The Hermitage - "Old Bill" - Elder Sharpe - Colonel Shoup - The Devil's Dive - Attleboro Jewelry - Lieutenant Williams - Trip to Laramie - The Head Wind - Bridger - The Glee Club - Albert Sidney Johnston
WHILE I was pretty well bunged up over the fall from my horse, above mentioned, General Mitchell was going up and down the road with an escort making reconnoissances and plans for the reëstablishment of trade and travel. Captain O'Brien sent me down to Beauvais ranch with a communication and a report concerning things at our post. While there I met the Lieutenant Talbot who shot at the telegraph poles down at Fort Kearney, as before described. Also there was with him Major Armstrong, the chief inspector of the cavalry of the Western army; also Lieutenant Rankin, Aide-de-Camp. Beauvais ranch was about 25 miles east of Julesburg and about 15 miles south of Ash Hollow, and was at what was called the "Old California Crossing."
I concluded that I wanted another horse, and Rankin had a nice large horse, jet black all over, with curly mane and tail. Rankin told the history of this horse briefly as follows: When Rankin was in the army invading Kentucky and Tennessee, they had made a raid upon Andrew Jackson's old Hermitage farm, and had taken away all the stock that was there, and this horse, captured there, was turned over to the Government. As it was customary then, horses were appraised by the quartermaster and sold. The purchasers at these sales generally were officers who needed a remount, and Rankin had bought this horse, and had kept it as one of his horses all of the time. A pretty good horse could be bought for $100, and a very fine horse could be bought for $200. 1 asked Rankin to sell me this black horse. Rankin, being at headquarters, had no scouting to do; the horse had been having no more work than was necessary to promote its health, mere exercise, and was plump and full of life. He was an exceedingly showy animal, and a very large one, and a very strong one. Rankin did not very much like to sell the horse, but as I had been recently paid off, he consented to let me have it for $300, and I believe that it was the best horse that I ever rode or ever saw in the cavalry service. I called him "Old Bill," and had him all through the balance of my time, took him into civil life, and finally buried him, many years after the war, with pomp and ceremony, and planted a grape-vine over his grave. He was the most intelligent horse I ever saw, and he got so he would come when I called him, and understood every duty which he was called upon to perform. I did not like him at first as well as I did later on. He was a horse that seemed to be wanting to keep his mind active. When he was tied up by a halter-strap, he immediately began to pick the knot, and it was almost impossible to tie him with a knot which he could not untie, if he were given a little time. He was in some respects a fighting, vicious animal. When turned out with other horses he soon made them all know that he was king. He loved to chase wolves and antelope as much as rider or dogs did, and for durability he had no superior.
On September 25, 1864, we noticed a train coming down Lodgepole. There were about a half-dozen wagons; it was a Mormon train. General Mitchell had ordered us, at the Julesburg post, to let no train go east to Fort Kearney that did not have a hundred armed men in it, because the Indians had been seen around Cottonwood Springs, and had been doing great depredations east of there. So we held up this Mormon train. In it was an Elder named W. H. Sharpe. He was a very bright, quick-witted, companionable sort of man. We directed him where to camp down by the river; he came on up and got into conversation, and finally invited Captain O'Brien and me to go down and take supper with him. As a matter of curiosity we went, and were introduced to the other members of his party. We had no more than become acquainted than he began to talk Mormonism to us, and started missionary work. He told a great deal about the beliefs of the Mormons, and explained how they were sent to reclaim the lost tribes of Israel, which, as he stated, were the Indians of North America, and he gave me a copy of the old, original Mormon Bible, and desired me to read it, which I promised to do when I had time.
Several small trains under escort came down to Julesburg from Denver. It was several days before we could send them through solidly with a hundred armed men. One evening I took Elder Sharpe out, together, with one of our sergeants, and had a jack-rabbit and antelope chase in which he participated with great pleasure. While we were riding out over the arid desert watching the dogs, I asked him what he was going to go back at this time of the year for. He said: "My first and original wife is a most estimable woman, and lives in Baltimore. I joined the Mormon faith, and married a second wife; my first wife would not go to Salt Lake with me, so I go back to Baltimore every fall to see her." He says: "I have business for the church which takes me back, and I use the occasion to go and see her, and see if I cannot get her finally to come out to Salt Lake." He spoke of her in the very highest terms, and said that she was misguided in her views, and influenced by her relatives; that they both thought a great deal of each other, and he hoped to finally persuade her to live in Salt Lake City. He was a very nice gentleman to all appearances. He refused cigars, and drank no liquor of any kind.
Finally a train with a hundred armed citizens was organized, and strung out on the road. Captain O'Brien gave them a very rigid inspection, gave them a speech as to what to do when Indians appeared, and how to march, and off they went. Sharpe was with us five days. I have never seen him since, nor have I ever heard of him, but in spite of his foolish creed, I took a good deal of a fancy to him.
While he was there Colonel Shoup of the Third Colorado Cavalry came on down escorting some travelers, who afterwards went into the train of which I have just spoken. Colonel Shoup was a rollicking gentleman. One evening he had a fine silk buffalo-robe which I offered to buy. He said that he would play "freeze-out poker" for it. He valued it at $50, and would take one-fifth of the chips; so Captain O'Brien and I and two civilians took hold. Captain O'Brien won the buffalo-robe. Then one of the civilians, who thought he was a very fine poker-player, put out a $25 silver watch, as watches then sold, and put it up, and we took $5 apiece in it, and I won the watch. This watch made me a supernumerary watch; I sold the new one to one of the sergeants in the company at what the poker game had cost me, $15. The next time I met Colonel Shoup he was Senator from Idaho, but it was many years afterwards. Since that time his marble statue has been placed in the Hall of Fame in the rotunda of the National Capitol in Washington.
The train of which I spoke, started out on September 29th with more than a hundred armed men. They were a jolly lot. Elston and a detachment were sent down ahead of the train to where it would pass a very bad piece of road, a few miles east of Julesburg; there was at this point a very bad arroyo coming in from the south, and the hills of the plateau protruded north to the river-bed, obliterating the valley at that point. This place at the arroyo went by the name of "The Devil's Dive." When the train had passed that, it reached open country, and could see where it was going. These scouts of ours who went ahead, ran onto some questionable characters who were camped alongside of the river. One of them was an Indian who was called Shah-ka, another was a half-breed by the name of Frank Solway, and another half-breed by the name of Joe Jewett, of whom I have spoken before. These were arrested, and turned over to this train to be taken down to Omaha. Such matters as these, of which I have spoken, were merely diversions; the work went on steadily all the time at the post, and the sod was being piled up and winter quarters were being established. We had no doors or windows yet for the company quarters, and the men hung up blankets. To our repeated calls for clothing we got no response. October came, and the men were wearing their July and August uniforms, now quite ragged, and the nights chilly.
At last, about October 10, 1864, in a train which was being escorted west, there were some mule trains that stopped at our post and left us a hundred uniforms, rations enough to last until the next summer, a lot of bridles and repairs, a lot of ammunition, half a dozen good tents, a few pistols and carbines, and a good supply of howitzer ammunition. But in this whole supply there was only one barrel of whisky. The men had not had any for a very long time, and as the Irishman said, "What is a quart of whisky among one?" The first thing we did was to have that barrel of whisky rolled into the place where Captain O'Brien and I were bunking, and we issued to the men a good jigger all around, and got everything braced up. We were now ready to spend the winter as soon as we could get some doors and windows for our quarters. Through the efforts of General Mitchell the stages began to run again with light escorts, two or three and sometimes as many as six together, so that the stage service was again on its feet, and they went past crowded full, going to Denver and the west; but they were not permitted to go separately, nor up Lodgepole. The stages always stopped at our post. We knew most of the drivers, and we generally took an inventory of the passengers by name, and their destination, and where from, and this the passengers were always ready to give. Through this means I met a good many people whom I afterwards met again, and I made many acquaintanceships which were preserved for years, Among others was a man and his wife and daughter who had been out in the mountains. He was from Attleboro, Massachusetts, and was engaged in making what was then called, "Attleboro jewelry." This Attleboro jewelry was plated in a way that the stuff looked very fine, but the gold was so thin that it soon wore off. In fact, it used to be said that the wind would wear the gold off from Attleboro jewelry. I asked this man how it was he could put the gold on so thin, and this is the way he explained it. He said they took a piece of brass, as soft as it could be made, and say three inches wide, six inches long, and an inch thick; upon this brass there was a film of adhering precipitated gold. Then this block was run through a machine, and rolled down and continually rolled until it was quite thin, and from this rolled plate the jewelry was made.
On October 13, 1864, there appeared at our post quite a train of mule teams going through to Denver, and in that party was Lieutenant Williams, the Provost Marshal General of the department. Mr. Williams was a very brave young Lieutenant of about twenty-seven. He had with him an orderly with an extra horse, and he also had a very fine ambulance. He was going up to Fort Laramie for the purpose of making some arrests, with the directions that when he got through with that he should inspect the military posts on his return. On his arrival at Julesburg he had an order from headquarters directing me to take a sergeant and eight men, and escort him to Fort Laramie, a distance of 175 miles and back. We were exceedingly busy at the time that Lieutenant Williams came, and we persuaded him to wait for several days. We sent him out on a wolf-hunt, and he remained with us until the noon of October 18th. We had to get the men fitted with their new clothing, and get equipment in order, and have the horses shod that were to go on the trip. I did not like to make the trip; it was too small a number of men to go through so dangerous a country. The weather was not good; the trip was a long one of 350 miles, and we were busy getting winter quarters; but I said nothing and got ready. We did not get off until noon of the 18th.
I had just drawn a heavy new woolen undershirt from the supplies that had arrived, and when I put the undershirt on it was very harsh and prickly, and I determined to take it off and have it well washed. Our laundress, "Linty," had rejoined us with Lieutenant Brewer from Cottonwood Springs. The Lieutenant had been down to take the boys' money home, as stated. I gave this shirt to Linty and told her to give it a good washing, and to wash the starch and stuff out of it. When it came time to start with Lieutenant Williams, the shirt was hanging up trying to dry, but it was still quite damp. It was almost damp enough that water could be wrung out of it, and the question with me was whether to wear the shirt or not. I concluded to take my chances with the damp shirt, so I put it on, and we started for Laramie, and I with the nine men went up Lodgepole, eighteen miles, and camped beside Lodgepole at a place where there was some ruined work indicating that somebody had started in to make a habitation. The report was that the stage company had begun to erect stables there, but had not completed them. At supper-time my shirt was still not dry, and we laid down and slept in the open air. During the night a strong wind came up from the northwest that was quite cold, and I slept in a shiver about all night. In the morning we went up Lodgepole to the crossing, seventeen miles farther, and started across Jules Stretch.
All day long that head wind blew, increasing in violence until the air was filled with sand and pebbles. It seemed almost impossible to stem the wind. We started early in the morning. It was cold, and as we rode on our horses, we wrapped the capes of our overcoats around our faces, and only exposed one eye at a time, and most of the time we had our eyes shut, and leaned forward to give the horses the advantage of the wind. We could not see a hundred feet ahead of us. Two men kept the road, and we told them to keep a mile ahead of us, if possible, so that we might not run into any Indians. The Indians could not see us any better than we could see them. Every half-hour we stopped and gave our horses a rest. It was a snail's pace. We had on our horses five days of cooked rations, which consisted of boiled beef, raw and fried bacon, and hardbread. I never experienced a day of misery that impressed itself more upon my mind than that day. The horses could hardly be made to face the gale, and every once in a while would turn as a particularly swift wave came, and they would go milling around among themselves, and we had to straighten out the cavalcade and start again. The men in the ambulance, Rulo and Lynch, of Co. D, Eleventh Ohio Cavalry, suffered as much as we. The mules were continually leaving the track, and it was impossible for a person to hold his eyes unprotected against the wind, and the wind grew colder and colder. I made the following comment in my diary in regard to that wind: "Awful headwind; never suffered so much in my life from cold. Made fifty miles this day. Camped at Mud Springs."
We did not get into Mud Springs until long after dark. I had got my woolen shirt dry by this time, but I had a cold that was about as severe as anything I ever had. I coughed and rolled and tossed all night, and only got to sleep at some time towards morning. The next morning everything was clear and pleasant. The wind had subsided, and the beautiful castellated landscape charmed me again as it had before. I never mentioned my feelings, and tried to pretend that I was all right, and I commenced the procession, and rode at its head all day. We made forty miles, and camped that night at Ficklin ranch. That night I was aching all over. The men themselves were all used up. I asked Lieutenant Williams to make a short march, but he had got to riding in the ambulance and dozing as he went along, and consequently was not tired. I regret to say that he marched us, or rather he insisted on our marching, and we rode on that day, October 20, 1864, fifty-six miles. I then told Lieutenant Williams what I thought about his way of doing things; that while he had the right to set the pace, and command the squad, that he ought to be cashiered, and I told him that my men should have a rest even if he had to go on alone. He got up in the morning bright and fresh, and ordered me to follow him. My men were complaining considerably, and I was feeling used up myself, and I told him that I was going to rest my men until noon. He told me that he was going to report me to the General for disobedience of orders, and I told him that I was going to report him to the General for not understanding his business. The result was that he started out on horseback and with the ambulance alone, and I let the men get all the sleep they wanted in the morning, and a good hearty breakfast, and let them rest their horses, and after dinner I rode them into Fort Laramie, a distance of ten miles from Bordeaux Ranch. When I got into Laramie I got good quarters for my men, saw them all well established, and they started in eating and sleeping, and getting rested. I went around to the doctor and he took my case. He began feeding me with quinine and whisky, and cured my cold, from which I fully recovered in a couple of days, although I was up and around all of the time. I put in most of my time at headquarters with Major Woods (afterwards of Ottumwa, Iowa), who was still commander of the post, and in the evening we all gathered at the sutler store. Williams told me that he would go back with me in less than a week.
While at Fort Laramie I ran across my new friend Bridger, and in conversation with him there we talked a great deal about the country, and the Indians, and he told me over again his Buffalo Dam story, and his Diamond Mountain story, and I recognized the fact that he told them verbatim as he told them before. That is to say, that he had told each story so often that he had got it into language form, and told it literally alike. He had probably told them so often that he got to believing them himself.
There were among the soldiers at Fort Laramie several very fine voices, and they had organized a glee club who were accompanied by musicians. And they were in the habit of going around and serenading various officers, and places, and among others the sutler store. There was an old ordnance sergeant at the post who was a sort of permanent detail. He was one of those who had been left over from the regular army, a perfect martinet, knew everything which there was to be known about the details of post service, and he looked after the ordnance and ordnance stores. I recognized a piece which I had heard sung two or three times before, and when I heard it this last time the old ordnance sergeant asked me if I knew what that was; when I told him, No, he said that it was the favorite piece of General Albert Sidney Johnston. He said that on the Salt Lake campaign, before the Civil War, Albert Sidney Johnston had a headquarters brass band, and that he used to ask them every night to play that piece of music. It was a rather nice piece, pleasant and easy to learn, and the refrain to it when sung, at least all I remember of the refrain, was:
"Ever through life's campaign|
I'll be a soldier still."
The ordnance sergeant used to describe Albert Sidney Johnston in very kind terms as a melancholy man of great genius and ability, apparently cramped by his jurisdiction and command, bigger than the flower-pot in which he was growing, devoted to duty, and, in matters outside of duty, very orderly and very kindly. He arrived at considerable distinction in the Confederate army, and had been killed in battle at the time when the sergeant had told me of this, his favorite piece of music. I had heard that piece of music down at Fort Kearney. I have never heard it since I left Fort Laramie.