The Forty-Day Scout

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The shot fired by the sentry had no effect, but to drive off the two Indians who retreated in quick order, and failed to put in another appearance. “B” Troop arrived in Camp about 8 A.M. reporting that the cattle had gone back in the direction of Fort Bascom, and had not as we supposed fallen into the hands of the Indians. It made little difference to us whether the Indians got them or not as we had no desire to recover them. The General sent our guides out this morning to reconnoiter. They returned in an hour or two with the information that Indians in great numbers had driven them back and that the Indians were within five miles of our Camp. We were in Camp on the level plain, while the large canyon in which we were attacked ran to our right and about three miles away. This canyon I suppose is full of Indians, it being their home during the winter. It was impassible for our wagon train even if we wished to follow through it, something none in the Command wished to undertake.… Had we have undertaken to pass through this Canyon we could have been killed by the Indians rolling stones down the sides of the canyon, and at the same time would have been powerless to harm a single Indian. When our guides returned with the information of the close proximity of a large body of Indians, orders were issued to form the wagons in such a manner as to be impossible for Indians to get in, and while a few men could keep a large body of Indians off. Soon as this was done “D,” “L,” and “M” Troops were ordered to saddle up at once. Ammunition in abundance was issued to each man. We then mounted and formed in line, when General Gregg rode up in our front and made a short speech, the substance of which was that we were now in the country of a sleepless and untiring foe, whose nature was one of treachery, and who when least expected attacked the white man, and if successful tortured their victims in the most brutal manner. He wound up by telling us, Indians were reported in large numbers near our Camp, that we were going out to meet them and possibly some fighting afoot would have to be done, and in that case he wanted every man to be ready for any emergency. Soon as the General had concluded his brief remarks, the Adjutant rode to the front and gave the Command Attention to Orders. He then read an Order from the General, thanking the Officers and men for the gallant manner in which we met and repulsed the Indians in our late encounter with them. This was more to inspire us with confidence in ourselves than anything else. …

We then marched off in a direction parallel with the Canyon. As we rode along I occupied my mind for a time by scanning the faces of the greater part of our Troop. Some looked stern and resolute, while others were wreathed in smiles called forth no doubt by some humorous remark of some of the wits of the troop, but taken all in all a kind stillness prevailed throughout the entire Command. As regards myself, can’t say that I felt very rejoiced at the prospects of a fight with the Indians, $13.00 a month is not an incentive to throw one’s life away. And as to my patriotic feelings, I candidly say, I have none. I have never been blessed with the inspiration. And while riding along my thoughts went back to little Maryland, to green fields, friends, loved parents, brothers and sisters, and the day I would be free to enjoy the pleasures of my home. My mind was so …occupied with these pleasant thoughts, that I forgot for the time the mission we were on. And was only brought back to reality, by the Command, coming to a halt and the exclamation “there they are” looking in the direction the Command had been marching in. I saw at the distance of about a half mile some twenty Indians, they looked at us for a few moments, and then turned their horses heads and galloped off a few hundred yards, then turned around and took another look at us. In this way we traveled about a mile, seeing no other Indians, or getting any closer to those before us. The Command came to another halt. The Officers held another consultation and the conclusion came to was the Indians were drawing us into an ambush. With this conclusion came the Command “Left About Wheel March” and we turned and marched back to our Camp. …

Sunday August 18th, 1872 —The night passed without an attack and I am sure none in the Command regret it. But had the Indians put in an appearance, they would have met with a warm reception. Every person in the Command slept with his clothing on, and carbine loaded. We left Camp at 6 A.M. After an hours ride we come in sight of at least one thousand buffalo. A party of men was sent out to kill sufficient for the Command. The men started off in a gallop in the direction of the buffalo. In a short time they were in among the huge monsters firing shot after shot into them. Every person became excited with the chase, which was in full view. Not a hill or mound of any kind to obstruct our view. The chase lasted about fifteen minutes and during that time twenty-one buffalo were killed. Three were put in a wagon for our use, the remaining eighteen left on the plains to be devoured by coyotes and other small animals which live in this part of the country. …