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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
ZIGLER: [Fourth day] Our horses lay just where they were shot down the first day, and were getting pretty badly spoiled and the smell was not very pleasant, but our appetites were good so we made out a fair breakfast.… We got our supper from the same source, only now it was a little more tender. [Fifth day] Our breakfast … still came from the same place, and was getting very tender by this time.
HURST: The Indians left us after the fifth day. … We had nothing then but our horses that had been dead six days, and when we would cut into the meat we found it had green streaks through it and was fast decaying. … [We sprinkled] it with [gun] powder while it was cooking, which partially took away the bad odor, but we could only eat it when we were starving.
… our systems cried out for [salt]. One of the men found a small piece of pork rind in his haversack and chewed it until he thought he had all the good out of it and spit it out; when another comrade took it up and chewed it for a while and spit it out, and then I took it and chewed it up and thought it tasted delicious on account of the salt.
The action of the Indians in breaking off the siege is readily understood in light of the fact that the Plains Indian loved the fast hit-and-run fight, the raid, and had little stomach for a long siege, particularly after suffering a few casualties. But Forsyth had no way of knowing how many of his attackers might still be lingering in the vicinity, waiting to finish off his command. His horses were dead, he had no food, and if he moved out he would have to do so on foot, slowed down by the burden of his wounded. It seemed more sensible to stay where he was, hoping that at least one of his messengers had gotten through and that relief was on the way.
UNKNOWN SCOUT: On the evening of the sixth day our leader called us to him. How gray and drawn his face looked in the shadowy gray light, but his eyes were clear, and his voice was steady.
“Boys, we’ve got to the end of our rope now.” [He pointed to the low hills.] “Over there the Indian wolves are waiting for us … but we needn’t all be sacrificed. … To stay here means you all know what. Now, the men who can go, must leave us to what’s coming. I feel sure now that you can get through together somehow, for the tribes are scattering. It is only the remnant left over there to burn us out at last. There is no reason why you should stay here and die. Make your dash for escape tonight. …”
When the response came, it was: “It’s no use asking us, Colonel. We have fought together, and, by heaven, we’ll die together.”
ZIGLER: [Sixth day] [The] sour horse meat was so rotten and alive with maggots we thought we would try to find some game… so we rustled out a little and found nothing but prickly pears. We lingered along on our old butcher shop until the eighth night. [Ninth day] I went to the old slaughter house and after looking over several, I found them all of the same material and price, so I cut off a slice and laid it on the coals and roasted it and ate it. [Fletcher Villot and I] took our guns and started north across the river [to hunt]. … [Fletch] looked way over to the south on the far hills, and asked, “What is that?”
I said, “That’s some rock.” We sat there talking a few moments; my eye caught an object on the far hills. “There is something moving out there,” I said.
We jumped to our feet and walked up the hill a little farther, where we could plainly see that they were coming over the hill toward us. … We fired a [warning] shot … and hurried back to camp to make ready in case it was Indians.
“I think it is the relief,” the Colonel said. “But get the men all in, and we will be ready for anything.” I thought there were two of the boys out of sight around the hill to the south of us, so I went across that way.
HURST: … the ninth day I went out to the [prairie] dog town [we had found the day before], but [again] no dog came out. … I began to think I would starve to death, and was having the blues pretty bad when I started back for camp. I had not gotten far when … some of my comrades … motioned to me to come to them, and the thought that Indians were coming took possession of me and I started to run as fast as I could, but soon got tired and thought they would surely get me before I could make camp, so I thought I might as well die fighting, and turned around and sank down on the ground and saw three horsemen coming directly toward me. … the closer they came the more they looked like white men.
ZIGLER: In a short while I saw a man at full gallop. When he got a little closer … it was my old friend, Jack Peate. He asked, “How are the rest of the boys?” and I said, “Have you got anything to eat?”