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Records Relating to Investigations of the Ft. Philip Kearney (or Fetterman) Massacre
Testimony of Col. Henry B. Carrington - Page 3
M740 roll 1 of 1
National Archives & Records Administration
Transcribed by Billy Markland

September 27th, Private Patrick Smith, 18th Infantry, at work in the Pinery, was scalped alive and mortally wounded with arrows, crawling half a mile to the block house, and surviving twenty-four hours.

The same date, two of the working party, within full sight of their comrades, were cut off by a party of nearly one hundred Indians, who broke through the woods and escaped.

The party that killed Private Smith, that day crossed Piney, a little lower, and were fifteen in number. They passed immediately eastward, and through the bushes of Little Piney, just south of the Fort, and were first discovered by their making directly for my picket hill east of the fort, to cut off the picket. The pickets dismounted, started their horses for the post, the horses receiving arrows as they dashed through the Indians. The picket fell back towards the fort and were immediately supported by a mounted force of twenty men.

Captain Brown pursued them for miles, and in the pursuit, saw these Indians pass and briefly linger by another party of Indians coming from the opposite direction. This turned out to be a party of Cheyenne Indians and one squaw coming to visit the Post.

A body of Sioux also suddenly broke from the brush at the junction of the two Pineys, and made for the pickets. Their capture seemed inevitable. A shell exploding over them turned them back and a second shell dismounted one Indian. Simultaneous with this, at least fifty appeared in front of the fort, on the north side of Piney Creek. One of them was dismounted in the discharge of a case shot.

A third body appeared northward on Lodge Trail ridge. Suspecting an attack upon the timber party, and that these were decoy movements, a force was moved in its direction, and upon its junction with the train, the Indians disappeared.

Bailey's mining party of forty men from Virginia and Helena, also arrived, having buried two of their party, who were killed and scalped by Indians, while hunting in Tongue river valley.

They camped opposite the Fort across Big Piney. The Indians attempted to stampede their stock next morning, but were driven off losing one poney [sic].

The foregoing furnishes an outline of the main hostile demonstrations in September, resulting in loss of stock or life, but, as will appear from my official correspondence, there were other and almost constant hostile demonstrations of some kind requiring of the garrison that every detail sent out for whatever purpose, should exercise constant watchfulness and be kept well in hand.

The following reports and orders for the month of September are here introduced, together, as indicating the system adopted and embracing my official report of the country occupied.

Head Quarters, Mountain District
Department Platte
Fort Philip Kearney, D.T.
September 10th, 1866.

Litchfield H.G. Brv. Major
A.A. General
Dep. Platte


I have the honor to send by bearer Mr. W.B.C. Smith, who desires to organize a band of Winnebago scouts, the following report, as he goes by stage, and may anticipate a mail.

He is a good man for the work, if it has not been earlier attempted.

About 4 o'clock A.M. the mules of Mr. Chandler, Government Contractor, broke from the corrall [sic], and within a half mile, were attacked by Arapahoes, loosing altogether twenty two head of stock. Upon report of the matter, I sent Captain Adair with a party, who pursued twenty miles without success, as the Indians divided, and with the small force disposable, it was impossible to make the [stand?], and persistent pursuit which ensures success.

I sent twenty five of my best mounted men with General Hazen, have no corn, and with all pains to keep up my stock, cannot pursue successfully until I have more cavalry, but in no case have the scouts made, and trail followed, failed to show, that if the single company of Indians, which were sent down for muster out, on my way here, had been with me, I could have punished the Indians and regained much stock.

I know that you appreciate the case fully, and feel fully warranted in assuring you that the exaggerated stories in the press are injurious and will do no good. I have given all the bad news, from time to time, in all its details, and with the force you propose to send, shall be able to make, next spring, travel secure.

I am learning where the villages are and will consult you before taking any steps involving extraordinary action.

I am
Very respectfully
Your Obd't Serv't

Henry B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Infy.
Comd'g District

Head Quarters Mountain District
Department Platte
Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
September 17th, 1866.

Litchfield H.G. Brv. Major
A.A. General

Mail has arrived. I send directly back. Lieutenant General Sherman wrote me from Laramie to endeavor to keep you more frequently advised. I am doing all I can with my broken down and famished horses, not having received a pound of corn yet. The urgent necessity for the two companies of cavalry, and the Indian scouts, will appear from this report. General Hazen took for escort one officer and twenty seven horses, expecting the cavalry would arrive, and he could relieve my men in ten days. He writes he will need them to Virginia City.

The last week has been one of active duty. On the eighth, (8th), during a blindering [sic] storm of wind and rain, a citizen herd broke from their corral, and before the herders had followed one mile, the Sioux took twenty of their stock.

About noon, same day, they attacked a government herd but without success. On the tenth (10th) a large force attacked Wagon Master Hill's train, cutting off a few horses and nearly seventy mules. Upon signal from the picket hill, Captain Adair followed the trail.

I took fifteen men and rode to the head of Rock Creek and Clear Fork to cut them off from their usual retreat. Fifteen miles out found they had gone north of the lake seven miles north. Both parties failed to come within reach of them. A board of Officers is investigating the course of herders and guards as to the sufficiency of the defence [sic] and precaution exercised.

On the thirteenth (13th) at one (1) A.M. I was called up by courier sent for aid, a hay party of eighty four (84) citizens near Tongue river, having been attacked, one straggler killed, the hay stacks fired, and six mowing machines broken with hatchets, hay heaped upon them and fired.

I sent Captain Adair with forty men to relieve them, in wagons. Six miles out, a small body of Indians rode towards the train. Prompt deployment of the men sent them galloping to the hills. Captain Adair reports from two to three hundred Indians on the hills following his course. He found the Indians had driven two hundred head of cattle into a herd of buffalo, and they were irrecoverably lost. Twenty men were left to guard the hay, the machines were promptly repaired, and put in motion. With the citizens who are well armed, I hope to have, in one week, a winter supply of hay for all contingencies.

Same day band of Sioux attacked convalescent herd of mules and horses. One picket came in with arrow in his hip, another with revolver ball in his side. Captain Ten Eyck, Lieutenants Brown and Bisbee pursued, riding for fifteen miles, within half a mile of the Indians, but the latter took to the red-buttes, where our horses could not pursue.

On the fourteenth (14th) a soldier named Johnson, riding three hundred yards ahead of a hay train, was cut off by a party of Indians. Pursuit showed twenty Indians but after twenty miles riding the night cut off their trail.

This morning Mr. Ridgeway Glover, citizen artist, who went out on a geological tour Saturday, without permission, and unarmed, was found two miles from the fort, naked, scalped, and his back cleft with a tomahawk.

This morning about 10 o'clock, a body of Sioux suddenly broke from the valley at the junction of the two Pineys, passing westward of coal hill, galloping swiftly for the pickets on the east Lookout, as indicated on the map I furnished. Their capture seemed inevitable, but they stood firm. I loaded and fired a twelve pound howitzer, having no one else experienced, bursting the first shell in their midst. This drove them back to the Creek. A second shell dismounted one Indian and all crossed to the hills. Simultaneous with this movement, at least fifty (50) appeared in front of the fort within two miles north of Piney. Two shells burst directly over them, the second dismounting a second Indian. Both were carried away by their friends, and their ponies, without riders, took to the hills.

This body then moved westward, when a third body showed themselves near the angle of Big Piney, where it bends to the mountain. Suspecting an attack upon the timber party, a sufficient force was sent in time, and the Indians disappeared. Bailey's mining party of forty men have just come in from Virginia [City] and Helena. They buried two of their party yesterday, who were hunting and were scalped near Tongue river. The two men were not stripped of clothing, jewelry, or money, a compliment from the Indians to their bravery. The indications were that they had fought behind their dead horses, and blood marks show that many Indians were killed.

They are splendidly armed, wish employment, and if authorized to hire them in Quarter Master's Department, or otherwise until reinforced they will do good work. Most of them have been eleven (11) years in the Western Territories.

Messenger from Fort C.F. Smith brings message that at request of Mr. Bridger, a party of Crows visited that post reporting five hundred lodges of Sioux in Tongue river valley, all hostile. Cheyenne Chiefs, viz; Black Horse, The man that stands alone on the ground, Red Arm, Little Wolf, Dull Knife and others with whom I held council in July, and who went beyond the mountains south as they promised, brought me the same report. Previous telegram of this date will show the same fact. Another village must be southeast of Lake Smedt [sic], towards Powder river.

The following facts are important by way of review.

1st   The Indians are well armed, with revolvers as well as rifles.
2nd   Red Cloud is known to command the parties now immediately engaged. White flags were used as signals between the different bands, thus covering a line of at least seven miles.
3rd   There are men with them who dress and appear to be white men, and swear and talk in good English.
4th   They are determined to burn the country, cut off supplies, and hamper every movement.

I believe the force I have is well disposed and effective for its strength, and I did not permit presence of the Indians to stop the hay wagons from going back to the hay field.

The men are learning to reserve part of their fire and the Indians will hardly venture again under fire of the Fort, but they are in the field in force.

Sixty thousand rounds of Springfield came with a contract commissary train. I ought to have if possible a hundred thousand more, and from Laramie, more ammunition for my twelve pound field howitzer and mountain howitzer.

Be assured I will send reports as fast as possible. I have bought a few bushels of corn to restore horses for the purpose. I cannot chase Indians with these.

Henry B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Infantry
Comd'g. District

Head Quarters Mountain District
Department Platte
Fort Philip Kearney
September 17th, 1866.


Litchfield H.G. Major
A.A. General
Dept. of the Platte

No women or children have been captured or injured by Indians in this District since I entered it. No train has passed without being well cared for and protected to their full satisfaction.

No post has been besieged or so threatened that it could not drive off offensive Indians, and at the same time protect itself.

While more troops are needed, I can say, - and I am in the very heart of the hostile district, that most of the newspaper reports are gross exaggerations [sic]. I gather and furnish you, as requested, all the bad news, neither coloring nor disguising facts.

Henry B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Infantry
Comd'g Mountain District

Head Quarters Mountain District
Department of the Platte
Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
September 25th, 1866.

Major H.G. Litchfield
Asst. Adjt. General

Since report of last week Indians have been hostile, but a signal success attended my last movements, and for two days no Indians have appeared.

Wednesday, nineteenth (19th) a large force attacked the miners encamped across Big Piney, losing one pony. A shell, from the Fort scattered them. No stock was lost. Miners pursued several hours in view.

Friday the twenty first (21st) a large force surrounded the hay party on Tongue river. The snow and rain prevented hay cutting, and the party came in, under escort of forty Infantry, for instructions. On the next day they were corralled six hours by a force of nearly three hundred Indians but a small mounted party from the fort, sent out to learn the cause of the delay, induced the Indians to leave, and train arrived safely. This was five miles from fort.

Apprehending hostile movements early Sunday morning, during a storm, the garrison was on the alert. The Indians dashed into contractor Chandler's herd, driving off ninety four head. Upon their appearance, Captain Brown with a party of mounted men and fifteen miners, who volunteered, dashed out of the east gate, and after a pursuit of thirteen miles overtook the Indians and fought them an hour. At one time the whole party was surrounded. Dismounting the Infantry, Captain Brown and a few men charged the Indians with revolvers, killing five Indians and one white man, I think Bob North, who has led them in every case, and wounding sixteen. One of our party was wounded slightly with an arrow which grazed the temple, and six of our horses were wounded by revolvers and rifle shots. All were brought from the field. One chief carried from the field by his men, wore an elaborate feather head dress, and proper ornament of the same kind upon his person.

They retired to a high hill silently and without their usual bravado. They felt the blow. Every head of stock was rescued and brought back to the Fort. It has inspired my men with new courage. With cavalry we should have brought in the bodies, and followed them. One week's feeding on corn has given new life also to my horses.

The rain and snow quenched prairie fires and I intend to follow up the hay business, as it is vital.

Operations along the line for the past week sum up as follows.

Grull's contract train returning from Fort Smith, was constantly harassed. Grull, with two wagons riding in advance were burned, and the two men and himself killed and scalped.

At Fort Smith, a force demonstrated, and guide Joe [sic] Beckwith, who went to see them, said they were Crows, but changed his mind and declared them Sioux. They pretended friendship, but getting no presents, and not being admitted near the Fort, they scalped a white man within sight of the garrison. The pretended they, with the Arapahoes, had made peace with the Crows. I do not believe it.

Indians still harass around Fort Reno, but get nothing.

I have changed company buildings to eighty four feet in length, kitchen in rear. This will allow four buildings each side, and these four will be roofed this week. A large commissary building with plank floor, and good roof will be equally advanced.

Every thing moves well. The men cheerfully come off guard, and go to work, and respond to alarm instantly, and eagerly by night and day. Sickness is almost unknown, sometimes one and often none at sick call. Antiscorbutics arrived in good time, as scurvy began to appear. I trust fresh potatoes will be sent us, on my April requisition. I shall have a cellar ready.

I am
Very respectfully
Your Obd't. Serv't.

Henry B. Carrington
Colonel 18th Infantry
Comd'g. Dist.

Head Quarters Mountain District
Department Platte
Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
September 26th, 1866.

Litchfield H. G. Major
Asst. Adjt. General
Omaha N.T.


I have the honor to furnish the following data respecting the Mineral, Agricultural and other resources of the new route to Montana, upon which I am engaged.

I.   Mineral

Coal abounds in exhaustless supply. I have recently opened a vein of cannel coal that will weld iron, within fifty feet of the Quarter Master's corrall [sic], east of the fort.

The buttes, northward, are colored by the red oxide of iron, but no ore has yet been found, neither have I yet found the proper signs of true iron, susceptible of application to use. They are however full of coal, in veins and lamina, varying from five (5) inches, to many feet in depth. There is much "Lignite" approximating "wood coal", but the cannel coal predominates in varied quantities, and quality.

"Gold color" is given from the sands of adjacent Creeks, but I have had no leisure for such research in the mountains as would give reliable assurance as to remunerative gold operation.

The indications offer a favorable prospect for emigrants and miners, through all the sources of mountain streams from this post to the Yellow Stone, but this opinion is formed from color given, and the general geological features of the country.

Limestone can be reached with some labor, and I shall attempt a Kiln, at the earliest possible opportunity.

No fossils have been found in the immediate range south of the fort, but specimens have been brought from the second chain of mountains, which culminate in perpetual snow.

One good specimen of lead, I picked up at the gorge through which the Piney passes the mountain.
II.   Agriculture

The valleys of Piney, Clear, Goose and Peno Creek, also of Tongue and the Big Horn rivers, with their numerous tributaries, afford fine grass, with wheat and oats.

Their soil is a rich loam, and susceptible of full culture with rich returns.

The grass range is directed and established by the following general formation of the country.
1st       The northern range of the Big Horn Mountains, five miles north from this post, is cut by many gorges, through which flow the many streams that irrigate the grass region, as far westward as the Yellow Stone and Clark's Pass. Crazy Woman's Fork is eastward of this line, is a muddy stream and is of the same class with Powder river, and is not a true flow from Big Horn Mountains. It will be seen by reference to the map, that the Big Horn Mountains terminate nearly south from the stream mentioned, and that Clear Fork is the first genuine mountain stream of the northern slope. Behind this northern slope, southward, is a tract varying from eighteen to twenty five miles (now difficult of access) but luxuriant in vegetation. The valleys of all the small streams are equally luxuriant, as they follow the mountain currents, northward and eastward to the many tributaries of the Missouri. Between these valleys, and bearing from fifteen to twenty miles northward, from the abrupt or northern range of the Big Horn Mountains, are back bone ridges, hills, and rolling lands, which also afford good grass. The soil of these upland ridges would however indicate that in an extremely dry season, the crop would be meagre [sic]. This season all have furnished a fair feed for stock. But the valleys, mountains narrowed to a fine belt, and then spreading out, from one to five miles, retain their prolific yield. Goose Creek, Peno Creek, the larger Piney and Tongue river, are of this character, the valley of the last named being more than twenty miles wide and of great fertility. Big Horn and Little Big Horn valleys furnish fine grass, and mild cereals inferior to none. Moving still northward of the series of hills referred to, and extending a great distance, are the Mauvais Terres, or barren, red buttes, impassable except by tedious detours, crossed and slashed by gulches and ravines, impassable for cavalry, (absolutely), and hardly attempted by buffalo. And yet, event there, the rivers crossing to the Missouri, feed small and rich bottoms, so that the country is not lost when intelligent civilization shall bring its mineral resources into use.
2nd       Irrigation of this grass region is most ample. Late in the season as it now is, while the cottonwood is yellow from frost, the hills and slopes bear innumerable patches of green shrubs, marking the work of the last lingering snows of spring, and the abounding springs which are every where formed. Westward from this post as far as Big Horn, running water can be found, at distances of from three to five miles, and there is no half days march without it. This peculiarity of grass and this supply of water, begins near Clear Creek, and even six miles westward of Crazy Woman's Fork, so soon as the true northern slope of the Big Horn Mountain is reached. The change is so marked that the traveller seems to have been transferred to a different land. The water of these streams is either snow derived or flows from aggregated Springs, and while in some cases, at a low state, it is slightly affected by the disintegrated coal beds it washes, it is pure and wholesome. The following fruits abound, viz.: - wild plums, cherries, strawberries, raspberries and grapes, the last named bearing close affinity to the Fox-grape, so called and proving very gratefull [sic] to the taste, and an excellent scorbutic. Wild hops, as fine as ever grew, climb the cottonwood and gro [sic] in profusion. The following timber, additional to exhaustless supplies of evergreen varieties, is found upon various creeks and Mountain slopes, viz.: - ash, box-elder, willow and cottonwood in all its forms. The pine timber has furnished novel results, the trees of one mountain have been girdled by fire, apparently two years since. The boards from these take the plane, and polish equal to No. 1 merchantable seasoned pine timber. The pitch has dried out, the grain is close and the material is sound. Shingles that are rived from it furnish bolts three feet in diameter and of the best quality.

III.   Climate & Meteorological Facts

The peculiarity of most pine bearing regions, viz.: - Salubrity of climate, is realized fully. Sickness is rare. Often but one or none attend sick call. Hospital cases are surgical, either the result of accident or Indian skirmish.

The altitude of this post I find to lie 5,790 feet by barometer, giving 30° as "Fair", at sea level. The mountain range nearest rises abruptly from 850 to 900 feet more.

The perpetual snow range has been given for these mountains heretofore, at 9,200 feet, which I regard as excessive. I have not had opportunity however, to reach exact scientific results, and those attained have been incidental to other duty.

The ordinary snow line however, includes even the nearest range and the summit of the east Lookout. It has rained at the post when snow was falling within two miles, and again we have had snow when on the Creek, one hundred and sixty feet below, there was rain.

Tongue river valley is much lower and warmer, and has had no snow. The fall of water since arrival in July, has not exceeded 85/100 of an inch. Of course there is no dew.

The mercury at sunrise, in August, seldom rose above 60°, and the nights were cool. The maximum range was 93° , but at Reno, while enroute, it stood 112° at Meridian, and 91° at sunrise. This doubtless depended upon radiation from a dry, heated and barren surface.

Geological fact which would be of any sterling value, must be the result of future labor when we have less building and fighting on hand.

There is no treatise that furnishes any detail upon which to predicate an opinion of previous examination. Meek & Hayden's does not reach this region. Professor Silliman and Dana of Yale College, Professor Henry of the Smithsonian Institute, and the Departments of Interior and Agriculture have sent me books and drawings, and I expect to turn them to practicable uses.

There is so much interest felt in this route that I shall furnish you all possible means of communicating the facts as they are.

IV.   Summary

This country is susceptible of the highest development. There is no land on the Platte that will rival the average bottoms of Creeks referred to.

I doubt whether corn will mature, and yet the season has been as favorable as many I have known in New England.

I shall try several plantings in the Spring if I remain here. The angle of the two Pineys will make a fine government farm and is readily irrigated.

Barley will do well, so will vegetables and the small cereals.

The inducements to substantial emigration and permanent homes for people who do not hunt gold as the final desideratum, are unquestionably great.

Neither do I think the Indian troubles will be permanent or general.

Losing no opportunities to ascertain facts respecting their animus towards the whites and their relation to each other, I can see no indications of harmony in action, combined operations.

They have a common antipathy to the loss of this splendid hunting sphere, this centre of natural advantage, where all game is found and whence they can at all times replenish their supplies when elsewhere unsuccessful.

But the occupation by the troops has so far advanced this fall, the defences are so stable, and the purpose of the Government is so decided that they must yield.

It is true that much risk will still attend an indiscriminate careless emigration, and that the present garrison will be maintained in an efficient condition, only by exact discipline, constant watchfulness, and ample support.

All these considerations have however fully received the attention of the General Commanding, and I wish to express my full appreciation of his confidence and promptness in all matters looking to the success of this expedition.

I am
Very respectfully
Your Obd't. Serv't.

Henry B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Infantry
Comd'g. District.

Head Quarters Mountain District
Department Platte
Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
September 13th 1866.

General Order
No. 69

1.   Owing to recent depredations of Indians near Fort Philip Kearney D.T. the Post Commander will issue such regulations, and at once provide such additional escorts for wood trains, guard for stock and hay and the steam saw mill, as the Chief Quartermaster may deem essential: He will also give
2.   Instructions so that upon an Indian alarm, no troops leave the post without an officer, or under the antecedent direction of an officer, and the garrison will be so organized that it may at all times be available and disposable for exterior duty or interior defence.
3.   On relief of the guard will promptly support any picket threatened at night, and the detail on posts should be visited hourly, by a non commissioned officer of the guard, between the hours of posting successive reliefs.
4.   Stringent regulations are enjoined to prevent camp rumors and false reports, and any picket or soldier bringing reports of Indian sign or hostilities must be required to report to the Post Commander or Officer of the day, or to the nearest commissioned officer, in cases of urgent import.
5.   Owing to the non arrival of corn for the post, and the present reduced condition of the public stock, the Quartermaster is authorized, upon the approval of the Post Commander, to purchase sufficient corn for moderate issues, to last until a supply, already due, shall arrive, but the issue will be governed by the condition of the stock, and will only be issued to horses, unless the same, in half ration, shall be necessary for such mules as are daily in use, and cannot graze or be furnished with hay.
6.   Reports will be made of all Indian depredations, with the result, in order that a proper summary may be sent to Department Head Quarters.
7.   Soldiers while on duty, in the timber or elsewhere, are forbidden to waste ammunition in hunting, every hour of their time being indispensable in preparing for their own comfort and the well being of the garrison during the approaching winter.

Henry B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Infantry
Comd'g. District

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