The Forty-Day Scout

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August 15th, 1872 —Struck tents and left Camp at 7 A.M. marching due east. About 9 o’clock we came to a small stream, the water was clear and excellent. We marched along and went into Camp on its banks at 1 o’clock P.M.

August 16th, 1872 —Little did I dream when I closed my day’s diary of the 15th inst. that before the rising of another sun, the most important and dangerous event of our seemingly useless scout would transpire. …

Yesterday’s march brought us to the commencement of very rough looking country, and our Camp was located in a splendid place for a surprise, and night attack by Indians. Danger was not anticipated and was the most remote thought in our minds. Before turning in for the night we as usual squatted around in groups to have an hour’s smoke and talk on the progress of the scout, and the probabilities of seeing an Indian. Many were the ludicrous remarks made by the boys. After smoking and talking ourselves tired, all turned in to sleep, excepting the guard, who paced to and fro his lonely beat. …

About 1 o’clock A.M. I awoke from a sound sleep by the report of several carbines, connected with the most unearthly yelling it has ever been my misfortune to listen to. It sounded to me like all the Devils incarnate, and all the Demons of Hell had issued forth in that one lonely spot to make the night hideous with their orgies. No pen is capable of describing my feelings at that moment. I of course knew that we were “jumped,” (attacked) by Indians, and from those blood-chilling yells, I imagined we had been totally surprised and that the Indians were right in our midst, dealing death on all sides. …

I was only a moment getting a cartridge in my carbine, and with revolver in one hand and carbine in the other with only my shirt and pants on, I ran to the right of our troop and on a line with “B” Troop where the firing and yelling was the loudest. I could see the Indians by the light of the moon riding in a circle near our lines, firing at us as they charged by. I discharged my carbine at the first Indians I saw, and never taking time to notice with what effect I reloaded and fired as fast as I possibly could. By this time our whole Command was up and the firing became more general. The Indians seeing that there was no hope for them, commenced to withdraw. At this stage of the fight a detail of 10 picked men was made from each troop to form a line and advance about one hundred yards from Camp and take station as pickets. I was one of the number from our troop. We advanced at a double quick step, firing at the retreating Indians as we ran. When we reached the prescribed distance from Camp, we came to a halt, and kept up a fire from our Carbines, as long as we could hear a yell from an Indian. Finally all became quiet, when we deployed as pickets. And there remained until daylight relieved us from our unpleasant watch. …

When morning dawned, we found that our loss was very slight. One man, a Sergeant of Troop “B” wounded in the leg, and two mules killed. A number of the wagons bore bullet holes in their canvas, showing that the Indians’ fire was too high. It is impossible now to tell the loss of the Indians, as they left none of their number behind. We are satisfied that from the number of shots we fired more than one of their number was hit. …

Our beef cattle again stampeded at the first shot and we have never seen them since. But this loss, we consider our gain. As we had to guard them every night and had trouble enough with them. We are happy now that they are gone for good.

We left the scene of our late encounter at 7 A. M. … About 10 o’clock we saw an Indian rancharee and charged it, but found that it had only been vacated a few hours before our arrival. Went into Camp at 2 P.M. Camped upon high ground. Guess the General has had enough of Camping in Canyons for some time. Took more precaution in forming our wagon train so as to form a better stockade against the attack of Indians. Camp was laid out in a square. With one troop to guard each side. “B” Troop had been left behind in the morning to search for the missing cattle, as they were in charge of them when they ran off. And as they had not returned yet, ten men from each of the other troops was detailed to guard their side of the Camp. Our troop has only 23 Privates, for duty, and out of the 23, 19 was on guard.

The Officers had been so badly frightened the previous night that they are determined not to be surprised again. Every Camp before we were attacked the Officers all pitched their tents as far from the men as they could possibly do with safety, but tonight all with the exception of Capt Randlett, and Lieut Hennisee of “D” Troop, have had their tents pitched in among the Quarter Master’s wagons and mules, prefering the dust and smell from the mules, to the danger of Camping on a line with the men. …