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Measuring Strength with the Northern Indians
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Having crossed the river and being now properly in the land of the enemy, a final inspection of the different branches of the command and equipment was made before moving forward.
Ominous signs had for several days appeared in the north. Smoke arising at various points during the day and the illuminated horizon at night indicated that the grass was being burned over a broad front, plainly denoting also that Indian scouting parties were vigilantly covering every nook and corner of that vast region. But few doubted that somewhere beyond that fire line the hostiles were preparing to the last minutiae of detail for battle. Their numbers, composing a federation of various tribes, small and great, could only be conjectured; but approximating their force by the number which confronted Colonel Steptoe, it was presumed that Colonel Wright would be compelled to measure strength with a band five or six times as numerous as his own command. And, save for the fact that the enemy carried no artillery; the strength of his arms could not be ascertained beyond that displayed in the engagement with Colonel Steptoe’s command. With these conditions before him, yet with an eye only to the performance of his duty as a soldier, Colonel Wright headed his column directly toward the point where it was reported the enemy awaited him.
Lieutenant Kip recorded in his journal under date of August 28th: “What the program of the campaign is, none of us know. We suppose, indeed, that our commander can have no definite plan, as we are entering a country almost entirely unknown to us, but we will have to be guided by circumstances. An Indian war is a chapter of accidents. The camp talk is, that we have stores for only forty days, during which time we must find and beat the enemy.”
On the afternoon of August 30th, two men died from eating poisonous roots. It is worthy of note that this proved to be the only loss of life sustained by the command during the entire expedition.
The camp reached on the afternoon of August 30th was near the east end of the body of water since known as Sprague Lake, or Colville Lake, probably near the site of the town of Sprague. This was called “Camp Pedrigal,” and was the scene of the first skirmish had with the Indians, of which mention is made in Colonel Wright’s report of August 31st. It is located about thirty miles west and about three miles north of the Steptoe battle field.
Headquarters Expedition against Northern Indians
Camp at the Tour Lakes, W. T.
121 miles north of Walla Walla
August 31, 1858
A severe storm prevented my crossing the Snake river on the 23d and 24th, but on the 25th and 26th I made the passage with my entire command, without loss or accident, and encamped on the right bank of the river with five hundred and seventy regulars, thirty friendly Nez Perces, one hundred employees, and eight hundred animals of all kinds, with subsistence for thirty-eight days. I left Brevet Major Wyse, with his Company D, 3d artillery, to occupy Fort Taylor, protect the stores and boats, and keep open our line of communication.
Marching from Snake river on the morning of the 27th, our route lay over a very broken country for a distance of fourteen miles, where we struck the Pelouse River, and encamped on its right bank. Resuming our march on the 28th, I halted, after a march of six miles and a quarter, at a point where the trail divides that to the left leading to Col-ville direct, and that to the right more to the east ward. After consulting guides, and examining our maps and itineraries, I determined to march on the trail to the right; accordingly, on the 29th, we advanced; the country presented a forbidding aspect; extensive burnt districts were traversed, but at the distance of twenty miles I found a very good encampment, with sufficient grass, wood, and water. Up to this time we had seen no hostile Indians, although Lieutenant Mullan, my engineer officer, with our eagle-eyed allies, the Nez Perces, had been constantly in advance, and on either flank; signs, however, had been discovered, and I knew that our approach was known to the hostiles.
Advancing on the morning of the 30th, occasionally a few of the enemy were seen on the hill tops on our right flank, increasing during the day, and moving parallel with our line of march, but too remote and too few in number to justify pursuit. After marching eighteen miles I encamped, and about 5 p. m. the Indians approached our pickets, and a sharp firing commenced. I immediately moved out with a portion of my command, and the Indians fled; I pursued them for four miles over a very broken country, and then returned to camp at sunset. All was quiet during the night, and at 6 this morning we were again on the march, Soon the Indians were seen in small parties at the distance of two or three miles on the hills, and moving as yesterday, with their numbers gradually increasing, and occasionally approaching a little nearer, but I did not deem them worthy of notice, only taking the precaution to halt frequently and close up our baggage and supply trains as compactly as possible. Our march this day was ten miles longer than we anticipated, and for a long distance without water; and, at two miles from this camp, the Indians made a strong demonstration on our supply train, but were handsomely dispersed and driven off by the rear guards, and infantry deployed on either flank.
My men and animals require rest; I shall remain here tomorrow; I have a good camp, with an abundance of wood, water, and grass.
The Indians, in considerable numbers, have been assembled on a high hill, about three miles distant, ever since we encamped, about 4 p. m., until now, 7 p. m., when they have retired. I shall look after them tomorrow, after my men have had a night’s rest.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. Wright, Colonel 9th Infantry, Commanding.
Major W. W. Mackall, Asst. Adjt. Gen.,
Headquarters Department of the Pacific
Fort Vancouver, W. T.”
Headquarters Expedition against Northern Indians
Camp at the Four Lakes,’ W. T.
Lat. 47 Deg. 32 Min. N., Long. 117 Deg. 39 Min.
September 2, 1858
I have the honor to submit the following report of the battle of the ‘Four Lakes fought and won by the troops under my command on the 1st instant. Our enemies were the Spokane, Coeur d’Alenes and Pelouse Indians.
Early on the morning of the 1st I observed the Indians collecting on the summit of a high hill, about two miles distant, and I immediately ordered the troops under arms, with a view of driving the enemy from his position, and making a reconnaissance of the country in advance. At half-past 9 a. m. I marched from my camp with two squadrons of the 1st dragoons, commanded by Brevet Major W. N. Grier; four companies of the 3d artillery, armed with rifle muskets, commanded by Captain E, D. Keys; and the rifle battalion of two companies of the 9th infantry, commanded by Captain F. T. Dent; also one mountain howitzer, under command of Lieutenant J. L. White, 3d artillery; and thirty friendly Nez Perces Indian allies, under command of Lieutenant John Mullan, 2d artillery. I left in camp all the equipage and supplies, strongly guarded by Company ‘M,’ 3d artillery, commanded by Lieutenants H. G. Gibson and G. B. Dandy; one mountain howitzer, manned; and, in addition, a guard of fifty- four men, under Lieutenant H. B. Lyon; the whole commanded by Captain J. A. Hardie, the field officer of the day.
I ordered Brevet Major Grier to advance to the north and east around the base of the hill occupied by the Indians, with a view to intercept their re treat when driven from the summit by the foot troops. I marched with the artillery and rifle battalion and Nez Perces to the right of the hill, in order to gain a position where the ascent was more easy, and also to push the Indians in the direction of the dragoons. Arriving within six hundred yards of the Indians, I ordered Captain Keys to advance a company of his battalion, deployed, and drive the Indians from the hill. This service was gallantly accomplished by Captain Ord and Lieutenant Morgan with Company K, 3d artillery, in co-operation with the 2d squadron of dragoons under Lieutenant Davidson; the Indians were driven to the foot of the hill, and there rallied under cover of ravines, trees and bushes.
On reaching the crest of the hill I saw at once that the Indians were determined to measure their strength with us, showing no disposition to avoid a combat, and firmly maintaining their position at the base of the hill, keeping up a constant fire upon the two squadrons of dragoons, who were awaiting the arrival of the foot troops. In front of us lay a vast plain, with some four or five hundred mounted warriors, rushing to and fro, wild with excitement, and apparently eager for the fray; to the right, at the foot of the hill, in the pine forest, the Indians were also seen in large numbers.
With all I have described, in plain view, a tyro in the art of war could not have hesitated a moment as to his plan of battle.
Captain Keyes, with two companies of his battalion, commanded by Lieutenants Ransom and Ihrie, with Lieutenant Howard, was ordered to deploy along the crest of the hills, in rear of the dragoons, and facing the plain. The rifle battalion, under Captain Dent, composed of two companies of the 9th infantry, under Captain Winder and Lieutenant Fleming, was ordered to move to the right, and deploy in front of the pine forest; and the howitzers, under Lieutenant White, supported by a company of artillery under Lieutenant Tyler, was advanced to a lower plateau, in order to gain a position where it could be fired with effect.
In five minutes the troops were deployed; I ordered the advance; Captain Keyes moved steadily down the long slope, passed the dragoons, and opened up a sharp, well-directed fire, which drove the Indians to the plains and pine forest; at the same time Captain Dent, with the rifle battalion, Lieutenant White, with the howitzer, and Lieutenant Tyler, with his company, were hotly engaged with the Indians in the pine forest, constantly increasing by fugitives from the left.
Captain Keyes continued to advance, the Indians retiring slowly; Major Grier, with both squadrons, quietly leading his horses in rear. At a signal, they mount, they rush with lightning speed through the intervals of skirmishes, and charge the Indians on the plains, overwhelm them entirely, kill many, defeat and disperse them all; and in a few minutes not a hostile Indian was to be seen on the plain. While this scene was enacting, Dent, Winder, and Fleming, with the rifle battalion, and Tyler and White, with Company 4 A’ and the howitzer, had pushed rapidly forward and driven the Indians out of the forest beyond view.
After the charge of the dragoons, and pursuit for over a mile on the hills, they were halted, their horses being completely exhausted; and the foot troops again passed them about a thousand yards, but finding only a few Indians in front of us, on remote hilltops, I would not pursue them with my tired soldiers. A couple of shots from the howitzer sent them out of sight. The battle was won; I sounded the recall, assembled the troops, and returned to our camp at 2 p. m.
It affords me the highest gratification to report that we did not lose a man, either killed or wounded, during the action attributable, I doubt not, in a great measure, to the fact that our long range rifles can reach the enemy where he cannot reach us.
The enemy lost some eighteen or twenty men killed, and many wounded.
I take great pleasure in commending to the department the coolness and gallantry displayed by every officer and soldier engaged in this battle.
1. Brevet Major Grier conducted his squadron with great skill, and at the decisive moment, after Captain Keyes had driven the Indians to the plain, made the most brilliant, gallant, and successful charge I have ever be held. The major commends particularly the coolness and gallantry of Lieutenants Davidson, Fender, and Gregg, each in command of a troop, for the handsome and skillful manner in which they brought their men into and conducted them through the fight. The major also speaks in the highest terms of Assistant Surgeon Randolph, who was with the second squadron during the action, exhibiting great coolness and courage, and ever ready to attend to his professional duties. Major Grier also reports the following named men of his squadrons as having been mentioned by their company commander for distinguished conduct:
C Troop, First Dragoons
First Sergeant James A. Hall
Sergeants Bernard Horton and Patrick Byrne
Bugler Robert A. Magan
E Troop First Dragoons
First Sergeant C. Goetz
Sergeant J. F. Maguire
J. G. Trimble
F. W. Smith
H Troop First Dragoons
First Sergeant E. Ball
Sergeant M. M. Walker
Bugler Jacob Mailer
I Troop, First Dragoons
First Sergeant William H. Ingerton
Sergeant William Dean
Lieutenant Davidson reports of First Sergeant E. Ball: ‘I saw him charge upon some Indians, unhorse one of them, dismount himself and kill him.
2. Captain E. D. Keyes, commanding the 3rd artillery, brought his battalion into action with great skill, and, after deploying, made a gallant and successful charge in advance of the dragoons, driving the Indians from the hill-sides far into the plain; and again, after the dragoon charge, Captain Keyes pushed vigorously forward in pursuit as long as an enemy was to be seen. Captain Keyes reports the gallantry of the officers and men of his battalion as admirable, and so uniform among the officers that he cannot attempt to discriminate; the position of some of the officers, however, brought their conduct under the special notice of the captain, and in that connection he mentions Lieutenants Tyler, White, and Ihrie. The captain also says: ‘The activity and intelligence displayed by Lieutenant Kip, adjutant of the battalion, in transmitting my orders to all parts of the line, was most commendable.’
3. Captain F. T. Dent, commanding the rifles, composed of two companies, B and E Ninth infantry, with Captain Winder and Lieutenant Fleming, brought his battalion into action with great spirit; and after deploying on the hill, in front of the pine forest, dashed gallantly forward, and, sweeping through the woods, drove the Indians before him, and came out on the plain, forming the right wing of the whole line of foot troops. Captain Dent speaks in high terms of Captain Winder and Lieutenant Fleming, and the men of both companies, for the intelligent and fearless manner in which they behaved throughout the battle, and further says, ‘I feel I have a right to be proud of my battalion.’
4. Lieutenant John Mullan, Second artillery, topographical engineer, and commanding the friendly Nez Perces Indians, moved gallantly forward in advance, and to the right of the foot troops, in the early part of the action, giving and receiving) from the enemy a volley as he skirted the brush to the east of the main hill. Lieutenant Mullan speaks in glowing terms of the conduct of the Nez Perces throughout the action: at one time charging the enemy lurking in the brush and timber on the Spokane plain, driving him out and pursuing him beyond view; and again a small party under the chief Hutes-e-mah-li-kan and Captain John met and engaged the enemy that were endeavoring to attack our rear, recapturing a horse left by an officer while moving over the rocks and ravines. Lieutenant Mullan expresses his approbation of the good conduct generally of this band of friendly Nez Perces, and mentions Hutes-e-mah-li-kan, Captain John, Edward, and We-ash-kot as worthy of special notice for their bravery.
5. It affords me additional pleasure to present to the department the gentlemen on my staff: 1st Lieutenant P. A. Owen, 9th infantry, acting assist ant adjutant general; 1st Lieutenant John Mullan, 2d artillery, engineer officer; Captain R. W. Kirkham, assistant quartermaster, and Assistant Surgeon J. F. Hammond, chief of the medical department.
These gentlemen were with me on the field, cool and collected, ever ready to convey my orders to every part of the line, or to attend to their professional duties as circumstances might require. Their good conduct and gallantry commend them to the department. Enclosed herewith is a topographical sketch of the battle-field, prepared by Lieutenant Mullan, illustrating the tactical part of this report.1
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. Wright, Colonel 9th Infantry, Commanding
Major W. W. Mackall, Assistant Adjutant General,
Headquarters Department of the Pacific,
Fort Vancouver, W. T.”
Lieutenant Kip describes the battlefield more minutely than does Colonel Wright. He also throws some interesting light on the bearing and spirit manifested by both the troops and the Indians at the beginning and during the early part of the engagement. From his journal entry, under date of September 1st, the following is quoted:
“After advancing about a mile and a half, we reached the hill and prepared to dislodge the enemy from it. Major Grier, with the dragoons, marched to the left, while the party of our Nez Perces, under the direction of Lieutenant Mullan, wound round the hill and ascended at the right. The main column came next, with Colonel Wright and staff at its head, followed by Captain Keyes, commanding the artillery, the Third artillery, the rifles, and the howitzer battery.
As soon as the dragoons reached the top of the hill, they dismounted one-half holding the horses and the others acting as skirmishers. After ex changing a volley with the Indians, they drove them off the hill and held it until the foot soldiers arrived. On our way up, Colonel Wright received a message from Major Grier, stating that the Indians were collected in large numbers (about five hundred, it was thought), at the foot of the hill, apparently prepared to fight. Colonel Wright immediately advanced the battalion rapidly for ward, ordering Captain Ord’s company to the left to be deployed as skirmishers.
My place, as adjutant of the artillery battalion, was, of course, with Captain Keyes. We rode to the top of the hill, when the whole scene lay before us like a splendid panorama. Below us lay ‘four lakes’ a large one at the foot of the barren hill on which we were, and just beyond it three smaller ones, surrounded by rugged rocks, and almost entirely fringed with pines. Between these lakes, and beyond them to the northwest, stretched out a plain for miles, terminated by bare grassy hills, one succeeding another as far as the eye could reach. In the far distance was dimly seen a line of mountains covered with the black pine.
On the plain below us we saw the enemy. Every spot seemed alive with the wild warriors we had come so far to meet. They were in the pines on the edge of the lakes, in the ravines and gullies, on the opposite hillsides, and swarming over the plain. They seemed to cover the country for some two miles. Mounted on their fleet, hardy horses, the crowd swayed back and forth, brandishing their weapons, shouting their war cries, and keeping up a song of defiance. Most of them were armed with Hudson Bay muskets, while others had bows and arrows and long lances. They were in all the bravery of their war array, gaudily painted and decorated with their wild trappings. Their plumes fluttered above them, while below skins and trinkets and all kinds of fantastic embellishments flaunted in the sunshine. Their horses, too, were arrayed in the most glaring finery. Some were even painted, and with colors to form the greatest contrast, the white being smeared with crimson in fantastic figures, and the dark colored streaked with white clay. Beads and fringes of gaudy colors were hanging from their bridles, while the plumes of eagles’ feathers, interwoven with the mane and tail, fluttered as the breeze swept over them, and completed their wild and fantastic appearance.
‘By heavens! it was a glorious sight to see The gay array of their wild chivalry.’
As the line advanced, first we saw one Indian reel in his saddle and fall then, two or three then, half a dozen. Then some horses would dash madly forward, showing that the balls were telling upon them. The instant, however, that the ‘braves’ fell, they were seized by their companions and dragged to the rear, to be borne off. We saw one Indian leading off a horse with two of his dead companions tied on it.
But in a few minutes, as the line drew near, the fire became too heavy, and the whole array broke and fled toward the plain. This was the chance for which the dragoons had been impatiently waiting. As the line advanced, they had followed on behind it, leading their horses. Now the order was given to mount, and they rode through the company intervals to the front. In an instant was heard the voice of Major Grier ringing over the plain, as he shouted, “Charge the rascals!” and on the dragoons went at headlong speed. Taylor’s and Gaston’s companies were there, burning for revenge, and soon they were on them. We saw the flash of their sabers as they cut them down. Lieutenant David son shot one warrior from his saddle as they charged up, and Lieutenant Gregg clove the skull of another. Yells and shrieks and uplifted hands were of no avail, as they rode over them. A number were left dead upon the ground, when once more the crowd broke and dashed forward to the hills. It was a race for life, as the flying warriors streamed out of the glens and ravines and over the open plain, and took refuge in the clumps of woods or on the rising ground.”
The point of latitudinal and longitudinal inter section noted at the beginning of Colonel Wright’s report of the battle of Four Lakes, by way of locating his camping ground, places him to the south of and very near Medical lake. It is probable, therefore, that Medical Lake was one of those among which the fight occurred and from which was deducted the name of its official designation.
Two very important lessons resulted immediately from the battle of Four Lakes: First, the ease with which the Indians were successively dis lodged and finally routed, without the loss, or even the scathing of a single man, imbued the troops with the fullest confidence in their ability to master the foe, of whose strength and prowess they had heard so much. Second, the manner of attack employed by the troops, irresistible and unusual to the Indians, as it was, impressed the latter with an appreciation of the skill and daring of the soldiers which lessened their self-confidence probably in a much greater degree than the success attained heightened that of the troop.
For three days Colonel Wright lingered at Four Lakes, resting men and animals, and, on the morning of the fourth day after the battle, he moved ahead into the country that still swarmed with Indians.
An evident discrepancy will be noted in the report of the battle of Spokane plains. In the first paragraph the date of the battle is stated to have been on the 5th, while in the second paragraph he appears to have left his camp on the 6th. From Lieutenant Kip’s journal, which places the fight on September 5th, as well as the date line and first paragraph of the Colonel’s report, the “6th” is proven to be erroneous.
Headquarters Expedition against Northern Indians,
Camp on Spokane River, Washington Territory,
1½ miles below the Falls,
September 6, 1858.
I have the honor to submit the following report of the battle of the ‘Spokane plains,’ fought by the troops under my command on the 5th instant. Our enemies were the Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Pelouse, and Pen d’Oreille, numbering from five to seven hundred warriors.
Leaving my camp at the ‘Four Lakes’ at 6½ a. m. on the 6th, our route lay along the margin of a lake for about three miles, and thence for two miles over a broken country, thinly scattered with pines; when emerging onto the open prairie, the hostile Indians were discovered about three miles to our right, and in advance, moving rapidly along the skirt of the woods, apparently with the view of intercepting our line of march before we could reach the timber. After halting and closing up our long pack train, I moved forward, and soon found that the Indians were setting fire to the grass at various points in front and on my right flank. Captain Keyes was now directed to advance three of his companies, deployed as skirmishers, to the front and right; this order was promptly obeyed, and Captain Ord, with Company ‘K,’ Lieutenant Gibson, with Company ‘M,’ were thrown forward. At the same time Captain Hardie, Company G, 3d artillery, was deployed to the left, and howitzers, under Lieutenant White, supported by Company ‘E,’ 9th infantry, under Captain Winder, were advanced to the line of skirmishers. The firing now became brisk on both sides the Indians attacking us in front and on both flanks. The fires on the prairie nearly enveloped us, and were rapidly approaching our troops and the pack train. Not a moment was to be lost. I ordered the advance. The skirmishers, the howitzers, and 1st squadron of dragoons, under Brevet Major Grier, dashed gallantly through the roaring flames, and the Indians were driven to seek shelter in the forest and rocks. As soon as a suitable position could be obtained, the howitzers, under White, opened fire with shells; the Indians were again routed from their cover, closely pursued by our skirmishers, and followed by Grier with his squadron leading. At this time our pack train was concentrated as much as possible, and guarded by Captain Dent, 9th infantry, with his Company ‘B,’ Lieutenant David son, 1st dragoons, with his Company ‘E,’ and Lieutenant Ihrie, 3d artillery, with his Company ‘B,’ advancing; the trail bore off to the right, which threw Ord and Tyler, with their skirmishers, to the left. A heavy body of Indians had concentrated on our left, when our whole line moved quickly forward, and the firing became general throughout the front, occupied by Ord, Hardie, and Tyler, and the howitzers, under White, supported by Winder, with Gregg’s troop of dragoons following in the rear, waiting for a favorable opportunity to make a dash. At the same time Gibson, with Company 4 M, 3d artillery, drove the Indians on the right front. An open prairie here intervening, Major Grier passed the skirmishers with his own and Lieutenant Fender’s troops and charged the Indians, killing two and wounding three. Our whole line and train advanced steadily, driving the Indians over rocks and through ravines. Our point of direction having been changed to the right, Captain Ord found himself alone with his company on the extreme left of the skirmishers, and opposed by a large number of the enemy; they were gallantly charged by Captain Ord, and driven successively from three high table rocks where they had taken refuge. Captain Ord pursued the Indians, until, approaching the train, he occupied the left flank. In this movement, Captain Ord was assisted by Captain Winder and Lieutenants Gibson and White, who followed into the woods after him.
Moving forward toward the Spokane river, the Indians still in front, Lieutenants Ihrie and Howard, with Company ‘B,’ 3d artillery, were thrown out on the right flank, and instantly cleared the way; and after a continuous fight for seven hours, over a distance of fourteen miles, we encamped on the banks of the Spokane; the troops, exhausted by a long and fatiguing march of twenty-five miles, without ______and for two-thirds of the distance under fire. The battle was won, two chiefs and two brothers of Chief Garey killed, besides many of lesser note either killed or wounded. A kind Providence again protected us, although at many times the balls flew thick and fast through our ranks, yet, strange to say, we had but one man slightly wounded.
Again it affords me the highest pleasure to bear witness to the zeal, energy, perseverance and gallantry displayed by the officers and men during this protracted battle.
1. Brevet Major W. N. Grier, commanding a squadron of the 1st dragoons, composed of his own company and that of Lieutenant Fender, made a gallant charge at the right moment, killing two and wounding three of the enemy. The major speaks in the highest terms of the gallantry of Lieutenant Fender, commanding Company ‘C.’ Lieutenant Davidson, with Company ‘E,’ was rear guard to the general train, and that duty was well per formed. Lieutenant Gregg, with Company ‘H,’ was posted in the rear of the howitzers with a view of making a dash at the enemy; but the ground was so broken that dragoons could not operate effectively.
2. Captain E. D. Keyes, 3d artillery, commanding battalion, persevering, energetic, and gallant throughout the whole day; although his troops extended over a mile, yet the captain was always in the right place at the right time. Captain Keyes reports the following companies and officers as particularly distinguished:
Company K, Captain E. O. C. Ord and Lieutenant M. R. Morgam.
Company G, Captain J. A. Hardie and Lieutenant Ransom.
Company M, Lieutenants Gibson and Dandy.
Company A, Lieutenants Tyler and Lyon.
The howitzer battery, under Lieutenant White, with a detachment of 20 men belonging to Company D, 3d artillery, behaved most gallantly throughout the action; light shells were thrown into the midst of the enemy during the fight, and with good effect.
The conduct of Lieutenant Kip, adjutant of the battalion, is noted by Captain Keyes as having been excellent throughout the day.
3. The rifle battalion, Companies B and E, 9th infantry, under Captain F. T. Dent.
Captain Dent, with his company, was on the rear guard to protect the pack train ; this duty was handsomely performed, and the train moved along un harmed by the enemy or the fires.
Captain Winder was detached, with Lieutenant Fleming and Company E, to support the howitzer battery. This service was admirably performed, bravely advancing with the howitzers, and pouring in a fire with their rifles, wherever an opportunity offered, until the close of the battle.
4. The friendly Nez Perces were employed chiefly as spies and guides, and, toward the close of the action, in guarding the pack train and animals; as usual, they behaved well.
During the battle a chief was killed, and on his body was found the pistol worn by the lamented Gaston, who fell in the affair with Lieutenant Colonel Steptoe, in May last.
Again I have the pleasure of presenting to the department the gentlemen of my staff:
1st Lieutenant P. A. Owen, adjutant 9th infantry, and acting assistant adjutant general.
1st Lieutenant J. Mullan, 2d artillery, engineer officer, and commanding friendly Indians.
Captain R. W. Kirkham, assistant quartermaster.
Assistant Surgeon J. F. Hammond, United States Army.
Assistant Surgeon J. F. Randolph, United States Army.
These gentlemen were all on the field, cool, energetic and brave, whether conveying my orders to distant points of the line or attending to their professional duties. A memoir and topographical sketch of the field, by Lieutenant Mullan, acting engineer officer, is herewith enclosed.
G. Wright, Colonel 9th Infantry, Commanding.
Major W. W. Mackall, Asst. Adj. Gen.,
Headquarters, Department of the Pacific,
Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory.
During this fight, as it was afterward learned, Chief Kamiaken was severely wounded. A limb torn from a tree near which he was standing, by a bursting shell, struck him on the head.
Lieutenant Wm. D. Fender had at one instance in the fight a very interesting experience. While charging the Indians with Troop C, at close quarters, he dashed up to the side of a warrior whom he intended to engage, when the lock of his pistol refused to work. Not having time to draw his saber, the Indian actively preparing to receive him, he grappled his adversary and threw him from his horse where he was dispatched by a trooper who came up behind.
During Chief Joseph’s war, in 1877, early in August the report was spread among the settlers throughout the Palouse country that the hostile Nez Perces were headed northward and would soon sweep over the territory lying on the eastern side, near the mountains. Many of the settlers, becoming alarmed, abandoned their farms and hastened to Colfax, the county seat, for safety. During their absence some of the farms near the Coeur d’Alene reservation were protected from the depredations of the large numbers of range horses and cattle that roamed at will through the country, by Indians under direction of Seltice.
The older Coeur d’Alenes, those who were, or could have been participants in the council held with Colonel Wright, were, with few exceptions, honorable in their dealings. Mr. H. C. Harlow, an early settler still living near Farmington, Washington, was for many years engaged in business in that town, which was, until the advent of the O. R. & N. railroad, the nearest and principal trading point for the Coeur d’Alene. During that time Mr. Harlow had extensive business relations with the Indians, much of which was carried in open accounts, and his losses, he says, on account of their dishonesty were very slight. He asserts, also, that many of them with whom he came in almost daily contact were possessed of such qualities of mind and heart as to render their acquaintance desirable and their friendship valuable.
On the Fourth of July, 1891, Chief Seltice was induced to deliver an oration for the celebration then held at Farmington. It was the good fortune of the writer to hear the chiefs effort; and though it was delivered in his mother tongue, and could be understood by those only who were familiar with the Indian language, his deep, well-modulated voice, his striking gestures and his dignified bearing were models of the orator’s art and impelled the highest admiration.
No copy of this sketch can now be found ↩
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