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Boys' Book of Border Battles by  Edwin L. Sabin
Table of Contents


 

 

TO BLACK KETTLE'S VILLAGE WITH CUSTER (1868)

WHEN THE BAND PLAYED "GARRYOWEN"

[266] THE Peace Commission held a meeting in Chicago in October. It decided that the plains Indians should not be permitted to travel beyond their reservations without written leave.

General Sheridan determined that the only way to punish the bands that had been raiding and had refused to come in to the agencies was by a winter campaign. If he might strike the Indians in their winter villages, destroy their provisions and shelter, they would have to come in, or else starve and freeze.

The only question was, whether white soldiers could travel the winter plains trail, and be in shape to battle at the end of it. Old Jim Bridger, the famous Rocky Mountain trapper and trader, told General Sheridan that a winter campaign against the Indians was impossible; an Indian in a buffalo robe could shiver himself warm, but every soldier would freeze to death. Scout Buffalo Bill brought word that the Indians were moving south, seeking winter quarters in a better country than open Kansas.

Little Phil laughed at Jim Bridger and listened to Buffalo Bill. He directed General George A. Custer to lead the Seventh Cavalry out of Fort Dodge (which [267] is today Dodge City), on the Arkansas River in south-western Kansas, against the winter quarters of Chief Black Kettle's Cheyennes.

Brevet Major-General George Armstrong Custer, lieutenant-colonel of the Seventh Cavalry, was twenty-nine years old. He had graduated from the West Point Military Academy in June, 1861; three days afterward, as second lieutenant, Second Cavalry, he had taken part in the battle of Bull Run. He flashed through the Civil War like a meteor. At twenty-three he was already a brigadier general of cavalry and known as the Boy General with the Golden Locks. Be-fore he was twenty-five he commanded a full cavalry division of his own and had been brevetted major-general. His Third Division of cavalry was a whirlwind; in six months it captured one hundred and eleven pieces of artillery, sixty-five battle flags, and ten thousand prisoners including seven generals; did not lose a flag or a gun, nor suffer a repulse. He himself had eleven horses shot under him.

After the war he made of the Seventh United States Cavalry a noted fighting regiment, celebrated for its dash and discipline and hard campaigns. With his long yellow hair and moustache, his buckskin suit, his crimson tie, his lithe figure, his bright blue eyes, and his perfect horsemanship, he was a cavalryman long to be remembered. The Indians called him "Yellow Hair," "Long Hair," and "White Chief with the Long Yellow Hair." His soldiers called him "Old Curly," and "Old Jack" because the initials on his kit chest were G. A. C.

[268] The base for the winter campaign was to be new Camp Supply, one hundred miles south of Fort Dodge, in northwestern Indian Territory which is present Oklahoma. Uncle John Smith, or Red Eye, a Cheyenne trader, had picked it out for the army. On November 12 General Custer started for it, with eleven of his twelve troops of cavalry, four hundred wagons and an infantry escort.

General Sheridan, bringing reinforcements for the camp, arrived on November 21. The march down from Fort Hays had been terrible, through early blizzards, and across the Arkansas River where ice floated.

Tonight it began to snow. That made no difference. General Sheridan was certain that the Cheyennes of Chief Black Kettle, the Kiowas of Chief Satanta, the Arapahos of Chief Little Raven, with Comanches and Apaches, were snugly quartered somewhere in the south, counting upon the winter to block the white soldiers off.

"I shall be ready to march in twenty-four hours," General Custer said. This evening the Seventh Regiment band stood out in the snow and serenaded General Sheridan.

Little Phil issued his orders; they were short, like himself.

"To proceed south, in the direction of the Antelope Hills, thence toward the Washita River, the supposed winter seat of the hostile tribes; to destroy their villages and ponies; to kill or hang all warriors and bring back all women and children."

Yes, they were short orders, and harsh orders; but [269] these Indians had been murdering settlers by the hundred, torturing prisoners, both men and women; stealing women and children and abusing them. They declined to come in to their agencies. If they wished to act like bandits, then they would have to be treated as bandits.

It snowed in earnest the next evening, November 22. When reveille for the Seventh Cavalry was blown at three o'clock in the morning of November 23, the snow was over a foot deep and still falling fast; the air was biting cold; the men trudged about in drifts to their boot tops, the horses huddled.

"How will this do for a 'winter campaign,' general?" Adjutant Myles Moylan shouted.

"Just the thing!"

Old Curly galloped across the camp, to bid good-by to General Sheridan. General Sheridan's tent could scarcely be seen in the snow and darkness.

"Is that you, Custer? What do you think about the storm?"

Even the tough Sheridan was a little dubious. But nothing daunted Custer.

"Nothing could be better, general. We can move but now the Indians can't. If the snow stays on the ground for a week I'll bring you back proof that we've found them."

Before it was light the eleven companies of the Seventh Cavalry sallied bravely into the teeth of the storm. The crack mounted band played "The Girl I Left Behind Me." The infantry soldiers in the camp stuck out their heads and cheered.

[270] There was General Custer, in wolf-fur cap, buffalo-fur vest under his army overcoat, buffalo-fur mittens, and buffalo-fur overshoes.

There were the eight hundred troopers, in various forms of attire, buffalo overshoes, buffalo caps, buffalo mittens, scarfs about their heads—anything to keep them warm.

There were twelve Osage Indian scouts, under old Chief Hard Rope and Chief Little Beaver, with Lieutenant Thomas Lebo as their white chief.

There were the white scouts: California Joe, Jack Corbin, and Romero who was not white, but was half Indian and half Mexican. Everybody on the plains knew California Joe, the old-timer trapper and rover. He had an enormous nose, usually red; was "brass mounted" with bushy red whiskers covering his face; his close-set little blue eyes twinkled through. Today he wore a greasy slouch hat tied down scoop shape over his ears with a dirty scarf; long' blue army overcoat with singed tails and belted about his waist by a rope; cowhide boots wrapped in gunny sacking; fur mittens. He rode a mule and carried a long-barreled army musket.

Only a few tents were taken. The soldiers' baggage was limited to clothing. A wagon outfit bore rations and horse forage for thirty days.

On the way down from Fort Dodge to Camp Supply a northward-leading trail of a war party had been crossed. General Custer planned to catch the return trail through the snow, and follow it to the winter village.


[Illustration]

SURPRISE ON BLACK KETTLE'S VILLAGE.

[271] The storm ceased. The thermometer registered seven below zero, but the sky cleared.

"Trav'lin' good overhead today, how are you, general?" California Joe wheezed.

They all crossed southward into the valley of the South Canadian, at Antelope Hills on the western border of present Oklahoma. They were getting right into the Indians' winter country. One hundred miles up the South Canadian was where Kit Carson had surprised the big villages at Adobe Walls, four years before.

This was red man's land. No roads penetrated, no white men had been in here. The Indians hunted the buffalo, the wild turkey, the deer and the panther, and lived well.

Major Joel H. Elliot with three companies was sent up-river to scout for the war party trail. He was given one day's rations and forage; no wagons, of course. If he struck the trail he was to send back word and follow the Indians until the main column overtook him.

Major Elliot and his two hundred troopers rode up the winding, red-soil South Canadian, which flowed icy and swift among the rounded bare hills and snowy plateaus.

General Custer crossed the river. In hauling the wagons over, the men's clothing was soaked to the waist.

The last of the wagons was just climbing out for the high ground at the base of Antelope Hills, and General Custer was alone, sitting his horse, impatiently wait- [272] ing to order "Advance," when he saw a black figure riding rapidly in across the snow, from the southwest.

An express, from Major Elliot! The figure proved to be Scout Jack Corbin. He reported. The Major Elliot column had struck the fresh trail of one hundred and fifty Indians; it veered for the southeast; he was pursuing hard.

Hurrah!

"Can you catch Elliot if I furnish you with another horse, Corbin?"

"Yes, sir. I can try, anyhow."

In a moment Scout Corbin had galloped away again, into the snow and the wilderness. Major Elliot was to keep pursuing; the main column would march south and cut in on him. If the trail changed direction, he was to let General Custer know. If he was not overtaken by eight o'clock this night, he should make camp and wait.

The hour was almost eleven o'clock. General Custer gave the column only twenty minutes for getting ready. The wagons were to be left under a guard of eighty men and the officer of the day. Marching equipment was to be reduced to one blanket each, one hundred rounds of ammunition, oats, a little coffee and hard tack. But the eighty men thought it hard luck, to be counted out.

And one officer was unhappy. He was Captain Louis McLane Hamilton, of the historic Alexander Hamilton family. As officer of the day he had to stay with the wagons.

"If you can find anybody who'll trade places with you, I'll agree to it," Old Curly said at last.

[273] Captain Hamilton was made glad when he discovered that Second Lieutenant Edward Mathey was snow blind. Lieutenant Mathey had said nothing about that, for fear that he might be ordered to remain, himself. Now he consented to trade with Captain Hamilton, for he knew that he might be only a handicap, on a forced march.

In precisely twenty minutes the eight companies, less the eighty men of the wagon guard, trotted for the south.

The sun had softened the snow; the horses sank to their knees; the route was cut by washes and broken by hummocks. In all the lonely treeless waste there was not a moving object except themselves. They rode for five hours; saw no sign of Major Elliot. General Custer grew anxious as his eyes constantly swept the snowy expanse.

The sun was low when finally they found the trail—the Indians' trail, and the trail of Major Elliot's column, beside it.

"War trail. No squaws. Made dis morning," Little Beaver grunted.

The General Custer column hastened, to overtake the Elliot column before it got into trouble, or had done all the fighting. At dusk the blackly timbered valley of the Washita River showed ahead. They descended; entered the timber in the dark. The twin trails led on. The Custer men were tired and hungry. They had eaten nothing since four o'clock in the morning; the horses had had no food and scarcely a mouthful to drink.

[274] At nine o'clock they came upon Major Elliot, camped and waiting. This had been Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 26, 1868! But anybody who rode with Old Curly might expect such trips.

The camp was in the timber along a head-waters creek of the Washita River, west central Indian territory or Oklahoma.

"One hour's halt," said General Custer. The moon would then give light. Little Beaver wished to wait for day. General Custer smiled to himself. He knew what was the matter. An Indian killed in the dark cannot find his way to the happy hunting grounds!

There were hot coffee and hardtack for the officers and men; water and oats for the horses. At ten o'clock the whole column was in the saddle again. The moon had risen higher. The night was soundless save for the creak of leather and the rasp of hoof. Mystery wrapped this world of stream and forest and plain.

The Indian village might be within a mile, or half a mile, or ten miles. Who knew?

Little Beaver and Koom-la-manche or Trotter guided on foot. General Custer and the scouts followed, three hundred yards behind. Then the cavalry companies, farther behind. No one was to light a pipe; no one was to speak above a whisper.

In an hour the two Osages stopped short. General Custer rode on—

"What's the matter?" he asked, of Little Beaver.

"Me don't know," said Little Beaver, "but me smell smoke."

Hah! The other scouts arrived. Romero the half [275] Indian could not smell any smoke. None of the white men could smell any smoke. Even California Joe, with his big nose, smelled no smoke.

"These Osages are gettin' skeered," Californi a Joe asserted. 'Tain't their kind o' campaign—this hyar marchin' by night an' not knowin' whar you're goin'. Guess they smell spooks."

In about half a mile the two Osages halted again. "Me told you so," Little Beaver uttered, pointing. Sure enough, at the edge of the timber one hundred yards on the left there glowed the coals of a tiny fire. That had been a "long" smell!

Was this the war-party camp? If so, and the Indians wakened, then the alarm would be oven. General Custer fidgeted nervously, while the scouts stole forward. But the Osages searched the ground and said that the fire was not a war-party fire. It had been built by boys, to warm themselves while herding ponies.

Good! The village to which the pony herd belonged could not be more than two or three miles away.

"Forward! Be quiet!"

In the moonlight the column advanced, up hill and down, following the trail through snowy draw and out once more.

General Custer now stuck close to the two Osages. One or the other of them always climbed each ridge, first, to crouch and peer over. Presently; something seemed to have been sighted. The second Osage ran back, to General Custer's bridle.

"What is it?" General Custer was almost breathless.

[276] "Heaps Injuns down dere."

General Custer went forward afoot with his orderly. They peered, lying flat, from the little ridge. Down below there was a dark mass of animals bunched together; farther on, a half frozen river gleamed icily where it wended amidst the leafless trees. The river was the Washita.

The two Osages had said not another word.

"Those may be buffalo. Why do you think Indians are down there?"

"Hear dog bark."

At that instant a dog did bark thinly in the cold still night. A bell faintly tinkled.

"They're ponies," the general whispered to his panting orderly. "Buffaloes aren't in the habit of wearing bells, in this country."

He was gladly turning, to tell the column, when another sound drifted to him. It was the crying of a baby. And that sound struck through to his heart. Women and children were there, as well as warriors and ponies and dogs. He was going to drive them all out into the open: into the hungry cold.

First he brought his officers forward, to show them. They removed their sabers, so that no noise should be made. Sharp ears lightly slumbered in that distant village. The officers also crouched and peered. Midnight had passed. The ghostly glimmer of the white lodges could be glimpsed, along the river beyond the pony herd.

Down behind the ridge again, General Custer explained his plan. With his saber scabbard he drew a [277] sketch upon the snow crust. The village was to be surrounded; the attack signal would be sounded at day-break.

Major Joel Elliot, who had fought in the Indiana Volunteer cavalry during the Civil War, took Troops G, H and M; circuited to the left or east to get in the rear of the village from that side. Captain and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel William Thompson, who had served through the war with the Iowa cavalry, took Troops B and F, and made circuit to the right, for the rear of the village from that end. Captain and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Myers, who had won his way up from private in the old First Dragoons, was to take Troops E and I and post himself in the timber on the right. General Custer himself, with Troops A, C, D and K, and the scouts, the band, and the forty sharp-shooters, afoot, of First Lieutenant and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel William Winer Cooke, the Canadian who had served through the war with the New York cavalry, would charge straight down. The attack signal should be the first notes of the band.

The Major Elliot and Colonel Thompson detachments had ridden away, to left and right. It was two o'clock, and growing bitter cold. The Custer and Myers men were permitted to dismount, but ordered to stay at the heads of their horses and hold the reins. There must be no moving about, no making of fires, no talking, no stamping of feet.

Those were long, cruel four hours, until daybreak. Officers and men had no way to keep from freezing, except by cowering in their overcoats. And they all [278] knew that the Indians were many, would fight desperately for their families and ponies; had the advantage of position, in the trees and under the river banks. After the first surprise, the bullets and arrows would fly.

"They'll fight like demons. Are you glad you came, Hamilton?"

"Yes, sir. The only person I'm sorry for is Mathey. He'll miss a rousing time. As for me, boys, you know how I always feel. I want a soldier's death. When my time comes I hope it will be a bullet through the heart, in battle."

Thus spoke Captain Louis McLane Hamilton, the young New Yorker, who had been brevetted for bravery at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg both.

Some of the officers threw their cavalry capes over their heads and slept upon the snow. The men squatted, whispered low and huddled. The horses drooped and shivered, their nostrils white with frost. The moon was being veiled with clouds.

The Osages were in solemn council, sitting in a circle. They had not much hope of victory. The white chief with the yellow hair might fail in his surprise; he was out-numbered; the village looked strong. They feared that to save himself he would trade them off—he would surrender them to the Cheyennes. Ugh!

"The flag that he carries is the big white medicine," said old Hard Rope. "That will be guarded; it will not be taken into danger. Let us stay near it, in the fight. Then if the white chief is winning we will help him; if he is losing we can run away."

[279] "It is good talk," the other Osages agreed.

About four o'clock the moon disappeared, and left darkness. The stinging cold increased. After a long, long time the darkness began to thin; the first grayness showed, over the hills in the east. Everything lay in utter stillness; not a dog barked, not a baby cried. The village slept.

It was the Cheyenne village of Chief Black Kettle. Down river there was another large village, of the Cheyennes and the Arapahos. Below that there was the village of the Kiowas and Comanches. Two thousand people slumbered upon the banks of the Washita. The war party from the north had come in. It had killed mail carriers between Fort Dodge and Fort Larned, in Kansas; had killed an old hunter near Fort Dodge; had killed two dispatch bearers riding for General Sheridan. It brought back scalps, but it did not know that it had brought the soldiers too.

General Custer trudged from officer to officer, awakening them. The first sergeants aroused the men, who staggered stiffly to their feet. Suddenly an alarming sight appeared. A ball of fire rose slowly into the dusky sky above the eastern ridge that separated the troops from the village in the valley.

It was like a small flaming globe. A fire arrow! A signal rocket! How had the Indians obtained a signal rocket? No matter; one of the other columns had been discovered—that was the token, spreading the word. Up, and up, and up the flaming ball soared. It changed from reddish gold to yellow, and to blue, and to lemon—

[280] "How long it hangs! Why doesn't it burst?" somebody exclaimed.

While they waited for the downward curve, it flashed white and beautiful. General Custer gasped, much relieved.

"A star! The morning star, gentlemen. That's all."

They took it for a good luck omen: not Napoleon's and Sam Houston's sun of Austerlitz, but Custer's star of Austerlitz, promising "Custer's luck."

The gray had lightened the darkness. Morning had come at last.

"You will make ready," Old Curly said. "Over-coats and haversacks are to be left here; one man from each company to remain as guard. Colonel Myers, you will move out to the right, and when within striking distance wait for the signal to attack; then you will charge at the same time with the other columns. You had better dismount part of your men."

Colonel Myers moved out.

"Remember, not a shot is to be fired until the attack has been signaled," the general directed again. And the caution passed.

The troopers stripped off their haversacks and over-coats, and piled them up.

"Mount!"

They climbed the ridge. Captain Robert West's squadron of two companies deployed on the right; Captain Louis Hamilton's squadron deployed on the left, with Colonel "Queen's Own" Cooke's sharpshooters before it. General Custer and his bugler orderly led [281] in the center, with the band riding behind, and the stars and stripes and the regimental colors escorted by the smart Osages.

Down from the ridge they cantered. The pony herd was farther away than they had thought; three quarters of a mile, at least. The ponies scented the cavalry horses; snorted and ran. But if the Indians heard, they might imagine that the ponies were only getting hungry and restless.

The dawn was brightening rapidly. The village would soon be astir. General Custer feared that he would not arrive in time. He could see smoke welling sluggishly from the pointed tops of the lodges, into the dark trees. The lodges occupied both sides of the river. And still not a voice was heard, not a dog barked, not a movement was to be made out.

Where were the Colonel Thompson and Major Elliot detachments? Much depended upon them. Had they been able to take position? All the columns should strike together. Any one of them was too small to go it alone.

Old Curly glanced over his shoulder. The band was following close. Every man had his instrument at his lips. The band master, his cheeks puffed against his cornet, was keeping his eyes glued to his general's back, awaiting the signal to play.

Rah! Suddenly a single rifle shot rang sharp and clear and startling, from the lower end of the village. General Custer turned quickly in his saddle.

"Garryowen!" he cried. "Now! Play!"

The tune burst upon the frosty air:

[282]

Our hearts so stout have got us fame,

For soon 'tis known from whence we came;

Where'er we go they dread the name

Of Garryowen in glory.

It was the marching tune and battle tune of the Seventh Cavalry—had been the marching tune and battle tune of the Custer Third Division in the Civil War.

The notes rent the stillness. Cheers answered like echoes—the Colonel Thompson column and the Major Elliot column and the Colonel Myers column had heard, and were charging.

"The charge, bugler! Hurrah, men! Give it to 'em! "

"Hooray!"

The surprise was complete. Only Chief Black Kettle had caught the trampling of the Major Elliot's horses in the snow; had sprung to the door of his black lodge and fired his rifle, as an alarm.

The soldiers rushed into the village from all sides. The band had dropped back; upon a little knoll it blared "Garryowen" over and over and over. Old Curly, his yellow hair streaming from under his wolf-fur cap, his revolver high, led his line; Adjutant Myles Moylan was at his one stirrup-strapping Sergeant-Major Walter Kennedy forged to the other. Captain Hamilton and Captain West were at left and right.

"Now, men, keep cool, fire low and not too rapidly,"

Captain Hamilton cautioned, to his squadron.

The troopers yelled, the horses leaped. The line [283] struck the first Cheyenne lodges and opened with bullet from carbine and revolver.

The lodges boiled with half-clad Indians. Men, women and children darted in every direction, into the trees and into the river. They also opened, with ball and arrow. Captain Hamilton lurched from his saddle, shot through the heart. That was the end which he had wished.

Captain Alfred Barnitz of Ohio killed two Indians and was shot through the body. For this he was brevetted colonel. The village indeed battled stoutly. Black Kettle was dead—killed at the door of his lodge, in same manner that Iron Shirt the Kiowa-Apache had been killed in the Kit Carson men's charge at Adobe Walls. Koom-la-manche the Osage took his scalp. Black Kettle's wife was killed, fighting by his side. Boy Black Kettle fell. He had mounted his pony-revolver in hand had charged Captain Fred Benteen had refused to surrender and had charged firing—had killed Captain Benteen's horse and was about to kill the captain also. Then he had died like the son of a great chief.

The warriors were fighting, the women were fighting, the boys were fighting. And worse happened. A squaw was leading a little white boy captive away. When she found that she could not escape with him she plunged her knife into him. In the lodges and in the snow white women were being treated in the same fashion.

The Custer men had crossed the river, to the main village. They held it, but the Cheyennes held the [284] stream banks and the trees. There was fierce give and take for three hours. The soldiers were dismounted, to fight on foot. Thirty-eight warriors resisted savagely from a ravine; the sharpshooters at last wiped them out.

The death songs were rising—women were shrieking, children crying, soldiers cheering. The Osages found the squaws running for shelter; rounded them up with switches and herded them back into the village. They wailed, and the warriors knew that a great blow had befallen them.

Now in the lull General Custer ordered Lieutenant and Brevet Captain Algernon Smith, whose arm had been crippled in the Civil War, to count the lodges.

"Fifty-two, general," Captain Smith reported, rather breathless. "But I may have missed some. I counted in a hurry; those confounded squaws were popping at me, from inside the lodges, every step."

General Custer saw warriors gathering upon a hill below the village. He examined them through his glass. They were mounted, they were armed and fresh and wore war bonnets. This puzzled him. California Joe had driven the pony herd in—where did these mounted warriors come from?

He hastened to ask a young squaw, with Romero interpreting.

"There are many lodges below," she said. "Their warriors are coming. You will all be killed. Your scalps will dry in our fires."

That was true. The Arapahos of Little Raven, the Kiowas of Satanta and Lone Wolf, the chiefs and [285] braves of the Comanches and the Apaches—they had heard the battle, they had armed and had mounted and were rallying to the rescue of the Black Kettle village.

The tables had been turned. In place of surrounding, the Yellow Hair was being surrounded. He was inside, and the enemy was outside. And his supply train and the guard of eighty men were supposed to be slowly following him in. If the Indians espied them, then goodby to the wagons and ammunition and all.

It was the same fix that had daunted Colonel Kit Carson. General Custer knew that he must act fast. He posted his troops, to hold the enemy off. Major Elliot and fifteen enlisted men were missing. Sergeant-Major Walter Kennedy likewise had disappeared. Nobody seemed to know where they were. Captain Hamilton was dead; Captain Barnitz was thought to be dying; three enlisted men had been killed; Captain Tom Custer (the general's brother), Second Lieutenant Thomas Jefferson March (a "shave-tail" who had graduated from West Point only last June) and eleven enlisted men were wounded. One of the wounded was a little bugler boy.

A steel pointed arrow had glanced around his fore-head from eye clear to opposite ear.

"Did you see the Indian who shot you?" General Custer asked, in the hospital.

Then the boy stuck his hand into his trousers pocket and drew something out.

"Anybody who thinks I didn't see that Injun can take a look at this scalp."

The guard who had been left with the overcoats and [286] haversacks came bolting in for safety. The Indians from the other villages had routed them out and seized the coats and rations. But hurrah! An army wagon was lurching into the valley, its six mules at a tearing gallop, and a small escort of troopers keeping pace.

Through the skirmish line it passed, and was safe. The brave First Lieutenant and Quarter-master James M. Bell, who had twice been brevetted for gallantry in the Civil War, had brought ammunition; and how he had escaped the Indians, nobody knew.

Now while the skirmish line bristled anew the lodges were searched for wounded and skulkers; the goods were counted and piled up; the lodges were pulled down, and heaped atop, and everything set afire.

Over eleven hundred buffalo robes, four thousand arrows, two hundred and forty-one saddles, one thousand pounds of lead, five hundred pounds of powder, seven hundred pounds of tobacco, four hundred and seventy Government blankets, and so forth, and so forth: all the wealth of the Southern Cheyennes went up in flame and smoke. The Indians charged madly. Mounted companies counter-charged and forced them back.

General Custer deemed that it was high time for him to get out. It was the tail of the afternoon; early dusk threatened and he had been fighting since daylight. He had fifty-three prisoners, all women and children, and two little white children, to guard; he had eight hundred and seventy-five half-wild ponies.

He could not take the ponies. His orders were to leave none for the enemy. Four companies were told off as firing squads. The soldiers shot with tears in [287] their eyes. It was the hardest task of the long day. From the hills the Indians shouted vengefully.

The bugles rang "Forward." The band had come in. In close columns, with flags flying, band playing, prisoners surrounded, the Seventh moved right down the valley, as if to attack the other villages.

This was a bold feint. The Arapahos, the Kiowa.s, the Comanches, the remaining Cheyennes, raced to save their lodges and families. They feared the terrible Yellow Hair, and they cleared the road. But instead of attacking, after dark Old Curly turned squarely about, marched up the valley again and took the back trail for the wagon train. He left the Indians wondering, and reached the train on the next day, November 28.

Sergeant-Major Kennedy, and the Major Joel Elliot detachment were still missing. They had last been seen in chase of a party of Indians; the scouts had searched for them in vain; nothing more could be done. They might have escaped, they might have been cut off in the hills.

Not until two weeks later were they found, where they had formed a little circle, two miles out from the village, and fought to the end.

So while the Cheyennes mourned for Black Kettle, Little Rock, and one hundred others, the Seventh Cavalry mourned young Captain Hamilton, brave Major Joel Elliot and Sergeant-Major Kennedy and eighteen troopers.


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