21.-operations against the Indians.
left Camp Atchison, on the morning of July twenty, 1863, with a force consisting of one thousand four hundred infantry and five hundred cavalry.
On the twenty-fourth, at one o'clock P. M., having crossed the Great Coteau of the Missouri
, and while the General
, with several officers, was some distance in advance of the main column, scouts came up reporting a large force of Indian warriors two or three miles distant. The train was immediately corralled upon the shore of a salt lake, and an intrenched camp rapidly formed under the direction of Colonel Crooks
Meanwhile the Indians were rapidly gathering on three sides and covering the hills around.
One of the scouts succeeded in getting within speaking distance of Red Plume, a relative and Sisseton Chief, who told him to warn General Sibley
that the plan of the Indians was to invite a council with the superior officers, shoot them down, and then make a rush upon the camp in great force.
Other Indians approached near where the scouts were stationed, and commenced conversing with them, pretending to be desirous of making peace.
rode up and joined the scouts, when a young brave, probably mistaking him from his uniform for a commanding officer, manifested great delight at seeing him, and gradually approaching in this way, suddenly shot him through the heart.
A general engagement followed, the Indians commencing the attack under shelter of the surrounding ridges.
, with a detachment of rangers, was ordered to dislodge the enemy from the hill where Dr. Weiser
was shot, supported by the Seventh regiment and Captain Edgerton
's company of the Tenth. General Sibley
, with a six-pounder under charge of Lieutenant Whipple
, took possession of Big Mound
, across a ravine, which the Indians had taken possession of, and poured into this ravine a raking fire with spherical case, soon driving them from their cover into the broken prairie.
The rangers, supported by the Seventh, steadily advanced, driving the Indians from ridge to ridge, until finally they fled in confusion.
This was upon the right of the camp.
Upon the left Colonel Crooks
and Colonel Averill
deployed portions of the Sixth regiment as skirmishers, and drove the savages before them, routing them from point to point, until at length they also took to flight.
, from an overlooking height, saw the whole body of the enemy in confused retreat, while their families were described crossing the distant hills towards the Missouri River
. Colonel McPhail
, with his regiment, was ordered to fall upon their of the retreating foe, supported by Lieutenant-Colonel Marshall
with the Seventh, Captain Edgerton
's company, and one six-pounder and a section of howitzers, under Captain Jones
The pursuit was continued until dark, the infantry following the mounted men at double-quick.
An order from General Sibley
to Colonel McPhail
, to bivouac at nightfall, was by mistake given as an order to return, so that these wearied men, after marching from five in the morning till one in the afternoon, then fighting and pursuing the enemy for twelve miles, were obliged to spend the whole long night in picking their way through the darkness back to the main column, which they reached just as it was about to move.
It consequently became imperatively necessary to rest a day in camp.
On the twenty-sixth, the little army was again in motion.
Arriving at the place where the Indians had been encamped, there, and for miles beyond, large stores of dried meat, tallow, cooking utensils, buffalo robes
, &c., were found and burned.
This loss will be severely felt by the Indians.
A march of twelve miles brought the column to Dead Buffalo Lake
, and there being neither wood nor water for a long distance ahead, it was deemed advisable to give the men and animals rest here.
Indians soon began to menace the camp.
, with his pioneers, (Company A, Ninth regiment,) and Captain Jones
, with a section of his six-pound battery, were thrown forward about six hundred yards to an excellent elevation, and were joined by Colonel Crooks
, with two companies of the Sixth, (A and B.) The enemy at that point far outnumbered this force, but maintained a safe distance, and were soon scattered by spherical case.
They then crossed for an attack upon the left of the camp, when Captain Taylor
, with Company A, of the rangers, was sent to oppose them.
He held a largely superior force in check, until reinforced by Lieutenant-Colonel Averill
, with two companies of the Sixth.
still concentrating on the left and threatening a flank movement, Major McLaren
moved six companies of the Sixth on an extended line, so as to cover that direction effectually, while Captains Wilson
, with their companies of rangers, made a rapid dash, which repulsed the enemy with considerable loss.
A precipitate flight followed, the Indians leaving their dead upon the field.
Thus ended the second lesson.
The third battle was on the twenty-eighth, the march on the twenty-seventh being only eighteen miles, on account of the utter exhaustion of the animals.
The ball was opened by the Tenth regiment, whose turn it was to be in advance.
The column was moving out of camp, when the scout came shouting, “They are coming,” closely followed by about two thousand Indians
As the enemy came over the brow of the hills in front, and got a view of “the situation” --the Tenth regiment rapidly deploying to meet them, and two sections of the battery in position for work--one Indian was heard to cry, “We are too late, they are ready for us!”
and another to answer, “But remember our children and families ; we must not let them get them.”
They immediately spread out right and left, outflanking the Tenth on both extremes.
The firing in front was very spirited and disastrous to the enemy, who were quite busily employed in carrying off their dead and wounded.
The train was just at this moment filing out of the corral, and the other regiment not having taken their position, the advance had to be checked, to prevent the exposure and consequent destruction of the teams and supplies.
An attempt was made by the Indians to get possession of some broken, rocky ground in the rear and close upon the train, but this movement was checked by Lieutenant-Colonel Marshall
, with the Seventh regiment, Lieutenant Western, with a section of the battery, and one battalion of cavalry; and the foe were speedily repulsed and driven from their partially gained cover.
The Sixth regiment, with a battalion of cavalry, held the centre of the column, and deploying to the right held the Indians in check in that direction, while the left wing of the same regiment stretched southward towards the lake.
The first onset being successfully resisted, the order was given to move forward, and the whole column at once proceeded with a steadiness and valor which completely disconcerted the savages, who speedily retreated, anxious to join their families on the other side of the Missouri
reached the woods skirting the shore shortly after noon on the twenty-ninth, the Sixth regiment being in advance.
was ordered to clear the woods to the river, assisted by the battery, and in a short time our men were upon the bank.
The opposite bluff was lined with Indians
, who opened a spirited fire, but at too long range to be dangerous at all. Lieutenant-Colonel Averill
's detachment replied with more effect.
The evidence of crossing in a disastrous haste abounded everywhere.
All their transportation had been abandoned, and many women and children were drowned.
Long and rapid marches, want of water and forage, days of fighting and nights of watchings, and the rapidly lessening stock of provisions, compelled General Sibley
here to relinquish the further pursuit.
were now upon a river which they could cross and recross with more facility than our soldiers, and which was bordered by almost impenetrable thickets — the prickly ash abounding.
The animals, especially, were in a position which precluded any more rapid or sustained marches.
Two days were spent upon the branches of the Missouri
, and for three successive evenings cannon were fired and signal rockets sent up, in the vain hope that General Sully
might be within answering distance; and on the first instant, after thoroughly destroying the stuff abandoned by the Indians, the camp was broken up, and the expeditionary force again in motion, homeward bound.
The point on the Missouri
reached by General
, was in latitude 46° 42′, longitude 100° 35′, about forty miles by land below Fort Clark
The distance from Fort Snelling, by line of march, was made by Colonel Crooks
to be five hundred and eight-five miles.
A detailed narrative.--the battle of the Big Mound.
On the twenty-fourth of July, about one o'clock, as the column was moving along the western base of a great hill or ridge of the Coteau Missouri
, scouts who were in the advance returned with the report that we were in the immediate vicinity of a large camp of Indians
Other scouts came who had seen the Indians, and believed them to be preparing in great numbers to engage us — that they were then collecting in the rocky ravines and behind the ridges of the great hill.
Soon the Indians were on the Big Mound
, the highest peak of the hill.
The train was turned off to the right a little way, and corralled on a salt lake.
Details of men were made to throw up intrenchments, so that a small number of men could defend the train and camp, while the main force should be engaged elsewhere.
The camp was encircled by the several regiments, with the artillery placed at intervals between them.
The Big Mound
was directly east of camp, a mile and a quarter distant — a succession of hills, or the broken side of the big hill, rising from the camp to the Big Mound
There was a ravine directly east of camp, which extended nearly to the Big Mound
The Sixth regiment was placed on the north side of the corral, its left resting on the lake; the Tenth regiment next to the Sixth, fronting northeast, and to the left of the ravine; the Seventh regiment on the right of the Tenth, fronting east and south-east on the ravine; the cavalry on the south side of the camp, with its right flank on the lake.
These dispositions had hardly been made before the report of firearms was heard on the hill directly in front of the Seventh regiment.
Some of the scouts had gone part way up the hill, and were talking with the Indians.
, surgeon of the Mounted Rangers, joined them, and shook hands with one or two Indians whom he had probably known at Shakopee
One Indian advanced and shot him through the heart.
He fell, and died without speaking a word.
The scouts fired, and the Indians fell back behind the ridge, returning the fire, one shot taking effect upon scout Solon Stevens
, of Mankato
It proved to be but a slight wound in the hip. The ball had first passed through his rubber blanket, which was rolled up on his saddle.
An ambulance was promptly sent out, which met the body of Doctor Weiser
, being brought in on a horse.
The first battalion of cavalry--Captains Taylor
, and Anderson
's companies — was promptly ordered to the scene of Doctor Weiser
's death, where the scouts were skirmishing with the Indians.
They found the ground so broken that they dismounted and sent their horses back to camp.
, with Captains Stevens
's companies of the Seventh, were ordered to the support of the cavalry.
The General, with a six-pounder, advanced to a hill on the left of the ravine, and began to shell the Indians at the head of the ravine and about the Big Mound
. Captain Edgerton
's company of the Tenth supported the the six-pounder.
The Sixth regiment was deployed on the foot hills in front of its line, to the north and northeast of camp.
's company of the Seventh, on the right of the Sixth regiment. Lieutenant-Colonel Marshall
, with the remaining five companies of the Seventh regiment, Captains Kennedy
, and Arnold
advanced up the ravine towards the Big Mound
, and deployed on the left of the dismounted cavalry and Major Bradley
The artillery, under the immediate direction of the General
, drove the Indians out from the head of the ravine and from about the Big Mound
They fell back to the table land east of the mound, and into the broken ridges and ravines southward.
They had come from that quarter, their camp being found around the hill, about five miles from our camp.
The shelling they got near the Big Mound
prevented their getting around to the northward in any considerable numbers.
They were massed in the broken ground to the south of the mound.
The line of the Seventh regiment and the three companies of cavalry named advanced steadily and rapidly, pouring a constant fire into the Indians, which reached them before their shorter range guns could have any effect on our troops.
The left of the Seventh crossed the summit range just to the right of the mound, and flanking the right of the Indians, swept around to the southward and pursued the Indians into and through the ridges and ravines on the east of the range, while Major Bradley
and Captains Taylor
pressed them hotly on the west side.
, of the cavalry, crossed to the right of the mound, and pursued some Indians that separated from the main body and retreated more directly eastward.
were thus pursued three or four miles, and until they were completely dislodged and driven from the hills to a broad plain southward.
They would try to hold ridge after ridge, and to cover themselves in the ravines, but the better weapons of the whites were too much for them.
They were sparing of ammunition, and probably not over half had firearms.
Their number exceeded a thousand warriors.
As they were precipitately retreating down the ravines towards the plain, after the last stand, two companies of cavalry, Captain Austin
's and Lieutenant Barton
's, under the immediate command of Colonel McPhail
, took the advance and charged the Indians, doing execution.
was shot in the shoulder by an Indian he was riding on to. Colonel McPhail
thrust his sabre through the Indian
It was here that a stroke of lightning killed private John Murphy
, of Company B, and his horse, and stunned another cavalryman.
's grasp was loosened on his sword by the shock.
He thought a shell had fallen among them.
This momentarily checked the charge and rendered it less effective, the Indians getting out on the plain, where their immense numbers deterred any further charge until the cavalry could be reenforced.
had left his line for a moment, and, taking care of Colonel McPhail
's right flank, charged down the hill with the rangers.
In an effort to cut off some Indians to the right, he got into rather close quarters with some of them.
The thunder-stroke checked the the cavalrymen that he thought were following him in the dash.
He wheeled his horse in time to avoid a single-handed encounter with a dozen warriors.
While the dismounted companies of cavalry were getting their horses from camp, and Captains Rubles
's, and Lieutenant Johnston
's companies, that had been on the right of the hill with Major Bradley
, were being formed for the pursuit, the Indians had got three or four miles away.
Their families had been started ahead, and the warriors were covering the rear of the train.
The cavalry pursued, and the Seventh regiment followed on. Lieutenant Whipple
's section of the battery was sent forward, and Company B, of the Tenth, to support it. The cavalry reached the Indians before dark, and made five successive charges on their rear, killing a great number.
The battery and the Seventh regiment were not up in time to take a hand.
One stalwart warrior, with an American flag wrapped around him theatrically, fired twice while the cavalry were within twenty rods charging upon him, his balls taking effect in the overcoats and saddle of private Green
, and rubber blanket of Carlson
of Company F.
got the powder down, but not the ball, for the third load, which he discharged at the breast of Archy McNee
, of Company F, of course without effect.
He then clubbed his musket and struck Carlson
, nearly unhorsing him. A dozen carbine balls were put into, and then he had to be sabred to finish him.
, of Company B, was killed in one of these charges, and Andrew Moore
dangerously, if not mortally, wounded.
The cavalry boys took twenty-one scalps in this charge.
had told them that it was very barbarous to take scalps, but that he wouldn't believe any man had killed an Indian unless he showed the hair, and enough of it so that two locks couldn't be taken from the same head.
The trail of the Indians was strewed with tons of dried buffalo meat, pemmican, robes and undressed buffalo skins, besides camp furniture.
It was a wild flight, in which they abandoned everything that impeded them.
Much of this stuff they left in camp.
The Seventh regiment, with Company B of the Tenth, had reached a point ten or twelve miles from camp, the artillery a point farther advanced, while Colonel McPhail
was engaged fifteen miles from camp.
Darkness came on, and Colonel Marshall
ordered a bivouac of his men, and Captain Edgerton
's company of the Tenth.
Guards were posted, and the exhausted men had laid down to sleep, when Colonel McPhail
returned on his way to camp, having received an order not to pursue after dark, and — mistakenly delivered — to return to camp.
The General intended to leave it discretionary with Colonel McPhail
to bivouac or return to camp accordingly, as he might have got many miles away, or be near to camp.
The infantry joined the cavalry and artillery, and marched until daylight the next morning before reaching camp, having been twenty-four hours marching or fighting, and since ten o'clock in the morning without water.
The General was just ready to leave camp with the other forces, but the exhausted condition of the men and cavalry horses that had been out all night, precluded the march that day. This unfortunate mistake delayed the pursuit two days, for it required the next day's march, the twenty-sixth, to reach the point of the cavalry fight on the night of the twenty-fourth.
Camp was moved on the twenty-fifth, three miles, on to the great hill, where a pond of fresh water and grass were found.
's and Murphy
's and Starr
's bodies were buried at Camp Sidney, below the hill.
's was buried at Camp Whitney, on the hill.
The march was resumed on the twenty-sixth, and Dead Buffalo Lake
reached about noon.
were seen in the distance advancing towards us. It was not known that there was any good camping-place within reach that day ahead, and it was decided to go into camp on the lake.
's six-pounders were advanced to a hill half a mile in advance, towards the Indians, and the Sixth regiment was deployed forward, to support the battery and engage the Indians.
circled around, got on the high knolls and ridges, and took observations, but seemed indisposed to pitch in. The artillery shelled them when they ventured near enough, and the skirmishers gave them shots when they approached anywhere near camp.
Thus some hours passed without the Indians developing their purpose.
A large portion of them kept out of sight.
Finally, about three o'clock, a mounted force of Indians suddenly dashed in on the north side of the camp, where mules had been turned out to graze, and where teamsters were getting grass.
had almost reached them, when Captains Wilson
's and Davy
's companies of cavalry — the latter under Lieutenant Kidder
--putting their horses to the jump, dashed upon the Indians, and so dismayed them that they wheeled their ponies to escape, but not in time to escape the carbine shots, followed by the revolver and sabre, and left a goodly number of the red devils
on the field.
Some of the scouts did good service in this charge.
One wounded Indian tried to escape by seizing his horse's tail, but, unfortunately for him, the pony got a shot in the shoulder.
, of Company L, dashed up to finish the Indian
with his revolver, but it didn't go off, and before he could check his horse he was upon the Indian
, who had reserved a shot in his gun, which he fired into the thigh and bowels of poor Platt
, giving him his death wound.
, one of the scouts, tried to save Platt
, but it was too late.
's shot, fired at the same instant that the Indian
fired the fatal shot at Platt
, went through the vitals of the savage and finished him. Platt
's comrades, exasperated at his mortal wound, tore the Indian
's scalp from his head before he was dead.
A part of the Sixth regiment, under Major McLaren
, had returned to camp, and was on their color line, on the side where the Indians made the dash.
They promptly advanced to the support of the cavalry, and took a hand in. Thus the Sixth, among the infantry regiments, on this day did the fighting.
The cavalry and artillery in this, as in the previous and subsequent engagement, had always their full share of work.
appeared on the south side of the camp, out of range, but made no further attack.
The march was resumed on the twenty-seventh, and the trail, still marked by robes and other articles, was followed towards the Missouri River
We camped, after a march of nearly twenty miles, on a small lake half a mile long and twenty rods wide.
On the morning of the twenty-eighth, just as the rear of the train was filing around the south end of the lake, the advance being nearly to the top of a long hill that we were ascending, the Indians suddenly made their appearance in front and on the flanks, rapidly circling around to the rear.
They were in immense numbers, seemingly all mounted.
Major Jo. Brown
, guide, and some of the scouts, who were in advance, narrowly escaped being gobbled up. The Tenth regiment, Colonel Baker
, which was in the advance, promptly and gallantly met the attack in front, which was the first demonstration of the Indians.
The artillery was quickly brought into play, and the savages drew back to a safe distance.
, with the Sixth regiment, on the right flank, held them at bay, and effectually guarded the train, while the cavalry on the left, and the Seventh regiment and cavalry in the rear, presented an unassailable line.
got partly under cover of broken ground at the south end of the lake, but were soon dislodged by the fire of Lieutenant Western's section of the battery, and a line of skirmishers of the Seventh. One shot from an Indian, evidently aimed at Colonel Marshall
, while he was locating a howitzer, struck the ground at his feet.
The most determined effort, however, to make a breach, was in front, and was fairly resisted by the Tenth regiment, so that it had its day of fighting.
, as they came on at first, were heard to say, “It is too late, it is too late,” evidently having expected to surprise us in camp.
Another Indian answered, “We must fight for our children.”
After reconnoitring all sides of the train, and finding it girt with a wall of fire, they seemed to think it was no use to make an assault.
After seeing that the proper dispositions had been made for guarding the train, the General
ordered the column to move forward, regardless of the Indians.
seeing our purpose to press on towards their families, quickly withdrew, the whole demonstration not delaying the march over two hours.
, Major Brown
, and others, estimated the number of Indians engaged this day at over two thousand
. In the battle of Big Mound
were all the lower Indians
, the Sissetoans, and part of the Yanktonais.
In the last day's fight, that of Stony Lake
, they had been reenforced by another camp of Yanktonais and some Tetons from the west side of Missouri River
We captured a Teton boy, who had no gun, and was subsequently released at the Missouri River
This Teton and an old squaw were the only prisoners taken in battle or near a battle.
The supplications for the life of the wretches, when they had fired their last shot, were generally met by sabre thrust that finished them.
No more Indians were encountered until the banks of the Missouri
were reached, the morning of the twenty-ninth.
had made good use of the night, and got their families and ponies over.
Their wagons,,to the number of over one hundred, and a remnant of their plunder, that had not been strewn along the route of their flight, was left on the east bank of the river.
Themselves covered the bluffs on the west side.
The Sixth regiment, then in the advance, deployed as skirmishers through the woods a mile and a half to the river.
As they were starting to return, a heavy volley, that came from the high grass on the opposite bank, fell harmless about them or short of them.
They stopped a moment to return it, but the distance was too great for effect.
While Colonel Crooks
was at the river, the General
sent an order by Lieutenant Beever
While returning with an answer, Lieutenant Beever
mistook a trail that led down the river, where his body was found next day pierced by three arrows and a ball.
He had also wounds from a tomahawk on his head.
His horse lay near him. Two pools of blood, twenty paces from his body, indicated that two of his murderers had paid dearly for his life.
On the same trail, was found the body of private Nicholas Miller
, of Company K, Sixth regiment, who had made the same mistake in taking the trail that Beever
Two days were passed in camp at the mouth of Apple Creek
, on the Missouri
, opposite Burnt Boot Island.
and then the homeward march was
The expedition had but fifteen days rations, nine or ten of which would be consumed in returning to Camp Atchison.
It would take two or three days to cross the Missouri
, so that all the surplus would have been consumed in crossing and recrossing the river.
The animals were completely worn down.
Over twelve miles a day could not be made on the scanty feed they were getting.
It would, therefore, have been useless to go farther.
Much had been accomplished.
Forty-four bodies of warriors had been found — many more carried off and concealed.
The season's supplies of meat and clothing material, and their wagons, destroyed.
The howlings of the squaws that came across the river told the tale of their misery and despair.
If General Sully
shall arrive and take up the pursuit, their destruction can be rendered complete.
The body of Lieutenant Freeman
, killed by the Indians, was promptly recovered, and buried at Camp Sibley, near the Big Mound
The scouts who were with Lieutenant Freeman
and Mr. Brackett
did not give themselves up to the hostile Indians
, but made their way, minus horses, directly to camp.
was killed on the east side of the hill, about the time the battle began on the west side.
The scouts gave the same account of the affair that Mr. Brackett
did. Search was made that evening for Mr. Brackett
, but he could not be tracked on the dry prairie.
The following is the official list of the killed and wounded, as reported by Medical Director Wharton
Surgeon J. S. Weiser
, First Minnesota mounted rangers.
Private Gustaf Stark
, Company B, First Minnesota mounted rangers.
Private Nicholas Miller
, Company K, Sixth Minnesota volunteers.
The above were killed in the battles above described.
To these must be added the name of
, Company D, First Minnesota mounted rangers, who was killed in the affair from which Mr. Brackett
had such a narrow escape.
Private John Murphy
, First Minnesota mounted rangers, killed by ligntning.
Private John Platt
, Company L, First Minnesota mounted rifles, wounded in right groin; since died.
Private Andrew Moore
, Company B, mortally shot in right side.
Corporal William B. Hazlep
, Company B, in right shoulder joint; recovering.
Sergeant James G. Grady
, Company L, First Minnesota mounted rifles; flesh wound in thigh.
Making eight deaths by wounds or casualties, and two slightly wounded.
The following order was read on dress parade on the evening of July thirty-first: