KanColl Books


by Adolph Roenigk

Forsythe Scouts; Beecher Island; Scouts Surrounded; Charge
and Death of Chief Roman Nose; Volunteers to Ft.
Wallace; A Siege of Nine Days; The Final Rescue.

     While living at Manhattan, Kansas in the fall of 1868 I well remember the Indian depredations committed on the Solomon River and other parts of Western Kansas. Militia companies were recrutied and sent to the frontier to protect the settlers. While the preparation for the winter campaign was in progress, horses for the 19th Kansas Cavalry were bought at Fort Riley. (I took a horse there to sell to the government but I failed to make the sale as the horse I offered did not pass the veterinary.) Indian depredations proceeded from bad to worse and on September 17 the battle of the Arickaree was fought, and I will here give the account as written by Winfield Freeman for the Kansas State Historical Society.
     “The battle of the Arickaree was the most tragic of the many battles fought with the Indians of the plains. It takes its name from a branch of the Republican River. The site of the battle was a small island in the middle of the Arickaree, now included in the state of Colorado, near the east line, and near the west line of what is now Cheyenne County, Kansas.
     “In the summer of 1868, a body of Indians called renegades, composed of parts of several tribes, made a raid on settlers who occupied the Saline and Solomon valleys, killed a number of people, drove away numerous horses, and made captive of two young white women, one who lived on White Rock Creek in Jewell County, Kansas, the other living on Solomon River in Ottawa County. Most of the settlers on the Solomon and Saline Rivers fled for safety to the towns. The Indians were well armed and mounted and moved rapidly toward the north. Many of the settlers along the Solomon and Saline Rivers were formerly soldiers, but three years from the army of the Union. They quickly formed a mounted company, heavily armed, and gave pursuit as far as the head waters of the Solomon but could not overtake the savages. The Indians had successfully raided the country and gotten out of the reach of the infuriated settlers with the two white women captives.
     About this time scouts reported to General Sheridan, who was in command of that department, that a small band of In-


dians, not to exceed 250, were camped on the western frontier of Kansas. He decided to form a company, to be composed of experienced ex-soldiers, buffalo hunters, and frontiersmen, to pursue the enemy. Colonel George A. Forsythe, of General Sheridan’s staff, received orders to form the company. Word soon passed up the Saline and Solomon valleys that such a troop was to be formed at Fort Harker (located in Ellsworth County). In a few days a large number of ex-soldiers, buffalo hunters, frontiersmen and scouts assembled at Fort Harker, all anxious to enlist in the service. Lieutenant Fred Beecher, of the regular army (a nephew of Henry Ward Beecher), was detailed to select the troop, to be composed of fifty picked men. He found at Fort Harker plenty of good material, some extra select, and promptly picked fifty men. He was personally acquainted with many of them, as he was at that time acting chief of scouts, and selected men of metal and daring. Space forbids me to mention the names of but few. Among the number were Captain H.H.Tucker, a lawyer of Ottawa County, and Judge Howard Morton, of the same county, both of whom had served as officers in the Union army, and each had three years experience with life on the frontier of Kansas, and were exactly the kind of men wanted for the campaign. Another of the party was S. E. Stillwell (afterwards known as Commanche Jack), who at that time was a light-haired youth of eighteen summer, with big blue eyes and face as smooth as a woman’s. He was born on the Missouri River, near the present site of Kansas City. At twelve years of age he could speak Spanish and handle a gun like a frontiersman. At fifteen he went upon the plains as a scout, and while scouting on the Arkansas River, heard of the Indian raid into the Saline and Solomon valleys, and that a company of scouts was being formed at Fort Harker for the purpose of pursuing the Indians and recovering the white women who were taken prisoners. Being well mounted, he hastened to Fort Harker, where he arrived just in time to be selected as a member of the troop, and was the youngest man in the command. Most of the men furnished their own horses, and all were well mounted and equipped for service. They made a forced march to Fort Hays, then up the Smoky Hill River to Fort Wallace, a distance of 200 miles. They remained at Fort Wallace one day and two nights, where they were supplied with ammunition, rations, pack mules and a few horses.


     On the 8th or 10th of September the troops left Fort Wallace, consisting of forty-nine men in line, Colonel Forsythe in command, Lieutenant Beecher second in command, and Doctor Moore of Fort Wallace, a citizen surgeon. This small body of men expected to encounter a band of 250 or 300 Indian warriors, which was the number reported by the scouts to be in the country on the north within a range of eighty miles.
     During the time the command was at Fort Wallace, a band of Indians attacked a wagon train near Sheridan, then the western terminus of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, about fifteen miles east of Fort Wallace. The wagon train lost four men who were killed, and considerable stock was run away. News of the raid hastened the departure from Fort Wallace, and the line of march was made toward Sheridan, at which place they struck the trail of the Indians and followed it north until they reached the Republican River below the forks. They then marched north along the banks of Spring Creek, where the scouts discoverd a trail, which, being followed, led to a place where a temporary Indian village had been located. No game was to be found, and the indications were that the Indians had departed but a few days. Close investigation revealed the fact that the Indian village had been composed of about 600 lodges, which confirmed in their minds that a much larger body of Indians were in the locality than was reported at Fort Wallace.
     This discovery, however, did not discourage the command, for every man was ready and anxious for war to the finish. The trail led westward, toward the Arickaree. A few scouts were thrown out in advance, and were followed by the command. As the evening shades gathered the advance guard signaled back and camp was formed on the north bank of the Arickaree Creek, in a narrow valley opposite a sandy island. The pack mules were unloaded and turned out to pasture; the horses were unsaddled, picketed, and placed in charge of sentries. Campfires were soon kindled from brush found around the creek, rations were distributed and eaten with a relish enjoyed only by men on the frontier, and many a good joke went around, for good cheer is common to the brave. The old scouts in the command realized the situation. All around seemed peace and quietness; not an Indian or pang or a dog or wild game was to be seen. The stillness and absence of life impressed the experienced scout that the presence of the invading troop was


known to the red man, yet the red man’s presence was unknown to the troop.
     It was discovered that the trail a mile up the creek turned in a southward direction. It was afterward discovered that the Indian village had been moved to a location about eighteen miles south, on the south fork of the Republican River. Sharp Grover, an experienced scout from Fort Wallace, a member of the troop, stated to Colonel Forsythe that the indication convinced him that a large body of Indians were in the vicinity, and that the presence of the troop was known to them. Guards were stationed in every direction, and strict watch was kept up during the night to prevent surprirse or the stampede of the stock. Early in the evening Grover and Stillwell went over to a sandy island in the creek, in order to ascertain whether it would be a place of safe retreat should an attack be made during the night, and, on investigation, they concluded that the island was the place to make a stand in the event they were surrounded by the enemy. The island was about 125 yards long and fifty yards wide, situated in the middle of Arickaree Creek, about 100 yards from either bank. It was composed entirely of sand, the elevation being about two and one-half feet above the dry bed of the Arickaree. The Arickaree at the season of the year contained no running water.
     Just as the day was breaking (September 17) an alarm was given by the sentinel’s firing and hollowing, “Indians, Indians.” In an instant all were aroused. The clattering of a thousand hoofs, the shouts of the guards, the yells of the Indians resounding over the hills and valleys, conspired to make the event tragic beyond description. The mules belonging to the troop galloped up the valley at breakneck speed, followed closely by the Indians, yelling at the top of their voices and swinging their blankets in wild confusion, retreating rapidly up the valley and over the hills as soon as the Indians were beyond rifle shot. The Indians had, under cover of night, without attracting the attention of the guards, succeeded in creeping down a ravine near where the herd was held under guard and, at a given signal from the hilltop, created a stampede of the stock, and thus succeeded in running of most of the mules and a number of the horses.
     Scouts were sent out to reconointer the hills, and immediately every man was mounted except those who had lost their


horses. In a few moments the scouts were returning at high speed. The resounding of thousands of hoofs coming on with the unearthly yell and the war-whoop of the savage seemed to shake heaven and earth. The valley was alive with mounted warriors, stripped naked and painted for battle. Onward they came with terrific speed, like a mighty cloudburst, the chiefs in advance, decorated with barbaric war bonnets, rendering them conspicuous in the savage throng. The braves were in their long scalp-locks, braided with eagle feathers, armed with spears, bows and arrows, and guns. With exultant shouts and singing their battle songs, Cheyenne, Arapahoes and Sioux--reckless messengers of death--onward they came with increasing fury and speed, flourishing the weapons of war, intent on destroying this small command of brave men who must receive this barbaric horde in the shock of battle. Every man realized to advance was certain death, that retreat was impossible.
     Sharp Grover, mounted on his horse and being near Colonel Forsythe, at once pointed out to the Colonel the advantage of the island as a place or refuge. No time must be lost. Command was given, “Reach the island, and hitch the horses” (there being a number of cottonwood trees on the island). Pell-mell, helter-skelter, every man for himself, with a grand rush, over the embankment, across the dry creek bottom, up the bank, and the island was gained in less time than it takes to tell it. This sudden and unforseen movement of the troop greatly surprised and disconcerted the Indians. Colonel Forsythe ordered Jack Stillman to take some men and go to the east end of the island and hold that point if possible. He took Trudell, known as “French Pete,” and four other men whose names are not recalled, and quickly reached the point, and fell upon the sand and rapidly dug holes in the ground for shelter. Not a shot was to be fired until the enemy should come in close range.
     Onward came the savages in wild disorder, over the bank, into the creek beds and onto the island, riding at high speed, yelling with that unearthly yell and shooting arrows in wild recklessness. Every trooper realized that his time had come, and a heroic determination was pictured on the countenance of every man to sell his life as dearly as possible. “Fire, Fire,” rang out along the line. In an instant the roar of the muskets rose above the din of the savage yell. Painted warriors reeled and fell from their plunging steeds, bleeding and dying upon the sand. Volley after volley was poured into the charging foe in


rapid succession. Horses freed from their riders, frenzied with fear or smarting from their wounds, rushed torward over the pits right and left through the ranks of the enemy, trampling upon the dead and dying, adding to the tragedy of the scene. Soon horses and warriors were mingled in disorganized confusion; several great chiefs lay dying by their ponies; many reached the island to rise no more. As if by magic the enemy deflected right and left and hastily retreated, gathering up many of their dead and wounded. These efforts to carry off the fallen cost many a brave his life, as the delay and exposure furnished a favorable mark for the unerring sharpshooter in the pits, who kept up a constant fire so long as an Indian was within range. The sheltering hill afforded the enemy protection and opportunity to rally and renew the battle.
     A new mode of attack was now resorted to by the savages. More Indians appeared upon the hills, yelling and shooting with guns and arrows. In the meantime it was discovered that a large number of Indians were crawling in the grass towards the island. The grass in many places was tall enough to shelter from view, and being on the ground they were thus greatly protected from the aim of the scouts. The soldiers during this interval dug with their knives and scooped up the sand with their hands and feet while lying on the ground, and banked it up, thereby greatly improving their pits and shelter. During the digging and scooping up of sand, a desultory firing was kept up at the Indians who were crawling and hiding in the grass. Notwithstanding this some of the red men succeeded in reaching the island under the guidance and command of a brave chief, who constantly encouraged his braves to advance. The scouts could hear the voice of the chief giving command, obscured by the dense growth of grass along the banks of the creek; but wherever a warrior’s body appeared in sight it was pierced by a ball from the island, and if a scout raised his above the embankment he was a mark for the Indians.
     During the first hour of the battle all of the horses and mules were killed, including a number of Indian horses that had escaped after the death of their riders and reached the island taking shelter among the horses of the troop. Firing on both sides was kept up fiercely until ten o’clock in the forenoon. Several chiefs had been killed and others wounded. There seemed to be a lack of organization among the Indians, which was quickly noticed by the scouts, and gave them hope that the


enemy would withdraw from the battle. Presently the celebrated Indian chief, Roman Rose, the hero of many battles, was seen on the hillside, now wearing his war bonnet. Up to this time he had taken no part in the battle. He was in plain view of Jack Stillwell and his men on the east end of the island. Stillwell knew him, and his ability to plan was established in tradition and history. Stillwell and his comrades anxiously watched the chief’s movements from the shelter of their sand barricade. The Indians appeared to be surveying the valley, and soon were around the chief in earnest consultation. Firing from the hill had almost ceased; no Indians were to be seen in the grass, and the stillness became oppressive.
     In this short armistice the brave scouts prepared as best they could for the dread ordeal of a further charge of the savage foe. Anxious eyes rested on Roman Nose. Every musket was loaded and ready. Those of dead and wounded were taken possession of, loaded, and held ready at hand to be used in rapid firing. Impending death in the Sandpits was a foregone conclusion, for how could a few almost famished men withstand the repeated charge of hundreds of savages prepared for battle?
     Movements of the Indians about Roman Nose indicated that order was about to be restored; that an intelligent hand was directing the charge that was about to be made. The great chief strung on his war bonnet, the largest and finest worn by any of the band; his sharpshooters were disposed, and gathered around him his favorite warriors, the flower of the Cheyenne Nation. By his jestulation it could be seen he was addressing them in an earnest manner, which lasted only a few moments. Then he mounted his warhorse and was armed with a lance, which was his favorite weapon.
     Roman Nose claimed he had a charmed life, and no bullet was ever made to kill him. His faith in special providence that guarded his person caused him to be unmindful of personal danger. He was a powerful man physically, active as a youth, brave as a lion, possessed of a strong intellect and commanding presence. He was born to command, and was jealous of his birthright. Up to this time Roman Nose had not appeared in the battle, although he was present on the hill and saw the charge and retreat. He remained a silent spectator, and witnessed many braves fall in the conflict, yet he had refused to string on the war bonnet and enter the battle because he had


not been selected to take the command. But now, after the death of several chiefs, the command fell to him.
     The five scouts who by command of Colonel Forsythe occupied the east end of the island had escaped injury. With the aid of butcher knives they had dug two pits, one being occupied by two men, the other by three, with speaking distance of each other, but all communication was cut off from the troop, who occupied the west end of the island, at which point the Indians had thus far directed their attack.
     Roman Nose assumed command about 10:30 o’clock, gathered about him his warriors, who were mounted and full war paint, their scalp-locks braided with eagle’s feathers, and armed with spears, guns and bows. Firing was renewed with fury from the hillsides as well as by the Indians who laid in ambush. With Roman Nose in the lead, with wild and exultant yells, onward they came dashing towards the island. The dust for a moment concealed the advancing foe, but soon they could be seen through the rising dust making directly for the east end of the island. Stillwell ordered his cmorades to make sure of Roman Nose at all hazards. It seemed but a moment until the Indians were on the island, riding with unchecked speed, firing as they came, and yelling like devils in wild pandemonium. Simultaneously the scouts delivered their fire in the face of the advancing foe, and quickly dropped under shelter of pits. The Indians were taken by surprise, not knowing that the east end of the island was occupied by scouts, but they kept wildly on, making for the main body at the west end of the island. The scouts opened a deadly fire, well directed on the enemy, as they reached the middle of the island. Roman Nose’s spear fell from his horse, and he seized hold of his horse’s mane. His braves gathered around him and held him on his horse, and by that means carried the great chief off of the field, under a deadly fire from the island. He was mortally wounded. The Indians quickly gathered up many of their killed and wounded and hastily retreated to the hills. In this place the Indians were at a great disadvantage; they being mounted afforded a fine mark for the soldiers, whereas the soldiers fought from the shelter of their pits.
     After the fall of Roman Nose the enemy made several futile attempts to reach the island, but were unsuccessful. The movements in these charges were not directed by proper concert action.


     At 2 o’clock P. M. firing almost ceased and a deadly stillness settled upon the hills and valleys, except the moaning of the wounded and dying. Presently what appeared to be a new band of Indians came into view from the surrounding hilltops, and it was apparent that the enemy had been reinforced at this critical moment. The hearts of the soldiers almost failed them, for they knew some chief, with his warriors, had arrived, and a new order of battle would soon be formed. By the aid of a field-glass it was disovered that the new contingent was commanded by an old, celebrated warrior named Dull Knife, one of the Sioux tribe. He was recognized by some of the older scouts, who had been with him on hunting expeditions. He was a favorite chief, renowned in war and considered a sage and prophet. He was greatly honored and loved, especially by the squaws and children of the tribe. But the suns of many summers and the frosts of many winters had somewhat abated the vigor of his frame and the fire of his heart, yet he was never known to fear an enemy or retreat from danger. This venerable chief appeared in full dress, wearing his gorgeous war bonnet, which reached from the crown of his head to the ground and distinguished him as a warrior of renown among his people. The wearing of the bonnet indicated that he had come for war and was in command.
     All interest and attention was centered upon this great chief, who, mounted upon his war horse, cast his eagle eye over the field of conflict and formed his plan of attack. His gesticulations indicated he was addressing his braves and preparing them for the charge about to be made. At the conclusion of which he formed his mounted warriors in line of battle, and advanced riding at high speed, to the contest, the chief in the lead, swinging his gun over his head, calling loudly to his followers. Colonel Forsythe, lying in a pit, gave orders that no man should fire until the Indians came within close range. In a few moments this warrior band swept down the hillside across the narrow valley into the creek bottom, shouting their terrible war cry. It seemed now the end had surely come, and each man, seized with determination only acquired in the ordeal of death, nerved himself for the last encounter. Several scouts

     NOTE: It was ascrtained afterwrds that Roman Nose was shot in the lower part of the body, and after suffering great pain, died before midnight. The Indians buried him on a scaffold, the body being enclosd in e buffalo hide. The scaffold was erected on the south fork of the Republican river , about twenty miles from Arickarree.


concentrated their fire on the chief. He was shot dead on his horse and fell to the ground within a hundred feet of the island. His warhorse turned and galloped from the field, followed by the Indians, who, in their retreat, succeeded in carrying away a number of their slain, the scouts pouring a stream of lead into the retreating horde until they passed beyond rifle range into the hills.
     Hundreds of squaws met the returning foe with wild, dismal wailings for their dead chief, whose body was left on the field where he fell. Such lamentation was never heard before by white men--it was a new feature on the field of battle, and the awful cry of grief, reenforced each moment by new auxiliaries from non-combatants, produced a peroration to the tragic scene, sublime beyond the power of pen or tongue to protray.
     Now, for the first time, the brave scouts had time to help their wounded and count their dead. The sand bar was red with blood; dead men and horses were strewn upon the ground in every direction. Half the little band were killed or wounded; every life left precious beyond price. But at this moment a new element of distress manifested itself in the frenzied squaws who gathered on the hills behind the warriors and, armed with long poles, clubs and sticks with wailings and threats, urged the warriors to return and recover the body of their dead chief. The besieged men, faint and exhausted by their heroic efforts, so long continued, without nourishment, or even water to cool their burning throats, gathered the guns of the dead and wounded and quickly prepared for the coming assault. Every soul realized that there is a limit to human endurance.
     Heretofore the enemy had advanced on horseback, their favorite mode of warfare, but now they were returning to regain the body of their dead chief, marching down the valley in a solid column on foot, decorated with war paint, not a warrior wearing a thread of clothing to obscure his hideous form. Each brave sang his woeful death song; a stalward indifference to danger was pictured on each savage face. The spectacle was appalling; a drama in human life never to be repeated; the hills occupied by the wives, mothers an daughters, urging their sons, husbands and brothers to the conflict. The moment was tremendous to contemplate; the scene dreadful to behold. Steadily, not hastily, the marchers came. It was the last death song for many a brave. Over the bloody field,


strewn with dead men and horses, they advanced with steady tread, the vanguard firing in order, unheeding the deadly fire from the island that thinned their ranks at every step. With increasing speed they came forward, until they reached the body of their dead chieftain, and bore it away amid the hail of bullets, until hardly half this heroic band reached the distant hills to receive the loud acclamations of the exultant squaws. Upon the river bed and at the verge of the island lay the bodies of hundreds of red men who fell in the conflict.
     The battle ended with recovery of the body of Dull Knife. Evil spirits seemed to hover around; the Indians were discouraged and broken. The friendly curtains of night were let down upon the earth, and no sounds were heard but the groans of the wounded. The bodies of the dead were laid in sandy shallow graves, without funeral rite or prayer; for the field of battle is not the field for ceremony, and spiritual thoughts of man do not prevail amid the slaughter of fellow man.
     The wounded received medical aid. Dr. Moore, the citizen surgeon received a wound on the head in the early part of the fight; he was crazed by the wound and would frequently jump up, and had to be pulled down into the pit. He was unconscious from the time he was wounded and died during the day.
     Early in the fight, Colonel Forsythe was wounded by a ball passing through his thigh and the lower bone of his leg was broken. A hole was hastily dug to lay him in, to shield his body, and while thus lying in the pit he commanded the battle and encouraged his men.
     Lieutenant Beecher received two wounds in the body, and implored his comrades to shoot him. He expired about nine o’clock P. M.
     Captain Morton was shot in the face early in the morning, at the first grand charge. A wounded mule, frantic with pain, was about to fall on him in the pit. He raised up to strike the animal with his carbine, when a ball struck his left eye and lodged on the right side of his face.
     John Harrington was struck on the forehead by an arrow, which lodged where it struck. In a moment a rifle ball, passing his face horizontally, knocked out the arrow, and the ball passed into the body of a horse. Harrington recovered from


his shock in a few moments, cooly picked up the arrow point where it had fallen to the ground and put it in his pocket.
     Captain Culver, a trooper from the Solomon valley, was shot in the head and died instantly. Culver Station, in Ottawa County, Kansas, on the Salina branch of the Union Pacific Railroad, is named in memory of this Captain Culver.
     Under cover of night, Stillwell and his four men who occupied the east end of the island, rejoined the remainder of the command on the west end. On their way in the darkness of the night they heard a voice crying, “Have I no friends to help me?” They recognized the voice as being that of Scout Farley. The night being very dark they were directed to him by his cries. They found him on the north bank of the Arickaree, where he had occupied a favorable position for sharp shooting during the day, and in the last charge was mortally wounded. He was taken to the sandpits, and died on the island a few days afterwards. Farley’s home was on the Saline river, and he was one of the first to join the command.
     The troop was without food and water the entire day, and as the creek afforded no water this season of the year, water must be procured or all would perish. It was important that every hour of darkness should be improved. A scout volunteered to go over to the place where the camp was located the previous night to get a spade that had been left. He succeeded in finding the spade, with which trenches were dug connecting the pits. They dug a hole six feet deep, which soon afforded muddy water enough to fill all their canteens. Colonel Forsythe appointed Sharp Grover, a brave and experienced scout, in whom all had confidence, to take charge of the command. Before midnight a counsel was held, in which it was decided that relief must be had. Jack Stillwell and Pete Trudell volunteered to pass through the Indian lines and try to reach Fort Wallace. Sharp Grover insisted that Stillwell was too young and inexperienced to succeed in the undertaking, and that he was the men to undertake the journey. However, it was soon settled that Sharp should remain with the command. During the counsel Colonel Forsythe was lying in the pit unable to sit up, but gave his counsel as cooly as though he were reclining in a tent. He did not order Sillwell and Trudell to undertake the journey, but as they volunteered he permitted them to go. It was decided that the two scouts should start at midnight on


their perilous journey to Fort Wallace. As the Indians would be on the alert to prevent communication with the Fort, a circuitous route was required to be taken, increasing the distance to about 125 miles. To be captured by the Indians was certain death. One reared in the quiet and security of civilization would shrink from so hazardous undertaking, but scouts familiar with exposure and a life of daring do not hesitate upon a journey every moment of which would be fraught with peril.
     The two scouts were provided with horse meat for provender, and made mocassins out of boot tops to wear on the journey, the better to imitate the footprints of Indians, should their tracks be discovered. Each was armed with a repeating rifle and a knife. They wore blankets, in imitation of Indians, and quietly crawled out in a southwesterly direction, keeping close to each other, avoiding hollows and ravines, well knowing that the wily red man would be less likely to look for them on open ground. On reaching the hillside several of the enemy passed near. Their words could be distinguished, but the friendly darkness proved protection to them. Cautiously onward they moved, several times passing around small bodies of Indians, and finally gained the open prairie. Their ears, being trained almost to the acuteness of savages, were on duty continuously to detect the faintest sound. As day began they reached a point three miles from the Arickaree, where they took shelter in a hollow bank overhung by tall grass, in dense foliage of friendly sunflowers, which seemed to have grown especially for their protection. The bed of the draw was rocky and left no tracks to betray their presence. During the night, when the scouts came to soft and sandy soil, they walked backward, in order, if the tracks were discovered, to mislead the Indians and hide their trail. The entire day was spent in this obscure retreat. The discharge of firearms could be plainly heard from the island, where the brave men continued to hold the enemy at bay. No one can describe the feelings of these men who, under the bank, were anxiously waiting the close of day to enable them to resume their journey to gain relief for their besieged comrades.
     When nightfall came friendly clouds obscured the sky. They started east and south and soon discovered Indians coming from their village toward the battleground. The Indians being mounted, were readily seen by the scouts. The sound of


their voices and the clatter of the horses’ hoofs were first heard, which gave them time and opportunity to hide away from the traveled path. At the first dawn of day they reached the south fork of the Republican river, and to their dismay found themselves within a half mile of the Indian village, where they hid in a swamp. Even this damp, dismal resting place, overgrown with coarse grass and sunflowers, they could see squaws gathering dry willow sticks for fuel; others were out on the hill to the north awaiting the arrival of their dead from the battlefield. Indians on horseback riding toward the village passed close to the secreted scouts, but, unaware of their presence in the swamp, were not on the alert, and passed by, to the unutterable relief of the two men.
     When darkness came again they waded the river, and traveled hastily in the direction of Fort Wallace all night without incident, and concluded they had passed the Indians, and therefore decided to journey during the day, as a much greater distance could be traveled by daylight. About seven o’clock in the morning, to their dismay, they discovered, about two miles west, on a high, rolling prairie, the advance guard of the Cheyenne village moving south to join the southern Cheyennes. The men had now reached the head of goose creek, and fortune favored them. They discovered nearby the carcass of a buffalo which had been killed the winter before. The bleeching ribs were covered by hide enough to form a shelter, and it was an easy matter to crawl into the shell, which afforded a lodgeing place more acceptable than elegant. From this unique cover they saw the village pass southward. Trudell became weak and sick, caused by drinking water out of a buffalo wallow. When the shades of night came they resumed their journey with the utmost speed. Morning came with a light rain and snow, which prevented them from seeing far, but they continued to travel and about noon reached a wagon road, which they recognized as being fifteen miles from Fort Wallace. They soon met two colored soldiers carrying dispatches to Colonel Carpenter, commander of H troop, Tenth U. S. Cavalry, encamped at Lake Station, seventy miles from Arickaree. The soldiers, being informed by the scouts of the situation at Arickaree, hastened to Colonel Carpenter.
     The scouts reached Fort Wallace at sundown on the 20th day of September and reported to Colonel Bankhead, the of-


ficer in command, who wired General Sheridan at Fort Hays, and he replied to proceed with all available troops to Colonel Forsythe’s relief, and spare neither men or expense. The command left Fort Wallace at midnight, with wagons, ammunition and supplies.
     We will now return to the island and take up the story at the departure of the scouts at midnight. On the morning of the 18th, before daylight, a body of Indians came down the Arickaree on horseback. The scouts opened fire and them and they immediately scattered and retreated with great speed, being taken by surprise. They were not aware of the presence of the soldiers on the island, no fires having been kindled, and the soldiers, keeping closely within the shelter of the pits, were not discovered by the Indians. These Indians were on a journey and knew nothing of the battle.
     The Indians who were engaged in the battle became extremely cautious, and kept up the siege along the hillsides, scouted the camp, and fired at the soldiers at long range. All of the horses belonging to the troop were killed in battle. No men were killed after the first day, but the wounded suffered greatly from want of food and care. The carcasses of the horses furnished a supply of food for the famished men. The hindquarters, though badly tainted, on the third day were cut up and utilized for food by being boiled, and sprinkled with plenty of powder. On the third night, no relief having arrived, it was concluded that the two scouts who were sent out to reach Fort Wallace had been killed, and that two more should be sent out to try to reach the Fort. Two men volunteered to undertake the journey, Jack Donovan and Captain A. J. Plily, who, under cover of night, evaded the Indians. They were instructed to return if they could not find relief. These scouts were so fortunate as to intercept Colonel Carpenter who had received word that Colonel Forsythe and his command were besieged by Indians on the island in the Arickaree, the two colored soldiers met by Stillwell and Trudell having carried word to Colonel Carpenter, and he, having no information as to the exact location of the island, was out on a scout in search of it when met by Donovan and Plily. Donovan was at once mounted on a mule and led the commmand to Arickaree. Captain Plily went on to Fort Wallace.
     On the morning of the ninth day after the battle the men


on guard at Arickaree raised the cry, “Indians, Indians.” The men, worn and weary with watching, fighting and fasting, with ammunition almost exhausted, felt that the end had surely come. Over the distant hill could be seen a dark line of mounted men riding at high speed. Each soldier grasped his rifle preparing for the final death struggle, and summoned his strength to meet the last charge. The rising sun threw its silvery screen across the landscape, and the glitter of saber and carbine, carried forward like the swiftness of the wind, revealing to the besieged the coming relief. Cheer upon cheer were given by the powder-stained patriots. The wounded, in exultation of the moment, looked up to get a view of their deliverers. The brave men who had crawled away in the darkness of midnight had succeeded in their errand. Men who faltered not in battle wept like children, and in frenzy embraced each other like long-parted friends. Life and hope and home and family, and friends was to be theirs once more. Who can describe that joy of these men who found deliverence after nine days of suffering and disaster. What a scene met the gaze of those who had come to the rescue. The ground strewn with dead bodies of Indians; the air freighted with odor of decaying flesh; the wounded troopers suffering without aid or shelter; the cry of the joy of the wounded caused every eye to weep in sympathy.
     We will not stop to describe the return to Fort Wallace, after which several of the wounded died. But suffice it to say, Arickaree remains in tradition among the red men as the most tragic event in the annals of frontier warfare. Indians always conceal the number they lose in battle. In recent years it has been ascertained, through Indians who were engaged in the battle of Arickaree, that they lost a “very large number of braves.”
     While visiting Mr. Eli Ziegler (one of the Forsythe scouts who participated in this battle) then living near Salem, Oregon, told the writer the following: “After the commands left Beecher Island on their way to Fort Wallace, when reaching the south fork of the Republican river, they came on to a small number of Indian stragglers (the main body of Indians having gone south). These stragglers had probably been engaged in the burial of their dead, or for some reason had dropped behind the main body. The Forsythe scouts coming in sight of them,


even in their weakened condition, had vitality enough to give chase, but these stragglers of Indians were in no better condition, as they were overtaken by the scouts and dispatched. They tried to defend themselves. One old buck had a revolver in his hand that would not fire, on account of a bullet having lodged in the barrel. Ziegler said there was no way to explain this, but he thought there was a faint possibility of a bullet fired by the scouts had struck the muzzle of the Indian’s revolver and had entered and lodged in the barrel. The Indian was promptly dispatched and the bullet was found lodged in the barrel of his revolver as stated above.

Beecher Island Monument

Beecher Island Monumnemt

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