When the Third regiment arrived at Fort Lyons, all the soldiers were inspected and those not fit for service were left behind.
A boy in Captain Johnston’s company was left out because he was too young, not yet eighteen. In appearance he seemed older, being over six feet tall but very thin. He had a fair babyish face framed with curly golden hair that was unusually long and tangled. He seemed to be anxious to take part in the raid against the Indians and when told that he must remain at the fort he was greatly disappointed.
Lieutenant Gilson went to Captain Johnston, ”Captain, what am I to do with that boy, he is over there crying and begging to go with us.” The Captain studied a few moments before answering, “Well, I guess we might as well let him go; get him the poorest horse out of the cabby yard and that old weather beaten Mexican saddle there on the fence and an old halter while I find a gun for him.”
The Lieutenant did as bidden and the Captain found an old infantry gun that shot a full ounce ball and had a four inch cartridge. These officers supposed the boy would return to the fort before they had gone very far and they were fixing up to have some sport with him.
As the command marched away, a poor little pony, loaded with the yellow haired boy and the infantry gun, was wearily dragging along behind the cavalry. When the pony appeared fagged out the boy would walk.
When the command arrived at Sand Creek and the soldiers were ordered to dismount, they had forgotten about the boy, so after the fight commenced in the creek, they were greatly surprised to see a little white and poor Indian pony with a Mexican saddle on and dragging a halter leave the other horses and follow the Indians to the sand pits, where it stood about thirty minutes before any of the shots exchanged hit it. The soldiers wondered where the rider was but naturally supposed that he had been killed at the start.
When the fight was raging the hardest, an object was seen to creep cautiously to the edge on the bank just opposite the soldiers and directly over the Indians. The object would hesitate a moment, then suddenly a loud report similar to a cannon would boom out and a dense smoke would rise up from the south side of the creek. The instant the report was heard, an Indian could be seen to fall. The other Indians would turn and fire into the dense smoke. When the smoke cleared away there was nothing in sight where the object had been.
Every few minutes this was repeated and every time the shots took effect. Finally one of the soldiers was sent around to investigate and see who was there. Nearing the scene of the singlehanded artillery, he called out, “You had better leave the place, the soldiers might accidentally overshoot.” The yellow haired boy just aimed his old infantry gun down over the bank and went on bombarding the sand pits below and yelled back to the soldier, “O, I guess not,” in his usual slow and drawling way.
The old gun was so heavy and the boy so light that at every shot it would kick the boy backwards, thus causing the arrows aimed at him from below to miss their mark.
Upon leaving the battle ground, the yellow haired boy and two companions were brought suddenly face to face with a huge Indian, who rose up out of the grass a few feet ahead of them and pointed his gun at the yellow haired boy; there was no time for the boy to aim and fire, so quick as a flash the infantry gun flew through the air and landed on the Indian, knocking him flat. The boy walked on into camp the most unconcerned one in the regiment.
In dragging the Indians out of the pit on the following morning, twenty-seven were found with an enormous hole torn clear through them that only an infantry gun could make.
When Colonel Chivington was told of the boy’s bravery and success, he ordered that the best horse and outfit taken from the Indians be given to him and the Colonel presented the yellow haired boy with Black Kettle’s outfit.
The last the regiment ever saw of the single handed artillery it was going with the Mexicans and horses back to Fort Lyons, but it never got there, nor could any trace be found of it. Shaw, who had taken quite a fancy to the boy, offered a reward for any knowledge of him. The yellow haired boy disappeared just as mysteriously as he appeared on the scene. Some thought the Mexicans had killed him but the majority believed he went back to his home in Kansas. From what few remarks he made, he left the impression that some of his people had been killed by the Indians and he joined the volunteers to get a better chance for revenge, and accomplishing his purpose, he was ready to return to what relatives and friends he had left back in his old home.
Source: True History of some of the Pioneers of Colorado, by Miss Luella Shaw, Press of Carson Harper Co, Denver, Colorado, 1909