- Historic Sites
The Forty-Day Scout
A trooper’s firsthand account of an adventure with the Indian-fighting army in the American Southwest
June/july 1980 | Volume 31, Issue 4
We are now seemingly at the end of the Staked Plains, before us is nothing but barren hills, small valleys and miserable looking canyons. In fact about as unprepossessing a piece of nature as a person would wish to see. Will take chances for a night’s undisturbed rest. Distance marched today 29 miles.
August 19th, 1872 —Morning dawned without an incident to chronicle. My sleep was as sound last night, as any part of old Rip Van Winkle’s. Leaving “D” Troop to guard Camp, General Gregg took the remaining three troops at 8 A.M. on an inspecting tour of the largest canyon. We rode down the canyon about six miles following an Indian trail. Rode in single file the greater part of the way. As the trail was very rough and narrow, dismounted and climbed to the top of the canyon, leading our horses. Found the country open, but much rougher than the plains we had been traveling over. I can t see how we are to get our wagons out of the canyon, unless go out the way came in. The General sent our troop to scout along the top of the Canyon until returned to Camp. He took “B” and “M” Troops and rode off in another direction. At this time of writing he has not returned. We saw but few signs and no Indians on our way back to Camp, and got back in time for dinner, traveled about twelve miles.
August 20th, 1872 —Still in Camp in the canyon. The General and party returned about 4 o’clock last evening. His party saw no Indians.
August 21st, 1872 —Broke Camp at 6 A.M. , found a place to get out of the canyon north of the point which came in at. Had some difficulty getting our wagons up to the top of the canyon. Marched during the day in a northeastern direction. Saw so many buffalo, that actually got tired looking at them. …
August 22nd, 1872 —Left Camp at 7 A.M. Marched over very rough ground. Went into Camp at 11 o’clock, after a march of 7 miles. We are camping on the banks of a small stream, the water has an alkali taste, and is not much relished by either man or beast.
August 23rd, 1872 —Broke Camp at 7 A.M. Our Troop was sent to scout along the banks of the stream. We were to follow the stream for six or eight miles and then to rejoin the Command, which was marching in another direction. Saw a few wild turkeys and deer, but no Indians. After marching about ten mile down the river, we started to search for the trail the Command had taken, but failed to find it until had nearly returned to the place we started from. Had then to follow up the trail until came to Camp. The Command had marched about fifteen miles, while we had ridden fully thirty. …
August 24th, 1872 —Before leaving Camp this morning three men from each troop was detailed to hunt buffalo. I was one of the three from our troop and rode out with great anticipations of having fine sport and at the same time fulfill my promise made to you. We left the Command to our right and after a fruitless hunt of an hour a messenger joined us from the Command saying the General wanted us over near the Command, where there was plenty of buffalo, and some Indian ponies, and perhaps some Indians. We soon galloped over where the Command was marching. “B” Troop was left back to help in case we should be jumped by Indians, and it was the general opinion we would be, if we rode over the rough ground where the buffalo and ponies were seen. Capt McCleave, commanding Troop “B” and who is considered one of the best Indian fighters on the frontier, told us to ride fast after the buffalo and if the Indians jumped us, he with his troop would jump them. So off we started as fast as our horses could run. A young, reckless, and daring man of our troop and myself soon found ourselves ahead of all the others, and regardless of danger, we dashed in among the frightened buffalo, who were running as fast as their legs could carry them. If I was excited when watching a buffalo hunt I was a hundred times more so when engaged in it, and now that I was in among the huge-looking monsters I had some trouble to manage my frightened horse. I rode almost on top of a large bull buffalo and with the muzzle of my carbine within five feet of his back, fired and over rolled my first victim. I was too much excited with the chase to stop, dismount and cut off the promised trophy, but dashing after the other buffalo, loading as I rode. I soon rolled another over, and then taking my revolver out I rode along side of a powerful looking one, and fired four shots into his side before succeeding in killing him. Without checking my horse I rushed after the flying buffalo. Again I was in among them firing as fast as I could load, loading my carbine I rode close as could get my frightened horse … to a handsome buffalo calf and succeeding in shooting him through the spine, he immediately fell and died in a few moments. I stopped my horse, dismounted and examined my meat , and while looking at the buffalo I thought of my promise. I took my knife and cut off the “tip of his tail.” And now loved ones, you see I have fulfilled my promise. …