Magpie's Narrative

"My father's lodge was the farthest west of the entire village. Next to it was Chief Black Kettle. My father's name was Big Man. I think Black Kettle's people and my people were related. My mother told me I was sort of nephew to Black Kettle. [Probably a second cousin.] My name was Magpie. Black Kettle's daughter was Magpie Woman, so we must have been some relation. There were about fifty-sixty lodges in the village. [Lt. Col. George A. Custer reports fifty-one.]

The day before Custer came, Black Kettle and some of the other chiefs [Wolf Looking Back, father of Little Beaver, was one of these] had returned to the village from a visit to the soldiers camp down the Washita [Fort Cobb.] While there they had been informed by chief officer [Col. William B. Hazen] that the soldiers were coming after the Indians from the north. Black Kettle protested that all the Indians on the Washita were at peace with the whites and begged the chief officer to tell the soldiers that who were coming that this was so. The chief officer shook his head sadly and replied that while he knew this to be so, the man in charge of the soldiers from the north was of higher rank than he. [Major General Philip H. Sheridan was at Camp Supply when the expedition started and Colonel Hazen supposed that he would head the expedition.] Therefore he merely could transmit Black Kettle's message and testify to the peaceful nature of the villages on the Washita, which were all within the district administered by Colonel Hazen. He could not give orders to the new soldiers.

It was a troubled group which gathered in Black Kettle's lodge that night to partake in crackers, hardtack, and other supplies brought back from the soldier camp down the river and to discuss the disturbing information received here. My family was there, including myself. There was some talk of moving the camp; and it might have been done except for the fact that it was winter with deep snow on the ground. We did not know that even the soldiers were almost upon us.

Early next morning when my father stepped outside his lodge, he heard dogs barking. An instant later a woman came running from the timber across the creek to tell Black Kettle that soldiers were riding down on the camp. Remembering the Sand Creek massacre and fearful this might be a repetition of that tragedy, Black Kettle quickly sent word for women and children to save themselves. Scarcely had he spoken when the soldiers poured a volley into the camp and came charging across the creek.

I had just pulled on a few clothes and was buckling one of my father's pistols when this volley struck camp. I rushed out just as Black Kettle and his wife [Medicine Woman Later] mounted a pony and started to ride into the timber. With two companions I headed for cover of the creek (Plum Creek) about a quarter of a mile west. We had traversed only half the distance when we ran into soldiers swooping down from that direction. We turned to the south , finally dropping into a slight depression in which was growing a small thicket of chinaberry bushes and tall grass. Creeping to the edge I pulled my pistol ready for action. A shower of bullets told us that our hiding place had been discovered. One of these bullets struck me just below the left knee, on the outer side of the leg, passed through the calf and came out just above the ankle.

In spite of my wound, I jumped up and joined my companions in our flight, closely pressed by soldiers [probably Capt. Edward Meyer's men]. Just when I thought they would kill us, they spied a large group of women and children coming from the southeastern end of the village. So they quit chasing us and took after the larger bunch of fugitives. We ran over the ridge to the south, padded two buttes, turned down the next valley and kept going east until we encountered reinforcements coming from the lower villages. These bound up my leg and I went on out of the battle zone.

From the top of a high ridge I watched the battle and saw the soldiers burn the village and slaughter our ponies. This made the Indians very angry and they would ave attacked the soldiers had they not been afraid that such an attack would bring death to the women and children the soldiers had captured and were holding in the village. Shortly after dark, the soldiers suddenly fell into line with the women and children in the center marched out in the direction which they had come-to the northwest. Some of the Indians started to follow them and were called back for fear harm might come to the prisoners."

1) Richard G. Hardorff, Washita Memories, pps. 306-310.

Last updated: April 27, 2015

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