Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria
18 October 1868; Atwood, Kansas: Maj. Eugene A. Carr of the 5th Cavalry arrived at Fort Wallace on 12 October, looking for Maj. William B. Royall and his regiment, who had been out on reconnaissance since the 1 st . Two days later, with an escort of about 100 men of Companies H and I of the 10th Cavalry under Capts. Carpenter and Graham, Carr headed north to Beaver Creek. The party reached the creek the next day and followed it downstream.
After traveling nearly 50 miles without a sign of the regiment, Lt. Myron Amick took ten men and scout Sharp Grover and headed south, cross-country, to look for a trail, while Carr continued downriver. At sunset on 17 October, Amick returned, having gone as far as Prairie Dog Creek (also called Short Nose Creek) but finding no trace of the 5th Cavalry. Camping near the present-day town of Traer, Kansas, Carr decided to search downstream one more day before turning back. Early the next morning, they had not gone far before Indians appeared. Said Carr: "As we had not found Royall but had found the Indians, or rather they had found us, it was no use to go farther down the Beaver, and I determined to move toward home."
It was not that easy, however. For several hours the soldiers moved upstream under mild resistance from Cheyenne and Lakota warriors. Then, around noon, 600 Indians forced the men onto a knoll. Capt. Carpenter formed the troops into an oval-shaped stockade, with the horses and mules inside and the soldiers around the perimeter. The Indians circled around, shooting, seemingly under the command of one warrior with a bugle. According to Carr, they were outnumbered about seven to one. "I really did not expect to get out of that fix," he said.
Carr stood by Grover, firing at the warriors; they killed three within 50 feet of the wagons. Grover had one wounded Indian, named Little Crow, brought to him for questioning. When the Indians ceased firing, Little Crow motioned to indicated his "heart is bad," meaning the warriors wanted to give up and wanted the soldiers to go away so they could gather up their dead and wounded. Carr ordered his column to pack up and move out. The Indians followed for a few miles, but did not attack. The tired command reached Fort Wallace on 21 October.
After eight hours of fighting, the army had only 3 men wounded. The Indians lost 10 men and about 20 were wounded.
25-26 October 1868; Herndon, Kansas: When Maj. Eugene A. Carr returned to Fort Wallace after the fruitless search for his regiment, the 5th Cavalry, he learned they were at Buffalo Tank Station and boarded a train to join them. Hoping to find a village that the wounded Indian captive Little Crow had told them about. Carr headed north on 23 October with 480 men of Companies, A, B, F, H, I, L, and M and a company of scouts under Lt. Lewis Pepoon of the 10th Cavalry.
Two days later, about 2:30 p.m. along Beaver Creek, Company M skirmished with Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. Carr moved the rest of the command forward, and a six-mile running fight commenced. About 200 warriors, keeping just out of range, set fire to the dry grass to impede the soldiers' progress. As Carr's advance slowed, nearly 300 more warriors appeared.
The next day, Carr advanced with his troops around the wagons in a protective ring. After ten miles, the Indians gathered in front of them. A battalion of cavalry under Capt. John H. Kane, Lt. William C. Forbush, and Lt. Jules Schenofsky charged out to disperse the warriors, pursuing them for three miles. The Indians then countercharged, and Lt. Pepoon's scouts rode out to help resist them. The Indians, it turned out, were distracting the soldiers while their village fled. Carr pushed on and found hundreds of cedar lodgepoles, 400 dried buffalo hides, and other abandoned property.
About 4 troopers were wounded over the two days; the Indians lost about 10 warriors and 70 ponies.
For the next four days, Carr relentlessly pursued the fleeing Indians, tracking them north nearly to the Republican River, then looping back south to Beaver Creek. By 31 October the trails had dissipated into a few scattering pony tracks. "The enemy," said Carr, "suddenly disappeared like a mist before the morning sun." Carr marched back to Fort Wallace.
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