KanColl Books


by Adolph Roenigk

Observation of His Character and Actions During a Period of
Service in the United States Army.
By Hercules H. Price

Hercules H. Price
Hercules H. Price     During the five years of my military service in the 5th United States Cavalry, 1868-1873, a good share of it was passed in the Indian country of the west, in fact, my transfer from the state of Georgia to the plains was to engage in a campaign against the hostile Indians.
     We arrived at Fort McPherson, Nebraska, in February, 1869, and commenced fitting for the campaign at once. We were about three weeks occupied in this work. At this time I had my first impressions of Indian life. Of course I had gained some information by reading books on Indian life by Cooper and others, but this was the first practical experience and contact I had with Indians.
     The Pawnee warriors were mustered into the United States service as scouts, and were friendly allies in the campaign. They were in command of Major North. The whole of the 5th United States Cavalry and band, together with the Pawnee scouts, comprised the command, being under the personal direction of Major Eugene A. Carr of the 5th Cavalry.
     Our objective points were the new settlements along the Republican River, and Solomon and Saline Rivers and the

     NOTE: Cooper’s interesting depiction of Indian life and character has often been discredited by qualified writers of later date; in fact, Cooper’s ideal Indian of noble, generous, lofty mould is so rare that we must conclude the talented author evolved the copper colored heroes from his pipe or his ink well.


Platte. Our first near approach to the hostiles was in the vicinity of the Butte country and high table lands of Northwest Kansas and Southwest Nebraska, and near the Niobrara River along the borders of South Dakota. This region comprised the Nauvaises Terras, or bad lands, a region of forbidding and awesome aspect.
     The Pawnees, I observed, were a vigilant and trustworthy body of scouts, more particularly in seeking for signs of the enemy, and in this connection it may be observed, the Sioux were their most deadly foe. The Pawnees, on one occasion, being nearly surrounded in a depression in a mountainous part of the country where they had fixed their camp, had it not been for the watchfulness of Major North, would probably have been annihilated. They ever afterward regarded him as their chief and father. This occurred before their organization as scouts of the 5th Cavalry.
     In considering the characteristic aggressiveness of the Indian in general, I would remark, the American people, the pioneers, and eventually the Army, came to squat, stay and initiate our civilization in the Indian’s country, and in this trial of making him accept our way of life instead of following his own by hunting and all the primeval habits of his ancestors, we must not be surprised that he rebelled against such occupancy and fought for his inherent rights; but we were morally and numerically stronger than the Indian and he has had to submit. But it goes without saying that he did not submit tamely, it was with him, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” “Lesc Talionis,” the law of retaliation.
     In my marching with the Pawnee scouts I observed there were friendly passages between some of them and our troops. One of the scouts was very friendly toward me. He took much pains to show me and explain Indian signs--as a moccasin track, a bent twig, etc., and his conduct was more like a good comrade than a stranger and another race. His liking for me he manifested by bringing me presents of wild plums, and once, a branch of ripe gooseberries.
     I was in the acting signal corps and was often posted on an eminance by myself to direct the wagon train and column in case of any obstruction, such as a creek that required filling in with brush and dirt for temporary crossing. When I saw such pre-


paratory work was required for the passage of the wagon train, I would flag, “Pioneers to the front,” when they would come with pick, spade and ax. As I carried the signal flag and also torch at night, I was named by my Pawnee friend “The man who carries the flag,” or as he pronounced it in his language, “Nah-weelits-sahweel.” They used this name in speaking of me throughout the campaign. So much for our allies, the Pawnees.
     After the battle of Summit Springs and the Pawnees were discharged and returned to their reservation, we had some experience with the Utes in the Black Hills of Wyoming Territory. These Indians had for some time been killing the sheep of the settlers, burning their ranches and murdering the inhabitants. They were led by a half breed named Delachay. Our company pursued them across the Laramie River into North Park, Colorado, and killed three or four. When we got into the Park, we came upon a light spring wagon which belonged to a fine, handsome young man who had acted as our scout and guide in the Black Hills country.
     He was found beside the wagon dead, arrows stuck in his breast and broken off. He was mutilated in a shocking manner. His mule was killed and the head placed upon the unfortunate man’s breast with the nose toward his face, meaning, I think, that he was of no more consequence than a mule--a mild expression of savage contempt. His Winchester rifle was missing, but under the wagon bed the number of empty cartridge shells showed that he had made a good fight and only succumbed to his foes when his ammunition was exhausted. The boys were wild when they found the body of the heroic youth, and when they killed the four Indians, they were treated to the same mutilation and their flesh cut in strips.
     In considering the Indian character we must not forget that they are a part of the great race of humanity and cannot be separated from the frailties of human nature. The Indian shows his relationship to all humanity by his revengeful antaganism to the whites’ intrusion on his ancient method of living. It is a question, and a very delicate one for the victorious white man to discuss, if we have not worked a serious infraction on God’s original plan by civilizing the Indian by killing him. On a smaller scale, some such grudge existed between the cattleman and the sheepman--cattle do not take kindly to range grazed over by sheep--each one thought it time for the other to


move on.
     After the brush with the Utes we were sent overland to California where we embarked in the harbor of San Francisco on board the steamship “Newbern,” for Arizona to fight the Apaches. That campaign was a wide field of battle. We made a practice of burning their supplies and starving them into submission. We distributed the troops so they formed a cordon, and drove them to a common center, where they fought and surrendered. We had with us as allies, Apaches, well disposed toward us. They were from the White Mountain Indian Reservation, San Carlos Division, and wore a distinguishing mark.
     We were at one time, after the campaign was over, stationed on the Gila River, about four miles from San Carlos Agency. There we built a stockade near our camp, so that in case of need we could fall back into it as a fortification. There were in a canon close by our camp, about two thousand Indians in charge of a chief named “Es-kim-in-zeen,” who was made chief by General O. O. Howard some time previously. The General also presented the chief with a nickle plated, ivory handled Colts revolver. He was established as chief by General Howard in the place of a former chief who was deposed because of having committed an unpardonable offense against his tribe.
     A part of these Indians in the canon close by our camp were our former scouts, and they were directed by the Captain to deliver up the arms we had issued them when mustered in as scouts. The chief refused to give up the arms and gave the Captain twenty minutes to leave his camp, but the Captain thought he would stay a while and await further developments. We were in camp and prepared for instant action should the trumpeter blow, “to arms.”
     The Captain was accompanied by a trumpeter and two men. The Indians put up a stubborn front but eventually the arms were delivered to the Captain and amicable relations were established with the chief and Indians. The chief was a well built and fine looking speciman of the American savage. He brought his revolver to our camp, asking if the blacksmith could fix it, the tumbler spring being broken. The blacksmith would not undertake it as he was not equipped for such work, but the Captain told the chief as he was going to Benicia arsenal to have some arms repaired he would take the revolver also.


It was some few hesitating moments before the chief consented to part with his revolver for even this short time, thus revealing the natural mistrust of the Indian. The Captain explained through the interpreter that it was as much as his commission was worth to violate his promise, and upon that showing the revolver was turned over for repair.
     I was company clerk at that time and was in the same tent, standing behind the chief when he came with the broken revolver. He suddenly turned around and looked fixedly at me for a full half minute, scanning me up and down, until he appeared satisfied that I could be trusted. He had so long been associated with treachery that he saw in my position a fine opportunity for me to slip a knife into his back. The Indian possesses so large a bump of caution that he is not easily trapped.
     Our camp was visited by some of the prettiest dark-eyed Apache Mojaves--little girls--in charge of a stalwart buck, their father, who had temporarily wandered off to beg tobacco from the boys of our company. While they were there a wagon load of oranges from Los Angeles came up. I bought some fruit and distributed to the little girls, and was rewarded by the evident delight of the little creatures, expressed in smiles and sparkling eyes. But as was their custom, they dared not eat the oranges until permission had been given them, and everything had to be shared among them in common, so each held their oranges tightly clasped to the breasts awaiting the return of their keeper. He appeared suspicious as if something was not right and glared meaningly at me. Turning to the little girls he accused one of them of being “mucha mala chignits,” very bad girl, but I interposed that she was a good little girl, they were all good girls, and so they were allowed to keep the fruit. I recollect another incident tending to show how fully the Apache was imbued with the true principles of socialism.
     It was upon our arrival at Yuma, Arizona. We were getting our dinner of bean soup and camp bread, which was made in large quantities and baked in trenches. One of our company gave up his bowl of soup and bread to an old chief, his squaw and daughter, who shared the gift equally between them, each in turn taking a spoonful, the chief first, next his squaw and then the daughter until the bowlful was consumed. The daughter was a handsome and shapely brunette, and she was much smitten with the soldier who was a healthy and handsome man.


Not awaiting any advances on his part, she asked her father and mother if she might remain with the soldier, and permission was readily given her. I watched when the Indian maiden, with blushes and downcast eyes, preferred her request, and noted the indulgent smile and evident pleasure with which the fond parents consented--it was all so prettily primeval.
     In the Tonto Basin we chastised the Apache soundly, burning their wheat fields and starving them into subjection. In the Santa Marie mountains we charged a cave of the hostiles and killed many there. There was ridge on top of the cave that proved to be a lagena ledge--silver lead. One of the soldiers whose time of enlistment had expired, entered the claim for himself and afterward sold it to a mining company in Los Angeles for $800, but he soon dissipated this amount by going on a big spree.
     Once, while carelessly digging in the sand as I was resting during a fifteen minute halt, two gold nuggets rolled out, one of the value of $5.00 and the other $2.00. I took the bearings of the place but never visited it afterward. There were two human skulls on a rock near by, to attest the tragedy that had been enacted there.
     The Indian, the plain, the desert and the mirage are all joined by natural association. As viewed by me while in Arizona, the mirage was a most novel sight. We had just passed Squaw Peak when in the distance we saw a long line of timber, beautiful trees and a silvery stream of water running beneath them. The illusion was so perfect that our horses turned their heads and neighed with delight at the refreshing spectacle. Squaw

     NOTE: It is not the purpose of this work and want of space forbids going deeply into the discussion of the question raised by Lieutenant Price’s observation of this little mentioned trait of character, but it is a note worthy fact that not only in North America but in all parts of the world where a civilized people are brought into contact with savages, the latter, however bitter the existing enmity, lend themselves readily to an alliance with the hated invaders, seeming to recognize their mental superiority and not despising intermarriage as a means of sharing it is beneficial outcome.
     No sooner does a missionary gain the love and confidence of his savage congregation than they wish him to take a wife, or as many as he likes, from their waiting list of dusky, ivoried belles. Many a white trapper and hunter, captured by the American Indians and destined for the slow-fire, has fallen into the delightful alternative of a dark-eyed young squaw for a wife, a comfortable teepee and an honored seat at the council fire of his erstwhile enemies; and who of us has not heard of Captain John Smith?


Peak is a mountain of grotesque outline and fitting shape for its surroundings. As we approached, the image in profile was that of a helmeted Amazon, or Goddess of Liberty, but after we had passed some distance, on looking back the figure had the appearance of bent old hag.
     While we were at Camp Date Creek, after the campaign was over and the Indians returned to their reservations, we were out scouting one day and came suddenly upon a camp of about two hundred Indians. We were greatly surprised, but they were none the less so. One of them came forward saying in broken English, “Heap good Injun; heap pass,” exhibiting some passes signed by the Indian agent about three months previously. We thought best to detain them and so, surrounded and drove them to our camp, telegraphed to General Crook at Fort Whipple for instructions. He replied, “Hold them until I can come down,” following at once with an ambulance and four mules. The General came very near being killed upon his arrival in our camp. He ordered that the Indians be disarmed, the arms to be placed in one wagon and the squaws in another and the bucks to foot it.
     While we were attending to this duty an Indian snatched a rifle from an infantryman and discharged it at the General but a soldier knocked the gun aside and spoiled the savage’s aim. It was a very close call, for I saw the blaze from the weapon go past the General’s head. He received that attack coolly and continued giving orders as though the occurrence was nothing out of common. General Crook was an old Indian fighter and accustomed to such incidents, I believe. The Indian who made the attempt on the General’s life was knocked down and secured from doing further mischief. We had a tough job guarding the savages until they could be returned to their reservation.
     During our fight with the Indians in the Tonto Basin we captured a fourteen-year-old boy-a Coyetero Apache. We had previously captured a part of his band and killed his father and mother in battle. He showed affection for his mother when her death was made known to him; but had no sympathy for his father. This young savage proved to be a most valuable addition to our command as he knew the trails of the vicinity and what was of vital importance, the location of good water. He was very intelligent and I learned much of his language through his instructions. He understood considerable Spanish and learned


English readily. We eventually made him a good trumpeter, and he was later a servant to one of the officers of “G” Company of the 5th United States Cavalry. He was given the name of one of the Captains, Mike Burns. The young Apache was a great favorite with the officers and they often gave him small amounts of money to risk in a game of poker. His fondness for the pasteboards, the use of which he quickly acquired, went far toward convincing me that racial differences that seem to widely sunder the great human family are only the climatic and other local influence resultant from a segregation of some thousands of centuries, and our return to a common level is as swift as the falling of a plummet.

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