Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 16, No. 3
COLONEL A. W. EVANS' CHRISTMAS DAY INDIAN FIGHT (1868)
C. C. Rister.
At the end of the Civil War the western border was in great turmoil. Such events as the Chivington massacre, "Kit" Carson's
attack on the Comanche and Kiowa encamped on the Canadian, and the destruction of Indian property in Oklahoma by white invaders
had greatly embittered the red men. Moreover, men released from the Union and Confederate armies now swarmed over the prairies
seeking homes; and hunting parties, great and small, recklessly slaughtered the buffalo. When Indian resentment found expression
in destructive raids along the frontiers of Colorado, Kansas, and Texas, the federal government in October, 1865, called the
marauders to a council on the Little Arkansas River.1 But only a few months after an agreement was effected the treaty bands were told that it was not binding; the Arapaho and
Cheyenne were not to be given a promised reservation on the Cimarron, and the Comanche and Kiowa (and a small band of Kataka)
must surrender their vast range south of the Arkansas for a much smaller holding in the Indian Territory. The angry Indians
resumed their raids with renewed fury, and from the Arkansas to the Rio Grande the border settlements were laid waste.
At this juncture Congress on July 30, 1867, created a peace commission to go among all the disturbed bands of the West.2 The
2Since Lieutenant General W. T. Sherman was to command the Division of the Missouri he was given a place on the commission.
Other army men were Major Generals William S. Harney, A. H. Terry, and C. C. Augur. To counterbalance the influence of these,
N. G. Taylor, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Senator John B. Henderson, S. F. Tappan, and John B. Sanborn were also appointed.
For a report of the commission see House Executive Documents, No. 97, 40 Cong., 2 sess.
Commissioners were to work toward three objectives: (1) to promote in every way possible the building of western railways
and the occupation of the border; (2) to remove, if possible, the causes of Indian wars; and (3) to initiate a program that
would improve the economic welfare of the Indians. And by peaceful assurances and the distribution of food and clothing among
the Indians they were to promote peace and good will. It is not difficult to see why the Indians received the commissioners
coldly. Why should they accept their peaceful assurances — although they were willing enough to receive their presents? Had
not assurances been given them in the past? This must be the prelude to new demands! Perhaps lands!
The commissioners concluded treaties with the major southern plains bands at Medicine Lodge, Kansas, in October, 1867. The
Comanche and Kiowa must accept a reservation between the ninety-eighth meridian and the North Fork of the Red River, and the
Cheyenne and Arapaho another north of them.3 All must give up their roving habits and accept government subsistence until they could provide for themselves; and to this
end the government was to teach them how to farm, to provide seed, tools, and other needful things. In short, they must now
"walk on the white man's road."
Not all the bands of the several tribes had representatives at the council. The Indians offered this as a reason for not adhering
to the treaty. The old men might make a treaty with their white enemies, but the young warriors and the non-treaty chiefs
were not bound by their agreement! They would continue to steal horses and mules and trade these to the Comancheros (and white traders of Kansas and Texas)! So the Texas frontier was devastated with little interruption, and the Kansas settlers
were to experience renewed Cheyenne and Arapaho raids, beginning in September, 1868. The "peace policy" had not fared so well
in this quarter; another must be substituted.4
4Accounts of contemporaries give a graphic picture of widespread devastations. As to Texas depredations, see letter of Philip
McCusker to Thomas Murphy, February 4, 1868, MS., in "Upper Arkansas Agency," Indian Bureau file, Washington. The Annual Report (pamphlet) of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1868, reveals in detail the Cheyenne and Arapaho raids along the
border of that state. Also a similar condition is revealed in Colorado by Acting Governor Frank Hall in his letter to Lieutenant
General W. T. Sherman of September 3, 1868. MS., in volume captioned "August 31 to December 22, 1868," 3196-3204, Sherman
Papers, Division of Manuscripts, Library of Congress, Washington.
General P. H. Sheridan arrived at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in March, 1868, to take active command of the Department of the
Missouri. In order to understand better the various aspects of his problem, he traveled first to Fort Larned, near which,
on Pawnee and Walnut creeks, most of the bands warring on Kansas had pitched their lodges; and when the clamorous Indians
thronged his tent demanding "talks," he then moved on to Fort Hays, where later he established his headquarters. It did not
take Sheridan long to come to the conclusion that a "peace policy" was impractical in solving his border problem. The Indians
must first be taught to respect the power of the white man; then, perhaps, more peaceful means could be employed. Border turmoil
caused him to lay hasty plans for the present.
In the evolution of his policy Sheridan must take into consideration certain facts. First, the tribes with whom he must deal
were nomadic. Their camps were scattered over the prairies from the North Platte to the Rio Grande, each of which might be
moved again and again in a single season. Second, so long as the warriors could subsist their ponies on the luxuriant grass
they could move swiftly from one point to another. Also during the spring and summer seasons wild game was abundant on the
prairies, and the Indians' commissary was adequate. But winter would bring a change. At this season the roving bands had favorite
camping sites where they and their herds could find a measure of protection against the fierce blizzard. Now their ponies
were poor and too weak to permit of much travel. And now they must subsist on their winter stores of jerked meat and what
little game they could find in the copses of timber along the streams.
These habits of the nomadic red men made Sheridan's problem fairly simple to solve. Until the ground was covered with snow
it would be folly for him to attempt to hunt down the many small warring bands and inflict punishment on each. But with the
approach of winter they would assemble in large camps here and
there. Then he could have a better chance of success. Heretofore the Indians had regarded themselves as secure in their winter
retreats. Campaigning at this season, they thought, was impossible. During the fall months Sheridan proposed so to distribute
his cavalry at border posts that he could answer distress calls of the exposed settlements reasonably early and anticipate
forays wherever that was possible. If he could prevent general devastation of the border during this period the first part
of his problem would be solved. After the arrival of winter he proposed to lead his troops far within the Indian country,
hunt out and destroy the hidden camps of those who had refused to go on their reservations, and punish severely the refractory
leaders. But those who accepted the terms of the Medicine Lodge agreement and refrained from hostility toward the white settlements
would be shown every consideration. He had little to offer pillagers and murderers! He proposed to substitute the unique plan
of "punishment should always follow crime" for the commissioners' "peace policy." As he saw it, Eastern philanthropists would
employ a policy of moral suasion in dealing with savages, while at the same time it was necessary for the state and nation
to use the most stringent laws in governing a civilized people.5
When Sheridan's proposal was made known experienced Westerners sought to dissuade him. Venerable Jim Bridger traveled from
St. Louis to Fort Hays to point out to the department commander the folly of such a course.6 If the nomads, accustomed to climatic changes and seasonal peculiarities, would not attempt war operations during the winter,
how could white soldiers expect to succeed? Indeed a blizzard might visit the Indian country at any time during this period.
His entire army might perish! Sheridan seemed disturbed by these prophecies, but he was not deterred. He collected supplies
at strategic points, equipped his men with warm blankets and winter clothing, and made ready for his venture.7
Meanwhile General W. B. Hazen, Superintendent of the Southern Department,8 sought to contact the leaders of all bands to tell them that Sheridan would not harm those who ceased warfare and accepted
their reservations. Sheridan also held conferences with notable chiefs and sought to use them as messengers to more warlike
leaders. He distributed blankets, coffee, bacon, sugar, and flour as a friendly gesture, and told the recipients that other
distributions would be made from time to time if they would peacefully settle on their reservations. But he proposed to destroy
those who would not!
In the vast desolate region in which the troops were to be employed, there were more than five thousand hostile warriors in
relatively small bands, hidden here and there in their favorite retreats. To accomplish his task, therefore, Sheridan felt
that he must have a considerable force. He was glad to accept the Nineteenth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry offered him by Governor
S. J. Crawford. In addition, he planned to use eleven troops of the Seventh Cavalry, under the command of Colonel George A.
Custer, and a battalion of five companies of infantry under Brevet Major John H. Page. Colonel Alfred Sully was to rendezvous
these and establish a supply depot about one hundred miles south of Fort Dodge, within northwestern Indian Territory.9
In conjunction with this force, two others were to penetrate the Indian Territory. One, composed of six troops of the Third
Cavalry and two companies of infantry, under Colonel A. W. Evans, was to advance from Fort Bascom, New Mexico, via the
8The act of Congress creating the peace commission also set aside $500,000 to be expended by General Sherman "in carrying out
treaty stipulations, making and preparing homes, furnishing provisions, tools, and farming utensils, and furnishing food for
such bands of Indians with which treaties have been made . . . ." On August 10, 1868, Sherman created two administrative districts
of his command. The first embraced all the country west of the Missouri River, within the Sioux country, and was put under
the control of General Harney. The second was bounded on the east by Arkansas, on the south by Texas, on the north by Kansas,
and on the west by the one hundredth meridian, and was put under the command of General Hazen. Each officer was allowed a
liberal part of the appropriation for his wards. For the apportionment of the fund, see Sanborn to Sherman, July 27, 1867,
XXIII, 3164,, MS., in Sherman Papers, loc. cit.
Canadian Valley. The other, consisting of seven troops of the Fifth Cavalry, commanded by Brevet Brigadier General Eugene
A. Carr, was to start from Fort Lyon, Colorado, and move toward the south. These converging forces were to drive in toward
Fort Cobb, or destroy, any straggling bands found prowling through the country west of the Sully-Sheridan main line of march
from Fort Dodge to Camp Supply (or a point where the supply post was to be established). Moreover, Carr's force was to be
joined by five troops of cavalry under Brevet Brigadier General W. H. Penrose, already in the field southwest of Fort Lyon.
To work with the greatest measure of freedom, Evans was to establish a depot of supply near the mouth of Monument Creek, and
Carr would set up another at a site farther north. By such a disposal the hostile Indians would find themselves encircled
by blue-coated troops.
The story of Sheridan's campaign is found elsewhere.10 During the month of November, Sully and Custer established Camp Supply, and from there the latter moved down the Washita
toward Black Kettle's village (and others located below it). But it is not purposed here to describe the battle of the Washita
which followed, nor Sheridan's advance to Fort Cobb, nor the series of conferences which he held with hostile chiefs, for
each constitutes a separate historical problem and would require a full narrative. But the Evans expedition from New Mexico
has generally been neglected, and, perhaps, because it was overshadowed by the more sensational Custer affair. Yet the New
Mexican troops succeeded in contacting and defeating a large camp of Comanches, after a long march across the snow-covered
prairies while the temperature hovered about zero. Evans' report of this campaign is full and interesting, and needs no embellishment.
It is the most exhaustive made by the field commanders, and is given herewith without abridgment.
* * * * *
10Contemporary accounts of the winter campaign are quite full. Two printed works are interestng: George A. Custer, Life on the Plains and Personal Experiences with Indians (New York, 1876), chaps. xv and xvi; and De B. Randolph Keim, Sheridan's Troopers on the Border (Philadelphia, 1885). Custer's manuscript report is found in the Old Files Section, A. G. O., War Department, in papers listed
as "3863—M—A.G.O., 1869." Sheridan's report is in "Operations, IV," 409-425, Sheridan Papers. Both reports are also found
in Senate Executive Documents, No. 18, 40 Cong., 3 sess.
Report of the Canadian River Expedition, [page no. 535]11
Brevet Lieutenant Colonel A. W. Evans, 3d Cavalry, Commanding.
Headquarters Canadian River Expedition,
Monument Creek Depot, Texas.
January 23d, 1869.
Acting Assistant Adjutant General,
Headquarters, District of New Mexico.
I have the honor to present the following report of the Expedition12 under my command, consisting of Companies "A," "C," "D," "F," "G," and "I," 3d U. S. Cavalry, and Companies "H" and "I,"
37th U. S. Infantry, which had its rendezvous at Fort Bascom, N. M., its line of march down the Canadian River, and its object
a coöperation in the general campaign against the hostile Indians of the Plains. My written instructions were liberal, and
left sufficient freedom of action, the general directions being that I should proceed down the Canadian as far as possible,
and attack all Indians met.
The order placing me in charge gave me also Command of the Post of Fort Bascom,13 of which [page No. 536] the garrison consisted of Company "D," 3d Cavalry, and "F," 37th Infantry. The Expedition was to
be further augmented by a band of friendly Ute and Apache Indians, to consist, as was supposed, of some two hundred (200)
warriors. Before proceeding to Fort Bascom I visited Fort Union Depot,14 in company with Lieutenant Ed. Hunter, 12th Infantry, A. A. A. G. of the district, who had volunteered for the Expedition,
and now assigned to duty with it as Adjutant, with a view to arranging the forwarding of supplies; among other things procured
and sent forward from the Arsenal there one twelve (12) pound Mountain Howitzer (the only one in proper condition), with its
ammunition, and a quantity of small arms cartridges. This was in addition to what the several companies were supposed to bring
with them from their Posts, but of which their supply was found to be insufficient. I assumed command of Fort Bascom and of
the Expedition on the 5th of November, and found the Post occupied by a detachment of fifty (50) men of Company "F," 37th
Infantry, under 2nd Lieutenant J. K. Sullivan, 37th Infantry, the only officer. Company "F," 3d Cavalry, under Lieutenant
H. B. Cushing, 3d
Cavalry, was encamped about one (1) mile below. It left Fort Stanton on the 24th of October, and was the only Company ordered
to the Expedition to arrive before me. On the same day with myself arrived, however, Company "I," 3d Cavalry, Brevet Major
E. W. Tarlton, 3d Cavalry, Commanding, which [page No. 536] left Fort Union on October 29th, and Company "A," 3d Cavalry,
Captain William Hawley, 3d Cavalry, Commanding, which left Cimarron on October 25th and Fort Union on October 29th. With them
came Acting Assistant Surgeon J. K. Longwell, the Medical officer of the Expedition. I found also at the Post between eighty
(80) and one hundred (100) Utes and Apaches, who had been rationed, armed, and clothed at Fort Union, and permitted to come
down under their own guidance with no responsible person in charge. Many of them had turned back to Maxwell's,15 after drawing their supplies at Union, and those who came on seemed to be dissatisfied that the Expedition did not start
at once. Major Morris, 37th Infantry, with Companies "C," "D," and "G," 3d Cavalry, and a part of Company "F," 37th Infantry,
all mounted, and two (2) Mountain Howitzers, was [were] below on a thirty (30) days scout with pack mules, and had not been
heard from for several weeks. An express was at once sent to search for his command, to hurry it back to the Post. An attempt
was made to persuade some of the Indians to accompany the Express, but after a good deal of talk they declined going, and
two (2) soldiers and a Mexican were sent. They returned however in a few days, unsuccessful, with, as was afterwards ascertained,
a false report as to the distance they had proceeded. I also dispatched scouts to overtake a party of Pueblo [page No. 538
Indians of Isleta, reported to have gone down the Fort Smith road after Buffalo, to warn them not to go in advance of the
Expedition: but these messengers also returned unsuccessful.
Major Morris, with his command, arrived back at the Post on November 9th, his animals wearied, and his pack mules much broken
down and out of order. On the same day arrived Captain Gageby's Company "I," 37th Infantry, from Fort Stanton, from which
place it started on October 28th.
A battery of four 12-pounder Mountain Howitzers was organized, of two (2) pieces found at the Post, and the two (2) brought
back by Major Morris, and placed under the Command of Lieutenant Sullivan. Mules were employed for the draught, four (4) to
the piece and two to the Caisson, and the Battery manned by a detachment of twenty (20) men of Captain Ewer's Company, "D,"
37th Infantry, from Fort Sumner,16 and by details of men who had served in the Artillery, from the different Companies of the Com-
mand. It was served with an average of one hundred (100) rounds of Spherical case shot, shell, and canister, and Lieutenant
Sullivan showed great zeal and energy in fitting its material, perfecting its organization and drilling his men.
While arranging the details of the Expedition, its supplies were very slowly arriving from Union and elsewhere. Captain Deane
Monahan, [page No. 539] 3d Cavalry, who had come down with Company "A," was placed temporarily in charge of Quartermaster's
and Commissary Departments, receiving and unloading the trains as they came in. Upon the return of Major Morris' Command,
Captain Monahan took charge of his Company, "G," 3d Cavalry, and 2nd Lieutenant A. H. von Luettwitz, 3d Cavalry, A.A.Q.M.
and A.C.S., of Fort Bascom, who had been out with the scout, was appointed to the same positions in this Expedition.
The oats delivered upon contract by citizen train were found of inferior quality and much adulterated, requiring the rejection
of a considerable quantity. Another contract train bringing supplies broken down and partly unloaded on the road, upon hearing
which I despatched Government wagons to bring in the load. This consisted in great part of the Bacon for the Expedition, none
of which [was] considered an indispensable article, and for which everything was delayed, arrived until November 17th. This
resulted from Berg's sub-contracting.
The train of Wagon Master Anderson, consisting of twenty (20) wagons, had been placed subject to my orders at Fort Union.
Part of it was used in bringing Companies "A" and "I," 3d Cavalry, to Bascom. The wagons belonging to that Post, with those
from Fort Stanton, and one that brought medical stores from Santa Fe, gave eleven (11) more. A very simple calculation showed
that this transportation was inadequate for the [page No. 540] rations and a sufficient supply of forage. The train of Wagon
Master Harper, consisting of sixteen (16) wagons, which had been sent to carry corn between Forts Sumner and Bascom, was therefore
seized for the use of the Expedition, and was subsequently formally turned over to me by direction of District Headquarters.
These forty seven (47) wagons were all that were used to convey the Expedition down the River. In addition were one (1) blacksmith's
forge, and three (3) Ambulances for Hospital use,—two (2) brought from Fort Union, and one (1), the spring wagon, belonging
to Fort Bascom. With these means, we were enabled to start with sixty (60) days rations, twenty issued to the Companies, and
forty (40) carried in the train. Three hundred (300) head of beef cattle had been received for the use of the Command, before
my arrival, from Mr. Patterson, the general Contractor for the District, and were driven along, Mr. Patterson furnishing two
(2) men to butcher and help drive them with a light wagon for their use.
But it was still evident that sufficient forage for the animals for any length of time could not be carried in the rain, and
recourse was had to the hire of citizen wagons. All that seemed available was an ox-train of ten (10) wagons belonging to
Mr. Stapp, the Post Trader, for which the price of $1.95 per 100 lbs. per 100 miles was demanded, and refused by me. I subsequently
[page No. 541] directed a written contract to be made with Mr. Gorham, Patterson's Agent, for ox-teams, at $1.60 per 100 lbs.
per 100 miles, the cheapest rate at which I could effect the arrangement, two (2) trains of ten (10) wagons each, to be furnished,
the first (consisting of the identical teams of Mr. Stapp), to start about the time of the Expedition and, as I was verbally
assured, to keep along with it,—the second to start about November 25th. These ox-trains were a cause of great delay and annoyance.
The first did not keep with the Command, and its effect will be subsequently related; the second did not start until a month
later than the time agreed, and its freight was not made available to the Expedition until the middle of January, after the
return from the Indian nation. The total amount of forage conveyed by Gorham was 11,500 lbs. of corn, and 40,600 lbs. of oats
by his first train; and by his second train 60,500 lbs. of corn. The first of these trains did not start until after the Expedition,
and escorts were provided for them from Captain A. B. Carpenter's Company, "H," 37th Infantry,—which arrived at Bascom a day
or two after we left,—at the rate of twenty (20) men to each train.
The plan of Campaign contemplated the establishment of a sub-depot from which scouts should be made with pack mules. Under
authority given at Fort Union, twenty (20) citizen packers, chiefly Mexicans, [page No. 542] had been hired, and a pack train
was organized as far as possible. Some of the Companies, "A" and "I," 3d Cavalry, for instance, brought extra pack mules and
equipments with them. Those from Fort Stanton brought only the mules and their wagons, with pack saddles extra. Of the seventy-five
(75) pack mules taken out by Major Morris, the larger part was returned with very sore backs, and twelve of them were left
at the Post as utterly unserviceable. Nine (9) were driven along, in hope that they might recuperate sufficiently to be of
some use, and some thirty (30) odd were taken in teams. All other mules taken along were used for draught or saddle purposes
until the arrival at the sub-depot, and the pack saddles and equipments, (some hundred in number) not otherwise carried, were
loaded in the train.
Five (5) Americans were employed as scouts and four (4) Mexicans as guides, including those that were out with Major Morris.
Care was taken to select the best men possible, but it was found that the Expedition went beyond the knowledge of any of them.
Several days before starting, the friendly Indians had disappeared from the Post, having been authorized and advised to go
over on Ute Creek to hunt. It was ascertained however, upon setting out that they had all returned to Cimarron. [page No.
543] I thereupon dispatched an Express to that place to inform them that we had started, and inviting them to join us, and
three (3) letters were written to that effect by different officers to Mr. L. B. Maxwell, who was supposed to have the most
influence with them. The Express rejoined us on the road, when we were encamped at Canada Bonito, with the information that
the Indians had scattered, and could not be got to return. An important part of the Expedition, or what was expected to be
so, thus failed entirely, to my regret; for, though these people are difficult and troublesome to control, had they been once
gotten within reach of the enemy there would doubtless have been a more successful issue to the campaign. The Indians were
armed and clothed by the government, and received extra rations, and upon their return to the Cimarron their annual presents,
besides carrying off their arms.
The Expedition started from Fort Bascom on November 18th, immediately after the arrival of the bacon, and consisted as follows:
Co. "A," 3d Cavalry, 1 Officer, 48 Enlisted Men,—52 horses
" "C," 3d Cavalry, 1 Officer, 54 Enlisted Men,—63 "
" "D," 3d Cavalry, 1 Officer, 54 Enlisted Men,—55 "
" "G," 3d Cavalry, 2 Officers, 59 Enlisted Men,—67 "
" "F," 3d Cavalry, 1 Officer, 45 Enlisted Men,—47 "
" "I," 3d Cavalry, 2 Officers, 47 Enlisted Men,—40 "
" "I," 37th Infantry, 2 Officers, 61 Enlisted Men,—
Detachment of Co. "F," 37th Inf'ty, attached to Co. "I"—32 Enlisted Men. [page No. 544]
Battery of 4 Mountain Howitzers,—1 Officer, 42 Enlisted men, 5 horses, and 27 mules.
Seventy-two (72) citizen employees started with the Expedition, of whom nine (9) were scouts and guides, and twenty (20) packers.
Lieutenant G. W. Craddlebaugh, 3d Cavalry, of Company "C," joined a day or two after starting, but was shortly laid up by
an attack of acute rheumatism, with which he is still suffering, and has not been able to do duty. Company "I," 3d Cavalry,
was fully mounted, having extra horses transferred from Company "C."
The condition of the Companies was not such in every respect as could have been desired. They had rendezvoused at Fort Bascom
under orders received at their different Posts from District Headquarters, directing them to report for "temporary field service."
Nearly all left behind their Company books and papers and muster-
Rolls, and some could not therefore be paid off before starting, although a Paymaster was there present for the purpose. In
some cases Expresses were sent back to fetch books and papers necessary to make the December Rolls; but although fully aware
of the proposed duration of the scout, and although an order was published stating that transportation would be furnished
for the "Company Desk," no advantage was taken of this in Company "D,"—whose station was Fort Bascom. All [page No. 545] the
Cavalry Companies left behind their sabres, and the Infantry Companies their bayonets for doing which Circular No. 10, series
of 1868, from District Headquarters was quoted. The horses of Companies "C," "G," and "D" had just returned from a twenty-five
(25) days' scout, without forage, necessarily much weakened, and with only a few days to recuperate in. The horses of Company
"F" were before noted in the Regiment for their apparently fine condition, but they had simply fat without hard muscle, and
broke down perhaps more rapidly than any others. Those of Company "A," all grays, appeared to stand the trip better than the
rest, or, at least, fewer of them were lost by exhaustion. The quantity of forage taken in wagons of the Expedition was 22,000
lbs. of Corn and 24,000 lbs. of Oats, and about six (6) pounds were fed to each animal daily. The men were sufficiently supplied
with clothing at the start, but its appearance was not always strictly uniform.
The Post of Fort Bascom was left under charge of Brevet Major Morris, 37th Infantry, with about fifty (50) men of his Company,
"F," 37th Infantry, and a few men and horses of Company "D," 3d Cavalry. Two mule teams were also left for hauling water and
wood, and the Express line to Las Vegas and Fort Union was kept up. Acting Assistant Surgeon Duane, who had been on the scout
with Major Morris, [page No. 546] and reported physically unfit to go again, was retained at the Post, and Acting Assistant
Surgeon Longwell was thus the only Medical Officer with the Expedition.
The route pursued was on the road made by Colonel Carson in his campaign of 1864,17 crossing to the left bank of the Canadian at Bergman's Ranche, four (4) miles below Bascom leaving the River at the Red River
Spring, and striking it again about twenty miles above Adobe Wall. At Navais Spring, forty-seven (47) miles out, a severe
snow storm was encountered, the same, November 22nd, in which General Custer fought his "battle of Washita." During this,
I laid over one day, hoping that the ox-train with forage would overtake us,—which was not, however, the case. Against such
exposure as this storm, but very little shelter was enjoyed by the Command. There was about one (1) wall tent to
each Company, one to Headquarters, and a very few A tents,—chiefly in the battery, belonging to the detachment of Company
"D," 37th Infantry. All others had only ponchos, or such huts as they could construct.
At Canada Bonito, ninety (90) miles and eight (8) days out, the forage ran so low that it became evident recourse must be
had to the ox-train, which was accordingly waited for, and finally a train was unloaded and sent back to fetch up the grain,
thus losing for us five (5) days' time. Although thus lightened, the ox-train camped with us but two (2) days [page No. 547]
afterwards. At the second of these camps on the Blue water, being in the buffalo range, some one hundred and thirty-five (135)
head of cattle, together with a number belonging to the ox-train, were lost by straying, as is believed, through the negligence
of the guard. Without delaying the march of the column, several parties were sent back in search of them, the trail being
almost impossible to find because of the number of buffalo tracks; but sixty-two (62) of them were finally recovered and brought
in to the Sub-depot, and it is thought that some of the others were picked up by Mexicans, and may be recognized by marks.
These Mexicans18 are buffalo hunters who go out on the Plains every autumn and winter from Las Vegas, Chaperita, Anton Chico, and the neighboring
parts of New Mexico, and frequently carry on trade with the hostile Indians. Pueblo Indians are also engaged in this business.
There are three (3) routes generally pursued by them;—one, entirely north of the Canadian, brings them down to the waters
of Wolf Creek; another is the route of this Expedition; and a third, by the Fort Smith and Albuquerque road, crosses a corner
of the "Staked Plains" to the headquarters of the Red River of Texas. They generally use ox-wagons or burros, and go frequently
in considerable numbers. Several of the parties were met within a hundred miles of Fort Bascom, and some were closely [page
No. 548] interrogated and searched, but no positive proof was procured of their having carried on trade. All agreed in a statement,
which they professed to have learned from Pueblos who were ahead of them, that the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, &c, were
ahead of them, encamped in large numbers on Wolf Creek; and considering the probability of this story, the establishment of
the sub-depot, and the course of the Expedition were much affected thereby.
Wolf Creek is an important stream, rising in the prairie about one hundred and fifty (150) miles east of Fort Bascom, and
ning East and North east, unites with Beaver Creek to form the north Fork of the Canadian, which name is improperly applied
on the map to Beaver. It will be borne in mind that I had no information whatever as to the course, time of starting, &c,
of the columns which were supposed to have marched from Forts Lyon and Dodge, on the Arkansas, beyond the mere statement that
General Sheridan was to have established a Depot at or near Beaver Creek, one hundred (100) miles south of Dodge, and I could
only conjecture that the movements of those troops would have the effect of driving the Indians down upon us on the Canadian.
I supposed, therefore, that I should have chiefly to look out for my left flank. As far down as the Sub-depot, however, we
found no fresh signs of any kind, except a few new moccasin tracks on Monument Creek; and [page No. 549] the presence of Buffalo,
which seemed to be moving north, was rather a proof of the absence of Indians.
The points proposed for the site of a sub-depot were Adobe Walls and Monument Creek; the former one hundred and seventyfive
(175) miles below Fort Bascom, and the latter ten (10) miles lower. At each is a fine stream of water, running to the Canadian
River on its left bank. Adobe Walls is the ruin of an old trading post, built by Bent more than twenty (20) years ago,19 having nothing but portions of the walls now standing. It was the furthest point reached by Carson, in his fight with the
Commanches, in 1864. Both positions were deemed not far enough down, and upon the representation of some of the guides that
good sites could be found twenty-five (25) or thirty (30) miles further, I proceeded to Dry Creek, eight (8) miles below Monument,
which possessed timber but lacked water. Camping here during a furious storm, I made a personal reconnaissance several miles
below, under the hills known as the Mesa del Lobo, obtaining a view of the river considerably further down, but could find
no place on the left bank which seemed to answer the purpose, and did not judge it advisable to cross the river. Under these
circumstances, and influenced also by the proximity of Wolf Creek on our left flank, I concluded to return to Monument Creek,
where the Depot was accordingly established. As it was intended to be [page No. 550] guarded by a very few men, it was deemed
advisable to give it a defensive character; and, taking advantage of two sand hills which stood in a favorable position, enclosing
a considerable hollow, a rude earth work was thrown upon their crests and revetted with logs and sand bags. Covered ways were
constructed, a traverse thrown across the gorge, and an abotti's partially built. The stores were placed in tents in the interior,
and were entirely protected from any fire but a vertical one. The position of this work, as near
as I could judge, having no instruments to determine it properly, was on the 35th Parallel, a little East of its intersection,
by the 101st Meridian W. The credit of the Construction is chiefly due to the Engineering ability of Lieutenant Hunter. About
a week was employed in making these arrangements, during which time scouts were sent out in two directions,—one Southeast,
across the river,—the other North-east towards Wolf Creek and Palo Duro, a northern branch of it. The former returned without
finding any signs within thirty (30) miles. The latter which I had hoped would, in the guise of Mexican traders, proceed as
far as the Indian villages, and perhaps enter them, returned, reporting about twenty-five (25) miles off having seen smokes
and fresh American horse tracks, which seemed to have scared them back. While proceeding with [page No. 551] the work, the
pack train was organized, taking for the purpose the mules from Anderson's wagons, and all the arrangements made for taking
the field on a thirty (30) days' scout. Harper's train, made up to twenty-two (22) wagons from Anderson's and others, was
sent back to Fort Bascom on December 13th, for an additional month's supplies, and was escorted by ten (10) men of Company
"H," 37th Infantry. Captain Carpenter, 37th Infantry, with his Company, was placed in charge of the Depot Post. The Quartermaster
Lieutenant von Luettwick, was left with the stores, having with him six (6) Enlisted men attached to his Departments, and
twelve (12) citizen employees, chiefly teamsters. Lieut. Cradlebaugh and six (6) men of the Cavalry were left, sick, and the
strength of Company "H," 37th Infantry, was twelve (12) enlisted men. After some deliberation, and considering the limited
number of pack mules, it was determined to take with the Expedition four six-mule wagons, carrying 8,000 lbs. of forage, (all
that was left), and a quantity of artillery and small arms ammunition, with the idea of abandoning or cacheing them if it
should be found impracticable for them to proceed. In the absence of the regular Quartermaster and Commissary, Lieutenant
L. L. Mulford took charge of the Departments during the scout, and rendered most efficient service. The organization of the
Expedition embraced, beside, thirteen [page No. 552] Officers; 314 Mounted and 90 Infantry men; 42 Infantry men in the Battery;
9 scouts and guides; 33 citizen packers and teamsters; 112 pack mules; 5 horses and 27 mules in the Battery; and 328 Cavalry
horses. Fifty (50) head of cattle were driven along. One (1) common tent, for the Hospital, was the only canvas permitted
to be taken.
The start was made on December 15th, proceeding down the left bank of the Canadian. On the third day, out, just below the
sand hills, forty-two (42) miles from the Depot and about eighteen (18) above Antelope Hills, (not however, in sight) an Indian
trail was struck of about fifty (50) or sixty (60) lodges,
travelling from north to south directly across the river, and apparently about four (4) days old. At the same time a heavy
smoke or signal fire was observed in a direction north of East, seemingly at some distance, but since believed to have been
on the River near Antelope Hills, indicating the crossing of another party. Up to this moment it had been undecided whether
to continue directly down the Canadian in the general direction indicated by my instructions, or to go over to Wolf Creek,
where our information pointed out the Indians to be, but upon the discovery of this trail it was deemed most advisable to
follow in pursuit, which was done. It led at first due south over a high rolling prairie country, crossing streams which [page
No. 553] afterwards proved to be the heads of the Washita, and then inclined more to the South East. Directly ahead could
be seen heavy smokes as of extensive prairie fires, towards which the trail at first led, but gradually left them to our right
On the third day of the pursuit, December 20th, the trail brought us to a large broad, shallow and very sandy river, called
by some and supposed by me to be the Washita, but, which afterwards proved to be the North Fork of the Red River. Down this
stream the course was pursued, crossing it frequently, and having the Wichita Mountains in view towards which it seemed to
run, until it was finally left on the 26th.
Following the trail several camps of the party were passed, but on the 21st, and afterwards the sign became mixed with many
others of camps and trails, old and new, a few tracks quite fresh indicating the passing of many hundred lodges. To find out
something more definite in advance, I had despatched two (2) well mounted scouts ahead early on the morning of the 19th, who
rejoined me on the 20th, on the Sweetwater, (Rito Capolin) stating that they had turned back on seeing three (3) mounted Indians
ride up on the prairie from the large river, (North Fork of Red River). I had reason to think, however, that my command was
still unobserved. The forage had been nearly all used up, chiefly in two feeds while pushing the trail, [page No. 554] and
the animals growing weaker, we cached one (1) wagon, December 21st on the North Fork, saving the harness, dividing the load,
and adding the mules to the other three (3) teams.
December 22nd was characterized by a very severe and bitterly cold dry norther, which finally drove us to seek shelter under
a bluff, in reaching which one of the caissons was broken in the shafts and rendered useless.
The 23rd brought us up to the Mountains. Three are detached, bare masses of syenite rising out of the prairie, with passages
of frequently many miles between them, and not more than six hun-
dred (600) or eight hundred (800) feet in height. The first and most north westerly, called by the Mexicans Cejas Sabinas,
was passed, and the river ran directly to the second, called Sierra Jumanes, and through a gorge or canon in it. Still other
peaks and ridges could be seen to East and South East. Indians were seen by the scouts near the first named ridge, who made
a signal fire in rear off its East end, and in front of the Jumanes Mt. who fled instantly through the canon of the river,
raising a smoke at its entrance as they did so. They seemed to be only a few hunters, but there could be no doubt that we
were now at last observed, and the alarm given. All the trails had multiplied greatly this day, and all passed through [page
No. 555] the ca[~]non of the Jumanes, to the number of at least a thousand (1000) or fifteen hundred (1,500) lodges, although
there were easier routes around the ends of the Mountain. The trails were still several days old. A strong scout was sent
down to the Canon, and camp was pitched on the river about two miles from it, as the day was declining, and it seemed evident
that a surprise of any village was no longer practicable, even if there were one near by, which was not supposed to be the
From the time of first striking the trail, on the 17th, pains had been taken to avoid giving any alarm. The pickets were doubled,
no firing of small arms permitted even to kill the cattle, all signal calls on the bugle ceased, and only a limited number
of fires allowed, which were placed in holes and carefully covered over on striking camp.
Making a very early start on the 24th, the river was crossed at once to its right bank, and the route pursued close by the
vent of the Jumanes, a comparatively narrow range, to its south side, whence a very extensive prairie spread out nearly level,
with a gradual slope to the Southward, in which direction no mountains could be seen. The course was taken by degrees to S.
E. and E. with a view of again cutting the trail, as it [page No. 556] appeared evident that the Indians were not in the Mountains.
The North Fork could not be seen, but a stream, frozen over and of alkali water, was soon crossed, which was at first thought
to be it. This stream really runs towards the Mountain into the North Fork. The big trail was in fact crossed this morning
but upon ground so hard and bare that it was not seen by any one in the column, and it was not reported to me by the scouts
until night. They however reported to me three (3) Indians seen on our right, whom I supposed to be watchers, and I continued
the course to South East, bearing to the East, with the idea that the trail must thus necessarily be again met. This brought
us, some ten (10) or twelve (12) miles from the Mountain, to a broad, dry, sandy river, with cottonwood, having water only
in one (1) or two (2) frozen holes, so strongly alkaline as to be unfit for use. Its course appeared to
be from West to East, and in the former directions its right bank gradually rose up to assume the appearance of a mesa. I
followed this stream down, or Eastward, for two (2) or three (3) miles, and then left it on a course North East and North,
which in the afternoon brought us to some water holes in an arroya in the prairie, but without wood. Due north on a high ridge,
apparently putting out from the East point of the Jumanes range, could be decried [page No. 557] a belt of timber, toward
which, after watering the stock, the march was taken, and which was only reached after dark. It proved to be a considerable
oak grove on hills, but without a drop of water, and here camp was made on the night of the 24th, the days journey in a circuit
having been twenty-seven (27 miles).
This circuit not having crossed the trail so far as I had observed, there now remained but the short space of three (3) or
four (4) miles between this camp and the East End of the Mountain in which to find it, or to verify the assertions of the
scouts that it had really been passed. Accordingly, I directed them, early on the morning of the 25th, to proceed in a direct
line to the East point and search carefully for the trail or any part of it, which I thought might be there. At the moment
of breaking camp they reported to me that they had done so without success, but being convinced from their statement, and
the short interval of time, that they had not gone so far as I desired, I reiterated my order to them to go again to the Point
of the Mountain, or to the river supposed to be near it, while we resumed the march in a northwest direction toward the Southern
outlet of the gap or canon, through which the trail was known to go, with the intention of taking it up again there at any
rate. The morning was [page No. 558] bitterly cold, with a strong, piercing south east wind, blowing fortunately upon our
backs. Coming close to the Mountain, we found right under it the North Fork, running to the right or East, and through a sort
of canon formed by a high detached rock separated by it from the Mountain, the stream being struck by us upon its right bank.
Here we were rejoined by two (2) Of the Scouts, who had gone out upon my last order, with the report that they had met and
conversed with two (2) Indians near by. Determined no longer to neglect these individuals, who seemed to be watching us, I
at once despatched in pursuit of them Major Tarlton with his Company, which happened to be at the head of the column; and
not supposing any force of the enemy near us, I proceeded up the stream with the remainder of the Command in search of a camp,
my intention being, in view of the severity of the weather, the day being Christmas, and the fact that we had made no halt
since leaving the Depot, and had camped without water the night before to make a short march, resting upon the main trail,
and to follow it all that night. Shelter from the wind was found round
a point of the Mountain, some two (2) or three (3) miles up and camp was about being made when word arrived from Major Tarlton
that he required assistance to whip those Indians. Captain Monahan, with his [page No. 559] Company was at once dispatched
to his aid, and shortly after Lieutenant Hunter, at his own request, was sent down with a section of the Battery, under Lieutenant
Sullivan, and Captain Hawley's company of Cavalry to support it. In the meantime the animals had been nearly all unpacked
and turned out, but beginning to be packed up again, and started down for the scene of action with the whole of the remainder
of the Command.
Major Tarlton, proceeding with his Company, numbering in the ranks thirty four (34) enlisted men, encountered in the canon
of the river a large and superior party of Indians, who charged him with the lance, rifles and pistols. The charge was vigorously
repulsed, four, (4) Indians reported by him killed, and several ponies; the Major losing but two (2) horses shot. Upon the
arrival of Captain Monahan's Company, of thirty eight (38) men, Major Tarlton took the offensive and pushed the enemy, who
made two (2) vigorous charges upon him, driving them through the timber of the canon. The Indians displayed great courage
and audacity, and subsequently acknowledged that one (1) of their number was shot through the head, and his weapons, one of
them an old spanish lance, fell into Major Tarlton's possession. The Major had already sent [page No. 560] word that he could
use Artillery to advantage, when Lieutenant Hunter and Captain Hawley arrived with the section of the Battery and its support.
The whole party then pushed rapidly down the river, and at a large bend and opening of the bottom, about two (2) miles from
the point where the fight began, came in sight of the village,20 situated in the edge of a grove directly against and at the base of the mountain. The Indians were engaged in endeavoring
to remove their property, but Lieutenant Sullivan, at Lieutenant Hunter's direction, at once brought his pieces into battery
and threw two (2) shells among the lodges, the second one exploding and causing the immediate and rapid evacuation of the
village by all of the Indians. The party then advanced through and beyond the village, and drove the Indians out of the grove
and over a ridge below it, the fight being kept up all the way. Lieutenant Hunter at once sent word back to me of their success,
and was anxious to push the Indians still further down, but was overruled by Major Tarlton, who determined to await my arrival,
in the meantime
holding the ridge. This was an excellent position but for the fact that the Indians commenced getting up among the rocks above
and on his left, annoying his men and picking off the supports of the guns, and the Major, not deeming a forward movement
[page No. 561] advisable, very properly fell back from it a short distance into the grove. The whole force which drove the
enemy from his first charge and captured the village consisted of Major Tarlton's Company of thirty eight (38) men, Captain
Hawley's Company of thirty six (36) men, and Lieutenant Sullivan's section of two (2) Howitzers, and eighteen (18) or twenty
(20) men, with Lieutenant Hunter, who as my Adjutant, took a very active and independent part in directing movements, and
from the strength of the cavalry is to be deducted one fourth (¼) as horse-holders, not actively engaged. The remaining men
of these Companies were employed with the pack train. The number of Indians charging was difficult to determine in the timber,
but was supposed to be not less than one hundred (100) well armed and well mounted warriors.
Coming down with the body of the Command and the train, and being ignorant of the ground below, or of the exact position of
the Indians, I conceived that by going over and around the South point of the rock which formed the canon I should come in
upon their rear, and was nearly up to the top of the divide when I received the last message from Lieutenant Hunter. As it
would then be longer to go back, I kept on this course, but understanding that the canon must be clear I sent word for the
train to keep down through it as [page No. 562] an easier route. This message was unfortunately not delivered by my orderly,
and the train, following me around, did not arrive upon the field until sunset.
I reached the village, pushing ahead with companies "C" and "D," 3d Cavalry, leaving the Infantry to come up with the remaining
section of the Battery, in time to prevent a dash into it by a part of the Indians, who had made a circuit for the purpose
around the bend of the river on the right, to come in on Major Tarlton's rear. A few of them I believe, even got into it,
and attacked some men left there by Lieutenant Hunter as guard. Seeing the Indians in front in force on the opposite bank,
apparently about to charge, (the river being everywhere shallow, sandy, and easily fordable,) I at once deployed Companies
"C" and "D," dismounted, up to the high bank, thus covering Tarlton's right and rear, and some rapid skirmishing commenced.
This was done about the time that Major Tarlton fell back from the ridge he had occupied and the Battery was in rear of the
grove. Companies "C"' and "D" were officered by Brevet Captain Cain, and Lieutenants Hildeburn and King,—the latter of Company
"I." The Indians displayed their excellent horsemanship dashing round in circles, riding on the sides of their horses, waving
their shields, &c, but did not attempt to cross in our immediate front. They [page No.
563] seemed to be well and very fancifully dressed. The Infantry, under Captain Gageby, was hurried up at the double quick,
and deployed on the line of the river bank, enabling me to extend my lines, but it was evident from the conduct of the Indians,
and their reluctance to close, that any attempt to pursue them on foot would have been unavailing. They were well mounted,
and fled at every attempt to advance upon them. Our horses, had been giving out for several days past, and were in no condition
for a successful chase.
The Indians were reinforced, as was afterwards ascertained, by Kiowas from a village below, who could be seen riding down
from the bluffs and rapidly crossing the bottom and the river, and passing up into a canon back of the mountain and of the
ridge first held by Major Tarlton. From trees and rocks in the mouth of this they annoyed us very much by sharp-shooters and
one (1) man of Company "F," 37th Infantry, attached to Captain Gageby's Command, was thus mortally wounded.
During this desultory skirmishing, the destruction of the village was carried on; but when at the close of the day I was about
to withdraw the line to go into camp. Captain Gageby reported to me that his men could not retire from their present position
without many of them being picked off by these sharpshooters, and I therefore made arrangements [page No. 564] to dislodge
them. For this purpose, Companies "I," "G" and "D," 3d Cavalry, dismounted, under Major Tarlton were deployed forward over
the ridge, and around the larger rock which had concealed the Indians, who retired precipitately up the ca[~]non. They were
seen in numbers of a couple of hundred, and at the distance of about one hundred and fifty (150) yards received the repeated
volleys from the carbines of these three (3) companies. Many were seen to fall, but they managed to carry them all off. The
number hit this time was estimated at a dozen. Captain Monahan, with company "G," 3d Cavalry was on the left of this line
when deployed, and close to the mountain, and came suddenly upon a large party of Indians in a ravine, who had not observed
his advance. They rode off rapidly but were in a compact body, and their numbers were estimated at two hundred and fifty (250)
yards distance repeated volleys from the Spencer carbines were poured into them, many were seen to fall, estimated from twelve
(12) to twenty (20), and from the blood on the rocks and ground, and the riderless ponies seen running around (none being
found dead) it seems safe to presume that somebody was hurt. The line was then withdrawn without molestation and the camp
established in the bottom, in the form of a square, with strong pickets, about two hundred (200) yards in [page No. 565] front
of the village, the destruction of which was not completed until eleven (11) o'clock at night.
The village was situated at a fine spring directly under the mountain, and consisted of about sixty (60) lodges of the best
Indian workmanship, and nearly all new. They averaged about eighteen (18) poles and twenty (20) skins to each lodge, and were
described by the old prairie scouts as the finest they ever saw. Some of the lodges were not yet covered. The poles were long
and straight, and of red cedar, worth about a pony to the half dozen, and the skins were clean and well dressed. For an Indian
encampment everything looked very neat, comfortable, and in order; the supplies of every character, and very much such as
one would never expect to find there, were ample for six (6) months and more, and the evacuation was so sudden that the pot
was found boiling on the fire. An estimate of the stores captured and destroyed is as follows, and is believed to be quite
within limits: About twenty five thousand (25,000) pounds of dried Buffalo meat; one hundred and fifty (150) bushels of corn
(much of it Mexican); two hundred (200) sacks of corn meal; two hundred (200) sacks of wheat meal; a large quantity of white
sugar, coffee and soap; twelve hundred (1200) pounds of Killikinick Tobacco; one hundred (100) pounds of powder; two hundred
and fifty (250) pounds of lead; one [page No. 566] hundred (100) bullet moulds; three hundred (300) robes,—generally unfinished;
one hundred (100) skins; sixty (60) to eighty (80) axes and as many hatchets; cooking utensils of every kind, including one
hundred (100) brass kettles; one hundred and twenty (120) tin buckets; one hundred (100) iron pots; one hundred and twenty
(120) camp kettles; many knives, forks, and spoons; sixty (60) butcher knives; sixty (60) draw knives; sixty (60) hammers,
awls, rifles, pistols, shields, and lances. For packing all these things there were something like a thousand panniers, large
and small, very well made out of buffalo hide, most of the articles being in them, and two hundred (200) or three hundred
(300) lariats. There were even toys, dolls, and playthings for children, and many other articles not mentioned. The encampment
had been made but a few days, having come across from the Washita, and its trail was not one of those which we had been following
down the North Fork. The Indians succeeded in carrying off their families and most of their horses and their best robes, and
by not capturing their animals we were unable to carry off the larger part of the spoils. A good deal of the tobacco, meal
and dried meat was used in the Command, and the corn was fed to our horses, everything else being burned up, our transportation
being too limited and our animals too weak to carry off any amount. The ponies that we picked up were chiefly strays taken
on the route before and after the [page No. 568-567 omitted when numbering pages] fight, and were two or three dozen in number.
During the affair the Indians sent runners East and Southwest, and we fully expected that they would be strongly reinforced
attack us in the morning, and our preparations were made accordingly. In the night, they attempted, unsuccessfully to fire
the grass to windward of us, and fired into the pickets before daybreak, but made no assault. At dawn the command was moved
across the river and over the bluffs, and a dozen or so of the Indians riding into the old camps were saluted by a couple
of shells from the Battery.
This village represented about five hundred souls and the numbers engaged were variously estimated at from seventy five (75)
to one hundred and fifty (150) warriors. When reinforced by the Kiowas, there were perhaps two hundred (200) warriors present.
They themselves subsequently stated that they had five hundred (500) men on the ground, and that only one of them was hurt,
and a few ponies killed,—which are probably exaggerations. Throughout the affair the Indians used no arrows, firing only rifles
and pistols. Their loss may be fairly estimated at twenty (20) to twenty five (25) killed and a proportionate number wounded.
One of our Companies "F," 3d Cavalry, was on rear guard, which with many of the men detailed with the pack train, and all
of the citizens except the [page No. 569 ] nine (9) scouts and guides, was not engaged, and the capture of the village and
defeat of the Indians was almost entirely executed by the Companies under Major Tarlton, whose strength has already been mentioned.
The Indians we supposed from their work, to be Cheyennes, Kiowas, and Wet Moccasin Apaches but it was subsequently ascertained
to be a Comanche village. It was unfortunate for the complete success of the affair that we had no trail leading to this village,
nor were in any way previously aware of its existence. The Indians undoubtedly saw us passing on the 23d and 24th and from
the route taken by us, and our passing them without notice, probably supposed that we were travelling through the country.
Our circuitous course completely deceived them, and our encamping on the night of the 24th not more than five (5) miles distant
must have been quite unknown to them. Our camp of the 23d was also within striking distance and had we been aware of this
proximity the village might have been easily surprised and surrounded; and everything belonging to it captured or killed.
The difficulty of removing their large quantity of supplies was probably the reason that they did not strike camp before our
discovery of them.
The course to be pursued after this affair was a matter of some deliberation. Our presence in the country was now fully known,
as well as our hostile character, [page No. 570] and the surprise of the other villages would be very uncertain and difficult.
The presence of any other troops in the country was utterly unknown to us, and none were supposed to be near. Two (2) routes
presented themselves. One was to follow the great trail to the Southwest, and gradually to sweep around to the northward under
mesas of the Eastern edge of the Llano Estacado, known to afford places of resort for Indians, and thus to draw back to our
Depot. The other was to strike Eastward for the Canadian and to follow it up by Antelope Hills, (the Watchunkari of the Comanches,)
where we fully expected to find Indians. It will be remembered that we supposed ourselves to be upon the Washita. Our animals
were getting very weak, on poor grass without forage, and many had already been abandoned, and our rations were found to be
diminishing by loss and wastage more rapidly than the time left at our disposal. My orders directed me to "go down the Canadian
as far as possible," and the second route was finally determined upon, with the intention, if the supplies could be made to
hold out and nothing were found at Antelope Hills, to cross over to Wolf and follow it up to Monument Creek. With the new
supplies accumulated there a scout could be thence easily made south, down the Eastern edge of the Llano.
Accordingly after crossing the river [page No. 571] on the morning of the 26th, I pursued a course directly East, which in
a few miles crossed the River again, and I left it from its left bank. A few of the Indians followed us up this far, and one
(1) or two (2) still further, firing the prairie and raising smoke signals. North East, East, and South East were several
large detached ranges of Mountains, and I could not but suppose that these smokes were to warn other bands ahead of us. I
did not think that our horses were in condition to pursue Indians behind with any success.
The second day the course was changed more to the North East, and an old wagon road crossed, and supposed (but wrongly) to
be that from Fort Smith to Albuquerque. Each day the route was taken a little more to the north, passing by the West and North
ends of the Mountains, and some old trails, and quite fresh signs of war parties were met.
The 29th of December was passed in camp near a large, deep, muddy stream, during a severe, cold North East rain and snow storm,
which killed many of the animals, and broke them all down terribly.
On the 30th, the weather still continuing very cold and tempestuous, we moved over to and up the larger river and were about
going into camp, when four (4) men came up in rear on our trail [page No. 572] two (2) of them white and two (2) Indians,
and announced that they were scouts from Fort Cobb, only twenty (20) miles distant; that General Sheridan was there with his
Headquarters, and a large force, and that the river we were on was the Washita. They also gave us the first intelligence of
General Custer's fight of November 27th. I thereupon dispatched Lieutenant Hunter back with them to Fort Cobb, with an escort,
to inform General Sheridan of our proceedings and condition, and laid over
in camp during his absence upon muster-day. At this camp, Private von Cleve of Company "F," 37th Infantry died of wounds received
on the 25th, and was buried on the 1st. Our supplies were running so low that we were obliged to delay no longer, but to proceed
back, leaving Lieutenant Hunter to overtake us, but when crossing the river for the purpose an express arrived from General
Sheridan, informing me that eight (8) days rations would be sent out to us, directing me to hold on a short time, as the Cheyennes
and Arapahoes were coming in, and not to attack them if they passed me, and bringing also his letter to General Sherman in
relation to us, and his General Field Order, No. 7. This order appears somewhat in error as to the exact position of the captured
village. It stood in the Witchita Mountains, on the left bank of the North Fork of the Red River,—the Rio Arenosa of the Mexicans.
Lieutenant [page No. 573] Hunter arrived back on the same day, and the rations also arrived, but no forage. These rations
had to be made an extra issue to supply the losses. A second express in the evening directed me, after resting my animals,
to return to my Depot, and I was also verbally informed from General Sheridan, through Lieutenant Hunter, that if we were
needed again to take the field a messenger would be sent after us.
Accordingly on the morning of the 3d, the return march was taken up the left bank of the Washita, following the trails of
General Sheridan and Colonel Howe in 1866, and generally on the divide between that river and the Canadian to Antelope Hills.
Our progress was necessarily very slow, fourteen (14) or fifteen (15) miles only each day, with no grain, the grass without
substance, very poor and scarce, and the animals dying at an average rate of a dozen or more each day. By General Sheridan's
direction, all that gave out were shot, until within a couple of days of the Depot.
On January 6th, eighty (80) miles above Fort Cobb, I sent an express,—two (2) guides on the best mules we could pick out,
to Monument Creek, with orders for Harper's train to come out to meet us with rations and forage. Antelope Hills were passed
on the 9th, and on the 11th, on the Canadian, near the crossing of our trail of December 18th, two (2) [page No. 574] wagons
met us with supplies from the Depot, Harper's train not having arrived back there.
Monument Creek was reached on January 13th, and Harper's and Hickok's trains, with rations and forage from Fort Bascom, came
in there before us on the same day.
The loss of animals upon this scout was certainly great, but under the circumstances of the hard marches, severe cold weather,
and lack of grain and grass, could not perhaps have been otherwise. The substitute for forage of the bark of the cottonwood,
used by Indians in the winter, was not neglected. It was fed regularly and in abundance every night, when it could be procured,
but though eagerly devoured by the animals it did not seem to check their mortality.
The total number lost by starvation on the scout was as follows:
Of mules, the Battery lost twelve (12), and the train fifty two (52). The small proportion of Companies "A" and "I" will be
noticed; the former were all grays. Some Animals were also lost at other times during the Expedition, but not in such proportion.
At the Depot, [page No. 575] forage was found in abundance, and the animals that arrived were, with a few exceptions, saved.
With all the care that was taken in packing, I regret to state that many of the mules became sore-backed. Every pains have
been taken with them since the return, and I have hopes that with time and proper treatment all will become well. I think
that a greater number of mules should be allowed for packing purposes, and that not more than a hundred (100) pounds, perhaps
less, should be loaded on each to prevent chafing.
Events at the Depot during our absence on the scout were marked by the arrival and departure of trains from Fort Bascom, the
accession of enlisted men to Captain Carpenter's Company, bringing his force up to forty odd, and the appearance in the vicinity
of General Carr's Command from Fort Lyon. This consisted of about seven (7) companies of the 5th Cavalry, and four (4) Companies
of the 10th Cavalry, under General Penrose, 3d Infantry, which encamped on the Canadian fifteen (15) miles above Monument
Creek, on December 28th, and returned to the Northward to its Depot, reported to be about sixty (60) miles off, January 7th.
It was understood that General Carr was on his way Southward to the very country where we had scouted, and where he was expected
by General Sheridan, and that he returned for forage and rations. I did not have [page No. 576] communication with him.
The recuperation of the animals, and reorganization of the trains, were the main points attended to at Monument Creek Depot,
awaiting possible instructions from General Sheridan, of District Headquarters. In the absence of any message from the former,
I certainly understood that any further or distant scout-
ing by my Command was not expected by him, but that I was at liberty to make such movements as I might deem proper.
On January 19th, were received, by express, the dispatches relating to the Southern Comanches, and their offer of surrender.
Their location I conjectured to be under the Eastern or Southern edges of the Llano, and if the former, due south of Monument
Creek, and perhaps not more than one hundred and fifty (150) or two hundred (200) miles distant. The idea at once presented
itself of making a scout after them, which I was anxious to do, and it was weighed long and deliberately, and discussed in
every point of view, before I concluded to abandon it. Success required me to find them with certainty at not more than one
hundred and fifty (150) miles distance, or ten (10) days march, of which I could not be at all sure. My animals were very
much broken down, and one hundred and fourteen (114) Cavalry men dismounted, [page No. 577] and of flour and hard bread, after
the 23d, there were found to be but twelve (12) days rations left, and none was known to be en-route to the Depot, nor could
it be gotten down in less than twenty (20) days. By abandoning the Depot, sending express for the flour, and making a march
in a circuit over the Llano, which was practicable, the trip could have been made with perhaps not more than three (3) or
four (4) days to go without the bread rations, depending for its success, however, upon finding the Indians in a definite
locality. It would not have been practicable to have accompanied them to Fort Cobb.
After a careful consideration of all the points, I concluded to give up this scout, and, having received no word from General
Sheridan, to return with the Command to Fort Bascom.
I regret that the Expedition should terminate with so little success, due mainly, no doubt, to errors of judgment upon my
part. The hardships and privations of the campaign were cheerfully borne by the Officers and soldiers under me, and no lack
of effort upon their part caused my failure in my plans.
My thanks are especially due to Lieutenant Hunter, for valuable assistance and advice, and for the zeal and energy displayed
by him in forwarding the objects of the Expedition. [page 578]
Your obedient servant,
(Signed) A. W. Evans,
Brevet Lieut. Colonel, U.S.A., etc.21
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