Military History | Death of Logan Fontenelle|
The Rebellion | Proclamation|
First Infantry (afterward First Cavalry)|
Second Nebraska Cavalry|
First Battalion Nebraska Veteran Cavalry|
The First Regiment in Nebraska.
The Curtis Horse|
The Curtis Horse (cont.)|
Public Acknowledgment | The Distinguished Soldiers|
Department of the Platte
We here interrupt the history of the First Regiment, at the point where it ceased duty in the war of the rebellion and assumed duty on the frontier, in order that the reader may have a clear understanding of the necessities that led up to that assignment. A return to the summer of 1862 is made in this narrative. At that time, the question of protection of settlers in the newer portions of Nebraska arose into grave prominence.
During the latter part of the summer of the year 1862, the Indians in Minnesota commenced plundering, killing and capturing the settlers of that State, upon its northwestern border. Some six hundred persons were killed, and over one hundred taken into captivity. As they were being driven from the scene of their depredations, many of them crossed the Missouri River, and fears were entertained for the safety of our pioneer settlers. At this time, Hon. Alvin Saunders was Governor of the Territory, but he being temporarily absent, the duties of the Executive fell upon Hon. A. S. Paddock, then Secretary of the Territory. He at once, as Acting Governor, dispatched Lieut. Col. John Taffe, Aid-de-Camp on the Governor's staff, to the northwestern counties to ascertain the intentions of the Indians. He also took arms and ammunition to distribute amongst the settlers for their protection.
On the 9th of September, 1862, Acting Governor Paddock telegraphed to the Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War, at Washington, as follows:
OMAHA, N. T., September 9, 1862.
Powerful bands of Indians are retiring from Minnesota into the northern counties of this Territory. Settlers by hundreds are fleeing. Instant action is demanded. I can turn out a militia force, a battery of three pieces of six-pounders, and from six to ten companies of cavalry and mounted infantry. The territory is without credit or a cent of money. Authorize me by telegraph to act for the General Government in providing immediate defense, and I can do all that is necessary with our militia, if subsisted and paid by Government.
Acting Gov. Paddock was authorized to use all necessary precaution to protect the settlers from the depredations of the Indians, and to communicate with Gen. Pope, who was then in command of this department, with headquarters at St. Paul, Minn. On the 12th of September, 1862, he addressed a communication to Gen. Pope, informing him of Col. Taffe's departure with arms and ammunition for the settlers, and inclosing copies of telegrams and communications from the Secretary of War. Gen. Pope immediately sent Gen. Elliott, his Inspector General, to Omaha to consult with the Governor, and to see what was necessary to be done for the full protection of the Territory, with full power to act in the matter, the result of which was the issuing of the order for the organization of the Second Nebraska Cavalry as a nine-months' regiment. Steps were immediately taken, and through the indefatigable efforts of Acting Gov. Paddock, aided by the assistance of the regiment, they were soon organized and in the field, with Hon. R. W. Furnas as Colonel. Company A was mustered in at Florence, October 23, 1862, numbering 103 men, under Peter Reed, Captain; S. E. Seely and E. H. Clark, Lieutenants. Company B (Burt County) followed on the 24th, with R. T. Beall, Captain, and C. D. Davis and C. F. Porter, Lieutenants. Company C, 103 strong, was commanded by T. W. Bedford, with J. W. Coleman and A. M. Atkinson, Lieutenants. This company came from Nemaha County and entered service October 30. Company D, from Sarpy County, mustered in November 3, under Capt. J. Edwards, Lieuts. Henry Gray and Wilbur Angus. Following these came Company E, Capt. Robert W. Furnas; Company F, Capt. Dominick La Boo; Company G., Capt. O. P. Bayne; Company H, Capt. John W. Marshall; and Company I, Capt. John Taffe. These companies came from Nemaha, Otoe, Richardson, Cass and Burt Counties, respectively.
There were on duty at this time in the Territory two companies of the Tenth Regulars at Fort Kearney; two companies of the Fourth Cavalry in the mountains west of Laramie; six companies of the Seventh Ohio Cavalry, under Col. Collins, at Fort Laramie; and two companies of Kansas cavalry. Companies B and C of the Second Nebraska, just organized, were detailed to Fort Kearney for post duty there.
Company K, Second Nebraska Cavalry, mustered in January 22, 1863, under Capt. Edwin Patrick; Lieutenants, William James and Phillip Williams.
The field and staff officers of the Second Regiment were as follows:
R. W. Furnas, Brownville, Colonel; W. F. Sapp, Omaha, Lieutenant Colonel; George Armstrong, Omaha, Major; John Taffe, Dakota County, Major; John W. Pearman, Nebraska City, Major; Aurelius Bowen, Nebraska City, Surgeon; H. M. Atkinson, Brownville, Adjutant; J. S. McCormick, Omaha, Quartermaster; J. Q. Goss, Bellevue, Commissary.
February 1, 1863, an order was issued establishing a depot of supplies at Omaha for the District of Nebraska Territory. Lieut. Wilcox was appointed Assistant Commissary of Subsistence.
Company L, Second Nebraska Cavalry, was organized at Brownville March 15, with S. F. Cooper, Captain, and O. B. Hewitt and F. B. Chaplin as Lieutenants. Company M came from Richardson County, commanded by D. W. Allison, Captain, and J. J. Bayne and Daniel Reavis, Lieutenants. These two companies were in excess of the call, but were gladly received and joined to the regiment, which was now ready for duty.
In April, 1863, the Second Nebraska was ordered to report for duty at Sioux City, preparatory to joining the expedition up the Missouri under Gen. Sully. By this action, less than four hundred men were left for duty in the Territory, and Gen. Craig, who had relied upon their cooperation in his plans for frontier defense, came to the conclusion that he was too badly handicapped by this action of the Government, and tendered his resignation as Commander of the District.
Under Sully, the Nebraska troops took part in various skirmishes with the bloodthirsty Sioux, still on the war-path after their barbarous raids in Minnesota and Dakota. On the 3d of September, 200 miles above Fort Pierre, the great battle of Whitestone Hills was fought, with the Brule, Yankton and Blackfeet Sioux, numbering nearly two thousand strong. In this fight, the Indians were completely defeated, abandoning all their camp property and animals, and losing 150 braves killed, 300 wounded, and 200 who fell prisoners. The whites lost severely. Of the 350 Nebraska troops in line, seven were killed, fourteen wounded and ten missing.
In the latter part of September, 1863, the regiment returned to Omaha, under orders from the War Department, and was there mustered out of service, having served acceptably in that most difficult of all warfare--against the Indians.
Annexed is a copy of Col. Furnas' report to Brig. Gen. Sully, giving an account of the fight with the Indians on the 3d of September, 1863:
HEADQUARTERS SECOND NEB. CAV., CAMP NO. 35,
SIR: On the 22d of August, 1863, I left the mouth of Little Cheyenne River, Dakota Territory, under command of Brig. Gen. Sully, in company with the remainder of the troops of the General's expedition, arriving at the foot of Long Lake, Dakota Territory, on the 28th of the same month, where, it was hoped, we might encounter the hostile Indians. Scouting parties sent out in various directions returned and reported no Indians to be found; but the trail of Gen. Sibley's command, on Apple Creek, was discovered; and an old Indian, captured some days before, reported that Gen. Sibley had been through that country a short time previous, and had had two fights; and that many Indians had crossed the Missouri River after the fight, but had re-crossed to this side of same recently, and were to be found somewhere in the direction of Elm River, Dakota Territory. On the march from this camp, additional scouting parties were sent out by the General, but without ill-success; and our rations beginning to run short, the expedition took a circuitous route for Fort Pierre, by way of James River. It was with feelings of despondency, at what appeared to be the inevitable ill-success of the expedition under Gen. Sully, from causes that could not be avoided by any human power, that I realized that it must probably return without accomplishing that for which it was designed.
On Thursday, September 3, 1863, about 4 o'clock P. M., and soon after going into camp, the scouts of the expedition reported six hundred Indian lodges ten miles distant, and in compliance with Gen. Sully's orders, I immediately proceeded with the eight companies (namely, E, F, G, H, I, K, L and M), of the Second Nebraska Cavalry, numbering in all present, three hundred and fifty in rank and file under my command, from camp No. 35, to assist Maj. House, commanding the Third Battalion of the Sixth Iowa Cavalry, in surrounding the hostile Indians.
On approaching the Indian encampment, I found House's battalion drawn up in order of battle on the north side, and on reconnoitering the enemy's position, perceived that the Indians were leaving as fast as possible. I immediately ordered Maj. House to pursue on the left flank of the enemy, while I with the Second Nebraska, moved on their right flank. Arriving opposite that position, I perceived the Indians at halt, formed in line of battle, apparently awaiting our attack. I immediately formed my men in line of battle. As the enemy was thus situated, and my men formed, I intended to have advanced the Second Battalion (Companies F, G, L and M), commanded by Capt. La Boo (Maj. Pearman being field officer of the day, was, by order of Brig. Gen. Sully, left in command of the camp. The command therefore devolved upon Capt. La Boo, senior Captain), with the First Battalion commanded by Maj. Taffe, (Companies E, H, I and K) as a reserve, and await further orders from the General commanding. As it was nearly dark, I felt that time was precious, and if anything was to be done that night, it must be done speedily, and made up my mind to attack the enemy immediately. I therefore changed my plan of operations. I ordered Maj. Taffe, with his battalion to proceed to the head of the ravine in which the Indians were posted to cut off their retreat in that direction, which order was promptly executed, and his command formed in line, awaiting further orders. I then ordered the Second Battalion to advance directly upon the enemy, which it did. Maj. Taffe, then, by my order, came forward, the line of the two battalions forming an obtuse angle. When within four hundred yards I ordered my men to dismount, and after advancing one hundred yards nearer, ordered the Second Battalion to open the battle by a volley from their Enfields, which they did with precision and effect, creating quite a confusion in the enemy's ranks. At this time, I perceived what I supposed to be Maj. House's Battalion, about a mile distant, advancing upon the enemy's rear. In the order in which my line was now formed, I advanced upon the enemy, pouring in upon him as I advanced a fire from my whole line, which was immediately and vigorously returned by the Indians. When within thirty yards of the enemy's lines, I ordered a halt in rear of a slight elevation of ground in front of which was a ravine in which the Indians were posted. The fight now became general, and my whole line was hotly engaged. At this juncture, what I supposed to be House's Battalion (as it was not quite dark) advanced and commenced an attack upon the enemy's left. As they were now formed, and fearing that the Indians would attempt to escape by way of a ravine a short distance beyond the left of my line, or get in my rear by the same way, I ordered Maj. Taffe to extend the left wing of my line, in order to cover this supposed outlet for the Indians with my guns. The battle now raged with great fury for some time on both sides. The enemy successively by a desperate charge, attempted to turn my right and left flanks, but they were repelled with slaughter. They fell in every direction in front of my line, by the unerring aim of my brave soldiers, who, both officers and men, fought with the courage and coolness of veterans, exposed as they were to a galling fire from the enemy during the whole time. At this juncture, I became convinced that House's Battalion, mistaking my command in the darkness for Indians, were firing into it. I therefore ordered my men to fall back, out of range of House's guns, and mount their horses, as the Indians were now in rout, and were fleeing out of range of my guns, up a ravine, some distance to the front. The horses becoming alarmed, and to a considerable extent unmanageable, for a short time created a slight confusion, as the men were in the act of mounting, but it was only momentary. As my squadrons were again formed in line on the crest of a hill, two hundred yards in the rear of my last line of battle, mounted, and ready to follow up the victory, the enemy was fleeing, leaving everything behind him. But it being very dark, and in view of the position of the Iowa Sixth, I deemed it imprudent to attempt a pursuit before morning, as it was then half past 8 or 9 o'clock P. M. Having no means of communicating that night with the General commanding, I ordered my men to dismount and lay on their arms, holding their horses, until early dawn, when I marched from the battle-ground of the previous evening, and went into camp about a mile from it, and at the upper end of the Indian encampment. On passing over the ground of the recent encampment of the Indians, and of the battle, I found that the enemy had abandoned all their tents, clothing, cooking utensils, valuables, supplies, and in fact everything they possessed was strewn over the ground of their retreat for miles. Their flight had been so precipitous that they had abandoned everything but their dead, whom they carried away as fast as they fell. Their rout was so complete and their flight so sudden that many of their children were left behind, on account, as I suppose, of their being an incumbrance to their flight.
From the best information derived from guides, the enemy's strength was not less than one thousand warriors. Their loss in killed will not fall short of one hundred and fifty, as scouts, sent out next day after the battle, report their dead as scattered over the country for miles, on the line of their retreat, and their wounded are twice that number. The casualties in the Second Nebraska Cavalry are seven killed, fourteen wounded, and ten missing men. There were five horses killed, nine wounded and nine missing. I found, among the effects of the Indians, minie rifle cartridges; also several boxes of army revolver and rifle cartridges were found, and various other articles, some of which were undoubtedly taken from the whites in the late Minnesota massacre. The enemy were composed of Santees, Brula, Yanktona and Blackfeet Sioux, and Cuthead Indians, and were evidently the same Indians with whom Gen. Sibley had an engagement on Apple Creek. The Indians are now destitute of supplies, clothing, and almost everything else, they having abandoned all except their ponies and arms. Many of the former were, however, killed or captured during the battle. I would have pursued the enemy the following morning after the battle, were it not for the exhausted condition of my men and horses.
The officers and men under my command are not only entitled to my thanks, but the confidence of their country, for their bravery, efficiency and promptness on this occasion. Not a man, in any capacity, flinched a particle. My special thanks are due Adjt Henry M. Atkinson, Reg. Q. M., J. S. McCormick and Com. Lieut. J. Q. Goss, for valuable services rendered me immediately preceding, and during the engagement.
Surg. Bowen and Asst. Surg. Latta were on the ground, and are entitled to great credit for the prompt manner in which attention was given the wounded.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
The following correspondence and orders explain themselves. As will be seen by them, the regiment did good service. Their campaign was thorough and hard, though short, and brilliant in the extreme:
DEAR COLONEL: As we are about to separate after months of hard campaigning, you, to your family fireside, I, where I may be ordered, I cannot part with you without thanking you for your valuable services to me in the duties of the late campaign, and I hope, Colonel, if you ever again throw aside the "pipe of peace," and buckle on your saber, I may have the good fortune to have you associated with me. With the kindest feelings for your future success, I remain, your obedient servant,
In separating from this brigade, the Second Nebraska Cavalry, the commanding General takes the opportunity of thanking Col. Furnas, and the officers and men of the regiment, for the great assistance they have rendered him in the late campaign, and for the cheerfulness with which they have obeyed all orders.
Though we have been associated together but for a short time, the circumstances under which we have been placed, have been of such a nature that they will not be soon forgotten.
The kindest feelings of the Commanding General toward the regiment, will accompany it on its parting.
In parting with the 2d Nebraska Cavalry, by reason of the expiration of its term of service, it is a pleasant duty of the Colonel commanding to bear testimony to your good conduct in all the essentials which constitute the soldier, in camp, on the march, and on the battle-field. This the Colonel is free to say, notwithstanding the numerous and continued embarrassing and perplexing circumstances which have surrounded the regiment from its organization to the present time.
The field of operation to which you were assigned on your departure from home, and during nearly the whole campaign presented but forlorn hopes of usefulness. During your absence, your own borders were invaded, and some of your families massacred by the hands of hostile Indians. Yet your duties in a distant field were faithfully and promptly performed. It was not surprising, however, under these circumstances, that you should at times complain. Otherwise would have been unnatural. Fortune favored you with an opportunity of avenging yourselves upon a foe, and of rendering service upon the field of battle. The battle of White Stone Hill, and its results, will ever be an all-sufficient voucher for you. There you displayed coolness and courage unsurpassed, even by veterans. The severest chastisement ever inflicted upon Indians was administered by you. To you of the Second Nebraska Cavalry, who participated in that battle is due that victory and you alone. For it you are entitled to the thanks of your country; for it, a grateful people of the Northwest will ever bear you in remembrance. It was a proud day for you, and amply rewarded you for all the toils and hardships you endured.
While congratulating you upon the results of the expedition, the Colonel commanding cannot fail to express his grief for the loss of those of his command who were killed in the engagement of September 3, and others who fell by disease during the campaign. His sympathies are tendered to their friends and relatives, and to those who were wounded.
Should your country ever again require your services, he knows you will prove as prompt in responding in the future as in the past. We now separate, and go to our respective homes. The best wishes of the Colonel commanding attend you.
In the summer of 1863, the Seventh Iowa Volunteer Cavalry was ordered out, and assigned to duty along the line of the overland stage route from Fort Kearney to the Western frontier, because of Indian troubles. Maj. (afterward General) George M. O'Brien, in command of the troops, constructed fortifications and placed the region under his supervision in a thoroughly defensible position. He chose a site for a post at Cottonwood Springs, and erected the post, calling it Fort Cottonwood. At a later date, the name was changed to Fort McPherson, and the post became one of the most important among the frontier defenses.