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Doc. 209.-the battle with the Sioux.


Colonel Sibley's despatch.

Wood Lake, near Yellow Medicine, September 23.
To His Excellency, Gov. Ramsey:
sir: I left the camp at Fort Ridgley on the nineteenth inst., with my command, and reached this point early in the afternoon of the twenty-second. There have been small parties of Indians each day in plain sight, evidently acting as scouts for the main body. This morning I had determined to cross the Yellow Medicine River, about three miles distant, and there await the arrival of Capt. Rogers's company of the Seventh regiment, which was ordered by me from New-Ulm, to join me by a forced march, the presence of the company there being unnecessary by the arrival there of another company, a few days previous.

About seven o'clock this morning, the camp was attacked by about three hundred Indians, who suddenly made their appearance and dashed down toward us, whooping and yelling in their usual style, and firing with great rapidity.

The Renville Guards, under Lieutenant Gaman, were sent by me to check them, and Major Welch of the Third regiment, was instantly in line with his command, with his skirmishers in the advance, by whom the savages were gallantly met, and after a conflict of a serious nature, repulsed.

Meanwhile, another portion of the Indian force passed down a ravine on the right, with a view to outflank the Third regiment, and I ordered Lieut.-Colonel Marshall, who, with the five companies of the Seventh regiment, and who was ably seconded by Major Bradley, to advance to its support, with one six-pounder under the command of Captain Hendricks, and I also ordered two companies of the Sixth regiment to reenforce him.

Lieut.-Colonel Marshall advanced at a double quick, amidst a shower of balls from the enemy, which fortunately did little damage to his command; and after a few volleys, he led his men to a charge, and cleared the ravine of savages.

Major McLaren, with Capt. Wilson's company, took position on the extreme left of the camp, where he kept at bay a party of the enemy who were endeavoring to gain the rear of the camp, and finally drove them back.

The battle raged for about two hours, the six-pounder and mountain howitzer being used with great effect, when the Indians--repulsed at all points with great loss — retired with great precipitation.

I regret to state that many casualties occurred on our side. The gallant Major Welch was badly wounded in the leg, and Captain Wilson, of the Sixth regiment, was severely bruised by a nearly spent ball in the shoulder. Four of our men were killed, and between thirty and forty wounded, most of them, I am rejoiced to say, not severely.

The loss of the enemy, according to the statement of a half-breed named Joseph Campbell, who visited the camp under a flag of truce, was thirty killed and a large number wounded. We found and buried fourteen of the bodies, and as the habit of the Indians is to carry off the bodies of their slain, it is not probable that the number told by Campbell was exaggerated.

The severe chastisement inflicted upon them has so far subdued their ardor that they sent a flag of truce into the camp to express the sentiment of the Wahpetons, composing a part of the attacking force, and to state that they were not strong enough to fight us and desired peace, with permission to take away their dead and wounded. [616] I replied that when the prisoners were delivered up it would be time enough to talk of peace, and that I would not grant their permission either to take their dead or wounded.

I am assured by Campbell that there is serious depression in the Indian camp, many having been opposed to the war, but driven into the field by the more violent. He further stated that eight hundred Indians were assembled at the Yellow Medicine, within two miles of the camp, but that the greater part took no part in the fight. The intention of Little Crow was to attack us last night, but he was overruled by others, who told him if he was a brave man he ought to fight the white man by daylight. I am fully prepared against night attack, should it be attempted, although I think the lesson received by them today will make them very cautious for the future.

I have already adverted to the courage and skill of Lieut.-Colonel Marshall, and Majors Welch and Bradley, to which I beg leave to add those of the officers and men under their respective commands. Lieut.-Colonel Averill and Major McLaren were equally prompt in their movements in preparing the Sixth regiment for action, and were both under fire for some time. Captains Grant and Bromley shared the dangers of the field with Lieut.-Colonel Marshall's command, while Capt. Wilson with his command rendered efficient service. The other companies of the Sixth regiment were not engaged, having been held in position to defend the rear of the camp, but it was difficult to restrain their ardor, so anxious were officers and men to share with their comrades the perils of the field.

To Lieut.-Colonel Fowler, my A. A.A. G., I have been greatly indebted for aid in all my movements — his military knowledge and ability being invaluable to me, and his assistance in to-day's affair particularly so. To Major Forbes, Messrs. Patch, Greig and McLeod, of my staff, who carried my orders, I must also acknowledge myself under obligations for their activity and zeal; while to Major Brown, also of my staff, though suffering from illness, it would be injustice not to state that he aided me materially by his exertions and his advice. The medical staff of the several regiments were cool and expert in rendering their professional aid to the wounded. Assistant Surgeon Seigneuret, attached to my staff, is to be commended for his skill and diligence.

I am very much in want of bread, rations, six-pounder ammunition, and shells for the howitzer, and unless soon supplied I shall be compelled to fall back, which, under present circumstances, would be a calamity, as it would afford time for the escape of the Indians with their captives. I hope a large body of cavalry is before this on their way to join us. If I had been provided with five hundred of this description of force to-day, I venture the assertion that I could have killed the greater part of the Indians, and brought the campaign to a successful close.

Rev. Mr. Riggs, Chaplain of the expedition, so well known for his knowledge of the character and language of the Indians, has been of great service to me, since he joined my command.

Very respectfully, your ob't servant,

H. H. Sibley, Colonel Commanding.

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