COURT OF INQUIRY TRANSCRIPT
Proceedings of a Court of Inquiry which convened at Portland, Oregon, pursuant to the following orders, viz: - Headquarters Department of the Columbia Fort Vancouver, W. T. November 27, 1878, Special No. 142, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, RG 153, File No. QQ1738. [Location No. - 6w4, 411-19, Box 1948, National Archives, Washington, D. C.]
Special Orders No. 142
IV. Upon the demand of Captain David Perry 1st Cavalry, a Court of Inquiry is constituted to assemble at Portland, Oregon, at 10 o'clock a.m., December 16th, proximo, or as soon thereafter as practicable to investigate the statements contained in the reports of several officers of the Army, and which Captain Perry believes to reflect upon his conduct during the Nez Perce Indian Campaign of 1877. The Court will also investigate and inquire of so much of Captain Perry's conduct, generally, during the said campaign as has not been already made the subject of inquiry by the Court instituted by Special Field Orders No. 42, Headquarters Department of the Columbia, series of 1877.
The Court will report the facts, and give its opinion on the merits of the whole case.
Detail for Court
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Chambers, 21st Infantry
Major David P. Hancock, 2nd Infantry
Major George B. Dandy, Quartermaster, United States Army
Captain Joseph S. Conrad, 2nd Infantry
By command of Brigadier General Howard A. H. Nickerson
Assistant Adjutant General
Owing to the non-arrival of the members and witnesses, there was no regular session of the Court on the. two proceeding days. Lieutenant Colonel Chambers and Major Dandy, being the only members present on those days. The Court met pursuant to the foregoing order at 10 o'clock a.m.
Also, Captain David Perry 1st Cavalry. The order convening the Court was read, and Captain Perry was asked if he had any objections to any member present named in the order, to which he replied in the negative.
The members of the Court were then severally duly sworn by the Recorder, and the Recorder was then duly sworn by the President of the Court.
All of which oaths were administered In the presence of the accused.
The accused now requested permission of the Court to introduce Major Lawrence S. Babbitt, Ordnance Department, U.S.A., as his counsel, which request was granted.
The Court then proceeded to examine the reports of Captains Trimble, Winter and Whipple 1st Cavalry, copies of that portion of each relating to Captain Perry, are appended to the record and marked A, B, and C.
The Court then at 2:45 p.m. adjourned to meet at 10 o'clock a.m. tomorrow, December 19th, 1878. J. S. Conrad, Captain 2nd Infantry - Recorder.
The court met pursuant to the foregoing order and adjournment of yesterday at 10 o'clock.
Captain David Perry 1st Cavalry and his counsel also present.
The proceeding of the preceding day then read and approved.
Captain S. G. Whipple 1st Cavalry, a witness was then called before the Court and was duly sworn by the Recorder and testified as follows:
Captain Joel G. Trimble 1st Cavalry, a witness, was then called before the Court and having been duly sworn testified as follows:
Q. (by Recorder) Please state your name, rank, and regiment.
A. J. G. Trimble, Captain 1st Cavalry
Q. Were you present at what is known as the "Fight at White Bird Canõn" with the Nez Perce Indians during the summer of 1877?
A. I was.
Q. In what month did it take place?
A. In the month of June.
Q. Please state to the Court what your position was at that time and what transpired?
A. I was second officer in command. The command consisted of two companies of the 1st Cavalry "F" and "H" and about a dozen citizens I think, all under the command of Captain Perry 1st Cavalry. The Command moved down into the canõn of White Bird Creek a little before daylight. The citizens and "F" company and "H" company in that order. After proceeding some distance down the canõn and getting into the open space where the canõn widens out, an orderly brought me the order to take off overcoats and load. I observed them as we approached a high rocky ridge. "F" company formed left front into line, and the Indians were advancing. I received this order by a trumpeter. Having every reason to believe that the Indians were advancing in force, I formed left front into line and deployed by the right flank at five paces interval and advanced to the ridge, taking post on the right of "F" Company - some several hundred yards on the right, 200 or more yards. Just as I was advancing into position I could see quite a number of men of "F" Company firing from horseback. After taking position, I discovered and it was reported to me, that the Indians were moving around on our right and driving stock. Several of my men had commenced firing them off their horses. I cautioned the men to remain steady as they were and detailed a 1st Sergeant and six men to take post on a high point on the right and went with them to this point, a high point commanding the whole situation. As soon as they took post, they commenced firing upon the Indians moving to our right. Then I came at once back to the balance of my company where I found several men dismounted and firing. In the rear of my company I saw the Commanding Officer of the Expedition. He told me we would have to get out of that or we would be whipped. I told him I had just taken that position on the right there and stationed those men. I could see then the citizens, who were stationed on the extreme left, had given away, appeared to have given away. I could not see accurately, and a few men of "F" Company seemed to be on foot firing from where they were irregularly. Quite a number of them were in rear and in among my men. After I had been spoken to by the Commanding Officer, I remarked I thought we ought to go through to the Salmon river, that we could go through that way I thought. He remarked, "That would be utter annihilation" and said we would have to retreat from where we were. I asked him then if he intended to march the command to the rear, that the Indians were getting around us there. He said yes, to march the command to the rear. I had the men form in column of twos, rather irregularly, told those to mount up who were dismounted, moved the command to the rear. Lieut. Parnell being in front and conducting the column. After the command had moved a little to the rear I observed Lieutenant Theller dismounted with a carbine in his hand. I think Lieut. Parnell observed him at the same time. He didn't appear to be wounded. I saw a horse running at large kicking, appeared to be getting his saddle under his heels. I hollered to a man, and so did Lieut. Parnell, to catch him and hold him by the head, and get the saddle off him, so that Lieut. Theller could get the horse. The man held him by the head and another man got the saddle off him. Lieut. Theller got on the horse bareback and rode off towards the main trail I supposed, where I had seen several men going previously, and then Lieut. Parnell remarked to me are you going to leave those men out on that point. I said if we had to abandon that place we would have to call them back to go with the command. We both rode out of the column and hollered to them a number of times to join their command. Then Lieut. Parnell went to the head of the column that was moving to the rear. Just then I saw the Commanding Officer and told him I heard Chapman, over the citizens, remark that the point I had selected there was a good point, and it was his opinion that we could hold it against all the Indians in the country, and that I was in favor of holding it, the ridge that the Sergeant and party was stationed on being high and much above the advancing Indians. He explained that we might try, or words to that effect, and I hollered to turn the head of the column to the left. I did so several times and moved up on to this point at a gallop. I supposed that we would dismount there and take this position. Going up there the men became very much scattered and there was considerable firing. The men after arriving up at this point were very much scattered, some going one way and some another. Quite a number, of orders were given. I don't know who by, and I told a trumpeter to tell Captain Perry to let the command dismount. I never saw the trumpeter afterwards. I think he was shot. I saw quite a number of the men galloping off towards what I supposed the main trail. The Indians then, I think, were getting pretty well around in every direction, judging by the firing. Quite a number of men went along the bluffs, myself among the number, and quite a number of men rallied or halted on another bluff to the rear and fired at the Indians riding in on the flank. One man by the name of Shea of "H" Company was off his horse trying to get a shell out of his gun that had got fastened. He remarked he could hardly see the use of trying to hang on when the command seemed to have gone all to pieces. I told him we would have to do the best we could. I thought we could make a halt. The men rode off that point. I rode down into a ravine and up the side of a hill on the side of the line. I came up with the Commanding Officer who pointed out, he made the remark he saw a man shot off his horse, he said one man would have to be left behind. He pointed out some men on a ridge and told me to go and take charge of them in person. I went to where these men were and dismounted off my horse. The men were firing on the Indians getting around on the blank. I just ordered all the men to get off their horses. One man was off his horse, Sergeant Havens of "H" Company. Just at that time a trumpeter came down and told me the Commanding Officer told him that I should send half my men to him.
I did as ordered. At the time I went to this party, Chapman, a citizen, was with the party. He rode rapidly away after I got there up the hill. This party that was sent to report to the Commanding Officer were sent up the bluff and were posted on a high bluff to the East. I think about a thousand yards distant. Shortly afterwards the Commanding Officer rode down towards my position and turned up the bluffs hollering out several times "now for the canõn" I supposed it meant the canõn through which the mail trail ran. I was led to that supposition, as I had remarked to the Commanding Officer if we could get a good place somewhere, we could defend it, where we could concentrate. Some of the men remarked he was waving, his pistol, suppose as a signal. Several of the men who were with me rode up towards him and the party on the high bluff all started down and proceeded to ascend the main bluff. They had to ride down off this point in order to ascend this main bluff. The Sergeant and myself started up after them. All the men that were within my sight seemed to be ascending the bluffs. I came up with the Commanding Officer on the side of the bluff and he remarked to me "Trimble we will get off our horses and die right here. We must stay here."
We both got off our horses and I saw a man just down in front, off his horse with a gun. I left my horse and ran down to him a few steps and told him to fire on those Indians who were advancing to give them a shot. The Commanding Officer hollered out, "Don't let him shoot he will waste the ammunition." He hollered once or twice. I turned to look up towards him. He got on his horse and moved up the hill. I got on mine and moved up the hill too. Just after I started my horse fell down, his head down hill. I dismounted off him. He had his bits buried in the mud. The saddle had got loose and the overcoat broke from the strap and rolled down the hill. I had to take the saddle off and help him on his feet, and saddled him on again. I got on him and started up the hill in a winding manner and in going up I got above the Commanding Officer and several men, where they had halted on the side hill. The bluffs were very high; it was some distance to the top. My object there was to get on a high point that projected out on our left and commanded a view of the whole ground. The Commanding Officer hollered out to me two or three times, "Trimble do you know where you are going?" I hollered back that I was going to try and get on that high point. I thought that would be the best place to see the Indians coming in from that direction. As soon as I got high enough up I turned in the direction of that point, some men were still going further on. I got on that point. I rode out on it pretty well; it seemed to be the top of a ridge. A ridge ran right up to it. I saw two Indians riding up this ridge towards this point where I was. I thought they were a good distance off. I got off to adjust my saddle. The Commanding Officer came right up there from another direction, and said that was a good place to hold. Two or three men were there and he rode off to another high ridge or point there seemed to be quite a number of men about it. Just at that time these Indians rode up quite close though a little lower down on the ridge, and I could see them dismount. I knew they would fire in a minute but I had not quite cinched up my saddle. I jerked my cinch quickly. Just then one of them fired. The bullet went just under my stirrup. I believe that I remarked to the Commanding Officer that the Indians were coming up or keeping even with us, or something like that - I am not positive. As soon as this Indian fired I jumped on my horse and the only man I saw there was a Corporal of "F" Company. He was back sitting on his horse. He had a gun. I hollered to come out, for him (the Corporal), to come out where I was. I thought we could stay there a minute or two. Just then another shot was fired by the other Indian. I suppose it was fired at the Corporal. I heard the ball whistle. As it did not come very close to me I supposed it was fired at him. We both turned our horses and galloped to where we saw a larger number of men to be. They were galloping down from the ridge. They seemed to be all in motion. I kept somewhat to the left along the edge of the high bluffs, and I looked down from these high bluffs and saw something glittering like water. I was afterwards told it was Salmon river. I then turned to the right and rode over to where I thought the main position of the men were. I came up to quite a number. They all seemed to be going to the rear. I saw the Commanding Officer there. Chapman was there too. I heard Chapman say "The house" was the only place where we could make a stand. I did not know what house he meant. He (Chapman) rode off very fast. All were galloping to the rear. The Commanding Officer rode off to the right. I kept along in the same direction. I was going down a slope. I saw a hollow to the right. I saw a man without a hat, dismounted and running about. Sergeant Havens and myself rode down towards him and told him to hide himself in the bushes. The man ran into the bushes. The horses were jumping around and it was hard to restrain them. Two men of "F" Company rushed past me. Neither of them had guns. One of them was bareback. They seemed to be coming from another direction further to the right. I hollered to them several times to stop. Sergeant Havens remarked that they had no guns anyhow. We started on some distance further and found one of these men lying in the road. His horse had thrown him and broke his neck. I stopped long enough to see that the man was dead, had broken his neck by a fall from his horse. Just then, considerably over to the right, I saw a large body of men galloping down into a ravine. There seemed to be 40 or 50. They disappeared very quickly. I saw then that there were only five or six men with me, two with guns. Sergeant Havens and Private Powers of "H" Company. The Sergeant told me he had but one cartridge and that was in his gun. We seemed to be inclining to the left. Someone remarked we were going toward Craigs Mountain. There were some parties in front of us. Several men could be seen down in the valley, going across the valley, I supposed going in the direction of Craigs Mountain too. Am not positive. I said then that was not the proper direction to go. We ought to go towards Mount Idaho and turned to the right. We got down into the lowland then and went towards a house that was on the right. Going from that house were several men among them I think was Chapman, a man on a white horse, going across the valley. There was some water near by and I stopped some of the men. Two went on. We got off our horses and watered them. The men with me reported seeing two or three Indians on our right towards the mountain and I heard one or two shots fired up in that direction I mounted up and moved along slowly and thought I saw several men up near the timber. I was not positive whether I saw them or not. After we moved along a mile or two, probably three miles, the men reported seeing a number of men moving along between us and the mountain. I halted them and sent a man, Private Powers of "H" Company, over to see if they were stragglers and bring them over to where we were. He came back in a little time and said that he could not get to where they were. There were fields and fences, so I moved on with the party towards Grangeville. I met one man beside the three men left In camp. it was Mr Crooks the proprietor of the place. It consisted of two or three houses, a mill and a large hall stored with flour. The soldiers had the mules packed up ready to go off to Mount Idaho. Some of the men that had come in before had told them that there was a disaster. Mr. Crooks told me there was no one to defend that place, that he had rather die than lose all his property. It was all he had and asked me to stay and help him. Just then a citizen rode over from Mount Idaho about two miles off and wanted me to go to that place to defend it. I went with Mr. Crooks down to the Hall, and ordered the party down there, concluded to stay there. I discovered quite a party of men going along the mountain towards Mount Idaho. I sent two men to where they were to tell them where I was a short time after Captain Perry came in with quite a large party. I suppose 40 or 50 men. I told him what Mr. Crooks had said to me and he (Captain Perry) said he thought we had better go to Mount Idaho as that was the best place to defend. I said that there was a fort there and about 200 people. He then ordered a party to remain there and said he would go to Mount Idaho and ascertain the situation. The command unsaddled and remained there. He (Captain Perry) went to Mount Idaho and returned after dark sometime with some citizens.
Q. (by Recorder) In what order did the column of troops enter the "White Bird Canõn"?
A. I think there was an advance guard or 6 or 8 men under the command of Lieut. Theller, then the citizens and "F" Company and "H" Company one or two citizens and three or four friendly Indians were on the flanks of the columns.
Q. How far had the column proceeded with the Indians were encountered?
A I think it was about three miles from the head of the canõn.
Q. What commands were given by Captain Perry for the disposition of the troops?
A. I received an order by a trumpeter to form front into line.
Q. Was that a proper order under the circumstances?
A. I think it was a proper preliminary order.
Q. After the fight opened, did Captain Perry exercise a supervision of the whole command?
A. I did not hear him give any orders except what I have related in his conversation with me.
Q. You have stated that soon after the fight commenced the troop began to get mixed up. What was that due to?
A. I think it was the going away of "F" Company where they were and the citizen who was on a knoll. Two of them were wounded, and the remaining mounted, many of the horses becoming unmanageable.
Q. How long after the first firing commenced did "F" Company give away?
A. From the time I went to post the Sergeant and party on the point and got back there, it did not seem more than five minutes.
Q. Where was Captain Perry at this time? Was he trying to keep his men in order?
A. I met him in rear of my company. Quite a number of "F" Company were among my company and mixed up with it. I saw no demonstration of that kind.
Q. How far in front of your company was "F" Company when the firing commenced?
A. Well, I think they were probably about 150 or 200 yards.
Q. Was the firing from the Indians severe?
A. No sir. It did not appear to be severe at that time.
Q. How long was it from the commencement of the firing that Captain Perry said, "you would have to get out of that"?
A. Well, I do not think it could have been quite a few minutes.
Q. What was the nature of the ground in your front then?
A. It seemed to be broken but rather lower than that the line was formed on.
Q. Could the Indians envelop the flanks of the troop easily in that position?
A. Yes, sir. They rode around the flanks by riding up a ravine on one side and up a creek on the other.
Q. How many Indians were there?
A. I should judge from my knowledge of the band there were about 100. I saw thirty or forty myself.
Q. How many soldiers and citizens were there in the command?
A. I think there were about 86 soldiers and about a dozen citizens.
Q. Was the withdrawal of the troops commenced in good order?
A. Well, a portion of them in good order. Quite a number of them had gone back without orders.
Q. Did Captain Perry have any other officer with his company beside himself?
A. Lieut. Theller 21st Infantry was with his company.
Q. Did the advance party give any warning of the proximity of the Indians, or did they (the Indians) fire into the column without any information being given of their presence?
A. I do not know what warning the advance gave. I understood the Indians were advancing before I saw any of the parties in the front formed. I did not see them fire into the head of the column, but the firing commenced in front after the troops formed in line. There might have been one or two shots before, but I do not know who commenced it, whether the troops or the Indians.
Q. Could you not see the head of the column from where you were?
A. A part of the time advancing down I could see them, a part of the time a little obscured.
Q. Was it due to the nature of the ground that you could not see it?
A. I do not think it was. As soon as I heard it, I started at a trot. The men had fallen behind strapping their overcoats.
Q. Did there seem to be a panic among the troops in front of you?
A. No, sir, there did not seem to be a panic, while I was forming my company I did not see any. I was busy with my company.
Q. In your opinion did you think that the point where you stationed the Sergeant and party could have been successfully defended had this whole command taken station there?
A. I think that point and the ridge where my company formed could have been held. It was the highest position of the ground.
Q. Did your company remain intact up to the time the order to withdraw was given?
A. Yes, except the portion that was detached.
Q. You have said that you became separated from the rest of the command with but a few men. How did that occur?
A. After we made the attempt to go up on the ridge and halt, the men broke in all directions.
Q. After the retreat commenced did Captain Perry take the necessary precaution to station the troops in an advantageous position to resist the enemy?
A. I saw him station one of the parties on a high point where he took some of the men I had. There seemed to be very few in hand. Well, it seemed to be an advantageous position to see, but there were but a few places that were advantageous after the retreat commenced, but where the men were exposed while mounted.
Q. How did you happen to become separated from the main column?
A. I think by going to the left when I left that point I spoke of. If I had gone to the right I think I would have come up with the main party going over the hill, the largest portion of the men.
Q. Did you not know where the Commanding Officer was at the time?
A. No, not after I saw him going to the right.
Q. Should you not have gone in that direction then, while you were retreating?
A. Considering the condition of the command I don't think it made any difference.
Q. Did you see anything of the Commanding Officer after that time until you arrived at Grangeville?
A. No, sir.
Q. What was the condition of the troops as to drill and discipline previous to the commencement of the "White Bird Canõn" fight?
A. I believe that "F" Company was quite well drilled. "H" Company had been drilled very little, was quite deficient in drill. I think the discipline was very good.
Q. To what then do you attribute to the early disorganization of the troops after the commencement of the fight?
A. To the attempt to fall back in the presence of the enemy and no disposition to remain. I mean no disposition for defense and the order to retreat.
Q. You say in your "report" that you were under the impression that it was the firm purpose of Captain Perry to retreat a few minutes after the fight had commenced at "White Bird Canõn". What were your reasons for so thinking?
A. The hesitating manner and the general appearance conveyed that impression to me. It took me as much by surprise, knowing you can't retreat in the presence of Indians.
Questioned by Captain Perry.
Q. Did you, or not, receive an order from me, when you first formed line, to look out for my right at "White Bird"?
A. No, sir, I received no order of that kind.
Q. Did I not ask you for a trumpeter when I came up to you on the right and was it not for that purpose that I was there?
A. I have no recollection of his asking for a trumpeter.
Q. Did the giving way of the citizens on my left threaten the integrity of your line?
A. I did not consider it so. I expected the Indians to ride round us. I knew they always do.
Q. You say you suggested going to Salmon river. Could this have been done excepting by charging the Indians?
A. No sir, it could not. I did not consider it as offering a suggestion. I only made it as a remark in reply. Had I been asked for a suggestion, I do not think I would have stated so.
Q. At the time you and the Sergeant joined Captain Perry on the bluff how many men had he with him?
A. They were going up the hill so fast, I think there were about a dozen men about there, where we got off our horses. I don't think there were more than three or four men immediately about us. I think there were but one or two between the enemy and ourselves.
Q. During the time you were helping your horse to his feet and unsaddling, were the Indians advancing so as to reach the bluffs?
A. I could see one or two down the bluffs. One or two bullets came up near us. They were a long way off. Those immediately in front of us did not advance quick.
Q. Did you make any effort to halt the men you saw going on beyond you to the high point you mentioned?
A. Yes. I called to several to come out to me on that point.
Q. After coming up with Captain Perry and Chapman and after as you state Captain Perry rode off to the right did you see Captain Perry again before you saw him at Grangeville?
A. Yes Sir. The last time I saw him go off to the right, we were all galloping to the rear. I did not see him any more after that.
Q. Did you hear any firing after, and about the time you discovered the man with a broken neck in the road? If so in which direction was it heard?
A. No. I did not hear any firing at that time. It was some distance beyond that, that I heard some few shots to the right.
Q. How long after you arrived at Grangeville was it before Captain Perry arrived?
A. Well I should judge it to be 20 or 25 minutes. About 20 minutes when I first saw the column and between 20 and 30 when they arrived down. I supposed there was a number of men moving abreast of me all the time.
Q. Did your men break up at the time you attempted to take a point at which Captain Perry had told you to try to make a stand in White Bird Canõn?
A. Yes. They broke up after advancing to the ridge at a gallop. There was some firing there by both sides.
Q. What caused your command to break up at that time?
A. I think that it was the indiscriminate firing, by the men staying on their horses and the confusion of orders.
Q. Were these orders causing confusion given by Captain Perry?
A. I have no recollection of hearing him giving any orders. Chapman was of the party and he hollered a good deal. I can't say Captain Perry gave any orders.
Q. Was the retreat at White Bird Canõn ordered before you noticed a confusion on the left of the line?
A. No sir. There seemed to be some confusion down there before.
Q. You say Captain Perry made unjust and unfair criticism upon your conduct. What were they and in what manner were they made? [this was re: Clearwater Battle].
A. I do not know how they were made. I learned It through two or three officers. I was told by one of them he had seen the letter containing them. The officers were Lieut. Knox 1st Cavalry, Captain Summer 1st Cavalry and Lieut. Wilkinson 3d Infantry.
Q. Did you learn this before making your official report upon the operations of the Cavalry?
A. Yes sir. Some length of time before.
Ques. by Court.
Q. When you received the order from Captain Perry to retreat a few minutes after the attack, what was his manner and bearing?
A. He seemed to be dejected. Thinking of it afterwards I thought he was somewhat surprised at meeting them there.
Q. At this time had the troops met with a reverse or lost heavily?
A. I do not think they had lost many. Just about that time I think that two of the citizens were wounded.
Q. At what distance were the Indians from your right? How many? How many driving stock?
A. There was a herd of stock and half a dozen Indians driving them and half a dozen more with them. I could see a dozen riding up the creek to get around that flank.
Q. You say that the troops were well disciplined. How do you explain their conduct in this fight if they behaved in the manner you have described?
A. I never witnessed their behavior in a fight before. I suppose some of them were panic stricken. Some had as much as they could do to manage their horses. They were poor riders.
Q. Was there a position of safety for the horses of the command in the vicinity and could not a succesful fight have been made on foot?
A. A successful fight could have been made on foot, but the horses would have to be removed to the bluffs. There was no security of the horses to the rear.
Q. From your statement you were the first to reach Grangeville. Was there a chance for a delay and rally before reaching there? Were the enemy in hot pursuit?
A. No sir. I don't think the enemy were in hot pursuit. I heard that a portion of the main command had been rallied somewhere in the vicinity of Grangeville. I should imagine it was 4 or 5 miles from the point of attack.
Q. Did you hear of this rally before reaching Grangeville?
A. No sir. I heard it spoken after reaching Grangeville by the officers.
Q. What were the casualties among the troops up to the time of your reaching Grangeville?
A. I did not learn all the casualties. I suppose a dozen or more had been shot between the ridge and the bluffs.
Q. Is the Court to understand that you were the first individual to reach Grangeville from the White Bird fight or the first officer?
A. I was the first officer. I learned there were several citizens and soldiers had passed on to Mount Idaho before I get there I saw one man there out of the command.
Q. Was this command of two companies of Cavalry, citizens and Indian scouts properly supplied with ammunition, and thoroughly prepared for a fight when they left Grangeville?
A. I don't think they had quite ammunition enough. My company had about 60 rounds per man. I suppose "F" Company had about the same. I don't know. I believe "F" Company was armed with pistols besides their carbines. "H" Company had a pistol to each non-commissioned officer and trumpeter. They had no rations, except some of them had something in their haversacks.
Q. What was the cause of the delay of the troops in leaving Fort Lapwai?
A. I cannot state positively. I believe there was some doubt in the minds of the General or Commanding Officer concerning hostilities. The General commanding the Department was present at Fort Lapwai. I cannot state that Captain Perry was responsible for the delay.
Q. You say in your report that Chapman was instrumental in leading many men to the rear. Did you or any other officer endeavor to prevent this?
A. I spoke to him on one occasion about making a good deal of excitement. I don't think I spoke to him very authoritatively though. I did not hear any other officer speak to him at all.
Q. You report that Captain Perry after being under fire for a few moments was settled in his determination to retreat, and that rapidly as shown by the incident of his mounting behind a trooper in the retreat. What time of day was this and was it not at the time the first order to retreat was given?
A. It was not when the first order to retreat was given. I do not know at what time of the day it was. I did not see the transaction.
Q. This part of your report is not made then from your own knowledge?
A. No sir.
Q. When you say in your report he Captain Perry voluntarily separated himself from his command, do you refer to his going to Mount Idaho from Grangeville?
A. No sir.
Q. State what occasion you do refer to.
A. I refer to the occasion on which he went back to Lapwai escorting a pack train after General Howard arrived with other troops.
Q. Was this done on his application for this duty, or was he so ordered?
A. I do not know, I supposed he must have been ordered. I was not anywhere in the vicinity.
Q. If he was ordered would it affect his conduct as an officer?
A. No sir. I suppose it would not, officially.
Q. Did you or did you not report this fact to bring Captain Perry into discredit?
A. No sir, not to injure him individually, but to show the mismanagement of the Cavalry. I have never spoken of his conduct until I was called to make a report. I asked officially for a communication but had received none concerning myself. The campaign had progressed considerably before I asked, and was about drawn to a close.
Question by Captain Perry
Q. Referring to your testimony on the subject of Captain Perry's criticism of your official conduct, will you please state whether or not you were informed by any officer that he (the officer) had seen Captain Perry's letter on the subject. If so, give the name of the officer?
A. No sir. I was not informed by any officer that he saw the letter, but I was informed by an officer that he had been told by another officer that he had seen the letter or report.
Q. Does or does not your report so far as it relates to Captain Perry's separating himself from his command, reflect upon his conduct as an officer, while you know nothing as to what orders he may have received governing this action?
A. I supposed he had orders for everything. I have always been led to believe in the Army that an officer should seek the highest command his rank would give him in action operations. It does reflect upon him.
Ques. by Recorder: Please state your name, rank, and regiment.
A. W. R. Parnell, 1st Lieutenant 1st Cavalry.
Question by Capt. Perry. Were you at Fort Lapwai at the time of the Nez Perce outbreak?
A. I was.
Q. After receiving news of the massacre by the Indians was due diligence used in getting a command off to the scene of hostilities?
A. In my opinion, yes. The first news that came in was rambling, disconnected information as far as I could learn and General Howard was I think at the Agency with the Inspector Mr. Watkins, and Captain Trimble and myself went from our camp to the post for instruction from Captain Perry, and we found he had gone down to the Agency to consult with General Howard. As soon as the news from the prairie was confirmed we moved out as soon as "F" Company was ready. We ("H" Company) were all ready in the morning but "F" Company was scattered around the garrison in various duties. The Agency is 3-1/2 miles from the post of Fort Lapwai.
Q. Was due diligence used in reaching the Indians after starting out?
A. Yes I think we got out there as soon as any command could have got there with a view of using our animals after we get there. We could have gone quicker. If we had gone much quicker our horses would have been considerably used up which would have embarrassed us in the action. The horses were very soft and fat having had very little drill or exercise for some time before.
Q. Who was in command of this expedition?
A. Captain Perry.
Q. Did you accompany the expedition to White Bird Canõn? If so, give a brief account of the fight which took place there.
A. I did. After leaving Grangeville we moved across the prairie and halted, as we understood, at the head of White Bird Canõn, about 1 o'clock a.m. on the 17th of June 1877. The Commanding Officer gave orders prohibiting lights or fires of any kind. During our halt one of the men of "F" Company struck a match to light his pipe. I found out who it was happening to be near him and reported it to Captain Perry, Commanding Officer. Almost immediately after lighting his match I heard the howl of a "coyote" but noticed the last note of the howl was different from anything I had ever heard before. I thought then, I think still, it was one of the Indians on picket. At dawn we moved on down the Canõn, "F" Company in advance. About half way down we received the order to take our overcoats off and the men to load their carbines. After moving down 3 or 4 miles the Canõn opens out pretty wide, (what is known as the Indian Graveyard). I noticed "F" Company form line, Captain Trimble then moved to the right and also formed line. Our company "H" took possession of a high ridge crossing the canõn at right angles with a line of bluffs on the right. The order then was "H" Company on the right of the line, "F" Company in low ground on our left and about half a dozen citizens on the graveyard knoll on the extreme left. In the meantime, the Indians had come out of their camp and attacked us before we got this position. Almost the first thing they did where I was, they drove a big band of horses into the right of our line. Caused some confusion among the men. Some went to the right and some huddled into where the centre of the company was. There was considerable skirmishing then for about 20 minutes and I found the left of Perry's Company moving up toward the ridge we were on, passing to the right and falling back. Several men of both companies were dismounted and some horses running loose. Captain Trimble gave an order to form "twos" or "fours", I don't remember which, and fall back. This order was only partially executed as some of "H" Company men were some distance off on a rocky point, and I kept some of the men back until they got down from that position. I saw then Captain Perry with portions of two companies some distance to my right and from what I supposed trying to gain the high bluffs to the right of the canõn. I was too far off to follow as the Indians had gotten between the two parties, and I thought the best thing I could do was to follow by going back on the road we came down, which I did, losing several men while falling back. I moved back very slowly, passing from one little ridge to another at a walk and holding on until the Indians got on the ridges on both flanks, picking off the men. On arriving at the head of the canõn I found Captain Perry with about the same number of men I had, 12 or 14. We continued falling back in the order in which we joined forces, until we reached Johnson's Ranch about 4 miles from the head of the canõn. Captain Perry had arrived there before I did, had dismounted his men, tied his horses and taken position on a high rocky point in the vicinity. He ordered me to do the same as soon as I arrived and said we could hold there until dark. I told him it was very little after 6 o'clock, and that our men had only 10 to 15 rounds of ammunition each and I thought it too dangerous to try it. He had forgotten, I think, that it was morning instead of evening. I suggested falling back to Grangeville as a party of Indians had taken possession of a knoll, higher than the one we had and about 200 yards off, while another party of Indians were coming down on our left under cover of a fence by a corn field. If they had come much further, they would have captured our horses and covered us. Captain Perry then took the command down and mounted. I followed as soon as I was in the saddle with the balance. We moved back in columns of four for about a quarter of a mile and Captain Perry gave the order "fours left" and directed me to organize the party. I divided the men of each company off, threw out the men of "H" Company as a skirmish line and requested Captain Perry to keep within supporting distance with the men of his own company. The Indians in the meantime were watching our movements and trying to drive our party off to the left, towards what is known as "Rocky Canõn". They made repeated charges on our right flank and on our line of skirmishes, but were met every time by strong opposition. We moved back very slowly halting every few minutes returning the fire of the Indians. About four miles from Johnson's Ranch the Indians left us and soon after we met a party of citizens coming out from Mount Idaho to our assistance. We, however, continued on to Grangeville and on arrival there found Captain Trimble and some of the men of both companies. I belonged to Captain Trimble's company.
Ques. by Capt. Perry: Was or was not the position on the right occupied by your company ("H") a more advantageous one than that occupied by "F" Company?
A. Yes, very much.
Q. Had Captain Perry any officer with his company beside himself?
A. Lieutenant Theller 21st Infantry, was temporarily attached to his company.
Q. Was this officer with the company on the left, did he remain there?
A. He was on the left I presume when the line was formed. He came up to where I was when they changed their positions. He was dismounted and seemed somewhat confused and excited. I caught a horse and gave it to him.
Q. Did the citizens on the extreme left hold their position?
A. They did not. I think they left that knoll at the first fire when one of their men was wounded. After that knoll was taken the line had to retire. The Indians got completely in rear of the left flank.
Q. Did this position command that taken at first by "F" Company?
A. It certainly did.
Q. At the time you saw Captain Perry apparently trying to gain the bluff, was, or was not, the whole command broken up?
A. It was very much broken.
Q. Did you arrive at the top of the canõn or bluff about the same time as Captain Perry?
A. Yes. We joined forces there. We had evidently moved back simultaneously. I moved up the canõn and he along the bluffs. We could see nothing of each other as we moved back.
Q. Did the Indians make a hot pursuit to Johnson's Ranch and after we left there?
A. The[y] did. They kept pushing our line in front and, on both flanks. They very much out numbered our party. They came near enough for me to use my revolver on one of them. I would have charged them several times on my way back, but the company was not armed with revolvers.
Q. How many men had you and Captain Perry together upon arriving at Johnson's Ranch and how many upon your arrival at Grangeville?
A. We had about 27 or 28 men, somewhere about that.
Q. Was fighting kept up to within 4 miles of Grangeville or longer?
A. The fighting was kept up until we were about 4 or 5 miles from Grangeville. The Indians then numbered 4 or 5 to one, of the party we had there.
Q. Where was Captain Trimble during the retreat you described?
A. I saw nothing of him after the line commenced to fall back until I arrived at Grangeville. I saw a party of men after I got to the top of the hill after I joined Captain Perry. I saw 6 or 7 men down on the prairie going toward Mount Idaho. It must have been three miles off. I afterwards found out it was Chapman and Captain Trimble and some of the enlisted men of both companies, who were following Chapman back to Mount Idaho.
Q. How long a time elapsed from the beginning of the fight until the retreat began?
A. I think about a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. I think I was on the knoll there about that time. I would say the fight commenced before our line was formed.
Q. Did you consider Captain Perry in any way responsible for the confusion and rout which occurred on the left of the line? Or to what was this due?
A. I don't think he was responsible for it. I think it was due to the flank movement made by the Indians. They were able to do so as soon as that knoll was abandoned by the citizens.
Q. Did it seem possible to control this panic?
A. I done [sic] all I could and could not succeed. I don't think we could have done it, we three officers. I don't think Lieutenant Theller could do anything. He seemed to have lost all control of himself. We had a great many green recruits in the company. The horses were green and flighty.
Q. Was there or not, much confusion in the ranks of "H" Company at the time they were on the right and before retreat began?
A. There were some of the men huddled up under the cover of some rocks there. Some were mounted and some dismounted. Some of that confusion I attribute to that by band of stock coming in on our right that drove some of the men in on the centre of the company.
Q. In your opinion could a successful stand have been made on the position occupied by "H" Company after the left gave way?
A. Yes. I think we could have made a stand there, but it would not have lasted long. We would have got out of ammunition and been worse off than ever. We would have lost our horses there for it was much exposed. The Indians could have got round on our flanks and killed the horses.
Ques. by Recorder. Was the position taken up by the command an advantageous one, where the Indians were met?
A. Yes, I think it was, as far as the right of the line was concerned, our position was a good one.
Q. You have mentioned a knoll, occupied by citizens on the left. Was that not the key point to the position?
A. It was the key point to that section of the line. The Indians could have worked up on the bluffs on our right if they had wanted to. The knoll was the most important point. It covered low ground on both sides.
Q. Why was it not more strongly occupied then?
A. We did not have sufficient force to put any more men on it. There were six or seven citizens there and they should have been able to hold it.
Q. Would not prudence suggest that the knoll, being so important a point, a stronger force should have been stationed there?
A. I think there was enough men to hold it. I think If I had been there with six or seven men I could have held it.
Q. When the intentions of the command's giving way were apparent, did Captain Perry use proper efforts to rally it?
A. I could not see Captain Perry until the line was already broken. "F" Company was out of sight down in a hollow. I could not say what was being done on that flank.
Q. How long after the attack commenced did Captain Perry make his appearance near your company ("H")?
A. It was about 20 minutes I guess.
Q. Was there any order observed in the retreat from the first position?
A. No sir. The command was very much mixed up, when "F" Company came up on our left. Our line was not regular. It was broken up. The men of "F" Company came in straggling order too.
Q. Did Captain Perry make any disposition of the men to get them back on the bluffs?
A. "F" Company moved up, as I supposed to take ground on the right of our company ("H"). I did not hear any orders given. All the orders I heard was [sic] given by Captain Trimble to form into a column and fall back. Our company formed twos or fours moving to the rear.
Q. Do you think a passage could have been forced to the river?
A. No sir. That was suggested. I said that would be murder or words to that effect, and afterwards it was found it could not have been done. I do not think any of the command would have got out at all if it had been undertaken.
Q. Did the men fail to obey the orders of their officers?
A. There was very little attention paid after the line commenced to fall back.
Q. Did the non-commissioned officers do their duty?
A. Some of them did. What few came up the canõn with me behaved very gallantly.
Q. How did you become separated from your own company?
A. I waited to get some men off that knoll. I think some five or six men on a rocky point. I had majority of the company with me when they commenced to fall back.
Q. After joining Captain Perry on the bluffs, how was the retreat conducted, and what was his conduct?
A. He fell back in the same order in which I met him. I took the left of the line. I don't think he could get the men to stand. There was [sic] two citizens with him who did more harm than good. I could see nothing wrong in it, except in one instance for which I blamed him somewhat, but which he explained afterwards. He asked me to hold a ridge while he crossed a canõn and got on the other side. I told him I would try to, and did. I watched for him climbing the bluffs on the other side expecting to see the men make a stand there until I crossed. They did not do that. After we got to Johnson's Ranch I asked him what was the matter. He said the citizens that were with him would not remain and the men seemed to be governed by the examples of the citizens. When I met him he was working hard to contest the approach of the Indians. He was working as hard as I was.
Ques. by Court: Who were the two citizens with Captain Perry, referred to, who prevented Captain Perry's covering you?
A. I did not know their names, they were part of the men on the knoll. I did not know any of them except Chapman and he had already gone.
Q. Did you see Captain Perry when he first commenced to retreat? Do you know anything of the circumstances about his being mounted behind a trooper?
A. I saw nothing of his getting up behind a trooper. I saw him when he came up from the left of the line. That was soon after "F" Company came up to the position in which we were in. He was then mounted on his own horse. Several of the men came out of the fight two men on one horse.
Q. What time did the command leave Fort Lapwai, what time reach Grangeville, and what is the distance between those points?
A. We left Lapwai about 8 o'clock on Friday evening, arrived at Cottonwood about 9 o'clock on Saturday morning, halted three hours to make coffee and feed our horses, and reached Grangeville about 6 o'clock p.m. on Saturday. The distance between Lapwai and Grangeville is about 55 or 60 miles. We went slow on account of the roads. They were muddy and swampy in the timber. I had charge of a skirmish line and flankers from the top of Craig Mountain to Cottonwood house. We advanced cautiously. The ground was very broken and we progressed slowly.
Q. What was the order of March?
A. I do not remember which company was in advance. We halted several times after we left Lapwai waiting for "H" company pack train of 5 miles. When we had marched about 18 or 20 miles I took charge of a platoon as skirmishers and some flankers on both flanks. The advance was unavoidably slow on account of the ground we had to go over. The skirmish line was from 150 to 200 yards in front, then came a small reserve, a hundred yards in the rear of that a column and pack mule. The flankers were ordered to keep as near as practicable, about 150 yards, from the flank of the column. We made occasional halts to let the flankers get around thick brush and across ravines. We anticipated striking the Indians at any point after adopting these precautions. This order was maintained until we halted for breakfast at Cottonwood when pickets were thrown out in several directions and after leaving Cottonwood we marched in the same order as we arrived at Cottonwood.
Ques. by Court. Was the presence of the Indians first made known by their firing into the command?
A. I do not know. My company was in the rear.
Q. How far from the knoll occupied by the citizens was the left of "F" Company when the citizens abandoned it?
A. I don't know sir. I could see but very few of "F" Company the ground was so low.
Q. How far from the same point were the Indians?
A. I don't know. They were 75 to 100 yards from where we were.
Q. Was there any other attempt made to reinforce and hold this important point?
A. That I do not know either. I don't know what happened at all down on the left.
Q. At what point in the line was stock driven with reference to the right point occupied by a Sergeant and several men?
A. The stock was driven in on the right of it and several men were forced to the right by the stock striking the right of the company. I thought there was [sic] 600 or 700 head of them.
Q. How far did the Indians pursue the command?
A. They pursued us until we got very near Grangeville. It was fifteen miles in my opinion from where the fight first commenced to Grangeville.
Q. If the horses of the Command had been left to the horseholders and the men required to carefully use their ammunition, could not the Indians have been beaten at the first point of attack?
A. It was very probable. It is very hard to say, they were pretty tough customers as we found out afterwards.
Q. What time in the day did the command reach Grangeville in the retreat?
A. Captain Perry and myself got in about 10 o'clock in the morning. I think about 10 o'clock a.m.
Q. How far from point of attack to Johnson's Ranch?
A. About seven miles I guess. I think about seven miles.
Q. Were any wounded men brought off the field? Citizens or soldiers?
A. One soldier found his way back to Mount Idaho and one citizen that was wounded on the knoll in the morning came back.
Q. What were the losses of the command?
A. One officer and 33 men killed, besides the two that were wounded.
Q. Was the confusion and rout of the command attributed to the bad handling or disposition of the the troops in beginning of the fight or to the want of courage of the men?
A. I do not think it attributable to either. Many of them were green hands. Many of our company were undisciplined. A great many recruits that had very little drill. There was no lack of courage. The men that came up with me through the canõn showed that.
Q. Did or did not the men of "F" Company break, some of them to the rear and in confusion before any soldier had been wounded?
A. I don't know whether any of them had been wounded or not. Two of them got into Lapwai between 2 and 3 o'clock that afternoon. Two Indians that came out as guides also got back there about the same time.
Q. On arriving at Cottonwood, did you have a general view of the "Camas prairie"?
A. From one or two points we had a very good view. We saw a burning haystack towards Johnson's Ranch which we thought was a house.
Q. Did you, or not, then receive reports of the burning of ranches towards Salmon river and were the Indians seen in that direction?
A. I heard nothing about reports myself. That I can recollect. I couldn't see anything else burning except this straw stack. I had a good pair of glasses. I lent my glasses to an Indian scout but when he gave them back he said nothing about seeing anything burning.
Q. You say that very probably the Indians could have been beaten, had the horses been left to the horse holders. Should not this then, in your opinion have been done, and would not the retreat be attributable in part, if not whole, to the fact of its not having been done?
A. No. Upon reflection and subsequent events I think we would have been in a very bad fix. Our ammunition would have given out. We had no provisions and our ammunition would not have lasted until night. I attribute the whole confusion to the lack of discipline. We could do nothing with the men.
Q. Would it not have been better if the horses had been ridden harder and made more manageable, than to have been in the condition they were?
A. I don't know. I am not sure how that would be. We didn't anticipate fighting when we started from Lapwai. I think the command was sent up there more as a safeguard for the citizens about Mount Idaho. I would say in connection with the fight that when my company formed line, I expected the command to be given to dismount. The men could have sought shelter. The men could not control their horses nor use their arms.
Q. You state in your evidence 5 or 6 men were in behind some rocks, some on foot and some on horseback. Were these men engaged in fighting or hiding?
A. Those men were dismounted and sent up there to hold that point. They were fighting the Indians. There were other men at another point of rocks where Captain Trimble and myself were. Some of these men were ordered to dismount in order to take more accurate aim from cover. They dismounted regardless of numbers, the line was then in confusion, there was no line and no regularity. It was from that point we commenced to fall back in column.
Ques. by Capt. Perry. Did the ridge you were occupying at first at White Bird Canõn connect with the bluffs on your right or was there any low ground between?
A. They connected with the bluffs if I remember correctly. It sloped up gradually to the bluffs as it appeared from my position. The bluffs were then very steep. A person could climb them.
Q. How far from Johnson's Ranch was the point at which you expected Captain Perry to await you, after he crossed the ravine?
A. I think it was from three quarters to a mile.
Q. Who should have given the order to dismount your company after taking position on the right?
A. Captain Trimble I suppose. He was in command of the company. Captain Perry was down on the left. I did not see him at all. That would depend upon what orders he (Captain Trimble) had received. If I had been in command of the company I should have ordered the men to dismount. I think it was the proper thing to do under the circumstances.
Ques. by Recorder. Please state your name, rank and regiment.
A. Michael McCarthy, Quarter Master Sergeant, 1st Cavalry.
Q. Were you present at the fight at White Bird Canõn in June, 1877? If so in what capacity?
A. I was. I was First Sergeant of Company "H" 1st Cavalry.
Q. What time did you see the Indian after the fight commenced?
A. I saw them while the line was being formed. I saw one or two retreat towards their camp.
Q. Did they make a strong attack upon the troops?
A. No sir. They did not.
Q. Did the troops repulse them easily?
A. If there was any attack at first, It was the troops that made the attack when the first Indian was seen. As the first shot was fired Company "F" formed right front into line on the advanced guard and Company "H" formed on the prolongation and deployed as skirmishers on "F" Company right, and the citizens placed themselves on the line as it was formed. I could then see but this one Indian running towards the camp, but I could see several other Indians following a large band of horses that had stampeded up the ravine and side hill to our right. The line after it was formed advanced and inclined a little to the left and halted overlooking the Indian Camp and commenced opening fire upon the Indians in the camp, quite a distance from them though too far to do any execution. There was a bluff near where the right of our line rested, and I was detached by Captain Trimble with 5 or 6 men to occupy the right front of the bluff. I dismounted and secured the horses and commenced firing upon some Indians that were in my front taking up a position on a round knoll in front. For a few minutes I lost track of the movements of the rest of the command. I was firing whilst there several minutes. We fired quite a number of shots me and my party. The line approached me again very close and then surged back to the right. A few of "F" Company men were detached and took position on the left of where I was posted. It got back at least 400 yards, as well as my memory serves me, and somebody called to my party on the rocks to get back, we were going to charge. I mounted my party and started them back, and somebody called out to go back again Sergeant and hold that bluff. I only succeeded in bringing back three men with me; the rest had gone out of my control. When I got back a second time I dismounted and sheltered the horses behind some boulders. It was then that the Indians commenced to advance. Previous to that time they seemed to be acting on the defensive. They then commenced to ride in small parties by my position up towards the right in the direction the herd had gone before. A small party coming under the shelter of this bluff got between me and the rest of the line. I could see the men through the smoke. Their position also sheltered them from the fire of the line. We had then fired about ten rounds apiece, the men firing singly. Then there were signals for me to get back again. Soon as we stood up and showed ourselves, shots came obliquely from the right as they had been coming from the left. I mounted my party as before and started back with a rush. Two of the party must have been killed as I never saw them anymore.
Q. How long before the company was formed in line were you ordered to the bluff?
A. Almost as soon as they commenced firing, some were firing with pistols some with carbines.
Q. Could you from your position on the bluffs, see the left of the line where the citizens were stationed?
A. No I could not. I saw only one citizen who took post near me.
Q. What was the nature of the point where you were, was it large enough to shelter a large body of men?
A. Fronting the Indian camp it was a natural breast work and from the rear it was open except a few boulders on the slope.
Q. What was the position of "F" Company and the citizen with reference to the position you occupied?
A. "F" Company and the citizens were on the left of me on the road that passed the bluff by the left going down, and commanded the road.
Q. Do you know why the line gave way on the left?
A. I do not.
Q. Do you know how the men of your company behaved in the fight.
A. While they were under control and were given the proper commands they behaved splendidly. Those that were with me did very well. When they first came into line they seemed eager to advance.
Q. Do you think that an advance could have been made at that time with success?
A. In the first formation I think we could have advanced down the canõn with complete success in five minutes. It was a complete [?] as near as I can understand and from my observation.
Q. Could you see the Indian camp?
A. Yes, sir. I saw the camp. I saw the bushes where the Indians were coming out. I did not see the lodges.
Q. What was the nature of the ground in front of you?
A. From where we were the ground sloped down towards the Indian camp, towards the creek; it was broken though. We were higher than they were. We could have charged over that ground.
Q. Was there a large body of Indians below you?
A. No. They were in small squads. They were just coming out of the bushes in ones and twos occupying the points in front of me. They were very slow in occupying the points. Altogether I think there were about 60 more or less.
Q. Why was the command not dismounted when the men commenced firing?
A. I do not know. The first fire was opened mounted. After that I was detached. I do not know whether any command was given to open fire or not.
Q. Did you see Captain Perry at any time during the fight?
A. I saw him when the line was first formed, he was with his company on the left I think. I saw him again when the word was passed to charge. He was on the right rear of the line. The line was then intact.
Q. Who gave the command to your company?
A. Captain Trimble gave me all the commands I got.
Q. How long after the firing commenced did you see the line retreating?
A. It was after I had been on the rocks and fired several shots. I saw it pushed back to the right. I did not know it was retreating. It afterwards fell back. I should think it was at least 400 yards. The road at this time I thought was uncovered.
Q. Did you see the citizens at any time during the fight?
A. I saw only one. He was by the side of me. He fired two shots, got on his horse, and rode off.
Q. Who withdrew you from the advanced point?
A. No one sir. I was isolated there the last time, completely cut off. Some of the men made signs to me.
Q. Where was your Company Commander then?
A. I did not see my Company Commander again after he came near me on the rocks. I pointed out a squad of Indians that were getting around our right flank. When I saw those Indians on my right rear I called out and directed his attention to them. I did not see him after until I got in on the 19th.
Q. Where did you go when you started for the rear?
A. I went towards where the line had been when I last saw it. I laid flat on my horses back. When I got to where the line had been, I found only Lieut. Parnell with only a platoon deployed and he was about ten yards in advance of them towards the enemy and he was urging the men to advance and get out some wounded and dismounted men in his front. Nearly all the dismounted men got in the rear of my party, but I could do nothing for the wounded. They seemed to be wandering about. We were under a very heavy fire at the time on the face of the slope. In a few minutes some of my party were dismounted and some ran away galloping up the ridge on the right. I started back myself then and tried to get them to make a rally. They made no effort to stop. They kept running on, some with their carbines over their shoulders as if they were going to mount. My own horse was shot then, and I had to dismount and tried to urge my horse along. I ran down towards the road and overtook one of my own company and an Indian. This man took me on behind and the Indian caught a loose horse, and they both continued on with these men and I was soon joined by two others coming down the ridge. I moved to the next rise. We halted a few moments and dismounted and fired, a few shots at the Indians following and a little further on I overtook Lieut. Parnell on the road. He had a few men with him, and they were marching in columns of files up the road. The men occassionally wheeling out and firing as they retreated. I continued on with him until we reached where the road is graded. Here I was riding as the last file of the column of the files. The Indians were riding on our right and on our left and some were coming up the road. My second horse was disabled. The column was then moving at a trot and I dismounted and tried to keep up by running. The column was disappearing around a curve in the road. I fell down two or three times from fatigue. I halted and fired my pistol at the Indians who were not more than 50 yards from me at that time.
Q. Did you see any more of the column or army of the command that day?
A. No sir. That was the last I saw of them.
Q. During the retreat did the men seem to be panic stricken?
A. Those I were with were not.
Q. Did the men obey the orders given them up to the time the retreat commenced?
A. I do not know exactly when the retreat did commence. Those men in my detached party obeyed my orders. A few from the party that Lieutenant Parnell turned over to me broke away and rode up the ridge.
Ques. by Capt. Perry. Could you see the ground to the left of the position occupied by the citizens?
A. I could see all to the left at the first glance as we were forming. I could see it.
Q. Had you heard any firing on the extreme left previous to your going to the point of rocks the second time?
A. The line was back about 400 yards the second time and the troops were firing. There was firing while I was there the first time.
Q. Do you know whether or not the men of your company, besides those immediately with you, behaved well after fighting commenced?
A. No sir, I do not.
Q. Had the men of your company pistols?
A. No sir, except the two trumpeters and myself and I think one or two sergeants.
Ques. by Court. State if you know - how many men of your company had been engaged with Indians previous to this campaign?
A. I don't know. I should judge perhaps ten that had been engaged with Indians, not more than that. I think about the same proportion of "F" Company.
Q. Were any of the men armed with sabres?
A. No, sir.
Q. At what point of the line did the Indian's herd pass?
A. it passed by the right up the ravine beyond the right of the line. A half mile I should judge from the line.
Q. Were you posted at first in front of the centre or right of "H" Company?
A. I was detached from the right and gained ground to the right front.
Q. Did Lieutenant Parnell return to you with help or not?
A. No, sir. I overtook him as I said on the road. There was one man come back to my help, Private Shay of "H" Company. That was the only attempt at rescue that was made.
Q. What was the nature of the ground generally in the canõn?
A. There was a ridge run [sic] through the canõn and it became a hill to the right hand as you rode down. There was a ravine on each side of the ridge. The ridge ended in a bluff looking down the canõn and near the bluff as I remember the ground flattened out. That is my recollection of it from the hurried glance during the retreat.
Q. Give the names and companies of the soldiers who reached Fort Lapwai on the afternoon of the fight?
A. They were Corporal Fuller "F" Company and Private White "F" Company.
Ques. by Recorder. What portion of the men of your company were recruits?
A. In the proper sense of the word there were but few recruits, but there was [sic] a good many young soldiers.
Q. Were they well instructed, in horsemanship and the use of arms?
A. I think their horsemanship was good. Of "H" Company with a few exceptions they could stick a horse bareback and lead another at a gallop. We had target practice during the preceding winter. We had mounted drill at Lapwai during May and "F" Company had target practice while we were there. The horses were not accustomed to firing.
Ques. by Capt. Perry. Did this herd you have mentioned, or any part of it, pass through the line of troops?
A. No sir. I couldn't see any of it pass through the troops. It passed away to the right. I should judge half a mile. Some of the men were trying long range shots for that distance.
Ques. by Recorder. Please state your name, rank, company and regiment.
A. Richard Powers, Sergeant "H" Company, 1st Cavalry.
Q. Were you at the fight at White Bird Canyon in June, 1877?
A. Yes, sir. A private of "H" Company.
Q. Were you in a position to see the Indians on their first appearance?
A. Yes, I was.
Q. When you first saw them, where were they?
A. The first Indians I saw were with the Indian herd. It was after "H" Company had come into line. We hadn't advanced yet. Captain Perry's company advanced to the front and inclined to the left. Captain Trimble's Company formed right front into line. The herd got out of sight shortly after that.
Q. Did any portion of the herd pass through the line of troops?
A. None that I had seen sir.
Q. Could you see the citizens on the knoll on the left of the line?
A. I could not say they were citizens on the knoll at the Indian graveyard. I saw some citizens riding down from there.
Q. Could you see all the line from that point to where you were?
A. No sir. Not all the line. There was a small depression in the ground between the graveyard and where we were stationed. Captain Perry's company was stationed there.
Q. How long did the citizens, or party, stay on the knoll at the graveyard after the firing commenced?
A. I could not state the time, as my attention was drawn to my front at the time.
Q. Was "H" Company formed in line in good order?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. How long after the line was formed, before the shots of the Indians began to tell?
A. I should judge it was about three or four minutes.
Q. Did the men remain steady under fire?
A. Yes, sir. They did at this time. I couldn't exactly state the time. We had a position on a bare knoll of rocks with a very deep canõn in our front. Shortly after Captain Perry rode down to "H" Company's line and gave an order to Captain Trimble. I did not thoroughly understand the order, but think it was to take his horses out of range of fire. We had some wounded horses there then, from there they commenced falling back in disorder. At about 50 yards I should judge, as near as I can recollect I saw Mr. Chapman on the right on a high ridge - at this time I was riding close by Captain Perry - I heard Mr. Chapman cry from the ridge, "Colonel Perry here is a chance for a charge." Captain Perry rallied the party that was with him at this time, advanced to the top of the ridge and formed in line; 'twas at this time I saw the largest body of Indians coming up the ravine to the front and left. The troops seemed to break from this position at this time. I heard no order to retreat. I don't know by whose order it was made. We had fallen back some distance I should say some 30 or 40 yards. I there again saw Captain Perry try to rally these men on the ridge. They would only stand for a very short time and still keep retreating. Keeping up a fire at short intervals as they went along.
Q. What do you think caused the confusion among the men so soon after the firing commenced?
A. I could form no idea, after the retreat once commenced. There seemed no stopping it.
Q. Do you think that the command could have beaten the Indians at the time the retreat commenced?
A. Yes, I think they could had they make a stand.
Q. Did the men disregard the orders of their officers?
A. It appeared in that way. The officers were doing their endeavors to rally them.
Q. Could you see the position of the Indians camp from where you were?
A. Yes, sir. From the first ridge we formed on I could see the Indian camp.
Q. How many Indians made their appearance during the fight do you think?
A. Fifty or sixty as near as I can judge.
Ques. by Capt. Perry. What was your position with reference to the line formed by your company?
A. I was in the right center.
Q. When you saw the Indian herd was it moving in the direction of the line of troops, or away from it?
A. It was in our front and was running to the right flank.
Q. You say there were 50 or 60 Indians. Could you from where you were see any Indians who may have been on the extreme left beyond the graveyard knoll?
A. Yes, sir. I could see some Indians on the road in the canõn from our first position.
Q. Could you have seen the Indians had they been close to the knoll and on the left?
A. Yes, sir. I could some portion of them.
Q. Was this knoll higher or lower than the point where you were?
A. Our position was higher.
Ques. by Court. At what time in the day did the command reach Grangeville?
A. I could not state the exact hour. It was in the forenoon.
Ques. by Recorder. Please state your name and residence.
A. George M. Shearer, Mount Idaho, Idaho Territory.
Ques. by Capt. Perry. Were you at the White Bird fight on the 17th of June 1877?
Q. Did you see the line give way at that fight?
A. No, sir. I did not see the line of troops give way, only the volunteers who were under me at the time.
Q. Please state the circumstances connected with the first giving way of any portion of the line?
A. Mr. Chapman was in command of the volunteers. I was second under him. He had gone away with Captain Perry and I was in command of them. That was just before the action commenced. I saw Captain Perry forming his line. I went down on the extreme left that carried me under some hills that hid his line completely from my view. On arriving on the flat to the left of those hills, I saw some Indians running on low ground, toward us and we opened fire on them. Those Indians then immediately took to the brush on the bank of the creek which was about 75 yards to my left. From there they opened fire upon us. I ordered the men to dismount. Some of them obeyed this order. Others turned round and put out. In the meantime firing had been going on to our right beyond the line of hills. I could hear the firing but could not see the troops I then called upon my men to follow me to the top of the hill between me and Captain Perry's men. I immediately went to the top of the hill and found myself in the presence of Indians who were within about 50 yards of me, and flanking Captain Perry's left. At this time I saw his line was broken and on the retreat and I followed as quick as possible.
Q. Did you retreat with the troops?
Q. Did you observe Captain Perry most of the time on the retreat, and did he do all that was possible to rally the men?
A. In my opinion he did all a man could to rally the men.
Q. Did Captain Perry receive any assistance from Captain Trimble in attempting to rally the men?
A. I never noticed Captain Trimble during the action until we reached the first ridge that was susceptible of being held after the retreat commenced. It was there I said to Captain Perry we had a good strong position, thinking he was not acquainted with the country. He remarked we would hold that ridge and immediately took steps to organize a line, and about the time I thought he had a very fine line organized the Indians made their appearance following pretty closely, and the line immediately gave way. I think first the left of the line. When I again saw Captain Perry and Captain Trimble, Captain Trimble was some 50 or 60 yards ahead of Captain Perry up the mountain, and Captain Perry called upon Captain Trimble to rally some men and hold a position at the top of the hill until the balance of the men could get up. Captain Trimble replied that Mr. Chapman had said the best place to hold was the summit, which I should judge was somewhere in the vicinity of half a mile above us. Captain Perry called to him again to take some position and hold it. Captain Trimble moved on up the hill, and I saw nothing more of him during the fight.
Q. Did you with Captain Perry proceed on to the summit which had been referred to by Captain Trimble?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Was an attempt made to make a stand there?
A. There was by Captain Perry. By calling on his men to stop there and wait until every man got up the mountain, and I suggested to Captain Perry there was a stronger position to hold on our left, that would command the road that the Indians were going up and could not be seen from where he was. He asked me if I would go with some of his men and show them the position. I told him that I would and he called upon a Sergeant or a Corporal, I do not remember distinctly which, to take some men and go with me. On getting there I discovered that the Indians had already passed up to our left and getting in our rear following the men that ran from the first line Captain Perry formed after the retreat commenced.
Q. Had the men ahead of you under, or with, Captain Trimble made a stand there - on the summit?
A. I didn't see any of them when we came on the hill. I did not see Captain Trimble.
Q. Was it possible for Captain Perry to rally the men other than in small squads and when so rallied would they remain where stationed?
A. No it was not, and I noticed that he never was able to hold more than 10 or 15 men around him; while some would stand, others would get away. In this connection I would say I heard Captain Perry repeatedly threaten to shoot men running by him, and requested me to do the same thing.
Q. Where (were) you in company with Captain Perry all the way up the bluffs, and did he have a horse or not?
A. Yes sir. He was on foot.
Q. When you arrived at Johnson's Ranch could you see the country beyond and towards Grangeville, and if so did you see any men in advance on the road to that place?
A. From Johnson's Ranch you can see all over that country for four miles. The only person we could see at all was one lone Indian.
Q. Did you remain with Captain Perry during the entire retreat to Grangeville? If so please state whether or not Captain Perry did all that an officer could do to check the Indian and save his men.
A. After leaving the summit of the mountain mentioned a few moments ago, we proceeded to Johnson's Ranch where Captain Perry succeeded in rallying what men was [sic] left. I should judge he held his position at Johnson's Ranch for about 15 minutes; in the meantime impressing upon the minds of his men the necessity of keeping cool and stopping that stampede. He then called his men off this rocky butte we were occupying and formed them in the road in columns of fours. A portion of them under Lieutenant Parnell to be used as skirmishers. We took up our march to Grangeville. I believe never after that breaking our walk at all. I remained with Captain Perry during the entire retreat to Grangeville.
Ques. by Recorder. Was the knoll you occupied with your command in the canõn a strong defensible position?
A. No it was not, but we had but a short distance to climb to get a good position.
Q. Why did you not take it then?
A. I did attempt to take it, but when I called my men up on the hill they would not come. They ran.
Q. Did the giving way of your men seriously endanger the left of Captain Perry's line?
A. Yes. It uncovered his left entirely.
Q. Did you see the first giving way of the company ("F") next to you?
A. I did not.
Q. How soon after your men gave way did you see Captain Perry?
A. I think I did not see Captain Perry until we had retreated half a mile.
Q. Was the organization of the troops entirely broken up when you encountered him?
Q. Had the officer lost control of the men?
A. Apparently so.
Q. What do you estimate the number of Indians at?
A. I have never been able to make up my mind that I saw more than 60 Indians engaged at one time.
Q. Did they push the troops hard during the fight and after the retreat commenced?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Would it have been practicable to have pushed on towards the river after the Indians were first seen?
A. No, sir. From my knowledge of the ground along the creek there, I think it would have been a very imprudent movement, because when we first saw the Indians they were preparing to receive us. The road was bordered by a very heavy growth of thorn brush and the Indians could have occupied and cut the column all to pieces, and the troops could not have maneuvered or penetrated it.
Ques. by Recorder. Please state your name, rank, company, and regiment.
A. Charles Leeman, 1st Sergeant, Company "F" 1st Cavalry.
Ques. by Capt, Perry. Were you in the fight at White Bird canõn on the 17th of June 1877?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What orders were given by Captain Perry when the Indians were first discovered and subsequently?
A. Orders were, "Left front into line," dismount and form skirmishers. Number fours were holding the horses and the other men were deployed as skirmishers.
Q. Were the orders promptly obeyed?
A. They were.
Q. What officer was in immediate command of the line?
A. Captain Perry was in immediate command. His order was through Lieutenant Theller.
Q. Did you see the position taken by the citizens at that time, and did it or not, protect the left flank of "F" Company?
A. Yes, I saw the position of the citizens on a knoll on the left flank of the company. It protected that flank.
Q. Did they hold that position?
A. A short time only.
Q. Did the line of troops begin to break before their left was exposed by the retreat of the citizens.
A. No, sir.
Q. How many men of the company were killed before the line broke?
A. I should judge six to eight possibly ten. Not less than six.
Q. How long a time elapsed from the time the Indians were first discovered until the line broke?
A. I should judge it was not less than half an hour, possibly three quarters. I am certain it was not less than half an hour.
Q. Were the led horses under cover, or protected from fire after the line was formed?
A. Yes, sir. They were in a ravine in rear of the company. They were perfectly protected until the left flank was uncovered by the citizens giving way.
Q. To what do you attribute the breaking of the line of the company?
A. I attribute it to the citizens giving way and the Indians getting a cross fire on us. Of course the Indians getting in rear of the company and several men being killed there, had a demoralizing effect upon the men.
Ques. by Recorder. Were the men protected by anything in their front?
A. Yes, sir. Occasionally by a rock or something of that kind. The ground was generally open there, not much cover on the line we were them on.
Q. Did you see a herd of stock in your front? If so what direction did it take?
A. Yes I did as we came down the canõn. It was not what you would call a herd; it was a small number of animals. It was going down the canõn towards the river.
Q. Did any stock pass the line of troops before or during the fight?
A. Not to my knowledge.
Q. What part of the line were you on?
A. On the right and on the centre. Part of the time on the right and part of the time on the left centre.
Q. Could you see the whole line to your left?
A. I could.
Q. What portion of the line of your company gave way first?
A. The left.
Q. Where was Captain Perry at that time?
A. In the rear of the rear of the company about 15 or 20 yards where he could superintend the movements.
Q. Was the fire of the Indians very hot?
Q. Could not the Indians on the left have been met by drawing back the left of your line?
A. No sir. Not after the citizens had given way.
Q. How far from the left of your line was the knoll where the citizens were posted?
A. It connected with the left of the line as near as I can recollect. The extreme left.
Q. When the men began to give way was any effort made to them there?
A. Yes, by Captain Perry and Lieutenant Theller and the non-commissioned officers of the company.
Q. Where was the first stand made after the line broke?
A. On a knoll. I suppose about 75 or 100 yards in rear of the original line.
Q. What portion of the company stopped there?
A. I should suppose about two thirds stopped there.
Q. How long a stand was made there.
A. Well, it is almost impossible for me to say now. I recollect well we made a stand there.
Q. Did the men show signs of a panic?
A. Well, they did, yes, sir. I saw Captain Perry there doing all a man could do and Lieutenant Theller. I did all I could, and the other non-commissioned officers but it seemed to be impossible to get them to stand.
Q. Was the pursuit of the Indians very close?
Q. After the first effort to make a stand, after the line was first broken, how did the men act?
A. They acted as if they were frightened. There were most of them young men. After they were once routed it was hard to restore order among them again.
Q. Was there any attempt made to reinforce and hold the point on the left when the citizens were driven off?
A. Yes, sir. Well, sir, after the citizens fell back and the Indians got a cross fire on our flank it had a very demoralizing effect, but we endeavored to rally then and regain the ground again.
Q. Were the six men killed at the first attack known to you?
A. Four of them were. I afterwards heard more were but I did not give it credence for I did not see them.
Q. At what time in the day did the command reach Grangeville and were you where you could see Captain Perry all or most of the time? If so, what was his conduct?
A. I should judge it was between 12 and 1 o'clock in the day. I was where I could see Captain Perry most of the time I did not see anything extraordinary in his conduct more than usual. He seemed to be perfectly calm.
Q. From what distance were the shots fired that killed these men?
A. I should suppose they were not more than 20 or 30 yards away.
Ques. by Capt. Perry. From where you were in line covered could you see the entire line occupied by "H" Company on your right?
A. Not the entire line. No, sir.
Q. Do you mean to say you were on the right of the entire line or that part only occupied by your own company.
A. My own company.
Q. How far was it from the right of "F" Company to the left of "H" Company at the first formation?
A. Not far, sir. I do not remember the exact distance. Those minor points I have almost forgotten. I can't say with accuracy.
Ques. by Court: How far off were the Indians when you first saw them?
A. I did not see them myself until we were formed in line. I should judge they were a hundred yards off, perhaps two hundred. I could see a few of them after we formed line.
Q. Were they in camp when you first saw them, or were they advancing to attack?
A. I should judge they were advancing to attack. I could not see their camp.
Q. What became of the small herd you saw when going down the canõn, and was it supposed to belong to the Indians?
A. It was supposed to belong to the Indians. It was driven to the rear I suppose by the Indians towards the mouth of the river.
Q. How far was it from where you saw the herd to point at which the line was first formed?
A. Well, I should think it was probably a thousand yards. A long distance.
Q. How far from the left of "H" Company was the point on which the citizens were posted?
A. Well, sir, it was more than the length of the skirmish line of "F" Company, probably a hundred yards, probably more than it. I was quite a distance anyway. The distance between the skirmishers was about three yards in some places, more or less according to the nature of the ground.
Sergeant Bartholomew Coughlin, Sergeant Company "F" 1st Cavalry, a witness, was called before the Court and having been duly sworn testified as follows:
Ques. by Recorder. Please state your name, rank, company and regiment.
A. Bartholomew Coughlin, Sergeant Company "F" 1st Cavalry.
Ques. by Capt. Perry. Were you in the fight at White Bird Canõn on the 17th of June 1877?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What orders were given by Captain Perry when the Indians were discovered?
A. The order to form line of skirmishers to the front. We advanced until we got on to the line mounted and then dismounted.
Q. Did the men hold the position? If not, to what was their breaking due?
A. The men held the position on the center and on the right; and on the left until the Indians got in a heavy cross fire and six of the boys fell that I know of and I think one of the citizens named Swartz was shot. Then I remember that the citizens started and we gave way further towards the right of the command.
Q. Were efforts made to rally the men?
A. Yes, sir. Captain Perry called to the men loudly and the First Sergeant Baird. The men were very much demoralized on the left. The right being the strongest and "H" Company being in reserve came upon the right. We made several stands for a short space of time until we got up on the ridge.
Ques. by Recorder. Did you see any herd of stock pass the line of skirmishers?
A. I saw the stock, but that was all. They did not pass through the line. I do not know which way they went.
Q. Did the men remain steady until the left flank was turned?
Q. Were any efforts made to make a stand after the line first broke, before going upon the bluffs?
A. Yes. Captain Perry repeatedly called on the men to rally and they did stop several times and turned and fired as many as two or three rounds.
Q. Where was "H" Company at this time?
A. They were scattered in different places, several of which were in the party with myself and Captain Perry.
Ques. by Capt. Perry. Could the herd have passed through the line of "H" Company on the right without you seeing it?
A. They were given to number fours to hold down the ravine, in the rear of where we were on the hill.
Q. Were the man you speak of being killed or wounded, on the skirmish line, or among the horse holders?
A. On the skirmish line. The horse holders could not be reached. They were down lower, and the hill was between them and the Indians.
Q. Was there any attempt at any time to rescue the wounded?
A. There was a wounded man came out with myself and party. He was given a horse and an overcoat put on the horse for him to ride on by one of the men of the Company. That was the only man that I saw that could be lifted. Sergeant Gunn was given a horse but he could not get on him.
Q. Did you remain with Captain Perry most of the time from the commencement of the fight until it was over?
A. At the commencement of the fight I was on the skirmish line very near the left and Captain Perry was near the centre and when the left gave way towards the command on the right. The command was given to remount, and from that time I was with him until we got to Grangeville.
Q. Was Captain Perry most of the time on his own horse or that of one of the troopers?
A. He was on a trooper horse from the top of the hill to Grangeville after we got up out of the canõn.
Q. Was it on the horse of a man wounded or killed?
A. He was on Bugler Jones' horse. He was killed almost at the first fire.
Ques. by Capt. Perry. Please state to the Court all facts and circumstances governing your official conduct while in command of the Cavalry of the column under General Howard operating against hostile Nez Perce in 1877?
A. On the evening of June 14, 1877, a letter was received at Fort Lapwai from L. P. Brown of Mount Idaho, saying that some of the settlers had moved into town on account of the threatening attitude of the non-treaty Indians, but that he (Brown) did not feel any alarm as the 15th was the day appointed for them to move on the Reservation. I thought it well enough to have them watched, so I accordingly dispatched my Interpreter and two men at daylight on the 15th with instruction to proceed to Cottonwood and from that point to observe the movements of the Indians. About 9 a.m. on that day the detachment returned in great haste, having met an Indian on Craig Mountain who told them that the Indians had murdered three or four men on Salmon River. I immediately prepared my command ("F" and "H" Company, 1st Cavalry) to march at once, but did not move as the news needed information. In the afternoon a letter was received from L. P. Brown confirming the reported murders on Salmon River and giving particulars of additional murders on Camas Prairie.
I have neglected to state that General Howard commanding the Department was at the Post from the first. Upon receipt of the last letter from Mr. Brown, Lieutenant Bomus was sent to Lewiston to procure pack animals to enable me to move with sufficient supplies. Not returning at Retreat, I proposed to General Howard to move at once to the relief of the citizens of Mount Idaho carrying three days rations in my saddle bags.
The General acceded to my proposition and at 8 o'clock p.m. on the 15th of June I left Fort Lapwai with the following command: Company "F", 1st Cavalry, Captain D. Perry, 1st Lieutenant, E. R. Theller 21st Infantry attached, 50 enlisted men three days rations cooked Company "H", 1st Cavalry, Captain Trimble, 1st Lieutenant W. R. Parnell and 41 enlisted men, 5 pack mules, and 5 days rations. I reached Cottonwood at 9 o'clock a.m. on the 16th, distance 40 miles. I was obliged to halt frequently and wait for the pack train as the roads were very muddy in places. I halted at Cottonwood three hours, when from the high ground in that vicinity, three large smokes could be seen, supposed to be burning houses or straw stacks (proved to have been the latter) evidently fired by the Indians as signals.
From Cottonwood to Mount Idaho the road passes over an open rolling prairie a distance of 18 miles. I reached Grangeville, 2-1/2 miles from Mount Idaho, at 6 o'clock p.m. When within about 3 or 4 miles of Grangeville I was met by a party of armed citizens led by Captain Chapman.
Chapman informed me that the Indians had crossed the prairie about 11 a.m. that day, traveling in the direction of White Bird crossing of Salmon River. He further represented that unless they were pursued and attacked early the following morning, they would have everything across the Salmon, and be comparatively safe from pursuit, and the Buffalo trail, via Little Salmon, open before them; thus escaping without any attempt being made to punish them. I saw at once that if I allowed these Indians to get away with all their plunder without making an effort to overtake and capture them, it would reflect discredit upon the Army and all concerned, so I replied to Captain Chapman that I would give him an answer on my arrival at Grangeville. Upon arriving at the latter place, I laid the matter before my officers, and it was unanimously decided that it was best, in fact the only thing to do, viz: - make the attempt to overtake the Indians before they could effect a crossing of the Salmon. It was also urged by Chapman that the Indians would in all probability commence crossing at once, and I should thus strike them while divided. I informed Chapman that I would make the attempt, and should be in readiness to start as soon as the horses had been fed, and the men cooked their coffee, at the same time requesting him to bring as many volunteers as possible, also a guide.
About 9 o'clock that night I started for White Bird crossing of Salmon River and at midnight reached the summit of the dividing ridge between Camas Prairie and Salmon River.
My command consisted of eighty eight (88) enlisted men and eight (8) volunteers. At this point I called a halt and waited for daylight. Soon as dawn appeared I saw that the road led down a long narrow gorge, but was assured by the guide, that it opened out into a comparatively open country, but this I afterwards ascertained to be a mistake, as the country was all rough. At dawn I commenced the march down. When part way down the ravine in which the road ran, a woman and two children (Mrs. Benedict) came out of the bushes and implored our protection. I at once offered to send her to the rear by one of my friendly Indians, of whom I had two or three along for messengers, but this she declined, saying she preferred waiting my return. As there was no other alternative, not having any men to spare guarding her back, I directed one of my men to give her a blanket, and my trumpeter gave her his lunch. Promising to return for her, I then proceeded down the canyon. At this time I gave the command to load also detailed Lieutenant E. R. Theller with eight (8) men from my company as advance guard with instructions that if he saw any number of Indians to halt, deploy his men, and send me word.
About four miles from the top of the ridge, before mentioned, and at a point where two (2) high ridges run diagonally across the low ground which we were traversing and flanked on the left by two round knells of considerable heights, and on the right by a long high ridge running parallel with our road. Between this ridge, however, and two ridges above referred to was a long deep valley of considerable width, and beyond the two knolls on the left ran White Bird Creek. On the more distant of the ridges Lieut. Theller halted and deployed his advance guard, at the same time sending word that the Indians were in sight. I immediately formed my company "left front into line" at a trot, gave the order to drop carbine and draw pistol, intending to charge the Indians. I turned to my trumpeter to give the order when I found that he had lost his trumpet. In the meantime I had, with my company, reached the position occupied by Lieut. Theller and could see the Indians coming out of the brush on the river bank, also rushing up to get on my flanks. Taking a hasty look I saw that if I charged, it would only be to drive the Indians into the brush, where they would be under cover and my command in the open and exposed to their fire I also saw that the ridge I was on was the most defensible position in that vicinity. I gave the order for my company to "dismount to fight on foot," at the same time sending word to Captain Trimble to look out for my right. I gave Lieut. Theller instructions to deploy the men and take command of the line. While this order was being executed I reconnoitered and found the citizens had taken possession of the round knoll on the left, and which completely covered my position lead horses and all.
All that I have above stated took place under a heavy fire.
I now started for the right of my line for the double purpose of ascertaining my situation on that flank and if possible procuring a trumpet, as a Cavalry command on a battlefield without a trumpet is like a ship at sea without a helm, perfectly unmanageable. I had proceeded two thirds the way to Captain Trimble's position, when I was made aware of a commotion among the lead horses (they having been sent to my rear in the low ground between the two ridges alluded to), and saw that the citizens had been driven from the knoll, and it was now in possession of the Indians, and they had my whole position in flank, and were pouring a deadly fire into my line. As I was too far away to order a charge and retake the hill, I concluded the only thing to do now, was to take a new position on the ridge in the rear, and which did not seem to be commanded by the knoll occupied by the Indians. I accordingly gave the command for the line to retreat to the ridge in the rear, and not having any trumpet, ordered the word passed along the line. I then went to Captain Trimble's position for the purpose of getting a trumpet, intending to superintend the reforming of my line as it moved back. Captain Trimble informed me that his trumpet had been lost. I found Captain Trimble's company on a high point, the extreme right of the ridge, or two ridges before described, as they seemed to be branch out from this one point. His company was not deployed, but most of the men huddled together and some dismounted. I had only time to observe this, when I galloped down towards my line. My order had evidently been misunderstood, and the men understood it an order to retreat. They were getting on their horses and everybody in a perfect panic. With no trumpet and only my voice, I tried in vain to reform the line. I then went to Trimble and told him we must retreat, to some point up the canõn, that we could hold. At this time a good many of "H" Company men had gone and the rest very much demoralized. The Indians were all the time pressing us in front and flank and from this time, getting around in our rear. I could only make a show of resistance by galloping in front of the men, and facing them about to defend such positions as I could for a short time, or until I was flanked out of them. Once when near the trail leading up the bluff, I saw a position which I thought might be successfully defended. I called to Trimble who was quite a distance to my rear, about to go up the trail, and asked him to halt a squad of men near him and place them on the point indicated by me, to which he replied, "Chapman says there is a good place further up to defend." I repeated my order, when he (Trimble) placed the men as directed. I then turned to Sergeant De Haven [sic] "H" Co., who had a little squad of men on another point, and asked him if he couldn't control those men, and he said he could I then told him to hold that position, until I could place some men on a point commanding a portion of the trail, also the position occupied by him and the men placed by Trimble. After giving, these instructions I turned and saw that Trimble himself had continued to the rear, and was now part way up the trail. This was the nearest that I ever was to him during the retreat. But to go back a little. Just before giving the orders above recorded, my horse which I had been riding very hard was nearly exhausted. Seeing the men on the point above referred to, and recognizing the importance of defending them as long as possible, and fearful that these men would leave before I could reach them, I asked one of my men who was riding a comparatively fresh horse to carry me quickly behind him to this point (the one occupied by Sergeant De Haven). Soon as I reached the point, I dismounted and after making the dispositions as stated and finding they could not be held. I took up the trail on foot. The men placed by Trimble, seeing that officer going to the rear, followed his example. Sergeant De Haven and party also following.
As I was on foot at this time, it was impossible for me to exercise any control over the men near me as they did not pay the slightest attention. On my way up the canõn, probably half way, I succeeded in catching a loose horse and rode him the rest of the day. When I reached the top of the ridge I saw Trimble some distance to the rear, too far away to make myself heard. I motioned him to the left, as Parnell, I knew, and also Theller with a squad of men were coming up the road which we went down. But Trimble did not stop, and that was the last I saw of him until I reached Grangeville. With the few men I had, I worked my way over to the right and reached the head of the canõn, just as Parnell emerged with about a dozen men. He as well as myself had been obliged to contest every step of the way. Our two squads united made all told [sic.] about 28. We scarcely had time to acknowledge each others presence when the Indians were upon us, and we had to continue our retreat fighting all the way and in the same order, until we reached a rocky knoll at Johnson"s Ranch from 3 to 4 miles from where we joined squads. At this point I thought we ought to be able to defend ourselves, so I halted the detachment and dismounted the men, but finding that the Indians were crawling down to kill our horses, I gave the order to mount, and as we now had to pass over a level prairie I thought we could keep the Indians off. This little halt had done much to calm the men, and as we moved on I cautioned them to close up in columns of four. As soon as that was completed I wheeled them into line and Parnell taking the "H" Co. men deployed them as skirmishers, while I marched mine in column, and in this way we crossed the prairie about a mile wide. Once the Indians charged us with a large party, but finding they could not break or scatter our little squad, they, as soon as we reached the fence on the opposite side of the prairie, abandoned their pursuit. When we reached Grangeville, we found Trimble already there.
Ques. by Court. Did all the officers in your command obey your instructions as given them and behave properly or were they panic stricken as well as the men?
A. I saw Lieutenant Theller, he seemed much excited and did not seem to know what he was doing. Captain Trimble failed to obey my orders on the retreat and seemed to be in a hurry to get away.
Q. Did you take any official action in regard to Captain Trimble's conduct, by preferring charges or arresting him?
A. No, I merely stated it verbally to the General when I saw him.
Q. Was the disaster at White Bird due to the misconduct of either of the officers named in your evidence?
A. No, I do not think it was. A panic was caused by the Indians getting in on my left flank, by the citizens abandoning the knoll, thus exposing my whole line and lead horses.
Appended to the Record of the Inquiry are extracts from the official reports of Captain Trimble - (Appendix A, 17 pages), Captain W. H. Winters, 1st Cavalry, commanding co. E., (Appendix B, 10 pp. re Clearwater Fight), and Captain S. G. Whipple, 1st Cavalry, commanding co. L, (Appendix C, 8 pp. re Clearwater Fight.)]
Web Edition Note: The format of this appendix has been modified slightly for the on-line edition
Last Updated: 09-Mar-2003