In 1848 the United States and Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe de Hidalgo. This territory now became part of the United States. The Navajos were opposed to this move and began made attacks on American settlers. In 1863 Kit Carson was ordered to confine the Navajo to the Bosque Redondo Reservation in New Mexico. The Navajos resisted this move and Carson responded by killing their cattle and destroying their crops. Starved into submission 8,000 members of the tribe were eventually placed on the reservation.
In June 1866, Red Cloud, chief of the Oglala Sioux, began negotiating with the army based at Fort Laramie about the decision to allow emigrants to settle on the last of the great Sioux hunting grounds. When he was unable to reach agreement with the army negotiators he resorted to sending out war parties that attacked emigrants and army patrols. These hit and run tactics were difficult for the army to deal with and be the time they arrived on the scene of the attack the war parties had disappeared.
On 21st December, 1866, Captain W. J. Fetterman and an army column of 80 men, were involved in protecting a team taking wood to Fort Phil Kearny. Although under orders not to "engage or pursue Indians" Fetterman gave the orders to attack a group of Sioux warriors. The warriors ran away and drew the soldiers into a clearing surrounded by a much larger force. All the soldiers were killed in what became known as the Fetterman Massacre. Later that day the stripped and mutilated bodies of the soldiers were found by a patrol led by Captain Ten Eyck.
Red Cloud and his men continued to attack soldiers trying to protect the Bozeman Trail. On 2nd August, 1867, several thousand Sioux and Cheyenne attacked a wood-cutting party led by Captain James W. Powell. The soldiers had recently been issued with Springfield rifles and this enabled them to inflict heavy casualties on the warriors. After a battle that lasted four and a half hours, the Native Americans withdrew. Six soldiers died during the fighting and Powell claimed that his men had killed about 60 warriors.
Despite this victory the army was unable to successfully protect the Bozeman Trail and on 4th November, 1868, Red Cloud and 125 chiefs were invited to Fort Laramie to discuss the conflict. As a result of these negotiations the American government withdrew the garrisons protecting the emigrants travelling along the trail to Montana. Red Cloud and his warriors then burnt down the forts.
In 1871 Satanta led several attacks on wagon trains in Texas. He was arrested at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and at his trail he warned what might happen if he was hanged: " I am a great chief among my people. If you kill me, it will be like a spark on the prairie. It will make a big fire - a terrible fire!" Satanta was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, but Edmund Davis, the Governor of Texas, decided to overrule the court and the punishment was changed to life imprisonment.
The next Indian War involved the Modoc tribe. In 1872 Kintpuash and a group of Modocs began to leave the government's Klamath Reservation in Oregon and returned to their original land in California. This party included about 70 warriors. On 29th November, 1872, fighting broke out between troops and the Modocs. One soldiers and eight Modocs were killed during the fighting. Over the next few weeks fourteen settlers in California were killed by war parties.
During negotiations on 11th April, 1873, a group of warriors killed peace commissioner Brigadier General Edward Canby. This was followed on 26th April by four officers and eighteen men were killed at the battle of Stronghold. However, the Modocs were outnumbered and on 1st June, 1873 Kintpuash and his warriors surrendered to the army. Kintpuash, Schonchin John, Boston Charley and Black Kim were executed for the murder of Edward Canby on 3rd October, 1873.
Satanta was released in 1873 and was soon back attacking buffalo hunters and led the raid on Adobe Walls. He was captured in October, 1874. Unwilling to spend the rest of his life in prison, Satanta killed himself on 11th October, 1878, by diving headlong from a high window of the prison hospital.
In 1874 Comanche and Kiowa war parties began attacking settlers in Texas. At first these hit and run tactics were difficult for the army to deal with and be the time they arrived on the scene of the attack the war parties had disappeared. Over 3,000 troops were brought into Texas from neighbouring states to deal with this problem. Colonel Ranad Mackenzie eventually discovered the winter camp of the Native Americans who had been carrying out raids on the settlers. In September 1874 Mackenzie launched a dawn attack on the camp in Palo Duro Canyon and destroyed the village, stole their supplies and took away their horses. That winter, unable to survive by hunting, the warriors were forced to surrender to the authorities.
In December, 1875 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs directed all Sioux bands to enter reservations by the end of January 1876. Sitting Bull, now a medicine man and spiritual leader of his people, refused to leave his hunting grounds. Crazy Horse agreed and led his warriors north to join up with Sitting Bull.
In June 1876 Sitting Bull subjected himself to a sun dance. This ritual included fasting and self-torture. During the sun dance Sitting Bull saw a vision of a large number of white soldiers falling from the sky upside down. As a result of this vision he predicted that his people were about to enjoy a great victory.
On 17th June 1876, General George Crook and about 1,000 troops, supported by 300 Crow and Shoshone, fought against 1,500 members of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes. The battle at Rosebud Creek lasted for over six hours. This was the first time that Native Americans had united together to fight in such large numbers.
General George A. Custer and 655 men were sent out to locate the villages of the Sioux and Cheyenne involved in the battle at Rosebud Creek. An encampment was discovered on the 25th June. It was estimated that it contained about 10,000 men, women and children. Custer assumed the numbers were much less than that and instead of waiting for the main army under General Alfred Terry to arrive, he decided to attack the encampment straight away.
Custer divided his men into three groups. Captain Frederick Benteen was ordered to explore a range of hills five miles from the village. Major Marcus Reno was to attack the encampment from the upper end whereas Custer decided to strike further downstream.
Reno soon discovered he was outnumbered and retreated to the river. He was later joined by Benteen and his men. Custer continued his attack but was easily defeated by about 4,000 warriors. At the battle of the Little Bighorn Custer and all his 264 men were killed. The soldiers under Reno and Benteen were also attacked and 47 of them were killed before they were rescued by the arrival of General Alfred Terry and his army. It was claimed afterwards that Custer had been killed by his old enemy, Rain in the Face. However, there is no hard evidence to suggest that this is true.
The U.S. army now responded by increasing the number of the soldiers in the area. As a result Sitting Bull and his men fled to Canada, whereas Crazy Horse and his followers surrendered to General George Crook at the Red Cloud Agency in Nebraska. Crazy Horse was later killed while being held in custody at Fort Robinson.
In 1877 General Otis Howard instructed Chief Joseph and the Nez Percé tribe to move from their tribal lands in Oregon. Joseph eventually agreed to leave the Wallowa Valley and along with 350 followers settled in Whitebird Creek in Idaho. Around 190 young men rebelled against this decision and attacked white settlers in what became known as the Nez Perce War. Joseph's brother, Sousouquee, was killed during this fighting. Although he had no experience as a warrior, Joseph took part in the battles at White Bird Canyon (17th June), Clearwater (11th July) and at Bear Paw Mountain (30th September).
Chief Joseph and his men began a 1,300 mile march to Canada. However, on 5th October, 1877, the Nez Percé were surrounded by troops only 30 miles from the Canadian border. Joseph now agreed to take part in negotiations with General Nelson Miles. During the meeting Joseph was seized and beaten-up. Nez Perce warriors retaliated by capturing Lieutenant Lovell Jerome. A few weeks later Joseph was released in exchange for Lieutenant Jerome.
Chief Joseph continued to negotiate with General Miles. He also visited Washington where he met President William McKinley and President Theodore Roosevelt . Eventually some members of the Nez Percé tribe were allowed to return home but others were forced to live on the Colville Reservation. Joseph remained with them and did what he could to encourage his people to go to school and to discourage gambling and drunkenness.
The Ute tribe also refused to give up their lands in the foothills and valleys of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. In 1878 Nathan Meeker became the agent of the White River Agency. He upset the Utes by trying to force them to become farmers. In September, 1879, Meeker called in the army to deal with the Utes. When he heard what was happening, Chief Douglas and a group of warriors killed Meeker and seven other members of the agency. This became known as the Meeker Massacre. The Utes also attacked Major Thomas Thornburgh and his troops heading for the White River Agency. In the fighting Thornburgh and nine of his men were killed. After the arrival of reinforcements the Utes were evicted from Colorado and placed in an reservation in Utah.
On 27th January, 1861, Apaches stole cattle and kidnapped a boy from a Sonoita Valley ranch. Second Lieutenant George Bascom was sent out with 54 soldiers to recover the boy. Cochise met Bascom and told him that he would try to recover the boy. Bascom rejected the offer and instead tried to take Cochise hostage. When he tried to flee he was shot at by the soldiers. The wounded Cochise now gave orders for the execution of four white men being held in captivity. In retaliation six Apaches were hanged. Open warfare now broke out and during the next 60 days 150 white people were killed and five stage stations destroyed.
Mangas Coloradas and Cochise killed five people during an attack on a stage at Stein's Peak, New Mexico. In July, 1861 a war party murdered six white people travelling on a stage coach at Cooke's Canyon. The following year Cochise ambushed soldiers as they travelled through the Apache Pass. The Apaches also attacked stage coaches and in 1869 killed a Texas cowboy and stole 250 cattle. Cochise and his men were pursued but after a fight near Fort Bowie the soldiers were forced to retreat.
The battle of Adobe Walls took place on 27th June 1874 when a combined force of Cheyenne, Kiowa and Comanchewarriors led by Quanah and Satanta. The defenders of the fort, including Bat Masterson, were well armed and were able to hold off the warriors. After suffering heavy casualties the warriors abandoned the attack. Three hunters were killed in the battle. Satanta was captured in October, 1874. Unwilling to spend the rest of his life in prison, Satanta killed himself on 11th October, 1878, by diving headlong from a high window of the prison hospital.
The final resistance to white settlement in America was led by Geronimo, the leader of the Chiricahua Apaches in Arizona. In 1876 the American government ordered the Chiricahuas from their mountain homeland to the San Carlos Reservation. Geronimo refused to go and over the next few years he led a small band of warriors that raided settlements in Arizona. Geronimo also attacked American troops in the Whetstone Mountains, Arizona, on 9th January, 1877. This was followed by a rare defeat in the Leitendorf Mountains.
Geronimo was captured when entering the Ojo Caliente Reservation in New Mexico. Geronimo was eventually released and by April 1878 he was leading war parties in Mexico. The following year Geronimo surrendered and settled on the San Carlos Reservation.
On 21st August, 1879, Victorio took his people to the Black Range mountains. He fought off an attempt to arrest him by Major Albert Morrow. He then moved east and ambushed Mexican militia killing around 30 men. With the help of Apache scouts the army traced him in the Black Mountains. However, he once again escaped and by August 1880 was launching further attacks in West Texas.
On 15th October, 1880, Lieutenant Colonel Joaquin Terrazas finally ambushed Victorio and his men in the Tres Castillos Mountains in Chihuahua. Victorio and 77 other Apaches were killed in the fighting.
In 1881 Juh and Geronimo and their people left the reservation and headed for the Sierra Madre. In 1882 they carried out their most ambitious raid of all when they attacked San Carlos.
After the death of Juh, Geronimo became the leader of the Apache warriors. He continued to carry out raids until he took part in peace talks with General George Crook. Crook was criticized for the way he was dealing with the situation and as a result he asked to be relieved of his command.
General Nelson Miles replaced Crook and attempted to defeat Geronimo by military means. This strategy was also unsuccessful and eventually he resorting to Crook's strategy of offering a negotiated deal. In September 1886 Geronimo signed a peace treaty with Miles and the last of the Indian Wars was over.
(1) Harper's Magazine (1st May, 1858)
In the year 1828, while the Kickapoo Indians were moving West from Illinois, a party of them camped on Spoon River, and spent some time in hunting.
In the midst of this season of enjoyment - the last they would have before leaving the grounds forever - some white men, with no fear of God or man before their eyes, seized one of the young Indians and gave him a thrashing with a hickory sprout. Had they shot him the deed might have been forgiven, but the indignity of a flogging was more than they could bear, and the spirit of revenge rankled and festered in their red bosoms. Years wore away, and long leagues lay between them and their foes, but the memory of the offense was kept alive with the fires of revenge.
It came at last, the time of vengeance. In May of 1832 the young Indian heard that the Sack and Fox Indians, under Black Hawk, were about to make war upon the whites. Rousing himself to the spirit of the hour, he called on his tribe to revenge his wrong, and to wipe out their disgrace in white man’s blood. Nineteen redskins, brave and cruel, offered themselves to the work of vengeance. He went to Black Hawk and proffered the band of twenty warriors, with four of the Potawatomie tribe who joined them; and being gladly accepted by the great chieftain, they waited for the hour of expiation to arrive.
This little band, with less of the daring, but not less of the blood-thirstiness, of their fathers, were sent to watch the country from the head-waters of Indian Creek, south and west, to Spoon River, the scene of the deed they were now sworn to revenge. A hundred miles they marched, through a country inhabited by three thousand whites, till they came to the head of Indian Creek, in Lasalle County, Illinois, where they found three families dwelling in fancied security, and dreaming not that these infernal wretches were prowling at their doors. These were the families of Mr. Davis, Mr. Petticu, and Mr. Hall, and the three men together, near the house of one of them, when the Indians fired upon them, killed them all, and, rushing upon their defenseless homes, murdered sixteen of the inmates in cold blood! Their work was complete, and their errand done. Two beautiful young women were spared the fate of their parents and friends. Together with some choice cattle, they were seized and carried in triumph to the camp of Black Hawk. Here they were treated with respect, and detained as prisoners to be given as wives to the young Indian whose beating had now been so gloriously revenged. Happily for them they were saved from this doom, to them more dreadful than death itself, by the exertions of the noble Colonel Dodge, of Wisconsin.
(2) Nelson Miles, Personal Recollections and Observations (1896)
The art of war among the white race is called strategy, or tactics; when practised by the Indians it is called treachery. They employed the art of deceiving, misleading, decoying, and surprising the enemy with great cleverness. The celerity and secrecy of their movements were never excelled by the warriors of any country. They had courage, skill, sagacity, endurance, fortitude, and self-sacrifice of a high order. They had rules of civility in their intercourse among themselves or with strangers and in their councils. Some of these we could copy to our advantage.
With their enemies, they believed it right to take every advantage. If one of their own tribe committed a serious offehse or crime, they believed it right for the victim to administer swift retribution and the whole tribe approved. Among their own tribe and people they had a code of honor which all respected. An Indian could leave his horse, blanket, saddle, or rifle at any place by night or day and it would not be disturbed, though the whole tribe might pass near. This could not be done in any community of white people.
(3) Rocky Mountain News (December, 1864)
Among the brilliant feats of arms in Indian warfare, the recent campaign of our Colorado volunteers will stand in history with few rivals, and none to exceed it in final results. We are not prepared to write its history, which can only be done by some one who accompanied the expedition, but we have gathered from those who participated in it and from others who were in that part of the country, some facts which will doubtless interest many of our readers.
The people of Colorado are well aware of the situation occupied by the third regiment during the great snow-storm which set in the last of October. Their rendezvous was in Bijou Basin, about eighty miles southeast of this city, and close up under the foot of the Divide. That point had been selected as the base for an Indian campaign. Many of the companies reached it after the storm set in; marching for days through the driving, blinding clouds of snow and deep drifts. Once there, they were exposed for weeks to an Arctic climate, surrounded by a treeless plain covered three feet deep with snow. Their animals suffered for food and with cold, and the men fared but little better. They were insufficiently supplied with tents and blankets, and their sufferings were intense. At the end of a month the snow had settled to the depth of two fee, and the command set out upon its long contemplated march. The rear guard left the Basin on the 23rd of November. Their course was southeast, crossing the Divide and thence heading for Fort Lyon. For one hundred miles the snow was quite two feet in depth, and for the next hundred it ranged from six to twelve inches. Beyond that the ground was almost bare and the snow no longer impeded their march.
On the afternoon of the 28th the entire command reached Fort Lyon, a distance of two hundred and sixty miles, in less than six days, and so quietly and expeditiously had the march been made that the command at the fort was taken entirely by surprise. When the vanguard appeared in sight in was reported that a body of Indians were approaching, and precautions were taken for their reception. No one upon the route was permitted to go in advance of the column, and persons who it was suspected would spread the news of the advance were kept under surveillance until all danger from that source was past.
At Fort Lyon the force was strengthened by about two hundred and fifty men of the first regiment, and at nine o'clock in the evening the command set out for the Indian village. The course was due north, and their guide was the Polar star. As daylight dawned they came in sight of the Indian camp, after a forced midnight march of forty-two miles, in eight hours, across the rough, unbroken plain. But little time was required for preparation. The forces had been divided and arranged for battle on the march, and just as the sun rose they dashed upon the enemy with yells that would put a Comanche army to blush. Although utterly surprised, the savages were not unprepared, and for a time their defense told terribly against our ranks. Their main force rallied and formed in line of battle on the bluffs beyond the creek, where they were protected by rudely constructed rifle-pits, from which they maintained a steady fire until the shells from company C's (third regiment) howitzers began dropping among them, when they scattered and fought each for himself in genuine Indian fashion. As the battle progressed the field of carriage widened until it extended over not less than twelve miles of territory. The Indians who could escaped or secreted themselves, and by three o'clock in the afternoon the carnage had ceased. It was estimated that between three and four hundred of the savages got away with their lives. Of the balance there were neither wounded nor prisoners. Their strength at the beginning of the action was estimated at nine hundred.
Their village consisted of one hundred and thirty Cheyenne and with Arapahoe lodges. These, with their contents, were totally destroyed. Among their effects were large supplies of flour, sugar, coffee, tea, &c. Women's and children's clothing were found; also books and many other articles which must have been taken from captured trains or houses. One white man's scalp was found which had evidently been taken but a few days before. The Chiefs fought with unparalleled bravery, falling in front of their men. One of them charged alone against a force of two or three hundred, and fell pierced with balls far in advance of his braves.
Our attack was made by five battalions. The first regiment, Colonel Chivington, part of companies C,D,E,G, H and K, numbering altogether about two hundred and fifty men, was divided into two battalions; the first under command of Major Anthony, and the second under Lieutenant Wilson, until the latter was disabled, when the command devolved upon Lieutenant Dunn. The three battalions of the third, Colonel Shoup, were led, respectively, by Lieutenant Colonel Bowen, Major Sayr, and Captain Cree. The action was begun by the battalion of Lieutenant Wilson, who occupied the right, and by a quick and bold movement cut off the enemy from their herd of stock. From this circumstance we gained our great advantage. A few Indians secured horses, but the great majority of them had to fight or fly on foot. Major Anthony was on the left, and the third in the centre.
Among the killed were all the Cheyenne chiefs, Black Kettle, White Antelope, Little Robe, Left Hand, Knock Knee, One Eye, and another, name unknown. Not a single prominent man of the tribe remains, and the tribe itself is almost annihilated. The Arapahoes probably suffered but little. It has been reported that the chief Left Hand, of that tribe, was killed, but Colonel Chivington is of the opinion that he was not. Among the stock captured were a number of government horses and mules, including the twenty or thirty stolen from the command of Lieutenant Chase at Jimmy's camp last summer.
(4) John S. Smith, statement made to Congressional Enquiry into the Sand Creek Massacre (14th March, 1865)
By this time the Indians had fled; had scattered in every direction. The troops were some on one side of the river and some on the other, following up the Indians. We had been encamped on the north side of the river; I followed along, holding on the caisson, sometimes running, sometimes walking. Finally, about a mile above the village, the troops had got a parcel of the Indians hemmed in under the bank of the river; as soon as the troops overtook them, they commenced firing on them; some troops had got above them, so that they were completely surrounded. There were probably a hundred Indians hemmed in there, men, women, and children; the most of the men in the village escaped.
By the time I got up with the battery to the place where these Indians were surrounded there had been some considerable firing. Four or five soldiers had been killed, some with arrows and some with bullets. The soldiers continued firing on these Indians, who numbered about a hundred, until they had almost completely destroyed them. I think I saw altogether some seventy dead bodies lying there; the greater portion women and children. There may have been thirty warriors, old and young; the rest were women and small children of different ages and sizes.
The troops at that time were very much scattered. There were not over two hundred troops in the main fight, engaged in killing this body of Indians under the bank. The balance of the troops were scattered in different directions, running after small parties of Indians who were trying to make their escape. I did not go so see how many they might have killed outside of this party under the bank of the river. Being still quite weak from my last sickness, I returned with the first body of troops that went back to the camp.
(5) Captain John G. Bourke served under General George Crook. In 1891 he wrote about an event that took place on 28th December, 1872.
We moved onward again for three or four hours until we reached a small grassy glade, where we discovered fifteen Pima ponies, which must have been driven up the mountain by Apache raiders that very night; the sweat was hardly crusted on their flanks, their hoofs were banged against the rocks, and their knees were full of the thorns of the cholla cactus, against which they had been driven in the dark. There was no moon, but the glint of stars gave enough light to show that we were in a country filled with huge rocks and adapted most admirably for defense. There in front, almost within touch of the hand, that line of blackness blacker than all the other blackness about us was the canyon of the Salt River. We looked at it well, since it might be our grave in an hour, for we were now within rifle shot of our quarry.
Nantaje (an Apache scout) now asked that a dozen picked men be sent forward with him, to climb down the face of the precipice and get into place in front of the cave in order to open the attack; immediately behind them should come fifty more, who should make no delay in their advance; a strong detachment should hold the edge of the precipice to prevent any of the hostiles from getting above them and killing our people with their rifles. The rest of our force could come down more at leisure, if the movement of the first two detachments secured the key of the field; if not, they could cover the retreat of the survivors up the face of the escarpment.
Lieutenant William J. Ross, of the 2Ist Infantry, was assigned to lead the first detachment, which contained the best shots from among the soldiers, packers, and scouts. The second detachment came under my own orders. Our pioneer party slipped down the face of the precipice without accident, following a trail from which an incautious step would have caused them to be dashed to pieces; after a couple of hundred yards this brought them face to face with the cave, and not two hundred feet from it. In front of the cave was the party of raiders, just returned from their successful trip of killing and robbing in the settlements near Florence, on the Gila River. They were dancing to keep themselves warm and to express their joy over their safe return. Half a dozen or more of the squaws had arisen from their slumbers and were bending over a fire and hurriedly preparing refreshments for their valorous kinsmen. The fitful gleam of the glowing flame gave a Macbethian tinge to the weird scene and brought into bold relief the grim outlines of the cliffs between whose steep walls, hundreds of feet below, growled the rushing current of the swift Salado.
The Indians, men and women, were in high good humor, and why should they not be? Sheltered in the bosom of these grim precipices only the eagle, the hawk, the turkey buzzard, or the mountain sheep could venture to intrude upon them. But hark! What is that noise? Can it be the breeze of morning which sounds 'Click, click'? You will know in one second more, poor, deluded, red-skinned wretches, when the 'Bang! Boom!' of rifles and carbines, reverberating like the roar of cannon from peak to peak, shall lay six of your number dead in the dust.
The cold, gray dawn of that chill December morning was sending its first rays above the horizon and looking down upon one of the worst bands of Apaches in Arizona, caught like wolves in a trap. They rejected with scorn our summons to surrender, and defiantly shrieked that not one of our party should escape from that canyon. We heard their death song chanted, and then out of the cave and over the great pile of rock which protected the entrance like a parapet swarmed the warriors. But we outnumbered them three to one, and poured in lead by the bucketful. The bullets, striking the roof and mouth of the cave, glanced among the savages in the rear of the parapet and wounded some of the women and children, whose wails filled the air.
During the heaviest part of the firing a little boy, not more than four years old, absolutely naked, ran out at the side of the parapet and stood dumfounded between the two fires. Nantaje, without a moment's pause, rushed forward, grasped the trembling infant by the arm, and escaped unhurt with him inside our lines. A bullet, probably deflected from the rocks, had struck the boy on the top of the head and plowed round to the back of the neck, leaving a welt an eighth of an inch thick, but not injuring him seriously. Our men suspended their firing to cheer Nantaje and welcome the new arrival: such is the inconsistency of human nature.
Again the Apaches were summoned to surrender, or, if they would not do that, to let such of their women and children as so desired pass out between the lines; and again they yelled their defiant refusal. Their end had come. The detachment left by Major Brown at the top of the precipice, to protect our retreat in case of necessity, had worked its way over to a high shelf of rock overlooking the enemy beneath, and began to tumble down great boulders which speedily crushed the greater number of the Apaches. The Indians on the San Carlos reservation still mourn periodically for the seventy-six of their relatives who yielded up the ghost that morning. Every warrior died at his post. The women and children had hidden themselves in the inner recesses of the cave, which was of no great depth, and were captured and taken to Camp McDowell. A number of them had been struck by glancing bullets or fragments of failing rock. As soon as our pack-trains could be brought up we mounted the captives on our horses and mules and started for the nearest military station, the one just named, over fifty miles away."
(6) Nelson Lee, Three Years Among the Comanches (1859)
From the position I occupied I had a fair, unobstructed view of the battle. It was fierce and terrible. The horses reared, and plunged, and fell upon each other, their riders dealing blow for blow, and thrust for thrust, some falling from their saddles to the ground, and others trampling madly over them.
The Comanches outnumbered the enemy; nevertheless, they were forced to retreat, falling back down the hill almost to my position; but still they were not pursued, the Apaches appearing to be content to hold possession of the ground. Soon, the tribe of the Spotted Leopard again rallied and dashed once more to the attack. If possible, this contest was severer, as it was longer than the first. Again the fierce blow was given and returned; again horses and men intermingled in the melee - stumbled, fell, and rolled upon the ground, while the wide heavens resounded with their hideous shrieks and cries.
My blood thrilled through my veins as I looked upon the scene. I had mingled in encounters fierce even as that, but never before in the midst of the hottest fight was I overcome with such a sense of terror. To be an inactive spectator of a battle is far more painful than to be a participator in it.
I hoped devoutly during the engagement that the Comanches would be beaten, being impressed with the belief that if I should fall into the enemies' hands, my chances of escape would be increased, for I had often heard that the Apaches, though a most warlike nation, were more merciful to prisoners than others of their race. But in this I was disappointed. The Apaches at length gave way, disappearing beyond the ridge. Instead of pursuing their advantage, however, the Comanches hastily gathered up their dead and retreated towards the mountains we had crossed.
(7) Harper's Magazine (21st April, 1866)
Leaving Atchison we journeyed out into the vast plains, that never can be other than the vat wilderness that they are. We had, or thought we had, a journey of six or seven days before us. But circumstances alter cases: at least they did ours.
Two hundred and fifty miles from Atchison we became aware that Indians were more plenty than usual along the route. This gave us no uneasiness; but soon after the discovery of the bodies of murdered men - some of whom had been captured alive, and undergone the most awful torture, such as the cutting out of tongues and other parts of their person, then burning them alive - caused us to be continually on our guard. At this part of the journey Colonel Tamblyn, an able officer and a good Indian fighter, when he has the men, furnished us with a small escort.
Soon after this we discovered the bodies of two more men, from which we drove the wolves, and buried them. These men had fought and been killed; their bodies were covered with arrow-wounds. Brave men as they were, we could only cover them with so thin a blanket of prairie sod that would hide them from sight but not from the wolves.
Still further on we buried three more bodies that the Indians had left most barbarously mutilated. These discoveries, following each other so rapidly, caused us to be ever on the alert for an attack, which came about two o’clock one bright day, when one would have thought that the Indians would have been busy hunting the buffalo.
We had nearly reached a station known as Smoky Hill Spring when we discovered a party of fully sixty Indians within short pistol-shot of the coach. Our escort had reached the station and dismounted, leaving our little party to fight the affair out alone, which we did in the most determined style - arrows and pistol-balls penetrating the coach every moment, strange to say, without any thing more serious resulting than a couple of arrow scratches!
The Indians, beaten off, were joined by parties that seemed to come from every bluff. Thinking to drive us from the shelter of the station, which we had by this time reached, they set fire to the tall grass to the windward of us. The strong breeze brought the smoke and flame rapidly down, nearly reaching the adobe before we could check the fire by beating it down and out with our blankets. This we finally succeeded in doing. Then, so far as fire was concerned, we were safe; for prairie grass will not burn twice on the same day, and an Indian is too careful of his life to come within rifle range, if he is sure that the party that points said rifle is used to the weapon.
No attack was made until nightfall, when an unlimited quantity of arrows were distributed among us. Dawn found us ready, and the Indians perceiving this, no attack was made. About ten o’clock a company of Colonel Tamblyn’s regiment came to our rescue, at the sight of whom the Indians mounted their ponies, and we saw no more of them except at a great distance.
(8) Martha Jane Cannary, Life and Adventures of Calamity Jane (1897)
Joined General Custer as a scout at Fort Russell, Wyoming, in 1870, and started for Arizona for the Indian Campaign. Up to this time I had always worn the costume of my sex. When I joined Custer I donned the uniform of a soldier. It was a bit awkward at first but I soon got to be perfectly at home in men's clothes.
Was in Arizona up to the winter of 1871 and during that time I had a great many adventures with the Indians, for as a scout I had a great many dangerous missions to perform and while I was in many close places always succeeded in getting away safely for by this time I was considered the most reckless and daring rider and one of the best shots in the western country.
After that campaign I returned to Fort Sanders, Wyoming, remained there until spring of 1872, when we were ordered out to the Muscle Shell or Nursey Pursey Indian outbreak. In that war Generals Custer, Miles, Terry and Crook were all engaged. This campaign lasted until fall of 1873.
It was during this campaign that I was christened Calamity Jane. It was on Goose Creek, Wyoming, where the town of Sheridan is now located. Captain Egan was in command of the Post. We were ordered out to quell an uprising of the Indians, and were out for several days, had numerous skirmishes during which six of the soldiers were killed and several severely wounded. When on returning to the Post we were ambushed about a mile and a half from our destination. When fired upon Captain Egan was shot. I was riding in advance and on hearing the firing turned in my saddle and saw the Captain reeling in his saddle as though about to fall. I turned my horse and galloped back with all haste to his side and got there in time to catch him as he was falling. I lifted him onto my horse in front of me and succeeded in getting him safely to the Fort. Captain Egan on recovering, laughingly said: "I name you Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains.'' I have borne that name up to the present time.
(9) George A. Custer, My Life on the Plains (1874)
The Indians, who were interested spectators of these preparations for their reception, continued to approach, but seemed willing to delay their attack until the plain became a little more favorable for their operations. Finally, the desired moment seemed to have arrived. The Indians had approached to within easy range, yet not a shot had been fired, the cavalrymen havingbeen instructed by their officers to reserve their fire for close quarters. Suddenly, with a wild ringing war whoop, the entire band of warriors bore down upon the train and its little party of defenders.
On came the savages, filling the air with their terrible yells. Their first object, evidently, was to stampede the horses and draft animals of the train; then, in the excitement and consternation which would follow, to massacre the escort and drivers. The wagon master in immediate charge of the train had been ordered to keep his two columns of wagons constantly moving forward and well closed up. This last injunction was hardly necessary, as the frightened-teamsters, glancing at the approaching warriors and hearing their savage shouts, were sufficiently anxious to keep well closed upon their leaders.
The first onslaught of the Indians was made on the flank which was superintended by Colonel Cook. They rode boldly forward as if to dash over the mere handful of cavalrymen, who stood in skirmishing order in a circle about the train. Not a soldier faltered as the enemy came thundering upon them, but waiting until the Indians were within short rifle range of the train, the cavalrymen dropped upon their knees, and taking deliberate aim poured a volley from their Spencer carbines into the ranks of the savages, which seemed to put a sudden check upon the ardor of their movements and forced them to wheel off to the right. Several of the warriors were seen to reel in their saddles, while the ponies of others were brought down or wounded by the effectual fire of the cavalrymen.
Those of the savages who were shot from their saddles were scarcely permitted to fall to the ground before a score or more of their comrades dashed to their rescue and bore their bodies beyond the possible reach of our men. This is in accordance with the Indian custom in battle. They will risk the lives of a dozen of their best warriors to prevent the body of any one of their number from falling into the white man's possession. The reason for this is the belief, which generally prevails among all the tribes, that if a warrior loses his scalp he forfeits his hope of ever reaching the happy hunting ground.
(10) General George Crook, Autobiography (1889)
I at once commenced reloading my old muzzle loader, when the guide at the tops of the bluffs yelled, "Look out for the arrows!" I looked up, and saw the air apparently full of them. Almost simultaneously one hit me in the right hip. When I jerked it out the head remained in my leg, where it remains still. There were a couple of inches of blood on the shaft of the arrow when I pulled it out. The Indians doing the firing were some who had previously swum across, and had secreted themselves in the rocks. They set up a yell when I was hit.
I at once commenced the ascent through a shower of arrows. The ascent was so steep that I had to pull myself up by catching hold of bunches of grass, rocks, and such things as I could get hold of. In one bunch of grass I caught hold of two arrows that had been shot at me. The wonder was that I was not hit oftener. By the time I reached the top the perspiration stood out on me in large drops, and I was deathly sick.
As soon as I was able, we returned to our camp at the ferry. I had to ride on horseback and suffered most excruciating pain during the journey. When I reached camp, my groin was all green.
The nearest doctor was at Fort Jones, 120 miles distant, but I was in hopes I could get along without having to send for the doctor, fearing that I would be relieved, as Captain Judah was inimical to me, and if he found out that I preferred being in the field to Fort Jones, he would certainly order me back, for that was just about his caliber.
I stood it for a couple of days, but my leg got so much worse that I sent Dick Pugh in to Fort Jones after the doctor. When the news of my being wounded reached Fort Jones, much excitement prevailed. The whole command was ordered out, and as usual they got drunk, Judah included, who fell by the wayside, and Lt. Hiram Dryer, and Dr. C. C. Kearney with all the available men came out.
By the time they reached me I was a little better, but the doctor saw nothing to do except let things take their course. The doctor thought the arrow might have been poisoned, as these Indians were noted for using poison in their arrows.
They would poison them in this way: They would catch a rattlesnake, and when they would kill a deer or an antelope, they would take the fresh liver, and let the rattlesnake bite it until it would get full of poison. Then they would run the shafts of the arrows through it. On the shafts were small grooves to hold the poison. Under the most favorable circumstances this poison would retain its strength about one month, but during moist weather it would not last over a few days.
(11) Nelson Miles, The Indian Problem, North American Review (March, 1879)
Strange as it may appear, it is nevertheless a fact that after nearly four hundred years of conflict between the European and American races for supremacy on this continent, a conflict in which war and peace have alternated almost as frequently as the seasons, we still have presented the question, "What shall be done with the Indian?" Wise men differ in opinion, journalists speculate, divines preach, and statesmen pronounce it still a vexed question.
If the graves of the thousands of victims who have fallen in the terrible wars of the two races had been placed in line the philanthropist might travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Lakes to the Gulf, and be constantly in sight of green mounds. And yet we marvel at the problem as if some new question of politics or morals had been presented. The most amusing part of the quandary, however, is that it should be regarded as something new and original. After every generation had, in its time, contended on deadly fields with the hope of settling the question, after the home governments had enacted laws, and the colonies had framed rules, every succeeding administration of our government has been forced to meet the difficulty, every Congress has discussed the "Indian Question," and we are still face to face with the perplexing problem. The real issue in the question which is now before the American people is whether we shall ever begin again the vacillating and expensive policy that has marred our fair name as a nation and a Christian people, or devise some way of still improving the practical and judicious system by which we can govern a quarter of a million of our population, secure and maintain their loyalty, raise them from the darkness of barbarism to the light of civilization, and put an end forever to these interminable and expensive Indian wars.
In considering the subject it might be well to first examine the causes which governed so long the condition of affairs, and if in doing so the writer shall allude to some of the sins of his own race it will be only in order that an unbiased judgment may be formed on both sides of the question.
It will be remembered that one class or race is without representation and has not the advantages of the press or telegraph to bring it into communication with the intelligence of the world, and that it has seldom been heard except in the cry of alarm and conflict along the Western frontier. If we dismiss from our minds the prejudice we may have against the Indians we shall be able to more clearly understand the impulses that govern both races. Sitting Bull, the war chief of the Dakota Nation, uttered one truth when he said that "there was not one white man who loved an Indian and not an Indian but who hated a white man."
Could we but perceive the true character of the Indians, and learn what their dispositions are when not covered by the cloak of necessity, policy, and interest, we should find that they have always regarded us as a body of false and cruel invaders of their country, while we in turn are too apt to consider them as a treacherous and bloodthirsty race, who should be destroyed by any and all means. If we now fairly consider the cause of this feeling we may more readily understand its results.
The more we study the Indian's character the more we appreciate the marked distinction between the civilized being and the real savage. Yet we shall find that the latter is, after all, governed by the impulses and motives that govern all other men. The want of confidence and the bitter hatred existing between the two races have been engendered by the warfare that has lasted for centuries, and by the stories of bad faith, cruelty, and wrong handed down by tradition from father to son until they have become second nature in both. It is unfair to suppose that one party has invariably acted rightly, and that the other is responsible for every wrong that has been committed. We might recount the treachery of the red man, the atrocities of his crimes, the cruelties of his tortures, and the hideousness of many of his savage customs. We might undertake to estimate the number of his victims, and to picture the numberless valleys which he has illumined by the burning homes of hardy frontiersmen, yet at the same time the other side of the picture might appear equally black with injustice.
One hundred years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the Spanish government issued a decree authorizing the enslavement of the American Indian as in accord with the law of God and man. Later they were transported to France, to San Domingo, and other Spanish colonies, were sold into slavery in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Louisiana, and were hunted with dogs in Connecticut and Florida. Practically disfranchised by our original Constitution, and deprived either by war or treaty of nearly every tract of land which to them was desirable and to the white man valuable, they were the prey to the grasping avarice of both Jew and Gentile. Step by step a powerful and enterprising race has driven them back from the Atlantic to the West until at last there is scarcely a spot of ground upon which the Indians have any certainty of maintaining a permanent abode.
It may be well in this connection to remember the fact that in the main the Europeans were kindly treated by the natives when the former first landed on American shores, and when they came to make a permanent settlement were supplied with food, particularly the Plymouth and Portsmouth colonists, which enabled them to endure the severity of the long and cheerless winters. For a time during the early settlement of this country peace and goodwill prevailed, only to be followed later by violent and relentless warfare.
Our relations with the Indians have been governed chiefly by treaties and trade, or war and subjugation. By the first we have invariably overreached the Indians, and we find the record of broken promises all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific, while many of the fortunes of New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco can be traced directly to Indian tradership. By war the natives have been steadily driven toward the setting sun - a subjugated, a doomed race. In council the race has produced men of character and intellect, and orators and diplomats of decided ability, while in war they have displayed courage and sagacity of a high order. Education, science, and the resources of the world have enabled us to overcome the savages, and they are now at the mercy of their conquerors. In our treaty relations most extravagant and yet sacred promises have been given by the highest authorities, and these have been frequently disregarded. The intrusions of the white race and the non- compliance with treaty obligations have been followed by atrocities that could alone satisfy a savage and revengeful spirit. Facts that have been already referred to make it almost impossible for the two conflicting elements to harmonize. No administration could stop the tidal wave of immigration that swept over the land; no political party could restrain or control the enterprise of our people, and no reasonable man could desire to check the march of civilization.
Our progress knew no bounds. The thirst for gold and the restless desire to push beyond the western horizon have carried our people over every obstacle. We have reclaimed the wilderness and made the barren desert glisten with golden harvest; settlements now cover the hunting-ground of the savages; their country has been cut and divided in every conceivable form by the railroads and telegraph lines and routes of communication and commerce, and the Indians, standing in the pathway of progress and the development of the wonderful resources of this country, have become the common enemy and have been driven to the remote places of our territory.
During the time that this wonderful change was being wrought it may be asked if the Indians as a body have made any progress toward civilization, and in the light of past history we would be prompted to reply, " Why should they have abandoned the modes of life which nature had given them to adopt the customs of their enemies?"
In seeking the evidences of enlightenment the results are not satisfactory. It is presumed that there is not a race of wild men on the face of the globe which worships the Great Spirit more in accordance with that religion taught in the days of the patriarchs than the natives of this country, and yet after many years of contact with the civilized people the footprints of evil were as plentiful and as common as the evidences of Christianity. Again, in early days the Indians were, to a considerable extent, tillers of the soil, but by constant warfare, in which their fields were devastated and their crops destroyed, they have become a mere remnant of their former strength, or were pushed out on the vast plains of the West, where they subsisted upon wild fruits and the flesh of animals. Could we obtain accurate statistics we would undoubtedly find that there were more acres of ground cultivated by the Indians one hundred years ago than at the present time. The white race had finally obtained such complete control of every quarter of the country, and the means of communication with every section became so ample, that the problem resolved itself into one or the other of two modes of solution - viz., to entirely destroy the race by banishment and extermination, or to adopt some humane and practicable method of improving the condition of the Indians, and in the end make them part and parcel of our great population. The first proposition, though it was found to have thousands of advocates in different sections of the country, was and is too abhorrent to every sense of humanity to be considered. The other method was regarded as practicable, but its adoption was considered doubtful.
Looking at the purpose of our government toward the Indians, we find that after subjugating them it has been our policy to collect the different tribes on reservations and support them at the expense of our people. The Indians have, in the main, abandoned the hope of driving back the invaders of their territory, yet there are still some who cherish the thought, and, strange as it may seem, it is a fact that the most noted leader among the Indians advanced such a proposition to the writer within the last few years. They had long stood, and mostly still stand, in the position of unruly children to indulgent parents for whom they have little respect, at times wrongly indulged and again unmercifully punished.
Coming down to our direct or immediate relations with them, we find that our policy has been to make them wards of the nation, to be held under close military surveillance, or else to make them pensioners under no other restraint than the influence of one or two individuals. Living under the government, yet without any legitimate government, without any law and without any physical power to control them, what better subjects or more propitious fields could be found for vice and crime?
We have committed our Indian matters to the custody of an Indian bureau which for many years was a part of the military establishment of the government; but for political reasons and to promote party interests, this bureau was transferred to the Department of the Interior. Whether or not our system of Indian management has been a success during the past ten, fifty, or hundred years is almost answered in the asking. The Indians, the frontiersmen, the army stationed in the West, and the readers of the daily news in all parts of our country can answer that question. There is another question that is frequently asked: Why has our management of Indian affairs been less successful than that of our neighbors across the northern boundary? - and it can be answered in a few words. Their system is permanent, decided, and just. The tide of immigration in Canada has not been as great as along our frontier. They have been able to allow the Indians to live as Indians, which we have not, and do not attempt to force upon them the customs which are distasteful to them.
(12) General George Crook, report as Commander of the Department of the Platte (30th October, 1876)
As a soldier the Indian wears the uniform, draws pay and rations, and is in all respects on equal footing with the white man. It demonstrates to his simple mind in the most positive manner that we have no prejudice against him on account of his race, and that while he behaves himself he will be treated the same as a white man. Returning to his tribe after this service, he is enabled to see beyond the old superstition that has governed his people, and thinks and decides for himself. It is a measure of humanity, and commends itself to us, as it shortens the war, and saves the lives of both white men and Indians.
(13) General George Crook, letter to General Philip H. Sheridan (1st April, 1886)
It has been my aim throughout present operations to afford the greatest amount of protection to life and property interests, and troops have been stationed accordingly. Troops cannot protect property beyond a radius of one-half mile from their camp. If offensive movements against the Indians are not resumed, they may remain quietly in the mountains for an indefinite time without crossing the line, and yet their very presence there will be a constant menace, and require the troops in this department to be at all times in position to repel sudden raids; and so long as any remain out they will form a nucleus for disaffected Indians from the different agencies in Arizona and New Mexico to join.
That the operations of the scouts in Mexico have not proved as successful as was hoped is due to the enormous difficulties they have been compelled to encounter from the nature of the Indians they have been hunting, and the character of the country in which they have operated, and of which persons not thoroughly conversant with both can have no conception. I believe that the plan upon which I have conducted operations is the one most likely to prove successful in the end. It may be, however, that I am too much wedded to my own views in the matter, and as I have spent nearly eight years of the hardest work of my life in this department, I respectfully request that I may now be relieved from its command.