1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
The 22nd Infantry At Spring Creek, October 1876
"US Army -- Infantry Attacked By Indians -- 1875"
An illustration from The
US Army and Navy 1776-1899, published in 1899
by the Werner Company of Akron, Ohio
In the latter part of 1876 the
command of Colonel Nelson Miles, which at the time was a major
of the Army's campaign against the Sioux, was ordered by the War Department to cease operations
and camp for the winter months at the mouth of the Tongue River, where it meets the Yellowstone River.
This was deep in Dakota Territory, in what is now the State of Montana.
At this time of the year supply
boats could go no further up the Yellowstone than the mouth
of Glendive Creek. Six companies of the 22nd Infantry were detailed to meet the boats at Glendive,
and bring the supplies by wagon train to Miles' Tongue River encampment.
From October 11 through October
16 of 1876 these wagon trains of the 22nd Infantry
were met with attacks by the Sioux, for about half the distance the trains had to travel. ¹
¹ Webmaster 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
1st Lieutenant Oskaloosa M. Smith
Smith served with the 22nd Infantry from 1869 to 1890
On October 26, 1876 Oskaloosa
Smith wrote the following account of the wagon trains
as they moved to resupply the encampment at Tongue River.
DURING THE LAST CAMPAIGN OF THE
SUMMER, commencing August 8 at the mouth of the Rosebud and
ending at this camp
on the 6th of September, scarcely a wild Indian was seen. The season of operations was ordered to close on or before October 15th,
and troops were ordered to be cantoned for the winter at the mouth of Tongue River. The entire 5th Infantry was sent there to commence building,
so that the troops and stores might be protected from the severe winter climate, and no time was lost. Six companies of 22nd Infantry were left at this point
[cantonment at Glendive Creek on the Yellowstone] to receive the stores from the boats, which could go no further up the river,
and convoy them to Tongue River. Afterward, added to this force were two companies of 17th Infantry. These were all small companies,
numbering about 35 men each. They had performed the escort duty, making nearly three trips each month with a train of 100 wagons,
without molestations by Indians, until the last trip.
On the 10th inst. at noon, the train left here, and that night camped on Spring Creek, 14 miles out. The next morning they were surrounded
and attacked by a large number of Indians, and in the skirmish numbers of mules were wounded, which caused a stampede and some loss of animals.
The escort was so harassed that they were compelled to either abandon several wagons and some property, or else to return to this place;
the latter course they prudently pursued, arriving late on the evening of the 11th.
The train was refitted and started again on the 14th, the commanding officer of the station, Lt. Col. [Elwell S.] Otis, taking command of the escort,
consisting of C and G of the 17th Inf., and G, H, and K of the 22nd Inf., being a force of 11 officers and 185 men. The roster of officers was as follows:
Lt. Col. Otis, 22nd Inf.,
1st Lt. [Oskaloosa M.] Smith, 22nd Inf., Battalion Adjutant
Act. Asst. Surg. [Charles T.] Gibson, Surgeon
Co. C, 17th Inf., Capt. [Malcolm] McArthur, 2nd Lt. [James D.] Nickerson
Co. G, 17th Inf., Capt. [Louis H.] Sanger
Co. G, 22nd Inf., Capt. [Charles W.] Miner, 1st Lt. [Benjamin C.] Lockwood
Co. H, 22nd Inf., 1st Lt. [William] Conway, 2nd Lt. Sharpe
Co. K, 22nd Inf., Capt. [Mott] Hooton, 2nd Lt. [William H.] Kell
At 10 o'clock A.M. [October 14]
the escort and train moved out gaily. The day was beautiful and
every man was in good spirits,
feeling that they would meet the enemy before returning. That night camp was made in the beautiful bottom of the Yellowstone, 11 miles away.
Early in the evening a thieving pack of Indians approached the camp and were fired upon by the sentinels. They beat a hasty retreat,
leaving a pony with all its trappings and a leg broken. There were no more alarms that night.
At daybreak the next morning [October 15] the train was on the move, drawn up in four lines and surrounded by the escort
which was disposed as follows: advance guard, Co. H., 22nd; advance right and left flankers, Co. C, 17th; right flank rear, Co. G, 22nd;
left flank rear, Co. G. 17th; rear guard, Co. K, 22nd. It was Sunday morning and a prettier one never broke forth.
Upon gaining the entrance to Spring Creek three miles from camp, three men joined the train, who proved to be scouts from
General [Colonel] Miles' command at Tongue River. They were en route, four in number, from General Miles with dispatches for Glendive Creek;
on Saturday afternoon [October 14] they were attacked at Spring Creek by a large number of Indians, one of their number was killed,
and all their horses were either killed or badly wounded. The remaining three men were driven into the bushes, were they kept the Indians at bay
until the darkness of night let them escape and they were thus enabled to join our troops. The body of the dead scout was found and buried.
He was not at all mutilated and his gloves were on; evidently the Indians had not found him, but his gun and ammunition could not be found.
About this time the Indians made
their appearance on the left side and in front, and opened fire
on Scout [Robert] Jackson and Sergeant [Patrick] Kelly,
Co. F, 22nd Inf., who were mounted and in advance. They had run into a large party of Indians, and after discharging their rifles at them,
they fell back, closely followed by about thirty, their clothing being literally riddled by bullets but their bodies entirely unharmed.
These two men did a great deal of scouting, coming in close quarters several times with the Indians, and showed a great deal of pluck and bravery.
The number of Indians kept increasing; the left flank advanced and the advanced guard charged them, opening the way for the train,
which was enabled to ascend to the high table land. Then to our front signal smokes were raised, which were immediately answered
by some vast ones off toward the Yellowstone, and Indians were seen coming from all directions, until the train was surrounded by from 400 to 500.
During this time we had gained the ridge and hills leading down into Clear Creek and here the enemy had taken position
expecting to prevent our progress, but skirmishers were sent ahead and the road was cleared, so that we gained the creek
and watered the stock in full view of the foe. But they were not idle; they collected on the further side and set afire to the prairie,
expecting to burn us out and to advance under cover of the smoke and signally defeat us, but our troops gallantly charged them,
answering the Indian yell, and drove them in all directions, so that the train could move on, though it had to pass rapidly over the line of burning grass.
As soon as the top land was
reached beyond Clear Creek, the enemy came in strong force
against all parts of the escort.
There were eighty-six wagons to guard, but they were in four lines and surrounded by our skirmishers. The prairies were burning,
the smoke was suffocating, and the enemy hurled his whole force with desperation against the train, bent upon its capture,
so that he would be well provided with food and ammunition, but they were kept at some distance by the advance upon them of the skirmishers,
and not a shot damaged the train. The roar of musketry was terrific. There was no artillery; it was simply an infantry fight.
They were repeatedly charged in front by C, 17th, and H, 22nd, and in the rear, which was the most pressed, by G, 17th, and K, 22nd.
Company G, 22nd, during all this time, had a galling flank fire upon them.
This was kept up under a march of 15 miles until nearly 5 o'clock, P.M., when the train was corraled for the night,
and shots were still exchanged until 7 P.M., when it became too dark to see. In this struggle a number of Indians were knocked from their horses;
many of the latter were killed and a number were running around riderless. These Indians had never before come in close range of infantry,
or been subjected to such a musketry fire.
It was expected that they would
the next morning be on us again, but we moved quietly from our
After going a mile or more a shot was occasionally fired. About this time a note from Sitting Bull, written by a half-breed Frenchman
[John Bruguier], was found on a stake near the road, demanding reasons for traveling over the road and scaring the buffaloes,
and ordering the troops back, telling them to leave rations and powder or he would fight them again, and signed
"your friend, Sitting Bull. Please write soon." No attention was paid to the letter.
After the troops had passed Bad Route Creek, seven miles from the night's camp, two men came forward bearing a flag of truce.
They were allowed to enter the lines, and were found to be Indian scouts from Standing Rock Agency with dispatches
from General [Lieutenant Colonel William P.] Carlin. They had been ordered to visit hostile camps on business and had just arrived that morning.
They said that the hostiles had met with considerable losses the day before and wanted to come in to make peace.
Word was sent to them that a few of their headmen might come in unarmed. They did so, stating that they were tired of fighting
and wanted to make peace. They wanted ammunition to kill buffaloes, and food for present use, and they would leave at once.
They were told that ammunition could not be furnished them, but a small quantity of rations would be given them,
which was accordingly done and they left us in peace.
During this fight several men were struck with spent bullets, and only three men were woundedSergeant [Robert] Anderson
and Private [John] Donohoe, Co. G, 22nd Inf., and Private [Francis] Wraggle [Marriaggi],Co. G, 17th Inf.
The Indians were poor marksmen. Our men were under fire for a long time and it is wonderful that no more men were hurt.
All of our troops showed great fortitude and bravery and many of the men were recruits. . . .
Map of the Yellowstone
The shaded portion shows the area of the encounters between
the Sioux and the wagon trains of the 22nd Infantry
2nd Lieutenant Alfred. C. Sharpe
Sharpe served with the 22nd Infantry from 1876 to 1893
Lieutenant Sharpe wrote the
following account at Glendive Cantonment, October 28, 1876.
. . . We left this place
[Glendive Cantonment] on Tuesday, October 10th, with a valuable
train of over one hundred wagons.
The escort consisted of Co. K, 22nd Inf., Capt. Hooton and Lt. Kell; Co. C, 22nd Inf., Lt. Conway and myself.
We encamped the first night on Deadwood Creek, about 14 miles from this post and about two miles from the Yellowstone.
We had received intelligence, before starting, that 600 lodges of hostile Sioux had set out for the Yellowstone
and that they probably intended to intercept us. All afternoon we noticed vast columns of smoke rising in the distant horizon;
they were signal fires heralding our approach. At about 11 P.M. we heard the report of a musket, and upon inquiry,
we ascertained that one of the pickets saw a man stealthily approaching our lines, who, upon being challenged, fled.
Quiet was soon restored, and our camp was again wrapped in profound repose.
At 3:30 A.M. we were aroused by
the sharp reports of a dozen rifles on the surrounding hills.
Hurrying out of my tent,
I saw the flashes of the muskets on the bluffs 500 yards distant. Bullets came hurtling and whistling by or tearing up the ground at my feet.
Finally, their fusillade ceasedwe did not return a shot. We busied ourselves getting breakfast and packing our tents and blankets for the march.
Daylight revealed to us the loss of 57 mules. They had been stampeded and run off by the Indians.
At sunrise [October 11] we resumed our march. Scarcely had the rear guardCapt. McArthur's companygot fairly under way,
when they were attacked by a party concealed in a ravine 200 yards to our left, filled with underbrush and small trees.
Capt. McArthur's company immediately deployed and charged the enemy, driving them over the bluffs and out of sight.
Company H supported Captain McArthur's on the right. We then resumed our march, but had not advanced 80 rods,
when they again opened firethis time on the right flank. They were concealed in a ravine. A few shots were exchanged,
but without stopping the march. Looking back, we could see them literally swarming on our campground.
Their numbers were being rapidly augmented and they became bolder and more aggressive. All day long they hung on our rear,
occasionally sending a ball whistling through our ranks. Embarrassed as we were by the loss of so many teams,
the progress of our heavily-laden wagons was very tedious, and as the hostiles seemed to come swarming from every direction,
now attacking us on the rear, on the flanks, and in front, it was decided to turn and fight our way through to Glendive.
As we headed for home, the firing gradually ceased, the Indians seeming nonplused by this move.
We arrived at this post about 9 P.M., Wednesday evening, October llth.
After two days' rest, Col. Otis
of my regiment took command, and increasing the escort to five
companies by the addition
of Company G, 17th Infantry, Major Sanger, we again set out [on October 14], determined to go through to Tongue River
if fighting could take us there. We also had three Gatling guns. The first day we marched ten miles. That night at eight o'clock
we were all "turned out" by a shot on the picket line. Two cavaliers had approached, and being challenged by the sentinel,
turned in flight. But his swift bullet overtook them and next morning we discovered outside the line an Indian pony with a broken leg;
it had saddle, bridle, blankets, and picket rope, just as they had been abandoned by the dusky rider the night before.
We resumed the march at about 7 o'clock [October 15]. It was the "peaceful Sabbath," a lovely day.
My company was the advance guard, and as we strode along on that bright morning, I was thinking "how pleasant it would be
to be away back in the States today to hear the church bells ringing and to see the good people coming into church;"
and I almost imagined I could hear the sweet tones of the organ and the words, "The Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth keep silence before him," when suddenly from the bluffs ahead came the sharp, quick reports of musketry,
and then the air was rent with screams and yells the most diabolical I ever heard. Two of our scouts had gone ahead
and had discovered a large bank of redskins awaiting our approach. They sent a shower of bullets after the scouts,
who came flying down the hill like mad men. The Indians were close upon them and, indeed, it was a chase for life.
One of the scouts lost his hat. An Indian dismounted, picked it up, and rode off. One of the scouts had the cloth in the shoulder of his coat
torn open by a bullet. The other had a hole through his moccasin.
My company was immediately deployed "left front into line" and I was detached with ten men from the right to take position
on a very high hill on our right, while the main body of the company under Lt. Conway charged up the acclivity and after a short struggle,
in which several Indian saddles were emptied, drove the enemy from the bluffs. The fight had now fairly opened and from that moment
until the sun sank to resttwelve long hours we fought the fiends. About two o'clock, hot, thirsty, and weary,
we reached Clear Creek5 or 6 miles perhaps from our camp and about 16 miles from here. This creek flows through a deep,
rocky ravine, two hundred feet below the level of the plain. The hostiles had taken a strong position on the opposite side
commanding the valley and all approaches to the stream. But we must cross it, or consider ourselves defeated.
The Indians were hourly
reinforced until now they numbered upwards of three hundred. We
had but 180 muskets in line.
One of the Gatling guns was placed in position, and under its cover my Company H, being the advance guard,
made a rush for the valley; as we filed through it along the stream the Indians devoted their best shots to us.
Sergeant H of my company was marching about two paces from me when he was struck with a thump in the breast by a spent ball,
which fell, harmless, at his feet. They soon got the range and bullets came hissing about our heads and tearing up the ground all around
and about us. Finally, we reached the foot of the opposite side, and with a cry, we charged up the hill. The Indians then set fire to the tall grass
which was dry as tinder. The smoke was blinding and the heat intolerable, but rushing onward and upward, we gained the crest
and again drove the villains before us. Panting and exhausted, the men sank down, completely overcome. But we had cleared the way,
and we soon saw the long, white train of wagons climbing the hill.
The firing now became incessant. They were on all sides of us. We were completely surrounded.
Down in the valley the reverberations of the musketry was deafening. As the train slowly climbed the hill and the rearguard
Company K, 22nd Infantry, Capt. Hooton and Lt. Kell descended into the valley, the Indians closing in on them in great numbers.
A report came that their ammunition was failing and another thousand rounds were sent back to them. Major Sanger then turned back
to the relief of Capt. Hooton, as he was in imminent danger of being cut off. The enemy, having the vantage ground,
waxed bold and charge after charge was made with varying success.
The prairie was fired all around
us; we met the fires with counter-fires. Time and time again
would they bring us to a dead halt,
and a stubborn fight would ensue for possession of the road. Finally, the fire on the right flank ceased and they commenced enfillading our lines
on the left, at the same time holding us at bay at front. Lt. Conway with ten men from the right of Company H was detached to go ahead
and clear the way, while I was left with the remainder of the company on the left. Company G, 22nd Infantry, was advancing to our support;
when about ten paces from us, I saw a man in its lines drop like a log; he was shot in the knee. After a half-hour halt, we again prevailed
and wound onward. The prairie was ablaze all around us, rendering our passage in the road at certain places quite difficult.
The scene around me reminded me of the rhetorical descriptions we so often read of Napoleon's smoking wake.
We left a blackened, desolate waste behind us. Perhaps our little conflict of a single day may not compare with his mighty struggles,
but it was enough for about 180 men to attend to. Fighting a civilized enemy is perhaps rough work, but battling with fiends incarnate,
highway robbers and midnight assassins, "shapes hot from Tartarus," together with fire, smoke, hunger and thirst,
and the horrible fate of the captive at the stake in prospect is quite a different mode of warfare.
We were now on the high prairie,
far enough from wood and water. The enemy had possession of the
creek and to approach it was death.
The sun was sinking below the horizon, and it was decided to form our corral and go into campif sleeping a la belle etoile can be called "camp."
Rifle pits were dug around the entire corral at 500 yards from it, and you may believe there was little sleep in our camp that night.
Every available man was on picket. I rolled myself up in a buffalo robe and with a canteen for a pillow slept with "one eye open."
The firing had gradually subsided. The last shot was fired about 7 o'clock, and after making many attempts to burn us out by firing the prairie
on every side, the fiends withdrew until the morrow. Their loss had been heavy. We saw many ponies running about riderless.
One of our scouts came so close upon the Indians at one time as to kill one with a revolver. We had set out with 10,000 rounds of ammunition,
6,000 had already been expended, and here we were miles from the post and surrounded by the enemy. A gloomy prospect to be sure.
The next morning [October 16]
they again opened on us just after breakfast. The fighting was
not so heavy, but there was not a minute in the day
that we did not have a bullet hissing by. I have always read of bullets whizzing and hurtling. They could not have come from Indian muskets.
Their bullets hiss. The firing gradually subsided by 11 A.M., and the Indians began assembling in a body on an eminence half a mile ahead of us.
One of their number had a white flag and wore a white jacket. As we approached he came at a gallop, accompanied by another
with a white handkerchief, or rag, on his head. They presented Col. Otis a letter from Col. Carlin, commanding at Standing Rock [Agency, Dakota],
certifying that they were friendly scouts, had just arrived from Standing Rock, and were en route to hostile camps on official business.
They also presented the Colonel a letter from Sitting Bull, which you have doubtless already seen in the official reports.
They said Sitting Bull was encamped nearby and desired to have a pow-wow.
Half an hour later a glittering cavalcade approached and was received by the Colonel. Sitting Bull [Sharpe mis-identified this Indian]
declined to dismount, and had a private secretary whom our interpreter had to address, and who then communicated with General Sitting Bull.
After half an hour's talk, in which they were "mad" because we were running through their country and driving all their buffalo away,
it was agreed that Uncle Sam should give four boxes of crackers and three sides of bacon, in consideration of which res frumentaria
they would no longer molest us. The food was left in the road and we moved on. As a method of expressing his profound gratitude,
one warrior brought up his gun and sent a bullet hissing over our heads, just to frighten us perhapsthe cunning creature.
The rest of our march was not at all exciting, except when the buffalo began to increase in numbers. We saw thousands of them, also of antelope.
There is abundance of game in this country and the climate is simply glorious. It is all a delightful experience to me, of course. . . .
In the Regimental history of the 22nd Infantry
it is recorded that LTC Otis commended his command
for their actions in the above encounters. His report stated " I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of both officers and men.
The officers obeyed instructions with alacrity and executed their orders with great efficiency. They fought the enemy twelve hours,
and fired during that time upwards of seven thousand rounds of ammunition. They defeated a strong enemy,
who had defiantly placed himself across our trail with the deliberate purpose of capturing the train,
and gave him a lesson he will heed and never forget." ²
² Webmaster 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
The above black and white photographs, the map,
and the accounts by LT's Smith and Sharpe
were taken from the book:
Battles and Skirmishes of the Great Sioux War, 1876-1877 The Military View
Compiled, edited and annotated by Jerome A. Greene
Published by the University of Oklahoma Press
The book is available at:
UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS
Lieutenant Colonel Elwell S. Otis
In command of the wagon trains which were ordered to resupply the US Army encampment at Tongue River
Otis served with the 22nd Infantry from 1866 to 1880
The following are the official reports of the
above actions, as presented to the Secretary of War by LT COL
Otis and CPT Miner
of the 22nd Infantry. The are taken from the Annual Reports to the Secretary of War 1877-1878.
Glendive Creek, Montana, October 13, 1876.
SIR : I have the honor to inform
you that a loaded train started from this station for Tongue
River on the 10th instant, under the command of Capt. C. W.
Twenty-second Infantry, and returned the next day, the reasons for -which are fully set forth in the accompanying report of Captain Miner.
I have caused the train to be reorganized and will start with it myself to-morrow morning with companies C and G, Seventeenth Infantry, and G, H, and K,
Twenty-second Infantry, which force will have one hundred and eighty rifles; I will also take a section of Gatling guns, calibre 50. I have so few serviceable horses here
that I cannot have more than three or four mounted men. I am satisfied from all the information I can gather, that there is a large force of Indians in the country,
who seem to be bold and defiant; they have been hovering round this camp on both sides of the river for the past two days; and no doubt it is their plan to attempt
to break up the communication between this place and Tongue River; but I think we can pass through the country with the force I am taking. I leave this camp
under the command of Captain Clarke, Twenty-second Infantry, with his company (I), and with the men attached he will have eighty rifles and one Gatling gun, calibre 45.
Very respectfully, your obedient
E. S. OTIS,
Lieutenant-Colonel Twenty-second Infantry, Commanding. ASSISTANT-ADJUTANT GENERAL,
Department of Dakota, Saint Paul, Minn.
CAMP MOUTH OF GLENDIVE CREEK,
October 12, 1876.
SIR : In compliance with the verbal orders of
the commanding officer, I have the honor to report that on the
morning of the 10th instant, I started
for Tongue River with a train of ninety-four wagons and one ambulance, escorted by four companies of infantry, strength as follows:
Company C, Seventeenth United States Infantry.............................................. 39
Company H, Twenty-second United States Infantry................Strength not stated.
Company G, Twenty-second United States Infantry.................Strength not stated.
Company K, Twenty-second United States Infantry................Strength not stated.
That I moved from camp at the mouth of Glendive Creek at half-past ten in the morning. So soon as the head of my train appeared on the hills,
on the west side of the camp, I saw a signal fire spring up on the opposite bank of the Yellowstone River, some ten miles above and opposite the camp
I intended to make that evening. I arrived in campwhat is called Fourteen-mile Campabout five in the evening. The camp is in the bed of the creek
and Commanded by hills at short range on all sides but the south, where it is open toward the Yellowstone, there is a good deal of brush and some timber
along the banks of the creek. The corrals were made as compactly as possible for the night and secured with ropes. The companies were camped close
to them, two on each side. Thirty-six men and four noncommissioned officers were detailed for guard. Two reserves were formed and placed on the flanks
not protected by the companies. At 3 o'clock a. m. of the 11th the Indians made an attack on camp accompanied by yells and a hot fire, from a ravine
about two hundred yards away. The fire was entirely directed on the corral and they had the range exactly. This fire excited the mules so that they
broke the ropes of the corrals and stampeded, falling into the hands of the Indians; forty-one from the government train and six from the railroad.
One mule was shot through. The firing continued for about half an hour, when the Indians moved off, not only the party who had done the firing but
another party on the other side of the camp, who had not fired, but who were heard to move off.
At six I prepared to move forward. The road
here for about three miles runs up the bed of the creek camped
on, and there are a number of cross ravines.
After the train started, but before the rear guard had left camp, they were fired upon from the timber skirting the creek, and a large body of Indians,
estimated at from two to three hundred, came over the foot-hills between the camp and the Yellowstone River, on the east side of camp.
These Indians engaged the rear guard, commanded by Captain McArthur, Seventeenth Infantry, at long range and kept up a continual skirmish, firing out
of all the depressions, in the ground and from behind the crests of hills. This forced me to move at a snail's pace, so as to keep the train closed up,
and that the rear guard should not be left too far behind. As soon as I reached the high prairie, I could see large numbers of Indians on my left coming up
apparently from the Yellowstone River, and passing to my front; these were entirely distinct and in addition to those in my rear. My impression was
that they intended to attack me at the next water. Clear Creek, eight miles from my camp of the night of 10th instant. Clear Creek is a deep ravine,
very bad to get down to, and hard to pull up out of; it is so narrow that the hills on either side will command its entire width. At half-past 11 a. m.,
I had gotten within about half a mile of Clear Creek. My rear was still fired on, and Indians could be seen on all sides. I sent my wagon-master ahead
to examine Clear Creek, if possible; he came back and reported that he saw twelve in the ravine through which he would be obliged to descend,
and that he had heard firing on the creek itself and believed they were in force there. I at once decided that in the crippled condition of the train
it would be best to return to the camp at the mouth of Glendive Creek. My reasons were these. So far the Indians had shown a force, as near as I could estimate,
of from four to six hundred; their signal fires were springing up in all directions. I was satisfied that if I took the train into the bed of Clear Creek,
that it would be attacked, and be so much further crippled as to necessitate the abandonment of some of the wagons. That the same performance
would take place at the next creek and in all probability in much larger force, if I were not compelled to camp away from both wood and water.
That with the force I had I could not cover the herd in its necessary grazing, that in going forward I should lose the major part of the train,
and finally that if I turned at once I could take the train back to the supply camp in safety. I at once turned back up Clear Creek to reach the upper trail,
and reached it in about two miles. This trail is on high open ground, and there are no intersecting ravines, so that it gave me all the advantage in moving.
So soon as I reached the new trail, the attack in my rear ceased, although the Indians followed me at some distance and could be seen in small parties
till late in the afternoon. I had no further trouble with them, and reached camp at 9 p. m., after a hard march of 29 miles. In closing I wish to state
that it is my belief that a much larger force than four companies of about forty men each will be required to force the train through.
That it should be supplied with a force of at least twenty-four good mounted men, plenty of water kegs kept constantly filled, and not used from
except in case of real necessity, and at least one guntwo would be better.
In reply to the signal fires, I saw a dense
smoke arise apparently in the little Missouri country about the
head of Beaver, and believe that one of their many camps
with their families is in that section of country, and that there is a camp somewhere about O'Fallon Creek for the purpose of annoying trains.
The men and officers did, all of them, exceedingly well, and it is due to them that the train came off as well as it did. The wagon-masters were the only men
that I had available as scouts, and were invaluable to me in that capacity in looking over the country in my front.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
CHARLES W. MINER, Captain Twenty-second Infantry. POST ADJUTANT.
Captain Charles W. Miner, who wrote the above report
Photo from U.S. Army Military History
Institute, Carlisle, PA
RG40S W. W. Dinwiddie Coll. 312 via Dave Eckroth and Howard Boggess
HEADQUARTERS BATTALION TWENTY-SECOND INFANTRY,
Station near Glendive Creek, Montana, October 27, 1876.
SIR: I have the honor to report that, as
communicated in my letter of the 13th instant to the headquarters
of the department, I commenced the trip
to Tongue River with the supply-train upon the morning of the 14th instant. Forty-one of the citizen teamsters, having become too greatly demoralized
to continue service upon the road, were discharged and the necessary places filled with enlisted men. The train consisted of eighty-six wagons
and the escort of Companies C and G, Seventeenth Infantry, and G, H, and K, Twenty second Infantry. Details were made from these companies
and left behind with Captain Clarke, commanding Company I, Twenty-second Infantry, who was directed to remain at Glendive; and his command,
thus re-enforced, consisted of four officers and ninety-seven enlisted men. The train escort consisted of eleven commissioned officers (myself included)
and one hundred and eighty-five enlisted men. We proceeded the first day 12 miles and encamped upon the broad bottom of the Yellowstone River,
without discovering a sign of the presence of the Indians. During the night a small thieving party was fired upon by the picket, but the party escaped,
leaving behind a single pony with its trappings, which was killed. At dawn of day upon the 15th the train pulled out in two strings and proceeded quietly
to Spring Creek, distant from camp about three miles. Then I directed two mounted men (Scout Robert Jackson and Sergeant Kelly, Company F,
Twenty-second Infantry) to station themselves upon a hill beyond the creek and watch carefully the surrounding country until the train should pass through the defile.
The men advanced at swift pace in the proper direction, and, when within 50 yards of the designated spot, they received a volley from a number
of concealed Indians, when suddenly men and Indians came leaping down the bluff. The men escaped without injury to person, although their clothing was
riddled with bullets. I quickly advanced a thin skirmish-line to the bluffs, which drove out forty or fifty Indians, and, making a similar movement on the
opposite flank, the train passed through the gorge and gained the high table-land. Here three or four scouts, sent out by Colonel Miles from Tongue River,
joined us. They had been driven into the timber on the previous evening, then corraled; had lost their horses and one of their number, and escaped
to the bluffs under cover of the darkness. The dead scout was found and buried. The train proceeded quietly along the level prairie, surrounded by
the skirmish-line, and the Indians were coming thick and fast from the direction of Cabin Creek; but few shots were exchanged and both parties were preparing
for the struggle, which it was evident would take place at the deep and broken ravine of Clear Creek, through which the train must pass.
We cautiously entered the ravine, and from one hundred and fifty to two hundred Indians had gained the surrounding bluffs to our left.
Signal fires were lighted for miles around, and extended far away on the opposite side of the Yellow-stone. The prairies to our front were fired
and sent up vast clouds of smoke. We had no artillery and nothing remained to do except to charge the bluffs. Company G, Seventeenth, and Company H,
Twenty-second Infantry, were thrown forward upon the run, and gallantly scaled the bluffs, answering the Indian yell with one equally as barbarous
and driving back the enemy to another ridge of hills. We then watered all the stock at the creek, took on water for the men, and the train slowly ascended the bluffs.
The country now surrounding us was much broken, the Indians continued to increase in numbers, surrounded the train, and the entire escort became engaged.
The train was drawn up in four strings and the entire escort enveloped it by a thin skirmish-line. In that formation we advanced, the Indians pressing every point,
especially the rear, which was only enabled to follow by charging the enemy and then retreating rapidly toward the train, taking advantage of the knolls and ridges
in its course. The flanks were advanced about a thousand yards, and the road was opened in the front by repeated charges. In this manner we advanced
several miles and then halted for the night upon a depression of the high prairie, the escort holding the surrounding ridge. The Indians had now attempted
every artifice. They had pressed every point of the line; had run their fires through the train, which we were compelled to cross with great rapidity;
had endeavored to approach under the cover of the smoke when they found themselves overmatched by the officers and men, who, taking advantage
of the cover, moved forward and took them at close range. They had met with considerable loss; a good number of their saddles were emptied and
several ponies wounded. Their firing was wild in the extreme, and I should consider them the poorest of marksmen. For several hours they kept up a brisk fire
and wounded but three or four men, two but slightly, and one, Private Donohue, of Company G, Twenty-second Infantry, whom I was compelled to leave
at Tongue River, but who will ultimately recover.
Upon the morning of the 16th the train pulled
out in four strings and we took up the advance, formed as upon
the previous day. Many Indians occupied
the surrounding hills, and soon a runner approached and left a communication upon a distant hill. It was brought in by the scout Jackson, and read as follows:
" I want to know what you are doing traveling on this road. You scare all the buffalo away. I want to hunt on the place. I want you to turn back from here.
If you don't, I will fight you again. I want you to leave what you have got here, and turn back from here.
"I am your friend,
" I mean all the rations you have got, and some powder. Wish you would write as soon as you can."
I directed the scout Jackson to inform the
Indians that I had nothing to say in reply, except that we
intended to take the train through to Tongue River,
and that we should be pleased to accommodate them at any time with a fight. The train continued to proceed, and about eight o'clock the Indians again
began to gather for battle. We passed through the long narrow gorge near Bad Route Creek, exchanging but few shots and soon reached the creek,
when we again watered the stock and took on wood and water, consuming in this labor about an hour's time. When we had pulled up the gentle ascent,
the Indians had again surrounded us, but the lesson of the previous day taught them to keep at long range, and there was but little firing by either party.
I counted one hundred and fifty Indians in our rear, and from their movements and positions, I judged their numbers to be between three and five hundred.
After proceeding a short distance a flag of truce appeared on the left flank borne by two Indians, whom I directed to be allowed to enter the lines.
They proved to be Indian scouts from Standing Rock agency, bearing dispatches from Lieutenant-Colonel Carlin, of the Seventeenth Infantry,
stating that they had been sent out to find Sitting Bull, and to endeavor to influence him to proceed to some military post and treat for peace.
These scouts informed me that they had that morning reached the camp of Sitting Bull and Man-afraid-of-his-horses, near the mouth of Cabin Creek;
that they had talked with Sitting Bull, who wished to see me outside the lines. I declined the invitation, but professed a willingness to see Sitting Bull
within my own lines. The scouts left me and soon returned with three principal soldiers of Sitting Bull, the last-named individual being unwilling
to trust his person within our reach. The chiefs said that their people were very angry because our trains were driving away the buffalo from
their hunting grounds; that they were hungry and without ammunition, and that they especially wished to obtain the latter; that they were tired of the war
and desired to conclude a peace. I informed them that I could not give them ammunition; that had they saved the amount already wasted upon the train
it would have sufficed them for hunting purposes for a long time; that I had no authority to treat with them upon any terms whatever; but that they were
at liberty to visit Tongue River and there make known conditions. They wished to know what assurance I could give them of their safety should they
visit that place, and I replied that I could give them nothing but the word of an officer. They then wished rations for their people, promising to proceed to
Fort Peck immediately, and from there to Tongue River. I declined to give them the rations, but finally offered them, as a present, one hundred and fifty pounds
of hard bread and two sides of bacon, which they gladly accepted. The train moved on, and the Indians fell to the rear. Upon the following day I saw
a number of them from Cedar Creek, far away to the right, and after that time they disappeared entirely. Upon the evening of the 18th, I met Colonel Miles,
encamped with his entire regiment on Custer Creek. Alarmed for the safety of the train, he had set out from Tongue River upon the previous day.
I told him of the situation of affairs, and informed him that be would find the Indian camp either about the mouth of Cabin Creek or far away on his left,
traveling in the direction of Fort Peck. He concluded to go on to Cherry Creek and there await my return from Tongue River, but having reached that point
he found the Indians engaged in hunting the large bands of buffalo which were roaming between that and Cedar Creek. His future operations I believe
he has fully reported, and forwarded his dispatches by couriers. I returned to this station with the train yesterday, the 26th instant, having consumed
thirteen days in making the journey. The train was returned richer by two mules and two horses than when it started out, and suffered no loss.
In concluding this report I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of both officers and men. The officers obeyed instructions with alacrity,
and executed their orders with great efficiency. They fought the enemy twelve hours and fired during that time upwards of seven thousand rounds
of ammunition. They defeated a strong enemy, estimated by many at from seven to eight hundred, which had defiantly placed himself across our trail
with the deliberate purpose of capturing the train, and gave him a lesson which he will heed and never forget. I was ably assisted by Lieut. O. M. Smith,
my only staff officer. All other officers were serving with the companies and furnished to their men examples of fearless exposure and great endurance.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. S. OTIS,
Lieutenant-Colonel Twenty-second Infantry, Commanding. ASSISTANT ADJUTANT-GENERAL,
Headquarters Department of Dakota, Saint Paul, Minn.
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