previous next

Scouting among the Indians.

--From the Indian expedition, Shayenne River, Dacotah, the correspondent of the Springfield Journal writes at date of July eleventh:

There are many, doubtless, who imagine that the thrilling tales of the experiences and adventures of scouts, as related in books of romance and in newspaper columns, have no counterpart in actual life at the present time. But such an idea is far from the truth. From the narratives almost daily of the scouts connected with this expedition, I could weave many a story of reality that would be quite as exciting as some of the fictitious monstrosities that are agonized into the weekly literary journals. Probably no scout organization for Indian warfare was ever more complete than that now employed in the Sioux war by General Sibley. The force numbers seventy, one half of whom are whites, and the other half Indians and half-breeds. If an Eastern man wanted to see a motley company of the oldest traders, most experienced hunters, and most cunning and daring Indians in the North-West, he could find them nowhere so well as in this very camp of scouts. They are men who never speak of danger, and who look upon a horseback ride of one hundred miles on the prairies as a mere common-place trip. Major Joseph Brown, the most noted Indian trader in all this region of country, and a well-known politician, editor, and adventurer in the North-west, is in command of the force, and most skilfully he conducts the operations. There are two companies of scouts, which are on duty on alternate days and nights. One of them is commanded by a man whose entire family was massacred by the Sioux Indians last fall, and the man who begged the privilege, which was granted, of cutting the rope at the execution of the thirty-eight Indians at Mankato last winter. He told me his story with tears in his eyes, and concluded by pledging his life even to the avenging of the murder of his family. The other division is commanded by an adventurous and shrewd frontiersman, a man who knows every warpath or Indian trail in all the territory.

Among the Indians are some of the most sagacious Chippewas, Sioux, and half-breeds in the Indian territory. Some of them have been captured at different [64] times by our troops, and some are of the friendly or farmer Indians. Scouting is no child's play with them, as they are sure of a terrible death if captured by the hostile Sioux. Two of them are men who helped Mr. Riggs and the families of the mission at Yellow Medicine to escape from the savages last fall. Other-day, who was formerly a leading chief of the Sioux, and who is now a farmer near St. Paul, was expected to join the force, but failed for some reason. The scouts camp in low tents just high enough to creep into, and are constantly at work at their dangerous and tedious tasks.

I said that they had wild experiences. A few days ago, four of them had wandered over on to the Coteau Ridge, twenty miles from camp, expecting to find Indian lodges there, by reason of a war-club which had been found and interpreted. After they left camp, another party of twenty left for another locality, intending to be gone through the night. While the smaller company was wandering through the bushes, they suddenly came upon the remains of a recent fire, and near by were fresh moccasin tracks. They did not doubt the presence of Indians, and moved cautiously. At last, in the distance, they heard the tread of horses' feet, and then the crackling of bushes. They put spurs to their horses and started for the heights of the Cotteau Ridge. Finally they dismounted in an open space, got their carbines in readiness, and awaited the approach. But instead of one direction, their pursuers seemed to be coming in from every side, and to be constantly increasing. Fearing lest they should be overpowered by numbers, four took to flight again, and then there was a long and sharp chase of miles through the darkness. But the pursuers gained, and the four dismounted again and waited for the worst. The party soon came up, and fortunately there was a recognition before shots were exchanged. The men of both companies were scouts, and had thus been manoeuvring for Indian warfare. Such meetings are not infrequent.

The scouts have found quite a number of bodies of persons who were massacred last fall. A few days since they found a body with a purse of gold upon it. They have all sorts of experiences, dodging about in Indian style, leaving fictitious and deceitful signs, meeting herds of buffalo and elk, and hunting for forage and water. They bring in all sorts of trophies. One night they discovered an old Indian pack ox, that looks some as I imagine the infernal bovines ought to, and yesterday a nest of young eagles, a pemican and wolf were brought in. Their life is a hard one, but they enjoy it. It is a rich treat to hear their stories of experience and adventure while engaged as fur traders and hunters on the prairies. One of the Indian scouts, Antoine by name, has offered to carry the mail to and from the expedition throughout the campaign, whether it be one hundred or three hundred miles, and however dangerous the venture. He wants the privilege of killing one horse to every trip, and good pay for his labor, which he will be sure to get. He cannot be induced to speak of any danger. It is to his pluck that I am indebted for this opportunity to send a letter. He is an old Red River Indian, and came into camp in a genuine Pembina cart a few days since.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Cherokee Indians (2)
Sibley (1)
Riggs (1)
Joseph Brown (1)
Antoine (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July 11th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: