November 10, 1864 - Jimmie Cannon - The Sobriety Drill - The Stagedriver's Arrow - The Wagon Train Fine - The Quality of the Emigration - Commissary Measurements - The Ration - Desiccated Vegetables - Prickly-pear Sauce - Denver and the Cheyennes - The Wood Train - The Englishman - The Bets - The Trial
WITH the returning confidence of the public, and our orders to let no train go by except such as had one hundred armed men, and with the necessary continuous work upon the improvement of our fort and barracks, and on account of the necessity of keeping up our target practice, the men were quite busy. They had been free from annoyances, had been well fed and clothed, and whisky, except as we issued it sparingly to those doing extra duty, had disappeared from the camp. But with the return of trains and confidence, great numbers came down from Denver bound to the East, and the men began to get whisky again, and at times wild and violent occasions took place.
On November 10th, Cannon, who had a large white horse that was very frisky, got intoxicated, and while he was endeavoring to show off how the horse would follow him around like a dog, the horse took it into his head to go off frantically across the plains, canter around in a circle, and come back to the post. I was out in front of what we called our parade-ground when the horse came up, and Cannon ran up to try to stop him. The horse playfully wheeled, and kicked up its heels at Cannon. And Cannon grabbing his revolver from the holster, took it by the barrel and threw it at the horse. The revolver struck the ground right in front of me, and went off, and a bullet went so close to my head that I felt a little irritated. I grabbed Cannon by the collar, called on the sergeant to bring a lariat-rope, and tied Cannon up to a piece of artillery which was near.
About a dozen of the men suddenly appeared to be nearly as full of whisky as Cannon. I told the sergeant to immediately go to the barracks, get all their names, tell them all that they were detailed on a scout, and in fifteen minutes I had them all on horseback headed towards the hills, under command of a corporal, to get the whisky trotted out of them. I told the Corporal privately to take his men around, scare them a little bit if he could, and work them until they were all sober. This the Corporal did, and the trouble for that day was ended.
The stage-drivers had got to be very confident and reckless, and got so that they would drive off, and run away from their escorts who were on horseback, and were all pretending not to fear anything. Many of them were new, and affected to despise the soldiers. Some of them had been in the Confederate service, and really did.
On the evening of November 11th a stage-driver with a stage coming from Cottonwood Springs, drove up shortly after dusk. He came lashing his horses as if all of the imps were behind him, and well he might, because down a little way below the post, just as he was going along the plains where nothing appeared but clumps of cactus, an Indian rose quite near and shot an arrow at him. It was splendidly aimed. It went through his coat collar at the back of his neck, and the iron head of the arrow whipped around and hit him on the face, and he started his horses on a run. He said that all he saw was this one lone Indian. The Indian had refrained from firing a gun for fear of alarming the post. The stage-driver got off from the coach with the arrow in his coat collar, balanced about half-and-half on each side. Those in the stage coach did not know the full extent of the matter until the driver had driven quite a little distance, and seeing that he was not followed, the driver stopped and told the passengers, two of whom had seen the Indian, but were not aware of what had been done. The stage-driver was very proud of that arrow in his coat collar and wore it there for a long while.
Seventeen miles east of Julesburg was a ranch that was owned by Dick Cleve. He had at one time abandoned it, but was now back again. An Atchison firm by the name of Byram & Howes had a train, and were coming from Denver en route home; they went on down with the caravan, and stopped at Cleve's. There were a good many in the caravan, and the particular wagon-master of said train got to be domineering, smart, and overbearing, and proceeded to help himself to things generally, and made up his mind that he was the boss of the track.
Cleve came up to our post and made complaint. I happened to be in command of the post that day, Captain O'Brien having gone down the road on orders from General Mitchell. So it was my duty as post commander to act as judge. Cleve said the wagon-master was a dangerous man; would shoot, and had a lot of roughs and toughs who would like to take a hand in the shooting, and that if I expected to get the man I had better send down about fifty men. I concluded a corporal with eight men was enough. I told them to go down, present my order to the wagon-master, and bring him in; and if he wouldn't come voluntarily, to bring him anyway; and if he offered resistance, to be sure that he didn't get away. And that if anybody else took a hand, to bring him also.
The corporal went down, stopped the whole caravan, and delivered my order. The wagon-master refused to come; the Corporal put a revolver under his ear, and made him mount his horse, and come. Two or three rough-neck bullwhackers wanted to take a hand in the matter, and there was quite a display of firearms, which resulted in the Corporal saddling up some of their horses and bringing the wagon-master and three of his party to the post. Cleve came along.
Cleve presented his bill for $162.50, told the story of what had been done, and the wagon-master did not dispute what had been done, nor what he had taken; simply made a defense that the stuff he had destroyed or taken was not worth as much as Cleve said it was.
I thereupon rendered judgment upon the fellow in favor of Cleve for $162.50. The wagon-master then said he would not pay it. I told him then he would go into the guardhouse. He then said he would have General Mitchell order him out, and would have me cashiered. Thereupon, I put the whole bunch of them in the guard-house, and kept them over-night. The next morning the wagon-master said he would pay Cleve with a draft on his house. Cleve didn't know whether it would be honored or not; I told the wagon-master that he would have to stay in the guard-house until he paid that money in cash. Thereupon, after consultation with his mates, he paid Cleve the money, out of a big wad of other money he had.
I then detailed ten soldiers to go back with Cleve, escort the wagon train ten miles east of Cleve's ranch, and then tell them that I said if I caught any of them back on the road I would put them in confinement. The Corporal saw the outfit go down past Beauvais, which was twenty-five miles east of us, and that is the last we ever heard of them.
This was about as bad a trouble as I had, and was perhaps the most insubordinate. Almost every day appeals were made to the post for the settlement of disputes, quarrels and bets. We did the best we could, came as near to doing justice in each case as we knew bow, and let the matter go at that. It was the only court that could enforce its decrees. I always thought the people had confidence in it, and that it was a good thing, because there were many disputes over matters that people did not want to kill each other for. Shortly after that there was a killing in a wagon train going down from Denver. One man shot another about fifteen miles west of our post. We arrested and held the man up, and finally sent him down to Fort Kearney, in confinement.
On November 17. 1864, news reached us that Lincoln was elected, and that Sherman had swung loose into the Confederacy. I thought it the occasion for jollification, and so as temporary post commander I fired off several shots from our mountain howitzers. I desired target practice with the howitzers, and combined that with the celebration of the political victory, and the action of Sherman. If McClellan had been elected, Sherman would have been called home. There was on that day quite an assemblage of pilgrims at our post, going either one way or the other, and held up for consolidation into trains, but they did not seem to me to have very much enthusiasm over national benefits and victories. They did not seem interested. I have heretofore spoken about the Loyal League. It was my custom to make signals often to those who were coming to Julesburg on the trains, or traveling in the stages, for the purpose of seeing how many of them belonged to the League. It was rare to find one, not one in a hundred; and the reason was that the people out in that part of the country were of the Democratic party faith. They included bounty-jumpers, secesh, deserters, people fleeing from the draft, or those who did not care one way or the other how the war turned out.
While we were at Julesburg we had been told from time to time of trains which had displayed on the road below us secesh flags, but nothing of the kind was ever visible from our post, or was ever seen in the neighborhood of Julesburg by any detachment of our company. The Colorado cavalry had been down in New Mexico, fought a good fight, and saved that Territory, and they were vindictively loyal, and were inclined to shoot. It was not good form for secesh to run up against any of the Colorado soldier-boys, because none of them had gone into the service except those who meant business, and were trying to save the Union.
But about this time there were a good many who were going west, through the country, toward the latter part of November, in trains of mule wagons. They were going rapidly, and always got escorts when needed. The report was that Price's invasion of Missouri having turned out disastrously, a great number of secesh citizens, seeing that they could not be rescued from the Union, and a great many deserters from Price's army, feeling that their secesh war was about over, had started for the mountains. The final repulse of Price from Missouri had reawakened very strong Union sentiments there, and the Union men were in favor of cleaning out all those remaining citizens who were disloyal. Hence it was that there appeared during the latter part of November, and through December, a perfect hegira of emigrants and mule teams, mostly from Missouri. Many of these trains came through loaded with nothing but corn; many were loaded with nothing but nails. They were loaded lightly, and went as fast as the animals could be driven.
In the crisp November air, everybody at the post seemed to improve. The duty was quite heavy. There was much to do in taking care of the horses, watering and feeding and exercising them; there was continual work upon the barracks, and sod walls and fortifications, if they could be called fortifications.
Our family of dogs by gift had been increased until we had five of the finest greyhounds that were ever found in any place. They were named Fannie, Fly, Nellie, Kearney, and Lady. Lady was jet black, and the best of all. Nellie was a large white one, and was next best. With these dogs and Bugler no antelope or wolf could get away unless it had the start by a very long distance. Quite often we would take the men, by turns in squads, out into the hills, and show them a chase, and the men enjoyed it very much. Thereafter some of the men got some strychnine from some of the ranchmen, and proceeded to poison wolves by baiting the wolves with poisoned beef-livers. About fifty wolves were poisoned, and all of the men of our company thus obtained heavy fur collars and fur mittens. But one day on a chase our best dog, Lady, happened to strike some poisoned meat, and was killed by it. After that the poisoning of wolves was discontinued.
We killed our own beef at the Post, and the cattle were selected from time to time from a herd that was kept in a corral down near the river. The method of measuring meat was different out in the Western country from what it was down South in the army. I never heard of the method pursued until we were at Cottonwood Springs. Army beef was to be heavy beef so far as it could be obtained, and was to be well cleaned and trimmed, and to contain as much net meat as possible. The way they measured was this: They put a line around the beef, back of the fore legs, and allowed a hundred pounds for every foot of circumference. That is to say, if an animal were eight feet around he would net, for army ration purposes, eight hundred pounds, although the animal might be live weight twice as heavy. If he measured seven and one-half feet around, it was called seven hundred and fifty pounds. The Quartermaster used to say that as cattle ran, the above method was exact enough. As to hay, the measurement was, after the prairie hay had been stacked ninety days, --seven feet cube represented a ton, the whole stack being taken into consideration. So our meat and hay were bought and figured by the above rules.
We never had any fresh vegetables at Julesburg; they could not be got to us. But there were issued to us what were called "desiccated vegetables." In the true pronunciation of the word the second syllable is long, but it was called by the boys as if it were dessy-kated, with accent on the third syllable. It was made of onions, cabbages, beets, turnips, carrots and peppers, steamed, pressed and dried. They were almost in the form of leaves pressed together. They were pressed, after they were dry, into cakes twelve inches square, and an inch thick. They were pressed so hard that they weighed about as much as wood, and came sealed up in tin cans about a foot square. They were intended to be put into the soups, and were largely used by us for that purpose. They were very nutritious, and it was convenient, when we went on scouts, for the boys to break off a piece and put it in a saddle-pocket. The boys would nibble at it as they were riding along; it was a kind of leguminous bread, and they ate about as much of it dry as they did by putting it into soups. But we had been so long without vegetables that indications of scurvy began to make themselves noticeable. Along in November, the first thing we knew one of our men was suddenly taken ill; black spots formed over him, which very much worried Dr. Wisely, and the soldier was immediately sent east on one of the trains to Fort Kearney. Other of the boys complained of the symptoms.
One day Dr. Wisely came to me, and told me that he had made a discovery that he thought of great value. He asked me to send out and have about a bushel of the "hands" of the prickly-pear gathered from the plains, and brought in. I ordered the quartermaster sergeant to attend to it, which he did. And Dr. Wisely, taking these prickly-pear hands, the common, coarse, ordinary opuntia, scraped the bristles and prickles off from it, cut it up and boiled it with sugar, and made a variety of apple-sauce which was quite new, and not altogether undesirable. Those men who were afflicted with symptoms were immediately cured, and the Doctor continued to use the remedy all of the winter, and as long as we stayed at the post. I have never heard of such a food, before or since, but think from the experiments of Dr. Wisely it must have much of merit in it.
All of this time we kept busy laying sod. There was always improvement to be planned, and more things to be built. There had been some little cold snaps, and some little snow, but as yet there had been no such weather as to freeze up the sod, and prevent us from plowing it.
On November 25, 1864, being in command of the post, I ordered the First Sergeant, Milo Lacey, to take the wagon-master, Donley, and all of the teams that he could get, and go over to Ash Hollow for another supply of wood. The trail was well laid out now to Ash Hollow and all the noncommissioned officers knew where to go, and how to handle the business.
We had no Indian scare for some time. It was reported that the Cheyennes had sent a delegation to Denver asking that a definite treaty of peace be made between the Cheyennes and the people of Denver, and that the Indians be permitted to come in near Denver below the town where there was plenty of wood, and go into winter quarters. As these Cheyennes had been ravaging Colorado and Kansas, killing men and murdering women and children, and driving in all the frontier settlements, and as the Colorado people were very much wrought up about it, a conference is reported to have been had in Denver, and to have given back word that the Cheyenne chiefs could not control their men, or would not if they could; that now the summer was over, and the raiding season past, they could not entertain the Cheyennes in that sort of way. They further said that they believed they would not make peace with the Cheyennes until they had given them a good whipping. And it was reported that the Indian delegation retired from Denver in very sullen anger.
The wood train, after four days, did not turn up on the evening of the 28th as was expected. It did not turn up on the 29th. There was not a sliver of wood at the post, nor was there anywhere anything that would burn except the hay, and that could not be burned to any advantage. We had received a lot of sheet-iron from Fort Kearney, out of which our company blacksmith had made several stoves and some pipe. The stovepipes ran up through the roof. These stoves were economical heaters, and we burned splinters and bull-chips in them. On the 30th we burned some wisps of hay in the forenoon; we were getting cold, and I concluded to go out and see if I could get word of the train. One of the boys said that he had seen a smoke signal go up from the Lodgepole Lookout, which I have heretofore described as on the northeast comer of the junction of Lodgepole and the Platte.
Going over onto the plateau, I saw the train coming, quite near. They had seen Indian signals from time to time, and had felt constrained to march closely and well packed, but no attack had been made upon them. We were delighted to receive the wood train and get warm again.
While the wood train was over at Ash Hollow, a very ridiculous circumstance occurred. An Englishman, who claimed to be of some degree of nobility, turned up at the post with two four-mule wagons, a camping outfit, some dogs and servants, and said that he had come to the Western country to kill game. He wanted to get bear, buffalo, black-tail deer, and everything else which ran on four legs. He was a man of about thirty-five to forty years. He considered himself the smartest man that ever crossed the plains. He was always talking about English manners, and English etiquette. He was a scamp with a lot of money.
He came up, as he said, to pay his respects to the post commander. I soon saw that he was a rich, unprincipled scalawag. His egotism was enormous. He was talking about himself and his family most of the time; his idea of good morals was confined to the impression that a man should not eat with a knife. That seemed to be the sum total of his views of morality and good form. He was vulgar, indecent, loud, and a general nuisance in every respect; but he didn't eat with his knife.
He spoke of his traveling in America, and how he had been entertained by some of the best families of the land, and he had actually seen people eat with the knife. There was nothing else coarse enough or vulgar enough to attract his attention. I got tired of him in a short time, and launched him back onto the prairie with my kind regards, and he went to his wagons down at the station. Among his dogs was a very nice thoroughbred greyhound. The frontiersmen, who were all smart enough for anybody, and could read the new-comers like books, immediately began to make this Englishman their prey.
In the first place they got some green coffee, boiled it until it was tender, then soaked it in strychnine. The Englishman wanted to bet on everything, and was so all-wise that nobody could offer a bet that he did not take, either one side or the other of it. Some of the pioneers got into a conversation with this Englishman, and asked him if he had ever traveled in Java. Of course, the Englishman had traveled in Java, and knew all about it, and then one of these pioneers suggested that he had heard that green coffee was one of the most fatal poisons to swallow; that while it would not hurt a cat or a horse or a human being, that five grains swallowed by a dog were fatal. The Englishman sneered at the idea. Then one of the bystanders said that he had heard the same thing, and would bet a hundred dollars that it was true, because his old friend A. B. C. had told him so. The Englishman immediately took up the bet, and thereupon they slid down the dog's throat the five grains of green coffee, well prepared, and in a short time this beautiful dog was in articulo mortis, and the Englishman had lost his $100 and his dog.
At the ranch there was a man who sold, among other things, beans, the common navy beans, out of a sack, having a sack holding about a bushel, dipping them out with a quart cup. One of these fellows took a quart of the beans somewhere to the rear, and spent a sufficient time to count how many beans there were in the quart, and then he came around to where the Englishman and the beans were. One of the pioneers made a bet with another pioneer in regard to how many beans there were in a quart. After they had guessed wildly and at random, from three thousand to twenty-four thousand, the Englishman got into the game, and they took him for another $100.
It would have been all right, and would have ended here if the joke had not been too good, and some one told the Englishman of the tricks that had been played upon him. He came to our post to have the "bloody scoundrels" arrested for robbery.
The whole story was told by the Englishman, and vouched for by one of his servants, and the confession of one of the parties was related. There were at our post headquarters, and standing out alongside of the door, about forty men, as tickled a lot as I ever saw; soldiers and all seemed to enjoy it immensely. After I had heard the evidence I asked the Englishman why he made the bet. He said he supposed it was an honest bet. I then asked him if he had won, what he would have done with the money. He said he would have put it in his pocket. I then told him that out in the Western country people got their experience in the manner that he had got his. That people paid for it, and therefore came by it honestly; and that I considered the matter as only a little question of propriety between man and man, except as to the killing of the dog. The man was in the room who had given the dog the strychnine coffee. I told the Englishman that he had lost his money, and deserved to lose it, and I would not order it paid back to him. But that any man who would kill a good dog ought to be imprisoned. I told the Englishman he had no right to risk the life of his dog by betting on it. I ordered the sergeant to take the poisoner to the guard-house and lock him up; I ordered the proceedings adjourned, and told all the civilians to get off the reservation. They all went off, enjoying the discomfiture of the Englishman very much.
As to my prisoner, I ordered him to be kept until he paid a fine of $200 into the post fund. I also had him put at work currying horses. This post fund was for the purpose of general post benefits, extra things for the sick boys, and such matters as were needed, and which the Government did not issue. The post fund was really the company fund of our company. The man was kept working in the stables about two weeks. He finally proved to me that he was a worthless scamp, without any resources, and couldn't pay anything. Afterwards there was a train going down the road; I let him go and told him not to appear on the Platte again, and I never saw him afterwards.
The arrival of Lacey and Donley from Ash Hollow with the wood put us all in good spirits, and we entered the month of December with but little apprehension for the future.
Upon the first of December Captain O'Brien returned from Cottonwood Springs, and assumed command of the post. Our First Lieutenant, Brewer, was made Quartermaster of the post, and that left me the only officer to command the company, and on December first I took personal command of the company.