An Excursion into the West 1834

Niles Weekly Register, Vo. 89:389 August 2, 1834


[from the Army and Navy Chronicle]

The regiment of dragoon is now completed to its establishment, and all the companies have marched to Fort Gibson, where the head quarters have been established during the winter. This regiment is composed of ten companies, of about seventy men each; each man is armed with a sword, pistol and carbine. The carbine is of a peculiar description; it is on the principle of Hall’s rifles, it loads in the breech, and the part containing the charge is so constructed as to separate from the barrel by mean« of a spring. This part may be called the chamber; and is about six inches long; when loaded, it is easily returned to its position, and then, if the percussion cap is put on the touch-hole, the piece is ready for firing; it requires no ramrod, yet it is furnished with one, which answers the purpose of a wiper, and, when drawn out, makes a bayonet equal in length in the barrel of the piece, and is a very formidable weapon. The whole piece weighs seven pounds and a half, and carries balls twenty-four to the pound.

The dragoons are instructed to serve on horse or foot, as occasion may require. About this time, it is expected that they are on the expedition among the tribes of Indians inhabiting the country between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi. They arc in proceed across the country to the boggy of the Red River, thence westwardly towards the Mexican frontier, thence northward as far as it may be prudent to go, allowing time to return before the cold weather sets in. On its return, the regiment will descend by the Missouri on either bank.

Four companies will winter at Fort Leavenworth, via: Wharton’s, Hunter’s, Ford’s and Duncan’s.

Three companies, Sumner’s, Boone’s and Browne’s, on the right bank of the Mississippi, within the Indian country, near the mouth of the Des Moines.

The other three companies, Trcnor’s, Bean’s and Perkin’s at or near Fort Gibson.

The expedition, it is understood, will be accompanied by several gentlemen of science, who goat their own expense. The object of the expedition in to give the wild Indians some idea of our power, and to endeavor, under such an imposing (oree, to enter into conferences with them, to warn those Indians who have been in the habit of robbing and murdering our people who trade among them, of the dangers to which they will be exposed in case they continue their depredations and massacres.

Several delegations of’ the newly emigrated Indian, now settled beyond the states and territories, to the westward of the Mississippi, as well as the Osages and other tribes near them, will accompany the expedition, in the hope of making treaties of friendship with the wild tribes, and thus prevent, for the future, the recurrence of those wars which are s? common among the Indians.

The expedition, it is hoped, will result in much good: it will afford protection to the civilized Indians, to our frontiers, to our trade with the natives, and cover the Santa Fe caravans trading with Mexico; and, perhaps, enlighten the Indians generally as to the humane policy of the United States towards them, and also as to their own true interests.

Army and Navy Chronicle May 5, 1836


No. 1

Departure of U.S. Dragoons From Fort Leavenworth —
Officers Attached to the Corps — Corps — Big Nemohaw— A traveling bridge —    -a novel craft — man drowned — Little Nemohaw — Saline.

TUESDAY,  May 29th, 1835.

Agreeably to General Order, No. 12, from the Head Quarters of the Army, dated March 9, 1835, three companies of the regiment U.S. Dragoons, under command of Col. H. Dodge, left Fort Leavenworth this day for the purpose of visiting various tribes of Indian inhabiting the country east of the Rocky Mountains, and between the two great rivers
La Platte and Arkansas.  The officers attached to this command are Col. H. Dodge, commanding the expedition; Capt. L. Ford commanding Company G; Capt. M. Duncan commanding Company C; 1st Lieut. L.P. Lupton, commanding Company A; 2nd Lieut. G.P. Kingsbury, Acting Adjutant; 2nd Lieut. B. A Terrett, Commissary of Subsistence;
2nd Lieut. E. Steen, Ordnance Officer; and Assistant Surgeon B.F. Fellowes.

Our course for the first twelve days lay over that beautiful and highly interesting country, lying between the Missouri River on the East, and the Ottoe country and the Platte River on the West.  This portion of country had so often been described by other travellers,  and particularly by Mr. John T. Irving, in a late work, entitled “Irving Indian Sketches,” that I shall pass it over , merely noticing some few of the most important events connected with the march to the Ottoe village.

In consequence of the early rains which commenced falling nearly simultaneously with our leaving Fort Leavenworth, all the little prairie creeks, which in ordinary seasons, contain little or no water, had become swollen to an almost impassable degree.  The first stream of any importance which became necessary for us to cross was the Big Nemohaw.
This river takes its rise in the Prairie, and after running a north-west course about one hundred miles, falls into the Missouri below the mouth of the Platte. As was expected, we found it nearly so high as to be out of its banks, and with a current really frightful.  The great question then was how are we to get our ordnance and wagons across the river?
Various modes were suggested, but all seemed objectionable.  At length, a raft or jam of logs was found in a short bend in the river, which extended completely across the stream, and which appeared to be solidly embedded in the bottom.  To throw a bridge across at this point, making the raft serve as a foundation, seemed the most feasible, as well as the most speedy and safe, mode of crossing.  Accordingly, a detail was ordered for each company, which, under the direction of Lieut. Steen, commenced operations.  Timbers were cut and laid about half way across the river, as a foundation on which to place pluncheons. In less than three hours the bridge was half completed.  In the meantime the river continued to rise rapidly. All at once, and while I was standing upon the bank of the river, congratulating myself and my fellow officers upon our good fortune, lo! the raft, bridge, and all, took the line of march “for New Orleans and intermediate ports.”  At the moment the alarm was given that the raft was moving, there were nearly twenty men at work upon the bridge; and several others seated upon the logs, fishing in the Nemohaw.
Such a scampering hath probably not been seen since the flood.  Happily, all reached the shore in safety.

After the disaster of the morning, it became necessary to cast about for some other mode by which our baggage and such of the command as could not swim, could be conveyed to the other side of the river.  As good luck would have it, someone suggested the possibility, that the body of a small body of a wagon belonging to one of the officers, might be so calked and otherwise repaired as to answer in the place of a boat.  After an hour’s work, this novel craft was launched in due form, and found to ride upon the water as though it had been its natural element, and by attaching ropes to each end of the boat, it could be drawn from shore to shore with great facility.  While these preparations were going on,  our enterprising friend Capt. G.——, who accompanied the expedition as guide, was employed in constructing another vehicle which, to me, was equally novel.  This second non-descript was manufactured from the hide of an ox, which that morning had been butchered. Within two hours from the time the ox was quietly grazing upon the luxuriant grass of the prairie, his skin was upon the waters of the Big Nemohaw, and conveying from shore to shore a burden of six hundred pounds.— In one day the command crossed in these boats with all its baggage without the slightest loss or accident, after which, the horses and mules were made to swim the stream.

The Indian traders, Messrs. O’Fallon and Winter, who accompanied the expedition, were not equally fortunate in crossing the Nemohaw.  After crossing their goods in skin boats, and while they were engaged in swimming their horses, one of their men was drowned. In attempting to swim his horse, he was thrown from his back; and in endeavouring to regain his seat, the horse struck him with one of feet upon the back of his head with such violence as is supposed to have deprived him of sense,  He instantly sank, and owing to the swiftness of the current was seen no more.

A march of twenty-five miles brought us to the Little Nemohaw, a stream running nearly parallel with the Big Nemohaw, and which also falls into the Missouri. Although not so large as the first, yet we were compelled to cross it in the same manner. Having killed another of our beef cattle for the use of the troops, we were enabled to add another boat to our squadron.

The only stream of any importance, after leaving the Little Nemohaw, is the Saline. The water of this stream, when not swollen by recent rains, is very salt to the taste; it is from twenty to thirty yards wide, with a rocky bottom, and may be forded without difficulty.

REPORT: Dragoon Expedition 1839

ARMY AND NAVY CHRONICLE, Vol. IX, No. 18, October 31, 1839 (Whole Number 263)


Fort Leavenworth, Oct. 3, 1839.

Mr. Editor: During that portion of the year in which the prairie grass will sustain horses, it has been customary at this post to detach squadrons or troops, monthly, on a march of reconnaissance along the frontier, to the vicinity of those Indian tribes whose known propensities would lead to the supposition of their committing depredations upon the property of the whites, or of whom complaints had already been made of outrages actually committed. A short account of a March of this kind, of more than usual interest, made during the past month, to the Otoes and Missourias, may not be uninteresting to some of your readers.

In consequence of complaints made of the evil disposition manifested by the Otoes towards the whites, particularly in their conduct to the employés of the Government living among them. Col. Kearny, in immediate command of two squadrons of his regiment, left Fort Leavenworth on the 5th September, to visit them at their villages on the Great Platte river. The officers of the expedition were Col. Kearny, commanding; Major Wharton, Adjutant Thompson, Surgeon Macomb; Capt. Boone, commanding 1st squadron; Capt. Allen commanding 2d squadron; and Lieutenants Steen, Davidson, Chilton and Bowman.

Following, generally, the old ‘Council Bluffs” road, on the south side of the Missouri river, the troops moved leisurely onward, over a country luxuriant, picturesque, and at some points beautiful; the monotony of the march being varied by, at one time, the necessity of cutting down the abrupt banks of some prairie stream, to allow the passage of the wagons, and, at another, of turning from a direct course to head some hollow whose marshy bottom would bear neither man nor horse. In this manner, by easy marches, Wolfe river, the Great and Little Nemahaw, Table Creek, L’eau qui pleut, and many streams of lesser note being crossed, and the site (a most eligible one) for the new post on Table Creek having been visited, we finally stood upon the batiks of the Great Platte. This river, being low, was fordable by horses, but its bed abounding in quicksands rendered the crossing entirely impracticable to loaded wagons. An opportunity was thus offered of testing the utility of Capt. Lane’s admirable application of India rubber to purposes of military economy. A small box, of little weight, containing a boat capable of transporting about 1500 pounds weight across a rapid stream, having been brought with us, the cylinders were inflated and the boat launched. It is almost superfluous, after the many testimonials in its favor, to say that the boat answered all the purposes of its invention, uniting with an ease of management and a readiness of transportation, which must give it entire precedence over every other kind of ponton yet offered to the consideration of the military public. On the sandy beach of this river we found the bones of one of three dragoons who had been drowned a few months previous, while conducting to their tribe some Omahas taken prisoners by the Sacs. The now useless sword and belt and cartridge-box, lying with their owner’s remains, and marked with the letter of his company, and his number, identified the individual. The skeleton, having been placed in a box, was conveyed to our camp, and that evening buried with the honors of war.

The point of our destination having been reached, the Otoes were invited through their agent, Mr. Hamilton, to a council on the 16th. After a delay of unusual length, though at no time remarkable for punctuality, a long string of warriors, boys and women, gave notice of the approach of the nation. The whole assembly having halted a few hundred yards beyond our chain of sentinels, some twenty of the chief men, having dismounted, approached the encampment, and being led to the commanding officer, took their seats in council; on being told, however, that the whole nation were invited to hear what was, to be said to them, the greater portion of the people came forward, taking their stations in concentric circles around the council fire. Observing that, contrary to custom, the Indians had come into council armed, the commanding officer refused to have any thing to say to them while thus equipped, and directed them to lay aside weapons which he neither feared nor had come to contend against. This being done, Col. Kearnv addressed the council.

He told the Otoes that he was glad to see them ; he said he was the representative of their Great Father, the President, who had placed him in their vicinity to observe their conduct; that many reports of their

misconduct towards their white brethren had reached his ears, that as it would be hard to make a whole nation suffer for the acts of a few individuals, he should only punish the most prominent of those against whom complaints had been made; he called upon Kanzas Tunga (Big Kaw) to deliver to him some young men whom he named. (Three young men having been delivered to him, the commanding officer proceeded,) that as these young men had acted badly towards the whites, he intended to punish them before the nation, that it might be a lesson to them would all for the future not to molest the white man—that should the punishment then inflicted fail in producing the intended effect, and he should again hear com- plaints of their bad conduct, it would be as easy for him to visit them again as it had been them; in con elusion he advised them, in their difficulties, to seek counsel from their agent, who would always hear their complaints and assist them.

Kanzas Tunga, Waronisa, Le Voleur, and most of the leading men replied, generally admitting that

their young men had acted badly, but that they were not able to restrain them,” and two of the old chiefs, Waronisa and Le Voleur, offered themselves for punishment in place of the prisoners.   One fine looking young chief came forward, and under great excitement said, “My Father, I place myself among these prisoners, whatever punishment you inflict on them, let me undergo first.”” Cha-ra-to-rishe, or Chef Malade, the head chief of the Pawnees, who with a few of his chiefs, was present, reproached the

Otoes for their conduct, for their turbulence and internal discord; and for the murder of the only man

among them, Jotan [in April 1837]—told them he could manage his young men, and if the Otoe Chiefs could not do the same, they were unworthy the title.

The agent, Mr. Hamilton, now rose, and requested  Col. Kearny to give to him the prisoners, and not to

punish them: that he would be answerable for their future good conduct, and that he thought the nation

would be as much benefited by what had already passed, as if the punishment had actually been inflicted. To this request, after some consideration, the Colonel yielded, and addressed the Otoes again, saying, that as their peace-father had interceded for their young men, he had given them to him—that his intention had been to whip, not to kill, but to whip them there, publicly, before the whole nation, that all might know that they had been punished, and that should he ever have cause again to visit them for their misconduct, his ears would be closed to all solicitations from their agent.

Mr. Hamilton having then explained to the Otoes the pledges he had made in-their behalf, and restored the prisoners, advised them to conduct themselves in good faith towards the white people sent among them by their Great Father for their benefit, and to remember all that had been said to them. The council then dissolved. The Otoes had been much alarmed, and had probably expected that some of their people were – to be killed, or that some treachery was intended, and had accordingly come to the council prepared for the

worst, to fight if necessary, but with no intention of doing so unless forced by an attack by the troops. They were evidently much relieved by the result, and the lesson they have received in the firmness displayed by Col. Kearnv, together with the contempt for their prowess, and confidence in his own resources which he evinced in the council, will doubtless restrain them within proper limits for at least some years.

On the 17th the Missouri river was passed, the horses swimming it, and the camp for the night was formed at one of the Pottawattamie villages. These Indians having been invited to council on the following day, some dozen of their head chiefs appeared, and the commanding officer spoke to them of the invitation of the Government to enter into a new treaty with them or an exchange of their present lands for others lying on the south side of the Missouri. He advised them to accompany the agent of the Government, Capt. Gantt, to examine these lands, and explained to them the difference between living in a territory under the laws of the United States, and within the limits of a State enacting its own laws, and which would certainly extend its jurisdiction over such Indian tribes as might be embraced in its geographical boundaries: that in a few ???rs such would be their situation in their present residence ; he therefore would advise them, as their friend, to accede to the wishes of their Great Father, at least so far as to examine the country which he wished to give them in exchange for theirs. He concluded by saying he spoke to them as a friend, not as the authorized agent of the Government. The orator of the nation replied, simply, that heretofore their ears had been deaf to all words upon the subject of their removal, but that they had now heard the advice of their Father, they thanked him for it, they were glad to see him, and would always be glad to see him at their towns.

These Indians complain that a treaty has been made with them, which has only been partially fulfilled, and that therefore they are unwilling to enter into any new engagements with the Government.  There is truth and justice in the remark; and if it is really the wish to remove the Pottawattamies to the other side of the Missouri river, the stipulations of the late treaty should, at once, be complied with, or any attempt to institute a satisfactory negotiation for an exchange of lands may be considered futile. The command returned to Fort Leavenworth on the 25th September.