The Seventh Cavalry at Canon Creek
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The winter of 1876-77, following the “Little Big Horn” campaign, was spent by the Seventh Cavalry very quietly in posts along the Missouri and vicinity, resting, reorganizing and awakening to a realizing sense of what the previous season’s campaign had meant to us. Early in the winter rumors reached us that the regiment was to take the field in the early spring, so that when orders reached us in early April for eleven troops of the regiment to move out under Colonel and Brev. Maj.-Gen. Samuel Sturgis, we were not at all surprised.
On April 30th eleven troops of the regiment were reunited a short distance below Bismarck, and on May 2nd we took up our line of march for Fort Buford. Owing to the early season and the incessant rains our progress was slow and practically void of incidents of interest to the eneral reader. After a brief halt in the vicinity of Buford we were ferried across the river, and in the weeks that followed spent the time in scouting the valley of the Yellowstone, remaining not far from the cantonment at Tongue River.
From time to time rumors reached us of an uprising of the Nez Perces in Oregon. This did not cause us any uneasiness, as the scene of war was too far removed, apparently, to bring it within the limit of possibilities of our being called upon to participate in the campaign against them.
We were therefore somewhat surprised one pleasant afternoon, while we were enjoying a somewhat lazy existence along the banks of the Yellowstone some twelve miles from Miles City, to hear “Officer’s Call” sounding from headquarters, followed a few moments later by the “General.” We rushed out of the quartermaster’s tent where we were on guard to see every tent in the regiment down and the men packing up with orders to march at once for the Tongue River cantonment. On arriving there with the wagon-train about midnight, we learned that the Nez Perces had eluded General Howard and were making their way across the divide, and that eight troops of our regiment were to take the field, the remaining three troops, A, D, and K, being left at the cantonment under General Miles. Our destination was the old Crow Mission away up on the Stillwater.
With five days’ rations in our wagons we broke camp the following morning and pushed ahead up the valley of the Yellowstone, passing on the way our old camp where General Custer’s fatal march began the preceding summer. The following day a courier overtook us from Tongue River with the news that the steamer on which were our extra rations was hard aground on the Yellowstone, with no immediate prospect of getting up until there was an improvement in the stage of the water. This raised serious complications, as by this time we only had about one day’s rations in the wagons. Lieutenant Fuller had already started for Fort Ellis and Bozeman, Montana, to arrange to have rations and forage forwarded to us from there, and Lieutenant Varnum, regimental quartermaster, with his orderly and chief clerk, had pushed on ahead of the command to intercept the steamer at Terry’s Landing, expecting there to unload sufficient rations to carry us to the Mission.
A hurried consultation was held, and couriers sent forward to overtake the quartermaster, in order that he might make such other arrangements as seemed possible under the circumstances. He lost no time in pushing forward a courier to Fort Custer and we secured from that post a supply of flour, but no hard bread and no forage to speak of. Leaving one troop to bring forward such rations as were secured, the balance of the command pushed forward to the Mussel Shell River where we overtook them a couple of days later. While here we learned that General Gibbon had run up against the Nez Perces near Big Hole, Montana Territory, and had been quite roughly handled. With this news we pushed forward as rapidly as possible for the Mission.
The ride, particularly on our last day’s march, was a very interesting one, the country was new to us and the scenery most beautiful, indeed. Leaving a detachment at the crossing near the mouth of the Stillwater the balance of the command marched on to the Mission. The following day a small wagon-train arrived at the crossing, but to our regret we found they had nothing but forage for our command. Loading up with this we rejoined the command at the Mission and spent several days resting, fishing, and becoming acquainted with the Crows.
After remaining here several days a detachment was sent back to the crossing to meet a wagon-train reported to be on its way from Fort Ellis, and again we were doomed to disappointment; not a pound of rations, nothing but corn and oats. During the absence of the train the command had left the agency, and crossed the Red Rock. There we were at last overtaken by the wagon-train in the vicinity of Clark’s Fork, and orders were at once issued placing the command on half rations as we did not know when we were likely to see anything of the missing supplies.
Leaving Clark’s Fork we marched toward the mountains, passing through the valley of the Stinking Water, and finally went into camp under the lee of Old Heart Mountain on the middle branch of Clark’s Fork. Here we rested for a day, spending the time between fishing and manufacturing our limited supply of flour into biscuit, not knowing how soon we might have to make a hurried dash after the enemy.
While we were resting at the Mission, General Sturgis had hired a couple of prospectors and sent them into the mountains ahead of us with instructions to report to him in this vicinity. Hearing nothing from them the general became anxious and two scouting-parties, under Lieutenants Hare and Russell respectively, were ordered out to scout the vicinity of our camp and locate the prospectors, if possible. After their departure the remainder of the command spent the day in fishing, writing letters or scaling the adjacent peaks.
In company with Mr. Dubray, the civilian clerk in the quartermaster’s department, some of us started to make the ascent of Heart Peak. just as we reached the base of the peak, Dubray called attention to a thin, curling cloud of smoke arising apparently from the summit. We were somewhat surprised at this, but finally decided that it must come from a fire started by some of our people who had started earlier in the day to make the ascent. Thus disposing of the matter we sought a convenient place and began the ascent.
After a half hour’s hard climbing we came out on the face of the mountains some distance above the camp, and sat down to rest and smoke. We were just about to proceed when our attention was attracted to a considerable dust cloud moving rapidly down the valley. Unslinging our field-glasses, it took but a moment to decide that it was a party of horsemen. A few moments later we discovered another dust cloud still farther to the right, again caused by mounted men. A careful examination satisfied us they were soldiers, undoubtedly our scouting-parties. Judging from the way they rode that there was something in the wind, we at once abandoned our idea of scaling the peak and made our way back to camp as rapidly as possible.
Both details had reached the camp before we did, and on our arrival we found the officers clustered around the tent of the Colonel, and we had only barely reached headquarters when the “General” sounded, followed a moment later by “Officer’s Call” to bring in those who were fishing and mountain climbing. Orders were issued to pack everything not absolutely necessary in the wagons, which were to return to the agency and await further orders. In the rush of preparation, we had no time to make inquiries as to the reasons for this sudden move, and it was after eleven o’clock, when we went into camp again and I found myself on guard, that we learned the reason for our haste.
After leaving us in the morning, the party under Lieutenant Hare pushed ahead up the valley without seeing anything out of the ordinary. Some distance above the site of our present camp they suddenly came upon fresh pony tracks and evidences of a recent struggle, and a few moments later discovered the body of one of the prospectors, stripped and bristling with arrows, stretched dead on the hillside. All around him were ample evidences of the recent presence of Indians.
Pausing for a few moments to give him as decent a burial as circumstances would permit, some of the detachment scattered and began searching the adjacent territory. A few moments later a loud “halloo” from down near the banks of the stream sent the whole party scurrying in that direction. There they found one of the sergeants bending over the still breathing body of the second prospector. Stimulants were speedily administered, and in a short time the man had so far recovered as to be able to tell his story.
It seems that after leaving the Mission he and his partner had pushed in to the foot-hills and mountains for several days without discovering any signs of Indians. They had turned back for the purpose of rejoining the command and had just forded the little creek on which the detachment was now gazing, when, without a moment’s warning, they were fired upon from an ambush. His partner was killed early in the fight, and a few moments later he, too, was forced to succumb, grievously wounded. For some unknown reason the Indians made no effort to find him, but jumped on to their ponies and hurried away up the valley. He said that he only caught a glimpse of two of them, and that he was sure they were Nez Perces; that it seemed almost certain that the main body could not have been at any great distance.
After hearing the story, Lieutenant Hare at once determined to return to the command and report. There was no possible way of taking with them the wounded prospector in his enfeebled condition; so, after dressing his wounds as best they could, they carried him down near the banks of the creek, erected a temporary shelter, and leaving him well supplied with water and such food as they had, the command swung into the saddle and made for camp in a hurry.
The second detachment under Lieutenant Russell, after leaving camp, followed for several miles the same general direction taken by Lieutenant Hare’s column, then branching off to the right, they pushed their way up into the foot-hills, scouting in and out among the valleys and peaks, but without discovering any traces of the enemy. They had about determined to return when one of the scouts, who had crawled to the top of a little ridge beneath which they had halted for a moment, called to Lieutenant Russell. The lieutenant crept cautiously to the scout’s side, together with one or two of the veteran sergeants. Peering over the divide they discovered, not more than a couple of miles away, a large herd, apparently, of ponies. judging from what they could see the herd had been driven down to water and was then returning up one of the countless ravines, or canons, with which the hillsides were seamed, urged on by a dozen or more half-naked Indian boys.
There appeared to be no thought of danger in the minds of the herd boys, for no apparent effort at concealment was made. For some time the soldiers watched them; in fact, until the herd had disappeared up the canon, then they scrambled down, clambered into their saddles and made a hurried dash for the command. This, then, was what had routed us out of our pleasant camp and sent us wandering through the darkness into the foot-hills, at least this was the story told us by one of the sergeants who had accompanied the scouting party. It was evident that somewhere in the hills ahead of us there was, or had been, a considerable body of Indians, and without doubt our efforts were now to be directed to rounding them up.
While we had been listening to this story of the scout, we had allowed our pipe to go out, and knocking the ashes from the bowl we stowed the pipe away, told the men not on post to go to sleep, and leaning up against a stump we began to think over the story we had heard, and were just putting on our belts preparatory to making the rounds of the picket posts.
“Bang, bang, bang!”
“What the devil was that?”
“Bang, bang, bang!”
“There it goes again!”
An instant later and the officer of the day dashed past, scurrying and stumbling through the darkness in the direction of the shots. In a moment the whole camp was astir, the voices of the first sergeants could be heard calling out:
“Fall in there lively, men.”
The stable guard and some of the men previously instructed hurried about among the horses, quieting and securing them against a stampede. A hasty dash through sage-brush and over boulders brought the officer of the day and the sergeant of the guard to one of the most distant of the outposts, where they found the corporal in charge and his men, carbine in hand, stretched on the ground and peering grimly into the darkness.
In response to the query, “Who fired that first shot?” one of the men, a veteran of a dozen campaigns, rose to his feet and said “I did, sir.”
“What was it you fired at?” was the next question.
The old soldier hesitated for a moment and then replied that he could not tell for certain, but that it looked very much to him like a mounted man. He further reported that he had gone on post at twelve o’clock and for some time walked up and down, but that it finally occurred to him that the country in his front was, or might be, much lower than his post, so that any one approaching from the outside could discover him before he could even hear or see him. With this thought in mind he hunted up a convenient sage-bush and squatted down behind it.
Just how long he had been in this position he could not say, but all at once he heard a sharp sound as of metal striking against a rock somewhere out in his front. Reaching back he woke up the corporal, who crept to his side and the two listened intently. Suddenly they both heard the sound again, apparently closer than at first. The men on this outpost were all wide-awake by this time and all heard the sound not only once but several times, each time nearer than before. He was just thinking about challenging when right in front of him, apparently not twenty yards away, he caught sight of a dark moving object. He challenged and fired almost at the same instant. The corporal and one of the men of the guard saw it and fired, too. When the smoke cleared away they could see nothing, but could hear what sounded like hoof-beats off to their right, but before they had time to challenge again three shots were fired from the next post to them.
There was no use to make a search at this time, so the officer of the day returned to camp and quietness again reigned. With the first rays of the coming daylight the officer of the day and his non-commissioned officer of the guard accompanied by a couple of Crow scouts crept out to the front of the post from which the shot was fired, and sure enough, not thirty yards from the post they found the tracks and could follow them around the line of bluffs until they became intermingled with horse and mule tracks in the rear of our camp.
Leaving camp early the following morning we soon reached the place where the wounded prospector had been left. He was as comfortable as could be expected. Here we slackened girths and allowed our horses to graze while the surgeons redressed the poor fellow’s wounds. Some of the men busied themselves in building a rude travois or stretcher on which he could be transported to the Mission, for it was the Colonel’s determination to push ahead and attempt to overhaul the enemy. There were several prospectors with our party, and in their charge we left their wounded comrade. Half an hour later he passed rearward past our line and was on the back trail while we recinched our saddles, filled our canteens and advanced into the mountains.
That night we made our camp in a broad valley surrounded on every side by towering hills. Early the following morning we were in the saddle and away, and about noon we in the advance were surprised at discovering wheel tracks apparently leading farther into the mountains. They were evidently made by a twowheeled cart of some sort! At a loss to understand the presence of a wheeled vehicle of any kind in this wilderness we pushed, rolled, stumbled and clambered over a spur of the divide, slid down on the other side, wandered in and out among the valleys for an hour or two and suddenly came upon a broad beaten trail, apparently not many hours old.
We followed this trail as fast as the exhausted condition of our horses would permit, and that night went into camp in a grove of scrub pines at the very top of the range and right alongside the trail. Daybreak the next morning found us in the saddle, and all day long we clambered up one side of a mountain only to slide down the other. The trail was growing fresher every hour and we lost all sense of fatigue and hunger in the excitement of a prospective fight.
Late in the afternoon the trail landed us at what seemed to be a veritable “jumping-off place.” On all sides of us were towering mountains; in our front a deep, precipitous canon, leading apparently into the very bowels of the earth. But down there lay the trail and down there we were bound to go, so swinging from our saddles, we grasped our bridle reins, and slipping, sliding and stumbling we made the dangerous descent and finally reached what appeared to be the bottom. There before us winding in and out beneath the overhanging cliffs was the now narrowed trail. On we went and half a mile further to our utter surprise we came upon an abandoned government horse, the saddle marks scarcely dry on his back. There was only one solution of this: General Howard was in close pursuit of the Indians, and his command had passed through this “devil’s doorway” only a short time ahead of us. An hour later we emerged from the mountains about three miles above our old camp at Heart Mountain.
It was verging on twilight, and after a half hour’s march down the valley we sighted a large fire. Fifteen minutes later General Howard rode up to our column, talked for a few moments to our Colonel, and then our command swung off to the left of the trail and we were soon in camp. After our very frugal supper we sought the camp of the other command, and from some of the scouts we learned that the Indians were supposed to be at least fifty miles ahead of us, apparently fleeing for the British Possessions, and that the horses of General Howard’s command were so badly exhausted that he had almost determined to abandon the chase. We knew our old Colonel was hopping mad that the savages had outwitted him, and as we returned to camp we heard the old veteran, with many an explosive adjective, declare that he would overtake those Indians before they crossed the Missouri River if he had to go afoot and alone. He wound up his impromptu oration with an order for reveille at half past three and an advance at five o’clock.
We were not long in making up our minds that we were in for some hard times, but, soldier-like, with the prospect of a fight ahead, we didn’t care. In fact, we were glad of the chance to get at Joseph’s band. During the night General Howard selected from among his troops such men as were best mounted and attached to them a battery of mountain howitzers, or a “jackass” battery as we were wont to call them, and ordered them to push forward with us.
Half past three found us up and stirring. We swallowed our cup of weak coffee and a couple of flapjacks, tightened our belts a hole or two, and “hit the trail.” Hardly were we in the saddle when it began to rain, not a good hard rain, just a miserable drizzle, drizzle, drizzle. But the Colonel’s blood was up and on we went, hour after hour, with only the briefest halts to allow our horses a breathing spell. Morning merged into afternoon, afternoon into evening, evening into darkest night, and still we marched. About three o’clock the preceding afternoon we caught a last glimpse of General Howard’s detachment several miles in our rear. Nine o’clock, ten o’clock, eleven o’clock, and still no signs of a camp.
Almost twelve o’clock and the old Colonel swung himself from the saddle with the remark:
“Well, men, we will camp right here.”
Five minutes later our horses were unsaddled and picketed out in the deep grass and we started a fire at the foot of a cottonwood log, wrapped ourselves in our wet blankets with our feet to the fire and tried to sleep. As we dropped into a doze we heard the adjutant say:
“Sixty miles since five o’clock, pretty good for playedout horses.”
At daybreak the camp was astir, the men were stiff and tired, rations were mighty scarce, and the men not in the best of humor. Making the best of it, however, we saddled up, and half an hour later we followed the Indian trail across the ford, halted on the bank and threw ourselves on the ground, where the sun soon thawed us out.
A few moments later word was passed down the line: “Unsaddle where you are and put your horses on lariat. ”
So the chase was over; the Colonel had given up. Springing to their feet, the men began to unsaddle. In fact, some of the companies were already leading out to herd when we heard a shout from the lower end of the camp. Looking up we saw Pawnee Tom, one of our best scouts, coming down the valley at a wild gallop, yelling “Indians! Indians!” at the top of his voice.
Just in the rear, although apparently some distance down the valley, we could see a huge column of smoke rolling skyward. In an instant all was excitement. Officers and men were on their feet, horses were hurried back from the herds, saddles were thrown on, and in a very few moments the first and second battalions under Lieutenant Colonel Otis and Major Merrill, respectively, were hurrying off down the valley.
Pausing only long enough to see that our pack-train was ready, the third battalion under Captain Benteen sprang into saddle, and taking a direction almost at right angles with that taken by the other two, we were all racing madly away for the front. Apparently by intuition, Captain Benteen divined that the Indians were making for what was known as Canon Creek.
Ten minutes’ ride and we popped over the top of the divide, and there, sure enough, were the Indians. They seemed to be bunched together a mile or two away, and were pushing forward as fast as they possibly could for the mouth of the canon. It did not take an expert strategist to decide that unless we reached the canon in advance of them, they would escape us entirely. Slacking only long enough to close up his command, Captain Benteen moved forward, flankers were thrown out toward the bluffs and the race was on in earnest.
On we went at a mad gallop. The Indians seemed to divine our purpose and redoubled their efforts. For a few moments it was doubtful which would win. An instant later and our flankers were assailed with a murderous fire from the bluffs, and we realized that an advance-party of the Indians were in the canon ahead of us. The fire was so fierce that our men were compelled to draw away from the hills and rejoin the main body of the battalion. It was apparent, now, that our only hope lay in heading off the main body, which was by this time dangerously near the entrance to the pass.
On we galloped and a little later, sheltered from the enemy on the bluffs, we were dismounting in a deep ravine. Our loss so far had been only two men. Leaving our horses in charge of the horse holders, we scrambled up the bank, deployed as skirmishers and were soon hotly engaged. In the meantime, so far as we could see, the other two battalions, as dismounted skirmishers, were moving up the valley, keeping up a running fight with the Indians. Just about this time up came Lieutenant Otis with his “jackass” battery. Pushing well out to the front he opened fire on the enemy, apparently doing considerable damage. By this time the first and second battalions had joined us and the fight was raging fiercely, the Indians gradually drawing into the canon in spite of our efforts to restrain them. The first and second battalions had been pushed out toward the hills, and from the incessant firing in that direction we knew they had their hands full.
A flank movement was ordered and the men of the third battalion hurried to their horses, mounted and moved out of the sheltering ravine. Urging their tired steeds into a gallop they pushed up the valley at right angles with the old line of battle and toward a narrow canon, the plan being apparently to push through this, swing around to the right, and then cooperate with the other battalions in checking the advance of the enemy into the canon. Strange to say not a shot was fired at us.
On we went at a swinging gallop and in a few moments entered the mouth of the canon and were just at its narrowest part when, without an instant’s warning, a dozen or more rifle-shots rang out from the cliffs on our right, and the bullets zipped madly past our ears and buried themselves in the banks on the farther side of the cafion. We at the head of the column put spurs to our horses and were soon out of range.
For a short time the men in the rear, taken unawares, came near losing their heads; in fact, one or two of the recruits did make a mad dash for the shelter of a ravine, but Captain French coming up with M Troop checked any disorder, and with a mad cheer the men rushed up the steep hillside, some mounted, some dismounted, in a wild effort to reach the enemy. The head of the column soon rejoined the charging lines, and a few moments later we stood on the top of the plateau, but not an Indian was in sight.
We remained here for a few moments to regain our breath and permit the men to bring up their horses from below. To our unbounded surprise, when we “took stock” of our casualties, we found that, aside from one man severely wounded and one horse killed and another stampeded, no damage had been done.
Reforming ranks, we moved cautiously across the plateau where, leaving our horses, we crept forward through the grass and sage-brush until we could peer down into the valley below us. In a ravine some three or four hundred yards from where we were we could see some thirty or forty Indians huddled together, evidently in a conference of some sort. To bring our carbines to the front, draw bead on the nearest savage and blaze away was but the work of an instant. When the smoke cleared away all we could see were two flying Indians galloping madly down the valley, their moccasined heels playing a lively tattoo on their ponies’ ribs. Down in the ravine we could see a number of inanimate forms and struggling ponies, showing that our aim had not been altogether faulty.
Our horses were now brought up, and with skirmishers thrown forward and well out on either flank we made our way cautiously down the steep hillside. Scarcely were we in the valley when the Indians again opened fire on us from the bluffs on the opposite side of the valley and rendered our position open to decided objections. Moving up the valley some distance we dismounted behind the shelter of a projecting ledge and engaged the enemy whenever opportunity offered.
Being desirous of ascertaining more regarding the movements of the Indians a non-commissioned officer and a couple of men were instructed to creep to the top of the bluffs and secrete themselves as best they could, keep a sharp lookout for the enemy and report any decided advance. Very reluctantly, apparently, the men turned their horses over to their comrades, and, carbine in hand, left the shelter of the friendly ridge, and dodging, creeping and running they made their way across the narrow valley and clambered up the sides of the steep bluff.
It was now late in the afternoon, and the chill September winds were whistling across the bleak hilltops in a manner suggestive of warm fires and overcoats. Sheltered from sight by a friendly rock or two the men crouched there in the cold, every eye intently scanning the surrounding country for a sign of the approach of the enemy, every nerve on the alert for the faintest intimation of danger, and though an occasional redskin could be seen on the distant hilltops and an occasional bullet would go whizzing past or flatten itself on the rocks in front of them, the enemy did not seem disposed to make a closer acquaintance.
Soon the sun sank behind the adjacent hills; a few moments later the bugles sounded the “Recall,” and the men of the battalion were hurrying to their horses. The way the little detachment slid down the hill to join them might not have been strictly tactical, but it accomplished the desired result. Half an hour later we were in camp near the first and second battalions. We unsaddled and tried to make out a meal on the scrapings of our haversacks, but the results were far from satisfactory. Over at the hospital the surgeons were busy at their tasks, and the camp was soon quiet and peaceable.
We had learned that there was to be an advance in the morning, so that we were not surprised when at half past four a large detachment of Crows, who had joined us during the night, saddled and soon disappeared up the canon. In a short time the camp was astir, and leaving our wounded in care of General Howard’s division, which was to remain behind, we went up the valley in the wake of the Crows. For a mile or more our way lay up the gradually narrowing valley, then the trail turned abruptly to the right and soon disappeared midst the gullies, ravines and canons with which the hillsides were seamed. The farther we advanced, the more clearly we realized that it would have been utterly impossible for us to have forced our way through here against even fifty well-armed Indians. The narrow trail surrounded by overhanging ledges, flanked by deep gorges, towering peaks and bottomless gullies, made a passage almost impassable in face of a determined enemy.
After an hour or so of hard climbing, the summit was reached, and before us, stretching away for miles, was the broad, rolling prairie. Far away on the horizon we could catch an occasional glimpse of the Crows, who were apparently eager for a fight. All through the long afternoon we pushed forward with scarcely a halt. Shortly after noon a courier came back with word that our allies were engaged with the enemy some miles ahead. Our jaded horses were spurred on, a gleam shot across the bronzed faces of the troopers as their carbines were swung within easy reach. But it was no use, our horses were not equal to the strain, and after a few miles were suffered to resume their old gait.
Late in the afternoon we came up with our Crows, who with some Shoshones and Bannocks of Howard’s command, had kept up a running fight with the enemy most of the day, and several scalps and a considerable number of ponies attested the fact that they had not had entirely the worst of it.
Tired out and hungry, we at last went into camp on the banks of a small creek. Our rations were exhausted and none in sight; still men must eat to live, but what? Evidently the men were not long in making up their mind. A visit to a neighboring ravine, two or three muffled shots, a rush of soldiers, and fifteen minutes later hundreds of tiny camp-fires were blazing along the banks, and the men with much joking and laughter were making themsel ves acquainted with good grass-fed pony steaks and rib roasts. Terrible ! Well, perhaps it would seem so now, but at that time we thought we had never tasted sweeter meat.
The following morning we made a breakfast on the remainder of our pony meat, and after a hard day’s march went into camp on the banks of the Mussel Shell. Our stock of pony meat was exhausted and that night we made a supper on “choke cherries” and the red, tart “buffalo berries” which lined the banks of the river in every direction. Hungry, tired and discouraged, it was not a good-natured crowd to say the least, but officers and men were on an equal footing. As time went on conditions did not improve at all. For several days we pushed ahead on the trail until we reached a point where it divided into innumerable smaller trails and there, so far as our regiment was concerned, the pursuit was abandoned and the command headed for Carroll on the Missouri River, to replenish our supplies from the boats that had succeeded in making their way to that point. Scarcely had we reached this point when news came that the Indians had crossed the Missouri at or near Cow Island and were advancing to the British line as fast as their ponies could take them. Leaving behind all dismounted men and men with unserviceable horses, the regiment was put across the river and hurried off on the trail of the enemy. General Howard’s command was rushed on board waiting steamers and pushed up the river for the purpose of following the trail of the Indians wherever it might lead.
By Theodore W. Goldin