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Records Relating to Investigations of the Ft. Philip Kearney (or Fetterman) Massacre
Testimony of Col. Henry B. Carrington - Page 2
M740 roll 1 of 1
National Archives & Records Administration
Transcribed by Billy Markland

On the 12th of August, Indians ran off horses and cattle belonging to citizens encamped on the river bank, near Fort Reno, were pursued by the mounted men of the command and some cattle were recaptured. Horses and mules were not.

August 14th Joseph Postlewaite and Stackly Williams were killed by Indians four miles from Fort Reno.

August 17th Indians appeared in force at same post and drove off seven government horses and seventeen government mules. None recaptured.

I also addressed Colonel Maynadier at Fort Laramie, Commanding District of the Platte, calling attention to these outrages, and subsequently received the following answer.

Headquarters District of the Platte
Fort Laramie
August 19th 1866

Col. H.B. Carrington
Comd'g. Mount. District

I have just seen, on my return from Omaha, your letter of the 1[3?] of July relative to loss of horses by Mr. Leighton. I agree with you fully that the Indians who committed the depredations were Sioux, and were probably among those recently at Laramie.

I am much astonished that after so many protestations of good faith, substantiated by a long period of good behavior, they should have so suddenly violated their pledges. I shall do all in my power to make the chiefs restore the animals, or make ample restitution. Two companies of cavalry will go from here shortly to reinforce your command, and escort trains.

Please say to Mr. Leighton that I have received his letter, but fear I can do nothing in the matter of claim against the Government.

Your Obd't Servant

(sd) Henry E. Maynadier
Col. 5th U.S. Vols.

This communication evidently was based upon Special Order No. 51, Head Quarters Department Platte, bearing date August 11th 1866, paragraph 3, which states. –
"The telegraphic order of the 9th inst. from these Head Quarters, to Colonel H.E. Maynadier, Commanding District of the Platte, directing the detaching of one company of 2nd Cavalry from Sedgwick temporarily to reinforce and assist Colonel Carrington and emigration, is hereby confirmed."
I received a telegram bearing date Aug. 9th stated as follows.

"Reinforcements have left St. Louis. Colonel Carrington must use his judgment about establishing Fort C.F. Smith, "at present".

Second telegram, same date, and also signed by General Cooke, Department Commander, stated that "he was advised by General Sherman that a regiment has left St. Louis", and giving instructions to support me as follows. –

August 9th 1866

By telegram

Comd'g. Officer
Mountain District

Telegram from Lieutenant General Sherman authorizes me to command all troops along valley of the Platte. Announces a regiment coming from St. Louis, wishes posts beyond Laramie supported as much as possible. Please telegraph me all reliable bad news.

(sd) Philip St. G. Cooke
Maj. Genl. Commanding

A telegram bearing date August 11th 1866 from General Cooke in person, being confirmed by a copy in writing attested by H.G. Litchfield Asst. Adjt. General, read as follows.

"Two companies of 2nd Cavalry have been ordered to assist in the protection of the road. You are hereby authorized to enlist not to exceed fifty Indian scouts. Pay and allowances of cavalry soldiers. Let them use the ponies if you cant [sic] do better".

"Be very cautious! Don't undertake unnecessary risky detachments".

Meanwhile I had already advanced its designated garrison to establish the post on Big Horn river, the command leaving early on the morning of August 3rd 1866.

My action was judicious, and although afterwards General Cooke authorized the withdrawal of the garrison, the follow letter of Inspector General Hazen supported me. In fact with three hundred tons of hay secured at that post, and a years supply of provisions, the abandonment of that post would have required destruction of most of the property. And here I remark that General Hazen, as he passed, took one Officer and twenty six mounted men as escort, and they were gone with him two months.

Fort Reno
August 20th 1866.

Col. H.B. Carrington
Comd'g. Mount. District

Dear Colonel

I am on my way through the District as Asst. Inspector General of the Department, and will be at your post, as soon as cavalry escort ordered to join me reaches here, say in about one week.

(Note. The Cavalry did not come, and General Hazen was furnished mounted escort from Fort Phil Kearney, the same being absent two months).

The mail going up will carry, from General Cooke, authority for you to suspend establishing the extreme west post, (C.F. Smith) if you think, from the condition of Indian Affairs, it is expedient. He telegraphed me at Laramie, to consult with you about it, and since coming within the theatre [sic] of Indian troubles, I am of the opinion that there is no sufficient reason for longer delaying the establishing of that post, but on the contrary, it should be established without further delay.

I think there is no danger on the route to parties well organized, and that do not straggle, but that the greatest caution will be necessary, both on the route and at the posts, till the Indians are thrashed.

I am
Very respectfully

(sd) W. B. Hazen
Bvt. Brig. Genl.
A.Insp. Dep. Platte

The protection of emigration simply to Fort Phil Kearney, which indeed took the heart of the Indian hunting grounds, could furnish no protection to travel through the valley of the Tongue river, and westward to Virginia City. To refuse the advance to Big Horn river, was to surrender the purpose of my entire movement.

It subjected me to compliance with the very demands the Sioux had made, and its importance is fully seen by my official reports.

There had been, during the latter part of July, and early in August, up to this date, few other Indian outrages, other than those already named.
Mr. M.A. Nye, lost on July 22nd, while encamped near Fort Phil Kearney, four animals. Mr. A. Axe, and Mr. I. Dixon lost each respectively two mules the same date.

On the same date the train of Louis Cheney was attacked at the "Dry Fork of the Cheyenne", and again at "Crazy Woman's Fork", by the Indians, though his train was fully armed, one man killed, horses, cattle and private property destroyed. During the same period there was lost at Fort Philip Kearney seventy head of Government stock.

From the middle or latter part of August, Indians appeared more frequently about Fort Philip Kearney, and from that time I assumed the condition of affairs to be decided, unequivocal hostility on the part of Indian tribes about me.

On the 29th August, I made reports to the Department Commander of the condition of Affairs, which read as follows, both telegram and letter. –

Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
Via Fort Laramie
August 29th. 1866

By telegram

Litchfield H.G. Major
A.A. Genl.

Mail received. Indians were hostile early in the month, but have lost at least thirty seven men in their operations, and keep more distant. The aggregate of whites killed does not exceed thirty three. Their demonstrations upon my post have cost me nothing, but have cost them men and horses.

I send report by mail, and shall communicate weekly if I can keep up horses. Trains with fifty well armed men who are prudent, are safe. I think Yellowstone post should be established this fall. The Big Horn post is successfully established. I need cavalry, but they will here soon. If I had five more companies of infantry it would be well to establish a sub post of Reno, at south Fork of the Cheyenne, half way to the ferry, with one company, next to divide a company between Crazy Woman's Fork and Dry Fork of the Cheyenne, and to place one company on the mouth of Goose Creek on Tongue river, and two at Yellowstone.

General Hazen leaves tomorrow with escort I furnish. He will report to you in full. I have a saw mill in full operation but need a shingle machine very much. Be assured the public need not fear to follow this line of travel, using proper care and being well armed.

Very respectfully
Your Obedient Servant

Henry B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Infantry

Head Quarters Mountain District
Department Platte
Fort Philip Kearney, D.T.
August 29th 1866

Litchfield H.G. Brevet Major
A.A.A. General
Department of the Platte


I have the honor to report as to the condition of Indian Affairs within this command up to date, with remark [sic] that I shall endeavor to keep up a weekly mail and send intermediate couriers if emergency shall require the same, and

1st     The route.

After due reflection, I deemed best to establish the post on the Big Horn river. I was led to this conclusion by the fact that the Sioux had given me notice "that they would not leave a hoof" and that I should go no further, and by the consideration that having established a perfectly secure base, I had the means at command reasonably to support the advance and find out whether I had substantial opposition on the line.

The movement was without opposition, and timely, as the Indians had robbed a citizens train of one hundred mules just before their arrival.

The post is well located, and has already proved of substantial value to emigration. I shall be able, by the next mail, to furnish a map of the route with full details as to water courses.

2nd     Hostile Operations

Indians have molested trains as far eastward as Wind river, in one case leaving one man of twelve to escape unhurt. The total number of whites killed has been thirty three (33) so far as advised, and I have carefully sifted all the exagerated [sic] reports so current at such times.

In no instance do I know of a train of good size having been attacked when prudence was exercised in guarding stock and stores.

In the case of Mr. Dillon, above referred to, the Sioux showed more wickedness than usual. His eleven men had Henry and Spencer rifles.

The Indians pretended friendship, shook hands with the party, and suddenly turned to shooting their entertainers.

At Fort Reno, the Indians have stolen stock frequently.

At this post there have been but two demonstrations since last report. In one case an attempt was made to show friendship towards our drivers of timber trains, and then they attacked the rear wagons, cutting loose a few mules.

Upon report of our picket on the western lookout a few men were started in pursuit, rescuing the mules, killing one and wounding in the hips, a second Indian.

They equally failed on their second visit. We have good assurance of thirty seven killed and wounded on the line, and they now avoid it.

They equally realize that the occupation of this line is certain and permanent; and I feel certain that emigration next spring can safely follow this route.

Indeed, a train of emigrants of fifty to sixty men which now organize with prudence, is safe.
They must be cautious, but they need not avoid the route.

3rd     Sub Posts

I deem it highly important that I be able to establish the following sub posts under the control of nearest Post Commander, viz: -

At South Fork of Cheyenne, midway between Ferry of the Platte and Fort Reno.
There is timber, grass and water ample for the purpose on the spot.

At Crazy Woman's Fork, where similar advantages obtain.

At Mouth of Goose Creek, on Tongue river, having similar advantages.

I also present the importance of establishing the Yellow Stone post this fall.

In view of the importance of the route, and the character of Indian operations, I do not believe a large force will be necessary to maintain it, but natural, connected sequence of supporting posts will guarantee its safety.

4th     Character of Indian Operations.

They are bent on robbery.
They only fight when assured of personal security and remuneration stealings.

They are divided among themselves. For example, the Sioux whipped with bows several Cheyenne Chiefs who refused to unite in an attack upon me, and on the other hand, nearly all the old men oppose any contest with the whites.

The young warriors are repugnant to the surrender of the ground I occupy, but this Laramie treaty has still more alienated some, who received presents, from others who received none.

The hereditary chiefs are no more, and there is no possibility, as it seems to me, of any Indian alliance that will bring on a general war. They are too late. When my ammunition arrives they may threaten all winter, but I shall be able to communicate with Head Quarters and extend a good spring route for emigration to all who seek it.

5th     Force required.

My first opinion, formed at Fort Laramie, confirmed on the march and since assured, I find no reason to change.

If I had left Laramie with two Battalions (sixteen companies) there would been a clear road.

To ensure the route against all but a general war, I need five companies of Infantry and four of cavalry to complete the route suggested.

For the winter, if I established the Yellow Stone post, I can protect posts and stores, and keep open my communications (on this same basis) with two of Infantry and two of cavalry.

With two companies of cavalry, (not establishing the further post), I can keep open my communication, protect all posts and hold my own with positive injury to the Indians.

6th     Expedition.

You may be assured that I will run no hazardous risk. I am daily obtaining information of the country, the character of the opposing and antagonist tribes, such as will enable me, with a moderate force, to find out the exact relation of all Indians on Tongue river and its tributaries, the Big Horn and the valley below Reno.

I will make methods of communication so secure that you may be fully advised, and knowing well your anxiety as to the route, will endeavor to meet most fully your expectations.

7th     Present Mail Facilities.

I learn that a mail will leave Fort Laramie for Ferry, each Wednesday, and will make my arrangements accordingly.

8th     General Hazen leaves tomorrow with escort of mounted Infantry. He will probably report by this mail of his visit to this post.

(sd) H.B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Infantry

During this period, official communication from Fort C.F. Smith, reported that there were two large villages of Crow Indians, are encamped about seven miles from Fort C.F. Smith, and the other on Pryor's Fork, and a small village at Clark's Fork, all friendly.

I immediately sent James Beckwith (mulatto) who claimed to have lived with the Crows as a Chief among them, and who married with them, to communicate my views and wishes, and to learn their disposition towards the whites and the occupation of the route, and to induce them, if possible, to communicate with "Red Cloud" quietly and learn the disposition of himself and the Sioux of the Tongue river valley.

I also sent James Bridger, my chief guide, and especially familiar with the Crow Indians, to have an interview with them for the same purpose.

The substance of their report is given in the following communication to Department Head Quarters, which is introduced here, although not in order of date, but as nearly concurrent in actual date of fact.

Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
November 5th. 1866.

Litchfield, H.G. Major
Asst. Adjt. General

I have the honor to report that while commanding the Mountain District, Department of the Platte, I sent James Bridger, Chief guide, and guide Williams, to examine the whole line hence to Virginia City, with view to an exact report of its condition and resources and no less its susceptibility of being shortened by proper cuts off.

I shall embody their reports in map form, by next weeks mail.

Lieutenant Bradley, in charge of escort to Captain Hazen, Brevet Brigadier General U.S.A. and Inspector General Department Platte, has also returned from Fort Benton.

The following is summary of events since last report.

1st.    Mail party of twenty men, with seventeen miners, returning westward, were attacked by nearly three hundred Indians in the valley of Tongue river. The miners abandoned their pack[s], lost four horses; but proceeded on the march.

2nd.    Lieutenant Bradley's party, returning from Fort Benton, and about thirty miles from Fort C.F. Smith, were attacked by a large force of Sioux, about noon. Mr. Braman, guide, detached for special duty on the trip, while leading the advance, with Acting Assistant Surgeon McCleary, was suddenly attacked by a party of Indians. Braman was killed and scalped. Dr. McCleary had his horse shot and escaped. A skirmish fight lasted for several hours, resulting in supposed loss to the Indians and their retreat, but no soldier killed. Private Brooks, Company "H", was wounded, but not fatally.

3rd.    Bridger and Williams visited the Crow Indians as instructed. This was at Clark's Fork. The village numbered five hundred men.

"White Mouth", "Black Foot", "Rotten Tail", (Chiefs) insisted they were at peace, and wished to be always. The young men, in some cases wished to join the Sioux and compromise their old title to this country, of which they had been robbed by the Cheyennes and Sioux.

Red Cloud had visited their village and they had returned the visit, but declined to join them on the war path against the whites.

"The man afraid of his horses", who visited them saying "Tobacco had been sent", he had been invited to go to Laramie to sign a treaty, that he would go, that they must wait for his return.

This corresponds with statements in letter from Major Van Voast, Commanding Fort Laramie.

These Crow Chiefs report that it took a half days ride to go through the villages of the war parties on Tongue river. That "The Sissetons, Bad Faces, O'Gallallas, (from the Missouri), Minneconjous (from Black Hills), Mepapahs, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Gros Ventres, (Big Bellies) were together, indicating that they would not touch the Fort on Powder river, ("last years fort") but would destroy the two new forts in their hunting grounds", meaning Fort Philip Kearney D.T. and Fort C.F. Smith, as these were encroachments which they had not agreed to. They say, they will have two big fights with the white soldiers on Pine Woods and Big Horn.

"Iron Shell", is with the Minneconjous, the Brules are also with them in part, though they made peace at Laramie, as it is claimed.

The "Snakes", "Nez Perces" and "Flatheads" are persistently friendly, but report the "Piegans" and "Bloods" as hostile.

The "Blackfeet", "Assinaboinus" and Crees are reported to be at peace with the whites, and at the same time, on fair terms with the hostile tribes. With all their friendly signs, however, all have government stock, and intertrade stolen property.

4th.    Beckwith, mulatto guide, has made a visit to the same band of Crows. They sent for him, as he was formerly with them. He says that two hundred and fifty Crows will join me on the war path, this winter, if I wish it. He talks much. I doubt his influence with them, but shall soon know the result of his visit. Mr. Bridger thinks them ready to enlist.

5th.    The Crows represent that a treaty was made with them on the Upper Missouri, on board of [sic] the steamer "Ben Johnson", whereby, for the sum of twenty five thousand dollars, they surrendered a route to Montana, south of the Big Horn mountains, that "Iron Shell" of the Crow nation was present at such treaty, and that he does not regard the same as concerning the present road north of the Big Horn range, but will keep peace until the same is settled by intercourse with the whites. It is not unlikely that an attack will be made this winter early, but I have no doubt of their failure. If I had the two companies of infantry and the two companies of cavalry, I shall be able to assure communication, unless a general war shall ensue, which I do not think the Indians will venture upon this winter.

6th.    The Crows also say that the Sioux report a fight with the white men at this fort, and give date and place correctly.

I reported five Indians and one white man killed. They say they had eight killed, five wounded who died of their wounds, and many shot who will be well again.

I know their loss was heavy and the effect has been felt ever since.

7th.    Along the line there has been general Indian hostilities, but few aggressive acts of any large force. On the night of the 3rd instant, a citizen party gathered about a fire playing cards, near the fort, and were fired upon, three being wounded. I sent out a skirmishing party as soon as the shots were heard, who found no Indians, and a case shot, exploded in the midst of a signal fire soon lighted on a peak, west of the fort, scattered them. They have not appeared since.

There is no doubt of this bitter hatred of our every movement, but they do not understand the nature of our resources. For example, Red Cloud informed the Crows, that by cutting off communications, when bad weather set in, he would starve us out this winter.

He does not comprehend the idea of a years supplies, nor that we are now prepared to not only pass the winter, but next spring and summer, even if he takes the offensive.

On the whole, the condition of affairs is more favorable than I expected would be the case, when I left Laramie. I had not the slightest confidence in the result of the proposed treaty, and so wrote you. And in fact the whole result of the negotiations there was a mere temporary suspension of hostile acts, if it even amounted to that.

I look for this month to determine their purpose, and hope yet to be able to strike a blow which they will feel more than the last, and not risk a single post on the line in the attempt.

In no case will any rash venture be made, or any that will not meet the favor of the General Commanding.

What was intended and understood, his views, and those of General Sherman, and the purpose I held on the march will be realized, and the increase of troops, which will undoubtedly be furnished, will ensure a safe spring emigration, and open a fine country, as well as a short route to the far west.

I am
Very respectfully
Your Obd't Servt.

Henry B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Infantry

On the 9th of August, the train going to the woods was attacked. The Indians at first secured four mules which had been abandoned by one of the citizen government drivers. A party sent from the fort, under Corporal George Phillips, regained the mules, killed an Indian and wounded another.

From the latter part of August, Indian depredations became more frequent, and by larger parties.

September 8th at 6 a.m. they made an attack upon a citizen train lying east of the fort driving off twenty mules during a very severe storm.

On the 10th, a party of twenty Indians attacked ten government herders, a mile south of the fort, driving off thirty three horses and seventy eight mules. They were pursued promptly, but night and broken down horses, rendered pursuit hopeless.

September 13th, at midnight, I was called upon by couriers from citizen hay party at Goose Creek, about eighty in number, to send military aid, as they had been attacked by Indians, one man killed, mowing machines and hay burned, and two hundred and nine cattle driven off.

This party consisted of government contractors to put up hay for the post, and had with them, at the time, a sergeant and ten men from my command.

I directed Captain Ten Eyck, Post Commander, to send forty infantry in wagons, to their relief, under Brevet Captain Adair.

He returned, reporting that their estimate of Indians at several hundred, was fully sustained by those plainly within sight.

The same day at 9 o'clock, the Indians stampeded a government herd near the post, wounding two of the herders. Captain Ten Eyck and Lieutenant Wands pursued them till late at night, without success.

On the 14th, Private Allande Gilchrist, of the 18th Infantry, is supposed to have been killed by Indians, as a portion of his cloths were found bloody, without his body.

September 16th, Private Peter Johnson 18th Infantry, being a few rods in advance of the hay party, returning from the Lake, was cut off by a party, as he entered a ravine, killed, scalped and his body carried off by the Indians.

September 17th, a large party of Indians made a demonstration against Government stock, from the east. They took forty eight head of cattle. All were recaptured upon pursuit.

September 20th, the Indians made an attack upon a citizen outfit lying in the angle of the two Pineys, but were repulsed with aid from the fort, and one Indian killed and one wounded.

September 23rd, Indians attacked and drove off twenty four head of cattle, the property of a government contractor. Captain Brown, with a few mounted men, a few volunteer citizens, in all twenty three men, pursued the Indians, overtaking them about ten miles from the post. A sharp skirmish ensued in which the Indians, numbering not far from one hundred and fifty, repeatedly charged, and were themselves charged, until compelled to abandon the cattle, all of which were brought back safely to the post.

The same date Lieutenant Matson, 18th Infantry, returned from Goose Creek, where the contractor's hay party was at work, bringing in their machinery and stock.

He reported the Indians as in considerable force and the citizens demoralized and unwilling to work. He was surrounded compelled to corrall [sic] his train until relieved.

He was then joined by Captain North, so called, a mountaineer. He also found upon the road, killed and scalped, Mr. Gruell, and two teamsters, who had been to Fort Smith with Government supplies under contract.

This party had been to Fort Smith with twenty soldiers and seventeen miners, the latter seeking employment, but had been met by a superior force of Indians, had fought for two days, as reported by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel N.C. Kinney, had been compelled to abandon their packs securely to reach that post, and losing four horses.

During the same week, to wit, on the 17th, 21st and 23rd days of September, the Indians operated about Fort Reno.
1st   Attacking the herders of that post, driving off two government horses.
2nd    Attacking the working party and herders and driving off five government horses and two mules.
3rd    Driving off cattle of citizens, in which instance the cattle were recaptured, but Captain H. Walsh was killed. The afternoon of the 21st also, at Reno, they attacked a citizen train eight miles from the post, in the Dry Fork of the Cheyenne, and citizens W. R. Petty and A.G. Overholt were wounded.

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