First, as a mat- ter of course, came General Crook. Then Colonel Ilo3'all, frank and direct of speech, and often very emphatic in his observations to his subordinates.
Then came Major Evans, a melancholy, philosophically inclined officer, devoted to literature, suflfering from an old wound, and having, to all appearance, registered a vow never to smile, in any sense. Noyes, commanding a company, was appointed commander of the five troops of the 2d Cavalry ; while the ten troops of the 8d Cavalry were divided into three batal- ions, under the three senior company commanders, Col. Henry, Maj. Anson Mills and Capt. Fred Yan Yliet. John V. Furey looked after the wagon train, as he was quartermaster of the expedition, and Chief Packer, Tom Moore — an old follower of General Crook's — looked after the pack mule train, and all that appertained thereto.
Nearly all of the officers mentioned had aides and adjutants, all of whom had orderlies, who blew their bugles with startling frequency, and rode from one end of the line to the other, as if the devil himself was after them. It is astonishing bow much our bold dragoons can swear on proper provocation. The sentimental fair ones who so much admire our shoulder-strapped and bef rogged cavalry officers in a brilliant ball room ought to see and hear them when out on a rough campaign.
The same is also true of the infantry officers. In contrast, however, with the professional mule packers, and whackers, the officers were models of the early Chris- tian type of mankind. They were unamiable and unattractive animals, awkward, yet " handy with their feet," and vilely discordant.
The General, how- ever, knew their value on a campaign, and had great respect for their eccentricities of manner and habit. But the animal has his fine points also. He is surer, if slower, than the horse, and can live where the latter would surely starve. Ears polite would be immeasurably shocked by the sounds and observations that accompany the starting of a pack train from camp in the early morning.
The hybrids are " cinched " or girthed so tight by the packers that they are almost cut in two. Naturally the beasts don't want to move under such circumstances. They therefore stand stock still. This irritates the packers, who swear in a most artistic and perfectly inexhaustible fashion. They welt the animals with their rawhides most unmercifully, and the brutes reply with their heels and the batteries of nature, in a most effective, if somewhat obscene, manner. Suddenly, and generally simultaneously, they dash forward, and matters run more tranquilly during the rest of the day. Such is a part of " the romance of war.
The latter were expected to do all the fighting, while the mule-whackers had the better part of the feasting.
In fact, the whole country had a kind of arid, half-starved look in the beginning of June, , and I fancy it has hardly improved much in appearance since that period. The grass seemed to be exceedingly coarse in most places, and was disfigured, wherever the eye turned, by the omnipresent sage brush and cruel cacti. I wrote at the time, to the paper I represented, that ranchmen who cared little or nothing for the comforts of civilization could raise large herds of cattle in that region, if the Sioux were subdued or friendly,but that for purposes of tillage, the soil was unavailable.
My candid judgment was that, during a march of about miles, I had not seen a twenty-acre tract that could approach even the medium agricultural lands of Illinois or Iowa in productive power. I had not seen a single acre that could compare with the prime farming lands of the old States. The wealth of the soil must have been very deep down, for it certainly was not visible on the surface, except in the form of alkaline deposits, which resembled hoar frost.
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It lacked then, and I suppose it lacks still, several essentials toward making it reasonably habitable: first, water; second, timber; third, cliniate. In rocks, hills, ants, snakes, weeds and alkali, that portion of Wyoming is rich indeed. If there should happen to be any gold in the heart of the Big Horn mountains, God must have placed it there to make up for the comparative worthlessness of a large portion of the Territory. AlfD filVOCAC, become a part of that great agricultural Northwest which is justly called the granary of the world ; and that its highest destiny was to become a mammoth cattle range.
My humble prediction has been fulfilled.
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Myriads of domestic cattle have taken the place of the picturesque buffalo, and where the red Indian used to ride on his wild forays, the enterpris- ing cowboy now cracks his horse-whip and "rounds up" his herds. Colonel Eoyall, at the outset of our march, used to have us on the road at 5 o'clock in the morning, but General Crook, on assuming command, fixed the hour at 6 o'clock for the infantry and at o'clock for the cavalry, in order that the horses might have sufficient rest, as he intended to make night marches in pursuit of the hostiles, accompanied by his pack train only, after the campaign had been fully developed.
He detached from Sage creek two companies of the 3d Cavalry, under Captains Meinhold and Vroom, to patrol the country to the westward, and report the presence of fresh Indian trails, if any such existed. The detachment took along four days' rations, and was ordered to rejoin us at old Fort Reno, on the Powder river. On the 80th of May we marched from Sage creek to what is called the South Fork of the Cheyenne river, a puny, muddyJooking rivulet, the rotten banks of which were fringed with cottonwood trees and tangled, rich undergrowth.
The water was shockingly bad, and made many of the men quite sick. We all felt that we were on hostile and dangerous ground, but we were allowed to sleep in peace. The pickets, however, were doubled, and every precaution against a surprise was taken. On the 3l8t of May the weather, which had been rather mild and pleasant for several days, suddenly changed. The thermometer fell to zero, and the wind rose to the propor- tions of a hurricane.
The sky became deeply overcast with ominous-looking clouds, and whirlwinds raised columns of alkaline dust, which scalded our eyes and gave to every object a hazy and filthy appearance. Many of the tents were blown down, and the men shivered around their watch- fires, as if it were midwinter.
It was a relief to everybody when morning came and " the general " was sounded.
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We marched on Wind creek— a very poor apology'f or a stream — about twenty miles northward. Our course lay over a some- what bare, but undulating, country.
About noon the clouds partially lifted, and the sun of the last day of May shone out fitfully to cheer our weary road. We soon gained the summit of an unusually high swell in the prairie, called in frontier parlance " a divide," and beheld, with some degree of joy, to our left and front, distant perhaps one hundred miles, the chilly, white summits of the mighty Big Horn mountains. Looking backward, we could see the faint blue outline of Laramie Peak,almost dipping below the hori- zon.
On our right front, northeastward, the Pumpkin butteSy four long, somewhat irregular, but mountain-like, formations, several hundred feet in height, arose abruptly from the very bosom of " the bad lands. But soon the lurking storm came back upon us with renewed fury, and there was an end, for that day at least, of our enjoyment of savage scenery.
A more comfortless bivouac rarely fell to a soldier's lot. Every inch of ground was covered with some species of cacti, each seemingly more full of thorns than its neighbor. The water was sim- ply execrable, the wood scarce and the weather bitterly cold. By order of General Crook, who did not desire to be hampered with too many impediments, we had left our tent stoves at Fort Fetterman, arid as the thermometer continued to fall, we began to think that we had accidentally marched into Alaska.
The storm, as night advanced, increased in fury, and came near playing us the shabby trick which it inflicted on the English army in , when nearly all the tents of the Crimean expeditionary force were swept into the bay of Balaklava. When the grim morning of Thursday, June 1, , broke upon Wind river, snow was falling as thickly as it does in Chicago about New Year's.
The shower did not continue very long, and when it ceased, we found the temperature much more comfortable. We marched on that day to a dreary place known as the "dry fork" of the Powder river — something over twenty miles. Although the soil was marred by the brushwood and weeds which disfigure, more or less, most portions of the Territory, the valley showed evi- dences of fertility.
The vegetation is comparatively good, and a belt of Cottonwood timber follows the whole course of the river, from its source among the Big Horn mountains to where it falls into the Yellowstone, opposite Sheridan buttes, in Montana. Antelope were the largest game we found in the locality, because the buffalo had chosen, temporarily, to graze on the then great ranges of the Yellowstone and Tongue rivers.
As we approached the river, a young staff officer raised his field-glass to his eyes, and looked steadily to the west- ward for some tninutes. Colonel Henry's company of the 3 1 Cavalry was at once ordered to reconnoitre, and set oat at a fast trot over the prairie. Our column had begun to straggle somewhat, owing to the uneven character of the road, and an aide-de-camp came riding rapidly from front to rear, shouting, " Close up, close up!
Judging by the amount of bustle, the uninitiated among us began to believe that Sitting Bull and all his warriors must be close upon our heels. A fight was expected — muskets were examined and carbines unslung. The saddle girths were tightened, and nearly every man in the outfit assumed a proper look of martial ferocity. Very soon we observed Henry's command approaching the rapidly -moving " enemy," who seemed to be coming on with great fearlessness. The troop came to a halt, while the other party continued their movement in advance.
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Through our field-glasses we could then see that those dreaded "Indians" wore blue uniforms, rode American horses, and had a small pack train with them. They were, in fact, the two troops of cavalry detached under Meinhold and Vroom, at Sage creek, by the General, returning from their scout. We rode almost immediately into camp on the "dry fork" of Powder river, and then we learned that the scouting party had seen no Indians, or traces of Indians, during their long ride. Captain Vroom was then a magnificent specimen of the human race, tall, well-built and good-look- ing.
He has since grown much stouter, the result, doubtless, of the absence of Indian campaigns, which would now seem to be almost at an end. One of Meinhold's men had wounded himself mortally by the accidental discharge of his pistol, and the poor fellow had suffered intensely on the subsequent march. He was placed in an ambulance, and made as comfortable as possible. The absence of Indians surprised the men who had been over the road previously.
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