Topic: Battle of Tohotonimme

Colonel Steptoe’s Report

On the day succeeding the return to Walla Walla, Colonel Steptoe dispatched the fol lowing report of the expedition to head quarters of the Department of the Pacific at San Francisco: “Fort Walla Walla, May 23, 1858. Major: On the 2nd instant I informed you of my intention to move northward with a part of my command. Accordingly, on the 6th I left here with C, E, and H, First dragoons, and E, Ninth infantry; in all, five company officers and one hundred and fifty-two enlisted men. Hearing that the hostile Pelouse were near Al-pon-on-we, in the Nez Perces...

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Dragoon Soldiers Retreat

Lieutenant Gregg reached the trail and following it soon overtook the advance companies, which had moved under some restraint, expecting him to join them, and the whole command proceeded rapidly onward. Specter-like, they galloped over high ridges, presenting a chain of fleeting figures that loomed strangely on the starlit horizon. Sinking again into deep hollows fashioned among the hills by the Great Architect, they formed a mass of darkness more dense than the gloom through which they moved. It was a hard ride, fatiguing alike to horse and rider. The unscathed soldier fought with his exhaustion to keep himself...

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Council Between the Officers

Captain Winder, next in command to Colonel Steptoe, Lieutenant Gregg, now senior dragoon officer, and Surgeon Randolph, having come together, fell to discussing their situation. They entertained no doubt as to the intention of the Indians to renew the attack, either during the night or on the following morning. Nearly destitute of ammunition, the command could hardly withstand a single onset. They were outnumbered five or six to one and should a determined assault be made upon them, and the ammunition become entirely spent the survivors would be helpless to prevent being slain on the spot, or captured and subjected to whatever manner of torture and death might suit the will of their savage captors. Being entirely surrounded, escape seemed almost as hopeless. While the Indians had receded from their positions of the afternoon, they nevertheless occupied points which must be passed in any attempt to get away. Yet the three officers felt that an effort to escape should be made, and that it should be attempted during the night. Captain Winder and Lieutenant Gregg approached Colonel Steptoe and informed him of their deliberations. The Colonel had turned the whole matter over in his own mind and was of the opinion that there remained no other course for them but to stay and die like brave men. He reminded them that no point of safety lay north of Snake...

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Battle at Tohotonimme

The portentous events of the day now fully impressed Colonel Steptoe with the danger that would be incurred by pressing his advance farther toward Colville and he determined, therefore, to retrace his steps toward Snake River. For potent reasons he desired to accomplish the return without a clash with the Indians. His light supply of ammunition and the overwhelming, well-armed force opposed to him augured much against risking an engagement. And, besides this, he had entertained no thought of projecting his command offensively into the country of the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene in violation of their avowed friendly relations,...

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