Kansas Collection Books
       The Indian War of 1864, by Eugene Ware

Chapter XIX.
A Study of the Pawnees - Their Peculiarities on the March - Their Physique - Their Habitat - The Smoky Hill Route - July 23, 1864 - March up Lodgepole - Camp on Lodgepole - July 24th - Jules Stretch - Well on Summit - Mud Springs - Pawnees Sent Back - Court House Rock

     COMING up from Cottonwood Springs I had a very good chance to study the Pawnees. Up as far as Jack Morrow's they kept huddled together, but after we passed that place they began to spread around over the prairies. The Pawnees were one of the capable tribes, and this battalion was the pick of the whole. Major North was a brave, industrious officer, and did his best to keep his Indians in some sort of order and style, but it was almost like trying to command a flock of blackbirds. At Fort Kearney there had been issued to each of these Indians a hat, blouse, and pair of trousers. All the balance they furnished themselves. They rode their own horses, with Indian saddles and bridles. These saddles were shaped like sawbucks, and on the forks were hung their lariats and belongings. They did not care much for hats, and by the time we reached Julesburg there were not many hats left, and most of those were on the tops of their ponies' heads, with holes cut in the top for the ponies' ears to stick out through, and fastened to the bridle. In scouring over the prairie they would race their horses, and if a hat blew off the Indian paid no more attention to it than a bird would in flight, shedding a feather. They were not used to hats, and only those having some rank or authority seemed to desire to hold onto them. In addition to this, most of them from time to time took off their blouses and tied them to their saddles, and above their trousers they had on nothing but their naked, sunburned skin. The slang expression for an Indian out there in those days was "abbrigoin." General Mitchell would watch them skirmishing around and would say, "What in [blankety-blank] do you think those abbri-goins are good for anyhow?" Before we got to Julesburg every Indian had cut the seat out of his cavalry pants, and they were in two sections, held up by an outside belt to the waist. Ever and anon squads of them would take off their two separate trouser-legs and tie them to the saddle, and then the Indian would ride along with nothing on but a breech-clout and moccasins, and he as a soldier was a sight to behold.

     When we camped it was generally near the river, and Mr. Abbri-goin went in, not for the purpose of washing, or getting clean, but for the purpose of fun and cooling off. He generally came out as dirty as he went in. The Indian was kept as clean as he was accustomed to get, by abrasion. He wore off the surface dirt. It was attrition, not water, that kept him as clean as he got. The wild Indian if locked up in a room would soon kill himself with his own stench, were he not used to it. Horses could smell him half a mile to the windward, and civilized horses shied at him, sniffed and snorted at him, and tried to run away from him the same as from a buffalo or wild animal. The pioneers did not like the Indian, owing to the latter's unprintable manners and unspeakable habits. Our boys also would go into the river at the end of the days trip, and although the Pawnees were as good in physique as any of the Indians and were picked men, they were not up to our men, who were not picked men. Our men were only the average Iowa farm boys, but in physical appearance they exceeded the Indian. They had heavier shoulders and thighs, and as they were around in the water with the Indians the superiority of the white soldier was manifest. Only one of the Indians was the superior of our company, and he was a very large young Indian about six and a half feet high; he was in fact the only really handsomely shaped Indian in the whole battalion. He resembled the "Big Mandan" of whom I have spoken, but he was an exception.

     Besides all this, our men were the better horsemen, and as a class were better every way. The Indian as an individual was inferior, and as a race was inferior, to the Iowa farm boy, in whatever light it was desirable to consider it. There has been so much of fancy written about the Indian that the truth ought at times be told. The white man has done everything that an Indian can do, and I have seen things done during the Civil War that an Indian could not do, and dare not attempt to do. In physical strength, discipline and heroism the Indian does not compare and is not in the same class with the white man with whom the Indian came in contact. The Indian is not a soldier, and he cannot be made one. He has been tried and found wanting. He is spurty. He lacks the right kind of endurance, pertinacity, mind, and courage. We all got very much disgusted with Mr. Indian before we got through.

     The Pawnee Indians are the favorite Indians of many writers of romance, and perhaps they deserve the celebrity. They had better tribal and village organization than most Indians. They held a wide extent of country, and along, the Arkansas river on the south and along the Platte River on the north many places are pointed out as Pawnee battlefields. One numerous band of them had a large village on a stream in northern Kansas. The village was called the "Pawnee Republic." It was visited by Major Zebulon Pike in October, 1806. This village gives to the river the name of the "Republican River," in Kansas; the county in Kansas is called "Republic County," and the modern city on its site is a flourishing county seat named "Republic." The Pawnees were taken, finally, and held, as in a vise, between civilization on one side and their bitter Indian foes on the other, and they had to fall as all other Indian nations before them had fallen. After the Smoky Hill route through Kansas to Denver was opened they never got south of it. They finally were crowded in by their foes, and were compelled to submit to being put onto a reservation. Thereupon the Sioux of the Ogallallah tribe, together with the southern Cheyennes, claimed to be the sole proprietors of the territory between the Platte and Arkansas rivers, and they objected to the Smoky Hill Route. This Route ran nearly between the two latter tribes, who had confederated, and with both tribes it was a demand that the Route should be abandoned. In both of General Mitchell's Indian councils it was demanded that it should be abandoned by the whites. The Smoky Hill Route did run through the best buffalo country, and its occupation was a vital menace to the Indians, although the whites did not fully appreciate the fact at the time. The Indians finally closed the Smoky Hill Route for a while by war and a concentration of hostilities, and afterwards the Government sent Lieutenant Fitch, a very capable officer, to reëxplore the route, improve its location and alignment, and make report. This was done. Lieutenant Fitch made his report and read it to me from his retained copy. I begged it from him, and still have it, and I make it a part of this narrative by attaching it as an appendix hereto.

     On the morning of July 23, 1864, we left our camp at the mouth of Lodgepole Creek and started up the valley. It was one of the most beautiful mornings that ever was seen in what was then an empty and inhospitable country. The air was so pure and unvitiated that it was a delight to breathe it. It was a blessing to be alive, and be able to start with the cavalcade up Pole Creek valley. Our order of march was about as usual, except that Captain O'Brien rode ahead with the General and I stayed back with the company. We were never out of sight of thousands of antelope which played in vast droves as far as we could see. They were bounding about, and were enjoying the air and sun the same as we. Far off in the distances was an occasional wolf, lonesome and inquisitive, sitting on his haunches watching us closely. He might have been an Indian. Our Pawnee allies were acting like monkeys; they scattered out all over the country, bouncing on and off their horses, now in groups, now deployed out, as if in flight from some unseen foe behind them. They appeared to be examining tracks and trails, then appeared to be racing their horses, then they would all yell and run together in a bunch. Sometimes they would all be scattered out in front of us for a half-mile on each side, then they would all begin shouting and break and rally to our rear as if the devil was after them. We pushed on up the valley at a rate of about four miles an hour. The valley was quite wide -- in places miles; it then rose up the slopes to the edge of the plateau, which at the top on both sides of us was as level as a floor, but which at places along the dry stream was broken into ragged and projecting bluffs. All the way up, far in the distance from these bluffs, smoke signals were seen, but we never saw a hostile Indian. This was what made our Indian allies act so; they were in the presence of the enemy. In vain did General Mitchell order Major North to keep his men in close column in the rear, and in vain did Major North try to execute the order; the Indians were nervous and ungovernable. They knew that there were Indians somewhere, not so very far off, and so did we, but they were frenzied over it. We did not care much how many there were, so that we could see them. We could have taken a position on the side of the Pole Creek arroyo and stood off a thousand Indians. We had an advance guard ride along the arroyo so that we would not be surprised. I constantly searched the horizon with my field-glass, but could not see a single Indian, although the smoke signals kept going up in front of us all day. Our Pawnees rode mostly as a lot of savages, which in fact they were, having on but little. The best dressed had on a breech-clout, moccasins, and two cavalry trouser-legs separately swung up with a whang to a rawhide belt, but the majority were only one-third as well dressed, and their sunburned skins were well greased and polished. All of them had Government carbines, all had butcher-knives; some had lances in addition, and some had bows and arrows. We had got tired of the antics of our allies before we reached Julesburg, but by the end of this day of July 23rd, after a march of from 35 to 40 miles we got positively weary.

     We camped on the banks of Lodgepole, several miles above what appeared far off on our right to be the ruins of an old adobe hut. There was no visible water in the bed of the creek where we camped, but we found plenty of water by digging, and we were able to cook with the bunches of drift roots that the stream in its high career had dug up and floated down. We would find at places a wagon-load together of such fuel, dried and ready for use. We grazed our horses before night and put out our guards; we took our spades and dug rifle-pits for each guard. We put the Indians on the other side of the arroyo and told them to look out for themselves. We strung an inch-and-a-quarter picket-rope between our two company wagons near the bank of the arroyo, and tied our horses to the rope, one-half on each side. As night closed in and the smell of fried bacon and pancakes spread out upon the local atmosphere, the lamentations of what appeared to be a million wolves arose. Our stable guard said that the Pawnees did not appear to sleep much that night.

     On the morning of July 24th we started over the ridge to the north. It was a long, tedious climb up to the top of the plateau, but the scene behind us was beautiful. We could see up and down the valley of the Lodgepole for many miles, until the rotundity of the earth hid the view. There was not a tree or a bush in sight. The valley was as smooth and polished as if it had been sand-papered and varnished. There was not a riding-switch that could be cut between us and Julesburg. It was simply an undulating expanse of short, struggling grass. Before we started out in the morning we gave our horses all the water they would drink, for it was said to be fully thirty-two miles across the ridge from water to water. This was the short line which Jules had laid out, so as to change the route and bring the pilgrim travel past his ranch. This particular strip of road was called "Jules Stretch." The road became considerably rocky as we ascended.

     Late in the afternoon we reached the other side, at Mud Springs, eight miles east of Court House Rock. At these springs was the first water we got after coming over the Stretch. Up on the high land in the middle of the Stretch, at what might be called the summit, the stage company, years before, thinking to adopt it as a line of road, had attempted to dig a well. Great quantities of dirt and rock were piled out, but the story went that they never could find a drop of water, and that they went down three hundred feet. I cannot say how deep it was, but it was a very deep well, for I crawled up to the edge of it, and dropped rocks down, and heard no splash, and knew by the time of descent that the well was a very deep one. In fact, I threw down several, and they went bounding down from side to side. I peered over the edge, because, owing to extreme heat and dryness of the atmosphere, the boys were very thirsty, and I wanted to get some water out of it, if by tying lariat-ropes together we could get it. But the well seemed to be dry all the way down.

     Along the ridge we saw where several wagons had been burned, and knew by this that there had been Indian troubles along the line at some time. We also counted forty-seven dead oxen at various places along the road, all dried and torn. Many had probably perished from thirst, but two or three had old, broken arrows in them. Horse skeletons were also frequent, and there were old buffalo heads and horns scattered along the ridge, but we never saw buffalo between Cottonwood Springs and Fort Laramie. We were told that they were seldom seen between the forks of the Platte in July.

     We went on past Mud Springs, after giving our horses plenty of water and a good rest, and camped on a little river east of Court House Rock. This river was composed of two streams, one called Punkin Creek and the other Lawrence Fork, but after the junction it was then called Lawrence Fork, and so on down to the North Platte.

     We saw no Indian signals until we were descending from the summit of the Stretch. When we began to see hills and broken land far off in the distance, and began to approach to the Platte River bluffs again, the signals reappeared. I could see at great distances, with my glass, puffs of smoke, almost instantaneous but quite visible. The Pawnees also saw them and began again to act, as one of my sergeants put it, "like all-possessed." When we got to Mud Springs, after they had watered their ponies, the Pawnees spread out all over the country, following trails and tracks, or pretending to. They dashed around and yelled and charged back to camp, and charged out again; they were a sight to behold. Our guide, John Smith, said they were just showing off, and were trying to create the impression that they were warlike. It was much ado about nothing. General Mitchell had tried to stop it. They were wholly uncontrollable. We did not believe they would fight, and did not want to be bothered with them. Captain O'Brien and I expressed our views to the General and found that he agreed with us. He said, "The [blankety-blank] Abbri-goins, we will send them back." We all liked Major North, and felt what a disappointment it would be to him. But the General in the evening led the Major up and thanked him for his zealous services and had him call his Pawnees and get them in line. Then the General made a few remarks to them about their soldierly appearance and warlike spirit; and how pleased he was with their valourous services; and how he had taken them as far as was necessary; and that from now on it was safe for him and his escort; and that they could now go back to Fort Kearney and be mustered out and get their pay. The next morning with long-continued yells and shrieks and "monkey business," as O'Brien called it, the Pawnees left us and were soon out of sight, much to our satisfaction. The Government has many a time tried to utilize the noble red man for a soldier but has always failed, just as we tried and failed; he is no good for anything.

     These Pawnees went back and were reorganized at Fort Kearney during August, as scouts on the road. A new set of officers tried to do something with them, but finally had to ogive it up. The new Pawnee Company thus organized were 77 in number, and was under a Captain Joseph McFadden, with Frank J. North, of whom I have spoken, as Lieutenant. They served about forty days, until October 1, 1864, and were again and finally mustered out. I have in my possession a muster-roll of the Pawnee company, and as an exhibit hereto I insert on the following page a list of their Indian names, copied verbatim from the roll.

     Major North afterwards made a great reputation as a partner of Buffalo Bill in the Wild West show.

     As stated, we camped near Court House Rock. It was a very wonderful formation, very attractive and very beautiful. Captain O'Brien and I determined that we would go to the top of it, but gave it up for that particular evening because it seemed as if it might be too dangerous at that time of the day, but we agreed to get up early in the morning and climb the rock.

Names of the "Pawnee Scouts," 1864;
Under Command of Major Frank J. North:

[Alphabetized list in single-column format]


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