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OUR progress was necessarily slow. No adventure of any consequence happened until we reached the Walnut Creek. Here we camped some 200 or 300 yards below the old trail, in a horse-shoe bend, on the west side of the creek. No event occurred during the night to show the presence of Indians; but about dawn of the next morning, as the guards were turning the cattle out of the corral to graze, the IndiansCheyennes, some 500 of them, some mounted and more afoot,immediately tried to get possession of the cattle. Those on foot engaged the guards, while those mounted tried to get between the catttle and the corral, thus cutting them off. The firing immediately roused the camp to arms; and in the face of the firing by the Indians we surrounded the cattle, and drove them back into the corral.
Then the fighting began in good earnest. At first we proved too much for them, and they retreated into a low sag south of the corral; but quickly returned with more desperate energy than at first. Then forming solid lines, six or eight deep, made a forced charge on the wagons from the south, yelling like demons, and firing through under the wagons. It never seemed as if so few men could stand such an assault. Our men were prepared for them, however, and, firing from behind and under the wagons, gave them a warm reception as they came up.
At the east end they broke through and came into the corral; but of those who came through it is a question if any ever returned. They were immediately shot and clubbed with the guns. I broke my own gun-stock over the head of one of the miscreants. There were nine of them left within the corral dead. The Indians, seeing the fate that had befallen their comrades who went through under the wagons, began a hasty retreat, and were quickly followed by the entire pack as fast as they could run. They took refuge in a low range of sand hill along the Arkansas river, some 60 or 80 rods to the south, from which they emerged occasionally during the morning to harass us.
We followed them up toward the sand hills, firing at them to the best possible advantage; but when we had got as far as the low sag, we were ordered to retreat to the wagons. Our wagon master, after the dead Indians, outside and in, were all counted, reported 60 Indians killed. Our own loss was five killed and several wounded, none mortally.
There was another camp of 35 men, sent out by Majors & Russell of Missouri, about half a mile west; and about 9 or 10 o'clock they formed a line and came down toward the Indians. Seeing this we formed a line and advanced to join them, and move together upon the Indians. They, upon the other hand, seeing our movement, beat a hasty retreat across the river.
We buried our dead on a point between two draws a little southwest of camp; and about 2 o'clock broke camp, and in company with Majors Russell's outfit, started westward.
About 5 or 6 miles west we had a slight brush with the Indians, but nothing serious until we arrived at Pawnee Rock, which we reached about 2 or 3 o'clock next day.
WE camped about 200 yards to the south of the rock. Nothing unusual transpired during the night. About 8 o'clock next morning, just as we had brought our cattle up to the corral, and were yoking them up, a band of Cheyennes, to the number of about 300, suddenly made a dash from the north, part of the Indians coming in on each side of the Rock, and immediately surrounded our corral of wagons, with a terrible war-whoop.
The usual manner of making such a corral was to form a circle with the wagons, running them as close behind each other as possible, with the left-hand or driver's side innermost. When the circle was complete, an opening the size of a wagon was left for a gate, which was closed by a single wagon just inside the circle, so placed that it could be run aside or back into the gap, or "gate," during the night, and times of danger, the cattle are kept within this enclosure or "corral," as it is called; at other times they were turned out to graze, in charge of several men. On the left-hand side of the wagon bed, above the wheels, there was a small box about five feet long, prepared with a hinged cover that pitched so as to shed rain. This box contained, in a convenient position, the arms, ammunition, lunch, trinkets, etc., of the driver.
Leaving our cattle as they were, some yoked, some partly yoked, we instantly seized our weapons and pitched in vigorously to repulse the assault.
The Indians opened a heavy fire from the start. They made strainers of our wagon boxes by perforating them with bullets and arrow heads. The Indians who were mounted fired high, and may possibly sometimes have hit some of their own men on the opposite side of the corral.
After firing in this way for a while, and finding they could gain nothing, they beat a
hasty retreat to the south, taking with them their dead and wounded, who were in nearly all cases tied to their ponies, as was shown by the thongs that lay by some of the dead ponies, where the riders had cut loose and got away.
In this fight we had one man wounded, and several cattle killed.
From here on we had to fight the Indians every few days. We had engagements at Pawnee Fork, again near Dodge, again at Cimarron, here by the Apaches and Arrapahoes, again at Mount Aubrey, Kearney County.
AT this place we arrived the next day after the slaughter of a party of Spaniards who were going east from Santa Fe, to purchase goods. We found ten dead Spaniards, and one wounded, still living, with his scalp off, though he died the morning after.
At the first peep of day, the next morning after we arrived there, the IndiansApaches and Arrapahoes attacked us, first firing on the guards, and then coming up by slow, cautious movements, seeking every buffalo wallow, or other slight protection to cover themselves. So stealthily and steadily did they advance that almost before we were aware of it we had eight men lying dead. All this time we kept up a vigorous and pointed fire, always aiming and firing with intent to kill.
About 10 o'clock, finding they could not capture our train, they retreated the way they came, leaving their dead on the ground. These, amounting to between 50 and 80, we piled up on the plain and left for the coyotes and buzzards.
We remained here four days, and buried our dead and the Spaniards19 in allin one trench. In the meantimeand this we tell in a whisperwe amused ourselves at target shooting, using for a target the head of some luckless Indian, which would be placed in all conceivable positions to be shot at.
We had some more fighting now and then until we reached Fort Bent, after which we were out of the hostile country; and reached Santa Fe in safety, with what we had left of men and animals. We lost no wagons, and carried our cargo entirely through.
From Governor Isaac Sharp's Diary
By Major Henry Inman of Larned
IT was a magnificent September day in the early part of that month in the year 1860. The amber mist of the glorious Indian Summer hung in light clouds over the rippling Pawnee, and the sheen of the noon-day sun on the Arkansas made that silent stream, where it broadens out lake-like, towards the now thriving little village of Garfield, sparkle and scintillate until it was painful for the eyes to rest upon. The low group of sand-hills loomed up white and silvery, like the chalk cliffs of Dover. The box-elders and cottonwoods that fringed the tributaries to the rivers were rapidly donning their Autumn dress of russet, and the mirage had already, in the early mornings, commenced its weird and fantastic play with the landscape.
Under the shadow of the bluff, where Larned now reposes so picturesquely, hundreds of buffaloes were grazing, and on the plateau above the crest of the hill, a few sentinel antelopes were guarding their charge, now quietly ruminating their morning's meal in the ravines running towards the river.
Near where Brown's Grove is now located, under the grateful shade of the thickest clumps of timber, about forty wigwams were irregu1arly scattered, and on the hills a herd of two or three hundred ponies were lazily feeding, guarded by half a dozen superannuated squaws, and a troup of dusky little children, who were chasing the yellow butterflies from the now dried and dying sun flower stalks that so conspiclously marked the broad trail to the river. This beautiful spot was selected by Black Kettle, chief of the Cheyennes, for his winter camp, where only a few weeks previously he had moved from the Canadian, and settled with his band to hunt on the Arkansas Bottom, and watch his enemies, the Pawnees, who claimed the same ground, and where year after year the most sanguinary battles between the two tribes had been fought. Apart from the remainder of the wigwams, and near the
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edge of the stream was the magnificent lodge of Yellow Buffalo, the war chief of the Cheyennes. This lodge was formed of beautifully porcupined and beaded robes, and its interior was graced with a long row of scalpsthe trophies of his fame as a great warrior.
On the morning of the date above mentioned, I had reached the Arkansas at a point a few miles east of the mouth of the Pawnee, on my way to Fort Larned from my ranch on Sharp's Creek, (now in McPherson county,) and when near where Larned now stands I noticed a large body of Indians in a stooping attitude, as though hunting for something, and I supposed them to be some of my Knowa friends on the trail of an enemy. I spurred my horse and rode toward them, when all of a sudden they dropped in the grass, which convinced me of the error of my first suppositon. I was acquainted at that time with nearly all the tribes on the plains, and particularly those who would probably be in that vicinity then, and with a fair knowledge of the Indian character, I readily concluded that my covey in the grass were a band of "Dog-Soldiers," of some tribe, either on the war-path against some of the other tribes that roamed in the valley of the Arkansas, or a party to steal horses, and in either event I had nothing to fear, as the report of a gun would be the last thing they would want to hear just then.
So I rode on, and when within a hundred yards or so of the Indians, one rose, and holding both hands up with palms to the front, in his own dialect called my name. I then felt considerably relieved for I found myself among thirty-two Pawnees, who, as I first supposed, were there to steal horses from the Cheyennes or Kiowas. On hearing this fact, I told them that a few miles back on the trail, I had seen a large number of Indians on the high prairie, scattered out as if surrounding buffalo, or elk, but that I had seen no game, and now I knew their presence was known to the Arkansas tribes, and that there were so many of these wild Indians that the few Pawnees would all be killed if found.
They then told me they wanted to reach the island in the river, and there they could fight all the "Ingins" that would dare come, and if they got to the island before the wild Indians found them, I must go to them and tell them that they were there, and myself come and see the fight. That if I staid on my horse, either on the east or west side of the island, or on the hill on the northwest, I could see it all and be safe from their bullets; and if they all got killed I should tell their people how grandly and bravely they died.
I left them and went on towards the Fort, and when within three miles of it, met "Yellow Buffalo" with some two hundred of his warriors, with their paint on and beating their drums.
"Yellow Buffalo" was then about thirty years old, and as grand a looking Indians as I ever saw. I delivered my message from the Pawnees to him, immediately upon which the two hundred warriors raised the war-cry, which echoed and reverberated in all the splendor of its savage grandeur over the prairie, and which none but those who have heard it under such circumstances, can appreciate.
Stung to the heart by my message of defiance, "Yellow Buffalo" appeared the true savage that he was, and the ferocity of his wild nature glared in his eyes as he thought of the deep wrongs done to his tribe by the "dogs of Pawnees!" as he called them, and appealed to his men that "now was the time presented to them, to not only reap an adequate revenge, but add lasting laurels to their wreaths as brave and skilful warriors."
We were a little south of the old Santa Fe trail, and he ordered his band to turn nearly due south and then we loped off in the direction of the island. As we neared the river bank we saw the last of the Pawnees, who had been watching our approach, plunge into the stream and reach the island in safety, as our advance halted on the spot where now rests the north end of the Larned bridge. It was now about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. The Cheyennes dismounted, and every tenth man went to the rear to hold the horses and guard them from a possible flank movement on the part of the Pawnees. I was honored by "Yellow Buffalo" with the privilege of taking care of my own horsewhich I am happy to say I did from a position on the south end of the hill west of town, and as near the river as was prudent for a non-combatant. Nearly all the Cheyennes were armed with muzzle-loading rifles, and a third of them had large Colt's army revolvers. At the command of their chief, "Yellow Buffalo," the Cheyennes formed a line of battle, which seemed to extend up and down the river the whole length of the island, while five or six of them acted as flankers. uring five or six of them acted as flankers. During to be seen.[sic]
In those days the island was covered only with thick willows, which concealed the watchful Pawnees, who were rather better armed than the Cheyennes each having a Spencer carbine and two revolvers, either army or navy pattern, besides their bows and quivers well filled with arrows. When all was in readiness, and "Yellow Buffalo" had made a proper disposition of his forces, he gave the order to charge! Upon hearing his clear voice ring across the prairie, his warriors responded with a most unearthly yell, that seemed to shake even the eternal dunes of sand on the opposite side of the river, and then rushed pell-mell into the Arkansas. The water was waist high, and as they advanced they still kept up the infernal yell until they reached within ten feet of the island, when, like a flash of light from a clear sky, came a sheet of flame from the edge of the willows, promptly responded to by the braves in the water.
In an instant however, much to my sur-
prise, the Pawnees delivered from their ranks another volley, followed immediately by the quick sharp crack of revolvers, which seemed to completely overwhelm and discomfort the Cheyennes, all of whom beat a hasty retreat to the main land. Their war-whoop ceased the instant they commenced their backward march, and in a moment some twenty of the Pawnees appeared above the willows and kept up a well directed fire on their foes until the latter reached the bank of the river.
In this single charge of the Cheyennes, thirteen were killed and twenty-three wounded evincing a coolness and deliberation on the part of the Pawnees, not excelled by the best organized troops. The Cheyennes, in their charge, showed their characteristic recklessness and daring, but which counted for nothing in results, as all the bullets were carried clear over the heads of the Pawnees who were concealed by the friendly willows.
While the main body of the Pawnees were keeping up their almost incessant fire upon the retreating Cheyennes, three or four others rose at opposite ends of the island, and opened with some well delivered shots with their carbines at the Cheyenne flankers, so that the whole number became demoralized, and "Yellow Buffalo" with all his painted warriors, fled as far back as where the Rev. R. M. Overstreet's church now stands on Main street, and held a council.
"Yellow Buffalo" then dispatched a messenger for reinforcements, and in about an hour they arrived from south of the river to the number of some four or five hundred, and upon their joining the other, "Yellow Buffalo" made the same disposition of his now augmented forces as he had with his original army, and then turned his command over to "Black Kettle," who had come on the ground.
"Black Kettle" kept his Indians in close order, and when they reached within shooting distance of the island, the Pawnees opened upon them with a terrible volley, and the most deafening and diabolical yells, and kept it up for at least ten minutes. The poor Cheyennes returned the fire as best they could, but invariably overshot the Pawnees, whom they could not see, so closely were they hidden by the willows.
Meanwhile "Black Kettle" ingloriously retreated, and then "Yellow Buffalo" felt himself no more disgraced than the "head war chief" and his chosen warriors. Thus ended this rather remarkable fight. I never could learn definitely how many of the Cheyennes were killed and wounded in the second charge, but the Pawnees told me they were double the number of the first charge, and coming as it did from the victors, I always made a reasonable allowance. The Cheyennes utterly refused to tell me the number of their loss, but I saw their wounded that night, and helped dress most of their wounds. There were twenty-eight in "Black Kettle's" camp.
On my return from the Fort next day with my mail, the Cheyennes informed me that these same Pawnees charged through the guards, and actually drove off about 200 of the Cheyenne ponies.
The Pawnees assured me they had but forty warriors, all told, and that they lost in killed and wounded but two. The Cheyennes stated however, that they found five graves in the sand, under the edge of the water, which they exhumed and left the bodies to rot, and the bones to bleach on the prairie like a coyote.
By Homer H. Kidder of Great Bend
IN 1863, I left Michigan with the purpose of of taking a look over Kansas, principally with a view of making a home and going into business. At Kansas City I met with Kit Carson, the famous Indian scout, and Wm. Bent, the builder of Bent's old Fort, near the mouth of the Purgatoire river in Colorado. They were then preparing to take a trip west, and knowing I would never have a better chance, I gladly accepted their invitation and accompanied them.
From Kansas City Kit Carson, Mr. Bent, Charley Rath and myself went up the river to Leavenworth; there we joined a mule train of about ten wagons. We came by way of Topeka (then quite a small town), and Council Grove.
In September we arrived at the mouth of Walnut Creek, and went into camp about an hour before sunset, and, while knowing full well that we were 100 miles from the nearest white settlement, yet we saw large numbers of human beings coming to us on horseback, which, on their arrival, proved to be wild Indians; but as they wnre peaceable at that time we had nothing to fear, and upon taking a view of the broad green prairies, dotted here and there with clusters of Indian lodges and groupes of ponies, and in the distant background could be seen large herds of buffalo, waiting quietly to become food for the Indians. It was truly the happiest hour of my existencefor it was my first sight of wild Indians and buffaloes.
The Indians arrived at our camp and dismounted, and, after shaking hands all round, with their "how, how," they sat down, we all smoked the pipe of peace, and after spending
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an hour or so in a chat, we all lay down on the ground for a sleep.
Next morning several Indians with Kit and myself went out on a buffalo chase, and within half an hour ran into a fine herd of them, and after a short run we had several of them lying dead on the ground, some killed with arrows by the Indians and some with our bullets.
We remained in the Indian camp several days, for rest, and decided to open a trading post with them; and, after a few days more were spent in an Indian feast and making our camp convenient for businessbuilding a corral for our stock, etc.we opened up and sold such goods as we had brought for that purpose. After several weeks of life with the Indian families, enjoying the company of the beautiful Indian maidens, eating out of the same skillet with them, and partaking of their dish of "fat dog," I bade my dusky beauties adieu, and went up to Fort Larned to accept the situation of clerk in the quartermaster's office for the winter. At that time Fort Larned was a small adobe fort. We had a long spell of intensely cold weather, with considerable of "the beautiful snow" on the ground; and during that winter many freighters lost much of their stock by freezing to death and stampeding and remaining with the buffalo. Several "bull-whackers" also froze to death that winter. But, as everything has an end, so did our bitter cold winter, and with it came our spring, when I resigned my clerkship and returned to Walnut Creek, where I built a ranch that lasted me many years during my frontier life. I located it close to the creek for the purpose of obtaining water without endangering myself from the hostile attacks of the Indians, who were then threatening to break out and go on the war-path. I had not half finished my ranch (it being slow work to cut the sod with an ax), when the Indians made a break on some freight trains enroute to Mexico, cutting off some of the hind wagons, capturing the stock and killing the drivers. This of course opened the warfare and put us all on our guard. I finally finished my ranch, and began to trade for poor and lame cattle that were brought from Mexico by freighters and drovers; and during that year found myself in possession of a nice large herd of cattle, and by keeping them well guarded from the Indians I lost none of them. During the year the Indians made a great many attacks on trains, seldom falling to get the best of the bargain and carry off the scalp of some poor unfortunate who happened to be away from the main party; but as the season closed the Indians retreated to the Medicine Lodge, where they spent the winter, and made ready for a continued raid and a season fight of plunder and massacre next year.
The winter being a very mild one, my herd of stock went through in fine condition, and in the following year I increased the herd to several thousand head, and as the freighting season again opened, everything seemed lively.
It was nothing uncommon to see 100 wagons in a double line, moving across our "Great American Desert," and it was almost a daily occurrence to see from 30 to 100 "Prairie Schooners" at once. These wagons, when under a full load, would contain from 4 to 6 thousand pounds, and were hauled by six yoke of oxen or six mules. All these wagons would camp on the creek, at or near my ranch, making it contain quite an army nearly every night. Such nights would usually be spent in telling yarns until a late hour, when all would take their "gunny sack" and lie down for sleep on the ground, except the night herders who were constantly on the watch till the break of day when they drove in the stock. In a moment all was astir, and within half an hour on the move, and I left alone again, with the exception of my hired help.
Thus the season continued, except an cccasional attack on some poor pilgrim or unguarded train, in which, after a few moments of the most intense excitement, the Indians would usually come out victorious, having one or more bloody scalps at their belts, and were stampeding the stock across the prairies at full speed.
While engaged in herding my cattle one day one of my men (Jack) being near by but out of sight, fishing in the creek, a small war party of Indians came up from the river near by, and seeing a mule train about a mile off, they all made a dash on the train except one Indian, who, upon seeing me, set up such a yell as only a red devil can give, and with a drawn lance made a dash at me with the utmost speed, intending to run me through. When about a rod from me I fired. With a piercing yell he jumped from the pony, the blood spurting from his bare breast. As he came to the ground we clenched, each one trying to get away with "his Injun." Part of the time he was on top, then again I had him down; and he, though weakening from loss of blocd, got a knife from his belt and made a lunge at me, while I was grasping him in a genuine rough-and-tumble for dear life, and trying to restrain his hand. He finally succeeded in thrusting the knife through my hand, and was about getting away with me, when my herdsman came in timely to the scene of action. The Indian relaxed his hold of me and fell to the ground, with a bullet through his head, and before he breathed his last I had his scalp with his own knife; and, while he has "gone to the happy hunting ground," I still carry "as a trophy" the scars of that event and the long scalp of my enemy.
The Indians would occasionally make a dive on some train and get the worst of it, having their scalps taken, which all white frontiersmen would do whenever they killed a red-skin. This was done, they said, to keep the dead warriors from going to the "happy hunting ground," the Indians claiming that anyone loosing their scalp will never go there.
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Transcribed from Biographical history of Barton County, Kansas. ; Illustrated. Published by Great Bend Tribune, Great Bend, KS : 1912. 318 p. : ill. ; 28 cm. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward, July 2006.
| Tom & Carolyn Ward
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