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  • #46
    Re: Primary Accounts Thread

    [Published in the Iowa City Republican on February 26, 1862]

    Fort Randall, Dacotah Ty.,
    Feb. 8th, 1862.

    EDS. REPUBLICAN:

    Excitement being on “tip toe” and the cause the subject of conversation in every circle, I thought I would take my pen (although occupying quarters in the hospital) to let your many readers learn that we are even at Fort Randall, subject to excitements and changes.

    Some four or six weeks ago, it was reported that the War Department had authorized the Governor of Dacotah to fill and garrison this post with Dacotah volunteers, and the Iowa boys to leave for the sunny South, and join their regiment for more active service, which caused considerable vocal speculation, murmur and much dissatisfaction.
    This report was a number of times contradicted and affirmed, but some two weeks ago, it was proven that the Dacotah volunteering had turned out an entire failure, not being able to raise a respectable corporal’s guard. I wish the friends in Iowa to understand that the Iowa boys never once feared leaving for a field of more active service — but having traveled through a bitter Northwestern autumn, the fatiguing march of over five hundred miles, and then to be turned into the drifting storms of mid-winter, for a more than equally fatiguing and weary march, brought a shudder. . . .

    About the time the above had passed into forgetfulness — and there being but little excitement excepting on mail days, and I would say, I have often thought if the friends at home knew the good it does a poor soldier to receive a letter, and the downcast looks of the disappointed, they would employ their pens more faithfully than they appear to do for the “Boys of Fort Randall.” The news came that a Major from Dacotah had been appointed to take command of the Fort. This was, like the former, a number of times contradicted and affirmed. But on Monday (3d ult. 25) Major Lyman came to the garrison, presenting his papers and demanding the assignment of the commandership of the post. But Capt. Pattee, believing his papers not sufficient, refused to give up the command. Thus for a day or two, nothing of interest excepting a few articles of correspondence between the two claimants, passed. On Tuesday following, the Major issued an order of arrest of Capt. Pattee in his quarters, which added greatly to the excitement and speculation. On Wednesday morning (5th ult.) showing additional papers, and convincing the officers of the garrison that he was entitled to the commandership, he entered upon his duties as Major commanding at Fort Randall. I believe the whole battalion is much dissatisfied.

    If an officer from the regular army had been sent to take command, there would not have been heard a murmur of dissatisfaction. The Iowa boys believe it an imposition upon them, as volunteers from the State of Iowa, and are now praying that arrangements be made on the opening of the Missouri, for their removal, to join their regiment. . . .
    Yours, W. W. Co. A.
    Bob Welch

    The Eagle and The Journal
    My blog, following one Illinois community from Lincoln's election through the end of the Civil War through the articles originally printed in its two newspapers.

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    • #47
      Re: Primary Accounts Thread

      From the Cedar Falls Gazette, published on April 4, 1862

      Correspondence of the Gazette.

      From Fort Randall.

      Fort Randall, D. T.

      February 12, 1862.

      Friend Perkins: - The monotony of our Fort Randall existence has been somewhat disturbed, within the past week, by the arrival of a citizen of Dakota, by the name of Lyman, claiming the right to command the Fort. Upon first seeing the papers of the claimant, Capt. Pattee did not think them sufficient to justify his giving up the command, but after further deliberation the post was surrendered, and the detachment of Iowa troops now stationed here are under the command of Major Lyman. A few enterprising and patriotic citizens of Dakota have been making great exertions for two or three months, to raise two companies of soldiers in the territory, for the purpose of garrisoning Fort Randall. On the strength of these two companies, (which by the way do not exist, and probably never will) Lyman has received orders from the Secretary of War to take command of the Fort, with, as it appears, a promise of a Major’s commission. As would naturally be expected, our soldiers are quite indignant at the idea of being commanded by any one not of Iowa. They think and know, that there are just as competent men in their own regiment as can be found in Dakota, and they are not able to see the justice of the present arrangement. It was amusing to see how unanimously the “tide of feeling” turned in favor of Capt. Pattee as soon as there was a prospect of his being superseded. Notwithstanding the outrageous reports which have been circulated concerning his management, there was not an officer here, nor but few soldiers, but would gladly have signed a petition in favor of Capt. Pattee as their commander, had they thought it would be of any use. But since it seems to be the wish of “the powers that be” that Major Lyman should command the garrison, of course there is no other way but for the soldiers to submit. If the new commander fulfills the duties of his position as faithfully a Capt. Pattee has done, neither the soldiers nor the government, will have any cause for complaint. I see some of the Iowa papers are still harping upon “the outrageous management” of Capt. Pattee en route from Iowa City to this place. The “State Press” of Jan. 29th, publishes a diary of the march. Said diary was written by someman belonging to Company “B.” Who he is I have no means of knowing, as he had too much prudence to attach his name to the document. The editor, in his “local” makes the following comment: “The diary of the march to Fort Randall makes apparent one thing, and that is, that, in order to keep from starvation, the boys had absolutely to beg their way, from the second day’s march, on as far as they found settlements to beg from.” In reply to this, I will simply say, that, if the editor of the “Press” has published a communication from which such an inference as this can be drawn, he has been the means of circulating an unmitigated falsehood. That some of the soldiers did condescend, not only to beg, but to steal provisions from farm houses along the road, is true; but that they were at any time driven to this necessity, to prevent suffering, is absolutely false. But enough of this.

      Next to the change in Commanders here, the greatest object of interest is buffalo hunting. News came a few days ago that there were large numbers of buffalo a short distance above here, that had been driven down from the north by the deep snow. This news caused a great excitement among the Indians and they at once commenced fitting out an expedition in pursuit of these animals. Several of the soldiers joined the hunting party. The soldiers had a furlough of one week, and as the time expires to-day, they will be expected back this evening. The report came a day or two ago that the party had killed ninety buffaloes. The approach of buffaloes at this unusual season seems like a “Godsend” to the Indians. To say nothing of the large number of valuable robes which they will get, the food furnished by the carcasses of these animals will be the means of relieving a great amount of suffering.

      If there are any readers of the Gazette who have ever had any thoughts of “emigrating” to Dakota, I would like to say to them that the “opening” here is very small. If there is any country in the Northwest where there is a total absence of every kind of attraction to an honest man., I think Dakota is the place. It is generally supposed that everything was created for some purpose, but I think it would puzzle the wisest to determine what use the Almighty intended to make of the Dakota Territory. The territory covers a great extent of land, but, for agricultural purposes, the county of Black Hawk is worth more than all Dakota. The climate does not differ very much from that in Northern Iowa. The present winter has not been so severe here as it has in your vicinity. The greatest degree of cold has been 23 below zero. – There has been scarcely any snow. At the present time, the ground is as bare as it is in June. But this is not a fair specimen of the winters here. According to the report of “the natives,” last winter was very severe, and there was a large amount of snow. I am satisfied that they are capable of getting up tremendous storms here, although I have not as yet seen any “grand efforts” in that line. “They tell” about the wind blowing here so that persons dare not attempt to cross the parade ground, unless two or three go together, holding each other by the hand, for “mutual protection.” As a general rule, the soil in that portion of the territory where I have been, is poor. As I said in my letter to Esq. Lombard (which you had the impudence to publish) there is a small tract of country in the south part of the territory, in the forks of the Missouri and the Big Sioux, that is very fertile. This is the only desirable land that I have seen. A great drawback to the country is a scarcity of water and timber. In many places where there is water, it is of such a nature that no use can be made of it. Wells have been dug here at the Fort, but the water was found so strongly impregnated with “alkali” that no use could be made of it, and every particle of water that is used here is drawn from the river by teams kept for that purpose. Missouri water is considered here to be “very fair” although from every barrel full can be “extracted” about two water pails full of mud. Persons troubled with “chronic constipation” would undoubtedly find this country very congenial to their health.

      The only way the troops can survive here during the summer, is by providing an abundant supply of ice. The men are now very busy filling the ice houses. They have already put up two hundred loads, and have not got more than half done. There is ice in the houses now that was put up there a year ago. Tell Col. S. that he need have no fears of the ice “moulding,” for we expect his Irish friend back here to take care of it, and we have no doubt he will attend to his duty faithfully, and give the ice so thorough an “airing” each day, that there will be but little danger from this source.

      PRAIRIE DOGS.

      About half a mile from the Fort is a village of prairie dogs, which is an object of considerable curiosity to those unaccustomed to the habits of these singular animals. These dogs congregate in large villages, and dig their burrows adjoining each other. The dirt thrown from the holes, forms conical elevations, varying from three to five feet in height. In the center of these mounds, are the entrances to the “houses.” These animals seem to be governed by a sort of military discipline instituted for their personal protection and safety. They have “guards” regularly posted around the suburbs of the “town,” whose duty it is ever to be on the alert, and give immediate alarm upon the approach of danger. These dogs are very keen of sight, and as soon as the sentinels observe any object approaching which threatens their safety, they at once sound the alarm by a sharp yelp, whereupon the busy inhabitants hasten to their holes, and disappear from view. The sentinels are the last to retreat from their position, frequently maintaining their posts at the risk of personal safety. – The prairie dog is very difficult to capture, but when caught, is readily tamed. These dogs belong to the class of animals called hibernato, and of course there is not much to be seen of them in the winter.

      We have a man in the hospital here whose history is somewhat interesting. His name is Henry Morse. He has been for several years in the employ of the “American Fur Company.” Last July, he started, in company with a man by the name of Fish, to go from Fort Alert to Fort Union. When within eighty miles of Fort Union, they were surprised by a party of Sioux Indians. An Indian rode up to Morse and told him to get off his horse, but he refused to comply. Indian then says – “where going.” “To Fort Union.” “Friend to Crows?” “No.” – “You live among the Crows, and you our enemy; get off horse of I kill you.” Morse attempted to draw his pistol, when the Indian gave him a blow, paralyzing his arm. The Indians then commenced shooting arrows into him, and he fell from horse. – The shock of the fall revived him somewhat, and by a desperate effort he managed to get his pistol from his pocket. At this time a young Indian was approaching him with the intention of taking his scalp, but upon seeing the pistol in the hands of Morse he turned and fled. The chief then made a speech something as follows: “We have to get their guns and two horses and there is nothing left but one pistol. If we attempt to get this some of us may get killed – the pale faces will die from the wounds we have inflicted, and we will not endanger our own lives by attempting to get their scalps and the pistol.” Upon this the savages left. The two men then crawled together, and each pulled the arrows from the other. Morse had seven arrows in his body. One entered his shoulder blade, and, passing entirely through the right lung, came out in front. These unfortunate men remained there on the river bank three days. At this time Fish says to Morse – “leave me and try and reach the Fort – I cannot travel – if you get to the Fort send for me.” Morse started, and being almost famished for want of food, it occurred to him to try eating grasshoppers, having often seen Indians eat them. He caught a big, fat one, and commenced chewing it – it proved too much for him, and set him vomiting so violently that he thought he should die sure. – Before he had recovered from the effects of this novel meal so as to be able to resume his journey, he was found by a party of Crow Indians who knew him. They took him to their camp, and showed him every kindness. He remained with the Crows until he came to the conclusion that if his wounds did not kill him, the “medicine man” would with his “heroic treatment,” and he resolved to leave them. He procured a skiff and started for this place, and reached here after a journey of eight weeks. He is still here in the hospital and suffers very much from the effects of his wounds, although he appears to be slowly improving. Fish was found and taken to Fort Union, and, in all probability, died there, as his wounds were such that it was hardly possible that he should recover.

      Since writing the above the buffalo hunters have returned, and we are feasting ourselves upon the buffalo steak – not the kind that Secord’s “Dave” brought from the valley of the Little Sioux, but the real, genuine article. There are four hundred Indians in the hunting party, and they are killing the buffalo in great numbers.

      The young men here wish me to say that they are under great obligations to Mr. G. H. Harris for a very generous supply of newspapers received from him since they came here. – The friends of the boys may be assured that favors of this kind are fully appreciated.

      S. N. Pierce.
      Bob Welch

      The Eagle and The Journal
      My blog, following one Illinois community from Lincoln's election through the end of the Civil War through the articles originally printed in its two newspapers.

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