« PreviousContinue »
years of age, was ordered on duty to Texas, and while there applied for leave of absence for a year, to serve as chief of cavalry under Juarez, then fighting with Maximilian for the freedom of Mexico. The Government was not prepared to take a hand, either directly or indirectly, in this contest, and refused his request, and the next year sent him north, where in the spring of 1867 he was in Hancock's expedition against the Cheyenne Indians. He closed the campaign against them at Washita River on November 27, 1868, when he attacked them so fiercely and successfully that the band was almost annihilated. The few remaining were restored to their reservation, with the fight quite taken out of them.
Custer remained for years on duty in the West, being sent to Dakota in March, 1873, while in July, 1874, he led an expedition to the Black Hills. It might have been supposed that familiarity with Indian methods of warfare would make him wary in dealing with them, but his old habit of impetuous dashes on the enemy clung to him and led in the end to the tragic occurrence in which the brave fellow laid down his life.
This was in Terry's expedition against the Sioux in the spring of 1876, this powerful Indian nation being then in force on the war-path. In this affair Custer, then at the head of a cavalry regiment, was directed to ride up the Rosebud River and cross to the headwaters of the Little Big Horn, there to coöperate with General Gibbon, who was following the valley of the Big Horn. The object of the movement was to surround the Indians and prevent their escape.
On the 25th of June Custer reached the Little Big Horn, having crossed a narrow divide between the two streams. For some time indications of the pres
ence of the Indians had been seen, and they now became so evident that he felt sure the Indians were close at hand. He accordingly divided his command into three detachments, he leading five companies up the stream and sending the others out to right and left on the flanks of the foe, while he struck them in the centre. This was his usual method of attacking the savages, but this time it proved disastrous.
His march brought him directly to the Sioux village, in which nine thousand braves in their war-paint were gathered. His detachments were not visible. One of them had reached the village, but had retreated before he came up.
Custer's incautious advance without waiting for Gibbon, and the impetuous charge which he made
upon the Indians, were reckless movements which could have but one end. The Sioux in overwhelming numbers attacked his small force, drove them back, and killed company after company, until Custer and forty of his officers and men alone faced them. These few continued to fight desperately, falling one by one, until the last of them perished, not a man being left alive. They had fought well and bravely, defying their foes for three hours, killing many of them, and never ceasing to strike until death ended their defence. The number slain was two hundred and sixty-one.
No white man remained to tell the story of this slaughter, and it was afterwards learned from the Indians themselves, who told of the daring assault, the desperate struggle, and its fatal end. The field where it took place has since been made a National Cemetery, and a monument has been erected to the memory of Custer and his men. The remains of the brave leader were removed in 1877 and buried in the cemetery at West Point.
GEORGE CROOK, THE SOLDIER FRIEND
OF THE INDIAN
Of the men who have taken part in settling the Indian question none ranks higher than General Crook, who was sent against them as a soldier and fought them when he was forced to, but by his good sense, justice and discretion did more to make good citizens of them than could ever have been done by the rifle and the sword. The policy in dealing with the savages, especially with the fierce Apaches, had been one of destruction. Crook's method made quiet farmers of tribes which had previously given their time to murder and outrage. It is his story as an Indian fighter that we propose to tell, but in earlier years he had taken an active part in the Civil War, and his record in this must first be given.
George Crook was born near Dayton, Ohio, September 8, 1828, and after spending his boyhood and youth at home, was entered as a cadet in the Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1852, in his twenty-fourth year. His first active service was as brevet second lieutenant in the fourth infantry regiment, with which he was sent to California, and served the Government there until 1861. He was not without war experience during these years, being in the Pitt River expedition of 1852, in which he took part in several fights with the Indians, and was seriously wounded by an arrow in one of these engagements.
He was promoted first lieutenant in 1860, and when the war between North and South began was called to Washington and made colonel of the 36th Ohio regiment of volunteers. His first service was under McClellan in Western Virginia, where he was wounded in a fight at Lewinsburg, but he was in condition in 1862 to take part in the battle of Antietam, and with such gallantry that he was rewarded with the rank of brevet lieutenant-colonel in the regular army.
His most conspicuous service in the war was as a cavalry commander, he being placed in command in 1863 of the second cavalry division of the army of the Cumberland, with which he took an active part in the battle of Chickamauga. Shortly afterwards he was sent with a cavalry force two thousand strong to protect Rosecrans's line of communications, and in this duty came into conflict with General Wheeler, the noted Confederate hard rider, who was on a raid in Tennessee and had taken and burned a large convoy of supply wagons at McMinnville.
Crook overtook his rear-guard as he was fleeing towards Murfreesboro, Colonel Long, of the second Kentucky cavalry, charging the Confederate raiders with great spirit. Wheeler's men dismounted and fought till dark, when they sprang to the saddle again and rode at full speed for Murfreesboro. The daring Confederate hoped to seize that important place with its munitions and supplies, but Crook was too hot upon his trail and he was obliged to take to the road again. The chase went on relentlessly, Wheeler doing what damage he could in his flight, until Duck River was crossed and Farmington reached, when Crook struck him again.
His onset here was irresistible. Wheeler's line was cut in two, four of his guns and a thousand small arms were taken, two hundred of his men captured, and his forces driven in confusion in the direction of Pulaski, which his flying columns reached that night, much the worse for wear. He had had quite enough of Crook as an antagonist, and hastened to get on the safe side of the Tennessee and make his way back to Bragg's army, having done immense damage in his raid.
In 1864 Crook was put in command of the eighth corps, known as the Army of West Virginia, and was given control of the military district of that State, where he won the battle of Cloyd's Mountain. At a later date he joined Sheridan's army in the Shenandoah Valley, and his corps bore the brunt of Early's furious charge at Cedar Creek.
Crook's division held the advanced position on that field, the remaining divisions of the army being in flank and rear. Sheridan had been absent on business at Washington and was on his return to Winchester, not dreaming of a disaster to his army. At two o'clock in the morning of October 19 reports came to General Crook of mysterious sounds from the front, like the dull tramp of a multitude moving cautiously, but he could learn nothing to prove that an enemy was near at hand, and the alarm died away. The rest of the army slept on undisturbed. The fact was that Early's whole army had crept stealthily upon them under cover of the night, while a dense fog which rose before dawn concealed the troops as they marched noiselessly to their appointed positions.
Morning had just dawned when a ringing battleshout rent the air, the rattle of musketry was heard in all directions, and before the Nationals could seize their arms and fall into line Early's entire force broke from the mist and fell suddenly upon them. Crook's corps bore the first shock of this unlooked-for attack,