OUR arrival in camp created a sensation among the comrades who had seen us depart upon what they might well have considered an errand of questionable prudence. Leaving my companions of the march to answer the many queries of those who had not accompanied us, I galloped across the narrow plain which separated General Sheridan's tents from my camp and was soon greeted by the General and staff in terms of hearty welcome. Repairing to the General's tent, I soon counted the principal incidents of my expedition, with most of which the reader has been already made acquainted. I found that the Arapahoes had kept their promise made to me while I was in their village, and that the village was then located near our main camp.
It might be proper here to remark although a period of several years has elapsed since the Arapahoes were induced to accept the offer of peace made to them, and promised to relinquish in the future their predatory mode of life, yet to this day, so far as I know, they as a tribe have remained at peace with the white men. This remark may not, and probably does not, apply to particular individuals of the tribe, but it is due to the tribe to state that their conduct, since the events related in the preceding chapter has been greatly to their credit, as well as to the peace and comfort of the settlers of the frontier; results wholly due to the Washita campaign and the subsequent events with which the reader of these articles is familiar. The conduct of the Cheyennes, however, in declining our proffers of peace, left the Indian question in that section of country still unsettled; but this only rendered new plans necessary, plans which were quickly determined upon.
Other events of great public importance rendered General Sheridan's presence necessary elsewhere at an early day. It was therefore decided that he, accompanied by his escort of scouts under Lieutenant Pepoon, should proceed northward to Camp Supply, while I, with the Seventh Regulars and the Nineteenth Kansas Cavalry and my Osage scouts, a force numbering about fifteen hundred men, should move westward in quest of the recalcitrant Cheyennes and administer to them such treatment as their past conduct might merit and existing circumstances demanded. Satanta and Lone Wolf were still prisoners in our hands, a portion of their tribe having failed thus far to comply with the terms of the agreement by which they were to settle down peaceably on their reservation. As the greater portion of the tribe, however, was then encamped near us, and as both Satanta and Lone Wolf were loud in their protestations of peace, it was decided to release them. Accordingly, after conference with General Sheridan, I went to the lodge in which I kept the two chiefs closely guarded as prisoners and informed them of the decision which had been arrived at in their behalf, the only response being a most hearty and emphatic "How" from the two robust chieftains.
General Sheridan had up to this time declined all their requests for an interview, but now deemed it best to see them and speak a few words of warning and caution as to their future conduct. No peace commissioners were ever entertained by promises of good behavior, peaceable intentions, and regrets for past offenses which smacked of greater earnestness and sincerity than those volunteered by Lone Wolf and Satanta when informed that they were free to rejoin their people. According to their voluntary representations their love for their white brothers was unbounded; their desire for peace, their hatred of war, ungovernable; and nothing would satisfy them in future but to be permitted to lead their people "the white man's road," by cultivating the soil, building schoolhouses and churches, and forever eschewing a predatory or warlike life.
Alas, the instability of human resolutions, particularly of the human in an Indian! and the resolutions are expressed-not formed-simply to obtain a certain advantage, or, as is most usually the case, to tickle the fanciful imagination of some thoroughly well-meaning but utterly impractical peace commissioner, whose favorable influence is believed by the Indian to be all-potent in securing fresh invoices of new blankets, breech-loading arms, and provisions. Neither blankets, breech-loading arms, nor an unnecessary amount of provisions were distributed by the military among the adherents of Satanta and Lone Wolf.
Scarcely one year had elapsed, however, before Satanta defiantly informed the General of the Army, then on a visit to Fort Sill, that he had just returned from an expedition to Texas during which he and his party had murdered and robbed several white men. It was this confession which led to Satanta's trial, conviction, and sentence to death by the civil authorities of Texas. Through the intercession of the General Government, the Executive of Texas was induced to commute the punishment of Satanta from hanging to imprisonment for life, a step which all familiar with Indians and Indian management knew would result sooner or later in his release, and that of his confederate, Big Tree.
Importuned constantly by the tenderhearted representations of the peace commissioners, who could not be induced to look upon Satanta and Big Tree as murderers, the Governor of Texas very unwisely yielded to their persistent appeals and upon the strength of promises solemnly made by the peace commissioners, according to which not only Satanta and Big Tree were to abstain from acts of bloodshed and murder in the future, but their entire tribe was also to remain at peace and within their reservation limits, the two chiefs who had unfortunately escaped the halter were again turned loose to engage in acts of hostility against the whites; an opportunity they and their treacherous people have not been slow to improve from that day to this.
The winter of 1868-'69 was rapidly terminating, acting as a forcible reminder to us that if we hoped to operate in the field with any advantage over the Cheyennes the movement must be made before the spring grass should make its appearance for the benefit of the Indian ponies. Accordingly, as soon as our arrangements were perfected our camp at the present site of Fort Sill, Indian Territory, was broken up and General Sheridan, accompanied by his staff and escort, set out for Camp Supply in the north, while my command faced westward and began its search for the Cheyennes, passing along the southern base of the Wichita Mountains on the afternoon of inauguration day old Camp Radziminski, a station which had been occupied by our troops prior to the war between the Northern and Southern States, and whose name, no doubt, will recall pleasant reminiscences to many who afterwards wore the blue or the gray.
On the morning of the first day after leaving the Wichita Mountains behind us no little excitement was created throughout the command by the discovery of a column of smoke directly on our course, and apparently about fifteen or twenty miles in front of us. That Indians had originated the fire was beyond a doubt, as we all knew that beyond us in the direction of the smoke the country was inhabited by no human beings save hostile Indians. I at once decided to push on with the command to the point from which the smoke was ascending and discover, if possible, some trace of the Indians. Be it understood that neither I nor any members of my command supposed for one moment that when we arrived at the desired point we would find the Indians there awaiting our arrival, but we did hope to discover their trail. Of the many experienced frontiersmen embraced in the command, including, of course, California Joe, there were none who judged the distance which separated us from the smoke as greater than could be easily passed over by us before three or four o'clock that afternoon.
It was evidently not a signal smoke, ascending from a single point and regulated by human control, but appeared from our standpoint more like a fire communicated to the prairie grass from an abandoned or neglected camp fire. Pushing on as rapidly as our horses could travel, we were again reminded from time to time of the deceptive character of the Plains as regards distances. When three o'clock arrived, and we had been marching steadily for nine hours, the dense and changing columns of deep gray smoke which had been our guiding point all day seemed as far distant as when our march began in the morning. Except to water our animals and once to enable the men to prepare a cup of coffee no halts were made from six o'clock in the morning until we finally reached the desired locality-not at three or four o'clock in the afternoon, but at two o'clock that night.
Our surmises proved correct. The fire had evidently been communicated to the dry winter grass from some Indian camp fire. The Indians, of course, had gone; but where? As this was a question that could not be solved until daylight and as all of us were glad enough of an opportunity to get a few hour's repose, the troops bivouacked in promiscuous order as they arrived. Only those who had enjoyed similar experiences know how brief the preparation required for sleep. As for myself, as soon as the necessary directions had been given relating to the command I unsaddled my horse, arranged my saddle for my pillow, tethered my horse within easy reach, and in less time than has required to write these few lines I was enjoying one of those slumbers which only come as the reward of a day of earnest activity in the saddle.
As soon as it was light enough for our purpose we were in the saddle and searching in all directions for the trail left by the Indians who had fired the prairie. Our Osage scouts were not long in making the desired discovery. The trail led westward, following the general course of a small valley in which it was first discovered. The party was evidently a small one numbering not more than fifteen persons, but the direction in which they were moving led me to hope that by following them carefully and with due caution to prevent discovery of our pursuit we might be led to the main village. All that day our Osage scouts clung to the trail with the pertinacity of sleuth hounds. The course led us up and across several different streams of beautiful, clear water; but to our great disappointment and to that of our horses as well we discovered, upon attempting to quench our thirst at different times, that every stream was impregnated to the fullest degree with salt.
Later in the day this became a serious matter, and had we not been on an Indian trail I should have entertained earnest apprehensions as to whether or not we were destined to find pure water by continuing farther in the direction we were then moving; but I felt confident that the Indians we were pursuing were familiar with the country and would no doubt lead us, unintentionally of course, to streams of fresh water.
One of the streams we crossed was so strongly impregnated with salt that the edges near the banks were covered with a border of pure white salt, resembling the borders of ice often seen along rivulets in winter. This border was from one to three feet in width and sufficiently thick to support the weight of a horse. Fortunately the Indian trail, as I had anticipated, led us to a refreshing spring of pure, cold water near by. Here we halted to prepare a cup of coffee before continuing the pursuit.
While halted at this point I observed a trooper approaching with an armful of huge cakes of pure white salt gathered from the salt stream just described, and which flowed at foot of the hill from which also bubbled forth the spring of fresh water to which we were indebted for the means of preparing our first meal on that day. Salt was not an abundant article with us at that time and the trooper referred to, aware of this fact, had, in behalf of himself and comrades, collected from the literal "salt of the earth" a quantity ample for all present need. After conveying his valuable load to the vicinity of the cook fire he broke the cakes of salt into small particles with an axe, and then passing the fragments through a coffee-mill he was in possession of table salt whose quality would have satisfied a more exacting epicure than a hungry cavalryman.
Finishing our meal, which not only was our breakfast for that day, but a late dinner as well, we resumed the pursuit, observing before doing so that the Indians had also made a brief halt at the same point and had built a fire and prepared their meal, as we had done after them. Crossing a high ridge, or divide, the trail led us down into a beautiful open valley. After following up the course of the latter several miles the freshness of the trail indicated that the Indians had passed over it that same day. As it was not our purpose to overtake them, but to follow as closely as prudence would allow, I determined to go into camp until the following morning. Soon after resuming the pursuit next day rain began to fall, at first slowly, but later in the day in copious showers. I knew the Indians would not travel in the rain if they could avoid it, unless they knew they were pursued, and of this fact I had reason to believe they were still ignorant as evidences found all along the trail indicated that they were moving very leisurely.
To avoid placing ourselves in too close proximity to them, I ordered a halt about noon and began preparation for camping for the night. Our wagons were still in rear. In the meantime the horses were all unsaddled and picketed out in the usual manner to graze. As was my usual custom upon halting for the night, I had directed the Osage scouts, instead of halting and unsaddling to advance in the direction we were to follow next day and examine the country for a distance of a few miles. We had barely completed the unsaddling of our horses and disposed of them over the grazing ground when I discovered the Osage scouts returning over the ridge in front of us as fast as their ponies could carry them. Their story was soon told. Disliking to travel in the rain, the Indians whom we were pursuing had gone into camp also, and the Osage scouts had discovered them not more than a mile from us, the ridge referred to preventing the Indians from seeing us or being seen by us.
Quickly the words "Saddle up" flew from mouth to mouth, and in a marvellously brief time officers and men were in the saddle and under the guidance of the Osage scouts were moving stealthily to surprise the Indian camp. Passing around a little spur of the dividing ridge, there before us, at a distance of but a few hundred yards, stood the half erected lodges of the Indians, while scattered here and there in the immediate vicinity were to be seen the Indian ponies and pack animals, grazing in apparent unconsciousness of the close proximity of an enemy. At a given signal the cavalry put spurs to their steeds, drew their revolvers, and in a few moments were in possession of the Indian camp, ponies and all-no, not all, for not a single Indian could be discovered.
The troops were deployed at a gallop in all directions, but failed to find the trace of an Indian. Our capture was apparently an empty one. How the occupants of the Indian camp had first discovered our presence and afterwards contrived to elude us was a mystery which even puzzled our Osage scouts. This mystery was afterwards explained, and in order to avoid detaining the reader I will anticipate sufficiently to state that in the course of subsequent events we came face to face, under a flag of truce, with the late occupants of the Indian camp, and learned from them that in this instance history had reproduced itself. Rome was saved by the cackling of geese: the Indians owed their safety to the barking of dogs, not the barking of dogs belonging to their own camp, but to ours.
It seemed that during the haste and excitement attendant upon the discovery of the close proximity of the Indian camp to ours, two of our dogs, whether or not sharing in the bellicose humor of their masters, engaged in a quarrel, the noise of which reached the quick ears of the Indians nearly one mile distant. Comprehending the situation at once, the Indians, realizing the danger of delay, abandoned their camp and ponies and fled on foot, the better to effect concealment and elude pursuit.
On the following day we resumed the march. There being no longer any trail for us to follow we continued in the same direction, believing that the small party we had been pursuing had been directing their course toward the location of the main village, which was somewhere to the westward of us. Day after day we travelled in this direction, hoping to discover some sign or trail which might give us a clue to the whereabouts of the Cheyenne village. We had left the Indian Territory far behind us and had advanced into Texas well toward the 102d meridian of longitude. Nearly all hope of discovering the Indians had vanished from the minds of the officers and men when late in the afternoon the trail of a single lodge was discovered, leading in a southwesterly direction. The trail was nearly if not quite one month old; hence it did not give great encouragement. To the surprise of most of the command I changed the direction of our march at once and put the Osages on the trail, having decided to follow it.
This may seem to the reader an ill-advised move, but the idea under which the decision was made was that the owner of the lodge, the trail of which we had discovered, had probably been absent from the main village in search of game, as is customary for small parties of Indians at that season of the year. In the spring, however, the entire tribe assembles at one point and determines its plans and movements for the summer, whether relating to war or hunting. There was a chance-a slight one, it is true-that the trail of the single lodge just discovered might lead us to the rendezvous of the tribe. I deemed it worthy of our attention, and a pursuit of a few days at furthest would determine the matter.
Following our faithful Osages, who experienced no difficulty in keeping the trail, we marched until near sundown, when we arrived at the banks of a small stream upon which, and near a cool, bubbling spring, we discovered the evidences of an Indian camp, which must have not only included the lodge whose trail we had been following, but about a dozen others. Here was a speedier confirmation of my hopes than I had anticipated. Here I determined to encamp until morning, and while the cavalry were unsaddling and pitching their tents I asked Mo-nah-see-tah to examine the Indian camp minutely and to tell me how long a time had elapsed since its occupation by the Indians, how many constituted the party, and the character and probable indications of the latter.
No detective could have set about the proposed examination with greater thoroughness than did this Indian girl. The ashes of the camp fires were raked carefully away and examined with all the scrutiny of a chemical analysis. Bits of cloth or fragments of the skins of animals found within the limits of the camp were lifted from their resting-places as tenderly as if they were articles of greatest value. Here and there were to be seen the bones of deer or antelope which had been obtained by the Indians as food. These Mo-nah-see-tah examined carefully; then, shattering them between two stones, the condition of the marrow seemed a point of particular importance to her as tending to determine the length of time the bones had been lying in the camp. After many minutes spent in this examination, during which I accompanied her, a silent but far from disinterested spectator, she, apparently like a judge who had been carefully reviewing all the evidence, gave me her conclusions, communicating with me through the medium of the sign language with a grace characteristic of the Indian race, and which added to the interest of her statements.
Briefly summed up, her conclusions were as follows: twelve lodges had encamped at that point, probably constituting the band of some petty chief, the different members of which, like the one whose trail we had that day discovered, had been separated for purposes of hunting, but had been called together at that point preparatory to joining the main village. The lodges had left this camp not to exceed two weeks previous to that date, and in all probability had moved to the rendezvous appointed for the main tribe, which would without doubt be found by other small bands from time to time until the village would all be assembled at one point. Moving in this manner and at this early season of the year, when grass was scarce and no enemy known to be in the country, the Indians would make very short moves each day, passing merely from one stream to another, not accomplishing in one day a greater distance, probably, than the cavalry would in two or three hours.
This intelligence, of course, was most gratifying, and for encouragement was soon communicated to the individual members of the command. The trail was found to lead almost in a northerly direction, slightly, inclining to the east. Perhaps no one of the command experienced such a feeling of hope and anxious suspense as the new discoveries gave rise to in the breast of young Brewster, who now more than ever believed, and with reason too, that he was soon to unravel or forever seal the fate of his lost sister, whose discovery and release had been the governing impulses of his life for months past.
With renewed interest the cavalry resumed the pursuit at daylight the following morning. We had marched but a few miles before we reached a second camping ground, which had been occupied not only by those whose trail were then following, but the number of fires showed that the strength of the Indians been increased by about twenty-five lodges, thus verifying the correctness of the surmises advanced by Mo-nah-see-tah.
Continuing our progress, we had the satisfaction of seeing still further accessions to the trail until it was evident that at least one hundred lodges had unified and passed in one body on the trail. As we marched in one day over, distance passed over in three by the Indians, and as the latter were moving unsuspicious of the presence of an enemy in that section of the country, the trail was becoming freshened as we advanced. That night we encamped with every precaution calculated to conceal our presence from the Indians. No fires were permitted until after dark, and then but small ones, for fear the quick and watchful eye of the Indian might detect the ascending columns of smoke. As soon as the men had prepared their suppers the fires were put out. In the morning breakfast was prepared before daylight, and the fires at once smothered by heaping damp earth over them.
Resuming the pursuit as soon as it was sufficiently light to follow the trail, we soon arrived at the camp vacated by the Indians the previous day, the extent of which showed that from three to four hundred lodges of Indians had occupied the ground. In many places the decayed embers of the lodge fires were still glowing; while the immense quantity of young cottonwood timber found cut and lying throughout the camp stripped of its young bark showed that the Indian ponies were being mainly subsisted on cottonwood bark, the spring grass not being sufficiently advanced to answer the purpose. Nothing indicated that the Indians had departed in a precipitate manner or that they had discovered our approach. It was reasonable, therefore, to suppose that we would come in contact with them that day, if not actually reach the village.
All our plans were made accordingly. The Osages, as usual, were kept in the advance, that their quick eyes might the sooner discover the Indians should they appear in our front. In order to avail myself of the earliest information, I, with Colonel Cooke, accompanied the Osages. Two of the latter kept in advance of all, and as they neared a ridge or commanding piece of ground they would cautiously approach the crest on foot and peer beyond, to ascertain whether an enemy was in sight before exposing our party to discovery. This proceeding, a customary one with Indian, did not excite unusual attention upon the part of Colonel Cooke and myself until once we saw Hard Rope, the head warrior, who was in advance, slowly ascend a slight eminence in our front, and after casting one glimpse beyond descend the hill and return to us as rapidly as his pony could carry him. We almost anticipated his report, so confident was everybody in the command that we were going to overtake the village.
In a few words Hard Rope informed us that less than a mile beyond the hill from which he had obtained a view there was in plain sight a large herd of Indian ponies grazing, being herded and driven by a few Indian boys. As yet they had not seen us, but were liable to discover the column of troops farther to the rear. To judge of the situation I dismounted, and, conducted by Hard Rope, advanced to the crest of the hill in front and looked beyond; there I saw in plain view the herd of ponies, numbering perhaps two hundred and being driven in the opposite direction toward what seemed the valley of a stream, as I could see the tops of the forest trees which usually border the water courses.
The ponies and their protectors soon disappeared from view, but whether they had discovered us yet or not I was unable to determine. Sending a messenger back as rapidly as his horse could carry him, I directed the troops to push to the front, and to come prepared for action. I knew the village must be near at hand, probably in the vicinity of the trees seen in the distance. As the country was perfectly open, free from either ravines or timber capable of affording concealment to Indians, I took my orderly with me and galloped in advance in the direction taken by the Indians, leaving Colonel Cooke to hasten and direct the troops as the latter should arrive.
After advancing about half way to the bluff overlooking the valley I saw about half a dozen Indian heads peering over the crest, evidently watching my movements; this number was soon increased to upwards of fifty. I was extremely anxious to satisfy myself as to the tribe whose village was evidently near at hand. There was but little doubt that it was the Cheyennes, for whom we had been searching. If this should prove true the two white girls, whose discovery and release from captivity had been one of the objects of the expedition, must be held prisoners in the village which we were approaching; and to effect their release unharmed then became my study, for I remembered the fate of the white women and child held captive by a band of this same tribe at the battle of Washita.
I knew that the first shot fired on either side would be the signal for the murder of the two white girls. While knowing the Cheyennes to be deserving of castigation, and feeling assured that they were almost in our power, I did not dare to imperil the lives of the two white captives by making an attack on the village, although never before or since have we seen so favorable an opportunity for administering well-merited punishment to one of the strongest and most troublesome of the hostile tribes. Desiring to establish a truce with the Indians before the troops should arrive, I began making signals inviting a conference. This was done by, simply riding in a circle and occasionally advancing toward the Indians on the bluff in a zigzag manner. Immediately there appeared on the bluffs about twenty mounted Indians; from this group three advanced toward me at a gallop, soon followed by the others of the party. I cast my eyes behind me to see if the troops were near, but the head of the column was still a mile or more in rear. My orderly was near me and I could see Colonel Cooke rapidly, approaching about midway between the column and my position.
Directing the orderly to remain stationary, I advanced toward the Indians a few paces, and as soon as they were sufficiently near made signs to them to halt, and then for but one of their number to advance midway and meet me. This was assented to, and I advanced with my revolver in my left hand, while my right hand was held aloft as a token that I was inclined to be friendly. The Indian met me as agreed upon and in response to my offer exchanged friendly greetings and shook hands. From him I learned that the village of the entire Cheyenne tribe was located on the stream in front of us, and that Medicine Arrow, the head chief of the Cheyennes, was in the group of Indians then in view from where we stood. Little Robe, with his band numbering about forty lodges, was a short distance farther down the stream. I asked the Indian to send for Medicine Arrow, as I desired to talk with the head chief. Calling to one of his companions who had halted within hailing distance, the latter was directed to convey to Medicine Arrow my message, to do which he set off at a gallop.
At this juncture I perceived that the Indians to the number of twenty or more had approached quite near, while some of the party seemed disposed to advance to where I was. To this I had decided objections, and so indicated to the Indian who was with me. He complied with my wishes and directed his companions to remain where they were. As a precaution of safety, I took good care to keep the person of the Indian between me and his friends. Medicine Arrow soon came galloping up accompanied by a chief.
While engaged in shaking hands with him and his companions and exchanging the usual salutation, "How," with the new arrivals, I observed that the Indians who had been occupying a retired position had joined the group, and I found myself in the midst of about twenty chiefs and warriors. Medicine Arrow exhibited the most earnest desire to learn from me the number of troops following me. Whether this question was prompted by any contemplated act of treachery in case my followers were few in number, or not, I do not know. But if treachery was thought of, the idea was abandoned when I informed him that my followers numbered fifteen hundred men, the advance guard being then in sight. Medicine Arrow then informed me that his village was near by, and that the women and children would be greatly excited and alarmed by the approach of so large a body of troops. To give assurance to them he urged me to accompany him to his village in advance of the troops, and by my presence satisfy his people that no attack upon them would be made. This I consented to do.
By this time Colonel Cooke had again joined me, also Dr. Lippincott. Leaving the doctor with directions for the troops, and taking Colonel Cooke with me, I started with Medicine Arrow and a considerable party of his warriors to the village, Medicine Arrow urging us to put our horses to the gallop. The reader may regard this movement on my part as having been anything but prudent, and I will admit that viewed in the ordinary light it might seem to partake somewhat of a foolhardy errand. But I can assure them that no one could be more thoroughly convicted of the treachery and bloodthirsty disposition of the Indian than I am, nor would I ever trust life in their hands except it was to their interest to preserve that life; for no class of beings act so much from self-interest as the Indian, and on this occasion I knew, before accepting the proposal of the chief to enter his village, that he and every member of his band felt it to be to their interest not only to protect me from harm, but to treat me with every consideration, as the near approach of the troops and the formidable number of the latter would deter the Indians from any act of hostility, knowing as they did that in case of an outbreak of any kind it would be Impossible for a great portion of the village, particularly the women and children, to escape. I considered all this before proceeding to the village.
As we were turning our horses' heads in the direction of the village I caught sight of a familiar face in the group of Indians about me; it was that of Mah-wis-sa, the squaw whom I had sent as peace commissioner from our camp near Fort Sill, and who had failed to return. She recognized me at once and laughed when I uttered the word Mutah-ka referring to the hunting-knife I had loaned her as she was about to depart on her errand of peace. A brisk gallop soon brought us to the village, which was located beneath the trees on the bank of a beautiful stream of clear running water. The name of the latter I found to be the Sweetwater; it is one of the tributaries of Red River, and is indicated on the map as crossing the 100th meridian not far south of the Canadian River.
Medicine Arrow hurried me to his lodge, which was located almost in the center of the village, the latter being the most extensive I had ever seen. As soon as I had entered the lodge I was invited to a seat on one of the many buffalo robes spread on the ground about the inner circumference of the lodge. By Medicine Arrow's direction the village crier in a loud tone of voice began calling the chiefs together in council. No delay occurred in their assembling. One by one they approached and entered the lodge until fifteen of the leading chiefs had taken their seats in the circle within the lodge in the order of their rank. I was assigned the post of honor, being seated on the right of Medicine Arrow, while on my immediate right sat the medicine man of the tribe, an official scarcely second in influence to the head chief.
The squaw of Medicine Arrow built a huge fire in the center of the lodge. As soon as all the chiefs had assembled, the ceremonies, which were different from any I ever witnessed before or since, began. The chiefs sat in silence while the medicine man drew forth from a capacious buckskin tobacco pouch, profusely ornamented with beads and porcupine quills, a large red clay pipe, with a stem about the size of an ordinary walking-stick. From another buckskin pouch which hung at his girdle he drew forth a handful of kinnikinick, and placed it on a cloth spread on the ground before him; to this he added, in various amounts, dried leaves and herbs, with which he seemed well supplied. After thoroughly mixing these ingredients, he proceeded with solemn ceremony to fill the pipe with the mixture, muttering at times certain incantations, by which no doubt it was intended to neutralize any power or proclivity for harm I may have been supposed to possess.
To all of this I was a silent but far from disinterested spectator. My interest perceptibly increased when the medicine man, who was sitting close to me, extended his left hand and grasped my right, pressing it strongly against his body over the region of his heart, at the same time and with complete devoutness of manner engaging in what seemed to me a petition or prayer to the Great Spirit; the other chiefs from time to time ejaculating, in the most earnest manner, their responses, the latter being made simultaneously. To the Indians it was a most solemn occasion, and scarcely less impressive to me, who could only judge of what was transpiring by catching an occasional word and by closely following their signs.
After the conclusion of the address or prayer by the medicine man the latter released my hand, which up to this time had been tightly grasped in his, and taking the long clay pipe in both hands, it likewise was apparently placed under an imaginary potent spell by a ceremony almost as long as that which I have just described. This being ended, the medicine man, first pointing slowly with the stem of the pipe to each of the four points of the compass, turned to me and without even so much as saying, "Smoke, sir?" placed the mouthpiece of the long stem in my mouth, still holding the bowl of the pipe in his hand. Again taking my right hand in his left, the favor or protecting influence of the Great Spirit was again invoked in the most earnest and solemn manner, the other chiefs joining at regular intervals with their responses. Finally, releasing my hand, the medicine man lighted a match, and applying it to the pipe made signs to me to smoke. A desire to conform as far as practicable to the wishes of the Indians and a curiosity to study a new and interesting phase of the Indian character prompted me to obey the direction of the medicine man, and I accordingly began puffing away with as great a degree of nonchalance as a man unaccustomed to smoking could well assume. Now being, as I have just stated, one of that class which does not number smoking among its accomplishments, I took the first few whiffs with a degree of confidence which I felt justified in assuming, as I imagined the smoking portion of the ceremony was to be the same as usually observed among Indians so devoted to the practice, in which each Individual takes the pipe, enjoys half a dozen whiffs, and passes it to his next neighbor on his left. That much I felt equal to; but when, after blowing away the first half dozen puffs of smoke from my face, the medicine men still retained his hold of the pipe, with an evident desire that I should continue the enjoyment of this Indian luxury, I proceeded more deliberately, although no such rule of restraint seemed to govern the volubility of the medicine man, whose in vocation and chants continued with unabated vigor and rapidity.
When the first minute had added to it self four more, and still I was expected to make a miniature volcano of myself, minus the ashes, I began to grow solicitous as to what might be the effect if I was subjected to this course of treatment. I pictured to myself the commander of an important expedition seated in solemn council with a score and a half of dusky chieftains, the pipe of peace being passed, and before it had left the hands of the aforesaid commander, he becoming deathly sick, owing to lack of familiarity with the noxious weed or its substitutes. I imagined the sudden termination of the council, the absurdity of the figure cut, and the contempt of the chiefs for one who must, under the circumstances, appear so deficient in manly accomplishments. These and a hundred similar ideas flashed through my mind as I kept pulling vigorously at the pipe, and wondering when this thing would terminate.
Fortunately for my peace of body as well as of mind, after a period which seemed to me equal to a quarter of an hour at least, I felt relieved by the medicine man taking the pipe from my mouth, and after refilling it handing it to the head chief, sitting on my left, who, drawing three or four long, silent whiffs, passed it to his next neighbor on his left; and in similar manner it made the circle of the chiefs until it finally returned to the medicine man, who, after taking a few final whiffs, laid it aside, much to my relief, as I feared the consequences of a repetition of my former effort.
Romeo, the interpreter, having been mounted upon an indifferent animal, had fallen to the rear of the column during the march that day and I was deprived of his services during my interview with the chief. Colonel Cooke, during this time, was in an adjoining lodge, each moment naturally be coming more solicitous lest upon the arrival of the troops there should be a collision between the Indians and the excited volunteers. To the inquiries of the chiefs I explained the object of our march without alluding to the two captive girls, the time not having arrived for discussing that subject. Having resolved to obtain the release of the captives, all other purposes were necessarily laid aside; and as I knew that the captives could not be released should hostilities once occur between the troops and Indians, I became for the time being an ardent advocate of peace measures, and informed the chiefs that such was my purpose at the time. I also requested them to inform me where I would find the most suitable camping ground in the vicinity of the village, to which request Medicine Arrow replied that he would accompany me in person and point out the desired ground.
When this offer was made I accepted it as a kindness, but when the chief conducted me to a camp ground separated from the village and from all view of the latter I had reason to modify my opinion of his pretended kindness, particularly when coupled with his subsequent conduct. My command soon came up and was conducted to the camp ground indicated by Medicine Arrow, the distance between the camp and the village not exceeding three-fourths of a mile. I was still uncertain as to whether there were any grounds to doubt that the two white girls were captives in Medicine Arrow's village. I anxiously awaited the arrival of Mo-nah-see-tah, who could and would solve this question. She came with the main body of the troops and I at once informed her whose village it was alongside of which we were located.
To any inquiry as to whether the two white girls were prisoners in Medicine Arrow's village she promptly replied in the affirmative, and at the same time exhibited a desire to aid as far as possible in effecting their release. It was still early in the afternoon and I did not deem it necessary or even advisable, to proceed with undue haste in the negotiations by which I expected to bring about the release of the two captives. Although our camp, as already explained, was cut off from a view of the village, yet I had provided against either surprise or strategem by posting some of my men on prominent points near by, from which they obtained a full view of both our camp and the village and thus rendered it impossible for any important movement to take place in the latter without being seen. I felt confident that, as soon as it was dark the entire village would probably steal away and leave us in the lurch; but I proposed to make my demand for the surrender of the captives long before darkness should aid the Indians in eluding us.
From fifty to one hundred chiefs, warriors, and young men were assembled at my headquarters, or about the camp fire built in front of headquarters. Apparently, they were there from motives of mere curiosity, but later developments proved they had another object in view. Finally Medicine Arrow came to my camp, accompanied by some of his head men, and after shaking hands with apparent cordiality stated that some of his young men, desirous of manifesting their friendship for us, would visit our camp in a few minutes and entertain us by a serenade. This idea was a novel one to me, and I awaited the arrival of the serenaders with no little curiosity.
Before their arrival, however, my look outs reported unusual commotion and activity in the Indian village. The herd of the latter had been called in, and officers sent by me to investigate this matter confirmed the report and added that everything indicated a contemplated flight on the part of the Indians. I began then to comprehend the object of the proposed serenade; it was to occupy our attention while the village could pack up and take flight. Pretending ignorance of what was transpiring in the village, I continued to converse, through Romeo, with the chiefs, until the arrival of the Indian musicians. These, numbering about a dozen young men, were mounted on ponies which, like themselves, were ornamented in the highest degree, according to Indian fashion. The musicians were feathered and painted in the most horrible as well as fantastic manner. Their instruments consisted of reeds, the sounds from which more nearly resembled those of the fife than any other, although there was a total lack of harmony between the various pieces. As soon as the musicians arrived they began riding in a gallop in a small circle, of which circle our little group, composed of a few officers and the chiefs, composed the center. The display of horsemanship was superb, and made amends for the discordant sounds given forth as music.
During all this time reports continued to come in leaving no room to doubt that the entire village was preparing to decamp, To have opposed this movement by a display of force on the part of the troops would have only precipitated a terrible conflict, for which I was not yet prepared, keeping in mind the rescue of the white girls. I did not propose, however, to relinquish the advantage we then had by our close proximity to the village and permit the latter to place several miles between us.
Knowing that the musicians would soon depart and with them perhaps the chiefs and warriors then grouped about my camp fire, I determined to seize the principal chiefs then present, permit the village to depart if necessary, and hold the captured chiefs as hostages for the surrender of the white girls and the future good behavior of the tribe. This was a move requiring not only promptness but most delicate and careful handling in order to avoid bloodshed. Quietly passing the word to a few of the officers who sat near me around the camp fire, I directed them to leave the group one by one and in such manner as not to attract the attention of the Indians proceed to their companies and select quickly some of their most reliable men, instructing the latter to assemble around and near my camp fire, well armed, as if merely attracted there by the Indian serenade. The men thus selected were to come singly, appear as unconcerned as possible, and be in readiness to act promptly, but to do nothing without orders from me.
In this manner about one hundred of my men were in an inconceivably short space of time mingled with the Indians, who, to the number of forty or more, sat or stood about my camp fire, laughing in their sleeves (had they not been minus these appendages), no doubt, at the clever dodge by which they were entertaining the white men while their village was hastening preparations for a speedy flight. When the musicians had apparently exhausted their program, they took their departure, informing us that later in the evening they would return and repeat the performance; they might have added, "with an entire change of program."
After their departure the conversation continued with the chiefs until, by glancing about me, I saw that a sufficient number of my men had mingled with the Indians to answer my purpose. Of the forty or more Indians in the group there were but few chiefs, the majority being young men or boys. My attention was devoted to the chiefs and acting upon the principle that for the purposes desired half a dozen would be as valuable as half a hundred, I determined to seize the principal chiefs then present and permit the others to depart. To do this without taking or losing life now became the problem.
Indicating in a quiet manner to some of my men who were nearest to me to be ready to prevent the escape of three or four of the Indians whom I pointed out I then directed Romeo to command silence on the part of the Indians and to inform them that I was about to communicate something of great importance to them. This was sufficient to attract their undivided attention. I then rose from my seat near the fire and unbuckling my revolver from my waist asked the Indians to observe that I threw my weapons upon the ground as an evidence that in what I was about to do I did not desire or propose to shed blood unless forced to do so. I then asked the chiefs to look about them and count the armed men whom I had posted among and around them, completely cutting off every avenue of escape. They had attempted, under pretense of a friendly visit to my camp, to deceive me, in order that their village might elude us, but their designs had been frustrated and they were now in our power. I asked them to quietly submit to what was now inevitable, and promised them that if they and their people responded in the proper manner to the reasonable demands which I intended to make all would be well and they would be restored to their people.
The reader must not imagine that this was listened to in tame silence by the thoroughly excited Indians, old and young. Upon the first intimation from me regarding the armed men and before I could explain their purpose every Indian who was dismounted sprang instantly to his feet, while those who were mounted gathered the reins of their ponies; all drew their revolvers or strung their bows, and for a few moments it seemed as if nothing could avert a collision, which could only terminate in the annihilation of the Indians and an equal or perhaps greater loss on our part. A single shot fired, an indiscreet word uttered, would have been the signal to commence. My men behaved admirably, taking their positions in such manner that each Indian was confronted by at least two men. All this time the Indians were gesticulating and talking in the most excited manner; the boys and young men counselling resistance, the older men and chiefs urging prudence until an understanding could be had. The powers of Romeo as interpreter were employed without stint in repeating to the chiefs my urgent appeals to restrain their young men and avoid bloodshed. Even at this date I recall no more exciting experience with Indians than the occasion of which I now write. Near me stood a tall, gray haired chief, who, while entreating his people to be discreet, kept his cocked revolver in his hand ready for use, should the emergency demand it. He was one of the few whom I had determined to hold. Near him stood another, a most powerful and for bidding-looking warrior, who was without firearms, but who was armed with a bow already strung and a quiver full of iron pointed arrows. His coolness during this scene of danger and excitement was often the subject of remark afterward between the officers whose attention had been drawn to him. He stood apparently unaffected by the excitement about him, but not unmindful of the surrounding danger. Holding his bow in one hand, with the other he continued to draw from his quiver arrow after arrow. Each one he would examine as coolly as if he expected to engage in target practice. First he would cast his eye along the shaft of the arrow, to see if it was perfectly straight and true. Then he would with thumb and finger gently feel the point and edge of the barbed head, returning to the quiver each one whose condition did not satisfy him.
In this manner he continued until he had selected perhaps half a dozen arrows with which he seemed satisfied, and which he retained in his hand, while his quick eye did not permit a single incident about him to escape unnoticed. The noise of voices and the excitement increased until a movement began on the part of the Indians who were mounted, principally the young men and boys. If the latter could be allowed to escape and the chiefs be retained, the desired object would be gained. Suddenly a rush was made. But for the fact that my men were ordered not to fire, the attempt of the Indians would not have been successful. I, as well as the other officers near me, called upon the men not to fire. The result was that all but four broke through the lines and made their escape. The four detained, however, were those desired, being chiefs and warriors of prominence.
Forming my men about them in such impassable ranks that a glance was sufficient to show how futile all further efforts to escape would prove, I then explained to the four captive Indians that I knew the design under which they had visited our camp; that I also knew that in their village were held as captives two white girls whose release the troops were there to enforce, and to effect their release, as well as to compel the Cheyennes to abandon the war path and return to their reservation, I had seized the four Indians as hostages. To prove my sincerity and earnest desire to arrange these matters amicably and without resort to force the Indians were told they might select one of their number whom I would release and send as a messenger of peace to the village, the latter having left in indiscriminate flight as soon as the seizure of the chiefs was made.
It became a matter of great difficulty without the employment of force to induce the four Indians to give up their arms. I explained to them that they were prisoners, and it was one of our customs to disarm all men held as prisoners. Should they be released, however, I assured them their arms would be restored to them. No argument could prevail upon them to relinquish their arms until I stated to them that a persistence in their refusal would compel me to summon a sufficient number of men to take the arms by force; and it was even necessary to parade the men in front of them before the arms were finally given up. After a lengthy conference with each other they announced that they had agreed upon one of their number who, in accordance with my promise, should be released and sent to the tribe as bearer of my demands and of any messages they might desire to send to their people.
I accordingly caused bountiful presents of coffee and sugar to be given the one so chosen, returned to him his pony and arms, and intrusted him with verbal messages to his tribe, the substance of which was as follows: First, I demanded the unconditional surrender of the two white girls held captive in the village; hitherto surrenders of white captives by Indians had only been made on payment of heavy ransom. Second, I required the Cheyenne village, as an evidence of peaceable intentions and good faith on their part, to proceed at once to their reservation and to locate near Camp Supply, reporting to the military commander at that station. Third, I sent a friendly message to Little Robe, inviting him to visit me with a view to the speedy settlement of the questions at issue, promising him unmolested transit coming and returning for him and as many of his people as chose to visit me. In case of failure to comply with the first two of my demands hostilities would be continued and my command would at once commence the pursuit of the village, which, considering its size and the poor condition of the ponies at that early season of the year, would be unable to escape from the cavalry.
The Indian who was to go as bearer of these demands was also invited to return, assured that whether the response of his people should prove favorable or not he should be granted a safe-conduct between the camp and the village. Inwardly congratulating himself, no doubt, upon the good fortune which gave him his liberty, the messenger of peace or war, as his tribe might elect, took his departure for his village. With him went the earnest wishes for success of every inmate of the camp; but if this was the feeling of the command generally, who can realize the intense interest and anxiety with which young Brewster now awaited the result of this effort to secure the freedom of his sister? And if the two forlorn, helpless girls knew of the presence of troops of their own race, what must have been the bitter despondency, the painful relinquishment of all hope as they saw the village and its occupants commencing a hasty flight and no apparent effort upon the part of the troops to effect their release?
What comfort it would have been to these ill-fated maidens could they have known, before being hurried from the village, of the steps already taken to restore them to home and friends, or better still if one of them could have known that almost within the sound of her voice a brother was patiently but determinedly biding the time that should restore his sister to his arms.