By Carolyn Thomas Foreman.
Muskogee was at one time the home of General Eli Lundy Huggins, but that officer was of such a modest demeanor that few persons outside of his close friends knew of his distinguished career in the United States Army during the Civil War, campaigns among the wild Indians, the Philippine Insurrection and the Boxer Uprising in China.
Eli L. Huggins, the son of the Rev. A. G. Huggins who was the first white settler of Nicollet County, Minnesota, was born in Schuyler County, Illinois, August 1, 1842. He left Hamlin University at the age of eighteen to enlist under the first call for troops at the beginning of the Civil War1 He became a private and then corporal of Company E, Second Minnesota Infantry July 5, 1861 and served in that regiment until July 14, 1864; private Company K, First Minnesota Artillery February 16, 1865 until he was honorably mustered out as a first lieutenant September 27, 1865. He entered the Regular Army as a second lieutenant of the Second Artillery with rank from February 23, 1866; was promoted to first lieutenant December 24, 1866 and transferred to the Second Cavalry April 11, 1879. He became a captain April 23, 1879.2
Young Huggins participated in the battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky, January 19, 1862 where the Confederate army was utterly routed and Gen. F. K. Zollicoffer was killed; siege of Corinth, Mississippi, May, 1862; Perryville, Kentucky, October 8, 1862 where the Union army was commanded by Maj. Gen. Alexander McDowell McCook and the Confederate troops fought under Gen. Braxton Bragg, Gens. B. F. Cheatham and Simon B. Buckner and included General Wheeler's Cavalry; Chapel Hill, Tennessee on March 25, and 26, 1863; Chickamauga, Georgia, September 10, 1863, where he was wounded three times and captured by the enemy. He was discharged at Nashville, Tennessee, September 27, 1865.
Huggins received an appointment in the Regular Army upon the recommendation of William Windom, Member of Congress from Minnesota, and was assigned to the Second Artillery as a second lieutenant February 23, 1866; he was promoted to the grade of first lieutenant December 24, 1866. For several years he was on duty with troops on the Pacific coast, Alaska and then on the Atlantic Coast. He was transferred to the Second Cavalry April 11, 1879 and became a captain on the twenty-third of the same month. The cavalry service called for duty in the West and for a long term his regiment served in Montana and was almost constantly engaged in campaigns against hostile Indians.
On Friday, October 18, 1867, Gen. Lovell Harrison Rousseau took over Alaska from Russia.3 Captain Huggins was stationed with his battery at Alcatraz Island, California when he was ordered to conduct Battery G to Fort Kodiak, Alaska, and he joined that post June 6, 1868. He remained there until June 22, 1870 when he was assigned to detached service at St. Paul's Island, in that same territory. He rejoined his battery at the Presidio, San Francisco, November 19, 1870. The objects of the occupation of the newly acquired territory by United States troops were: ". . . to prevent, in the absence of any organized civil government, any abuse by the settlers, traders and fishermen upon the natives of the Island, and second, to keep in check and overawe, by an exhibition of military force, the more barbarous natives of Kenay and Alaska Peninsula, who visit Kadiac for purposes of trade."4
During his sojourn in Alaska young Huggins wrote interesting letters to his sisters, telling of his life and surroundings in the far-away territory. The service was tedious at times but he occupied it in studying Russian in which he became so proficient that he was able to read a novel in that language. "I suppose my russian will soon rust away after I leave Alaska as there will very little opportunity for its use . . . unless I had
3Rousseau, a native of Kentucky, had served two terms as a Member of Congress from that state. He resigned his seat March 3, 1867 upon being appointed a brigadier general in the Regular Army (Biographical Congressonal Directory, 1774 to 1903, Washington, 1903, p. 599).
4Men and Things in Alaska by Lieut. E. L. Huggins, The Citizen, Minneapolis and St. Paul, November 26, 1874.
influence enough to get attached to the suite of the minister to the russian capital, which I should very much like . . . I had a call today from a russian priest and his daughter. They arrived here a few days ago in a small sloop from one of the Aleutian Islands, and are waiting for an opportunity to go to San Francisco, and from thence to Russia. The daughter is young, rather good looking, and I think quite good natured, but never having been out of Alaska is quite timid with strangers. She seemed to be quite intelligent and is I think almost half native being not quite as dark as a sioux half breed. She parted her hair on one side when we first came here, but a good many of them part it in the middle now. The priests from the time of their ordination till their death never allow scissors or razor to touch their hair or beards. They part their hair in the middle, and some of them have hair reaching to their waists. They frequently have it done up in a knot, when at home, but when visiting or conducting services they always have it hanging about them. This with their long grey beards, and ample robes, reaching to the ankles gives them a very venerable appearance. They say that a priest being in the service of God should bear the image of God as nearly as possible, man being formed after the image of God. No one who is blind or lame, or marred in any way can conduct services in a russian church. When the priest enters any house he pauses at the door and invokes a blessing on all the inmates before entering. When he shakes hand with any of his flock, he takes the man's hand in his left, makes the sign of the cross on the palm with his right forefinger, and solemnly repeats the words, 'In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy ghost,' both priest and parishioner pulling off their hats until the ceremony is over. When any russian hears of the death of a friend or acquaintance, by letter or otherwise, he or she makes the sign of the cross, and says devoutly, 'May he receive a heavenly kingdom.' . . . "5
On December 20 he wrote: " . . . Winter has set in with more severity than last year, but much milder than our Minnesota winters. The coldest weather so far is sixteen degrees above zero." The brig Olga left for Sitka that day and she took
away ". . . about half of the soldiers, whose time is out, so that the place will be in every way much quieter than it was last winter.
"I have some rose trees in my room which I think will bloom this winter. I had some very beautiful roses about six weeks ago. The doctor says that they poison the air, but I have felt no bad effects yet from them. . ."
From San Francisco, April 18, 1870 Huggins wrote his sister ". . . I expect to go to Kodiac in the Newberne, a Govt vessel, with room for thirty passengers. There will be three officers families on board, and about ten or twelve officers . . . I shall go by way of Victoria . . . also by way of Sitka, Tongass, and Wrangell . . . The desire to see these places makes me more ready to go than I would otherwise be . . ." On May 7, 1870 Huggins wrote from Nanaimo, Vancouver Island: "The Steamer Newberne arrived here from San Juan Island day before yesterday morning and we have been taking in coal ever since. Nanaimo is a small english town on the north end of Vancouver island. It is a very pretty place surrounded with a forest of evergreens. Its only importance is the coal mines near the coast. There is a British man of war in the harbour, the officers of which have visited us twice, and we are going to return the compliment this morning. There are three churches in Nanaimo. We visited the Indian village yesterday. It is a mile from the town. There are about four hundred of them, but at present the population is nearly all absent fishing for salmon so we saw hardly any one but old people and small children. They live in enormous one story houses built of puncheons which they hew out themselves. The chiefs house is 240 feet long & eighty feet wide, but it is very poorly roofed and has no floor. Over the door outside are two hideous images carved out of wood, and painted red, stuck up about four feet from the ground. There are two small churches in the indian village one methodist and one episcopalian.
"We expect to sail again this evening and will probably reach Tongass island where there is a military post, on the 11th. The voyage so far had been just like a pleasure excursion."
In a letter to one of his sisters, written July 25, 1870, the officer recounts a journey to Walrus Island from Saint Paul Island where he was staying. ". . . Walrus Island [is] sixteen miles from here. It was a cold dreary trip in an open boat, but I was well paid for it. Besides myself were Count Veritenikoff and five natives rowed the boat. When we left here at three oclock in the morning we hoped to sail most of the way, but the wind being contrary the natives had to row most of the way. We arrived at Walrus Island at nine in the morning. The island is half a mile long and an eighth of a mile in width. At this time of the year it is covered with swarms of gulls and other aquatic fowl who go there to breed. When we landed on the island, they rose in great clouds, and made a noise like that of a high wind in a forest. We could hardly step without breaking the eggs which almost covered the ground. The natives went to work and filled the boat with eggs as full as it would hold. I am not fond of gull eggs, but can eat them at a pinch. They are dark colored & have a rank flavor. There were hundreds of walrus on the rocks when we arrived there, but after shooting a few of them the rest took to the water and did not come back until afternoon, when I shot one and took the tusks. The tusks are two feet long. The walrus is an immense animal, almost as large as an elephant. At noon the natives made a fire of walrus blubber, and made tea. They also cooked eggs and seal meat. We left Walrus Island early in the afternoon, and reached home at seven oclock. The natives were obliged to row all the way back against the wind and tide current, and were almost exhausted when we got back . . . There is a good deal of sickness among the natives . . . Dr. Gildersleeve attributes this to their underground dwellings which are always damp and moldy. They live in these underground abodes, not as I used to suppose on account of extreme cold, but because they can not get wood on any of the Aleutian Islands to build houses. These islands, St. Paul and St. George, were not inhabited when the Russians discovered them. The Russians brought natives from various islands to live on them. There is one family here from Kamschatka. They are very much darker than the Aleutians, but I think they are finer looking. They have been here thirty years and speak the Aleutian language . . . "
To his sister Hattie young Huggins wrote from St. Paul Island, September 10, 1870— ". . . I often wish that my sisters could be here . . . to accompany me in one of my walks. It would astonish you to see the young seals . . . The young seals which were born in June and July are learning to swim now. It is a singular fact that a young seal cannot swim, and would drown as soon as an infant if left alone in the water. They are now (the youngest of them) about six weeks old, and as tall as a large cat, but three times as heavy. The old males are as large as a horse and have a mane like that of an old buffalo. They are a formidable looking animal, and if any one who had never seen or heard of them before should suddenly come upon them it would frighten him as much as a pack of lions. They are not dangerous though for they never fight when they have a chance to run, and they move so slowly on shore that a small child can easily keep out of their way. I take some long walks when the weather is fine. Little blue foxes come out of their holes and bark at me as I go by. They live on seal meat.
"Berries are ripe on the island now and I see native women and girls out picking them every day. There are two kinds of berries. I do not like either of them much except preserved. One kind is a good deal like a red raspberry only the seeds are much larger and coarser. The other kind is like huckleberries. The women complain that the foxes eat more than their share of the berries. Some of the natives are quite industrious and anxious to improve their condition and be 'alle same Americansky,' but there is not much chance of that as long as they are obliged to live in underground houses and burn seal blubber for fuel. It makes a very rank black smoke which ruins everything in the house. There are no trees on the island so they will have to continue as they are for a time yet. I think hardy trees would grow here, and have written to the bureau of Agriculture in Washington to send either young sprouts or seeds of maple, cottonwood &c. I think if there is any one here to take an interest in the matter after I leave they can have large groves twenty years hence.
"The natives here will have to live on seal meat if a vessel does not come soon. The sugar and tobacco is all gone already, which to them is a greater misfortune than if the flour was all gone. They have to make their beer of berries alone now. It is
quite intoxicating, but they like it better when they have sugar to put in it. Oct. 9, 1870 A steamer from San Francisco arrived this morning and I am ordered to San Francisco . . . "6
Upon the request of Gov. Horace Austin of Minnesota, Huggins was sent to the university of that state where he served from July 30, 1872 to July 11, 1875. He was stationed at Summerville, South Carolina and Raleigh, North Carolina; commanded the post at Fort Johnston in the same state; served at Washington, D. C., at Fort McHenry, Maryland, and was in command of Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania until October, 1878.
His next service was with the Second Cavalry in Montana (he joined at Milk River in July, 1879)7 at Fort Keogh where he remained until November 12, 1880. On April 1, 1880 he was in command of troops in an engagement with the Indians at O'Fallon's Creek, Montana and Captain Huggins described the campaign as follows: ". . . In one of these pursuits in March 1880 in the region between Missouri and the Yellowstone, every member of my troop was frozen, some of them seriously . . . brought into Fort Keogh at different times more than a thousand Indians, who surrendered in the forks of the Missouri & Yellowstone. Among these Indians were Rain-in-the-Face,8 Spotted Eagle, and Iron Shield."9
Captain "Huggins was awarded a Medal of Honor for most distinguished gallantry in action against hostile Ogallala Sioux Indians near O'Fallon's Creek, Montana, April 1, 1880, with his troop, surprising the Indians in their strong position and fighting
7". . . As a Captain in the 2nd Cavalry, I took part in the Campaign of 1879 against Sitting Bull. I commanded Troop 'E' 2nd Cav in the engagement with hostile Sioux near Milk River, Montana on the 6th or 7th of July 1879 . . ." (Huggins to Adjutant general from Fort Myer, Virginia, January 16, 1903).
8Rain-in-the-Face, a noted Sioux warrior, was born near the forks of the Cheyenne River, North Dakota, about 1835. He led a turbulent life and took part in the Little Bighorn fight. He was badly wounded in that battle and rendered permanently lame; he followed Sitting Bull to Canada, where he remained until 1880. His death occurred at the Standing Rock reservation, North Dakota, September 14, 1905 (Handbook of American Indians, Washington, 1912, vol. 2, p. 353).
until dark with great boldness."10 The Medal of Honor awarded Captain Huggins for his exploits had been recommended by Gen. Nelson A. Miles and it bore the inscription "The Congress to Captain Eli L. Huggins, 2d U. S. Cav. O'Fallons Creek, Mont., Apr. 1, 1880." Huggins was also commended for his gallantry by General Sheridan and he and Lieut. Lloyd M. Brett were the only surviving officers who took part in the engagement.
"As this gallant action against hostile Indians was performed under many difficulties and hardships, and was so well executed as to receive the merited commendation of the Department commander, and reflect credit upon the service . . . " General Miles recommended that Huggins be brevetted. In the brush with the enemy one soldier was killed, an Indian was wounded and five were captured as well as all the pony herd of the Indians.11
Gen. Philip H. Sheridan wrote concerning Huggins on March 24, 1880: "A party of thirty or forty Sioux ran off about 30 ponies belonging to enlisted Crow scouts at Fort Custer, Montana. Forty-four officers and men went in pursuit and they traveled sixty-five miles in eleven hours. They overtook and engaged the hostiles, recaptured sixteen of the stolen stock. Captain Huggins with Troop E of the Second Cavalry, from Fort Keogh surprised the Indian camp on April first, captured five Indians, forty-six ponies and some arms." General Miles' report to the secretary of war for 1880 (p. 74) stated: "Captain E. L. Huggins, 2nd Cavalry . . . leaving Keogh to intercept these Indians on the Rosebud, struck their trail . . . followed persistently until the hostiles were overtaken on a branch of O'Fallon Creek, an engagement followed resulting in all their stock and 5 Indians being captured."
On December 28, 1880 Adjutant general R. C. Drum directed Captain Huggins to report in person to Brigadier general George Crook of the Ponca Commission as "it is understood that Capt.
10Adjutant General's Office, Old Files Division. C. P. Summerall, General Chief of Staff to Miss Harriet Huggins . . . October 31, 1929; Historical Register . . . of the United States Army, Heitmann, Washington, 1903, p. 552.
Huggins is conversant with the language of the Sioux Indians, and he may be of service to your commission . . . "12
Captain Huggins was stationed in the Adjutant general's office in Washington, on special duty to January 25, 1881; at Fort Snelling, Minnesota to May 18, 1881 and with his regiment at Fort Keogh commanding an escort to a surveying party in the field from May to October, 1882. General Miles requested that Captain Huggins be ordered to report to him for duty as Acting Assistant Inspector General of the Department of the Columbia.13
Gen. Felix Agnus, editor of the Baltimore American addressed Hon. Redfield Proctor, Secretary of War, on July 19, 1889, on behalf of Captain Huggins: " . . . Captain Huggins speaks French readily, has made a special study of French literature, and has made excellent translations from that language . . . ." and Agnus recommended the assignment of the talented officer to witness the maneuvers of the French army.
Huggins was with his regiment at Fort Sherman, Idaho to June 7, 1890; his file in the War Department contains an extract of a letter from Headquarters, Department of Dakota, June 4, 1890, which reports: ". . . marches of extraordinary length at the most inclement season of the year . . . excellent conduct of affairs by Captain Huggins . . . rapidity of pursuit [of hostile Indians continued after their meal ration had become exhausted and little else had been left for them to subsist upon . . . jaded condition of their animals, until the enemy had been overtaken and encountered; the capture of the enemy herd, and of five prisoners of his party; and the gallantry displayed by Captain
12Ibid. The Ponca Commission was appointed by President Hayes and consisted of Brigadier general George Crook, Brigadier general Nelson A. Miles, William Stickney of Washington, D. C. and Walter Allen of Newton, Massachusetts. These men were directed to ". . . proceed to the Indian Territory as soon as may be, and after conference with the Ponca tribe of Indians, to ascertain the facts in regard to their removal and present condition . . ." The commission reported, January 25, 1881, that after a careful investigation the conclusion was reached that the removal of the Poncas from; their reservation in Dakota and Nebraska was injudicious and without sufficient cause; that the lands from which the Indians had been removed had been ceded to them by the United States, that they had violated no condition of the treaty and that a portion of the tribe had succeeded in getting back to their native country where they were on friendly terms with all other Indian tribes, including the Sioux (Report of commissioner Indian affairs, 1881).
Huggins . . . merits and receives from the Department commander the expression of his highest commendation." Huggins served as aide-de-camp to Gen. Nelson A. Miles at Chicago to November 18, 1894, at headquarters, Department of the East, Governor's Island, New York to April 25, 1895. The next year he was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas, in command of his troop. Major Huggins was granted a leave of absence and on September 18, 1897 he sailed from New York for Paris. He was next on duty with the Sixth Cavalry at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas until April 19, 1898.
Upon the breaking out of the Spanish-American War, Huggins applied, May 16, 1898, for appointment as colonel of a regiment of volunteers "to be composed of men 'Immune' from yellow fever . . . " He had served his country for nearly thirty-seven years and he was highly recommended by Members of Congress and army officers. One of these was J. C. Breckinridge, Inspector General of the army, in which he said (May 16, 1898) that Huggins had "distinction for marked ability, conduct and courage . . . " On May 24, 1898 he was appointed colonel of the Eighth United States Volunteer Infantry; March fifth the next year he was honorably mustered out of the volunteer service and returned to his rank in the Regular Army as major of the Sixth Cavalry to which he had been appointed January 13, 1897. In August, 1900 with his command he sailed for China where he participated in subduing the Boxer Uprising. The next year he was lieutenant colonel of the Third Cavalry and served in the Philippines at Pasay Cavalry Barracks, Manila, at Santa Anna, Vigan and Lavag, Philippine Islands to December 24, 1901. He was transferred to the Thirteenth Cavalry November 6, 1901 and became colonel of his old regiment, the Second Cavalry, on the sixteenth of the same month. He commanded the regiment at Fort Myer, Virginia until February 23, 1903 when he was retired.
The day before his retirement the gallant officer was commissioned a brigadier general. A perusal of his papers in the War Department explains his high standing in the service. He was reported as ". . . a man of far more than average intelligence and attainments." His "Attention to duty: Excellent"; his "Disciplin: Good; Care of Men: Very good." When he was aide-de-camp to General Miles he was reported as "Single, ac-
complished, zealous attention to duty. Good conduct and habits, efficient. Capacity to command good." General Huggins spoke French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.
Upon his retirement General Huggins and his sister, Mrs. J. S. Holtzlaw, moved to Muskogee, Indian Territory, where he had invested heavily in real estate. His home was at 1609 West Okmulgee Avenue and he was a most estimable citizen and delightful neighbor.
In 1890 Captain Huggins published a volume of poems called Winona, a Dakota Legend. In addition to the poem which gives the book its title are many original verses as well as translations from French and Spanish. Shortly before his death at San Diego, California, on October 22, 1929 General Huggins published an article in the American Mercury in which he contributed his knowledge to the mooted question of the Custer massacre.
Upon the death of General Huggins the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Gen. C. P. Summerall, wrote a sketch of his service in which he said: "The military career of General Huggins, extending over a period of more than forty years, was distinguished by gallantry in action, devotion to duty, and efficiency and reliability in the performance of all tasks assigned to him. The Medal of Honor awarded him bears ample testimony to his bravery and fearlessness as a soldier. His death, which is deeply regretted throughout the service, marks the passing of another officer from the rapidly disappearing ranks of veterans of the Civil War."