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Records Relating to Investigations of the Ft. Philip Kearny (or Fetterman) Massacre
Testimony of Bvt. Major James Powell
M740 roll 1 of 1
National Archives & Records Administration


Fort Philip Kearney D. T.
July 24th 1867



Special Indian Commission met
Present – Brvt. Maj. James Powell 27th Inf. U. S. A. who being duly sworn testified as follows.

Question   What is your age, present residence, and profession.
Answer   Age 35, Residence, Regular Army U. S., Occupation, Commissioned Officer, and my present location at Fort Philip Kearney, D. T.
     
Question   When did you arrive at what is now Fort Philip Kearney.
Answer   Nov. 5th 1866.
     
Question   In what capacity did you come to Fort Philip Kearney.
Answer   In the capacity of Comdg. Officer of Co. "C" 27th Inf.
     
Question   Who was in command of the Post at that time.
Answer   Col. H. B. Carrington of the 18th Inf.
     
Question   What companies were at the Post when you arrived.
Answer   Cos. "A", "C", "E", & "H" 27th Inf. "C" Co. of 2nd Cav. having come with me, making in all five companies.
     
Question   How many effective men, fit for service, did these five companies embrace.
Answer   I cannot say exactly, but I think there were forty men to the company, fit for service in the field.
     
Question   How were these men armed?
Answer   With the Springfield Rifle Musket, Cal. 58 when I arrived, afterwards the Cavalry were armed with the Spencer Carbine.
     
Question   From the time you arrived up to the 21st of Dec. 1866, what was the supply of ammunition at the Post?
Answer   To the best of my recollection, I was informed by the Comdg. Officer that he had thirty one or thirty two thousand rounds of good Springfield Ammunition.
     
Question   During the period last mentioned, what was the dicipline [sic] of the Post?
Answer   With the Company Officers it was good, with an effort on their part to discharge their duties to the best of their abilities. With the enlisted men it was chaotic.
     
Question   In using the word chaotic, do you mean to be understood that there was no dicipline [sic] at the Post among the enlisted men?
Answer   I do.
     
Question   What was the cause of the want of dicipline [sic] at Fort Philip Kearney, during the time mentioned?
Answer   A want of proper support, Officially and personally, by the Company Commanders, from the Commanding Officer.
     
Question   During that time, how did the enlisted men employ their time.
Answer   In answering the question, I shall have to answer it in various ways, as there were paroled prisoners from the Guard House in the garrison, and who had the liberty of such, and there was a detachment of mounted men belonging to the Post from the different Companies, which detachment had no direct or immediate Commander.

The first party spoken of, the paroled prisoners, being without guard, seemed to exercise their pleasure, if such it should be called, of breaking into the Commissary and stealing provisions, and also breaking into the Sutler's Store, which facts came under my official notice. The mounted detachment amused themselves principally with card playing, horse racing and getting drunk. The rest of the garrison performed their accustomed details in a very loose manner.
     
Question   What were those details.
Answer   Guard duties, Fatigue duties in the Qr. Mr. & Com. Depts. and guard to wood trains.
     
Question   During the time you have mentioned, from the 5th Nov. to the 21st Dec. 1866, did any hostile Indians make their appearance about the Post, and if so how frequently and in what numbers.
Answer   From the date of my arrival up to the 21st of Dec. 1866, Indians were seen nearly every day, and causing a great deal of trouble to the herds, from the number of twenty up to one hundred: three days previous to the battle on the 21st Dec., they appeared in large force, seemingly for the purpose of attack.
     
Question   On the occasions of the appearance of these Indians, were Officers and men sent in pursuit of them.
Answer   In answering the question I must say that there seemed to be a system of volunteering; Officers going out in charge of men from the number of about 40 to about 60, which custom seemed to have been tolerated by the Post Commander.
     
Question   How far were these Indians usually pressed.
Answer   Seldom exceeding eight or nine miles.
     
Question   How were they pursued, by Cavalry, Infantry or by both.
Answer   By Cavalry and the detachment of mounted Infantry, as a general thing.
     
Question   On such occasions who was usually in charge of the Cavalry.
Answer   Lieut. H. S. Bingham 2nd Cav.
     
Question   Who usually took command of the mounted Infantry.
Answer   Capt. F. H. Brown 18th Inf. Post Qr. Mr. [sic] [TN: Capt. Brown was Post Quarter Master]
     
Question   During the time mentioned, were there any friendly Indians at or about the garrison.
Answer   I did not see any.
     
Question   What evidence have you, that the Indians who appeared so frequently, were all hostile.
Answer   By their killing any and every White Man they could, and taking the herd whenever they could do so by fighting for it.
     
Question   What nation or tribe of Indians were these supposed to be.
Answer   They were supposed to be the Cheyennes and Sioux.
     
Question   [TN: This question is crossed out in the original document] You speak of the Indians appearing in force a few days previous to the 21st of Dec., please state all the facts connected with their appearance on that occasion, and its results.
     
Question   You speak of Lieut. Bingham leading the cavalry when the Indians were pursued, please state all the facts within your knowledge connected with the appearance of the Indians at the time of his death.
Answer   On the morning of the 6th Dec., a report came to the garrison, that the wood train was attacked. Col. H. B. Carrington, who commanded, issued a verbal order for the Cavalry and mounted Infantry to get in readiness to move out against the Indians. He taking the mounted Infy. and going out on the Big Horn Road, leaving Lt. Col. Fetterman to take charge of the cavalry, and to go to the relief of the wood train. What occurred outside the Fort I have only from hearsay; I know that Lieut. Bingham's body, and the body of Sgt. Bowers were brought in to the Fort that day.
     
Question   What Indians were these, and were they visible from the garrison, and if so, how many were supposed to have been seen.
Answer   They were Cheyenne Indians. They appeared upon the bluffs around the Fort, in small parties of two and three, seemingly to observe the troops.
     
Question   From the 6th of Dec. to the 21st Dec., were any additional measures adopted at the Post to provide against Indians.
Answer   Not that I observed.
     
Question   When did the Indians next appear in force.
Answer   On the 19th of Dec. 1866, but the force was not visible at the Fort.
     
Question   You will please state all the facts, as far as you know, on that occasion.
Answer   On the date in question a report was received here, that the Indians had attacked the wood train, and it was thought it was a serious attack; I was present when Col. Carrington received the report, and he directed me in person to take command of a detachment of Infantry, and also the company of cavalry, mounted, and go to their relief. Capt. Brown 18th Inf. Post Qr. Mr. [sic], being present and mounted, and being desirous to go out, I gave him command of the Cavalry Co. with the instructions to go to the wood train, and if he found a large force of Indians to contend with, to retire slowly with the train, not to offer battle, and I would move as rapidly as possible with the Infantry under my immediate command to his support. He left with these orders and I moved out with the Infantry. After having marched some two miles, a messenger from Capt. Brown's command reported to me that the Indians had left and the train had gone on to the woods to load up. In the meantime I observed, off about two miles distant a body of, what I thought, about two hundred Indians. I sent the messenger back to Capt. Brown, not to load the train, but to bring it back, and continued my march towards the pinery. Upon arriving within a mile and a half of the pinery, Indians were to be seen in every direction except in my rear. I placed my men upon a high point which was inaccessible to horses, and ordered the train to join me at once.

The train having joined me, I did not deem it prudent to offer battle to the Indians and returned with my train and my force of about one hundred and forty men in good order to the Fort, and I think now as I did then, that by so doing I saved the lives of my command.

Upon arriving at the Fort I reported to Col. Carrington and I think I stated to him at the same time, if he wished to haul timber from the pinery he required a very large force, as I thought eighty or eighty five men besides the teamsters was not too many.

Col. Carrington approved of the course I had pursued in retiring from the pinery, but whether he increased his train guard or not, I do not know.
     
Question   What kind of timber was it that the train [TN-crossed out phrase: "at that time"] was engaged in hauling, at that time, from the pinery.
Answer   Saw logs and house logs.
     
Question   What were these saw logs and house logs for.
Answer   For the Quarters of the men in garrison, and for other government purposes.
     
Question   In your opinion, how many Indians made their appearance on the 19th Dec.
Answer   From my observation, and the information received from Sgt. Bartlett, an old soldier, who saw the Indians in the pinery, besides those seen on the hills, they numbered about twenty five hundred, and possibly more.
     
Question   Were the Indians, which you saw, mounted or on foot.
Answer   The greater portion of them were dismounted holding their horses, apparently waiting a signal from the bluffs on my left.
     
Question   In the different raids made by Indians about this garrison, how have they appeared, mounted or on foot.
Answer   In all cases well mounted.
     
Question   What arms have they carried and used.
Answer   Six shooting pistols, Bows and arrows and Lances.
     
Question   With what weapon have the men, who have lost their lives, in the neighborhood of the garrison, been killed.
Answer   All that I have seen with the exception of one man, have been killed with arrows.
     
Question   Has stock been shot by the Indians, and if so by what weapon.
Answer   All that I have seen, with arrows.
     
Question   Has it been to some extent a custom with the Indians, when failing to drive off a cattle herd, to shoot the cattle, and if so how were they shot.
Answer   It has been the custom to do so, and with arrows. Indians who drive off stock seldom carry more fire arms than a pistol, relying mainly upon their arrow.
     
Question   Since you arrived at this Post to the present time, has there been any safety for small parties against the attacks of Indians, outside of this garrison.
Answer   To my knowledge and belief there has not been any safety for parties less than fifty men, well armed, in any direction; and a greater part of the time fifty men were not safe five miles from the garrison, without wagons to form a corral.
     
Question   Has not this garrison since your arrival to the present time, been in a state of siege.
Answer   In one sense of the word it has, but in another sense it has not been invested.

So far as safety from four to five hundred yards outside of the garrison is concerned, it has been in [a] state of siege, but in regard to safety, and freedom inside of the garrison, it has not been in [a] state of siege.
     
Question   Is the condition of Indian matters in the country, from Ft. C. F. Smith to Fort Laramie and along the road, in your opinion, any better today than when this Post was established.
Answer   I think it fifty per cent worse, and the travel less safe than when the Post was established.
     
Question   During the time you have mentioned, to wit: from the time of your arrival to the 21st Dec., which party was the most successful, the Indians in killing people and running of [sic] stock, or the soldiers in chastising them.
Answer   The Indians.
     
Question   What effect did the successes of the Indians produce upon them.
Answer   It seemed to have emboldened them, and to encourage a great contempt for the men of the garrison.
     
Question   Since you have been at this Post, has there been any expedition sent out to chastise the Indians.
Answer   There has not been an expedition in a military sense. The detachments that have been sent out from the Post, have been sent for the purpose of recovering stock from Indians and relieving trains. In my opinion the garrison never was strong enough in numbers to send an expedition against the Indians. The men of the garrison have always acted on the defensive; offensive measures in this country have not yet been inaugerated [sic].
     
Question   Please state, as briefly as you can, such facts as have come to your knowledge connected with the death of Col. Fetterman and his party on the 21st of Dec. last.
Answer   On that date about eight or half past eight o'clock in the morning, the picket reported an attack upon the wood train. Col. Carrington commanding the Post ordered the guns of the garrison to be got in readiness; during that time he sent his Adjutant to Col. Fetterman telling him that he would furnish him a detail to go to the relief of the wood train. The detachment of Infy. was formed, numbering 49 men, the detacht. of Cavalry was formed numbering twenty seven men, all under the command of Col. Fetterman and two additional officers, Capt. Brown of the 18th Inf. and Lt. Grummond of the 18th Inf.

Before moving his command from the Post, I saw Col. Carrington in conversation with Col. Fetterman, what orders or instructions Col. Carrington gave him I do not know but I observed that Col. Fetterman's command, in place of going to the relief of the wood train filed to the right and went on the Big Horn road. While they were moving along the Big Horn road, I endeavored to drive the Indians from their flanks and front, by shelling them, which I succeeded in doing. Col. Fetterman's command passed out of sight of the garrison in about two miles, nothing was seen in his front or on his flanks at that time. In the course of an hour from when he disappeared, which was about eleven o'clock, heavy firing was heard in the direction which he took which continued for fully an hour.

After the elapse of this hour, about twelve o'clock, I requested Col. Carrington to arm all the civilian employees at the Post, and at once send some person to the relief of Col. Fetterman with ammunition and wagons; Col. Carrington gave his consent to my request and asked my opinion upon the matter. I armed those men, had the wagons prepared, organized the detachment, consisting of employees and soldiers; Col. Carrington ordering Capt. Ten Eyck to take command. After Capt. Ten Eyck had left the garrison and reached the summit of some of the high hills where he could observe the battle field, he sent back a messenger, reporting to Col. Carrington that he could not find Col. Fetterman's party; the messenger also stated that he was of the opinion that the party were killed. Col. Carrington then asked my opinion again upon the subject, and I told him that I did not think they were dead, but had got to some place where they could protect themselves. He asked me what he should do, or words of like import. I told him to send word to Capt. Ten Eyck, that he was sent out there to fight, and he must get through to Fetterman's party; he did so.

Col. Carrington told me that he thought I had better take charge of the whole thing or something to that effect. I immediately assumed the duties of executive Officer of the Post, and had all work stopped and prepared the men for action, I deemed it prudent to do so, as in case Col. Fetterman's command was destroyed, well knowing the character of the Indians from many years of experience amongst them, and that in the condition the Post was at that time, if they were successful and should follow up that success, they would most assuredly take the Post.
     
Question   You state that it was an hour after this heavy firing was heard, before this conversation took place between you and Col. Carrington; you will please state what steps were taken, during that hour, to send relief to Col. Fetterman's party.
Answer   No steps whatever, to my knowledge.
     
Question   How long was it after this conversation, between you and Col. Carrington, before Capt. Ten Eyck's detachment left the Post.
Answer   I think it could not have been more than half an hour.
     
Question   Was firing heard after the conversation between you and Col. Carrington and while preparations were being made to send out Capt. Ten Eyck.
Answer   I think there was.
     
Question   Was there any firing heard at the Post after Capt. Ten Eyck left.
Answer   I did not hear any.
     
Question   How many Indians, did you judge, there were visible from the garrison on that morning.
Answer   Between thirty and forty.
     
Question   How was Col. Fetterman's party armed, and how many rounds of ammunition had each man.
Answer   The Cavalry had the Patent Spencer Carbine, what number of cartridges per man, I do not know. The Infantry had the Springfield Rifled Musket, and at inspections for garrison purposes had twenty rounds each; whether they received a supply of ammunition to go out that morning, I cannot say; I did not see any issued to them.
     
Question   Was there any Ordnance Sergeant at the Post at that time.
Answer   Not to my knowledge.
     
Question   Who had charge of the ammunition issued to the men, and whose duty was it to see that the men were properly supplied.
Answer   It was the duty of the Company Comdrs., to see that the men had twenty rounds in their cartridge box daily.
     
Question   But on an occasion of that kind, going out to relieve a wood train from an Indian attack, would twenty rounds of ammunition be deemed sufficient, and if not, whose duty was it to see that the men were properly supplied.
Answer   It was not sufficient, and it was the duty of the Company Commanders, to see, upon all such occasions, that their men were properly supplied with ammunition; and it is also the duty of an officer commanding a detachment, to inspect his detachment before leaving the Post.
     
Question   What companies went out on that day, and who were the company commanders.
Answer   A detail from Cos. "A", "C", "E", & "H" of the Infantry and from "C" Company of the 2nd Cav. Col. Fetterman was the Comdg. Officer of "A" Co. Lt. Grummond was Comdg. Officer of "E" Co. Maj. Powell was Comdg. Officer of "C" Co. and Capt. Ten Eyck was Comdg. Officer of "H" Co. "C" Co. 2nd Cavalry had no Commander, Lt. Bingham having been killed; Col. Carrington I believe having taken charge of it.
     
Question   Do you know whether there was any inspection of the men who went out with Col. Fetterman, before they left, by their Company Comdrs.
Answer   I know that Co. "C" on every and all occasions in leaving the Post were well supplied with ammunition, and that an open ammunition box was always set out accessible to them for any and all emergencies, and were required to keep well supplied. As regards the other companies, I do not know, but feel fully convinced that Col. Fetterman's Company was well supplied.
     
Question   Do you know whether Col. Fetterman made any inspection of the detachment that morning.
Answer   I do not know, as I was busily engaged with my duties.
     
Question   When did you receive the first reliable intelligence of the massacre of Col. Fetterman's party.
Answer   A few minutes after sundown the same day.
     
Question   During the day, was there any courier dispatched, or any detachment sent to Col. Fetterman except Capt. Ten Eyck's detachment and the return messenger sent in by him.
Answer   There was an Actg. Asst. Surg. who had endeavored to cross over from the wood train to Col. Fetterman, but returned to the Post and reported the fact that he could not join Col. Fetterman for the number of Indians on the road, and he required an escort. He then started again with one enlisted man and one citizen, and came back the second time and reported that he could not get through. The citizen was mounted on an Indian pony which he had caught.
     
Question   What time in the day was he first sent out and what time did he return.
Answer   He left about nine o'clock in the morning and returned about half past ten o'clock. And he started out the second time soon after, and returned about half past eleven o'clock, reporting that it was still impossible for him to reach Col. Fetterman in consequence of the large number of Indians.
     
Question   According to your statement it was half past twelve o'clock before Capt. Ten Eyck with his detachment, left the Post to relieve Col. Fetterman, and according to your statement as to time when the Asst. Surg. first arrived you make it two hours from the time that information was communicated, that Fetterman could not be joined, in consequence of large numbers of Indians, before Capt. Ten Eyck was started to the relief of Fetterman's party; please state the cause of his delay.
Answer   I do not know the cause of the delay. Nearly all this time the Commanding Officer was sitting on the top of his house, listening to the firing.
     
Question   What is the name of the Asst. Surg. to whom you have referred.
Answer   Dr. Hines.
     
Question   From the time that Dr. Hines first returned to the Post, to the time that Capt. Ten Eyck was ordered out to the relief of Col. Fetterman, were there any fears expressed by the Officers of the garrison, as to the safety of Col. Fetterman and party.
Answer   When Col. Fetterman first went out there were fears expressed for the safety of Col. Fetterman and party.
     
Question   Was there any conversation between you and Col. Carrington in relation to Col. Fetterman not going to the relief of the wood train, but taking the Big Horn road instead.
Answer   There was not; Col. Carrington certainly saw me throw a shell beyond Col. Fetterman on the road, and I supposed that Col. Carrington had ordered him to take that road.
     
Question   Was there any disapprobation expressed by the Officers of the garrison, before Col. Fetterman's party was heard from, for the reason that he did not go to the wood train, but went over the hills instead.
Answer   I heard none.
     
Question   Who brought in the first reliable information of the fate of Col. Fetterman and party.
Answer   The men in advance of the returning command.
     
Question   At what time did Capt. Ten Eyck return to the Post.
Answer   Shortly after sundown, and brought with him about thirty of the bodies of the dead.
     
Question   When were the remainder recovered.
Answer   Next day, about sundown.
     
Question   Who went out for the remaining bodies.
Answer   Col. Carrington, Capt. Ten Eyck, and Lt. Matson, with eighty or ninety enlisted men.
     
Question   Did you see the bodies when they were brought into the Post.
Answer   I did.
     
Question   From their appearance, how were they killed.
Answer   They were killed with arrows, and in some cases their bodies were chopped to pieces, and all their bodies were more or less mutilated.
     
Question   Did any of Col. Fetterman's party escape alive.
Answer   Not one, every man that left this garrison under his command, was brought back dead, including two citizens, Jas. Wheately [sic] and Mr. Fisher.