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The older officers regard the campaign we have just past through, as one remarkable in many respects.
One is, the little loss which has been sustained. But two men have died, and those from eating poisonous roots. But one man has been wounded in action; and we have lost, by all the difficulties of marching through the forests and crossing rivers but three horses and about fifty mules. It is a proof of the skill and judgment with which the expedition has been conducted.
For our freedom from loss in the two battles, I have already stated we are indebted to the fine discipline of the men, the skill of the commanders, and to the long range of our rifles. Had we been armed with the old muskets, the result might have been very different. The whole campaign, indeed, would undoubtedly have ended, as it now has done, in the humbling of the Indian tribes, but we should probably have missed many from our ranks, when the column marched back to Walla Walla.
The object, too, was most thoroughly accomplished. The Indian tribes, hitherto so troublesome and defiant, have been entirely subjected. They have been taught the power of the government, their worst chiefs have been cut off and hostages given sufficient to keep them in obedience. Of their head men who are hostile, none remain but Kamiaken, and Schroom, his brother. The former is reported to have fled into the Blackfeet country, and the latter is probably with him. They will certainly have no disposition to place themselves again in collision with the whites. It is probable, too, that among their own countrymen their influence and authority are gone. The tribes have suffered too much again to submit to their counsels.
That immense tract of splendid country over which we marched, is now opened to the white man, and the time is not far distant when settlers will begin to occupy it, and the farmer will discover that he can reap his harvest, and the miner explore its ores, without danger from their former savage foe. An Oregon paper, (and the newspapers are not accustomed to indulge in any unnecessary laudation of the Regular Army,) after the battle of the “Four Lakes,” says: “No event has ever done so much to secure the safety of our settlers as this victory. The people of this Territory owe a debt of gratitude to the officers and soldiers under Colonel Wright.”
For this success, we are indebted to the energetic measures of General Clarke, concentrating at once, even from the banks of the Colorado, so strong a force in the country of the hostile Indians, and mapping out the campaign, the result of which proved the foresight and wisdom by which it was dictated.
For the conduct of the column when once it was on its march, none could have won “golden opinions” more thoroughly than Colonel Wright. Entering an unknown country, everything depended on his energy and talents. Of these I need say nothing, for they are shown in the history of our march, the arrangement of the two battles, the decision with which the Indian Councils were conducted, and the entire success with which all was crowned.
I might speak of the gallantry of my comrades, but this is recorded in the official reports of their superior officers. But none who had an opportunity of witnessing these battles, and seeing the steady advance of the Third Artillery and Rifles, as they drove the enemy on, mile after mile, from point to point, the gallant charges made by the Dragoons under Major Grier, and the conduct of the Howitzer Battery under Lieutenant White, can forget the admiration they felt at the perfect manner in which all was accomplished.
In our own battalion, the Third Artillery, but few of the men had ever before been under fire, yet no veterans could have shown greater coolness. This was the result of discipline, for which they were indebted to the untiring energy of our Commander, Captain (now Major) Keyes. Through his exertions the battalion had been brought to the highest point of discipline; and in the hour of battle, by his presence everywhere at the right moment, he contributed materially to secure the victory.
The column has now been scattered, and the officers have been dispersed to their different posts, yet they all look back with pleasure to this campaign, when they re-member the unity of feeling by which it was marked. Seldom, indeed, has an expedition been undertaken, the recollection of which is invested with so much that is agreeable, as that against the Northern Indians.