SATANTA, CHIEF OF THE KIOWAS
WITHIN plain view of Fort Larned lay a large camp of Kiowas and Comanches. They were not yet bedaubed with war paint, but they were as restless as panthers in a cage, and it was only a matter of days when they would whoop and howl with the loudest.
The principal chief of the Yiowas was Satanta, a powerful and resourceful warrior, who, because of remarkable talents for speech-making, was called "The Orator of the Plains." Satanta was short and bullet-headed. Hatred for the whites swelled every square inch of his breast, but he had the deep cunning of his people, with some especially fine points of treachery learned from dealings with dishonest agents and traders. There probably never was an Indian so depraved that he could not be corrupted further by association with a rascally white man.
When the Kiowas were friendly with the government, Satanta received a guest with all the magnificence the tribe afforded. A carpet was spread for the white man to sit upon, and a folding board was set up for a table. The question of expense never intruded.
Individually, too, Satanta put on a great deal of style. Had the opportunity come to him, he would have worn a silk hat with a sack-coat, or a dress suit in the afternoon. As it was, he produced some startling effects with blankets and feathers.
It was part of General Hazen’s mission to Fort Larned to patch up a treaty with the outraged Kiowas and Comanches, if it could be brought about. On one warm August morning, the general set out for Fort Zarah, on a tour of inspection. Zarah was on the Arkansas, in what is now Baton County, Kansas. An early start was made, as it was desired to cover the thirty miles by noon. The general rode in a four-mule army ambulance, with an escort of ten foot soldiers, in a four-mule escort wagon.
After dinner at Zarah the general went on to Fort Harker, leaving orders for the scout and soldiers to return to Larned on the following day. But as there was nothing to do at Fort Zarah, Will determined to return at once; so he trimmed the sails of his mule-ship, and squared away for Larned.
The first half of the journey was without incident, but when Pawnee Rock was reached, events began to crowd one another. Some forty Indians rode out from behind the rock and surrounded the scout.
"How? How?" they cried, as they drew near, and offered their hands for the white man’s salutation.
The braves were in war paint, and intended mischief; but there was nothing to be lost by returning their greeting, so Will extended his hand.
One warrior seized it and gave it a violent jerk; another caught the mule’s bridle; a third pulled the revolvers from the holsters; a fourth snatched the rifle from across the saddle; while a fifth, for a climax, dealt Will a blow on the head with a tomahawk that nearly stunned him.
Then the band started for the Arkansas River, lashing the mule, singing, yelling, and whooping. For one supposed to be stolid and taciturn, the Indian makes a good deal of noise at times.
Across the river was a vast throng of warriors, who had finally decided to go on the war-path. Will and his captors forded the shallow stream, and the prisoner was conducted before the chiefs of the tribe, with some of whom he was acquainted.
His head throbbed from the tomahawking, but his wits were still in working order, and when asked by Satanta where he had been, he replied that he had been out searching for "whoa-haws."
He knew that the Indians had been promised a herd of "whoa-haws," as they termed cattle, and he knew, too, that the herd had not arrived, and that the Indians had been out of meat for several weeks; hence he hoped to enlist Satanta’s sympathetic interest.
He succeeded. Satanta was vastly interested. Where were the cattle? Oh, a few miles back. Will had been sent forward to notify the Indians that an army of sirloin steaks was advancing upon them.
Satanta was much pleased, and the other chiefs were likewise interested. Did General Hazen say the cattle were for them? Was there a chance that the scout was mistaken?
Not a chance; and with becoming dignity Will demanded a reason for the rough treatment he had received.
Oh, that was all a joke, Satanta explained. The Indians who had captured the white chief were young and frisky. They wished to see whether he was brave. They were simply testing him. It was sport—just a joke.
Will did not offer to argue the matter. No doubt an excellent test of a man’s courage is to hit him over the head with a tomahawk. If he lives through it, he is brave as Agamemnon. But Will insisted mildly that it was a rough way to treat friends; whereupon Satanta read the riot act to his highspirited young men, and bade them return the captured weapons to the scout.
The next question was, were there soldiers with the cattle? Certainly, replied Will; a large party of soldiers were escorting the succulent sirloins. This intelligence necessitated another consultation. Evidently hostilities must be postponed until after the cattle had arrived. Would Will drive the cattle to them? He would be delighted to. Did he desire that the chief’s young men should accompany him? No, indeed. The soldiers, also, were high-spirited, and they might test the bravery of the chief’s young men by shooting large holes in them. It would be much better if the scout returned alone.
Satanta agreed with him, and Will recrossed the river without molestation; but, glancing over his shoulder, he noted a party of ten or fifteen young braves slowly following him. Satanta was an extremely cautions chieftain.
Will rode leisurely up the gentle slope of the river’s bank, but when he had put the ridge between him and the Indian camp he pointed his mule westward, toward Fort Larned, and set it going at its best pace. When the Indians reached the top of the ridge, from where they could scan the valley, in which the advancing cattle were supposed to be, there was not a horn to be seen, and the scout was flying in an opposite direction.
They gave chase, but the mule had a good start, and when it got its second wind—always necessary in a mule—the Indian ponies gained but slowly. When Ash Creek, six miles from Larned, was reached, the race was about even, but two miles farther on, the Indians were uncomfortably close behind. The sunset gun at the fort boomed a synical welcome to the man four miles away, flying toward it for his life.
At Pawnee Fork, two miles from the fort, the Indians had crept up to within five hundred yards. But here, on the farther bank of the stream, Will came upon a government wagon containing half a dozen soldiers and Denver Jim, a well-known scout.
The team was driven among the trees, and the men hid themselves in the bushes, and when the Indians came along they were warmly received. Two of the reds were killed; the others wheeled and rode back in safety.
In 1868 General Sheridan had taken command of all the troops in the field. He arranged what is known as the winter expeditions against the Kiowas, Comanches, Southern Cheyennes, and Arapahoes. He personally commanded the expedition which left Fort Dodge, with General Custer as chief of cavalry. General Penrose started for Fort Lyon, Colorado, and General Eugene A. Carr was ordered from the Republican River country, with the Fifth Cavalry, to Fort Wallace, Kansas. Will at this time had a company of forty scouts with General Carr’s command. He was ordered by General Sheridan, when leaving Fort Lyon, to follow the trail of General Penrose’s command until it was overtaken. General Carr was to proceed to Fort Lyon, and follow on the trail of General Penrose, who had started from there three weeks before, when, as Carr ranked Penrose, he would take command of both expeditions. It was the 21st of November when Carr’s expedition left Fort Lyon. The second day out they encountered a terrible snowstorm and blizzard in a place they christened "Freeze Out Cañon," by which name it is still known. As Penrose had only a pack-train and no heavy wagons, and the ground was covered with snow, it was a very difficult matter to follow his trail. But taking his general course, they finally came up with him on the south fork of the Canadian River, where they found him and his soldiers in a sorry plight, subsisting wholly on buffalo-meat. Their animals had all frozen to death.
General Carr made what is known as a supply camp, leaving Penrose’s command and some of his own disabled stock therein. Taking with him the Fifth Cavalry and the best horses and pack-mules, he started south toward the main fork of the Canadian River, looking for the Indians. He was gone from the supply camp thirty days, but could not locate the main band of Indians, as they were farther to the east, where General Sheridan had located them, and had sent General Custer in to fight them, which he did, in what is known as the great battle of Wichita.
They had a very severe winter, and returned in March to Fort Lyon, Colorado.
In the spring of 1869, the Fifth Cavalry, ordered to the Department of the Platte, took up the line of march for Fort McPherson, Nebraska.
It was a large command, including seventy-six wagons for stores, ambulance wagons, and packmules. Those chief in authority were Colonel Royal (afterward superseded by General Carr), Major Brown, and Captain Sweetman.
The average distance covered daily was only ten miles, and when the troops reached the Solomon River there was no fresh meat in camp. Colonel Royal asked Will to look up some game.
"All right, sir," said Will. "Will you send a couple of wagons along to fetch in the meat?"
"We’ll send for the game, Cody, when there’s some game to send for," curtly replied the colonel.
That settled the matter, surely, and Will rode away, a trifle ruffled in temper.
He was not long in rounding up a herd of seven buffaloes, and he headed them straight for camp. As he drew near the lines, he rode alongside his game, and brought down one after another, until only an old bull remained. This he killed in almost the center of the camp.
The charge of the buffaloes had nearly stampeded the picketed horses, and Colonel Royal, who, with the other officers, had watched the hunt, demanded, somewhat angrily:
"What does this mean, Cody?"
"Why," said Will, "I thought, sir, I’d save you the trouble of sending after the game."
The colonel smiled, though perhaps the other officers enjoyed the joke more than he.
At the north fork of the Beaver, Will discovered a large and fresh Indian trail. The tracks were scattered all over the valley, showing that a large village had recently passed that way. Will estimated that at least four hundred lodges were represented; that would mean from twenty-five hundred to three thousand warriors, squaws, and children.
When General Carr (who had taken the command) got the news, he followed down a ravine to Beaver Creek, and here the regiment went into camp. Lieutenant Ward and a dozen men were detailed to accompany Will on a reconnoissance. They followed Beaver Creek for twelve miles, and then the lieutenant and the scout climbed a knoll for a survey of the country. One glance took in a large Indian village some three miles distant. Thousands of ponies were picketed out, and small bands of warriors were seen returning from the hunt, laden with buffalo-meat.
"I think, Lieutenant," said Will, "that we have important business at camp."
"I agree with you," said Ward. "The quicker we get out of here, the better."
When they rejoined the men at the foot of the hill, Ward dispatched a courier to General Carr, the purpose of the lieutenant being to follow slowly and meet the troops which he knew would be sent forward.
The courier rode away at a gallop, but in a few moments came riding back, with three Indians at his horse’s heels. The little company charged the warriors, who turned and fled for the village.
"Lieutenant," said Will, "give me that note." And as it was passed over, he clapped spurs to his horse and started for the camp.
He had proceeded but a short distance when he came upon another party of Indians, returning to the village with buffalo-meat. Without stopping, he fired a long-range shot at them, and while they hesitated, puzzled by the action, he galloped past. The warriors were not long in recovering from their surprise, and cutting loose their meat, followed; but their ponies were tired from a long hunt, and Will’s fresh horse ran away from them.
When General Carr received the lieutenant’s dispatch, he ordered the bughler to sound the inspiring "Boots and Saddles," and, while two companies remained to guard the wagons, the rest of the troops hastened against the Indians.
Three miles out they were joined by Lieutenant Ward’s company, and five miles more brought them within sight of a huge mass of mounted Indians advancing up the creek. These warriors were covering the retreat of their squaws, who were packing up and getting ready for hasty flight.
General Carr ordered a charge on the red line. If it were broken, the cavalry was to continue, and surround the village. The movement was successfully executed, but one officer misunderstood the order, and, charging on the left wing of the hostiles, was speedily hemmed in by some three hundred redskins. Reinforcements were dispatched to his relief, but the plan of battle was spoiled, and the remainder of the afternoon was spent in contesting the ground with the Indians, who fought for their lodges, squaws, and children with desperate and dogged courage. When night came on, the wagon-trains, which had been ordered to follow, had not put in an appearance, and, though the regiment went back to look for them, it was nine o’clock before they were reached.
Camp was broken at daybreak, and the pursuit began, but not an Indian was in sight. All the day the trail was followed. There was evidence that the Indians had abandoned everything that might hinder their flight. That night the regiment camped on the banks of the Republican, and the next morning caught a distant glimpse of the foe.
About eleven o’clock a charge was made by three hundred mounted warriors, but they were repulsed with considerable loss, and when they discovered that defeat was certain, they evaded further pursuit by breaking up into companies and scattering to all points of the compass. A large number of ponies were collected as trophies of this expedition.