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Records Relating to Investigations of the Ft. Philip Kearny (or Fetterman) Massacre
Testimony of J.B. Weston
M740 roll 1 of 1
National Archives & Records Administration




Evidence of J.B. Weston, Lawyer
on the Fort Phil. Kearney Massacre


Fort Philip Kearny D.T.
July 29th 1867.



The Special Indian Commission met

J.B. Weston being present and duly sworn testifies as follows.

Question   
What is your age, occupation and residence.
Answer   

My age is 35 years.
 "   Residence is Nebraska City.
 "   Profession is Lawyer

Question   
When did you first arrive at Fort Philip Kearny D.T.
Answer   

Early in August 1866.
Question   
Have you been here continuously from that time to the present.
Answer   

I have not. I remained at Fort Philip Kearny until the 23rd of Jan. last; returned to Nebraska and came back on the 3rd day of July inst.

Question   
During the six months before leaving Philip Kearny for Nebraska, where did you spend your time.
Answer   

In and about the immediate neiborhood [sic] of Fort Philip Kearny D.T.
Question   

During that time, were there any Indians who made their appearance about the Post and if so, were they friendly or hostile.
Answer   

Indians appeared every few days, hostile in every instance except two. The exceptions were nine Cheyennes who came in at the Post, in October, professing friendship and six of the same band next day also professing to be friendly. My own opinion at that time was and still is, that those Indians were hostile.

Question   
What seemed to be the object of the hostile Indians, in making their appearance about the garrison.
Answer   

They were after lives and property in every instance.
Question   

Did any of these hostile Indians manifest any disposition to come into the Post to trade or have a friendly talk.
Answer   

Never to my knowledge. On the other hand they were defiant, and on the fight and always tried to draw the soldiers out from the garrison.

Question   
How large were the parties that [there?] usually appeared.
Answer   

From ten to fifty, but when pursued were found to have large and well appointed forces in immediate reserve.

Question   
State any instances that have come to your knowledge in which they have succeeded in running off stock.
Answer   

They frequently succeeded in running off Government and citizen stock from the Post, and in one instance Sept. 13th they drove off 209 head of cattle from the hay party on Peno Creek, about 25 miles from the Post.

Question   
Whose cattle were these and how strong was the party guarding them.
Answer   

Seventy one head of the cattle belonged to myself and Mr. [Jos. or Jas.] Saunders, the rest belonged to Levi Carter. There were about 100 citizens and an escort of perhaps 30 soldiers. After a severe fight they killed one man and burnt up the mowing machines, and a large quantity of hay, belonging to Carter and Crary, who were the hay Contractors for the Government.

Question   
Is this the only stock that you have lost about Fort Philip Kearny by the Indians.
Answer   

No. They ran of[f] the remnant of Weston & Saunders stock at different times, consisting of one mule, one cow and twelve additional head of cattle.

Question   

Up to the 21st day of Dec. 1866, have you any means of ascertaining how many persons were killed by the Indians in the neiborhood [sic] of Fort Philip Kearny and on the road.
Answer   

In the neiborhood [sic] of fifty. From the time of the so called Treaty at Fort Laramie D.T. on the 1st of July 1866., the Indians have been at war, and have lost no opportunity of killing men who traveled the road, or went out from this Post in small parties.

Question   

Were you at Fort Laramie at the time the Treaty of which you have spoken, was pending and concluded. And if so, state what you know of the Treaty and the conduct of the Indians immediately afterwards.
Answer   

I arrived at Fort Laramie while the Treaty was being negotiated, and left for this place immediately after it was concluded. The whole affair of the Treaty at the time was regarded, by disinterested citizens as a disgusting farce and disgraceful swindle. While Commissioners, were pretending to treat with diverse vagabond Indians, for a road through the Powder River country, Col. Carrington was advancing with a small, poorly appointed military force to occupy the very country in Question. It was generally understood that the treaty was purely a matter of speculation; and it is currently reported that Col. Carrington was unable to get his expected supplies of ammunition from Fort Laramie, but the same was furnished to the Indians, at the time of the Treaty, and employed by them afterwards against the Whites in this country, in perpetuating the most terrible butcheries and culminating in the Fort Phil Kearny massacre of Dec. 21st.

Passing along the road from Bridgers Ferry to this place immediately after the Treaty, the road was strewn, all along the line, with new made graves, and other fresh and bloody tokens of Indian hostilities. At the Laramie Treaty, "Red Cloud" and other prominent Chiefs of the Sioux, retired, and took no part in it; and these are the Chiefs who have been prominent in heading the war parties in this country.

Question   
In your opinion what was the cause, that led to the Indian War now existing in the Powder River country.
Answer   

Very many causes led to this result. Some of the more immediate causes are as follow.

1st On account of attempting to take possession of a country by an inadequate military force, without having obtained consent of the Indians who occupied it.

2nd The Indians in this country are very numerous, very wild, well armed, mounted and appointed; and their constant and repeated successes, against the weak and poorly appointed Government force in the country, has tended to strengthen, encourage and embolden them; has enabled their Chiefs to unite and consolidate the various tribes to the present very formidable force, embracing, as I believe more than six thousand warriors.

Also the Indians naturally resist the opening up of a great National highway to Virginia City, through a fine country abounding in game, upon which they rely for their subsistence.

3rd The Indians have been cut off and driven back from every quarter, and this Powder River country alone remains to them intact. It is the last and perhaps the finest Indian country extant. The Indians are well aware that the country besides posessing [sic] almost unlimited resources, such as they require for their sustenance and support, is also a country rich in agricultural and mineral resources. They know that while coal and iron are abundant, that the more precious minerals exist in paying quantities, in some parts of the country; and they have always been jealous of the Whites getting a foothold in the country on that account. They are no fools. They see the results in other mining territories; and know perfectly well that a knowledge of these mineral resources would only result in an absorption of the country by the Whites.

Lastly-Stupid and criminal management of our Indian Affairs by the U.S. Government. The Government, as represented by the Officials of the Indian Bureau, has never seemed to have any clear understanding of the Indian problem. Instead of preparing the way for the inevitable advance of civilization over this country, they have, as far as my observation has gone, been absorbed in some scheme of personal [s]peculation. And when this management has resulted in bringing on an Indian war, the War Department has failed to appreciate its extent and magnitude; has sent a military force to this country so small, inadequate, and insufficient in numbers, arms and supplies, that instead of conquering a peace, it has aggravated and augmented the troubles.

Question   
Upon what do you base your opinion as to the causes that have led to the war in this country.
Answer   

Upon actual observation, gained by a residence in Nebraska and upon the frontier during the last ten years.

Question   
During that time have you had an opportunity of observing Indian character.
Answer   

I have, more or less, during all that time, by coming in contact with the Otoes, Pawnees, Omahas, Sioux, Cheyennes, Arrapahoes [sic] and other Indians.

Question   
Is travel, through this country, more or less dangerous than it was one year ago.
Answer   

Traveling is more dangerous, as is evident from the fact, that there was considerable emigrant travel over this road to Montana last year, whereas this year there is none.

Question   
Where were you in December last.
Answer   

At Fort Phil Kearny D.T.
Question   
Did you see the Indians when they appeared on the 6th of Dec.
Answer   

I saw a few scattering Indians, as they appeared around the Post.
Question   

State whether you went out over the hills on the 21st day of Dec. what time you left the garrison, how far you went from the Post, and how many Indians you saw on that day.
Answer   

About 12 M. of that day, myself in company with several citizens viz: Fitch Kinney, Mr. Welch, Mr. Blodgett and others hearing heavy firing over the hills started with the intention of joining Col. Fettermans party if possible, and at the Piney Creek we fell in with Capt. Ten Eycks party. We marched on the double quick most of the way until we came to the hill which overlooks the valley of Peno Creek, about four miles from the Post, where I had a good view of the Indians; whom I then estimated and still think were 150 in the immediate vicinity of the greatest number of dead bodies; a quarter of a mile in their rear, apparently drawn up in line of battle on horseback, about 500, and thence down the valley of Peno Creek upon the ridge and in the ravines on both sides and upon the bluffs to the left, appeared a compact body of Indians, as also as far as we could see down the Peno valley. I have never estimated the number, but believe it to be much greater than is generally supposed.

Question   

How long was it after heavy firing was heard, in the direction that Col. Fettermans party took, until you left the Post.
Answer   

Upwards of thirty minutes.
Question   
How long did the firing continue after you left the Post.
Answer   

We heard the heaviest volleys as we were crossing Big Piney Creek, within three quarters of a mile of the Post; and we heard a few faint volleys after crossing the Creek and occasional shots as we were going up the road. Just as we got on the crest of the hill, I thought I heard groans and screams; and after we got on the crest we saw and heard several shots fired around where the greatest number of dead bodies were found.

Question   
Did you suppose that these last shots were fired by Col. Fettermans party or by the Indians.
Answer   


I am certain now, that they were fired by the Indians; but it was the supposition of Capt. Ten Eyck at the time, that it was Fettermans party who fired the shots.
Question   
How far were you, at the time of this last firing, from the Indians who were then around the mass of dead bodies.
Answer   

We were above them, and from 800 to 1000 yards distant.
Question   
How long after you occupied that position, before the Indians who were about the dead bodies, left.
Answer   

They did not leave until Capt. Ten Eyck advanced, probably twenty minutes after we came into full view. They did not fall back very much until the Qr.[Msrs.?] wagons appeared which were sent out from the Post; and they probably took the wagons to be artillery.

Question   
Did you encounter any Indians on your way from the Post.
Answer   

Not exactly encountered any, but passed near some of their pickets, which we supposed at the time to be white men. We saw two loose Indian ponies which we captured. I think these horses were left for a decoy, with the intention of destroying our party at that place, as it was well chosen for the purpose; which in my opinion was only prevented by the timely appearance of the Qr. Masters wagons and men appearing in our rear, and which as I stated were believed to contain artillery, by the Indians.