Digitized by JRBooksOnline.com, 5 Feb 2022.


Text taken from:


Keim, De B. Randolph, Sheridan’s Troopers on the Borders: A Winter Campaign on the Plains (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1885).


Later reprints done in the 1970s state “First published in 1870”. Cf. De B. Randolph Keim, in "Sheridan's Views on the Indian Question", in "Washington News and Gossip", Washington, D.C.: Evening Star, May 9, 1870, p. 1, col. 4. This establishes that Keim’s book was about to be published that year, so the 1870 date is apparently correct for the first publication. Since an 1870 edition could not be found, recourse had to be made to the 1885 edition.





Pp. 33-36:


UNTIL midsummer unusual quiet prevailed in the south. Most of the Indians had withdrawn from the vicinity of the military posts to more remote and inaccessible regions. A party of two hundred Cheyennes, four Arrapahoes and twenty Sioux, for sometime in camp on the Pawnee, north of the Arkansas, suddenly took the war path, as they asserted, against the Pawnee Indians. The movements of the savages were watched with suspicion. They had retired west of the Fort Dodge road, and with great ceremony performed the first step to a great undertaking, making "medicine." About the twelfth of August, this same party appeared in the valley of the Saline north of Fort Harker. The settlers unprepared for such a visit, treated the visitors with great kindness, hoping to dissuade them from the execution of any evil intentions they might have in view. But the savages soon threw off their guise of friendship and stood forth in their real attitude. They inaugurated their depredations by assuming a dictatorial manner. The next step was to force their way into the cabins. They now commenced to pillage and murder, and committed every form of outrage upon men, women, and children. 


Two days later the same force visited the settlements on the Solomon, destroyed the houses, drove off stock, killed thirteen men, and perpetrated other barbarities. The band now broke up into detachments and scattered over the country, some moving off towards the north, along the Republican, while the main party commenced depredations along the line of the Smoky. 


Intelligence of the conduct of the Indians on the Saline and Solomon was conveyed, by the fugitive settlers, to Fort Harker. The garrison was at once put in condition for active service. As a hasty means of relief to the settlements, Lieutenant Colonel Benteen, was ordered out with one company of the 7th cavalry. On August fourteenth, he arrived at Spillman's creek, while the Indians were attacking. His unexpected appearance so alarmed the savages that they took to flight, thus sparing the lives of the settlers at that point. 


The news of the outbreak was at once communicated to General Sheridan who was at his head-quarters at Fort Leavenworth. With his customary celerity of action, he resolved to take the field and inaugurate a series of movements in hopes of punishing the offenders. Fort Harker on the line of the Kansas Pacific railway, was selected as the point for head-quarters in the field, removing soon after to Fort Hays, farther west. Thither the Commanding General repaired by special train. Reports were constantly coming in of other depredations. An attack was made on a Mexican train, at Pawnee fork, above the Cimmaron crossing, and a war-party of savages appeared in the vicinity of the town of Sheridan, at the terminus of the railroad; the Denver stage coaches were pursued and acts were committed which could not be misconstrued. Up to this time but two tribes, the Cheyennes and Arrapahoes, were known to have taken up the hatchet. 


The Commanding General at his head-quarters at Fort Harker saw plainly that all peaceable efforts to secure the return of the refractory bands to order were fruitless. His only course was a resort to force. On the twenty-fourth of August, he accordingly issued a general order which served as a declaration of war. By the middle of September, the Indians in hostile numbers had made their appearance in all parts of the Department west of Fort Riley, north as far as the Platte river, to the Arkansas in the south, and westward into Colorado. The lines of travel demanding protection were the Kansas Pacific railway, for a distance of over two hundred miles, the stage routes, and lines of travel from the terminus of the railroad to Denver, nearly two hundred miles, and into New Mexico, over four hundred miles. Besides these the settlements on the Saline, the Solomon, the Republican, and the Smoky Hill, needed some means of defence, while the posts of Forts Riley, Harker, Hays, and Wallace, along the railroad. Forts Lyon and Bascom in the west. Forts Dodge, Lamed, and Zarah on the Arkansas, with an outpost at the mouth of the Little Arkansas, and Forts Arbuckle and Gibson, in the Indian Territory, required suitable garrisons. To meet these demands upon the military force of the Department, the Commanding General had, as his whole available strength, nine companies of the seventh cavalry, eight companies of the tenth cavalry, eleven companies of the third and parts of the fifth and thirty-eighth regiments of infantry, a total of about twelve hundred cavalry and fourteen hundred infantry. After the distribution of this force in guarding the railroad, garrisoning the different posts, and protecting the settlements, the only force for duty in the field, consisted of eleven companies of cavalry, seven of the seventh and four of the tenth, making eight hundred men. Early in the preceding spring, Grierson had been sent with four companies of the tenth cavalry to Fort Gibson. The garrison at Fort Arbuckle was also strengthened by an increase of two companies of infantry. 


With this insignificant force, available for field duty, that is eight hundred cavalry, active hostilities were commenced. The country over which the savages roamed up to this time, covered an area of at least two hundred miles from north to south, or from the Republican to the Arkansas, and almost five hundred miles from east to west, or from Fort Riley to the Rocky mountains. The country was entirely in a state of nature, and supplies were only to be conveyed, by the tedious process of wagon transportation, at immense distances. The Indians familiar with these vast stretches of plain, and moving from place to place on his hardy pony, was not easy to find and when found was even more difficult to overtake or bring to an engagement, except with great odds in his favor. 


The troops were hastened into the field, and scouting parties were sent in all directions. Colonel Forsyth (Sandy), with fifty scouts moved to the Republican on the north; Sully, towards the Cimmaron, and North Fork of the Canadian on the south; Graham conducted an expedition in the direction of Denver; Penrose pursued a party from Fort Lyon. Owing to the increasing magnitude of the war, a regiment of volunteers from the State of Kansas, was recruited by Governor Crawford, upon the authority of General Sheridan. By the latter part of September, the savages had killed eighty persons. The frontiers were now entirely abandoned by the settlers. A reinforcement of seven companies of the fifth cavalry was brought from the east, a corps of scouts was organized, and preparations were made to accumulate a large store of supplies at the principal forts. 


In order to make an effort to keep the other wild tribes in peaceable relations, the Commanding General met some of the leading warriors of the Arrapahoes, and about ten days later, also, met a few of the chiefs of the Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches. The savages withdrew promising to return. They kept their promises of peace by inaugurating a general attack along the line of the Arkansas. This attack was led by the Cheyennes and Arrapahoes, assisted by war-parties from the bands which had then but recently expressed in the most solemn form, their pledge of friendship. It was evident now to the satisfaction of all that the Indians were bent upon a war, and there was no alternative but to fight them.  


Pp. 119-120:


…The victory was complete. One band of the most powerful and relentless of the hostile tribes had been destroyed. The captures were immense. Two white children were released from a fearful bondage. A white woman and a boy, ten years of age, held captive, were killed by the savages when the fight commenced. In the midst of the conflict, the bullets falling around in a perfect shower, a squaw, with demoniac fury, knife in hand, as if looking for an object upon which to revenge the loss of the day, fell upon an innocent captive child, and, with one terrible gash, completely disemboweled it—the warm, smoking entrails falling upon the snow. 


Three days had now elapsed since leaving the train. The display of strength made by the Indians, caused a natural anxiety in regard to the safety of the supplies and the inadequate force left to protect them. These considerations fixed the resolution of Custer to hasten back to his wagons. 


While all that was left of Black Kettle's village was being destroyed, seven hundred ponies, belonging to the late chief and his warriors, were shot. Two hundred were taken for the captive squaws and children, or brought in as trophies of the victory. 


On the return march, no Indians were seen. They were, evidently, in great alarm at the just and terrible punishment meted out to the Cheyennes. Night and morning the captives set up their mourning songs, but received no response from lurking warriors. 


At the first camp on the return, according to custom, the Osages hung their scalps outside their tents and fired several volleys over them. All the savages have a superstition that such demonstrations of hostility drive away the spirits of those from whom the scalps were taken, and that, in the event of the neglect of so important a precaution, these spirits would come and rob them of the hard-earned and ghastly evidences of their prowess. 


So decisive an achievement as the battle of the Washita, was not without its sacrifices. Like all other deeds in the records of war, victory and defeat alike close up with a melancholy list of dead and suffering. Of the killed, were Elliott and Hamilton, and nineteen enlisted men. Of the wounded, were Barnitz, seriously but not mortally, and thirteen enlisted men. 


The loss sustained by the savages, was one hundred and three warriors left on the ground. In property, eight hundred and seventy-five horses, ponies, and mules; two hundred and forty-one saddles, some of very fine and costly workmanship; five hundred and seventy-three buffalo robes; three hundred and ninety buffalo skins for lodges; one hundred and sixty untanned robes; thirty-five revolvers; forty-seven rifles; thirty-five pounds of powder; one thousand and fifty pounds of lead; four thousand arrows and arrow-heads; seventy-five spears; three hundred pounds of bullets; four hundred and seventy blankets; seven hundred pounds of tobacco; besides axes, bullet-moulds, lariats, saddle-bags, &c. 


Having no means of transportation, the bulk of these captures were destroyed in the village before leaving. Among the warriors killed, were sixteen chiefs, including Black Kettle and Little Rock, two of the most influential warriors among the Cheyennes. Three squaws and three children, one boy and two girls, were wounded. 


The banks of the Washita were silent. The charred remains of the village, and the stark corpses of the warriors, were the only vestiges of Black Kettle's band. The wolf, prowling in the midst of the blackened ruins of the Indian lodge, now alone disturbed the solitary haunts of the once proud and fierce warrior.  


Pp. 147-8:  


…After the troops, under Custer, had withdrawn, the savages must have returned to wreak their vengeance upon the dead bodies of the brave little band. The horrible work was too effectively done to have been accomplished in a short time. The savages admitted that they lost many braves before they "killed the white men." 


It is considered “good medicine" for each warrior, who participates in a fight, to put a bullet or an arrow into the body of his enemy or to commit some other atrocity, even more hellish. In this instance, there was no exception. In order to furnish an idea of the nature and extent of these mutilations, I will give an extract from the official report of Dr. Henry Lippincott, Assistant Surgeon United States Army, with the seventh. 


Major Joel H. Elliott, one bullet hole in left cheek, two bullets in head, throat cut, right foot cut off, left foot almost cut off, calves of legs very much cut, groin ripped open and otherwise mutilated. 


Walter Kennedy, sergeant-major, bullet hole in right temple, head partly cut off, seventeen bullet holes in back, and two in legs.


Harry Mercer, corporal company E, bullet hole in right axilla, one in region of heart, three in back, eight arrow wounds in back, right ear cut off, head scalped, and skull fractured, deep gashes in both legs, and throat cut. 


Thomas Christie, company E, bullet hole in head, right foot cut off, bullet hole in abdomen, and throat cut. 


William Carrick, corporal company H, bullet hole in right parietal bone, both feet cut off, throat cut, left arm broken, and otherwise mutilated. 


Eugene Clover, company H, head cut off, arrow wound in right side, both legs terribly mutilated.


William Milligan, company H, bullet hole in left side of head, deep gashes in right leg, left arm deeply gashed, head scalped, throat cut, and otherwise mutilated. 


James F. Williams, corporal company I, bullet hole in back[,] head and arms cut off, many and deep cuts in back, and otherwise mutilated. 


Thomas Downey, company I, arrow hole in region of stomach, throat cut open, head cut off, and right shoulder cut by a tomahawk.


Thomas Fitzpatrick, farrier, company M, scalped, two arrow and several bullet holes in back, and throat cut. 


Ferdinand Linebach, company M, bullet hole in right parietal bone, head scalped, one arm broken, throat cut, and otherwise mutilated. 


John Myers, company M, several bullet holes in head, scalped, scull extensively fractured, several arrow and bullet holes in back, deep gashes in face, and throat cut. 


Carson D. J. Myers, company M, several bullet holes in head, scalped, nineteen bullet holes in body, throat cut, and otherwise mutilated. 


Cal. Sharp, company M, two bullet holes in left side, throat cut, one bullet hole in left side of head, one arrow hole in left side, left arm broken, and otherwise mutilated. 


Unknown, head cut off, body partly devoured by wolves. 


Unknown, head and right hand cut off, three bullet and nine arrow holes in back, and otherwise mutilated. 


Unknown, scalped, skull fractured, six bullet and thirteen arrow holes in back, and three bullet holes in chest… 


P. 150:


During the journey to the battle-field, a detachment, moving close along the banks of the river, found, near the remains of the Kiowa camp, the bodies of a white woman and child. The bodies were brought into camp and examined. Two bullet holes, penetrating the brain, were found, also the back of the skull was fearfully crushed, as if by a hatchet. There were no marks on the child except a bruise on the cheek. This fact led to the conclusion that the child had been seized by the feet and dashed against a tree. When brought in, the body of the woman was recognized as Mrs. Blynn. This woman was captured by Satanta, chief of the Kiowas, near Fort Lyon, while on her way to her home in the "States." At the time of her capture she was in a wagon, in the centre of a civilian train. The men with the train, it appears, fled, and left Mrs. Blynn and her child to fall into savage hands. Satanta kept her as his captive until the time of the fight of the Kiowas, when she was ruthlessly murdered. The body was dressed in the ordinary garments of a white woman; on the feet were a pair of leather gaiters, comparatively new. Upon the breast was found a piece of corn-cake, and the position of the hands indicated that the woman was eating when she, unexpectedly, received the fatal blow. The body presented the appearance of a woman of more than ordinary beauty, small in figure, and not more than twenty-two years of age. These bodies, and that of Major Elliott, were brought in on horseback by our party, to be conveyed to Fort Arbuckle for interment.


Pp. 218-220:


FOLLOWING the war-party upon a hostile expedition, we find each warrior not only frequently casting a quick, uneasy glance along the horizon, but also closely observing almost every foot of the ground over which he treads. The track of a pony—the foot-print of a moccasin—occasions a halt and a minute examination. 


In moving forward, preserving the same vigilance, the appearance of the enemy is followed by wild whoops and terrific gesticulations at each other. A desultory firing begins; the warriors, on both sides, dash about, and perform many remarkable feats of horsemanship. In the excitement of the contest, a charge is sometimes made by a few warriors engaging, probably, in single combat. The contest is usually brief. In a majority of cases, one or the other gives way before much harm is done. Occasionally the prestige of one party will be too much for the moral courage of the other, in which case the weaker breaks and runs at first sight. 


A favorite mode of tactics is to draw the enemy into an ambuscade. A small party in advance will engage and fall back, apparently discomfited. The pursuing party, intent upon overtaking the fugitives, dash unconsciously onward, until they find themselves confronted by a strong force. Almost instantly a cloud of whooping and yelling savages rise on all sides. The contest now becomes desperate, and the invested party must fight its way out, or expect to meet the almost inevitable fate of disaster. In all cases, it may fairly be said, as tho exceptions are so rare, prisoners find no quarter. Every mode of torture, if taken alive, is applied to them. To be burnt to death, or punctured liberally with spears and arrows—a part usually enacted by the squaws—is the most ordinary mode. If pressed, the sufferings of the victims are mitigated by instant death with the tomahawk or bullet. The scalp is the trophy, always necessary to victory. Without scalps, the wonderful stories told by the savage warrior to his admiring squaw and affrighted papooses, upon his return to the village, are regarded with incredulity. The scalp is, therefore, absolutely a necessary feature of a successful war-party, by way of a voucher for the bravery of its proprietor. The scalp is carefully preserved, and retained for a certain time, when it is deposited in the "medicine lodge." 


The mutilation of dead bodies, after a fight, is a common practice, and to put an arrow or a bullet into the lifeless form of the victim, is considered “good medicine." 


Having triumphed over their enemies, the war-party returns to the village. Their approach is generally announced by a courier sent in advance. The old men, women, and children, gather to witness the arrival. As the warriors get near, they begin to sing and recount their deeds, and discharge volleys from their fire-arms. Reaching the village, they break up and go to their lodges. The scalps are immediately suspended on poles, and at night the usual practice of firing vollies of bullets or arrows is complied with. 


The return of the war-party is followed by the scalp-dance, in all its fiendish finery and discordant noise. The families of warriors killed, nightly chant a requiem for the dead. The most marvelous stories, supported by a scalp or two, are now listened to with interest by all the members of the village. Each tries to out do his comrade, in an effective narration of remarkable performances, until even the credulous squaw is slow to believe. Boasting is a characteristic eminently belonging to the red-man. Even a defeated war-party, returning, has its own story, and the lucky possession of a selection from the pate of an enemy is sufficient ground upon which to make a great victory. If Indian stories were to be believed, a defeat would never be heard of. Even the warriors lost in a disastrous conflict would be accounted for, and immortalized in legend. 


The natural intellectual force of the Indian has evinced itself on so many occasions during the several centuries of contact with the whites, that the question can hardly be considered worthy of controversy. The speeches uttered by the more brilliant minds of the race, are master-pieces of feeling and oratorical effect. The American Indian is by nature an orator. The wild independence of his spirit is conducive to that lively flight of mental vision, which resolves itself into ideas and images, burning with the warmth of eloquence. 


On all ceremonies of a public or private nature, great state and formal proceedings is observed. The chief, presiding in the council, the head men and braves of the tribe, each speak in turn until all, having a desire, have expressed their views. This form of procedure is eminently adapted to the development of the power of expression and persuasion, for in every case the action of the tribe is influenced more or less by the effect of the speeches of the warriors. 


The Indian, away from his family and his native hunting-grounds, appears as a dignified, repulsive being, constantly contemplating some horrible scheme of massacre. There are times when the expression of his face and his rigidity of manner are inflexible. There are moments, also, when he relaxes. With the warriors of the village he often tells his stories, jokes, laughs, and smokes, with as light a heart as a country wag. 


Pp. 282-4:


BEFORE bringing this narrative to a close, I desire to incorporate a few facts and reflections concerning the past and the future of the American Indian. It was natural that the presence, and particularly the aggressive spirit of the early settlers, should inspire in the breasts of the primitive dwellers upon the American continent a feeling of suspicion, uneasiness, and hostility. Occurrences so visibly opposed to their interests and safety, were calculated to effect the results which followed, involving upon the one hand a conflict for the perpetuation of race, and the preservation of tribal hunting-grounds, upon the other territorial acquisitions, to make way for the building up of a new and modern civilization, in the wilds of a new world. Over three centuries have elapsed. This has been a period of bloody, and desperate wars, and horrible atrocities. Whether the savage is to blame for his natural aversion to civilized habits, and the sanguinary part he has acted, or whether the superior white race is open to censure for the means too often resorted to for the acquisition of the vast territory to-day under its control, is a question now too late for consideration. What remains of this aboriginal people within the limits of the United States, is left to the alternative of civilization or rapid extinction. The spread of population, art and science, will not wait for the slow process which characterized the efforts of a century or less ago. The two conditions of the savage, and the enlightened of the species cannot live peaceably, and with equal prosperity, together. While this is a deplorable element of human intercourse, the weaker must give way to the stronger. 


A retrospect of the history of this continent as regards the two races, demonstrates very satisfactorily, the causes of the depletion of the Indian population, and the same processes are still at work. In the contests between the rival nations of the old world, for territorial aggrandizement, taking advantage of the simplicity and passions of the aborigines by means of promises and presents, this unsuspecting people were induced to participate in the endless wars which ensued. These hostilities led to feuds and rivalries among the savages themselves, and where the thirst for blood was so fully gratified, the radical change of nature required by civilization, occupied the least portion of their attention or desires. The natural result was a melancholy and rapid decline of numbers, and the few still in existence perpetuating the tribal names, and very few of the nobler qualities of their progenitors, point to an inevitable fate. 


The civilization of to-day is selfish and aggressive. The multiplicity of new avenues of development realized in the application of steam and electricity, are not to be trammeled by such abstract considerations as philanthropy. Humanity may arouse feelings of magnanimity on the part of the strong, but philanthropy is an ideal sought after, and too often results in a misinterpretation of the condition, and capacity of the weak. It is easier to imagine philanthropy without understanding it, than to elevate and ameliorate an abject, or a savage race, by the mere process of bestowing charity for the accommodation or convenience of physical necessities. An inherent spirit of progress must certainly exist before any advance in the scale of improvement can be anticipated. If a savage prefers his native wilds, to the anxieties, perplexities, and higher condition of intellect incident to civilization, no flowery sentimentality nor sympathetic expressions of the heart will avail a particle of good. A natural energy of mind and body, stimulated by an ambition to rise in the scale of human life, will more speedily accomplish results, than all the external influence that could be brought into existence. The spread of civilization must either be retarded to allow those whom we wish to benefit, to catch up or go forward, and engulf those who are unable to ride upon its rolling wave. 


The Black Hawk war of 1831-'32, the Seminole war lasting seven years, the Creek war, the Sioux war of 1852, the Cheyenne and Sioux outbreak of 1864, and the Cheyenne war of 1867, together with repeated less-important troubles, have resulted with large expenditures of money and a considerable loss of life, on both sides, in opening to settlement and profitable use a vast extent of domain, reaching nearly two thousand miles west of the Atlantic coast. For the past twenty years the same scenes have transpired to dispossess the savages of their profitless occupation of the valuable territory on the Pacific slope, and to clear the way for that career of affluence and empire which first found its way upon those remote shores through the golden gate. 


The total Indian population, now living within the limits of the United States, is less than three hundred thousand. Of these about seventy-six thousand are found within the limits of civilization, while very nearly three times that number, or over two hundred and nineteen thousand, inhabit the plains and Rocky mountains. Both these regions, less inviting to the husbandman, or undeveloped, respecting their mineral wealth, have become the last point of refuge for the race. 


The Indians, in their new resorts, have found facilities for pursuing their wild habits, and trusting to the natural defences thrown around them, experience, at least, that temporary respite from harrassing and depleting wars, inspired in defence of their hunting-grounds, and retaliated by the whites from necessity and protection against the horrible outrages which belong to savage warfare…