulance with a letter to the commanding officer at For Bascom. I asked Mr. Colyer if he would not like to go along with this advance party to the Fort. He asked me if I was planning to go with it myself. I replied that I could not leave my command. He then said, "I’ll do any-

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thing you want me to do." I said, "Get ready," and then I bade him good-bye. Two days later, we reached Fort Bascom— more than sixty miles distant from the spot from whence Mr. Colyer started to find it, "just beyond the next hill." We had traveled 430 miles, the trip occupying thirty-one days.

We found Fort Bascom garrisoned by two companies of the 3d Cavalry. We remained there ten days to rest and prepare for the return trip. We drew 2,000 rounds of ammunition with other supplies needed for the return trip. We had not seen a human being, after leaving the Kiowas on the Washita, until our arrival at Fort Bascom. I wish to state positively that no cavalcade of Kiowas accompanied us on any part of our journey, as related in Mr. Colyer’s report of his movements as secretary of the Board of Indian Commissioners.

On our return trip we traveled faster than we had done on the outward journey and we did not camp in one place over Sunday. We recrossed the Canadian River between the Adobe Walls and the Antelope Hills and, in doing so, came near losing the ambulance and the mules which were drawing it, by bogging down in the quicksands. As it was, we saved the mules and the running gears of the ambulance. We also made better time by letting the men "ride and tie." We did not see any Indians until after we had passed the Antelope Hills, when we met two Arapahoes, who told us that their people had surrendered to General Custer.

When we reached Pond Creek (now known as Cobb Creek), the anxiety, which was a necessary attendant to one in my position during the course of the expedition, was instantly relaxed as soon as I found myself upon familiar ground. That night I dreamed that the Indians had captured the camp and every man in the command and I still recall most vividly the gloom that overcast my spirit as I reflected upon having passed through so many trials and difficulties and having reached a place of fancied security, only to see all of my men lost. Then I awakened suddenly, to find myself standing at the entrance of my tent, my left hand grasping the tent-pole and my right hand firmly grasping my revolver, with a beautiful moonlit night outside and not an Indian in sight! Three days later, we arrived at Camp Wichita. I was a boy no longer, for the responsibility

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that had rested upon me as the commander of that expedition had made a man of me.

A few days after my return to Camp Wichita, I met Horseback, the chief, at the post trader’s (Jack Evans’) store. As soon as he saw me, he asked "Hey, where you been?" I told him, "Mexico." (The Indians of that region all called New Mexico thus.) He answered, "Hey, you big liar." He did not believe that we had marched so far.


Shortly after my return from the trip to Fort Bascom, I was ordered to rejoin my own company ("E,") which was stationed at Fort Arbuckle again. There were four companies of the 6th Infantry, including my own, in garrison at the time, Major James P. Roy being in command. Not long after my return to Fort Arbuckle, I was ordered to take one enlisted man and conduct a prisoner to the penitentiary at Jefferson City, Missouri. At the same time I was granted a twenty-day leave of absence which enabled me to pay a brief visit to my old home in Kentucky.

When I arrived at Fort Arbuckle, on my return from this visit to Kentucky, I found that the post was to be abandoned and that most of the garrison had been transferred to Fort Sill. First Lieutenant Stephen P. Jocelyn and Second Lieutenant Thomas M. Willey, with a detachment of one hundred enlisted men were still stationed there, however, as there was a large amount of public stores that could not be moved. The same day that I arrived at Fort Arbuckle, Lieutenant Jocelyn received orders to report to General Hazen at the district headquarters, at Fort Scott, Kansas. He asked me if I would like to assume command of the post, I replied in the affirmative and, when he left, a few days later, I assumed command, Lieutenant Willey being my junior in rank, though my senior in years. I was probably the youngest post commander in the service at that time.

There was one other officer stationed at the post, namely, Brevet Major and Assistant Surgeon John W. Brewer. As he was a married man and had his family with him, I offered to let him occupy the quarters of the post commander, which were the

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most commodious in the post. He declined the offer but afterward made a demand for the same, to which I refused to accede, whereupon he appealed to my superior authorities at regimental headquarters but I was sustained in my contention and I continued to occupy the post commandant’s quarters until I was relieved of the command of the post.

While I was in command at Fort Arbuckle, Governor Cyrus Harris, of the Chickasaw Nation, paid me a visit and brought me a copy of a treaty between the Chickasaw Nation and the United States, calling my attention to the fact that the commanding officer of the post was the judge in all matters in dispute between the Indians and the whites and that, as such, his decision was final. I had occasion to exercise this prerogative several times, later on.

Colonel Nelson H. Davis, assistant inspector general and chief inspector of the Department of the Missouri, arrived at Fort Arbuckle on a tour of inspection. Among the stores at Fort Arbuckle, were large amounts of stacked hay, corn and commissary supplies. He was at Fort Arbuckle four or five days, after which he went on to Fort Sill. As the result of his report after his return to the department headquarters, four troops of the 10th Cavalry, under the command of Major James E. Yard, were sent to Fort Arbuckle in order to obviate the necessity of transporting so much forage to Fort Sill over roads that were all but impassable. When thus relieved of the command of the post I was designated to serve as post adjutant, which position I filled for about three months. Then, in January, 1870, I was ordered to rejoin my company ("E") at Fort Sill, at my own request. I remained there until the following fall, when my company was ordered to Camp Supply.

Although I saw many Indians at Fort Cobb and at Camp Wichita, including many of their leading chiefs, I did not get to know many of them personally. Of those whom I did come to know fairly well, three were leading chiefs of the Kiowa tribe, namely, Lone Wolf, Satank and Satanta. Lone Wolf was about fifty years old when I knew him in 1870. He was of medium size and was rather lithe and slender. His face showed the lines of intelligence and his eye was keen and quick. He was not a man of many words and he weighed them carefully before

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speaking. He was decidedly diplomatic in his intercourse with other men and was always dignified. Among army officers traders and Indian service officials he was regarded as a man of very great natural ability and one who would have made his mark in the world had he been educated. He was a man of great influence among his own people and was commonly regarded as the leading chief of the Kiowa tribe.

Satank was an older man than Lone Wolf, being about sixty when I knew him, though I saw less of him than of the others, for he did not come to the post often. Physically, he was a small man and decidedly insignificant but he was generally regarded as a man of superior ability. In appearance, he might have been a mixed-blood or of Mexican descent. He was reputed to be cruel and blood-thirsty if, so, his features did not belie his reputation in that regard.

Satanta was younger than either Satank or Lone Wolf, being about forty years old. He was a man of magnificent physique, being over six feet tall, well built and finely proportioned. He was distinguished for his vanity and his boastfulness. His face showed craftiness and cruelty but was not indictive of a very high degree of mental ability. He was treacherous and deceitful and utterly unworthy of confidence or trust of any kind.

I saw most of the Comanche chiefs and head men but only came to know one of them personally, Tosheway, the chief of the Peneteka band, Tosheway was an old man then— upward of sixty. He was very portly, was distinguished for his kindly disposition and his keen sense of humor and was a general favorite among the white people, with whom he had long been on friendly terms.

Two companies of the 6th Infantry were transferred to Camp Supply at that time, my own ("E"), which was commanded by Captain Rife, and Company "C," which was commanded by its second lieutenant, Alexander H. Wetherald. On the march from Fort Sitll to Camp Supply, we had to ferry over the Washita, that stream being at a flood stage. We also had considerable difficulty in crossing some of the Pond Creek bottoms as they were very boggy as the result of heavy rains.

There was but little aside from routine duty and drill while

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I was stationed at Camp Wichita (Fort Sill) and the same might be said of my service at Camp Supply, though there were many incidents that tended to break the monotony.

When I first went to Camp Supply, Lieutenant Colonel Anderson D. Nelson (at that time unassigned to any regiment was in command of the post. He was a brother of General William Nelson, who was killed in the Gault House, in Louisville, Kentucky, during the Civil War, by General Jefferson C. Davis. At the same time that Colonel Nelson was post commander, Second Lieutenant William Davis, Jr., of the 10th Cavalry, a younger brother of General Jefferson C. Davis, was stationed there, as one of the officers of the garrison, and it is worthy of remark that the two officers were always studiously polite to each other. Colonel Nelson was a fine officer. He was succeeded, a few months later, by Lieutenant Colonel John W. Davidson, 10th Cavalry. The latter was not popular. His favoritism and his whimsical petulence did not make for harmony and good discipline in the garrison.

We received our mail once each week at Camp Supply. It came from Fort Hays by way of Fort Dodge. The mail was sent from Fort Hays to Fort Dodge but once each week. By sending over to Fort Larned between times, the garrison at Fort Dodge was enabled to get its mail twice each week. Colonel Davidson sent me to Fort Dodge to see if we could not get our mail twice each week also. He instructed me not to go farther than Fort Dodge, however. Upon my arrival at Fort Dodge, I found that the matter could not be arranged there. I explained the situation to the post commander, Colonel De Lancey Floyd-Jones, who promptly ordered me to proceed to Fort Larned for the purpose of effecting the necessary arrangements, which I did, making the trip with an enlisted man in a buckboard, after night. I spent the day in visiting at Fort Larned and made another night drive back to Fort Dodge, after successfully concluding arrangements to get another mail each week for the garrison at Camp Supply. Colonel Floyd-Jones said that he would order me to Fort Hays if necessary. He also wrote a letter to Colonel Davidson, explaining his action in regard to the matter but the latter was in anything but a pleasant humor over what he regarded as a disobedience of orders on my part.

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I occasionally visited Forts Dodge, Hays and Larned as the guest of the officers of those posts, just as some of them occasionally visited our post.

On the trail between Fort Dodge and Camp Supply, there were two relay stations where a few soldiers were posted with extra mule teams for the mail hack. These ranches were sometimes subjected to attacks by hostile Indians and several soldiers had been killed at each of them. Captain Joseph B. Rife, was ordered to take Campanies "E" and "C" of the 6th Infantry and proceed to a point midway between the two posts and build a redoubt for the protection of the stage stock and the guards. (Neither Captain Rife nor the lieutenant in command of "C" company actually went out on the expedition, so I was the only officer with the two companies.) We left Camp Supply in the afternoon and marched a few miles before going into camp on the Beaver.

When we broke camp the next morning, it was cloudy and, when we had moved out on the divide between the Beaver and the Cimarron, rain began to fall. After we had been thoroughly drenched the wind suddenly shifted to the northwest and, within fifteen minutes, our clothes were frozen. In this condition we marched eight or ten miles, finally reaching a small creek, tributary to the Cimarron, where I ordered the command to encamp. The men put up the tents, after which I had the men take off their clothes and wrap themselves in blankets. In the meantime the cooks had been ordered to build fires and make coffee, which was distributed to the men and, in the end, they felt no bad effects. The next morning my knees were so stiff that I could hardly walk. I had a few cavalrymen with the command and one of these was ordered to ride in a wagon, so that I could have his horse. I was all right within another twenty-four hours.

Near the Cimarron River, we found two companies of the 3d Infantry under the command of Captain Robert P. Hughes (also from Camp Supply), where they were engaged in building a defensive earth-work similar to that which our command had been ordered to construct, farther up the trail. Redoubt Creek, in the northwestern part of Harper County, Oklahoma, near the mouth of which this earth-work was constructed, received its name from this circumstance.

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The redoubt which we built was about fifty feet square. The interior wall was built of burlap bags, filled with earth. Loose earth was filled against this wall on the outside, sloping down to a trench which was about fifteen feet wide. The wall or embankment was about ten feet thick at the base. Bastions were built at diagonally opposite corners. There was a stable for the mules on the inside of the enclosure, built against the wall on the western side. On the eastern side there was a living room and kitchen for the men. Both of these structures were of "hackall" or stockade, the earthen embankment forming one wall of each. The roofs were covered with earth and were a foot or two lower than the walls, so that they could be occupied for defensive purposes in case of an attack. A well was dug on a high creek bank, or second bottom, and the outside of the enclosure, near the gate, which was at the northeast corner. The redoubt which was built by Captain Hughes’ command was similar in design. It was located near the Kansas boundary line, and was approximately one-third of the way from Camp Supply to Fort Dodge. The one which was built by my command was about half way between the one just mentioned and Fort Dodge.

While my company was stationed at Camp Supply, four enlisted men, all of whom were carpenters by trade and one of whom was a member of my company, planned to desert. Colonel Davidson caused the charges which were made against three of them to be dropped but, because of some personal difference between Captain Rife and himself, he refused to drop those against the man belonging to our company. Lieutenant Charles E. Campbell, 3d Infantry, served as judge advocate and I was assigned to defend the accused deserter, Private Lorenzen. It was proven that the four men had rations with them sufficient to last them four or five days. When they were apprehended they were at a grove near the confluence of Beaver and Wolf creeks and I succeeded in proving that there were twenty-five or thirty other men there at the same time and that, presumptively, at least, the four or five days’ rations which they were alleged to have was not more than sufficient for a picnic dinner for the crowd. The court found Private Lorenzen not guilty.

As the mouth of Redoubt Creek is several miles north of the Kansas-Oklahoma boundary line, both of these defensive ranches were in Kansas, one in the southern part of Clarke

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County and the other in the northern part of the same county.


One of the field officers at Camp Supply had a charming daughter whom, for the sake of convenience, we may call Miss Bessie. She was the only unmarried young lady among all of the officers’ families in the garrison. Of course all of the unmarried subalterns in the garrison were deeply in love with her— that is, all with the exception of myself. Among these was Lieutenant K—, of the 10th Cavaly, who, though still a young man, was a veteran of the Civil War. Lieutenant K— and I roomed together in the bachelor officers quarters. Finally the Lieutenant was detailed to take an insane soldier to the asylum at Washington City. Before he left he grew confidential with me and told me of his great affection for Miss Bessie and concluded by exacting a promise from me that I would take care of his interests in that quarter and see to it that none of the other suitors took undue advantage of his absence. I solemnly promised that I would do so to the best of my ability. And I was faithful to my promise for, no sooner was Lieutenant K— well on his journey than I paid a formal call upon the young lady in question, to whom I frankly related the story of my pact with the absent lover and I then proceeded in the most serious and matter-of-fact way to propose marriage in his behalf. To say that Miss Bessie was amused would be putting it mildly. She enjoyed the joke as well as I did. My calls became more frequent but all of my pleadings in behalf of my absent friend were unavailing. We became such jolly friends that her father (who was a brevet brigadier general and who did not fully approve of me) became suspicious and did all that he could to discourage my seeming intentions and that, of course, added zest to our enjoyment of the bandinage.

Lieutenant Charles L. Cooper, 10th Cavalry, had been detailed as one of the officers of a detachment which was to escort a wagon train to Fort Sill. Miss Bessie’s father saw to it that my name was substituted for that of Lieutenant Cooper on the detail for escort duty to Fort Sill. It was late in the day when the train was formed and ready to move out. We marched only to the other side of Wolf Creek, where we went into camp. I obtained permission to be absent for the evening from the

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captain commanding the escort, after which I donned civilian clothing, returned to the post and called at the quarters of Miss Bessie’s father. She and her mother seemed delighted to see me but the old General was furious. He demanded an explanation as to why I was there at the post instead of being in camp with the escort of the wagon train, to which I blandly explained that I was absent with leave for the evening from the officer in command of the escort. The General thereupon came off of his high horse and even tried to be pleasant and amiable. Miss Bessie and I even took a stroll about the parade ground that evening, after which I bade them good bye and returned to the camp of the wagon train and escort.

While en route, a day or two later, I met Lieutenant K—, who was returning from his trip to Washington. In all seriousness, I made a detailed report of my stewardship of the trust which he had imposed upon me when he left, several weeks before. I told him how eloquently I had plead his cause and explained my deep dejection due to the fact that the young lady had turned a deaf ear to my passionate appeal. Whether Lieutenant K— really believed my report of the affair, I do not know but, at any rate, his comments after listening to the same would not bear repetition here.

When I returned from Fort Sill, several weeks later, Miss Bessie was not there— her folks had sent her away to the East, where there were no mischief loving subalterns. It was understood at the time that her parents were anxious that she should not marry in the Army. I never saw her again but I understood that she married a lieutenant in the Regular Army after all.


While serving with the escort of the wagon train just mentioned, we experienced the thrill of a real Indian alarm. We were marching down the valley of Pond Creek (now Cobb Creek), in the western part of what is now Caddo County, when we suddenly discovered about 100 mounted Indian warriors, on the hills west of the creek. Apprehensive of an attack, the captain in command of the escort immediately made such a disposition of his men as seemed best for defensive purposes. Just at that juncture, however, the women and children of the band be-

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gan to ride into sight over the top of the hill in the rear and then we knew that there was no danger of an attack.


Among my intimate friends during that part of my army career was Lieutenant Silas Pepoon, of the 10th Cavalry. We often went out riding together. He will be remembered as the commander of the civilian scouts who accompanied General Custer’s command at the time of the attack upon Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village, on the Washita.

Several years later he was accused by some of his fellow officers of having attempted to cheat in a game of cards. Charges were preferred against him and a court martial was ordered. He plead with them to withdraw the charges but men, who were not a whit more honest than he, remained deaf to his entreaties. Lieutenant Pepoon ended it all by committing suicide.


One of the licensed traders at Camp Supply during the earlier years was Gus Tracy. In the fall of 1871, he sold out and moved away. He had had lumber hauled from Hays City, Kansas, with which he had erected a substantial frame house in which he made his home. When he quit business at Camp Supply, he sold his home to the Government and it was occupied as the commanding officer’s quarters by General W. J. Davidson. This is the building which, in recent years, has become known as the "Custer House," though it was not erected until some time after General Custer left Camp Supply and he never saw it.

Gus Tracy was caught out in the same storm that my detachment was while en route to the point where the redoubt was to be built. He was on his way from Camp Supply to Fort Dodge, traveling in company with another man in a buggy. After the blizzard struck them, they abandoned the buggy and rode off on the ponies. Finally, in the night, they abandoned the ponies and Tracy laid down to sleep, with his overcoat wrapped around his feet. In the morning, he left the overcoat lying where he had tried to sleep and resumed his journey afoot. He was found on the south bank of the Arkansas River, with both feet frozen. The man with whom he had been traveling, succeeded in finding the ford across the river, a mile below the post

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and after wading through the icy water to the north bank, fired his revolver several times. A rescue party came out from Fort Dodge and took him into the post, where he soon recovered and was little the worse for the experience, for, in fact, the wade through the icy water probably saved his feet.

Tracy was rescued as soon as possible and was taken across to Fort Dodge. Both feet had to be amputated and it is doubtful if he ever fully recovered from the effects of the sufferings which he had to endure during that storm.


In the late fall of 1871, my company was transferred from Camp Supply to Fort Dodge, Kansas. Fort Dodge had an unsavory reputation, even among army posts of that region, in those days. As no liquor was allowed to be sold at any of the posts in the Indian Territory, there was a tendency on the part of both officers and men to drink to excess just before leaving Fort Dodge for Camp Supply or Fort Sill, or immediately after arrival at Fort Dodge from one of those posts. This served to give Fort Dodge a reputation for carousal, dissipation and revelry that was unequalled by that of any other post on the western frontier.

We had little aside from the usual routine duty while we were stationed at Fort Dodge. The monotony was occasionally broken by brief hunting expeditions after buffalo. These animals were very numerous at times in the vicinity of Fort Dodge. The hay which was furnished as forage by the quartermaster’s department was cut from the wild grasses of adjacent valley lands and was hauled in and stacked on the reservation, near the post. Before we went there, the buffalo had repeatedly broken down the heavy plank fences with which the hay-stacks were surrounded and so, while we were there, the stack yard was protected by an enclosure made by piling cord-wood two tiers thick and eight feet high.

When the big buffalo herds were on the move the animals even crowded into the confines of the post. In fact, I have shot and killed buffalo from the front porch of one of the officers’ quarters, in the Fort. We were seldom without a supply of buffalo meat while at that post and it was generally fresh meat at that.

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Hays City was still our nearest railway station while I was in the garrison at Fort Dodge. It was understood, however, that the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company would build to that point within a year, which it did. The town of Dodge City was projected but had not been laid out when our regiment was transferred to another department.


In the spring of 1872 the entire 6th Regiment of Infantry was ordered to move to Northwestern Dakota. I was assigned to duty as acting regimental quartermanster, consequently it was a busy time for me. The companies stationed at Fort Dodge marched to Fort Hays and entrained at Hays City. The journey from thence to Sioux City, Iowa, was made by rail. At Sioux City, we embarked on the steamboat "Sioux City," for the voyage up the Missouri River to our destination.

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