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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
Rowalt, the young man from our troop who was near me, and who led his horse over to where I was standing, said, “Ed, we have ridden too far away from the balance of the party and the best thing we can do is to rejoin them soon as possible.”
We mounted our horses and just as we done so, a man from “D” Troop who had followed us joined Rowalt and I. We were taking a survey of the country to see which was the quickest way of getting out of the rough country, when I saw at a distance of about a thousand yards five Indians riding towards us. I showed them to the two men with me. And as we did not know how many more there might be, we concluded to retreat. So loading our carbines we traced our way as best we could. The Indians continued to follow us, but did not appear to gain on us. We rode slowly back keeping our eyes open and carbines ready for immediate action. After riding a couple of miles through the most miserable looking country I ever saw, we were joined by Lieut. Williams, of “B” Troop who was in charge of us. We reported the Indians to the Lieutenant who thought the best thing we could do was to get on open ground soon as possible, as we were in danger of being jumped any moment. If we could only get out of the rough country we could stand the Indians off in case they attacked us. All the way back we found dead buffalo killed by Rowalt and myself. In this way we were able to retrace our trail until we saw “B” Troop, who, becoming uneasy, were looking for us. You can rest assured I breathed a sigh of relief. …
And now after writing about my exciting buffalo hunt and the dangers escaped, I have the most sad and painful event of our scout to chronicle.
Upon the arrival in Camp, of the Command this evening, pickets were stationed on all the prominent points to keep a lookout for the approach of Indians. It was our troop’s turn to furnish the picket guard. At each station three men were posted. One man had to be mounted all the time, while the two off duty at the time could lie down and rest. One of the men named Hannan, very likely feeling tired, carelessly tied his horse with a lariat and then made it fast around his body, remarking at the time that in case he went to sleep his horse could not get away from him, little dreaming of the truth of his words. We had just finished eating supper, when one of the pickets galloped into Camp, reporting that Hannan’s horse became frightened at a buffalo approaching, and had run away, dragging Hannan after him, and that when found he was dead. The doctor went out in an ambulance and returned with the body. … We undressed and washed him and then put him into a wagon, there to remain until the morrow. … I am sick and tired of this kind of living, but believe if was to die and be buried in this God-forsaken country, would never rest easy in my grave. This thought is too horrible to dwell upon.
Sunday August 25th, 1872 —Remained in Camp to perform the last sad rites of our brother soldier and comrade. His horse which sent him to appear before his God, is now being saddled up for the purpose of following his master to the grave. I will attend the funeral with the troop and when return will finish my remarks. At 10 o’clock A.M. the Command formed into line. The remains placed in an ambulance. On each side walked four pallbearers. In rear of the ambulance, his horse was led by one of the troop, following came the firing party. As the ambulance came in front of the troop on the left of the line the troop presented arms and as soon as the remains passed by, the troop would wheel and march by Company front to the grave. Arriving at the grave, the body was lowered. Lieut. Boyd read the Episcopal burial service. This finished, three volleys was fired over the grave, and soon as it was filled up one of the trumpeters sounded “Taps” over the grave. …
August 26th, 1872 —Struck tents and left Camp at 7 A.M. The whole Command, wagons and ambulances passing over poor Hannon’s grave, the object of this was to leave no trace of a grave for Indians or coyotes to rob. And after all had passed over it, there was nothing to show that one of our number had been left there.