An under chief, called Little Horse, brought his band in near Jim Moore’s ranch and camped there nearly all winter. They pretended to be on friendly terms with the ranchers, and often went out on hunting trips, but in reality they were communicating with hostile tribes, to let them know the situation and circumstances of the ranchers.
In February they moved camp and took along about fifty head of Moore’s horses and mules and started south. Jim Moore went to Fort Sedgwick and got a troop of cavalry of eighty men under Captain Mix and Lieutenant Arms, to follow the Indians. Kelly, Moore, Buffalo John and myself acted as scouts. The Indians had four days start of us when we took their trail. For four hundred miles we followed them, and long since made up our minds that when we did find them we would run into a large band of them. Sure enough, we did.
Spotted Tail, with eight hundred warriors, suddenly appeared before us, and someone in his band shouted to us, “Don’t shoot, or I am a goner.” Captain Mix put up a flag of truce and Spotted Tail with twenty-six other chiefs, came out to meet the officers and we scouts, to negotiate for terms.
Our horses were facing those of the Indians and stood so close that their heads interlapped, thus placing their riders quite near to each other.
Under Chief Two Strike was next to me, and when the other Indians put out their hands and said, “How” their way of greeting Two Strike remained silent and refused to offer me his hand. From then on during the council, I just ignored him. I noticed that during the council Two Strike was nonchalant and grouchy; he would only answer with grunts. I soon learned the cause. Spotted Tail and his old warriors favored peace, while Two Strike and the young warriors were anxious to fight. Since Old Chief Spotted Tail held the highest authority, the others had to submit to his terms. Finally he said if we would leave that part of the country and promise never to return, they would not harm us; if not, we would all be massacred. We accepted the terms and agreed to leave at daylight the following morning and not look any further for Little Horse and his band.
After the council, which lasted three hours, was over, we had a friendly chat with the Indians. Billy Lee, who had shouted to us not to shoot when we first met the Indians, was a trader in Spotted Tail’s village and was under the protection of that chief. It was customary with the Indians that if they were attacked by the white people, to kill all the whites who happened to be in the village, whether as a trader or as a captive. Billy Lee acted as interpreter during the council and also the friendly visit we had with them.
Two Strike touched the cartridge in my belt and said, “Heap shoot;” then touched the point of my hunting knife and said, “Ugh! Heap long knife.” He wanted to trade me two buffalo robes, valued at $20 each, and a deer hide worth about $10 for my knife. I would not trade with him, and said, “The first thing you would do would be to try that knife on my scalp.” He only smiled and grunted, as much as to say, more than likely he would at the first opportunity.
He then noticed the artillery and wanted to see it. I took him around to the cannon and explained how the powder was put in, and how to handle the ramrod, etc., and finished by saying, “Big noise; heap shoot; kill all Indians around,” and at the same time pointed to all the Indians in sight. Two Strike was not interested in the heap big guns any longer and was in a hurry to get back where the other chiefs were.
Just before leaving the Indians, Captain Mix asked Lee if he had any salt in the camp; that they were out of rations except the fresh game they could kill, but had no salt to go with it. Lee said he did not know, and if he had any, he would send a warrior to our camp with it. Two Strike asked how a warrior could get into our camp at night. Captain Mix was off his guard and said, “I will give the guards orders not to fire at any one approaching.” Two Strike did not say any more, and we scouts thought his question was extraordinary, since he had taken no interest in the council, and after talking it over, we decided he meant mischief.
When we had arranged camp for the night, we told Captain Mix our opinion of Two Strike’s question and actions, and warned him to look out. He did not seem to be very serious concerning it, and said, “There is nothing to fear, boys; we made a treaty with the Indians and they will not break it.” We had our doubts about it, and decided to take no risks; accordingly we told the captain our plans and left the camp.
We scouts went to an island in the Republican River, and stayed for the night. We were so situated that we could see the Indian village and also the camp of the soldiers, and if an attack was made we could easily escape. Had we remained in the camp and been attacked, we would all have been massacred, for the Indians were ten to our one.
As the night was darkening and the camp fires were burning low and all the Indians were asleep and not a sound came from the soldiers’ camp, Two Strike quietly crawled from his lodge and awoke his five hundred young warriors. They soon laid their plot and were on their horses ready to start for the soldiers, who were unsuspecting any danger. An old warrior was disturbed from his slumbers and upon peeping from his tepee, he saw the act of treachery. He hurried to Spotted Tail and pointed towards the mounted warriors. The old chief grabbed his revolver and started for Two Strike; he placed the revolver against the young chief’s breast and ordered him to call back his young warriors, and said, “We made a treaty with those soldiers and don’t you dare to break it; if you do I will kill you.”
Very much disappointed over failing in his object, Two Strike did as bidden.
At break of day the next morning, we were on our way toward Fort Sedgwick. The trip back was one never to be forgotten. We left the fort with only four days’ rations, and were out sixteen days. The last eight days we had only raw buffalo meat without salt.
The weather was stormy and so cold that twenty of the men had their hands and feet frozen. We were in a wild country, no settlers for hundreds of miles around us, so to avoid getting lost we carried the compass in our hands all the time to keep a continual watch of the directions; when one man’s hands were cold he would pass the compass on to another one.
After several days of such trying circumstances, the soldiers were beginning to get uneasy; it was the first time most of them ever had such trying experiences. We scouts had been used to many hardships and dangers, so did not mind it so much; but it took all of our nerve and good spirits to cheer up the discouraged soldiers. Captain Mix worried over the hopeless situation, and the burden of the responsibility for the safety of his men so weighed on his mind that he became mentally deranged. The captain was sure they were going the wrong way, and finally the scouts had to threaten to leave him before he would listen to reason. After much persuasion he consented to fully rely on the scouts guiding them back into civilization. Near the last few days the captain came to himself and asked me where we expected to come in on the Platte River. I told him at Bovay’s ranch. He bet me all we could eat, cigars and drinks, as soon as we found any settlers, that we would strike the river at Ofellow’s point, a distance of sixty miles below Bovay’s. I said, “Boys, what shall we do about it?” They said, “Take up the bet, and if you lose we will help you out.” So I took the bet.
A few days after this we came onto a little bluff and saw a silver like thread winding over the prairie in the distance and knew we were nearing the Platte and all began to pick up courage and get in good spirits. We traveled a little farther, then I dismounted and got my field glasses out of my saddlebags and looked over the country. I distinguished a farm about four or five miles ahead of us. I called the other scouts and when they looked at it, we decided it was Bovay’s. We waited for Captain Mix to come up, and as he studied the surrounding country, he finally agreed with us. It is needless to say that we covered that few miles in a hurry, and the captain stayed good by his bet, and we half starved creatures sure enjoyed that first night back in civilization. Two or three weeks later Billy Lee came to the fort and told us what a narrow escape the soldiers had that night they camped near Spotted Tail’s village.
Some of the Pioneers of Colorado
Source: True History of some of the Pioneers of Colorado, by Miss Luella Shaw, Press of Carson Harper Co, Denver, Colorado, 1909