1. Sherman to Sheridan, August 26, 1877, roll 5, Nez
Perce War, 1877, Division of the Missouri, Special File.
2. Five of these companies had but recently returned
from Omaha and Chicago, where they were posted during the railroad riots
in July. Price, Across the Continent, 167-68. For a history of
Camp Brown, see McDermott, Dangerous Duty, 105-11.
3. Crook, "Report," 90; Cheyenne Daily
Leader, August 31, 1877; and Hart to Sheridan, telegram, September
5, 1877, roll 5, Nez Perce War, 1877, Division of the Missouri, Special
File. As of August 30, Sheridan wanted Crook to send out some Shoshone
scouts and "invite unconditional surrender of Joseph's band." In
preparation for confronting the Nez Perces, however, Sheridan directed
that 250 Sioux scouts under White Horse be sent to accompany Major
Hart's battalion. Sheridan to Sherman, telegram, August 30, 1877, item
5542, roll 338, Nez Perce War Papers; and Cheyenne Daily Leader,
November 2, 1877. Only 150 actually departed Red Cloud Agency on August
30 for Hart's command. Apparently, the scouts were recalled on Crook's
advice. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Williams, Assistant Adjutant General,
Department of the Platte, to Sheridan, telegram, August 30, 1877,
roll 282, Letters Received, Adjutant General's Office, June 1877-October
1877, Sioux War Papers. For Crook's involvement in the Nez Perce
campaign vis-à-vis the unfolding events at Camp Robinson,
Nebraska, surrounding Crazy Horse's death, see Buecker, Fort
4. Sheridan sent word to Hart to "make for Stinking
Water." With the help of the Sioux scouts, Sheridan wrote, "you will be
able to kill or capture the hostile band of Nez-Perces . . . ," and "if
you should get on their trail do not give it up till you overtake them."
Enclosed in Sheridan to Williams, Assistant Adjutant General, Department
of the Platte, August 30, 1877, roll 282, Letters Received, AGO, June
1877-October 1877, Sioux War Papers. Major Hart's battalion consisted of
Companies B (Captain Robert H. Montgomery), H (Captain John M.
Hamilton), I (Captain Sanford C. Kellogg), and L (First Lieutenant
Charles H. Rockwell), along with twenty-five scouts headed by the noted
frontiersman Frank Grouard. Second Lieutenant Edwin P. Andrus was
adjutant. Wheeler, Buffalo Days, 202-3. On September 4, Sheridan
had received a suggestion from Gibbon "that Hart be pushed up Stinking
Water as far as he can go. Would it not be well to put Merritt up into
the park on [Captain William A.] Jones  trail [east of Yellowstone
Lake] to pick up any straggling hostiles[?] . . . It is not impossible
finding themselves headed off by Sturgis that they may turn back &
make their way south by the trail East of the lake & so reach Snake
river again." Gibbon to Sheridan, telegram, September 4, 1877, roll 5,
Nez Perce War, 1877, Division of the Missouri, Special File.
5. Crook to Sheridan, September 10, 1877, roll 5,
Nez Perce War, 1877, Division of the Missouri, Special File.
6. Ibid.; Assistant Adjutant General (Robert
Williams) to Sheridan, August 27, 1877, roll 5, Nez Perce War, 1877,
Division of the Missouri, Special File; Sheridan to Adjutant General (E.
D. Townsend), August 28, 1877, item 5398, roll 337, Nez Perce War
Papers; Cheyenne Daily Leader, September 13, 1877; Chicago
Tribune, September 12, 1877; and King, Indian Campaigns, 86.
Merritt's command consisted of Companies C (Captain Emil Adams), D
(Captain Samuel S. Sumner), E (Captain George F. Price), F (Captain J.
Scott Payne), K (Captain Albert E. Woodson), and M (Second Lieutenant
Charles H. Watts), Fifth Cavalry; and Company K (Captain Gerald
Russell), Third Cavalry. Merritt's adjutant was Charles King, his
regimental quartermaster First Lieutenant William P. Hall, and his
medical officer Assistant Surgeon Charles Smart. Second Lieutenant Hoel
S. Bishop commanded the Shoshone scouts. Army and Navy Journal,
September 23, 1877.
7. Crook, "Report," 89-90; Army and Navy
Journal, September 23, 1877; New York Herald, September 23,
1877; "Record of Medical History of Fort Washakie," 55, 56, 59; King,
Indian Campaigns, 86-88; Price, Across the Continent, 168;
Wheeler, Buffalo Days, 202-4, 206; DeBarthe, Life and
Adventures of Frank Grouard, 188-89 (in which Grouard confused
Hart's command, with which he served, with Merritt's); Daly, "U.S. vs.
Joseph," 44; and Hedren, "Eben Swift's Army Service," 148-49.
8. First Lieutenant George W. Baird to Sturgis,
August 11, 1877, Baird Papers.
9. Miles to Sturgis, August 12, 1877, ibid.
10. With Sturgis, the questions seemed not to do
with his bravery but with his judgment. For his background, see Cullum,
Biographical Register, 2:278-80; Warner, Generals in Blue,
486-87; Boatner, Civil War Dictionary, 816-17; and Hammer,
Biographies of the Seventh Cavalry, 5.
11. Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis report, December 5,
1877, in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 507; Regimental
Returns . . . Seventh Cavalry, August 1877, roll 72; and Mills,
Harvest of Barren Regrets, 298. General Terry's original plan was
to send out the battalion of Second Cavalry that was under Miles's
command, but as that unit was scouting for Sioux in the Little Missouri
country to the east, Milesanticipating the need for troops to head off
the Nez Perceshad already dispatched Sturgis's Seventh cavalrymen by the
time Terry's directive arrived. Miles to Assistant Adjutant General,
Department of Dakota, August 19, 1877, roll 5, Nez Perce War, 1877,
Division of the Missouri, Special File.
12. For details of the rations problem, see Goldin,
Bit of the Nez Perce Campaign, 4-8.
13. Baird to Sturgis, August 16, 1877; and Miles to
Sturgis, August 19, 1877, Baird Papers.
14. Hare, "Report of Lieut. L. R. Hare," 1677
(reprinted as After the Battle).
15. Fuller left the Tongue River Cantonment on the
night of August 11. Years later he stated that "I was ordered to make
all practicable speed, and if practicable, reach Ft. Ellis in five days,
there to deliver my dispatches to the commanding officer to be forwarded
to General Sherman, who was then in the national park, and whom [Brevet]
General Miles desired to have advised that the Indians might pass
through the Park, as they afterwards did, after which I was to get into
communication with the Governor of Montana and General Gibbon, then
colonel of the Seventh Infantry. . . . In the meantime, any information
[that] might be received was to be communicated to [Brevet] General
Sturgis." Fuller's account in Goldin, Biography, chap. 14, 289-97.
16. Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis report, December 5,
1877, in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 508.
17. Miles to Sturgis, August 26, 1877, ibid.
18. Miles to Sturgis, August 27, 1877, ibid.
19. Beyond the sources cited above, the early
movements of Sturgis's command are described variously in Goldin to L.
V. McWhorter, August 30, 1929, and September 10, 1929, folder 177,
McWhorter Papers; Hare, "Report of Lieut. L. R. Hare," 1676-78; Goldin,
Biography, 288-89, 297-301; Goldin, "Seventh Cavalry at Cañon
Creek," 204-6; Benteen to wife, August 11, 1877, in Carroll, Camp
Talk, 84-85; Sturgis to Potts, August 23, 1877, reprinted in Paul
Phillips, "Battle of the Big Hole," 79; and Bonney and Bonney, Battle
Drums and Geysers, 76-77.
20. Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis report, December 5,
1877, in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 509.
21. On this date, Captain Benteen wrote: "To-day we
labored under the impression for a while that we found the Nez Perces,
caused by six of our indian [sic] scouts . . . firing into a herd of
elk. M Co. went out to ascertain the cause of the firingand commenced
shooting elk themselves. 'Boots and Saddles' were soundedand we awaited
developments. Soon the six indians came in." Benteen to wife, September
5, 1877, in Carroll, Camp Talk, 90-91. For descriptions of the
fishing, see Goldin, Bit of the Nez Perce Campaign, 8; and
Benteen, "Trouting on Clark's Fork," 234-35.
22. Sturgis's September 6, 1877, notice "To the
Miners and others at the Smelting Works" was also published in the
Bozeman Times, September 13, 1877.
23. Yellow Wolf and Otskai shot these men while
scouting for the main body of the Nez Perces. Yellow Wolf also claimed
they attacked the party transporting the wounded man to the agency. For
particulars, see McWhorter, Yellow Wolf, 182-84.
24. Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis report, December 5,
1877, in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 510.
25. In his often confused accounts of Sturgis's
movements, Goldin stated that on this or another night pickets fired on
a horseman in the darkness and next morning found unshod pony tracks in
the vicinity. See, for example, Goldin, "Seventh Cavalry at Cañon
Creek," 210-11; and Goldin to McWhorter, September 27, 1933, folder 177,
26. Hare, "Report of Lieut. L. R. Hare," 1678.
Details of the march to the Stinking Water, from a former enlisted man's
perspective, are in Goldin, Bit of the Nez Perce Campaign, 10-11;
Goldin, Biography, 301-9; and Goldin, "Seventh Cavalry at Cañon
27. It was Sturgis's trail in this area that
Merritt found one week later.
28. On the eleventh, Hare commented, "on coming
down the mountain-side it was found that the Indians had gone down
Clark's Fork the same day that we had started for the Stinkingwater."
Hare, "Report of Lieut. L. R. Hare," 1679. This assessment of Sturgis's
maneuver to the Stinking Water is based upon data contained in the
above-cited works, as well as in Regimental Returns . . . Seventh
Cavalry, September 1877, roll 72; Goldin to McWhorter, March 20, 1939,
August 30, 1929, and December 4, 1934, folders 159 and 177, McWhorter
Papers; and Roy Johnson, Jacob Horner, 17-18. A route at some
variance with the above is given in Mills, Harvest of Barren
29. Howard to Sturgis, September 8, 1877, entry
897, box 1, part 3, 1877, U.S. Army Continental Commands.
30. Fisher, "Journal of S. G. Fisher," 277.
31. This assessment of the Nez Perces' course in
reaching Clark's Fork is based on communication with Stuart Conner,
Michael Bryant, and Kenneth J. Feyhl, of Billings, Mont., who jointly
over many years have worked to determine that route as precisely as
possible. Of great benefit to this study has been Stuart Conner, letters
to author, January 18, 1996, February 2, 1996, February 9, 1996, and
April 11, 1996; Kenneth J. Feyhl, letter to author, February 8, 1996;
and Michael Bryant, Stuart Conner, and Kenneth J. Feyhl, various
telephone communications with author, February 1996.
32. Mason to wife, September 11, 1877, in Davison,
"A Century Ago," 15.
33. It is unclear exactly how many prospectors were
killed, or whether they had been killed in one spot or several. Fisher
accounted for three bodies found on Clark's Fork ("they were Danes or
Norwegians from the Black Hills") and mentioned finding the German whose
two colleagues had been killed on Crandall Creek. Fisher, "Journal of S.
G. Fisher," 277. Redington, in "Scouting in Montana," 59, stated only
that the scouts had found where the Nez Perces "had cleaned out a
prospector's camp." He gave no number. Sutherland, writing in the
Portland Daily Standard, October 5, 1877, said that eight men had
been killed, four of them Scandinavians named Olsen, Kannard, Anderson,
34. Mason to wife, September 11, 1877, in Davison,
"A Century Ago," 15.
35. Howard to Sturgis, September 10, 1877, entry
897, box 1, part 3, 1877, U.S. Army Continental Commands.
36. Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis report, December 5,
1877, in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 510.
37. New York Herald, October 1, 1877. "What
hurt us worse than all else," remembered Private Goldin years later,
"was the discovery that the Indian trail entered the valley hardly more
than a mile or two above the camp from which we had so recently started
on that night march [September 8]. Had we remained where we were the
Indians would almost have walked into our arms." Goldin, Biography,
38. See Howard to Sturgis, September 11, 1877, in
Howard, "Report," 622. Sturgis originally desired to send one of his
battalions under Major Merrill or Captain Benteen rapidly ahead to find
the Indians, but was deterred by his officers from thus splitting his
command. Benteen to Goldin, November 17, 1891, in Carroll,
Benteen-Goldin Letters, 203.
39. Howard, "Report," 623. See also Colonel Samuel
D. Sturgis report, December 5, 1877, in Secretary of War, Report . .
. 1877, 510.
40. Goldin, Biography, 311.
41. Goldin, Bit of the Nez Perce Campaign,
42. The movements of Howard and Sturgis on Clark's
Fork are documented in the sources quoted above, as well as in Hare,
"Report of Lieut. L. R. Hare," 1679; Fisher, "Journal of S. G. Fisher,"
277-78; Connolly, Diary, September 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 1877; Goldin to
McWhorter, February 27, 1929, folder 159, McWhorter Papers; Goldin to
Earl A. Brininstool, January 13, 1929, Brininstool Collection;
Redington, "Scouting in Montana," 58-59; Sutherland, Howard's
Campaign, 40-41; William White, Custer, Cavalry, and Crows,
140-41; Pickard, Interview; Andrew Garcia account in Billings
Gazette, August 14, 1932; Goldin, "Seventh Cavalry at Cañon
Creek," 213-15; and John Carpenter, "General Howard," 140.
43. Weptas Nut (No Feather), Interview; and Yellow
Bull's account in Curtis, North American Indian, 8:168. See also
Francis Haines, Nez Perces, 265-66; and Josephy, Nez Perce
Indians, 606-8. On their way down Clark's Fork, the tribesmen passed
through or near the sites of the modern communities of Belfry, Bridger,
Fromberg, Edgar, and Silesia, approximating the route of part of U.S.
Highway 310 into Laurel. Dusenberry, "Chief Joseph's Flight," 49.
44. Harold Hagan, communication with author,
Billings, Mont., May 24, 1995.
45. Redington, "Scouting in Montana," 61.
46. McWhorter's informants identified the six
members of the Nez Perce party as Kalotas, Yellow Wolf, Sr., Iskiloom,
Wattes Kunnin (Earth Blanket), John Mulkamkan, and Owhi. McWhorter,
Hear Me, 457-58 n. 26. In another list, a seventh man's name was
given as Tomsusliwi (complete name is illegible, but is probably
Tumsuslehit [Rosebush]). List of Nez Perce informants to L. V.
47. The warriors who traveled as far as thirty
miles to reach the area of present Huntley probably did not rejoin the
main group until late that day, after the fight with Sturgis was over.
Accounts of the Yellowstone Valley raiding by the Nez Perces on
September 13, 1877, are often confusing and unclear, seemingly sometimes
combining two or more events into one. This account is based on
information in Bozeman Times, September 20, 1877; Portland
Daily Standard, October 5, 1877; Fort Benton Record,
September 21, 1877; Carroll, Benteen-Goldin Letters, 201-2;
Topping, Chronicles of the Yellowstone, 221-22; Cascade
Courier, February 28, 1930; Billings Gazette, June 30,
1927; Forrest Young account in "Forrest Young," Billings Gazette,
undated clipping (ca. 1945), IndiansWars1877, vertical files, Parmly
Billings Library, Billings, Mont.; Ed Forrest account in Billings
Gazette, September 14, 1941; "Joe Cochran, 'First Resident of
Billings,'" unidentified newspaper (Billings Gazette?), clipping
apparently dated 1934, Montana scrapbook 3, Parmly Billings Library,
Billings Mont.; Billings Gazette, July 6, 1958; Redington,
"Scouting in Montana," 59, 60; and Redington, "The Stolen Stage Coach."
See also Joseph M. V. Cochran claim, no. 2391, entry 700, and Bela B.
Brockway claim, no. 3202, entry 700, Claim for Indian Depredations, U.S.
Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1882, the Indian agent on the Oakland
Reservation, Indian Territory, presented Cochran's claim to Joseph and
other Nez Perces. A warrior named Multitude said that he had taken part
in the raid and acknowledged having taken some items, but that most had
been abandoned soon afterwards. Joseph told the agent: "When the war
broke out between my people and the whites, the property of either that
fell into the other's hands was considered to belong to the captors; it
was the fortune of war. . . . If we had money we might consider this
claim and perhaps pay it; but we have nothing now to pay with. All our
property fell into the hands of the whites." "Proceedings of a Council."
Cochran never received payment. Billings Gazette, June 30, 1927,
April 18, 1991. In an apparent tongue-in-cheek story related to his
experiences on the campaign, J. W. Redington described the claim of a
settler against the government for, among other things, a seven hundred
dollar piano. Captain Fisher purportedly remarked: "Everything the
scouts had was always in plain sight on their horses, and a piano would
make a sightly package. There was no piano in the hostile camp at the
wind-up; none dropped along the trail. There must be a mistake. It may
have been a jewsharp that was stolen." Redington, "Who Stole the
48. Theodore Goldin identified this scout as Pawnee
Tom. Goldin, Biography, 311. John W. Redington stated in 1930 that
Sturgis's scouts saw a Nez Perce scout "on the northern bluffs" who
disappeared as the command started on the trail. Redington, "The Stolen
49. Fisher, "Journal of S. G. Fisher," 278. Goldin
recalled hearing gunfire from downstream. Goldin, Biography, 311.
50. Redington, who watched the Nez Perces'
procession up Canyon Creek, stated that the captured stage coach with
its horses was following behind, driven by a warrior, and that "when
these hostiles saw us they quickly unhitched the stage horses, mounted
their cayuses, and dashed into skirmish line flanking their outfit. . .
. The old stage was abandoned in the sagebrush." Redington, "The Stolen
Stage Coach." See also Redington, "Scouting in Montana," 60; and
Jocelyn, Mostly Alkali, 257. The firm of Gilman and Saulsbury, of
Bozeman, operated the Bozeman-Miles City stage line, and the coach
belonged to them. The vehicle was not a Concord coach, but a "jerky""a
springless wagon with a covered body and two boots, fore and aft." The
coach eventually went back into service on the line. "Wiley King, Tells
of Stage-Coaching," unidentified newspaper (Billings Gazette?),
undated clipping, Montana scrapbook 3, Parmly Billings Library,
51. Both Merrill and Benteen were officers of wide
experience. Both had seen extensive Civil War service and had received
numerous brevets for their respective performances in that conflict.
Merrill (1834-1896) had joined the Seventh Cavalry in 1868 and had
accompanied the regiment during its tenures in the West and South, but
was on duty in the East when the Little Bighorn disaster occurred in
June 1876. Cullum, Biographical Register, 2:624-25; and Hammer,
Biographies of the Seventh Cavalry, 7. Benteen (1834-1898) was a
forty-three-year-old Virginian who had joined the Seventh in 1866 and
took part in much of its Indian campaigning and Reconstruction
activities thereafter. As one of Custer's two principal subordinates at
the Little Bighorn, Benteen found himself entangled in controversy for
the rest of his military career. A brave officer, Benteen was also a
chronic complainer who was ever ready to criticize those he considered
his inferiors, which included just about everybody. Mills, Harvest of
Barren Regrets; Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary,
1:212; and Carroll and Price, Roll Call on the Little Big Horn,
52. Fisher, "Journal of S. G. Fisher," 278.
53. Major Lewis Merrill report, September 18, 1877,
in Secretary of War, Report . . .1877, 570. General Howard,
reporting later on the character of the soldiers' arms during the war
with the Nez Perces, noted that "quite a number" of the Seventh Cavalry
carried Springfield rifles rather than carbines, an exchange that Howard
approved because "there is greater distance between the sights, and . .
. the larger charge gives relatively greater velocity to the ball." He
further believed that the cavalrymen "all felt increase of confidence
from this fact." "Summary of Reports . . . Non-Effectiveness," 3. See
also McChristian, Army of Marksmen, 37-38. The Seventh Cavalrymen
at Canyon Creek did not carry the regulation M1858 cavalry sabres,
according to Theodore Goldin. They had been turned in at the Tongue
River Cantonment before the troops started for the field. "They were a
useless appendage in an Indian campaign. . . . We [previously] used them
as toasting forks, rattle snake killers and . . . tent poles for our dog
[shelter] tents." Goldin to McWhorter, July 12, 1932, folder 32,
54. Major Lewis Merrill report, September 18, 1877,
in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 570.
55. Fisher, "Journal of S. G. Fisher," 278.
56. Benteen maintained that it was he who suggested
this initiative to Sturgis. Carroll, Benteen-Goldin Letters, 203.
Private Jacob Horner also confirmed that Benteen approached Sturgis and
got permission for his movement. Roy Johnson, Jacob Horner,
57. Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis report, December 5,
1877, in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 511.
59. The withdrawal of Benteen's command, not
mentioned in the official reports, is referenced in Fisher, "Journal of
S. G. Fisher," 279. One of Howard's scouts who witnessed the engagement
confirmed what apparently was this maneuver. The soldiers "would charge
to the creek bank where the Nez Perces lay concealed, and who held their
fire until the soldiers came close by, when the Indians would discharge
a murderous volley, resulting in a confused stampede wherein were horses
running in every direction; some with empty saddles, some unmanageable
and running away with soldiers and men being wounded and others shot to
pieces." Cruikshank, "Chasing Hostile Indians," 13.
60. Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis report, December 5,
1877, in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 511. Wrote Goldin
many years later: "So far as I ever knew, Benteen did not capture any
part of the pony herd which, with the retreating village was well out in
the valley out of long range fire from our [Benteen's] column. Seeing
that we could not reach the village, Benteen deployed in some scrub
timber and had a long range fight with the Indians on the side of the
bluffs and at the entrance to the canyon affecting but little." Goldin
to McWhorter, August 13, 1933, folder 159, McWhorter Papers. A soldier
named Pickard claimed that "we got several hundred of their horses. Our
Indian scouts captured these." Pickard, Interview. And Sutherland wrote
for the Portland Daily Standard, October 5, 1877, that about one
hundred ponies "were run off by the Crow Indians."
61. Fisher, "Journal of S. G. Fisher," 279.
62. Major Lewis Merrill report, September 18, 1877,
in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 570.
63. Fisher, "Journal of S. G. Fisher," 279. In most
of his various writings, Goldin erroneously identified the officer in
charge of the howitzers as Howard's son, Second Lieutenant Guy Howard,
of the Twelfth Infantry, who had been in the army for less than one year
(and who was probably not present at Canyon Creek but with his father
coming down Clark's Fork). See, for example, Goldin, Bit of the Nez
Perce Campaign, 15, wherein Goldin stated that Lieutenant Howard
fired the howitzers while they were still strapped to the pack mules in
an incident so ridiculous that it could never have happened as
64. This despite claims to the contrary by Goldin
and others. See, for example, Goldin, "Seventh Cavalry at Cañon
Creek," 217; Goldin, Biography, 313; and an account of teamster Andrew
Garcia in Billings Gazette, August 14, 1932. A former trooper
told McWhorter that Sturgis directed a howitzer round be fired into the
Nez Perces' pony herd to start the fighting. William C. Slaper to
McWhorter, April 22, 1929, folder 159, McWhorter Papers. A newspaper
correspondent suggested that the howitzer was to have played a major
role in securing a victory at Canyon Creek. "An attempt was made to hem
the hostiles in by taking possession of the rear end of the cañon
with a howitzer, but, as the heights were all so steep, it was found
impossible to drag the gun up, and the plan had to be abandoned and the
Indians escaped." New York Herald, October 1, 1877. Wrote
Sturgis: "In spite of energetic efforts on the part of Lieutenant Otis,
that officer was unable to render his little gun available, as his
animals were totally worn out." Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis report,
December 5, 1877, in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 511.
65. Goldin, Bit of the Nez Perce Campaign,
66. Goldin, Biography, 313-14. In a letter to
McWhorter, Goldin provided more data about this movement. "I have no
recollection that any communication came from Sturgis to Benteen [in
fact, it did], but the latter finding he was making no headway [in the
valley] figured that by moving to the left and passing around the end of
this high bluff he might be able to force the Indian position. The
squadron was mounted, G Troop under Lieut. Wallace on the right and the
squadron at a gallop struck back along this high bluff. All went well
for a short time, but the Indians were evidently closely watching our
movement as ere we had gone half the distance along the face of this
bluff, we were assailed by a heavy fire from the top. Lieut. Wallace
charged on through, while H [M?] and I think it was B [Bendire's K,
First Cavalry?] Troops hesitated for a few moments then, apparently
without orders, the men charged the bluff. Only a few shots were fired
and when we reached the top not an Indian was to be seen. We moved
cautiously across the level plateau on top of the bluff until we reached
the farther side, when we discovered the Indian[s] beyond rifle shot
among the ravines. There was no use in pursuing them [as] they had every
advantage." Goldin to McWhorter, February 3, 1933, folder 35, McWhorter
67. Fisher, "Journal of S. G. Fisher," 279-80.
68. Ibid., 280. Times for the start and end of the
action were given by the wounded to Assistant Surgeon Holmes O. Paulding
at the Tongue River Cantonment. Paulding to Medical Director, Department
of Dakota, September 22, 1877, entry 624, box 1, Office of the Adjutant
General; and also Return for Company G, September 1877, roll 72,
Regimental Returns . . . Seventh Cavalry. In addition, this
reconstruction of the Canyon Creek action is drawn from the following
sources: Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis report, December 5, 1877, Major Lewis
Merrill report, September 18, 1877, Benteen to Adjutant, Seventh
Cavalry, September 18, 1877, and October 8, 1877, all in
Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 511-12, 569-71, 572,
respectively; Regimental Returns . . . Seventh Cavalry, September 1877,
roll 72; pen and ink sketch titled, "Fight at Cañon Creek,
Sturgis," inset drawing in Fletcher, "Department of Columbia Map";
Fisher, "Plan of the [Canyon Creek] Battle Ground," (this manuscript map
was prepared to accompany publication of Fisher's journal but was
deleted before the volume went to press); Record of Engagements,
72; sketch map of Canyon Creek by John W. Redington, in Redington to
McWhorter, April 1930, folder 159, McWhorter Papers; sketch map by I. D.
O'Donnell, 1944, ibid.; Pickard, Interview; Lynch, Interview; Sutherland
(who arrived later with Howard), Howard's Campaign, 41; Forrest
Young account in "Forrest Young," Billings Gazette,
undated clipping (ca. 1945), IndiansWars1877, vertical files, Parmly
Billings Library, Billings, Mont. (see also Forrest Young account in
Stanford Judith Basin County Press, February 13, 1930);
Andrew Garcia account in Laurel Outlook, June 23, 1937 (reprinted
in Laurel Outlook, August 5, 1954, and August 2, 1989); and
particularly valuable research conclusions based upon on-site
archeological finds contributed by Michael Blohm of Laurel, Mont. See
Douglas D. Scott, "Historical Archaeological Overview . . . Canyon
Creek,"4-6. See also Taylor, "Canyon Creek Battlefield," which is
especially useful in its on-ground placement of activities during the
battle and post-battle phases according to section/township designation.
The numerous materials associated with enlisted man Theodore W.
Goldin appear to be of dubious merit and have been used cautiously.
While Goldin did much writing late in his life, his memory appears to
have been faulty on numerous matters relating to Canyon Creek,
particularly as it related to command objectives and other affairs in
which he as a private soldier had no special knowledge. He was,
moreover, prone to exaggeration and apparent creation of yarns to add
color to his accounts. His materials, however, are useful for events in
which he personally participated. The sources in question are: Goldin,
Biography, 311-14; Goldin, Bit of the Nez Perce Campaign, 13-17;
Goldin, "Seventh Cavalry at Cañon Creek," 215-20 (which Goldin
accused Brady, Northwestern Fights and Fighters, of rewriting for
his book); letters to McWhorter, February 27, 1929, March 20, 1929,
March 14, 1932, July 12, 1932, August 1, 1932, February 3, 1933, August
13, 1933, and December 4, 1934, all in folders 159 and 177, McWhorter
Papers; and Goldin to Brininstool, January 13, 1929, Brininstool
Collection. Goldin was a participant in the Little Bighorn battle, too,
and his recollections of that affair are likewise suspect in several
areas. For a sketch of his life and service, see Hammer, Biographies
of the Seventh Cavalry, 143-44.
69. Quoted in Sheridan to Adjutant General,
September 17, 1877, item 5828, roll 338, Nez Perce War Papers.
70. Paulding to Medical Director, Department of
Dakota, September 22, 1877, entry 624, box 1, Office of the Adjutant
General; "List of Wounded . . . Cañon Creek"; and New York
Herald, September 23, 1877. In addition, Lieutenants Gresham and
Nicholson appear to have suffered very slight wounds of unspecified
nature. Cheyenne Daily Leader, September 23, 1877; Sheridan to
Adjutant General, September 26, 1877, item 6002, roll 338, Nez Perce War
Papers; addendum to Major Lewis Merrill report, September 18, 1877, in
Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 571; and Benteen to
Adjutant, Seventh Cavalry, September 18, 1877, and October 8, 1877, in
Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 571-72. A capsule biography
of Brown (as well as several of the Canyon Creek wounded) is in Hammer,
Biographies of the Seventh Cavalry, 210 and passim. See Appendix
A for a complete list of the Canyon Creek army casualties.
71. Cruikshank, "Chasing Hostile Indians," 15. It
must be stated that while Cruikshank's procedural description of the
burials is likely correct, he was altogether wrong in his recollection
of the number of casualties. Two of the Canyon Creek burials were
exposed in December 1915 by workmen on the Cove Orchard Project. The
remains, found about two hundred yards from Horse Cache Butte, were
removed for reburial in Custer Battlefield National Cemetery, where they
lie today. Billings Gazette, December 6, 1960 (citing issue of
December 6, 1915). See also Glendolin Wagner, Old Neutriment,
223-26 n. 18.
72. Fisher, "Journal of S. G. Fisher," 280-81.
73. Major Lewis Merrill report, September 18, 1877,
in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 571.
74. San Francisco Chronicle, August 15,
75. Redington, "Scouting in Montana," 60.
77. Quoted in Roy Johnson, Jacob Horner, 19.
See also Burdick and Hart, Jacob Horner, 21-22.
78. Quoted in Roy Johnson, Jacob Horner,
79. Ibid., 19-20.
80. Lynch, Interview. Benteen acknowledged that he
had carried a fishing pole in at least part of the action at Canyon
Creek. See Benteen to Goldin, November 17, 1891, in Carroll,
Benteen-Goldin Letters, 204. For examples of criticism directed
toward Sturgis ("Sturgis should have given the word to charge in on that
sagebrush flat and wind up the war."), see Redington to Colonel William
Carey Brown, October 28, 1926, folder 8, box 12, William Brown Papers;
Redington, "Scouting in Montana," 60; and Goldin to McWhorter, various
letters as cited above, and his sundry accounts. And the scout Alexander
Cruikshank said that "everyone felt that the General had blundered as he
surely had a sufficient force to have corralled the entire Indian
outfit." Cruikshank, "Chasing Hostile Indians," 14. The
characteristically blunt Benteen wrote Goldin (whose views may have been
thus colored): "From the fact of having struck the reds at Canyon Creek,
what was left of Sturgis's reputation was saved. . . . Sturgis was never
very warm with me after the Canyon Creek affair. Why? Because he knew
that I thought he was a coward." Carroll, Benteen-Goldin Letters,
204. Strong censure was directed at Sturgis by Ami Frank Mulford in a
generally worthless (yet frequently cited) account: "Sturgis posted
himself on a bluff, with a body guard, fully a mile from the reds, and
viewed proceedings through his field glass. A bullet from a long-range
gun in the hands of an Indian . . . struck the ground a short distance
in front of the General, who lowered his glass, remarking that it was
getting dangerous up there, and got out of danger." Mulford, Fighting
Indians!, 115. This is hearsay, if Mulford was where he was supposed
to be during the combat. Furthermore, the commanding officer's position
in the rear supervising the engagement would have been entirely
appropriate. For Horner's complimentary remarks, see Burdick and Hart,
Jacob Horner, 22. It must be noted that even had Sturgis managed
to block the mouth of the canyon, there existed two other routes
allowing egress to the plains just five miles east of Canyon Creek.
Harold Hagan, communication with author, Billings, Mont., May 24,
81. Goldin to McWhorter, February 27, 1929, folder
159, Goldin to McWhorter, August 1, 1932, folder 177, and Goldin to
McWhorter, September 10, 1929, folder 159, McWhorter Papers.
82. Slaper to McWhorter, April 22, 1929, folder
129, McWhorter Papers.
83. FitzGerald to wife, September 16, 1877, in
FitzGerald, Army Doctor's Wife, 312.
84. McWhorter and Many Wounds, "Colonel Sturgis
Fight"; and McWhorter, Hear Me, 461.
85. McWhorter, Yellow Wolf, 185.
86. Ibid., 186.
87. Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis report, December 5,
1877, in Secretary of War, Report . . . 1877, 512; and McWhorter,
"Fight with Sturgis." However, in McWhorter, Yellow Wolf, 194,
Yellow Wolf indicated that the Crows killed this man along with another
named Wetyetmas Hapima (Surrounded Goose) the next day. Yellow Wolf
stated that the only casualties were the three wounded men. McWhorter,
Yellow Wolf, 186 n. 5. William Connolly recorded that he "saw 4
dedd [sic] Indians" on the battlefield. Connolly, "Diary," September 13,
1877. The reporter Thomas Sutherland (Howard's Campaign, 41)
stated that six Nez Perce bodies were found on the field, a figure
uncorroborated by other accounts.
88. McWhorter, Hear Me, 462. According to
McWhorter, Teeto Hoonnod was "noted for his courage and strategic
ability." In his defense, he was joined for a time by Swan Necklace, but
evidently maintained his position alone until the families and horses
passed inside the canyon walls. McWhorter, Yellow Wolf, 185 n. 3;
and McWhorter, Hear Me, 462.
89. McWhorter, Yellow Wolf, 186-87. Theodore
Goldin confirmed the presence of this barricade, writing that in the
chase the next day, September 14, "we found the trail blocked by logs
and boulders, evidently placed there by the fleeing Indians, and as we
struggled through these obstacles or sought to remove them, we realized
how completely we would have been exposed to ambush and annihilation."
Goldin, Biography, 315.
90. McWhorter, Yellow Wolf, 187. In 1935 the
aged warrior White Hawk told McWhorter that the Nee-Me-Poo camped a very
far distance up the creek bottom. "Far across an open valley hemmed in
by sloping hills, he designated where the trail entered a dark woods.
Their camp that night, he said, was a considerable distance beyond, and
he could not recall whether it was pitched by a stream or a spring."
McWhorter and Many Wounds, "Colonel Sturgis Fight." See also McWhorter
to Major Thomas A. Reiner, December 18, 1935, folder 159, McWhorter
Papers. The modern route of the Burlington Northern Railroad along
Canyon Creek probably closelyif not directlyparallels the Nez Perces'
historical route for its entire distance through the canyon.
Nez Perce accounts of Canyon Creek testify to the loud reports of one
of their guns during the fighting. On being questioned years later by L.
V. McWhorter, the aged warrior Many Wounds recounted that a rifle
capable of making such a noise had been for many years among the
Nee-Me-Poo. McWhorter later learned that a large-caliber weapon,
possibly a long-range Sharps buffalo gun weighing as much as fifteen
pounds, had been captured on the Salmon by the young man, Shore Crossing
(subsequently killed at the Big Hole). He further learned from Peopeo
Tholekt that Poker Joe possessed such an arm at Canyon Creek and, after
exhausting his ammunition for it, disposed of it by burying it among the
rocks at the Nez Perce camp that night. McWhorter, Hear Me,
462-63 n. 37; McWhorter, "Poker Joe's Big Rifle"; and McWhorter to
Reiner, December 18, 1935, folder 159, McWhorter Papers. Regarding
Canyon Creek, correspondent Frank J. Parker noted that "that Indian with
the loud reporting rifle was again heard, as he always is, and did his
share of the killing." Boise, Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman, October
2, 1877. See also Redington, "Scouting in Montana," 65.
91. Yellow Bull, Interview, BYU. For other brief
accounts of Canyon Creek based largely on Nee-Me-Poo perspectives, see
Garcia, Tough Trip Through Paradise, 292-93; Francis Haines,
"Chief Joseph," 7; and Josephy, Nez Perce Indians, 608-10.
92. "Yellow Bull's Story." See also Yellow Bull,
Interview, BYU; unclassified envelope 91, 541, Camp Manuscript Field
Notes, Camp Papers, BYU; and Camp Manuscript Field Notes, Nez Perce
Indian Wars 1, 138, Camp Papers, LBNM. Also, the supply of
ammunitionmostly taken from the soldiers at White Bird Canyon, Big Hole,
and other engagementswas clearly dwindling by this time. McWhorter,
"Fight with Sturgis."
93. For other Nez Perce mention of Canyon Creek,
see Joseph [Heinmot Tooyalakekt], "An Indian's Views," 427; "Story of
Kawownonilpilp"; and Yellow Bull account in Curtis, North American
Indian, 8:168, wherein it is stated that during the night following
the fighting fifty Nez Perce men captured twenty-seven horses (their
own?) from the soldiers.
94. Paulding to Medical Director, Department of
Dakota, September 22, 1877, entry 624, box 1, Office of the Adjutant
General; Major George Gibson to Assistant Adjutant General Department of
Dakota, October 1, 1877, in Terry, "Report," 547; Burdick and Hart,
Jacob Horner, 21; Coughlan, Varnum, 23; McWhorter,
"Unpublished Incidents"; and Upton, Fort Custer, 40. A
biographical sketch of Lawler is in Hammer, Biographies of the
Seventh Cavalry, 146.
95. U.S. Army Gallantry and Meritorious
Conduct, 82-84. All of the enlisted men had been recommended by
Merrill and Benteen in their respective reports of September 1877.