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Full text of "Sully's expedition against the Sioux in 1864"

UNIVERSITY 




BULLY'S EXPEDITION AGAINST THE SIOUX 
IN 1864.* 



BY LIEUT. DAVID L. KINGSBURY. 



The expedition in 1863 under command of Gen. Henry H. 
Sibley was successful in driving across the Missouri river those 
of the Indians who had not surrendered, excepting those who 
had taken refuge in British territory. 

The object of the expedition led by Gen. Alfred Sully in 1864, 
designated in official orders as the "Northwestern Indian Ex- 
pedition," but more commonly called Sully's expedition or cam- 
paign, was to further chastise the Sioux who had massacred 
the white immigrants of southwestern Minnesota, and, if possi- 
ble, to compel their complete submission. The Minnesota con- 
tingent of this expedition, designated as the Second Brigade, 
rendezvoused at Fort Bidgely on June 1st, 1864, and was com- 
posed of the following Minnesota troops: the Eighth Minnesota 
Volunteer Infantry, mounted, Lieut. Col. Henry C. Bogers in 
command; six companies of the Second Minnesota Volunteer 
Cavalry, Col. Bobert N. McLaren in command; the Third Min- 
nesota Battery, of one section of six-pounder smooth-bore guns, 
and one section of twelve-pounder mountain howitzers; forty- 
five scouts; and a train of ninety- three six-mule teams and 
twelve ambulances. The fighting force consisted of twenty- 
one hundred men, all mounted. Col. Minor T. Thomas, of the 
Eighth Minnesota, was placed in command of the brigade by 
Gen. Sibley. 

Until a short time before the rendezvous at Port Bidgely, no 
more than five companies of the Eighth Minnesota (of which 
the writer was a member) had been together during a service 
of twenty-one months. The companies were enlisted at Fort 
Snelling in August, 1862, for service in the Civil War; but 
none of them were mustered in until three months later. Then, 
being more needed at home than in the South, as fast as they 
were ready for service, each company was sent out to the 
western Minnesota frontier, in citizens' clothes, in most in- 

*Read at the monthly meeting of the Executive Council, December 14, 1896. 



450 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS. 

stances only half of the company being armed, and those arms 
being the old Belgian or Austrian muskets, with very little 
camp equipage of any sort, while the only means of trans- 
portation were teams impressed from farmers and others, the 
impressment often being made under protest and frequently 
being resisted by force. Vouchers were, in nearly all instances, 
given for use of teams and for supplies taken. This is a di- 
gression, but is related to show the hardships encountered at 
the outset of our service on the frontier. The murder by the 
Sioux of citizens at Acton, Meeker county, August 18th, 1862, 
was four days after our enlistment; and that murder was the 
beginning of the general Indian outbreak and massacre which 
caused the death of nearly one thousand men, women, and 
children, in the newly settled western part of Minnesota, be- 
sides the destruction of a large amount of property. The mas- 
sacre also caused a further loss in population by several 
thousand leaving the state, a large proportion never to return. 

The officers and men in the expedition of 1864 were well 
prepared, by the discipline and experience of nearly two years' 
service, for the hardships that were to be encountered. This 
service of the Eighth Minnesota had been of a desultory charac- 
ter, but not void of danger, for a number of our men had been 
killed by the Sioux. It was the kind of service to make each 
soldier familiar with the character of the Indians, and with 
the terrible atrocities perpetrated upon those who fell into 
their hands. Every soldier had witnessed scenes to arouse 
the uttermost bitterness toward those who seemed destitute of 
any sentiment of humanity, and all were filled with an insatia- 
ble desire for revenge. Many of the command had had their 
families murdered, and were instigated to enlist by the wish 
to avenge themselves upon the perpetrators of those outrages. 
I know of two instances wherein this was accomplished with 
compound interest. 

The light artillery, Capt. Jones, had been in the expedition 
of 1863, and the other organizations had seen more or less 
service on the frontier, so that, as a whole, the command was 
well prepared to meet the Indians; and it was hoped to en- 
counter them in so large body that an engagement with them 
might be dignified as a battle. 

The interval of five days between our arrival at and de- 
parture from Fort Ridgely was fully occupied in preparations 
for our long expedition, which was to extend beyond the Mis- 
souri river. Its route is shown on the accompanying map. 



SULLY'S EXPEDITION AGAINST THE sioux. 451 

On the 6th of June the command left Fort Ridgely, and I 
must confess that to me, and no doubt to others, this seemed 
more like war than anything we had previously experienced. 
Few of our regiment had before seen so large a body of troops; 
and I can also say that, during a year's .service in the south, 
after our return from this campaign, I did not see a liner body 
of men. Further I may add, quite as truthfully, that we looked 
much finer on the day of our departure than we did on that of 
our return, four months later. Our wagon train was Increased 
by a hundred and twenty-five teams, with two hundred and 
fifty men, women, and children, and their supplies, bound for 
Idaho, who were to accompany us to the Yellowstone river. 
These emigrants, from the start to our parting with them, were 
an encumbrance, causing delay and hampering all our move- 
ments. 

Our march to the Missouri was not marked by any espe- 
cially noticeable occurrence; and after the novelty of travelling 
through a new country wore off, the day's march became tedi- 
ous. Soon after leaving Big Stone lake, the command began 
to suffer from the lack of good water, and some days from the 
scarcity of water of any kind. The few small lakes were im- 
pregnated with alkali, and nearly all the streams were dried 
up, except occasional pools which were stagnant and fouled by 
buffalo. On one occasion, after getting our tents pitched, the 
camp was struck by a tornado, levelling it instantly and caus- 
ing considerable damage, besides stampeding many of the 
horses and mules, all of which were, however, recovered with 
considerable difficulty. 

After passing the Coteau des Prairies, a few buffaloes and 
considerable numbers of antelopes were seen; but, as orders 
had been issued against shooting, only a few of either were 
secured. Buffalo chips were plentiful, and constituted our 
fuel until we reached the Missouri river. It was the practice 
of the soldiers, on nearing the camping location, to collect the 
chips on their ramrods until they would hold no more, and 
when the camp was reached to deposit them in a common pile 
for the cook. These chips made an intense fire and were far 
preferable to wood, requiring less labor to secure. They were 
very handy, too, when on the march, if one wished to make a 
cup of coffee, as it required but a moment or two to make a 
fire. For heating a "bean hole" the chips were also much su- 
perior to wood. 



452 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS. 

On approaching the Coteau du Missouri, the country be- 
came more rolling and the scenery less monotonous ; and when 
it was finally reached, an abundance of good water and excel- 
lent grazing for the animals were found. The latter had not 
only suffered from a lack of good water, but the grazing had 
been very poor, owing to the drouth. The distance from Fort 
Bidgely to the Missouri Coteau was accomplished in twenty- 
four days, an average of sixteen miles a day, Sundays not in- 
cluded. Only an occasional Indian had been seen; these evi- 
dently watching our progress. But on going into the Missouri 
valley, the scouts reported seeing several parties, and several 
fresh trails indicated their presence a short time before. 

The scouts also reported that Gen. Sully was one day's 
march down the river, and the next day we joined his forces. 
The day before our arrival, a surgeon attached to Gen. Sully's 
brigade had been shot by the Indians while out hunting. 

On July 2nd the combined commands marched down the 
Missouri river to a point opposite the mouth of the Cannon 
Ball river. There we found three steamboats laden with sup- 
plies for the command and with material for the post that was 
to be built on the west bank of the Missouri. 

On the 9th of July the command was transferred by the 
boats to the west side. Gen. Sully's command, now called 
the First Brigade, was made up of the following troops : eleven 
companies of the Sixth Iowa Cavalry, Lieut. Col. Pollock comr 
manding; three companies of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, Lieut. 
.Col. Pattee commanding; two companies of Dakota Cavalry, 
Capt. Miner in command; the Thirtieth Wisconsin Infantry, 
Col. Dill commanding; Col. N. Pope's Battery of two sections; 
and Brackett's Minnesota Battalion of Cavalry. 

The Thirtieth Wisconsin was detached to build and garri- 
son the new post, subsequently called Fort Kice. 

The Second Brigade comprised the same regiments and 
companies that formed it when at Fort Kidgely, Col. Thomas 
being continued in command by Gen. Sully. 

On July 19tn, the command having been supplied with 
sixty days' rations, and leaving behind all surplus baggage, 
marched up the valley of the Cannon Ball for several days, 
expecting to find a camp, reported by the scouts, of fifteen or 
eighteen hundred tepees, near the source of the river; but the 
Indians did not await our coming, and the evidences of their 
having been there recently were all that were found. 



SULLY'S EXPEDITION AGAINST THE sioux. 453 

The command then crossed over to the Heart river, which 
we followed to its source. We were now in an unexplored 
country. Trails and other signs, and frequently signals, smoke 
by day and fires by night, indicated the proximity of the In- 
dians, but no large bodies were seen. The country was rough 
and barren of vegetation, except large tracts covered with cac- 
tus, the only thing left by the locusts which had quite lately 
swarmed over the country. The earth was parched and was 
.soon worked into an impalpable dust, which aggravated our 
thirst and filled our eyes and nostrils. 

Water was very scarce, and when found was vile, adding to 
our own and our animals' sufferings. The water on the east 
side of the Missouri was a luxury compared with this. One 
day all the water we had was what could be squeezed out of 
the mud of an alkali pond, near which we had camped the 
night previous. The water in this pond was only about eight 
inches deep. Guards had been placed around it only ten feet 
apart to prevent its being wasted; but during the night a 
large number of the horses and mules broke loose from their 
picket ropes, and, taking possession of the pond, remained in it 
till morning. The water that could be obtained from the mud 
was all that we had in the march to our next camp. Water 
from the streets of St. Paul would have been better, for it 
would have lacked the alkali. This alkali water was so strong 
that it would burn the skin from the tongue; and it soon caused 
dysentery. The poor animals suffered intensely from it, and 
from lack of forage. Large numbers of them began to give 
out, soon becoming unable to carry their riders, and many 
were shot. 

On the 24th of July, the scouts reported a large village at 
Ta-ha-kouty (Killdeer) mountain, near the headwaters of the 
Heart river. The teams and the emigrant train were corralled, 
the tents and every article that could be dispensed with were 
placed within, and enough men of those who were dismounted 
through the loss of their horses were left to protect this prop- 
erty. The command, provided with eight days' rations, no 
tents, and only enough wagons to carry ammunition, made a 
rapid march northward, in the direction of the supposed camp. 

On the 28th of July, a scout reported the camp only a few 
miles away. In a short time the village could be seen at the 
base of a high hill heavily wooded. The view of this camp caused 



454 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS. 

considerable excitement. We all felt elated to know that we 
had at length reached the enemy, whom we had travelled nearly 
seven hundred miles to find. The Indians were advised of our 
approach, but so sanguine were they of being able to whip us, 
that they did not think it necessary to strike their camp. In 
fact, so sure were they of victory, that the non-combatants (old 
men, squaws, and children) assembled in front of the camp 
to witness our annihilation, which their braves led them to 
believe was certain. 

The plain which lay before us was well adapted to Indian 
fighting, being somewhat uneven and rising gradually on the 
east and west into broken hills. On the north it was termi- 
nated abruptly by the high Killdeer hill or butte, at the base 
of which was situated the Indian village. Immediately, on the 
camp coming into our view, though still two miles away, great 
activity among the Indians could be observed. It was not 
long before the low hills on either flank were swarming with 
the braves in their war paint and dress (or rather with no 
dress at all except breech-clout and moccasins), mounted on 
their ponies, and yelling like demons. 

Our forces were soon placed in position; the men were dis- 
mounted; every fourth man holding his own horse and three 
others; and we deployed as skirmishers, forming three sides 
of a parallelogram, with a rear guard and the batteries in the 
center. The Indians made repeated charges at the full speed 
of their ponies, keeping up meanwhile their unearthly yelling. 
In these charges many of them were killed, while no casualties 
occurred on our side. They soon learned the range of our 
small arms, and were careful not to come within it. 

Our lines advanced slowly but steadily, repulsing the re- 
peated charges of the Indians, and when they collected on the 
hills, as they frequently did, a shell from the batteries would 
scatter them with considerable loss. 

The cannons were a revelation to these Sioux, or at least to 
most of them. They had probably never seen, much less heard, 
one before. After several attempts to turn our flanks without 
success, they massed their forces between our lines and their 
village, and made one final and desperate charge on our right, 
which was within a short distance of their camp. This charge 
was repulsed in a hand-to-hand fight by Braekett's battalion, 
and the first casualties on our part occurred here. 



BULLY'S EXPEDITION AGAINST THE sioux. 455 

The Indians now realized that the battle was going against 
them and that their village was in danger. This was evident 
in the efforts the squaws were making to move the tents and 
supplies. But we were too close to them, and their haste to 
escape was expedited by shells dropped into the village, which 
caused great consternation. They soon apparently abandoned 
all hope of carrying off any of their supplies, but endeavored 
to hide them, together with immense quantities of buffalo 
robes and furs, by throwing them into the numerous deep ra- 
vines in the neighborhood. About sundown we took posses- 
sion of the camp, when the Indians were seen retreating up 
and beyond the hills. Four companies of the Eighth Minne- 
sota, were ordered to pursue the stragglers and drive them from 
the top of the hills. This was successfully done. 

When we (I was one of the detachment) reached the summit 
of the hill, after passing through heavy timber and under- 
brush, we were stopped by a very deep canon, \tfhich the In- 
dians had crossed by some path known only to themselves. 
Beyond this canon the Indians, with their squaws, could sti!l 
be seen retreating, but they were out of the reach of our guns. 
Several warriors, who had evidently remained in the canon to 
delay our progress, were shot. Our detachment returned to 
the abandoned camp after dark, and found that the command 
had bivouacked at some distance back. We were completely 
fagged out and very hungry, but lay down on our arms and 
were fairly asleep when we were aroused by the pickets firing; 
but the camp finally settled down and we were not again dis- 
turbed. 

At daylight the Indian camp was again occupied, and the 
trail of the retreating savages was followed until the nature 
of the country prevented further progress. It was found that 
two pickets had been killed, being shot with arrows. They 
had been stripped of their clothing, and their bodies were hor- 
ribly mutilated. One of these men, La Plant, had eleven ar- 
rows in his body. All of our dead were buried where they 
fell, the command passing over their graves so as to obliterate 
all signs. 

Four companies were detailed to destroy the Indian village 
and supplies. This was no small task, as there were about 
sixteen hundred tepees, nearly all standing. A few of the 
tepees, in the haste to strike them, had been cut around the 



456 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS. 

base, but they remained where they fell. The destruction of 
this camp and its supplies was a greater blow to the Indians 
than the loss of the braves who were killed. With few excep- 
tions the tepees were of rawhide. The amount of supplies, 
including pemmican, jerked buffalo meat, dried berries, and 
buffalo robes, that was burned could not be estimated, it was 
immense. It was their winter village, well situated as to water 
and wood, and protected on the north by high hills. Indian 
against Indian, it would have been impregnable; and it had, 
no doubt, been their winter home for generations. 

A pathetic incident occurred in this connection, which in- 
dicates the panic and haste in which the camp was vacated. 
This was the finding of a papoose, a few months old, which 
had been abandoned or overlooked by its mother, or she may 
have been killed. The papoose was shot, by or possibly with- 
out an order, but it could not be helped. 

In this fight, called the battle of Ta-ha-kouty or Killdeer 
mountain, our force consisted of twenty-two hundred men; 
that of the Indians was estimated at from five to six thousand. 
They were superior to us in numbers and knowledge of the 
country, and the result might have been different, but for the 
fact that not more than half of them had guns; such as they 
had being of an inferior kind. To prove the latter assertion, 
only six of our force were killed and ten wounded, two being 
killed by arrows. The Indian loss in killed was supposed to be 
from one hundred to one hundred and fifty. No estimate was 
made of the wounded. It is, however, as all Indian fighters 
know, difficult to, determine with any degree of accuracy the 
actual number killed, because the Indians generally succeed 
in carrying many of their wounded and dead from the field, 
while others are dragged off by their ponies to which they are 
attached by lariats. 

To soldiers, or others, who have not seen or heard an Indian 
charge, it cannot be described. It is calculated to strike terror 
into the hearts of the bravest. I have not the command of 
words to attempt to give any proper description of it, and can 
make no better comparison (imaginary, of course) than with 
the imps of hell let loose. 

An effort was made to follow the trail of the retreating 
Indians, but the character of the country and the jaded condi- 
tion of our animals, together with the fact that our rations 



SULLY'S EXPEDITION AGAINST THE sioux. 457 

were getting short, compelled Gen. Sully to abandon the pur- 
suit, and the command returned to the corral on July 30th, 
It had accomplished a distance of one hundred and seventy-two 
miles in six days, one of which was occupied in the fight. 

The march was again taken up by the whole command, and 
at this time it was discovered that a miscalculation had been 
made by the commissary at Fort Rice, so that we had but six 
days' rations left. As it was very uncertain when we should 
reach the Yellowstone river, our hard bread ration was re- 
duced one-third, and that of meat one-half. This insufficiency 
of food added to our hardships. 

On the 5th of August we came to the Bad Lands of the 
Little Missouri river. Gen. Sully had been told by all the 
guides, excepting one, that it would be impossible to pass 
through this tract even if we had no wagons. To go around it 
would require more days than we had rations for. One of the 
guides, a young Blackfoqt, said that a passage could be made, 
and it was undertaken. The character of these lands is well 
known to-day, and it would take too much time to describe 
them in detail. At the time of our descent into this basin from 
the level of the surrounding country, we were undoubtedly the 
first body of white men that had ever seen it, not to speak of 
attempting to cross it Those who have since travelled through 
that wonderful tract, including probably some here present 
who have looked upon it from the window of a palace car, will 
appreciate our apprehensions as to the result of the under- 
taking. 

A brief general description will, perhaps, be necessary to 
enable those who have not seen these Bad Lands, to under- 
stand the difficulties and hardships encountered in passing 
through them. They consist of a depression or basin, covering 
an extent of about forty miles, having an average depth of 
some six hundred feet below the level of the surrounding coun- 
try, interspersed with buttes whose tops reach the level of the 
table-lands surrounding the depression. There are many deep 
and narrow canons, having no confirmed general direction and 
forming a bewildering labyrinth, in which one not familiar 
with the country must inevitably soon be lost. 

Gen. Sully described these lands in very terse language as 
"hell with the fires put out." Many of the canons had to be 
widened for the wagons and artillery to pass through them. 
Immediately upon our entering the Bad Lands, the Indians 



458 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS. 

again made their appearance and annoyed our advance from 
the vantage ground offered by the tops of the buttes, but for- 
tunately without loss on our side, though several of the Indians 
were picked off. 

On arriving at the Little Missouri river, which runs through 
the Bad Lands, dividing them about equally, we found a nar- 
row valley in which were frequent thickets and meadows. 
The latter were covered with plentiful grass, and the water in 
the river was excellent. Altogether this valley seemed to us 
a veritable paradise, and men and animals made the most of it. 
However, we were not to enjoy it long, for the Indians, having 
been reinforced, became more bold and in fact, through the 
guides, dared us to fi^ht. They confined their operations to 
endeavors to pick off men who were out grazing their horses, 
and to stampeding our stock. A few horses were lost. 

On our leaving the valley and entering the hills beyond, the 
Indians made an attack in force, but with the same results as 
previously, notwithstanding that they had the advantage of 
position on the buttes above us, while we were often in single 
file, extending our column for miles. The attacks continued 
until we were well out of the hills, when the Indians suddenly 
disappeared and were not seen again. In this fight it was 
afterward learned from the Indians that there were from seven 
to eight thousand braves. The number of the Indians killed, 
as was estimated, exceeded three hundred, with about seven 
hundred wounded. Our loss was nine killed, and one hundred 
wounded. 

I may venture the opinion here, that, if the Indians had 
been as well armed at this time, or even at the fight at Ta-ha- 
kouty, as were those at the Ouster fight, the result would have 
been as disastrous, and even more terrible; for what would 
have been the fate of the women and children in the emigrant 
train? If any had been so fortunate as to miss being killed by 
the savages, they would certainly have perished by starvation. 
There would have been no possibility of succor, for, with the 
exception of Fort Union, near the mouth of the Yellowstone, 
there was no place where white men were living within six 
hundred miles. 

The country between the Bad Lands and the Yellowstone 
was as barren as that crossed east of the Little Missouri; and 
this continued to be the case until we reached the Yellowstone 



SULLY'S EXPEDITION AGAINST THE sioux. 459 

valley, on the 13th of August. It was none too soon. Men 
and animals were nearly exhausted from fatigue, short rations, 
and bad water or none. I was so weak that, on our last day's 
march to the river, I fell from my horse twice, and such was 
the condition of many. 

We learned at the river that it was fortunate we took the 
short route through the Bad Lands; for if the command, taking 
the longer route, had been able to reach the Braseur House, 
the objective point of the expedition, on the Yellowstone some 
eighty miles above where we struck it, we should not have 
found the three steamboats which had been ordered to meet 
us there. They had been unable to ascend so far, and indeed 
we did not know, until the day before we arrived at the river, 
whether the boats had been able to reach even the point where 
we struck it. These were the first steamboats to ascend the 
Yellowstone. 

We were put in good spirits, however, by one of the guides 
bringing to Gen. Sully a chip which he found floating in the 
river. Ordinarily this small bit of wood found floating in the 
water would have had little significance, but to us it meant 
volumes. Although not sufficient to assure us that there were 
three steamboats above us, or any other number, it was enough 
to hang our hopes upon. A reconnaissance by the guides soon 
proved that such hopes were not unfounded. Two boats, the 
Chippewa Falls and Alone (the third, named Island City, hav- 
ing been sunk below Fort Union), were found two or three 
miles above, and they soon dropped down to our camp. The 
arrival of the boats was hailed with cheers and other demon- 
strations of joy, which under other circumstances might have 
appeared foolish. We now had plenty to eat. The poor horses 
and mules, however, had to be content with grass and a very 
little corn, as much of the forage was lost on the Island City. 

Aside from the regular rations, the command had all the 
fresh meat it needed, and even a surfeit, for the valley abound- 
ed with buffaloes, elks, and blacktail deer. There was also an 
abundance of berries and choke cherries. The cherries were a 
God-send, as they were better than the doctor's prescriptions 
for dysentery, which had become prevalent. 

After several days' rest, the command was transferred to 
the northwest bank of the Yellowstone river by the steam- 
boats, and the horses and mules by swimming. A number of 



460 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS. 

the mules were drowned; and, I regret to add, several men 
of the emigrant contingent were also drowned while swimming 
their stock across the river. At this point we parted company 
with the emigrants, they going up the river and our command 
down. 

We reached Fort Union, one of Chouteau's trading posts, 
located near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri 
rivers, about the 18th of August. There were no troops at this 
post, it being garrisoned by employees only. The quarters 
were commodious and protected by a stockade. The crossing 
of the Missouri river was accomplished in the same manner as 
that of the Yellowstone, but it was more hazardous to the 
animals, owing to the quicksands. However, there were no> 
casualties. The distance accomplished since leaving Fort Rice 
was 460 miles, and the time consumed had been thirty days. 

Soon after crossing the Missouri, on our return to Fort 
Rice, we began to see buffaloes, at first in small groups, and 
later in immense herds of countless numbers. Buffalo rumps, 
steaks, and tongues, were our regular diet. On one evening, 
after going into camp, over fifty of these animals were killed. 
In one of these hunts, Dr. J. H. Murphy, who was surgeon 
of the Eighth Minnesota, was unhorsed and severely gored by 
a buffalo bull. Indeed, the buffalo herds were so great that fre- 
quently the command was corralled as a precaution, and on 
one occasion our train was sadly demoralized by a herd going 
through it. 

When one of those vast herds, often numbering thousands 
of animals, got started in any given direction, nothing could 
stop them except a cliff or a river, and then only after hundreds 
had been killed by being forced over the precipice or into the 
water. Near Fort Berthold, I saw more buffaloes than I could 
count lying dead, or dying, at the foot of a high bluff, they hav- 
ing been forced over the brink during a stanipede; and at 
another time a sand-bar, evidently quicksand, in the Missouri 
river, was seen covered with dead buffaloes, the stench from 
which was terrible. 

The march down the Missouri valley w r as uneventful, ex- 
cept that a short distance below Fort Berthold a fresh trail 
was struck, indicating a large force of Indians going northeast 
towards the British possessions. It was made, evidently, by 
a part, at least, of those with whom we had fought on the west 



BULLY'S EXPEDITION AGAINST THE sioux. 461 

side of the Missouri, who had crossed at this point. This trail 
was followed to the lime springs, and at that point it was 
found that a very large camp had but recently been abandoned, 
in fact, so recently that the ashes of their camp fires were not 
cold. The camp had been wairned by their scouts of our com- 
ing, but had concluded not to await our arrival. The condi- 
tion of our animals did not permit the command to pursue 
them further. 

At Fort Berthold we had an opportunity to see the Ree and 
Mandan villages. The command reached Fort Bice on Sep- 
tember 9th. It was there learned that Captain Fisk's Idaho 
expedition (this is not the train that accompanied* our com- 
mand to the Yellowstone), after leaving Fort Rice with a small 
escort of troops, had been surrounded about two hundred miles 
west from Fort Rice by Indians, and had sent for assistance. 
Two hundred men from the Eighth Minnesota, unmounted, 
and one hundred of the Second Minnesota Cavalry, were sent 
to relieve Capt. Fisk. The two hundred men detailed from the 
Eighth regiment, on their return from Capt. Fisk's relief, went 
down the Missouri on barges to St. Louis, and joined their 
regiment at Murfreesborough, Tennessee. 

After a much needed rest of four days at Fort Rice, the 
Minnesota brigade started September 15th on its return, our 
route being north of our outgoing trail, and comparatively de- 
void of interest. The command arrived at Fort Wadsworth 
on September 26th. Companies B, C, D, and H, Second Minne- 
sota Cavalry, Major Robert H. Rose in command, relieved a 
detachment of the Thirtieth Wisconsin Infantry at this fort, 
the latter going with our command to Fort Ridgely and thence 
to Fort Snelling. 

The command left Fort Wadsworth on the 29th of Septem- 
ber, and arrived at Fort Ridgely on October 8th, after an ab- 
sence of four months and two days. In that time we had 
marched sixteen hundred and twenty-five miles; had whipped 
the savages at an estimated loss to them of four or five hun- 
dred killed, and many wounded; and had forever settled the 
Indian question east of the Missouri river. Thus it was made 
possible for w r hite immigrants to settle and develop a territory 
equal in area to the New England states. It was believed at 
that time to be almost a desert, fit only for Indians and buf- 
faloes; but now it supports a large and prosperous population, 



462 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS. 

and is one of the greatest wheat and cattle producing regions 
of the world. 

The success of the campaign was due in a great degree to 
the character of the officers and men. Gen. Sully was an able 
and experienced officer, having seen service on the plains and in 
the south. He and Gen. Minor T. Thomas were each held in 
high esteem, having the confidence of the whole command. 

Thirty-three years have passed since the events presented 
in this paper. Nearly all of the principal officers, many of the 
subordinate officers, and many of those who filled the humble 
but necessary positions of non-commissioned officers and pri- 
vates, are dead. Some lived long enough to witness the mar- 
velous changes which their bravery and hardships made possi- 
ble. Those of us still living see what the most visionary never 
dreamed of, a territory, which at that time contained a popu- 
lation of a few hundreds, now possessing several millions. 

As a matter of record of my regiment, and I trust of general 
interest, I will, in conclusion, quote the words of one who has 
written its history, that my paper may thus include a slight 
reference to our later service in the closing part of the great 
Civil War: 

The Eighth Regiment was fortunate in the character of its material; 
fortunate in the harmony within; fortunate in the variety of its service, 
mounted and on foot, railroad and steamship; fortunate in the wide 
extent of the United States it visited at Uncle Sam's expense from 
Fort Snelling, via Montana, Alabama, Washington, Fort Fisher, and 
southwest North Carolina, to Minnesota again; fortunate that in the 
last year of the war it traveled more miles and saw a greater variety 
of service and country than any other regiment in the United States 
army; fortunate that the end of its enlistment saw the end of the Re- 
bellion and a saved country. In a word, the Eighth Minnesota, in 
that wonderful contest of splendid organizations of men, thinks it 
honor sufficient to claim only to be the peer of its fellows. 

And now, after twenty-five years, a large part of the regiment are 
still citizens of Minnesota, and are a full average in character and use- 
fulness of the citizens of the towns where they have since made their 
homes. When we know how they freely gave three of the best years 
of their lives to their country, and then, returning poor, went to work 
with a will to secure an independent position in civil life, and how 
sturdily, how bravely, they have struggled to overcome the obstacles 
in their way, it is the crowning glory of the volunteer soldier, and the 
best guarantee of the future of the republic. 









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