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“Dont Let Them Ride Over Us”
Surrounded, starving, far from help, Major Forsyth and his gallant little band of scouts prepared to face wave after wave of Indians.
February 1967 | Volume 18, Issue 2
About noon a large body under Roman Nose formed out of gunshot in the stream and charged us. There must have been 700 or 800 of them. Roman Nose himself led the charge. Just as they got to the upper end of the island he was mortally wounded, and we poured such a terrible fire into them that they broke and scattered. That was the last charge they made that amounted to anything.
McLoughlin’s estimate of numbers involved in the charge is probably high. Others have estimated the Indian force at four to six hundred.
SCOUT SIG SCHLESINGER: As the fighting progressed, it began to tell on us. Every once in a while the cry went up that this one, or that one, was hit. … I have often been asked whether I have killed any Indians, to which my answer must truthfully be that I don’t know. … I did not consider it safe to watch the results of a shot. … [I took] general observation by suddenly jumping up and dropping back into my hole, which enabled me to take a shot … without undue exposure and yet be in touch with the general situation. Several times [I saw] two horsemen drag a body away between them. I saw bodies of Indians both on foot and horseback coming toward us. These I considered good targets. …
In the south channel of the dry creek was a tree trunk. … From this stump came many shots, to the annoyance of Lou McLoughlin and myself. McLoughlin was wounded. … I employed my tactics of suddenly going up in the air and firing at the stump. After several shots, the sniping… ceased.
An Indian, evidently a chief [was] standing on a high elevation a little south by west of our position, talking loudly and giving commands. He was in sight of all of us. Grover, who was in the next pit east of ours, and next to Colonel Forsyth, interpreted to us the chief’s orders, stating that he wanted his young bucks to persist in charging, as we had only a handful of cartridges. Grover yelled back at the chief in his language to “send on the bucks, that we each have a hat full which we will give them.”
ZIGLER: About dark … one of the party came from across the river and said the rest were alive but badly wounded; we went over and found them. Parley’s leg was badly broken and we carried him over.
We first cared for the wounded the best we could and then … built small fires in the rifle pits and then went to the [dead] horses and cut off small pieces and roasted them. … After supper we held a council. … We thought our best show was to try to send a dispatch to Fort Wallace. It looked almost impossible to get out, but Jack Stillwell came forward and volunteered to go if they would let him pick a man to go with him. … [He] chose Pierre Trudeau … and as Pierre was older and a good Indian fighter, the Colonel agreed. … The Colonel then wrote a dispatch to Fort Wallace. Jack was the best imitator of an Indian I ever saw, so they fixed themselves up as Indians as best they could and took off their boots and tied on some rags and blankets on their feet so that if Indians saw their tracks next day they would think it some of their own party and not follow them. … We … roasted them some horse meat, enough to last three or four days. … At a late hour they … crawled out. We listened, expecting to hear them run into some Indians and fire, but we heard nothing. The next thing in order was to fix our rifle pits. We had been keeping in our holes as much as possible; we commenced digging to one another so as to connect them all together and by working hard all night we got all connected together and enlarged our hospital, as we called it.
[They came early]—just before the sun rose. It seemed to me that there were just as many … as the first day. … Our orders were about the same, “Hold your fire till they get close, but don’t let them ride over us.”
It seemed to me that the Indians were more determined than ever to get us out, as they charged in from every direction, and it seemed to take more than one volley to stop them. … When we summed up the [second] day’s work, we had one man killed and one wounded, so we got off easy from a hard day’s fighting and I think we broke their backbone that day. We heard nothing from Stillwell and Trudeau and fearing they had not succeeded in getting through [two more] attempted to go out the second night, and after having been gone three hours returned saying they could not get through the Indians’ line. The [third] morning about daylight a smaller party of Indians charged down on us. There were not as many as the other two mornings. We laid low and let them come close; then we raised up and gave them a couple of volleys and started them back. … They continued their fight all day but not as strong, I did not think, as it had been the other two days.
… we still did not believe that Stillwell and Trudeau had got through, [so that night] Jack Donovan and A. J. Pliley said they would try it again. The Colonel … wrote another dispatch. They fixed themselves up to imitate the Indians, [and] … we cut them off some of that poor, rotten horse meat.