An Account of

The Connor Battle

Page 3

Excerpts from the Palmer Diaries in August 1865:

The command rendezvoused in the village and the men were set to work destroying Indian property. Scores of buffalo robes, blankets and furs were heaped up on lodge poles, with tepee covers and dried buffalo meat piled on top, and burned. On one of these piles we placed our dead and burned their bodies to keep the Indians from mutilating them. During our halt the Indians pressed up close to the camp, made several desperate attempts to recover their stock, when the mountain howitzer, under the skillful management of Nick O’Brien, prevented them from completing their aims. Our attack upon the village commenced at 9 o’clock a.m. The rendezvous in the village was about half past twelve; we remained there until half past two; in the intervening time we destroyed an immense amount of property—fully two hundred and fifty Indian lodges and contents. At half past two we took up the line of march for the train. Captain North and his eighty Indians, undertook to drive the stock; they were so far ahead, while the rest of the force was employed in beating back the Indians. The Indians pressed us on every side, sometime charging up to within fifty feet of our rear guard. The seemed to have plenty of ammunition, but did most of their fighting with arrows, although there were some of them armed with muskets with which they could send lead in dangerous proximity to our men. Before dark we were reduced to forty men who had any ammunition, and these only a few rounds apiece. The Indians showed no signs of stopping the fight, but kept on pressing us, charging upon us dashing away at the stock, keeping us constantly on the move, until fifteen minutes of twelve o’clock, when the last shot was fired by our pursuers. At this time I had gone ahead to communicate an order from General Connor to Captain North relative to handling the stock. Having just completed my work, I halted by the side of the trail and waited for the General, who was with the rear guard. I remember, as i was getting from my horse, I heard the last shot fired some two or three miles in the rear. After I had dismounted I realized that I was fearfully tired, so tired that I could not stand up. I sat on the ground, and in a moment, in spite of myself, was in a sound sleep, and was only awakened by being dragged by my horse, which was an Indian pony that I had saddled from the captured stock. Nearly all our men had remounted themselves while we were rendezvousing in the Indian village, otherwise we would not have been able to keep out of the way of the pursuing Indians. My lariat was wrapped around my right arm, and with this the pony was dragging me across the prickly pears when I awakened. Realizing that I was on dangerous ground, I quickly mounted my pony and listened for the least sound to indicate whether the General had come up or not. There was no noise—not a sound to be heard, the night was intensely dark, and myself so bewildered that I scarcely knew which way to go. Again jumping from my horse, I felt with my hands until I found the trail and discovered that the footprints of the horses went in a certain direction. Taking that as my course, I rode away as rapidly as possible, and after three miles hard riding overtook the General and his rear guard, who had passed me while asleep. All congratulated me on my rather narrow escape.
We arrived at camp at daylight, after marching fully one hundred and ten miles without any rest or refreshments, except from the jerked buffalo that the boys had filled their pockets with in the Indian village.
The incidents of this fight would make interesting reading. Many acts of personal bravery cannot be recorded. suffice it to say that every man was a general. Not a command was given by the General after the first order to charge—not a man in the command but realized that his life was in the balance. We must either whip the Indians and whip them badly, or be whipped ourselves. We could see that the Indians greatly outnumbered us; that our main dependence was upon our superior equipments; we were better armed than they.As for fighting qualities, the savages proved themselves as brave as any of our men. the fight commenced at nine o’clock, was offensive until about 11 a.m., when the General was driven back into camp with his small squad of men; from that time until midnight we fought the defensive. Yet we had accomplished a great victory. Two hundred and fifty lodges had been burned with the entire winter supply of the Arapahoe band. The son of the principal chief (Black Bear) was killed, sixty-three warriors were slain, and about eleven hundred head of ponies captured.
While we were in the village destroying the plunder, most of our men were busy remounting. Our own tired stock was turned into the herd and the Indian ponies were lassoed and mounted; this maneuver afforded the boys no little fun, as in nearly every instance the rider was thrown or else badly shook up by the bucking ponies. The ponies appeared to be as afraid of the white men as our horses were afraid of the savages. If it had not been for Captain North, with his Indians, it would have been impossible for us to take away the captured stock, a they were constantly breaking away from us, trying to return toward the Indians, who were as constantly dashing toward the herd in the vain hope of recapturing the stock.
Many exciting scenes were witnessed upon the field of battle. During the chase up Wolf Creek with the General one North’s braves picked up a little Indian boy that had been dropped by the wayside. the little fellow was crying, but when picked up the soldier Indian fought like a wild–cat. One of our men asked the Indian what he was going to do with the papoose. He said,’don’t know; kill him, mebby.’ He was told to put him down and not to injure the bright little fellow. The Indian obeyed, and at least one papoose owed his life to a kind hearted soldier. Several of our men were wounded, some of the quite severely. Three or four afterwards died of their wounds. Two of our soldiers, white men, I forget their names, were found among the dead, and three of four of North’s Indians were killed.
“Lieutenant Oscar Jewett, the General’s aide-de-camp, the General’s bugler and orderly were among the wounded. Lieutenant Jewett was shot through the thigh and through the hand, and yet was compelled to ride over forty miles after receiving his wounds. We were absent from camp thirty-three hours; had marched, as beforestated, one hundred and ten miles; during that time we had nothing to eat, except a few hard tack and some jerked buffalo meat. If there is a better record to the credit of the volunteer cavalry soldier, I am not aware of the fact. We brought back to camp with us several squaws and thirteen Indian children, who were turned loose a day or two afterward.

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