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Doc. 161.-battle of White Stone Hill, Dakota Territory.

General Sully's report.

headquarters Indian expedition, camp at mouth of Lttle Sheyenne River, Sept. 11, 1863.
Major: The last report I had the honor to send you was from the mouth of this Little Sheyenne River, bearing date August sixteenth, 1863; since which time my movements have been too rapid and the danger of sending any communication such that it has been impossible for me to do so. I therefore have the honor to report my movements from last report up to date.

On the morning of the nineteenth the steamer I was waiting for with supplies finally arrived. She was immediately unloaded, and all the baggage of the officers and men of the command was sent down by her to the depot at Fort Pierre, together with every man who was in the least sick or not well mounted. By this I reduced my force considerably, and was enabled to transport with the wretched mules that had been furnished me about twenty-three days rations and forage enough to keep these transportation animals alive, depending on grass I might find to feed the cavalry and artillery horses. Luckily for me, I found the grazing north much better than I had dared to hope for.

On the twentieth were visited by one of the most terrific rain and hail storms I have seen. This stampeded some of my animals and a few were lost — they swam across the Missouri — and it also destroyed a quantity of my rations in the wagons, thereby causing some delay in the march; but I succeeded in getting off the afternoon of the twenty-first, and marched up the Little Sheyenne about eleven miles, the road being very heavy. The next day we marched only seven miles, camping on a slough on the prairie without wood. The next day we marched in a north-westerly direction to the outlet of Swan Lake. On the twenty-fourth we marched due north eighteen miles, and encamped on a small creek called Bois Cache. Here we came into the buffalo country, and I formed a hunting party for the command, which I had soon to disband, as they disabled more horses than buffalo. We continued our march north about twenty-two miles, and reached a small stream called Bird Arche Creek. This day the hunters succeeded in killing many buffalo, and reported that they saw Indians near the Missouri.

Early on the morning of the twenty-sixth, I sent out a small scouting party, who captured two squaws and some children, and brought them into me. These Indians reported that General Sibley had had a fight near the head of Long Lake, and that they were on their way to the agency at Crow Creek, but were lost, and were alone; but the scouts found tracks of lodges going up the Missouri. I therefore immediately detailed companies F and K of the Second Nebraska cavalry, under command of Captain La Boo, ordering them to go to the Missouri, and follow up the trail, with orders to capture some Indians if possible, and bring them in, so that I might get information; if they could not do that, to kill them and destroy the camps. I continued the march with the rest of the command that day, passing through large herds of buffalo, and was obliged to snake a march of thirty-five miles before I could reach water. The weather was very hot, and it was night before we reached camp on the Beaver River. [492]

On the twenty-seventh, I started late, having had some difficulty in crossing the river, making a march of five miles still in a northerly direction, and encamped on another branch of the same river. Company K of the Second Nebraska joined me this day, having been separated from the other company. The next day we had to make some deviations to the west on account of hills and sloughs, and made the outlet of Long Lake, a march of about twenty miles. way we saw numerous signs of Indians in large numbers having been recently there, and found an old lame Indian concealed in the bushes, who was well known by many of the men of the commmand as having for some years resided near Sioux City. He had the reputation of being what is called a “good Indian.” He stated that “his horse had been taken away from him and that he had been left there.” He looked almost starved to death. He gave me the following details, which have since mostly turned out to be correct; he stated

General Sibley had fought the Indians at the head of Long Lake, fifty miles north-east from me, some weeks ago; that he followed them down to the mouth of Apple Creek; that the Indians attacked him on the way, and that there was some skirmishing.

At Apple Creek, Sibley had another fight, and that in all the fights about fifty-eight Indians were killed; that General Sibley fortified his camp at Apple Creek, and after a while returned to James River; that a few days after General Sibley left, the Indians, who had their scouts out watching, recrossed the Missouri, and while doing so, discovered a Mackinaw boat on its way down. They attacked the boat, fought the entire day until sundown, sunk her, and killed all on board-twenty-one men, three women, and some children; that before she was sunk the fire from the boat killed ninety-one Indians and wounded many more; that a small war party followed Sibley some days, returned with the report that he had crossed the James River; then some of the Indians went north; the larger portion, however, went toward the head of Long Lake; and that he thought a portion of them were encamped on the Missouri River west of me.

The report was so much in keeping with the Indian mode of warfare, that, though it came from an Indian, I was led to give it some consideration, particularly the part that stated the Indians, after watching Sibley's return, recrossed when all danger was over, and went back to their nold hunting-grounds. Besides, the guides who were acquainted with the country, stated that “a large body of Indians could not live on the other side long, without going a great distance west; that always at this season of the year the Indians camped on the Ooteau, near the tributaries of the James, where the numerous lakes or springs kept the grass fresh; here the buffalo were plenty, and the lakes and streams full of fish; and that here they prepared their meat for the winter, moving to the Missouri where the fuel was plenty to winter.” I therefore determined to change my course toward the east, to move rapidly, and go as far as my rations would allow.

I felt serious alarm for the safety of Captain La Boo, who had but fifty men with him, and who had already been out over two days without rations. I encamped here for the next day, and sent out four companies of the Second Nebraska and of the Sixth Iowa, under command of Major Pearman, Second Nebraska, to hunt him up, and On the see if there were any Indians on the Missouri. The next day, however, Captain La Boo's company returned, having made a march of one hun dred and eighty-seven miles, living upon what buffalo and game they could kill, scouring the country to my left, overtaking the camp of ten lodges he was sent after, destroying them, but seeing no Indians.

This same day (twenty-ninth) I sent two companies of the Sixth Iowa to the mouth of Apple Creek. They reported on their return that they found the fortified camp of General Sibley, his trail, and his return trail toward the east; that they could see no signs of there having been any fight there, nor could they see the Mackinaw boat reported by the old Indian. This detachment was under command of Captain Cram, Sixth Iowa. The battalion of Major Pearman joined me before starting, having seen nothing, and, after a march of above ninety miles, through a country with no wood whatever, but with good grass and plenty of lakes of the most abominable water, on the third of September we reached a lake, where, on the plains near by, were the remains of a very large number of buffalo killed, some quite recently. Here I encamped to wait the reports of the commands I had out during the march, who every day discovered fresh signs of Indians, their lodge trails spread over the country, but all moving toward a point known to be a favorite haunt of the Indians. I had this day detailed one battalion of the Sixth Iowa, Major House commanding, and Mr. F. La Framboise as guide, to keep ahead of me five miles, and in case they saw a small band of Indians, to attack them, or take them prisoners. If they should find a large band, too large to successfully cope with, to watch the camp at a distance, and send back word to me, my intention being to leave my train under charge of a heavy guard, move up in the night-time so as to surround them, and attack them at day-break. But, for some reason satisfactory to the guide, he bore off much to my left, and came upon the Indians in an encampment of over four hundred lodges, some say six hundred, in ravines, where they felt perfectly secure, being full persuaded that I was still on my way up the Missouri. This is what the Indian prisoners say. They also state that a war party followed me on my way up in hopes of stampeding me; but this they could not do. I marched with great care, with an advance-guard and flankers ; the train in two lines sixty paces apart; the troops on each side; in front and centre myself, with one company and the battery; all the loose stock was kept between the lines of wagons. In this way I lost no animals on the campaign, except some [493] few, about a dozen, that got out of camp at night. Nor did the Indians, during all the trip, ever attack me or try to stampede me.

Major House, according to my instructions, endeavored to surround and keep in the Indians until word could be sent me; but this was an impossibility with his three hundred men, as the encampment was very large, mustering at least one thousand two hundred warriors. This is what the Indians say they had; but I, as well as every body in the command, say over one thousand five hundred. These Indians were partly Santees from Minnesota, Cutheads from the Coteau, Yanktonais and Blackfeet who belong on the other side of the Missouri; and, as I have since learned, Unkapapas, the same party who fought General Sibley, and destroyed the Mackinaw boat. Of this I have unmistakable proof from letters and papers found in camp and on the persons of some of the Indians, besides relics of the late Minnesota massacre; also from the fact that they told Mr. La Framboise, the guide, when he was surrounded by about two hundred of them, that “they had fought General Sibley, and they did not see why the whites wanted to come and fight them, unless they were tired of living and wanted to die.” Mr. La Framboise succeeded in getting away from them after some difficulty, and ran his horse a distance of more than ten miles to give me information-Major House, with his command, still remaining there. He reached me a little after four o'clock. I immediately turned out my command. The horses at the time were out grazing. At the sound of the bugle the men rushed with a cheer, and in a very few minutes saddled up and were in line. I left four companies and all the men who were poorly mounted in the camp, with orders to strike the tents and corral the wagons, and, starting off with the Second Nebraska on the right, the Sixth Iowa on the left, one company of the Seventh Iowa and the battery in the. centre, at a full gallop, we made the distance of over ten miles in much less than an hour.

On reaching near the ground, I found that the enemy were leaving and carrying off what plunder they could. Many lodges, however, were still standing. I ordered Colonel Furnas, Second Nebraska, to push his horses to the utmost, so as to reach the camp and assist Major House in keeping the Indians corraled. This order was obeyed with great alacrity, the regiment going over the plains at a full run. I was close upon the rear of the regiment with the Sixth Iowa. The Second Nebraska took the right of the camp, and was soon lost in a cloud of dust over the hills. I ordered Colonel Wilson, Sixth Iowa, to take the left, while I with the battery, one company of the Seventh Iowa, Captain Millard, and two companies of the Sixth Iowa, Major Ten Broeck commanding, charged through the centre of the encampment. I here found an Indian chief by the name of Little Solder with some few of his people. This Indian has always had the reputation of being a “good Indian” and friendly. I placed them under guard and moved on. Shortly after I met with the notorious chief Big Head and some of his men. They were dressed for a fight, but my men cut them off. These Indians, together with some of their warriors, mustering about thirty, together with squaws, children, ponies and dogs, gave themselves up, numbering over one hundred and twenty human beings. About the same time firing began about half a mile from me ahead, and was kept up, becoming more and more brisk, until it was quite a respectable engagement. A report was brought to me (which proved to be false) that the Indians were driving back some of my command. I immediately took possession of the hillocks near by, forming line and placing the battery in the centre on a high knoll. At this time night had about set in, but still the engagement was briskly kept up, and in the melee it was hard to distinguish my line from that of the enemy. The Indians made a very desperate resistance, but finally broke and fled, pursued in every direction by bodies of my troops. I would here state that the troops though mounted were armed with rifles, and, according to my orders, most of them dismounted and fought afoot, until the enemy broke, when they remounted and went in pursuit. It is to be regretted that I could not have had an hour or two more of daylight, for I feel sure if I had, I could have annihilated the ene my. As it was, I believe I can safely say I gave them one of the most severe punishments that the Indians have ever received. After night set in the engagement was of such a promiscuous nature that it was hard to tell what results would happen; I therefore ordered all the buglers to sound the “rally,” and building large fires, remained under arms during night collecting together my troops.

The next morning early (the fourth) I established my camp on the battle-field, the wagontrain, under charge of Major Pearman, Second Nebraska, having in the night been ordered to join me, and sent out strong scouting parties in different directions to scour the country, to overtake what Indians they could; but in this they were not very successful, though some of them had some little skirmishes. They found the dead and wounded in all directions, some of them miles from the battle-field; also immense quantities of provisions, baggage, etc., where they had apparently cut loose their ponies from “travailles” and got off on them; also numbers of ponies and dogs harnessed to “travailles” running all over the prairie. One party that I sent out went near to the James River, and found there eleven dead Indians. The deserted camp of the Indians, together with the country all round, was covered with their plunder. I devoted this day, together with the following, (the fifth,) to destroying all this property, still scouring the country. I do not think I exaggerate in the least when I say that I burned up four or five hundred thousand pounds of dried buffalo meat as one item, besides three hundred lodges, and a very large quantity of property of great value to the Indians. A very large number of [494] ponies were found dead and wounded on the field; besides a large number were captured. The prisoners (some one hundred and thirty) I take with me below, and shall report to you more specially in regard to them.

The Surgeon of the Second Nebraska regiment, Dr. Bowen, who has shown a great energy and desire to attend to his duties during the campaign, started out during the night of the engagement with a party of fifteen men to go back to the old camp to procure ambulances. But as they did not return on the morning of the second day, I knew he was either lost or captured. (He returned about noon of the second day.) I therefore sent out small scouting parties in every direction to hunt them up. One of these fell into an ambuscade, by which four of the party were killed and the rest driven in. I immediately sent out five companies of the Second Nebraska regiment, Colonel Furnas in command, who, after a long march, found the Indians had fled. They succeeded, however, in overtaking three concealed in some tall grass, whom they killed. The fight has been so scattered, the dead Indians have been found in so many different places, that it is impossible for me to give an accurate report of the number killed of the enemy. I, however, think I am safe in reporting it at one hundred. (I report those that were left on the field and that my scouting parties found.)

During the engagement, for some time, the Second Nebraska, afoot and armed with rifles — and there are among them probably some of the best shots in the world — were engaged with the enemy at a distance not over sixty paces, pouring on them a murderous fire in a ravine where the enemy were posted. The slaughter, therefore, was immense. My officers and the guides I have with the think one hundred and fifty will not cover their loss. The Indian reports make it two hundred. That the General may know the exact locality of the battle-field, I would state that it was, as near as I could judge, fifteen miles west of James River, and about half way between the latitudes of Bonebute and headwaters of Elm River, as laid down on the Government map. The fight took place near a hill called by the Indians White Stone Hill.

In conclusion, I would state that the troops of my command conducted themselves well; and though it was the first fight that nearly all of them had ever been in, they showed that they are of the right material, and that in time, with discipline, they will make worthy soldiers. It is to be regretted that we lost so many valuable lives as we did, but this could not be helped; the Indians had formed a line of battle with good judgment, from which they could only be dislodged by a charge. I could not use my artillery without greatly endangering the lives of my own men; if I could, I could have slaughtered them.

I send you, accompanying, the reports of Colonel Wilson, Sixth Iowa, and Colonel Furnas, Second Nebraska, also official reports of killed and wounded, and take this occasion to thank both those officers for their good conduct and the cheerfulness with which they obeyed my orders on the occasion. Both of them had their horses shot in the action. I would also request permission to state that the several members of my staff rendered me every possible assistance.

On the morning of the sixty I took my up line of march for Fort Pierre. If I could have remained in that section of country some two or three weeks, I might have accomplished more; but I was satisfied by the reports of my scouts that the Indians had scattered in all directions; some toward the James River; some, probably the Blackfeet, to recross the Missouri, and a part of them went north, where they say they have friends among the half-breeds of the north. My rations were barely sufficient, with rapid marches, to enable me to reach Fort Pierre. The animals, not only the teams I have already reported to you as worthless, but also the cavalry horses, showed the effect of rapid marching and being entirely without grain.

I brought with me all the prisoners I had, and tried to question them to gain some information. The men refused to say much, except that they are all “good Indians,” and the other bad ones joined their camp without their will.

Their squaws, however, corroborate the report I have already given you in regard to the destruction of the people on board the Mackinaw boat and the fights with General Sibley, in which these Indians had a part. They also state that the Indians, after recrossing to this side of the Missouri, sent a party to follow Sibley until he went to the James River, then returned to their camp on Long Lake, to procure a large quantity of provisions and other articles they had “catched” there, and then came to the camp where I met them.

After marching about one hundred and thirty miles, we reached the mouth of the Little Sheyenne on the eleventh, where I found the steamboat I had ordered to be there on the eighth instant. It was lucky she was there, for without the grain she brought up I could not have brought my empty wagons back. For some miles north of Sheyenne and Pierre the grass now is about all gone. I placed my wounded on the boat, and as many empty wagons as she could carry. I am afraid the loss of horses and mules will be considered very great, but it could not be helped. When I found it impossible for the rear guard to get an animal along, I had it killed to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Alfred Sully, Brigadier-General Commanding.
P. S.--By actual count, the number of my prisoners is one hundred and fifty-six--men thirty-two; women and children, one hundred and twenty-four. I would also beg leave to say that in the action I had of my command between six hundred and seven hundred men actually engaged. [495] My killed numbered, as far as ascertained, twenty; wounded, thirty-eight.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Alfred Sully, Brigadier-General Commanding.

Major House's report.

In camp on battle-field of White Stone Hill.
Colonel D. S. Wilson:
Dear sir: On the third day of September, 1863, in obedience to your orders and under instructions from Brigadier-General Sully, I took the line of march from our camp of the previous night (which was about thirty miles from “White Stone Hill” ) at half-past 5 A. M., having under my command companies C, I, F, and H, of the Sixth Iowa cavalry, and proceeded in a southerly direction, halting every hour, dismounting the men, and allowing the horses to graze ten minutes at a time. At about three P. M., our guide informed me that a camp of Indians was about three miles distant. I ordered the men to load their carbines and pistols, and started on a gallop for the Indian camp. When within a mile of the camp we halted and formed in line of battle, with I in line, H and F as flankers, and C as a reserve. In this order we proceeded and took a position behind a ridge about fifty rods from the enemy, where we had then an easy range and where we were protected from their fire. Captain Marsh of company H, and Lieutenant Dayton of company C, were then sent forward to reconnoitre; they returned and reported that there were four hundred lodges of the enemy. Upon gaining this information our guide, with two picked men from company C, were started back to your camp, to give you information of our whereabouts, and that reenforcements might be sent if they were necessary. As the ground was very uneven, and it was difficult to ascertain what defences the enemy had, it was determined to make a reconnoissance in force. For this purpose company C was sent to the left, in command of Captain Ainsworth, who with great personal bravery pushed forward with vigor and rapidity in the face of the enemy, outnumbering his force ten to one. Captain Marsh with company H also pushed forward in the same direction, with a courage which would have done honor to a veteran of a hundred battles. As soon as these companies had returned and reported, Captain Shattuck with company F was sent out to the right to ascertain the position of the enemy in that direction. While these things were being done, the chiefs came in under a flag of truce and attempted a negotiation. They offered to surrender some of their chiefs, but as the Commandant did not know who was entitled to speak by authority, he demanded the unconditional surrender of all. This the Indians refused to do, and having sent away their squaws and pappooses, together with their stock of provisions, they placed themselves in battle array. Our command moved forward, and the enemy retreated precipitately, abandoning every thing except their ponies.

While we were thus following and scattering the enemy, the Second Nebraska regiment appeared on the hill, under the command of Colonel Furnas, who immediately informed the commander of the forces of the Sixth Iowa that he would take the right of the flying enemy and drive them in; whereupon we formed our forces in column, and took the left, first upon a trot, then a gallop, and finally at a full charge. The enemy having abandoned every thing in their flight, and finding that we were fast gaining upon them, collected together in a ravine and prepared for battle. We again formed in line of battle, and were advancing upon the enemy, when we discovered the Second Nebraska upon our left flank; they were dismounting and preparing to fight on foot. At the same time we saw that part of the Iowa Sixth which had been left behind formed in line parallel to the Nebraska Second. We at once advanced our lines within twenty rods of the enemy, and were fired upon by them. We returned the fire from our whole line with terrible effect, covering the ground with dead men and horses. The horses then became so restive as to be unmanageable under the fire even of our own men from their backs. The command was then taken back twenty-five rods in the rear, and were preparing to fight on foot, when darkness seting in, the command was formed in a hollow square, the men in front of their horses, and slept on their arms. We placed a picket-guard around our camp, under the charge of Sergeant-Major Fogg and Lieutenant Dayton, who promptly performed the duties assigned them; they went to the battle-field after dark to look after wounded, and for this I recommend them to your favorable consideration. I also recommend Dr. Camburn, who came promptly to the relief of the wounded, and did all he could in the darkness. Among those who distinguished themselves for personal bravery, I wish to mention Captain R. L. Wolf, who stood in front of his company and killed an Indian every shot he made. The whole command did well, and I must not mention individual instance for fear of making this report too long. About one hundred of the enemy were killed; we took a large number of prisoners and destroyed all the winter stores of the enemy, among which was four hundred tons of dried meat.

I am respectfully yours,

A. E. House, Major Commanding.

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