Building Fort Taylor
August 5th.Today the Third Artillery received orders to march in two days as far as Snake River (about sixty miles), to erect fortifications. This will take about a week. By that time the rest of the command will arrive there, when we will all start together. For some days Lieutenant White has been employed in superintending the making of gabions for the field works, as there is no wood on Snake River adapted to this purpose.
August 7th. We left Walla Walla at nine in the morning, and marched eight miles to Dry creek, finding the country covered with luxurious grass, and an abundance of wood and excellent water.
Our force, which is under the command of Captain Keyes, consists of one company of dragoons and six companies of artillery, with two twelve pounder howitzers and two six pounder guns. We transport with us, on pack mules and in wagons, thirty thousand rations.
August 8th. Marched thirteen miles to Touchy River, a well wooded stream, skirted by rich valleys, where the grass is too moist for the Indians to bum, as they have done that on the entire plains from Walla Walla to Snake River. They hope thus to drive us back, by depriving us of forage for our animals.
About half-way on our day’s march an express arrived fix)m Colonel Wright to Captain Keyes, with the information that the night before a party of Indians had driven off thirty-six oxen from Walla Walla, and ordering him to send Lieutenant Davidson, with his company of dragoons, in pursuit. Lieutenant G. H. Hill, (Third Artillery,) joined him in the expedition. After scouting over the country for thirty miles, as night approached, they had discovered no signs of the Indians, and being in a region with which their guides were unacquainted, they returned, reaching camp late in the evening.
August 9th. Marched seven miles through clouds of dust, the grass in most places having been burned by the Indians. The country is so rough and broken that Captain Keyes was obliged to send ahead an officer with, a party of men, to act as pioneers in constructing a road. In the course of the morning two of our wagons were overturned, but with very little damage.
An express came into camp in the evening, from Walla Walla, informing us that Lieutenant Gregg, with, his company of dragoons, had pursued the Indians who had driven off the cattle, but only gained sight of them as they were crossing Snake River, and his command was not strong enough for him to venture over.
We ascertained there were parties of Indians hovering around us and in our rear, but we could not discover their strength. During the day we took prisoner a Walla Walla Indian, but no information could be gained from him, and in a couple of days he was released.
August 10th. Today we marched twelve miles, and encamped on the Tucanon, a narrow but in some places deep stream, and its valley fertile. It empties into Snake River, and somewhere in this vicinity we are to throw up the fortifications for our depot while we are in the hostile country.
As soon as we arrived at camping ground, Captain Keyes sent Lieutenant Mullan, (Second Artillery,) who accompanies us as Acting Topographical Engineer to the command, with a detachment of dragoons, to find what kind of road there was to the river. He returned and made a very unfavorable report. At the same time, he decided that we were in the best place for the camp, as he had examined the Tucanon to its mouth, and the Snake River to the mouth of the Pelouze, to select the most favorable position for us.
We are now camped for a week at least, until the fortifications are thrown up, and Colonel Wright joins us with the rest of the command.
August 11th. This morning Lieutenant Morgan and myself were detailed with a party of sixty men to cut a road to Snake River, which we accomplished by three o’clock in the afternoon. The command was then marched down and encamped on the river.
While working on the road, about half way to the river, we heard musket shots ahead, and thinking that the hostiles might have crossed the river and driven in our pickets, Lieutenant Morgan ordered me on with ten men to support them. On reaching the river, I found that some Indians had crossed to our side, and, on returning, had been exchanging shots with our sentinels. At the same time a small party appeared on the opposite bank, but a single volley from our men caused them to wheel their horses and ride off.
Today Lieutenant Mullan had quite an adventure. Captain Keyes, with a detachment of dragoons, having gone to Snake River to select a site for the fort, while there captured two Indians, who were left under the charge of a sergeant and three men. They had not marched, however, a hundred yards, when the Indians broke from them and sprang into the river. The party fired at them without effect, as they were concealed by the growth of willows on the banks, which is dense and impenetrable, when Lieutenant Mullan dashed into the river to his waist, to secure one of whom he caught sight. The Indian was an exceedingly athletic savage, the sight of whose proportions would have tempered most persons’ valor with discretion. But my gallant friend is not one to calculate odds in beginning a fight. The Indian dived as the lieutenant fired at him, and came up with some heavy stones, which, hurled at his antagonist, bruised him severely. He then seized â€¢Lieutenant Mullan’s pistol, which had got thoroughly wet, and the struggle commenced in good earnest, grappling each other, now under water, now above. It might have fared badly with my spirited companion, but the Indian, stepping into a hole, got beyond his depth and was obliged to relinquish his hold, when he made off and escaped to the other side.
The working parties have commenced throwing up the field work, which yesterday, in General Orders, was named Fort Taylor, after Captain Taylor, of the dragoons, who was killed in Colonel Steptoe’s fight. It is in latitude 46° 83′ North, longitude 118° 6′ West, at the junction of the Snake and Tucanon rivers. It stands at the mouth of a canon, with high bluffs of basalt on each side, about eight hundred yards apart; one being two hundred and sixty, the other three hundred and ten feet high. These, of course, command it, and with a civilized enemy we should be soon routed out. The Indians, however, are not scientific enough to give us any trouble in that way.
This spot seems to have been used as an old Indian burial place, for we are surrounded by graves.
August 13th. Today a Roman Catholic priest, who belongs to the Mission in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains, came to our camp. As the “black robes” can pass to and fro uninjured among the different tribes, he was sent by General Clarke to the Spokans and Coeur d’Alenes, to announce to them the terms on which he would make peace with them. The answer which they sent back to the General was exceedingly bold and insulting. They said, -“that the whites were always talking of war, and the first to propose peace; that the Indians were ready for war and did not wish peace, but a war of extermination.” It is evident that their late success has rendered them perfectly defiant. They warn us, that if we cross Snake River, we shall none of us live to cross back. Dr. Perkins, who was at Fort Colville (the Hudson Bay Company’s post) shortly after the battle with Colonel Steptoe’s command, in his narrative says, “The sword of poor lieutenant Gaston was waved in my face by the Indian who had taken it from him at the time of Steptoe’s defeat. The saddle of Captain Taylor was also shown to me, covered with his blood. These things the Indians displayed with exultation, saying that the white soldiers were women and could not fight, and the more that should be sent into that country the better they would like it, for they would kill them all. They seemed to be very much elated, and were confident that the United States troops could not stand before them. The old chiefs told us they were going to fight till they died; they had plenty of arms, ammunition, provisions, and everything they wanted; and when their ammunition gave out, they would poison their arrows and fight with them.” Such is the temper of the enemy, to whom we are to teach a different lesson.
We have seen but little of the Indians for the last few days. Now and then they fire upon our sentinels, and shots are exchanged, but generally without effect. Last night, however, we had quite an excitement in the camp. About nine o’clock an Indian was beard shouting to us from the other side of the river. Captain Keyes, accompanied by the officer of the day and the interpreter went down at once to ascertain what he wanted. On reaching the bank, the interpreter called to him, when he began cursing him in reply, and finished up by telling him that “he was a traitorous Boston (i.e. white) soldier, and had no business to be with us.” As he ended, another Indian aimed and fired at our interpreter, when four of our sentinels at once returned the fire, with what effect the darkness prevented our seeing. The companies turned out at once, and remained under arms for about an hour; but the firing not being renewed, they were dismissed with orders to sleep on their arms.
August 18th. An express was received last evening from Colonel Wright, saying that he would be here today, and the supply train the day after. This afternoon his command arrived. The dragoons and infantry are encamped about a mile from us.
The fortifications are nearly completed, so that in a few days we shall be able to cross. The works consist of a parallelogram, with two towers at diagonal comers. The Nez Percés tell us that the Indians are collected in large numbers at the, lakes, about five days’ march from here, where they are going to meet us. We trust it is so, as it will give us an opportunity of finishing the war, instead of making it a campaign of guerrilla skirmishing in the mountains. For several nights we have seen the light of fires ahead, made probably by the Indians burning the plains to cut off our supply of forage.
As soon as we have crossed Snake River, the Indians will regard us as having “passed the Rubicon,” and being in their territories. Then the campaign will begin in good earnest.
Our transportation consists of six mules to a company, and a mule to each officer, besides the three hundred and twenty-five mules which the quarter-master has in his train. Our entire train, therefore, consists of about four hundred mules: Baggage wagons cannot go beyond Snake River. We shall attempt to take only one light vehicle, which Lieutenant Mullan needs for his instruments.
Now as to our fighting force. The dragoons number one hundred and ninety, the artillery, four hundred, the infantry (as Rifle Brigade), ninety. Total, about six hundred and eighty soldiers, besides about two hundred attaches as packers, wagon-masters, herders, &c.
Then we have thirty Nez Percés, and three chiefs, to act as scouts and guides. They were placed under the command of Lieutenant Mullan, but in an engagement he found their individuality developed so strongly that it was difficult for him to induce them to obey orders. Each one was fighting on his own responsibility. These, our allies, have been dressed in uniform, to distinguish them, during a fight, from the hostiles. Like all Indians, they are particularly delighted with their clothes, and no young officer just commissioned, thinks as much of his uniform as they do. They insist, indeed, upon having every minute por-tion, even to the glazed cap covers.
The manner of our march can be best shown by the two following Orders, which I copy:
Orders No. 5. Head-Quarters Expedition against Northern Indians. Camp near Fort Walla Walla.
August 18th 1858.
I. The residue of the troops for the Northern Expedition will march from Fort Walla Walla to-morrow, and unite with the advance at the Snake River.
II. Marching from Snake River, the order will be as follows:
1st. The Dragoons,
2d. The Mountain Howitzer Company.
3d. The Battalion of Artillery, serving as Infantry.
4th. The Rifle Battalion of the Ninth Infantry.
5th. Pack train of Corps and Head-Quarters.
6th. One company of Infantry as rear guard.
7th. General train of Quarter-master and Commissary.
8th. One troop of Dragoons as rear guard.
III. The mounted troops will not precede the Howitzer Company more than four hundred yards; and on approaching canons or defiles, where Dragoons cannot operate on the flanks, they will be halted and the Rifles advanced.
IV. No fire-arms of any description will be discharged, either on the march or in camp, except in the line of duty, without the special authority of the commanding officer.
V. No person, except the employees of the Staff Department and the officers’ servants, will be allowed to accompany the troops, or to encamp with them, without the written authority of the commanding officer.
VI. Habitually the Goard will consist of one company, and mount at retreat.
VII. It is announced for general information, that a body of friendly Nez Percés Indians have been engaged to serve with the troops. These Indians have been equipped in soldiers’ clothing, in order to distinguish them from the hostiles. Company commanders will caution their men particularly in regard to these friendly Indians. .
VIII. Whether in camp or on the march, the companies will parade with arms, at retreat and reveille roll calls, and the arms and ammunition will be inspected. The men will habitually wear and sleep in their belts.
(By order of Colonel Wright,)
P. A. Owen,
1st Lieut 9th lot, A. A. A. Gen.
Head-Quarters, Camp near Fort Taylor,
August 24th, 1858.
The following regulations, in addition to those all ready published, will be strictly enforced on the march:
1st. The mules with ammunition will be led, and follow close in rear of the column, in compact order under a guard.
2d. The baggage mules and supply train will be kept in close order in rear of the ammunition, and under the special orders of the Quartermaster.
3d. The ammunition for the Mountain Howitzers will follow close in rear of the guns.
4th. The animals for the Hospital Department will move with the ammunition.
5th. Particular attention will be given by company and battalion commanders, to see that the men, at all times, by day and by night, wear their belts; that their rifles are always at hand and in order; and that, on the march, the men keep in the ranks and in proper order.
6th. The camp signals will be sounded at the proper times, by the buglers of the Artillery Battalion, and repeated by the other corps. At retreat inspection, the last roll call for the day will be made at 8 p. m., a signal will be given for extinguishing lights, after which no noise or loud talking will be allowed.
7th. When the troops are to march, the company cooks will be called up in season to have breakfast ready immediately after reveille.
8th. Should the enemy be met while on the march, and a combat ensue, the entire pack train will be closed up, and either picketed or the animals tied together, and the whole enveloped by the rear-guard. In case of alarm at night, the companies on rear-guard the previous day will protect the train.
9tlL The detachment of friendly Nez Percés, as well as the guides and interpreters, are placed under the special direction of Lieutenant Mullan, Acting Engineer, who will receive instruction in relation to their position. &c.
(By order of Colonel Wright,)
P. A. Owen, 1st Lieut 9th Inf., A. A. A. Gen.
August 23d. We were to have crossed the river at daybreak this morning, but at reveille Colonel Wright sent an order that the troops should not move until further orders. The detention was caused by a violent wind and rain storm. Colonel Wright sent a wagon this morning back to Walla Walla for tents. Two evenings ago we had one of the most severe storms I have ever witnessed. It commenced about nine o’clock at night, and lasted until morning. The tents were blown down, and the boughs covering them scattered in every direction. The sand and dust were so thick that we could with difficulty see two feet ahead.
In the evening an express arrived, bringing the news from Major Garnett’s column of the capture of a party of Indians, in effecting which Lieutenant J. K. Allen (Ninth Infantry,) was mortally wounded.
August 24th. Still pouring in torrents and our departure therefore postponed. At ten this morning an Indian boy was brought into camp by one of the pickets. Upon questioning him, he told so many different stories that we all came to the conclusion he was not what he represented himself, so he was confined in the guard tent. At one time, preparations were made to hang him, under the supposition that he was a spy; but the order was countermanded.
About the middle of the day we saw three Indians riding down to the bank on the opposite side of the river, waving a white flag. We sent a boat and brought over one of them, who was taken to Colonel Wright’s tent, and questioned. He gave his name as Quil-quil-moses, and his story was, that he was a Spokan, living twenty-five miles this side of Colville, and had been told by the hostiles that he must join them, as the soldiers would kill him under any circumstances. Colonel Wright told him if he would come, with his women and children, and deliver up his arms, &c., he should not be harmed; but otherwise he should be shot, which would be the fate of every Indian taken with arms. He had with him another Spokan and a Pelouze Indian. After the “talk,” he was sent over to the others who were waiting for him. His story may be true, but more probably it is devised to gain admittance to our camp. He told us, among other things, that the hostiles were encamped in strong force on the Spokan River, a few days’ march ahead. This is in accordance with the news brought in by the Nez Percé scouts.
During the day two more boys were taken, one on the other side of the river, and one on this. One of them was driving a herd of about forty horses. We discovered that the boy taken early in the morning, and these two, were brothers, and had just escaped from the Spokans, carrying these horses off with them. Their father had been killed, and they taken prisoners, about five years ago. They were originally from the Yakima country.
August 25th. The artillery began crossing at five o’clock this morning. Everything crossed over in the course of the day, except the dragoons and part of the quarter-master’s train. It was amusing to see between three and four hundred animals swimming through the swift current, with Indians swimming after and driving them. The men and packs were crossed over in flat boats.
The horses taken yesterday, and the two eldest boys, were sent to Walla Walla, under charge of two Nez Percé. The other boy Lieutenant Mullan takes with him.
August 26th. The dragoons crossed over this morning; also the rest of the supplies. Including dragoon horses and mules, we have about seven hundred animals belonging to the command. The artillery battalion was thoroughly inspected this morning by Captain Keyes, to see if we were ready for the field.