Musings from the Manhut

Where the ebb and flow of life creates a cascade of words down the paper's face

Tag: Indian Wars

Custer: Indians cannot rise to civilisation

The question may also arise as to what influence the wild nomadic tribes of the West are most likely to yield and become peaceably inclined toward their white neighbors, willing to forego their accustomed raids and attacks upon the frontier settlements, and content to no longer oppose the advance of civilization. Whether this desirable condition  of affairs can be permanently and best secured by the display and exercise of  a strong but just  military power, or by the extension of the olive-branch on one hand and government annuities on the other or by a happy combination of both, has long been one of the difficult problems whose solution has baffled the judgment of our legislators from the formation of the government to the present time. My firm conviction, based upon an intimate and thorough analysis of the habits, traits of character, and natural instinct of the Indian, and strengthened and supported by the almost unanimous opinion of all persons who have made the Indian problem a study, and have studied it, not from a distance, but in immediate contact with all the facts bearing thereupon, is that the Indian cannot be elevated to that great level where he can be induced to adopt any policy or mode of life varying from those to which he has ever been accustomed by any method of teaching, argument, reasoning, or coaxing which is not preceded and followed closely in reserve by a superior physical force. In other words, the Indian is capable of recognizing no controlling influence but that of stern arbitrary power. To assume that he can be guided by appeals to his ideas of moral right and wrong, independent of threatening or final compulsion, is to place him far above his more civilized brothers of the white race, who, in the most advanced stage of refinement and morality, still find it necessary to employ force, sometimes resort to war, to exact justice from a neighboring nation. And yet there are those who argue that the Indian with all his lack of moral privileges, is so superior to the white race as to be capable of being controlled in his savage traits and customs, and induced to lead a proper life, simply by being politely requested to do so. ~pp101-102

Custer: An Indian Battle Charge

Seeing that the little garrison was stunned by the heavy fire of the dis- mounted Indians, and rightly judging that now, if ever, was the proper time to charge them, Roman Nose and his band of mounted warriors, with a wild, ringing war-whoop, echoed by the women and children on the hills, started forward. On they came, presenting even to the brave men awaiting the charge a most superb sight. Brandishing their guns, echoing back the cries of encouragement of their women and children on the surrounding hills, and confident of victory, they rode bravely and recklessly to the assault. Soon they were within the range of the rifles of their friends, and of course the dismonnted Indians had to slacken their fire for fear of hitting their own warriors, this was the opportunity for the scouts, and they were not slow to seize it. “Now,” shouted Forsyth. “Now,” echoed Beecher, McCall, and Orover ; and the scouts, springing to their knees, and casting their eyes coolly along the barrels of their rifles, opened on the advancing savages as deadly a fire as the same number of men ever yet sent forth from an equal number of rifles. Unchecked, undaunted, on dashed the warriors ; steadily rang the clear, sharp reports of the rifles of the frontiersmen. Roman Nose, the chief, is seen to fall dead from his horse, then Medicine Man is killed, and for an instant the column of braves, now within ten feet of the scouts, hesitates — falters. A ringing cheer from the accounts, who perceive the effect of their well-directed fire, and the Indians begin to break and scatter in every direction, unwilling to rush to a hand-to-hand struggle with the men who, although outnumbered, yet knew how to make such effective use of their rifles. A few more shots from the frontiersmen and the Indians are forced back beyond range, and their first attack ends in defeat. Forsyth turns to Grover anxiously and inquires, “Can they do better than that, Grover?” “I have been on the Plains, General, since a boy, and never saw such a charge as that before. I think they have done their level best,” was the reply. ” All right,” responds ” Sandy” ; ” then we are good For them.”

Custer: Reason for Indian War

As pretended but not disinterested friends of the Indians frequently acquit the latter of comitting unprovoked attacks on helpless settlers and others, who have never in the slightest degree injured them, and often deny even that the Indians have been guilty of any hostile acts which justify the adoption of military measures to insure the measure of protection and safety of our frontier settlements, the following tabular statement is here given, This statement is taken from official records on file at the headquarters Military Division of the Missouri, and, as it states, gives only those murders and other depredations which were officially reported, and the white people mentioned as killed are exclusive of those slain in warfare. I am particular in giving time, place,etc., of each occurrance, so that those who hitherto may have believed the Indian to be a creature who could do no wrong may have ample opportunity to judge of the correctness of my statements. Many other murders by the Indian during this period no doubt occured, but, occurring as they did over a wide and sparsely steeled tract of country, were never reported to the military authorities.

Letter from General Sherman to General Grant

St. Louis, Dec. 28, 1866

GENERAL: Just in time to attend the funeral of my Adjutant-General, Sawyer. I have given general instructions to General Cooks about the Sioux. I do not yet understand how the massacre of Colonel Fetterman’s party could have been so complete. We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women, and children. Nothing less will reach the root of the case.

(Signed) W.T. Sherman, Lieutenant General

Deserters from Custer’s Autobigraphy

Let us leave him and his detachment for a brief interval, and return to events which were more immediately connected with my command, and which bear a somewhat tragic as well as personal interest.

In a previous chapter reference has been made to the state of dissatisfaction which had made its appearance among the enlisted men. This state of feeling had been principally superinduced by inferior and insufficient rations, a fault for which no one connected with the troops in the field was responsible, but which was chargeable to persons far removed from the theater of our movements, persons connected with the supply departments of the army. Added to this internal source of disquiet, we were then on the main line of overland travel to some of our most valuable and lately discovered mining regions. The opportunity to obtain marvellous wages as miners and the prospect of amassing sudden wealth proved a temptation sufficiently strong to make many of the men forget their sworn obligations to their government and their duties as soldiers. Forgetting for the moment that the command to which they belonged was actually engaged in war and was in a country infested with armed bodies of the enemy, and that the legal penalty of desertion under such circumstances was death, many of the men formed a combination to desert their colors and escape to the mines.

The first intimation received by any person in authority of the existence of this plot was on the morning fixed for our departure from the Platte. Orders had been issued the previous evening for the command to march at daylight. Upwards of forty men were reported as having deserted during the night. There was no time to send parties in pursuit, or the capture and return of a portion of them might have been effected.

The command marched southward at day light. At noon, having marched fifteen miles, we halted to rest and graze the horses for one hour. The men believed that the halt was made for the remainder of the day, and here a plan was perfected among the disaffected by which upwards of one third of the effective strength of the command was to seize their horses and arms during the night and escape to the mountains. Had the conspirators succeeded in putting this plan into execution it would have been difficult to say how serious the consequences might be, or whether enough true men would remain to render the march to Fort Wallace practicable. Fortunately it was decided to continue the march some fifteen miles farther before night. The necessary orders were given and everything was being repacked for the march when attention was called to thirteen soldiers who were then to be seen rapidly leaving camp in the direction from which we had marched. Seven of these were mounted and were moving off at a rapid gallop; the remaining six were dismounted, not having been so fortunate as their fellows in procuring horses. The entire party were still within sound of the bugle, but no orders by bugle note or otherwise served to check or diminish their flight. The boldness of this attempt at desertion took every one by surprise. Such an occurrence as enlisted men deserting in broad daylight and under the immediate eyes of their officers had never been heard of. With the exception of the horses of the guard and a few belonging to the officers, all others were still grazing and unsaddled. The officer of the guard was directed to mount his command promptly, and if possible over take the deserters. At the same time those of the officers whose horses were in readiness were also directed to join in the pursuit and leave no effort untried to prevent the escape of a single malcontent. In giving each party sent in pursuit instructions, there was no limit fixed to the measures which they were authorized to adopt in executing their orders. This, unfortunately, was an emergency which involved the safety of the entire command, and required treatment of the most summary character.

It was found impossible to overtake that portion of the party which was mounted, as it was afterwards learned that they had selected seven of the fleetest horses in the command. Those on foot, when discovering themselves pursued, increased their speed, but a chase of a couple of miles brought the pursuers within hailing distance.

Major Elliot, the senior officer participating in the pursuit, called out to the deserters to halt and surrender. This command was several times repeated, but without effect. Finally, seeing the hopelessness of further flight, the deserters came to bay, and to Major Elliot’s renewed demand to throw down their arms and surrender, the ring-leader drew up his carbine to fire upon his pursuers. This was the signal for the latter to open fire, which they did successfully, bringing down three of the deserters, although, two of them were worse frightened than hurt.

Rejoining the command with their six captive deserters, the pursuing party reported their inability to overtake those who had deserted on horseback. The march was resumed and continued until near nightfall, by which time we had placed thirty miles between us and our last camp on the Platte. While on the march during the day a trusty sergeant, one who had served as a soldier long and faithfully, imparted the first information which could be relied upon as to the plot which had been formed by the malcontents to desert in a body. The following night had been selected as the time for making the attempt. The best horses and arms in the command were to be seized and taken away. I believed that the summary action adopted during the day would intimidate any who might still be contemplating desertion, and was confident that another day’s march would place us so far in a hostile and dangerous country that the risk of encountering war parties of Indians would of itself serve to deter any but large numbers from at tempting to make their way back to the settlements. To bridge the following night in safety was the next problem. While there was undoubtedly a large proportion of the men who could be fully relied upon to remain true to their obligations and to render any support to their officers which might be demanded, yet the great difficulty at this time, owing to the sudden development of the plot, was to determine who could be trusted.

This difficulty was solved by placing every officer in the command on guard during the entire night. The men were assembled as usual for roll-call at tattoo, and then notified that every man must be in his tent at the signal “taps,” which would be sounded half an hour later; that their company officers, fully armed, would walk the company streets during the entire night, and any man appearing outside the limits of his tent between the hours of taps and reveille would do so at the risk of being fired upon after being once hailed.

The night passed without disturbance, and daylight found us in the saddle and pursuing our line of march toward Fort Wallace. It is proper to here record the fact that from that date onward desertion from that command during the continuance of the expedition was never attempted. It may become necessary in order to perfect the record, borrowing a term from the War Department, to refer in a subsequent chapter to certain personal and official events which resulted partially from the foregoing occurrences.

Indians afterlife from Custer’s autobio

Those of the savages who were shot from their saddles were scarcely permitted to fall to the ground before a score or more of their comrades dashed to their rescue and bore their bodies beyond the possible reach of our men. This is in accordance with the Indian custom in battle. They will risk the lives of a dozen of their best warriors to prevent the body of any one of their number from falling into the white man’s possession. The reason for this is the belief, which generally prevails among all the tribes, that if a warrior loses his scalp he forfeits his hope of ever reaching the happy hunting-ground.

Preparing for battle from Custer

When the entireband had defiled down the inclined slope, Comstock and the officers were able to estimate roughly the full strength of the party. They were astonished to perceive that between six and seven hundred warriors were bearing down upon them, and in a few minutes would undoubtedly commence the attack. Against such odds, and upon ground so favorable for the Indian mode of warfare, it seemed unreasonable to hope for a favorable result. Yet the entire escort, officers and men, entered upon their defense with the determination to sell their lives as dearly as possible.

Indians descended from Hebrews and Scandanavians? from Custer’s autobiography

When civilization made its first inroads within the borders of this continent, numerous tribes, each powerful in numbers, were found inhabiting it. Each tribe had its peculiar customs, whether of war, the chase, or religion. They exhibited some close resemblances as well as widely differerent traits of character. That they sprang from different nations rather than from a single source seems highly probable. It is said that when the Spaniards conquered Yucatan a number of intelligent Indians declared that by traditions from their ancestors
they had learned that their country had been peopled by nations coming from the east, whom God had delivered from their enemies by opening a road for them across the sea.

Few persons will deny that the existence of America was believed in if not positively known centuries before its discovery by Columbus. Even so far back as the time of Alexander the Great, a historian named Theopompus, in giving a dialogue that took place between Midas and Silenus, credits the latter with saying that Europe, Asia, and Africa were only islands, but that a vast fertile continent existed beyond the sea. Tliis continent was peopled by a race of powerful men, and gold and silver were abundant on its surface. Hanno, eight hundred years before Christ, made a voyage along the coast of Africa, and sailed due west for thirty days. From the account which he afterward wrote of his voyage, it is probable that he saw portions of America or some of the
West India islands. Reference is also made by Homer and Horace to the existence of islands at a long distance west of Europe and Africa. Diodorus speaks of an immense island many days’ sail to the west of Africa; immense rivers flowed from its shores; its inhabitants resided in beautiful mansions ; its soil was fruitful and highly cultivated. The description corresponds with that given of Mexico by the Spaniards who first discovered it. Aristotle makes mention of it in the following terms : ” It is said that the Carthaginians
have discovered beyond the Pillars of Hercules a very fertile island, but which is without inhabitants, yet full of forests, of navigable rivers, and abounding in fruit. It is situated many days’ journey from the mainland.” After  the discovery of America Europeans were surprised to find in villages in Guatemala inhabitants wearing the Arabian masculine costume and tlie Jewish feminine costume. Travellers in South America have discovered Israelites among the Indians. This discovery strengthens the theory given by Garcia, a Spanish writer, that the Indians are the descendants of the tribes of Israel that were led captive into Assyria. Many of the Indian customs and religious rites closely resemble those of the Israelites. In many tribes the Indians offer the first
fruits of the earth and of the chase to the Great Spirit. They have also certain ceremonies at stated periods. Their division of the year corresponds with those Jewish festivals. In some tribes the brother of a deceased husband receives the widow into his lodge as his legitimate wife. Some travellers claim to have seen circumcision practised among certain tribes. Another analogy between the Jews and the Indians is seen in their purifications, baths, anointings, fasts, manner of praying, and abstaining from certain quadrupeds, birds, and reptiles considered impure. In general Indians are only permitted to marry in their own tribe. Some tribes are said to carry with them an ark similar to the one mentioned in Holy Writ. I know that all tribes with which I have been brought in contact carry with them a mysterious something which is regarded with the utmost sacredness and veneration, and upon which the eye of no white man at least is ever permitted to rest. Then again the “medicine man ” of the tribe, who is not, as his name implies, the physician, but stands in the character of high
priest, assumes a dress and manner corresponding to those of the Jewish high priest. Mr. Adair, who spent forty years among the various northern tribes, and who holds to the idea that the Indian is descended from the Hebrew, asserts that he discovered an unmistakable resemblance between various Indian words and the Hebrew intended to express the same idea. He furtlier asserts that he once heard an Indian apply the following expression to a culprit:  Tschi kaksit canaha ” — Thou art like unto a Canaanite sinner.

Numerous evidences and various authorities go to prove that prior to the discovery of America by Columbus a series of voyages had been made from the old to the new continent. The historical records of the Scandinavians, describing their migratory expeditions, fix not only the dates of such excursions, but also the exact points on the American coast at which landings were made and colonies established. In 1002, Thorwald Ericsson, following the example of his countrymen, began a voyage, during which he landed near Cape Cod. He was afterward slain in an encounter with the natives. Other expeditions were undertaken by the Scandinavians at subsequent periods down to the early part of the fifteenth century, when, owing to various causes of decline, including savage wars and disease, these early explorers lost their foothold on the American continent and disappeared from its limits. But from the ninth to the fifteenth century it is easily proved by their historical records and traditions that the American continent had been visited and occupied by pioneers
from the Scandinavians. From the great number of inscriptions, antique utensils, arms, bones, and monuments discovered in the New England States, it is fair to presume that these adventurers had occupied a larger portion of the new continent than their manuscripts would lead us to suppose. At the same time the discoveries in the Western States and territories of mounds containing human bones, earthen vessels, and weapons whose form and structure prove that their original owners belonged to a different people from any with which
we are acquainted at the present day, should be received as evidence strongly confirmatory of the early migrations claimed to have been made by the Scandinavians and other nations.

Custer’s description of the Indian from his autobiography

It is to be regretted that the character of the Indian as described in Cooper’s interesting novels is not the true one. But as, in emerging from childhood into the years of a maturer age we are often compelled to cast aside many of our earlier illusions and replace them by beliefs less inviting but more real, so we, as a people, with opportunities enlarged and facilities for obtaining knowledge increased, have been forced by a multiplicity of causes to study and endeavor to comprehend thoroughly the character of the red man. So intimately has he become associated with the Government as ward of the nation, and so prominent a place among the questions of national policy does the much mooted Indian question occupy, that it behooves us no longer to study this problem from works of fiction, but to deal with it as it exists in reality.

Stripped of the beautiful romance with which we have been so long willing to envelop him, transferred from the inviting pages of the novelist to the localities where we are compelled to meet with him, in his native village, on the war path, and when raiding upon our frontier settlements and lines of travel, the Indian forfeits his claim to the appellation of the noble red man. We see him as he is, and, so far as all knowledge goes, as he ever has been, a savage in every sense of the word; not worse, perhaps, than his white brother would be, similarly born and bred, but one whose cruel and ferocious nature far exceeds that of any wild beast of the desert.

That this is true no one who has been brought into intimate contact with the wild tribes will deny. Perhaps there are some who as members of peace commissions or as wandering agents of some benevolent society may have visited these tribes or attended with them at councils held for some pacific purpose, and who, by passing through the villages of the Indian while at peace, may imagine their opportunities for judging of the Indian nature all that could be desired. But the Indian, while he can seldom be accused of indulging in a great variety of wardrobe, can be said to have a character capable of adapting itself to almost every occasion. He has one character, perhaps his most serviceable one, which he preserves carefully, and only airs it when making his appeal to the Government or its agents for arms, ammunition, and license to employ them. This character is invariably paraded, and often with telling effect, when the motive is a peaceful one. Prominent chiefs invited to visit Washington invariably don this character, and in their talks with the Great Father and other less prominent personages they successfully contrive to exhibit but this one phase. Seeing them under these or similar circumstances only, it is not surprising that by many the Indian is looked upon as a simple-minded son of nature, desiring nothing beyond the privilege of roaming and hunting over the vast unsettled wilds of the West, inheriting and asserting but few native rights, and never trespassing upon the rights of others.

This view is equally erroneous with that which regards the Indian as a creature possessing the human form but divested of all other attributes of humanity, and whose traits of character, habits, modes of life, disposition, and savage customs disqualify him from the exercise of all rights and privileges, even those pertaining to life itself. Taking him as we find him, at peace or at war, at home or abroad, waiving all prejudices, and laying aside all partiality, we will discover in the Indian a subject for thoughtful study and investigation. In him we will find the representative of a race whose origin is, and promises to be, a subject forever wrapped in mystery; a race incapable of being judged by the rules or laws applicable to any other known race of men; one between which and civilization there seems to have existed from time immemorial a determined and unceasing warfare-a hostility so deep-seated and inbred with the Indian character that in the exceptional instances where the modes and habits of civilization have been reluctantly adopted, it has been at the sacrifice of power and influence as a tribe, and the more serious loss of health, vigor, and courage as individuals.


War profiteering (things ain’t changed much) from #Custer autobio #amreading

Dishonest contractors at the receiving depots farther east had been permitted to perpetrate gross frauds upon the Government, the result of which was to produce want and suffering among the men. For example, unbroken packages of provisions shipped from the main depot of supplies, and which it was impracticable to replace without loss of time, were when opened discovered to contain huge stones for which the Government had paid so much per pound according to contract price. Boxes of bread were shipped and issued to the soldiers of my command, the contents of which had been baked in 1861, yet this was in 1867. It is unnecessary to state that but little of this bread was eaten, yet there was none at hand of better quality to replace it. Bad provisions were a fruitful cause of bad health. Inactivity led to restlessness and dissatisfaction. Scurvy made its appearance, and cholera attacked neighboring stations. For all these evils desertion became the most popular antidote. To such an extent was this the case, that in one year one regiment lost by desertion alone more than half of its effective force.

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