THE close of the last article left my command of the Washita, still surrounded by a superior but badly defeated force of Indians. We were burdened with a considerable number of prisoners and quite a number of our own and the enemy's wounded, and had in our possession nearly nine hundred ponies which we had just captured from the enemy. We were far away-just how far we did not know-from our train of supplies, and the latter with its escort was in danger of capture and destruction by the savages if we did not act to prevent it. We felt convinced that we could not, in the presence of so large a body of hostile Indians, hope to make a long march through their country, the latter favorable to the Indian mode of attack by surprise and ambush, and keep with us the immense herd of captured ponies. Such a course would only encourage attack under circumstances which would almost insure defeat and unnecessary loss to us. We did not need the ponies, while the Indians did. If we retained them they might conclude that one object of our expedition against them was to secure plunder, an object thoroughly consistent with the red man's idea of war. Instead, it was our desire to impress upon his uncultured mind that our every act and purpose had been simply to inflict deserved punishment upon him for the many murders and other depredations committed by him in and around the homes of the defenseless settlers on the frontier.
Impelled by these motives, I decided neither to attempt to take the ponies with us nor to abandon them to the Indians, but to adopt the only measure left-to kill them. To accomplish this seemingly-like most measures of war-cruel but necessary act, four companies of cavalrymen were detailed dismounted, as a firing party. Before they reluctantly engaged in this uninviting work I took Romeo, the interpreter, and proceeded to the few lodges near the center of the village which we had reserved from destruction, and in which were collected the prisoners, consisting of upward of sixty squaws and children. Romeo was directed to assemble the prisoners in one body as @ desired to assure them of kind treatment at our hands, a subject about which they were greatly wrought up; also to tell them what we should expect of them and to inform them of our intention to march probably all that night, directing them at the same time to proceed to the herd and select therefrom a suitable number of ponies to carry the prisoners on the march. When Romeo had collected them in a single group, he, acting as interpreter, acquainted them with my purpose in calling them together, at the same time assuring them that they could rely confidently upon the fulfilment of any promises I made them, as I was the big chief. The Indians refer to all officers of a command as chiefs, while the officer in command is designated as the big chief.
After I had concluded what I desired to say to them they signified their approval and satisfaction by gathering around me and going through an extensive series of handshaking. One of the middle-aged squaws then informed Romeo that she wished to speak on behalf of herself and companions. Assent having been given to this, she began the delivery of an address which for wisdom of sentiment, and easy, natural, but impassioned delivery, might have been heard with intense interest by an audience of cultivated refinement. From her remarks, interpreted by Romeo, I gathered much-in fact, the first reliable information as to what band we had attacked at daylight, which chiefs commanded, and many interesting scraps of information.
She began by saying that now she and the women and children about her were in the condition of captivity, which for a long time she had prophesied would be theirs sooner or later. She claimed to speak not as a squaw, but as the sister of the head chief of her band, Black Kettle, who had fallen that morning almost the moment the attack was made. He it was who was the first to hear our advance and leaping forth from his lodge with rifle in hand uttered the first warwhoop and fired the first shot as a rally signal to his warriors, and was almost immediately after shot down by the opening volley of the cavalry. Often had she warned her brother of the danger the village, with its women and children, was exposed to, owing to the frequent raiding and war parties which from time to time had been permitted to go forth and depredate upon the settlements of the white men. In the end it was sure to lead to detection and punishment, and now her words had only proved too true. Not a chief or warrior of the village in her belief survived the battle of the forenoon. And what was to become of all these women and children, bereft of everything and of every friend?
True, it was just. The warriors had brought this fate upon themselves and their families by their unprovoked attacks upon the white man. Black Kettle, the head chief and the once trusted friend of the white man, had fallen. Little Rock, the chief second in rank in the village, had also met his death while attempting to defend his home against his enemies; others were named in the order of their rank or prowess as warriors, but al! had gone the same way. Who was left to care for the women and children who still lived! Only last night, she continued, did the last war party return from the settlements, and it was to rejoice over their achievements that the entire village were engaged until a late hour dancing and singing. This was why their enemies were able to ride almost into their lodges before they were aroused by the noise of the attack. For several minutes she continued to speak, first upbraiding in the bitterest terms the chiefs and warriors who had been the cause of their capture, then bewailing in the most plaintive manner their sad and helpless condition. Turning to me she added: "You claim to be a chief. This man [pointing to Romeo] says you are the big chief. If this be true and you are what he claims, show that you can act like a great chief and secure for us that treatment which the helpless are entitled to."
After the delivery of this strongly melodramatic harangue there was introduced a little by-play, in which I was unconsciously made to assume a more prominent part than either my inclinations or the laws of society might approve. Black Kettle's sister, whose name was Mah-wis-sa, and whose address had just received the hearty approval of her companions by their earnest expression of "Ugh!" the Indian word intended for applause, then stepped into the group of squaws and after looking earnestly at the face of each for a moment approached a young Indian girl-probably seventeen years of age-and taking her by the hand conducted her to where I was standing. Placing the hand of the young girl in mine, she proceeded in the Indian tongue to the delivery of what I in my ignorance of the language presumed was a form of administering a benediction, as her manner and gestures corresponded with this idea.
Never dreaming of her purpose, but remembering how sensitive and suspicious the Indian nature was, and that any seeming act of inattention or disrespect on my part might be misunderstood, I stood a passive participant in the strange ceremony then being enacted. After concluding the main portion of the formalities, she engaged in what seemed an invocation of the Great Spirit, casting her eyes reverently upward, at the same time moving her hands slowly down over the faces of the young squaw and myself. By this time my curiosity got the better of my silence and turning to Romeo, who stood near me and who I knew was familiar with Indian customs, I quietly inquired: "What is this woman doing, Romeo?" With a broad grin on his swarthy face he replied: "Why, she's marryin' you to that young squaw!"
Although never claimed as an exponent of the peace policy about which so much has been said and written, yet I entertained the most peaceable sentiments toward all Indians who were in a condition to do no harm nor violate any law. And while cherishing these friendly feelings and desiring to do all in my power to render our captives comfortable and free from anxiety regarding their future treatment at our hands, I think even the most strenuous and ardent advocate of that peace policy which teaches that the Indian should be left free and unmolested in the gratification of his simple tastes and habits will at least not wholly condemn me when they learn that this last touching and unmistakable proof of confidence and esteem offered by Mah-wis-sa and gracefully if not blushingly acquiesced in by the Indian maiden was firmly but respectfully declined.
The few reasons which forced me to deny myself the advantages of this tempting alliance were certain circumstances over which I then had no control, among which was a previous and already solemnized ceremony of this character, which might have a tendency to render the second somewhat invalid. Then, again, I had not been consulted in regard to my choice in this matter, a trifling consideration, but still having its due influence. I had not had opportunities to become acquainted with the family of the young damsel who thus proposed to link her worldly fate with mine. Her father's bank account might or might not be in a favorable condition. No opportunity had been given me to study the tastes, disposition, or character of the young lady, whether she was fond of music, literature, or domestic duties. All these were questions with which I was not sufficiently familiar to justify me in taking the important step before me. I did not, however, like certain candidates for office, thrice decline by standing up, and with my hand pressed to my heart say: "Your husband I cannot be"; but through the intermediation of Romeo, the interpreter, who from the first had been highly entertained by what he saw was an excellent joke on the big chief, and wondering in his own mind how I would extricate myself without giving offense, I explained to Mah-wis-sa my due appreciation of the kindness intended by herself and her young friend, but that according to the white man's laws I was debarred from availing myself of the offer, at the same time assuring them of my high consideration, etc.
Glad to get away to duties that called me elsewhere, I left with Romeo. As soon as we had turned our backs on the group, I inquired of Romeo what object could have been in view which induced Black Kettle's Sister to play the part she did. "That's easy enough to understand; she knows they are in your power and her object is to make friends with you as far as possible. But you don't believe anything she tells you, do you? Why, that squaw-give her the chance, and she'd lift your or my scalp for us and never wink. Lord, I've heerd 'em talk fine too often to be catched so easy. To hear her talk and abuse old Black Kettle and the rest that I hope we've done for, you'd think that squaw never had had a hand in torturin' to death many a poor devil who's been picked up by them. But it's a fact, 'taint no two ways 'bout it. I've lived with them people too long not to know 'em-root and branch. When she was talkin' all that palaver to you 'bout protectin' 'em and all that sort of stuff, if she could 'a know'd that minute that these outside Injuns was 'bout to gobble us up she'd 'a been the very fust one to ram a knife smack into ye. That's the way they allus talk when they want anythin'. Do you know her game in wantin' to marry that young squaw to you? Well, I'll tell ye; ef you'd 'a married that squaw, then she'd 'a told ye that all the rest of 'em were her kinfolks, and as a nateral sort of a thing you'd 'a been expected to kind o' provide and take keer of your wife's relations. That's jist as I tell it to you-fur don't I know? Didn't I marry a young Cheyenne squaw and give her old father two of my best ponies for her, and it wasn't a week till every tarnal Injun in the village, old and young, came to my lodge and my squaw tried to make me b'lieve they were all relations of hern and that I ought to give em some grub; but I didn't do nothin' of the sort." "Well, how did you get out of it, Romeo?" "Get out of it? Why, I got out by jist takin' my ponies and traps and the first good chance I lit out; that's how I got out. I was satisfied to marry one or two of 'em, but when it come to marryin' an intire tribe, 'scuse me.
At this point Romeo was interrupted by the officer in command of the men detailed to kill the ponies. The firing party was all ready to proceed with its work and was only waiting until the squaws should secure a sufficient number of ponies to transport all the prisoners on the march. The troopers bad endeavored to catch the ponies, but they were too wild and unaccustomed to white men to permit them to approach. When the squaws entered the herd they had no difficulty in selecting and bridling the requisite number. These being taken off by themselves, the work of destruction began on the remainder and was continued until nearly eight hundred ponies were thus disposed of. All this time the Indians who had been fighting us from the outside covered the hills in the distance, deeply interested spectators of this to them strange proceeding. The loss of so many animals of value was a severe blow to the tribe, as nothing so completely impairs the war-making facilities for the Indians of the Plains as the deprivation or disabling of their ponies.
In the description of the opening of the battle in the preceding chapter, I spoke of the men having removed their overcoats and haversacks when about to charge the village. These had been disposed of carefully on the ground and one man from each company left to guard them, this number being deemed sufficient, as they would be within rifle-shot of the main command; besides, the enemy as was then supposed would be inside our lines and sufficiently employed in taking care of himself to prevent any meddling on his part with the overcoats and haversacks. This was partly true, but we had not calculated upon Indians appearing in force and surrounding us. When this did occur, however, their first success was in effecting the capture of the overcoats and rations of the men, the guard barely escaping to the village. This was a most serious loss, as the men were destined to suffer great discomfort from the cold; and their rations being in the haversacks and it being uncertain when we should rejoin our train they were compelled to endure both cold and hunger. It was when the Indians discovered our overcoats and galloped to their capture that one of my stag-hounds, Blucher, seeing them riding and yelling as if engaged in the chase, dashed from the village and joined the Indians, who no sooner saw him than they shot him through with an arrow. Several months afterward I discovered his remains on the ground near where the overcoats had been deposited on that eventful morning.
Many noteworthy incidents were observed or reported during the fight. Before the battle began our Osage allies, in accordance with the Indian custom, dressed in their war costume, painting their faces in all imaginable colors, except one tall, fine-looking warrior, who retained his ordinary dress. Upon inquiring of the chief, Little Beaver, why this one did not array himself as the others had done he informed me that it was in obedience to a law among all the tribes under which any chief or warrior who has had a near relative killed by an enemy belonging to another tribe is not permitted to don the war costume or put on war paint until he has avenged the murder by taking a scalp from some member of the hostile tribe. A war party of the Cheyennes had visited the Osage village the preceding summer under friendly pretenses. They had been hospitably entertained at the lodge of the warrior referred to by his squaw, he being absent on a hunt. When ready to depart they killed his squaw and destroyed his lodge, and until he could secure a scalp he must go on the war path unadorned by feathers or paint. After the battle had been waged for a couple of hours in the morning I saw this warrior approaching, his horse urged to his highest speed; in his hand I saw waving wildly overhead something I could not distinguish until he halted by my side, when I perceived that it was an entire scalp, fresh and bleeding. His vengeance had been complete and he was again restored to the full privileges of a warrior, a right he was not long in exercising, as the next time I saw him on the field his face was completely hidden under the stripes of yellow, black, and vermilion, the colors being so arranged, apparently, as to give him the most hideous visage imaginable.
Riding in the vicinity of the hospital, I saw a little bugler boy sitting on a bundle of dressed robes near where the surgeon was dressing and caring for the wounded. His face was completely covered with blood, which was trickling down over his cheek from a wound in his forehead. At first glance I thought a pistol bullet had entered his skull, but on stopping to inquire of him the nature of his injury he informed me that an Indian had shot him in the head with a steel-pointed arrow. The arrow had struck him just above the eye and upon encountering the skull had glanced under the covering of the latter coming out near the ear, giving the appearance of having passed through the head. There the arrow remained until the bugler arrived at the hospital, when he received prompt attention. The arrow being barbed could not be withdrawn at once, but by cutting off the steel point the surgeon was able to withdraw the wooden shaft without difficulty. The little fellow bore his suffering manfully. I asked him if he saw the Indian who wounded him. Without replying at once, he shoved his hand deep down into his capacious trousers pocket and fished up nothing more nor less than the scalp of an Indian, adding in a nonchalant manner: "If anybody thinks I didn't see him, I want them to take a look at that." He had killed the Indian with his revolver after receiving the arrow wound in his head.
After driving off the Indians who had attacked us from the outside so as to prevent them from interfering with our operations in the vicinity of the village, parties were sent here and there to look up the dead and wounded of both sides. In spite of the most thorough search, there were still undiscovered Major Elliot and nineteen enlisted men, including the sergeant-major, for whose absence we were unable to satisfactorily account. Officers and men of the various commands were examined, but nothing was elicited from them except that Major Elliot had been seen about daylight charging with his command into the village. I had previously given him up as killed, but was surprised that so many of the men should be missing and none of their comrades be able to account for them. All the ground inside of the advanced lines held by the Indians who attacked us after our capture of the village was closely and carefully examined in the hope of finding the bodies of some if not all the absentees, but with no success. It was then evident that when the other bands attempted to reinforce our opponents of the early morning, they had closed their lines about us in such manner as to cut off Elliot and nineteen of our men.
What had been the fate of this party after leaving the main command? This was a question to be answered only in surmises, and few of these were favorable to the escape of our comrades. At last one of the scouts reported that soon after the attack on the village began he had seen a few warriors escaping, mounted, from the village, through a gap that existed in our line between the commands of Elliot and Thompson, and that Elliot and a small party of troopers were in close pursuit; that a short time after he had heard very sharp firing in the direction taken by the Indians and Elliot's party, but that as the firing had continued for only a few minutes, he had thought nothing more of it until the prolonged absence of our men recalled it to his mind. Parties were sent in the direction indicated by the scout, he accompanying them; but after a search extending nearly two miles all the parties returned, reporting their efforts to discover some trace of Elliot and his men fruitless.
As it was now lacking but an hour of night, we had to make an effort to get rid of the Indians, who still loitered in strong force on the hills within plain view of our position. Our main desire was to draw them off from the direction in which our train might be approaching and thus render it secure from attack until under the protection of the entire command, when we could defy any force our enemies could muster against us. The last lodge having been destroyed and all the ponies except those required for the pursuit having been killed, the command was drawn in and united near the village. Making dispositions to overcome any resistance which might be offered to our advance by throwing out a strong force of skirmishers, we set out down the valley in the direction where the other villages had been reported and toward the hills on which were collected the greatest number of Indians.
The column moved forward in one body with colors flying and band playing, while our prisoners, all mounted on captured ponies, were under sufficient guard immediately in rear of the advanced troops. For a few moments after our march began the Indians on the hills remained silent spectators, evidently at a loss at first to comprehend our intentions in thus setting out at that hour of the evening and directing our course as if another night march was contemplated; and more than all, in the direction of their villages, where all that they possessed was supposed to be. This aroused them to action, as we could plainly see considerable commotion among them-chiefs riding hither and thither, as if in anxious consultation with each other as to the course to be adopted. Whether the fact that they could not fire upon our advance without endangering the lives of their own people who were prisoners in our hands or some other reason prevailed with them, they never offered to fire a shot or retard our movements in any manner, but instead assembled their outlying detachments as rapidly as possible and began a precipitate movement down the valley in advance of us, fully impressed with the idea, no doubt, that our purpose was to overtake their flying people and herds and administer the same treatment to them that the occupants of the upper village had received.
This was exactly the effect I desired, and our march was conducted with such appearance of determination and rapidity that this conclusion on their part was a most natural one. Leaving a few of their warriors to hover along our flanks and watch our progress, the main body of the Indians, able to travel much faster than the troops, soon disappeared from our sight in front. We still pushed on in the same direction and continued our march in this manner until long after dark, by which time we reached the deserted villages, the occupants, at least the non-combatants and herds, having fled in the morning when news of our attack on Black Kettle's village reached them. We had now reached a point several miles below the site of Black Kettle's village and the darkness was sufficient to cover our movements from the watchful eyes of the Indian scouts, who had dogged our march as long as the light favored them.
Facing the command about, it was at once put in motion to reach our train, not only as a measure of safety and protection to the latter, but as a necessary movement to relieve the wants of the command, particularly that portion whose haversacks and overcoats had fallen into the hands of the Indians early in the morning. By ten o'clock we reached the battle ground, but without halting pushed on, following the trail we had made in striking the village. The march was continued at a brisk gait until about two o'clock in the morning, when I concluded it would be prudent to allow the main command to halt and bivouac until daylight, sending one squadron forward without delay to reinforce the guard with the train. Colonel West's squadron was detailed upon this duty. The main body of the troops was halted and permitted to build huge fires, fuel being obtainable in abundance from the timber which lined the valley of the Washita, our march still leading us up the course of this stream.
At daylight the next morning we were again in our saddles and wending our way hopefully toward the train. The location of the latter we did not know, presuming that it had been pushing after us since we had taken our abrupt departure from it. Great was our joy and satisfaction, about ten o'clock, to discover the train safely in camp. The teams were at once harnessed and hitched to the wagons and without halting even to prepare breakfast the march was resumed, I being anxious to encamp at a certain point that night from where I intended sending scouts through with despatches to General Sheridan. Early in the afternoon this camp was reached; it was near the point where we had first struck the timbered valley, at the time not knowing that it was the valley of the Washita. Here men and horses were given the first opportunity to procure a satisfactory meal since the few hasty morsels obtained by them during the brief halt made between nine and ten o'clock the night we arrived in the vicinity of the village. After posting our pickets and rendering the camp secure from surprise by the enemy, horses were unsaddled, tents pitched, and every means taken to obtain as comfortable a night as the limited means at our disposal and the severities of the season would permit.
After partaking of a satisfactory dinner I began writing my report to General Sheridan. First I sent for California Joe and informed him that I desired to send a despatch to General Sheridan that night and would have it ready by dark so that the bearer could at once set out as soon as it was sufficiently dark to conceal his movements from the scouts of the enemy, who no doubt were still following and watching us. I told California Joe that I had selected him as the bearer of the despatch and he was at liberty to name the number of men he desired to accompany him, as it was a most perilous mission on which he was going. The exact distance he would have to ride in order to reach General Sheridan's headquarters at Camp Supply could not be determined. The command had occupied four days in accomplishing it, but California Joe, with his thorough knowledge of the country and the experience of our march would be able to follow a much more direct route than a large command moving with a train.
He did not seem in the least disturbed when told of his selection for this errand, so full of danger. When informed that he might name the number of men to accompany him I supposed he would say about twelve or more, under command of a good non-commissioned officer. Very few persons in or out of the military service would have cared to undertake the journey with much less than ten times that force, but he contented himself by informing me that before answering that question he would walk down to where the scouts were in camp and consult his "pardner." He soon returned saying: "I've just been talkin' the matter over with my pardner, and him and me both concludes that as safe and sure a way as any is for him and me to take a few extra rounds of ammunition and strike out from here together the very minnit it's dark. As for any more men, we don't want 'em, because yer see in a case of this 'ere kind thar's more to be made by dodgin' an' runnin' than thar is by fightin', an' two spright men kin do better at that than twenty; they can't be seen half as fur. Besides, two won't leave as much of a trail for the Injuns to find. If my pardner an me kin git away from here as soon as it is plum dark, we'll be so fur from here by daylight tomorrer mornin' the Injuns never couldn't tetch hide nor har of us. Besides, I don't reckon the pesky varmints 'll be so overly keen in meddlin' with our business, seein' as how they've got their han's tolerable full settin' things to rights at home, owin' to the little visit we've jist made 'em. I rather s'pect, all things considerin', them Injuns would be powerful glad to call it quits for a spell any way, an' if I ain't off the trail mightily, some of them 'ere head chiefs as ain't killed will be headin' for the nighest Peace Commissioner before they git the war paint clean off their faces. This thing of pumpin' 'em when the snow's a foot deep, and no grass for their ponies, puts a new wrinkle in these Injuns' scalp, an' they ain't goin' to git over it in a minnit either. Wal, I'm goin' back to the boys to see if I can borrer a little smokin' tobacker. I may want to take a smoke on the way. Whenever you git yer dockiments ready jist send your orderly down thar, and me and my pardner will be ready. I'm mighty glad I'm goin' tonight, for I know Gineral Sheridan 'll be monstrous glad to see me back so soon. Did I tell yer I used to know the Gineral when he was second or third lootenant and post quartermaster in Oregon? That must 'a been afore your time."
Leaving California Joe to procure his "to-backer," I assembled all the officers of the command and informed them that as there was but an hour or two in which I was to write my report of the battle of the Washita I would not have time, as I should have preferred to do, to send to them for regular and formally written reports of their share in the engagement; but in order that I might have the benefit of their combined knowledge of the battle and its results, each officer in response to my request gave me a brief summary of some of the important points which his report would have contained if submitted in writing. With this information in my possession I sat down in my tent and penned, in as brief manner as possible, a report to General Sheridan detailing our movements from the time Elliot with his three companies discovered the trail up to the point from which my despatch was written, giving particularly the main facts of our discovery, attack, and complete destruction of the village of Black Kettle. It was just about dark when I finished this despatch and was about to send for California Joe, when that loquacious personage appeared at the door of my tent. "I'm not so anxious to leave yer all here, but the fact is, the sooner me and pardner are off, I reckon the better it'll be in the end. I want to put at least fifty miles 'tween me and this place by daylight to-morrer mornin', so if yer'll jest hurry up yer papers, it'll be a lift for us."
On going outside the tent I saw that the "pardner" was the scout Jack Corbin, the same who had first brought the intelligence of Elliot's discovery of the trail to us at Antelope Hills. He was almost the antipodes of California Joe in regard to many points of character, seldom indulging in a remark or suggestion unless prompted by a question. These two scouts recalled to my mind an amicable arrangement said to exist between a harmonious married pair, in which one was willing to do all the talking and the other was perfectly willing he should. The two scouts, who were about to set out to accomplish a long journey through an enemy's country with no guides save the stars, neither ever having passed over the route they proposed to take, and much of the ride to be executed during the darkness of night, apparently felt no greater, if as great, anxiety as to the result of their hazardous mission than one ordinarily feels in contemplating a journey of a few hours by rail or steamboat. California Joe was dressed and equipped as usual. About his waist and underneath his cavalry greatcoat and cape he wore a belt containing a Colt revolver and hunting knife; these, with his inseparable companion, a long Springfield breech-loading rifle, composed his defensive armament. His "pardner," Jack Corbin, was very similarly arrayed except in equipment, his belt containing two revolvers instead of one, while a Sharps carbine supplied the place of a rifle, being more readily carried and handled on horseback. The mounts of the two men were as different as their characters, California Joe confiding his safety to the transporting powers of his favorite mule, while Corbin was placing his reliance upon a fine gray charger.
Acquainting the men with the probable route we should pursue in our onward march toward Camp Supply, so that, if desirable, they might be able to rejoin us, I delivered my report to General Sheridan into the keeping of California Joe, who, after unbuttoning numerous coats, blouses, and vests, consigned the package to one of the numerous capacious inner pockets with which each garment seemed supplied, with the remark: "I reckon it'll keep dry thar in case of rain or accident." Both men having mounted, I shook hands with them, wishing them Godspeed and a successful journey. As they rode off in the darkness California Joe, irrepressible to the last, called out, "Wal, I hope an' trust yer won't have any scrimmage while I'm gone, because I'd hate mightily now to miss anything of the sort, seein' I've stuck to yer this fur."
After enjoying a most grateful and comparatively satisfactory night's rest, the demands of hunger on the part of man and beast having been bountifully supplied from the stores contained in our train, while a due supply of blankets and robes, with the assistance of huge camp-fires, enabled the men to protect themselves against the intense cold of midwinter, our march was resumed at daylight in the direction of Camp Supply. Our wounded had received every possible care and attention that a skilful and kindhearted medical officer could suggest. Strange to add, and greatly to our surprise as well as joy, Colonel Barnitz, who had been carried into the village shot through the body and, as all supposed, mortally wounded, with apparently but a few minutes to live, had not only survived the rough jostling of the night march made after leaving the village, but the surgeon, Dr. Lippincott, who was unceasing in his attentions to the wounded, reported indications favorable to a prolongation of life if not a complete recovery. This was cheering news to all the comrades of Colonel Barnitz. I well remember how, when the Colonel was first carried by four of his men, in the folds of an army blanket, into the village, his face wore that pale deathly aspect so common and peculiar to those mortally wounded. He, as well as all who saw him, believed his end near at hand. But like a brave soldier, as he was and had proved himself to be, death had no terrors for him. When asked by me, as I knelt at the side of the litter on which he was gasping for breath, whether he had any messages to send to absent friends he realized the perils of his situation and in half-finished sentences, mingled with regrets, delivered, as he and all of us supposed, his farewell messages to be transmitted to dear ones at home. And yet, despite the absence of that care and quiet, not to mention little delicacies and luxuries, regarded as so essential, and which would have been obtainable under almost any other circumstances, Colonel Barnitz continued to improve and before many weeks his attendant medical officer was able to pronounce him out of danger, although to this day he is and for the remainder of life will be, disabled from further active duty, the ball by which he was wounded having severed one of his ribs in such a manner as to render either riding or the wearing of a saber or revolver too painful to be endured.
By easy marches we gradually neared Camp Supply, and had begun to descend the long slope leading down to the valley of Wolf Creek, the stream on which we had encamped three nights when we first set out from Camp Supply in search of Indians. With two or three of the Osage guides and as many of the officers I was riding some distance in advance of the column of troops and could indistinctly see the timber fringing the valley in the distance, when the attention of our little party was attracted to three horsemen who were to be seen riding slowly along near the edge of the timber. As yet they evidently had not observed us, the troops behind us not having appeared in view. We were greatly at a loss to determine who the three horsemen might be; they were yet too distant to be plainly visible to the eye, and the orderly with my field glass was still in rear. while we were halting and watching their movements we saw that they also had discovered us, one of their number riding up to a small elevation near by from which to get a better view of our group. After studying us for a few moments he returned at a gallop to his two companions, when all three turned their horses toward the timber and moved rapidly in that direction.
We were still unable to determine whether they were Indians or white men, the distance being so great between us, when my orderly arrived with my field glass, by which I was able to catch a glimpse of them just as they were disappearing in the timber, when whose familiar form should be revealed but that of California Joe, urging his mule to its greatest speed in order to reach the timber before we should discover them. They had evidently taken us for Indians, and well they might, considering that two of our party were Osages and the others were dressed in anything but the regulation uniform. To relieve the anxious minds of California Joe and his companions I put spurs to my horse and was soon bounding down the Plains leading into the valley to join him. I had not proceeded over half way when the scouts rode cautiously out from the timber and California Joe, after shading his eyes with his hand and looking for a few moments, raised his huge sombrero from his matted head and waving it above him as a signal of recognition, pressed his great Mexican spurs deep into the sides of his humble-looking steed, if a mule may receive such an appellation, and the three scouts were soon galloping toward us.
The joy at the meeting was great on both sides, only dampened somewhat on the part of California Joe by the fact that he and his comrades had taken to the timber so promptly when first they discovered us; but he explained it by saying: I counted on it bein' you all the time when I fust got my eye on yer, until I saw two Injuns in the squad, an' forgettin' all about them Osages we had along, I jumped at the conclusion that if thar war any InJuns around, the comfortablest placed I knowed for us three was to make fur the timber and there made a stand. We war gettin' ready to give it to yer if it turned out yer war all Injuns. Wal, I'm powerful glad to see yer agin, an' that's sure."
From his further conversation we were informed that Jack Corbin and himself had made their trip to General Sheridan's headquarters without hindrance or obstacle being encountered on their way, and that after delivering the despatches and being well entertained in the meantime, they, with one other scout, had been sent by the General to endeavor to meet us, bringing from him a package of orders and letters.
While the column was overtaking us and while California Joe, now in his element, was entertaining the attentive group of officers, scouts, and Osages who gathered around him to hear him relate in his quaint manner what he saw, heard, and told at General Sheridan's headquarters, I withdrew to one side and opened the large official envelope in which were contained both official and personal despatches. These were eagerly read, and while the satisfaction derived from the perusal of some of the letters of a private and congratulatory nature from personal friends at Camp Supply was beyond expression, the climax of satisfaction was reached when my eye came to an official-looking document bearing the date and heading which indicated department headquarters as its source. We had but little farther to go before going into camp for that night and as the command had now overtaken us we moved down to the timber and there encamped; and in order that the approving words of our chief should be transmitted promptly to every individual of the command, the line was formed and the following order announced to the officers and men:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,
This order, containing as it did the grateful words of approval from our revered commander went far to drown the remembrance of the hunger, cold, and danger encountered by the command in the resolute and united effort made by it to thoroughly discharge its duty. Words like these, emanating from the source they did and upon an occasion such as this was, were immeasurably more welcome, gratifying, and satisfactory to the pride of officers and men than would have been the reception of a budget of brevets worded in the regular stereotyped form and distributed in a promiscuous manner, having but little regard to whether the recipient had bravely imperilled his life on the battle-field in behalf of his country or had taken particular care to preserve that life upon some field far removed from battle.
The last camp before we reached Camp Supply was on Wolf Creek, about ten miles from General Sheridan's headquarters. The weather had now moderated to the mildest winter temperature, the snow having melted and disappeared. From this point I sent a courier to General Sheridan soon after going into camp, informing him of our whereabouts and the distance from his camp, and that we would reach the latter at such an hour in the forenoon, when the officers and men of my command would be pleased to march in review before him and his staff as we finished our return march from the opening of the winter campaign. Officers and men, in view of this, prepared to put on their best appearance. At the appointed hour on the morning of December 2 the command moved out of camp and began its last day's march toward Camp Supply. Considering the hard and trying character of the duty they had been engaged in since leaving Camp Supply, the appearance of officers, men, and horses was far better than might naturally have been expected of them.
When we arrived within a couple of miles of General Sheridan's headquarters, we were met by one of his staff officers with a message from the General that it would give him great pleasure to review the Seventh Cavalry as proposed, and that he and his staff would be mounted, and take up a favorable position for the review near headquarters. In approaching Camp Supply by the route we were marching a view of the camp and depot is first gained from the point where the high level plain begins to descend gradually to form the valley in the middle of which Camp Supply is located; so that by having a man on the lookout to report when the troops should first make their appearance on the heights overlooking Beaver Creek the General was enabled not only to receive timely notice of our approach, but to take position with his staff to witness our march down the long gradual slope leading into the valley. The day was all we could wish, a bright sun overhead, and favorable ground for the maneuvering of troops.
I had taken the precaution to establish the formation of the marching column before we should appear in view from General Sheridan's camp, so that after our march began down the beautifully descending slope to the valley no change was made. In many respects the column we formed was unique in appearance. First rode our Osage guides and trailers, dressed and painted in the extremest fashions of war according to their rude customs and ideas. As we advanced these warriors chanted their war songs, Fired their guns in triumph, and at intervals gave utterance to their shrill war-whoops. Next came the scouts riding abreast, with California Joe astride his faithful mule bringing up the rear, but unable, even during this ceremonious and formal occasion, to dispense with his pipe. Immediately in rear of the scouts rode the Indian prisoners under guard, all mounted on Indian ponies, and in their dress, conspicuous by its bright colors, many of them wearing the scarlet blanket so popular with the wild tribes, presenting quite a contrast to the dull and motley colors worn by the scouts. Some little distance in rear came the troops formed in column of platoons, the leading platoon, preceded by the band playing Garry Owen, being composed of the sharpshooters under Colonel Cooke, followed in succession by the squadrons in the regular order of march. In this order and arrangement we marched proudly in front of our chief, who, as the officers rode by giving him the military salute with the saber, returned their formal courtesy by a graceful lifting of his cap and a pleased look of recognition from his eye which spoke his approbation in language far more powerful than studied words could have done.
In speaking of the review afterwards, General Sheridan said the appearance of the troops, with the bright rays of the sun reflected from their burnished arms and equipments as they advanced in beautiful order and precision down the slope, the band playing, and the blue of the soldiers' uniforms slightly relieved by the gaudy colors of the Indians, both captives and Osages, the strangely- fantastic part played by the Osage guides, their shouts, chanting their war songs, and firing their guns in air, all combined to render the scene one of the most beautiful and highly interesting he remembered ever having witnessed. After marching in review, the troops were conducted across the plain to the border of Beaver Creek, about a quarter of a mile from General Sheridan's camp, where we pitched our tents and prepared to enjoy a brief period of rest.
We had brought with us on our return march from the battle-ground of the Washita the remains of our slain comrade, Captain Louis McLane Hamilton. Arrangements were at once made upon our arrival at Camp Supply to offer the last formal tribute of respect and affection which we as his surviving comrades could pay. As he had died a soldier's death, so like a soldier he should be buried. On the evening of the day after our arrival at Camp Supply the funeral took place. A little knoll not far from camp was chosen as the resting place to which we were to consign the remains of our departed comrade. In the arrangements for the conduct of the funeral ceremonies no preliminary or important detail had been omitted to render the occasion not only one of imposing solemnity, but deeply expressive of the high esteem in which the deceased had been held by every member of the command. In addition to the eleven companies of the Seventh Cavalry the regular garrison of Camp Supply, numbering several companies of the Third Regular Infantry, the regiment in which Captain Hamilton had first entered the regular service, was also in attendance. The body of the deceased was carried in an ambulance as a hearse, and covered with a large American flag. The ambulance was preceded by Captain Hamilton's squadron, commanded by Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel T. B. Weir, and was followed by his horse, covered with a mourning sheet and bearing on the saddle-the same in which Captain Hamilton was seated when he received his death wound-the saber and belt and the reversed top-boots of the deceased. The pallbearers were Major-General Sheridan, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonels J. Schuyler Crosby, W. W. Cooke and T. W. Custer, Brevet Major W. W. Beebe, Lieutenant Joseph Hall, and myself.
Our sojourn at Camp Supply was to be brief. We arrived there on the 2d of December, and in less than one week we were to be in the saddle with our numbers more than doubled by reinforcements, and again wending our way southward over the route we had so lately passed over.
Before setting out on the last expedition I had stated to the officers in a casual manner that all parties engaged in the conduct of the contemplated campaign against the Indians must reconcile themselves in advance, no matter how the expedition might result, to becoming the recipients of censure and unbounded criticism; that if we failed to engage and whip the Indians, labor as we might to accomplish this, the people in the West, particularly along and near the frontier, those who had been victims of the assaults made by Indians, would denounce us in unmeasured terms as being inefficient or lukewarm in the performance of our duty ; whereas if we should find and punish the Indians as they deserved, a wail would rise up from the horrified humanitarians throughout the country and we would be accused of attacking and killing friendly and defenseless Indians.
My predictions proved true; no sooner was the intelligence of the battle of the Washita flashed over the country than the anticipated cry was raised. In many instances it emanated from a class of persons truly good in themselves and in their intentions, but who were familiar to only a very limited degree with the dark side of the Indian question, and whose ideas were of the sentimental order. There was another class, however, equally loud in their utterances of pretended horror, who were actuated by pecuniary motives alone, and who, from their supposed or real intimate knowledge of Indian character and of the true merits of the contest between" the Indians and the Government, were able to give some weight to their expressed opinions and assertions of alleged facts. Some of these last described actually went So far as to assert not only that the village we had attacked and destroyed was that of Indians who had always been friendly and peaceable toward the whites, but that many of the warriors and chiefs were partially civilized and had actually borne arms in the Union Army during the War of the Rebellion. The most astonishing fact connected with these assertions was not that they were uttered, but that many well-informed people believed them.
The Government, however, was in earnest in its determination to administer proper and deserved punishment to the guilty; and as a mark of approval of the opening event of the winter campaign, the following telegram from the Secretary of War was transmitted to us at Camp Supply:
LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SHERMAN, St. Louis, Mo.
It was impracticable to comply with the request contained in the closing portion of the despatch from the Secretary of War for the gratifying reason that every officer and man belonging to the expedition had performed his full part in rendering the movement against the hostile tribes a complete success.